Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BBC critics poll names the top movies of the century


Time for another list of great films as decided by critics! This time, the BBC asked critics to name the best films of this century. David Lynch's Mulholland Drive tops their selections, and it gets more eclectic the deeper you look.

Compared with similar lists about the golden age of Hollywood, BBC's list has an immediately greater range of expression and ideas. Two international films appear in the top five, including one that's animated (Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away). Elsewhere in the top 25 films, you can find documentaries (The Act of Killing), action movies (Mad Max: Fury Road), and off-the-wall experiments (Holy Motors). And again, the large number of international films is unique among other American-centric lists.

We can't complain much about omissions from this list because of the remarkably wide net it casts. Spring Breakers, Before Sunset, and The Turin Horse all land near each other, and that seems like a pretty great microcosm of film.

We have most if all of these films in our collection. Here's ten call numbers for their top ten:

1. Mulholland Drive – HU DVD 382
2. In the Mood for Love – HU DVD 1520
3. There Will Be Blood – HU DVD 4196
4. Spirited Away – HU DVD 586
5. Boyhood – HU DVD 11713
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – HU DVD 1020
7. The Tree of Life – HU DVD 9230
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two – HU DVD 1114
9. A Separation – HU DVD 10336
10. No Country for Old Men – HU DVD 3982

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Media Services Pop-up Library hits the quad on Wednesday!

Our pop-up library from Spring 2015 with desk attendant Micah

Welcome Week is underway! We're happy to see campus buzzing again after the summer. We also know that there's a whole lot of new people on campus who haven't had a chance to explore the library yet. So we're bringing the library to you!

On Wednesday, August 24th at 4pm, we're setting up a Media Services pop-up library on the quad. We'll have a selection of new titles, classics, and television shows for checkout with your AU ID. It's the end of summer, and we get that you want more quality time outside, so now you don't even have to set foot in the library to learn about what we do.

We'll see y'all on Wednesday!

Monday, August 15, 2016

When happens when film crews lack diversity, too?

We know that the film industry has visible diversity problems, from directing to acting. We can point to the lack of racial diversity among the Oscar acting nominees as a glaring problem, but less obviously, behind-the-camera craft roles like sound and editing suffer from both subtle and overt racism.

Variety recently ran a cover story about what they've termed #ArtisansSoWhite, the white male dominance of the technical side of the film industry. Their article includes a number of troubling anecdotes, not just of racial imbalance but outright hostility. One visual effects supervisor even recounted having his skills questioned by someone who asserted he was a diversity hire.

This has implications for mentoring opportunities and the type of work available to non-white artisans; one interviewee noticed that she had worked overwhelmingly on films about African-Americans, exclusively slotted into those films by producers.

Variety's exposé is long, disconcerting, and worth a read for those interested in where the industry needs to improve.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Take a look inside our old U-matic player

If you've never had to deal with a U-matic player, consider yourself lucky. These beasts from the 70s were the ancestors of VHS players, and they are sort of a nightmare to use. We have a few on-site still so we can transfer out-of-print U-matic videos to a new format.

We think this one might've finally kicked the bucket yesterday, so our collections coordinator Molly opened it up to see if there was anything that could obviously be prepared. We were not prepared for the cyberpunk nightmare inside. Given the age, it looks like every button and toggle (and there were many) has a maze of circuitry attached. We take care of our equipment, but we wouldn't even know where to start fixing this thing.

You deserve to see the guts of a U-matic player. We're digitizing the out-of-print U-matic collection so you'll never have to deal with this.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Love British TV? See where those shows are meant to take place

Have you ever seen one of those experiments where people from other countries try to identify the United States? Let's admit that we're just as bad with the United Kingdom. Unless you've spent some time over there, everything that ends in "-shire" sounds interchangeable. And when it comes to television and movies, we just sort imagine everything taking place in a big, inspecific British countryside.

So for the rubes among us, graphic designer Tim Ritz (an AU alumnus!) put together a map of where major shows from the United Kingdom are set. As you can imagine, London hosts at least two dozen shows, but the rest of the country is littered with other hotspots. Finally seeing where Derbyshire fits into the local map gives Pride & Prejudice a whole lot more context.

