Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Film canon classics

Still from Seven Samurai

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We're happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we're focusing on classics from the film canon.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

The Battle of Algiers – "One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s."

City Lights – "City Lights, the most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin, is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street and mistakes him for a millionaire."

El Norte – "Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. The personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism."

Eraserhead – "In David Lynch's 'dream of dark and troubling things,' Henry is left alone in his apartment to care for his deformed baby and has a series of strange encounters with the beautiful girl across the hall and the woman living in his radiator."

M – "In his harrowing masterwork M, Fritz Lang merges trenchant social commentary with chilling suspense, creating a panorama of private madness and public hysteria that to this day remains the blueprint for the psychological thriller."

Man with a Movie Camera – "This dawn-to-dusk view of the Soviet Union offers a montage of urban Russian life, showing the people of the city at work and at play Considered one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era." Includes accompaniment by the Michael Nyman Band.

Seven Samurai –  "One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits."

Stagecoach – "John Ford's smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list and establishing the genre as we know it today. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstances, Stagecoach features John Wayne's first starring role for Ford."

Monday, October 24, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter documentary now available streaming

Films on Demand is a useful database for finding documentaries on a range of subjects, from the environment to teaching math. Now you can add timely social issues to that list as well: you can now stream #BlackLivesMatter, one of the first feature-length documentaries produced about the ongoing protests of racial inequality and police violence.

This is (at least as far as I know) the first documentary in our collection about the Black Lives Matter protests. Although there have been countless critical essays and videos on the topic, this succinct, powerful documentary captures snapshots of the protests around the country and and contextualizes them with history and stories from protestors.

We recommend previewing this film if you're teaching, learning, or just curious about the movement. Video can chronicle social change better than any words, and a well-produced documentary like #BlackLivesMatter is an especially great example.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The first Star Wars trailer is missing a whole lot

For Throwback Thursday (do we have to use the hashtag if it's on a blog?), here's a neat piece of film history. In December 1976, the first trailer for Star Wars was released, about half a year before the movie. Episode Nothing supplied some context in a recent blog post explaining why it looks so rough.

Star Wars was still a work-in-progress at this point in its production. Apart from a few quick space shots, most of the trailer avoids scenes with special effects; the only lightsabers that appear in screen weren't colo red in yet, for instance. And perhaps most glaringly in hindsight, the trailer doesn't have the iconic John Williams score. Without that adventurous music, the movie seems almost dour.

It's a fun glimpse at how a studio decided to promote a movie they didn't realize would be a juggernaut. The whole thing is a dark mishmash that reportedly cost about $4000. We guarantee that if 20th Century Fox knew what would follow, they wouldn't throw together something like this.

Kanopy Highlights: Social justice documentaries

Still from Concerning Violence

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We're happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we're focusing on powerful documentaries for social justice.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

5 Broken Cameras – "5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005."

Body Typed series – "Body Typed is series of award-winning short films that uses humor to raise serious questions about the marketplace of commercial illusion and unrealizable standards of physical perfection."

Concerning Violence – "From the director of The Black Power Mixtape comes a bold and fresh visual narrative on Africa, based on newly discovered archive material covering the struggle for liberation from colonial rule in the late ’60s and ’70s, accompanied by text from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth."

In Whose Honor? – "What’s wrong with American Indian sports mascots? This moving, award-winning film is the first of its kind to address that subject. In Whose Honor? takes a critical look at the long-running practice of "honoring" American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports."

Screaming Queens – "Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States - a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Come learn about Boyz n the Hood, "a film that changed America"

The AU Library's ongoing Books that Shaped America series has highlighted some critical pieces of literature from American history. And now, finally, movies are getting their turn, too!

Tomorrow, communication librarian Derrick Jefferson will host a discussion of Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton's 1991 film about youth life in South Central LA. We're excited to see what Derrick has to say about this "film that changed America." Event information is available here; the discussion runs 12-1pm tomorrow in the library's Training and Events room.

