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Library Event - Reel Talk Film Series

Reel Talk Film Series
Little Movies That Could:
  Sleeper Hits in Movie History

Saturdays, 1-4pm
June 1st, 15th, 22nd, & 29th
July 6th & August 3rd

Main Library Auditorium

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Join film scholar Jeannie Berg to view and discuss six low-budget films that found audiences through word of mouth and went on to become award-winning sleeper hits at the box office.  Similar to the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could, these films overcame the odds and found success through sheer determination.

On June 1, audiences will be treated to Ernest Borgnine’s Academy Award®-winning performance in Marty, and on June 15, George Lucas’s coming-of-age American Graffiti featuring Harrison Ford’s film debut. On June 22, audiences can cheer for Sylvester Stallone in his star-making performance in Rocky. On June 29, they can enjoy Stephen King’s adapted short story about hope and perseverance, The Shawshank Redemption. On July 6, they'll be dazzled by the all-star cast of The Usual Suspects, while on August 3, they'll be chilled by M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense.

According to Jeannie Berg, "The six movies selected for this series are excellent examples of the power of audiences to root for the underdog and decide for themselves whether or not a movie is worthwhile.  Often, studios and movie critics make this choice for audiences through marketing dollars and positive or negative reviews. The movies screened and discussed this summer are “Little Movies that Could”: Marty, American Graffiti, Rocky, The Shawshank Redemption, The Usual Suspects, and The Sixth Sense.  These films overcame low predictions and advertising budgets, as well as little to no commentary from critics to earn recognition and awards.  Audiences discovered the powerful performances and unique storytelling styles, and connected with the films’ universal themes of humanity, perseverance, identity, friendship, and love."

For more information, please call 623-930-3573.

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Film List


June 1 -- Marty (1955) Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Karen Steele, Directed by Delbert Mann; Black and White; Not Rated; 89 minutes. MARTY is about a homely Bronx butcher (Ernest Borgnine), who is unmarried and uninterested. One night, lured to a dance hall, he meets a girl in the same state of mind. Their relationship, seemingly so simple and unremarkable, becomes a thing of haunting beauty and endearing wonder.

American Graffiti

June 15 -- American Graffiti (1973) Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard; Directed by George Lucas, Rated PG; 112 minutes. This film from director George Lucas was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest 100 movies ever made. Four California teenagers who are unsure of their futures spend summer nights cruisin’ and hangin’ out in this look at the last "innocent" year of the ‘50s and early ‘60s.
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June 22 -- Rocky (1976) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Carl Weathers, Burt Young; Directed by John G. Avildsen Rated PG; 119 minutes. In 1976, when ROCKY, a low-budget film with an unknown actor named Sylvester Stallone, won the Academy Award® for Best Picture, it was as emotional a finale as the film itself. A two-bit boxer gets a second chance in life by being offered an impossible shot at the heavyweight title. The story of how Rocky goes the distance is one of the warmest, most exciting and stirring movies of all time.
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The Shawshank Redemption June 29 -- The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore; Directed by Frank Darabont; Rated R; 142 minutes. A banker (Tim Robbins) is convicted for life for murdering his wife and her lover. He befriends a seasoned lifer (Morgan Freeman) and plans an escape in this extraordinary tale of hope, survival, and friendship inside a maximum security prison.
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The Usual Suspects July 6 -- The Usual Suspects (1995) Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey; Directed by Bryan Singer; Rated R; 105 minutes. An all-star cast that includes Chazz Palminteri is featured in this stylish and absorbing film from director Bryan Singer. Beginning with a police roundup of suspects to an aborted hijacking of a gun-running truck, an engrossing mystery slowly unravels into an imaginative story that comes full circle.
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The Sixth Sense August 3 -- The Sixth Sense (1999) Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment; Directed by M. Night Shyamalan; Rated PG-13; 107 minutes. In this chilling, psychological thriller, 8-year-old Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. A helpless and reluctant channel, Cole is terrified by threatening visitations from those with unresolved problems that appear from the shadows. Confused by his paranormal powers, Cole is too young to understand his purpose and too terrified to tell anyone about his torment, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the ominous truth about Cole's supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something harrowing-and unexplainable.
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What is a sleeper hit?

A sleeper hit is typically a low budget film that is not expected to earn a lot of money or awards. As a result, very little is spent promoting the film. A sleeper hit, however, has a special quality that slowly generates attention and attracts audiences through positive word of mouth.  Many sleeper hits bring unexpected box office success. 

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Easy Rider (1969)

Halloween  (1978)

Mad Max (1979)

A Christmas Story (1983)

Stand by Me (1986)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Ghost (1990)

Clerks (1994)

The Full Monty (1997)

There's Something About Mary (1998)

American Pie (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Boondock Saints (1999)

Fight Club (1999)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Saw (2003)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Super Size Me (2004)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)

March of the Penguins (2005)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Juno (2007)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Magic Mike (2012)

Looper (2012)

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More DVDs available at the library:

Ernest Borgnine – From Here to Eternity, The Wild Bunch, The Flight of the Phoenix

Harrison Ford – Cowboys and Aliens, Morning Glory, Extraordinary Measures, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Blade Runner, Clear and Present Danger

Richard Dreyfuss – Close Encounters of the Third Kind, W, Poseidon, Oliver Twist, Stand By Me, Quiz Show

Ron Howard – The Alamo, The DaVinci Code, The Missing, Ransom, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, A Beautiful Mind, Willow, Parenthood

Sylvester Stallone – Rocky, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Rocky Balboa, The Expendables, The Expendables 2, Zookeeper

Tim Robbins – Dead Man Walking The Secret Life of Words, The Lucky Ones, City of Ember, High Fidelity

Morgan Freeman – The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, Red, The Civil War, Dolphin Tale, Invictus, The Bucket List, Born to Be Wild, Glory, Gone Baby Gone

Kevin Spacey – Horrible Bosses, American Beauty, Glengarry Glen Ross, Se7en, The House of Cards (the complete first season), The Men Who Stare at Goats

Bryan Singer – C-Men, X-Men 1.5, X-Men 2, X2: X-Men United

Gabriel Byrne – The Man in the Iron Mask, In Treatment (seasons 1-3)

M. Night Shyamalan –The Happening, Lady in the Water, The Village, Unbreakable, Stuart at the Library

Bruce Willis – A Good Day to Die Hard, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, Pulp Fiction, Red

Toni Collette – Angel in the House, Hitchcock, Evening, The Night Listener

These are just a sampling of movies available. Search the library catalog for even more!

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Books available at the library:

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About Jeannie Berg

Jeannie Berg has two main passions – watching films and talking about films.  She has been blessed with the opportunity to channel these passions into teaching cinema studies and hosting film discussion events across the valley since 2002. Over the past eleven years, Jeannie has taught cinema studies at local colleges and universities, including Glendale Community College, Paradise Valley Community College, Collins College, Scottsdale Community College, ASU, and NAU.  She has also previously taught screenwriting, television and theatre courses.  Jeannie has served as film scholar at Glendale Public Library’s Reel Talk Film Series since 2006 and previously hosted film discussion events for the National Endowment for the Arts’ “The Big Read” at Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Anthem, and Tucson libraries.

Jeannie Berg

Her knowledge of film comes from an extensive study of cinema and her experience working in the movie industry. Jeannie has a graduate degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Screenwriting and has written several screenplays. She is currently producing a documentary on racism experienced by Arizona residents during the Great Depression.  Before moving to Phoenix, Jeannie worked for Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles.  She is a member of the Independent Feature Project and Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

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