Of course, the map also points out that many of these shows weren't filmed on-located. Wolf Hall, set at Hampton Court Place in London, was shot at "various castles," which just leads us right back to our original vague idea of what England looks like.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Watch HBO documentaries for free through Films On Demand

from Citizen U.S.A.
You probably know HBO for Game of Thrones and their other hit shows, but they're also known as a powerhouse of prestigious documentaries, like the Academy Award-winning Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.

Films On Demand just signed a deal with HBO to stream their collection of documentary films, and as part of the AU community, you can watch them for free! Follow this link to the HBO section of the Films On Demand website to see what all they have. Notable titles include the veterans stories of Alive Day Memories, Arab Spring documentary In Tahrir Square, citizenship road trip Citizen U.S.A., and a look at the life of a single mother in Paycheck to Paycheck. (And don't forget When the Levees Broke!)

These are great film – not just to watch for your own enjoyment, but for coursework and scholarship. HBO documentaries have great educational value, and using one is a fun, productive way to mix up a presentation or research.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Alternative programming: Getting real about Rio

from Rio de Janeiro: Urban Future
The 2016 Rio Olympics start tomorrow, and this year seems particularly fraught. Every Olympic event has some enormous, costly, potentially negative impact on its host – remember the broken hotels in Sochi and the wasted construction in Athens? – but Rio has it worst in recent memory. The Zika virus outbreak and hazardous water conditions are enough cause for alarm, but the government's ongoing anti-crime and urban renewal efforts have revealed the dangerous state of the city.

To learn more about the challenges facing Rio as it heads into the global spotlight, consider watching one of these three streaming documentaries. (You will need to log in with your AU username/password to access these.)

  • Rio de Janeiro: Urban Future
    The Urban Future series looks at programs attempting to revitalize major cities. The Rio episode highlights the displacement of families living in neighborhoods razed to build Olympic facilities. What will happen to those communities after the Olympics are over and the buildings fall into disuse?
  • The Road to Rio
    Monty Python's Michael Palin hosts this unexpectedly serious travelogue, where he describes the contrast between Rio's glitzy Olympic-friendly image and marginalized neighborhoods overrun with drugs as "a mixture of construction and ruin at the same time."
  • Witness: Rio
    In the grimmest of the three documentaries, Eros Hoagland takes a camera into Rio's favelas document the city's violence and the effect of the police's attempts at "pacification."

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

New Acquisitions - August 2016


One month left in summer! Everyone panic!

Well, don't actually panic. We're getting everything set for the fall semester, and we're stocking up on more new acquisitions. As before, we're in the process of replacing as many of our VHSes with DVDs as possible. But we're also plugging other holes in our collection. We've added Hercules, A Bug's Life, The Good Dinosaur, and Zootopia, which we think completely rounds out our collection of Disney animation.

We also want to highlight Gaming in Color, a documentary about queer experiences in gaming, and Anomalisa, an adult stop-motion film by Charlie Kaufman.

Hit the link for a list of what else is new for August...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Matt Damon in The Great Wall sadly isn't unprecedented

Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu
Last week, a trailer debuted for Matt Damon's new film, The Great Wall, set during the Song dynasty in China. Matt Damon basically has no business being in that movie, and the fact that he's the star at all sadly capitalizes on how international audiences associate white male action heroes with high production value.

It's also yet another example of whitewashing in film. For as long as Hollywood has existed, white actors have been cast in non-white parts, usually to horrifying or embarrassing results. A few months back, IndieWire rounded up the twenty most egregious examples, in case you've forgotten the extent of this lousy tradition. It affects movies good and bad, past and present. We can look at Katharine Hepburn's horrifyingly offensive portrayal of Jade Tan in 1944's Dragon Seed and shake our heads in hindsight, but it's less easy to dismiss the white casting of a real, living Indian-American man in The Social Network.

You could dismiss Damon's new role as a byproduct of international film development, but consider how bizarre it is that America's long, poor diversity track record in film has become the standard even for other countries. We can do better, folks.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Director Edgar Wright names is favorite 1000 movies (Yes, 1000)


Edgar Wright is one of the most distinctive, stylized directors working in film right now. If you've seen Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you'll recognize his unmistakable, kinetic energy. We're all ears when he wants to share his thoughts on the art of filmmaking.

As it turns out, Wright was happy to oblige. Last week, he shared a list of his favorite 1000 films, ordered chronologically from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920 to The Neon Demon from this year.

1000 films is a lot. I haven't seen 1000 films. I couldn't even name 1000 films. But Edgar Wright can. His list finds room for everything, from the expected big movies (Ghostbusters and Vertigo) to strange cult hits (Withnail and I and John Woo's A Better Tomorrow II). Those odd ones are the most revealing about Wright's taste and influences, and they're the ones we really want to seek out.

We'd normally end a post like this with a list of some of the most interesting films on the list, but honestly, 1000 is more than we can reasonably sort through this afternoon. Dive in yourself, and we guarantee that if you're interested in Wright, you'll come back with a dozen movies you'll want to watch.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Get a DC Library card to get InstantFlix for free!

DC Public Library's Tenley-Friendship branch is just down the road from us, so we get excited when we can promote their services too. Like audiobooks! AU doesn't have a collection, but the Tenley-Friendship library is just a few blocks away.

Now DC Public is expanding its streaming video collection, which we're happy to promote too! If you have a DC Public Library card, you can now access InstantFlix (also called IndieFlix), a collection of independent movies. InstantFlix is all over the place in a good way: just on the front page, we see a Mythbusters-style reality experiment show, Sundance movies, a Jet Li kung fu movie, PBS documentaries, and something called Angry Nazi Zombies.

InstantFlix also has a "QuickPick" option that tried to give you a recommendation to watch instantly. It's like the movie version of Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. Plus, they have whole categories for cooking videos and campy 80s movies. They have Death Bed: The Bed That Eats! We love that it's highlighting weirder, out-of-the-way stuff.

Once you get your library card (you can register online or in-person), you'll have access to the whole InstantFlix catalog for free. Join, and binge forever

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Would you work for a fictional company? (Don't mind us, we're very tired.)


Alright, listen, we're drained. The weather has been hovering near 100 degrees all week, and after a few weeks of inescapable political talk, we just need something fun and not-heady today. Maybe you do too.

So here's a silly infographic from Euroffice, a British office supply company, rating fictional corporations by how great they'd be as employers. We don't totally agree with their conclusions (Anchorman's news community is too sexist and has way too high of a mortality rate), but it's funny to think about the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from Alien in terms of their pay. Sure, you get ripped in half all the time, but they probably have great benefits

We can think of far worse employers than Office Space's Initech though. The Ministry of Information in Brazil doesn't even give you a real desk!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Checking your perspective on making a documentary


SOC's great film program often has AU students creating their own documentaries and heading out into the local community to capture a slice of life (take the Community Documentary class!). We love that AU students get to collaborate with DC to tell their stories, but there's a potentially fraught dynamic with having college students marching into town to film a struggling neighborhood for class project.

Filmmaker Edward Martinez addresses this in a new article, "Navigating the River: The Hidden Colonialism of Documentary." Martinez found himself falling into the usual traps of making a socially unconscious, potentially exploitative documentary – specifically, reducing its subjects to just standing in for their achievements rather than being actual human beings. This was never their intention, but the tropes of documentaries can encourage filmmakers to create that sort of accidentally condescending film that reinforces power imbalances. To make the problem clearer, Martinez asks "Have you ever seen a documentary about rich white people made by poor black people?"

These are problems that clearly don't only affect student films, but out friends in SOC would do well to learn from Martinez's example of a time his crew attempted to film without permission. What started a confrontation (and borderline assault) with a member of the public eventually turned into an opportunity to have a genuine conversation. Don't be the person using someone else's community to set up their tripod.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The end of the VHS, and what it means for the library


Well, we've been dreading this moment for years now: the VHS is officially obsolete.

Funai, the last company that still manufactures VHS players, will end their production at the end of the month. This comes less than a year after Betamax tapes were also discontinued. As of August 1st, the VHS will be a format permanently in the past; outside of small artisanal efforts (the article we linked to mentions a collector community that might not go down so easily), there will never be any more VHS players than currently exist in the world. That's all we've got.

This won't have too much of a practical effect for most people who have already replaced their VHS collections, but we worry about what will come of all the VHSes that have never been re-released or preserved. Countless documentaries and ephemera will become unavailable, assuming the tapes last longer than the supply of players.

For a few years now, Media Services has been in the process of preserving our VHS collection to ensure that this problem won't impact the AU community. We've been conducting an extensive audit of our VHSes to see what isn't available on any other format and whether we're within the legal grounds to digitize and create our own DVD copy of it. As part of this, we're also collaborating with other groups on campus like ATV and Athletics to preserve other valuable VHS videos, including old commencement addresses.

We still have a supply of VHS players and staff who know how to fix them, so we'll be fine in the long run. Let's take a second to commemorate this inevitable but sad moment for physical media.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

See where Hollywood films around DC


DC pops up in the movies for good reason: if you want to show the halls of power, you go to Washington. And sometimes, when you're showing the halls of power, your characters have to go for a walk or get a drink. This is how places like Adams Morgan ended up in movies like Dave.

Last semester, our student staff member Sean put together this great map of all the different places in DC that have shown up on film, along with our call numbers for those movies. Most the movies filmed around the Mall, understandably, but you might be surprised to learn about Slam (HU DVD 158), which was filmed near Anacostia. We also liked that Damn Yankees (HU DVD 2706) takes place at Griffith Stadium, at the side of what's now Howard University Hospital.

The map doesn't have ever film every set in DC (no Transformers 3?), but it's a fun way to look around the city and see where movies you might love have stopped by our city. Thanks to Sean for putting this together!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's okay: Scorsese has guilty pleasures, too


Ingmar Bergman apparently loved Ghostbusters. He's not alone among great directors. Even some of the most storied names in film loved popcorn junk once in a while; Film Comment magazine has been collecting lists of directors' favorite guilty pleasure movies for years now, and The A.V. Club rounded up some of their favorite examples.

John Carpenter's love for B-movies probably comes as no surprise given his own work (Halloween and Big Trouble in Little China), but he also loves The Conqueror, the notoriously terrible Genghis Khan period piece starring John Wayne that may have endangered the cast and crew by filming near a nuclear weapons test site. Martin Scorsese admitted to liking Exorcist II and Howard Hughes's opulent (and white-washed) Land of the Pharaohs. And Furious 7 director James Wan is a fan Disney's Tangled – not really a movie you should feel guilty about enjoying, but it's not what you'd expect from him.

Some of these movies are terrible or unwatchable today for their dated politics. But people like what people like, whether you're one of the most famous filmmakers or history or just a random person reading this blog right now. There's no such thing as a guilty pleasure if you really enjoy it!

Monday, July 18, 2016

More big movies streaming through the AU Library


Our streaming video collections got even better this month with a few additions we want to share with you – including a rotating collection that's only up for a limited time.

Firstly, we have two big new titles available to stream. When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee's documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is now available on Films on Demand, and the award-winning Argentinian film La Historia Oficial is available through Kanopy. These films are often favorites for courses at AU, and we hope having them available streaming makes them more accessible.

But for our biggest addition, we've opened the doors to our collection through Swank Digital Campus. Swank allows us to license feature films, but previously we could only share these titles with individual pre-approved classes. Now the collection is available for the AU community to watch for free, including big classic movies like The Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, and All The President's Men.

(The caveat is that we can only license Swank titles for a year at a time, so some of them will expire over the course of the year. Watch them early!)

We know that streaming plays a huge role in how people consume media, so we're excited to bring you more and more of these sorts of high-profile movies through the library.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Even reviews of media for women are more hostile


Gender-targeted abuse and harassment have long made comment sections on the internet borderline unreadable, but those same nasty attitudes have been poisoning the digital well for years in subtler ways. As a recent exposé from FiveThirtyEight shows, online reviews for television shows geared towards women have been artificially lowered by axe-grinding men.

By analyzing a trove of IMDb data, Walt Hickey discovered that among shows more often rated and watched by women, large shares of reviews by men have been extremely low. This has disproportionately tanked their scores: the average 1-to-10 rating for the top 100 shows aimed towards women trails the average for shows aimed towards men by almost a full point. For shows like America's Next Top Model – which we can attest has a health fanbase across gender – men rated the show almost three points lower than women did. But this is an issue with the aggregate, not the quality of individual shows.

It would be easy to blame this on loud sexists, but we should be blaming the way gender and media are talked about. Those men giving Tyra Banks a 1 have probably been subtly, tacitly conditioned their whole lives to look down on things made for women as inherently inferior or less engaging. So, you know, just factor in decades of systemic sexism when looking at IMDb scores.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fandor spotlights twenty acclaimed films by women


Fandor has established itself as the premier digital film service for cinema buffs: in addition to their streaming library, they run Keyframe, a daily film essay and video blog. If you haven't followed them already and like film, you probably should. For one of their videos (embedded above), Keyframe polled fifty film critics about their favorite works directed by women and created a montage of the top twenty results.

As with the cinematographer interviews, the question is whether it's productive to view films primarily through the lens of the filmmaker's gender. In short, it is. As the video's creator Scout Tafoya says, women still face an uphill battle in terms of criticism, funding, and most troublingly acknowledgment for their work. "Unless we make noise," Tafoya adds, "we'll allow it to continue."

Keyframe did their part, so we're sharing it. Take at look at the striking imagery from twenty films by women. (Meshes of the Afternoon is unlike anything we've seen in a while.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

What's it like to be a woman in cinematography?

via Variety

Much has been made about the unfortunately small pool of women directing in Hollywood and lack of the opportunities they are given. Things are even more dire for women in cinematography. According to Vulture, only 2% of cinematographers for major films are women, and none have ever been nominated for an Oscar in the entire 88 years of the Academy Awards.

To get a better sense of the state of the field, Vulture's Kevin Lincoln sat down with Natasha Braier, Maryse Alberti, and Rachel Morrison, three cinematographers of critically acclaimed films, and asked them about their experience in a male-dominated field. They dive into the difference in how they're treated on-set by colleagues and especially how societal expectations about mothers and families restricts their work opportunities (DPs commitments for big films can last for months).

Morrison suggests that she'd rather be known for her work than for who she is – but also that the spotlight on women in cinematography is necessary as the field shifts. We hope we'll get there too.

Who run the world? Ghostbusters. It's Women in Film Week on the blog


Haters be warned: the new Ghostbusters movie comes out this Friday, and we are extremely excited. It looks like a whole load of fun, and we're glad to see a big-budgeted action comedy in theaters.

But it's impossible to talk about Ghostbusters in a vacuum, because the discussion around the movie has been dominated by anger over the casting of women in the movie's central roles. Whether in coded language about the sanctity of childhood memories or just outright sexism, the uproar over funny women being Ghostbusters is a sad reminder that film and pop culture are still often hostile towards women.

So this week, we're featuring articles and stories about the experiences of women in film. Bustin' preconceptions about the state of gender equity in the film business makes us feel good.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Meet the Media Services guide collection


When we buy new items for the collection, sometimes they come with bonus guides full of interviews, essays, and commentary. These are super useful for anyone researching film or wanting to learn more about film history. We keep these guides stashed on shelves in the back corner of Media Services, and we realized that we need to make them a little easier for you to find. So we're doing that!

Whenever you check out a DVD that comes with a guidebook, you'll find a little message in the case letting you know about the extra material you can check out. If you have to watch something for a class assignment, you might find something in there to help you out.

We hope this gets you closer to some of the hidden treasures in the library collection!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

RIP Abbas Kiarostami, defining voice of Iranian cinema

Over the weekend, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami died at age 76. Kiarostami was perhaps the greatest and most renowned Iranian filmmaker; he is the only to win a Palme d'Or, had an outsized influence on world cinema, and brought international attention to the Iranian film industry. His admirers include Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, who once reportedly said "Film begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami."

Kiarostami's thematically powerful work often lands on lists of the greatest films ever made, not just for their historical significance but their artistic achievement. His 1997 Palme-winning Taste of Cherry is an milestone in minimalism, with long stretches of silence and inaction that divided audiences on its release.

Below, we've included a list of films by Kiarostami, including some shorts included in compilations. You might also consider watching Cinema Asia: Iran (streaming), a documentary about the history of Iranian cinema that mentions Kiarostami's work.

Segment in Lumière & CompanyHU DVD 283
Crimson Gold (screenplay) – HU DVD 928
The Wind Will Carry Us – HU DVD 1334
Ten – HU DVD 1336
Close-Up – HU DVD 1344 and streaming
ABC Africa – DVD 1345
Where is My Romeo? – DVD 4320
Life and Nothing More – DVD 8247
Certified Copy – HU DVD 10031
Segment in Five: 5 Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro OzuHU DVD 10290
Taste of Cherry – HU DVD 10375
Where is the Friend's Home – HU DVD 11633 
Like Someone in Love – HU DVD 11684
Through the Olive Trees – HU DVD 12018

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

New Acquisitions - July 2016


This month, we've added some of the most critically movies of 2015 to our collection, including The Revenant, Creed, and Concussion. But we want to focus on a particular fascinating movie that probably passed under your radar.

The Tribe is a Ukrainian crime movie filmed entirely in Ukrainian sign language. There are no translations or subtitles. Critics say the movie is captivating, even or perhaps because of the lack of understandable dialogue. Certainly nothing like it has ever been produced before, and for that alone, you owe it a shot.

Follow the link for the rest of what we have for July...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: The Purge: Election Year

The summer blockbuster season is here! "Media Services at the Movies" will look at what big movie is coming out this week, then offer a few movies like it from our collection.

To be honest, we dismissed The Purge at first as more thinly plotted horror about people breaking into your house. Maybe it was. By its newest, third installment, the series has slowly morphed into political satire. The seeds were always there – the first movie teases that the annual crime spree started as socioeconomic violence – but reviews for The Purge: Election Year say the movie has its sights on bigger targets this time.

Using dystopian scenarios to comment on modern society has been a staple of fiction for a long time (see: 1984), but film in particular loves the genre. You can see similarities everywhere from The Hunger Games and Idiocracy to the ultra-violent movies of Paul Verhoeven. Is it fair to call the class warfare of The Purge an update to The Running Man?

So if you liked where the newest Purge is heading, consider watching some of these other movies where a nightmarish future has more in common with the present than you'd expect.

Gattaca – HU DVD 1949
A Scanner Darkly – HU DVD 2416 
Idiocracy – HU DVD 2494
Children of Men – HU DVD 2631
Soylent Green – HU DVD 5731
District 9 – HU DVD 6686
RoboCop – DVD 8164
They Live – HU DVD 9020
Logan's Run – HU DVD 11104
Silent Running – HU DVD 11609

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The five years in Chicago when movies were forbidden

from Exhibitors Herald,
via Wikimedia Commons
Today, we learned about a truly bizarre moment in film history that we want to share. For as often as you hear people (usually wrongly) claiming censorship of media, you've never lived through anything like the reign of Major M.L.C. Funkhouser, film censor of the city of Chicago.

As The Chicago Tribune tells it, in 1913, Funkhouser was appointed by the Chicago police as a "censor of public morals," which allowed him to crack down on antisocial behavior. Instead of looking at public drunkenness, prostitution, gambling, or any of the other traditional public vices, Funkhouser focused all his attention on motion pictures.

Funkhouser abused his powers in absurd degree. He banned movies depicting dancing, arguing that they could lead young people to go to bars and drink. He nixed comedies that made fun of authority and required film producers to edit or rewrite the movies to allow them to play. At one point, Funkhouser even rejected a film about the Revolutionary War because it could potentially undermine national interests in World War I.

Filmmakers ridiculed the censorship almost immediately. Their films, stripped of objectionable content, were apparently incomprehensible. And through all this, none of Funkhouser's actions seemed to have any impact on the city apart from aggravating producers and audiences. After five years of this nonsense, the new mayor of Chicago found an excuse to suspend Funkhouser, closing the book on a dark age for expression on film.

To learn more about film censorship in Chicago, check out the article "Reel Life, Real Censorship" from the Chicago History Museum. We're still in disbelief that this happened.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Learn the secrets of directing from Adam Nimoy this Thursday

image via School of Communication website
Maybe you've had to direct a student film for class. Exciting! But that means you have to direct people, and if you don't have experience managing a set, you may be awkward to work with your actors without accidentally being a jerk. You need to learn the best way to communicate with your cast from the experts who have been there before – and who better than Hollywood royalty?

This Thursday, June 30th, the School of Communication will host Adam Nimoy, television director and son of actor Leonard Nimoy, for a masterclass on "Working with Actors." We'll quote the SOC description here:
One of the biggest complaints Nimoy would hear from actors on the set is that, “nobody talks to us,” except to say "move here, move there, faster, slower, louder, softer, cut, print, moving on!” This class is a way for directors to address some of those concerns and provide a deep dive into how to direct actors.
We won't pretend to know what Nimoy does, but it sounds like there's a lot more involved than just ordering your cast around really politely. You don't appear to need to register in advance, so show up before 1pm on Thursday to hear sound advice from the son of Spock himself.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Independence Day: Resurgence

The summer blockbuster season is here! "Media Services at the Movies" will look at what big movie is coming out this week, then offer a few movies like it from our collection.

Marvel's brand of interconnected, tonally similar action dominates the movie landscape today, but it's difficult to understate what a massive effect Independence Day had on blockbusters in 1996. Director Roland Emmerich, at the point best known for Stargate, took the template of 70s disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure and updated it for the era of $100 million budgets. You can trace its influence to Deep Impact, Cloverfield, Sharknado, and basically everything by Michael Bay.

The upcoming sequel to Independence Day has the chance to re-plant the flag for big dumb disaster movies, but instead of looking forward, let's roll the clock back. As we said, disaster movies had been successful in decades prior, and Independence Day: Resurgence owes its template to that first wave of the genre. So for those looking forward to another wave of people in fleeing in panic while cities explode, the Nixon era has you covered.

The China Syndrome – HU DVD 237
The Towering Inferno – HU DVD 8555
The Andromeda Strain – HU DVD 11322
Airport – HU DVD 11854
The Poseidon Adventure – HU DVD 12591

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

AFI Docs begins tonight with a Werner Herzog treat on Friday


AFI Docs has arrived! For one week every summer, the American Film Institute takes over DC, hosting five days of screenings for new documentaries and documentary shorts. AFI Docs attracts top talent from around the world – including, this year, a special event with Werner Herzog and his new film Lo and Behold.

Tickets for Herzogpalooza are already sold out, but there are plenty of other documentaries to watch this week in downtown DC and Silver Spring. Highlights include...
  • The Man Who Saw Too Much, about a photojournalist who covered crime and tragedy in Mexico City for five decades.
  • Toucan Nation, which looks at toucan rehabilitation programs and animal welfare laws.
  • Sonita, the story of an aspiring rapper living in Iran, where women are not allowed perform music.
  • Obit, a behind-the-scenes look at the New York Times's obituary department.
The festival kicks off tonight with a screening of Zero Days, a new documentary from Alex Gibney (director of HBO's Going Clear) about American Stuxnet virus reporetedly designed to attack Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Tickets cost around $12 each, the usual price for a high-end movie screening. See the AFI Docs website for a full list of what's playing this week. Or you can get the official app!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

See Inside Out tonight in Adams Morgan!


It's been a while since we checked in with all the outdoor movie screenings happening in DC this summer. As it turns out, there's one tonight!

The Adams Morgan BID will be screening Inside Out tonight at the Marie Reed School Soccer Field, just a block or two away from Amsterdam Falafelshop. The movie starts half an hour after sundown – which should be around 8:30 to 9-ish – and the first 50 attendees get free cookies courtesy of Tryst.

If you're still riding the Pixar train after Finding Dory this weekend and need evening plans, why not swing by AdMo for Inside Out? If you leave near AU anyway, it's convenient and, best of all, free!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Finding Dory

The summer blockbuster season is here! "Media Services at the Movies" will look at what big movie is coming out this week, then offer a few movies like it from our collection.

We can't think of much new to say about Pixar. The studio has some of the best talent in animation – second only to Studio Ghibli and infinitely greater than whoever made Norm of the North. Although the quality of their films has wavered a bit in recent years, you can still depend on Pixar to bring out the heart in their stories.

Pixar sequels in particular can be hit or miss. For every Toy Story 2, they put out a Cars 2. From early impressions, Finding Dory sounds like it lands in the upper levels of Pixar for its poignant take on  disability. Dory will also be beautiful, as Pixar films tend to be. They look even more beautiful in HD; we'd go as far as recommending animation as one of the reasons to make the bump up to Blu-ray.

Don't believe us? We have several of Pixar's movies in Blu-ray (not all, since we bought many before Blu-rays were a thing). If you have a Blu-ray player, check one out and see the quality difference for yourself. It'll definitely encourage you to opt for the Blu-ray of Finding Dory went it comes out.

Ratatouille – HU BLU 3814
Up – HU BLU 6690
Toy Story – HU BLU 7768
Toy Story 2 – HU BLU 7769
Toy Story 3 – HU BLU 7770
Monsters Inc. – HU BLU 8596
Inside Out – HU BLU 12881