It'd probably help if you've seen the movie in advance, so come to the Media Services desk to check out our copy! (Call number HU DVD 327*)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A new lost Méliès was discovered... after it was mislabeled

A Trip to the Moon, not Match de Prestidigitation
First there was the lost Hitchcock film. Then, the lost Laurel and Hardy sequence. Now, film conservationists have found a long-list film by Georges Méliès, one of the pioneers of cinema.

Méliès was one of the pioneers of film as an art form, especially in the area of special effects: the director was an illusionist, and he used his skills to create astounding effects that had never been previously achieved on screen. Méliès reportedly produced over 500 films, and although you may know his famous A Trip to the Moon, most of his work has been lost.

This particular film, Match de Prestidigitation, had the wrong name on the container when it arrived at a Czech film archive. So in addition to the joy of recovering a foundational piece of film history, this is also a great lesson in keeping things organized and described correctly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween nears! Check out our horror movie collection

Halloween weekend is but two weeks away, and like most film nerds, we're ready for horror movie season. Because it would be weird to watch Halloween in April, right?

Almost 100 years have passed since Nosferatu and some of the earliest feature-length horror films, and they're still as terrifying as ever. If you're looking for a horror movie to watch, you have nearly a century of choices that still hold up. So where do you start?

Our horror-themed Pinterest board includes 200 movies in our collection, from The Babadook to the old Phantom of the Opera. You might recognize a few classics like The Evil Dead, but if you're looking to jump off the usual path, you could try something like zombie drama Maggie or the extremely descriptive Slumber Party Massacre.

You could watch 10 horror movies from the AU Library every day until Halloween and still not make it through everything. It's a deep genre! You should probably start on that today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How the West was whitened

The Western genre is having something of a mini-comeback between Westworld and The Magnificent Seven. (Or, maybe we all just love Yul Brynner?) This year's trips to the Old West look a little different than in the past, specifically the actors. Our collective imagined memory of the Western looks white, middle-aged, and male. But if anything, Denzel Washington showing up in The Magnificent Seven is closer to the reality of the western than film has us believe.

Leah Williams wrote a great piece for The Atlantic about how classic Western films do a disservice to the historical truth of race in the West. The Searchers was inspired by the stories of a black cowboy named Britton Johnson, but the lead role was played by John Wayne, a notorious white supremacist. Casting non-white actors in a Western is often seen as an act of subversion, but if anything, that's closer to reality.

Sadly, that all-white image is so ingrained in pop culture that it won't be erased anytime soon. In another 50 years, maybe Denzel will be the new John Wayne?

Monday, October 10, 2016

RIP Andrezj Wajda, a voice for Poland in film

Yesterday, Polish director Andrezj Wajda died at age 90. He was among the most distinguished Polish filmmakers of his generation or in general: his accolades include a Palme d'Or for his labor rights film Man of Iron and a 1999 honorary Oscar for his lifetime body of work.

As with Man of Iron, many of Wajda's works were influenced by his lifetime in Poland during its occupation in World War II and rule over the Soviet Union. Many of his films were challenged or banned by Soviet authorities; he was not able to produce Katyń, a film about a 1940 massacre of the Polish, until after Poland's independence.

If you want to watch some of Wajda's impactful, distinctly Polish cinematic vision, we have a number of his films available in the library, including two through streaming.

Ashes and Diamonds – HU DVD 2583 
Danton – HU DVD 5758
Everything for Sale – HU DVD 2626 
A Generation – HU DVD 2581
Kanal – HU DVD 2582 and Streaming
Katyn – HU DVD 6135
Korczak – HU DVD 10546
Man of Iron – HU DVD 3145
Man of Marble – DVD 2014
Penderecki: Paths Through The Labyrinth – Streaming
Promised Land – HU DVD 2655

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Rolling Stone declares The Sopranos the greatest TV show

Alright, everyone gather 'round, we have another Top 100 list to fight over.

This time, Rolling Stone put together its list of what it considers the greatest television shows of all time . The top of the list is pretty much what you'd expect – The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, et al. – but as with all these similar lists, we liked seeing that rounded out the rest of the top 100. Rolling Stone included game shows, talk shows, animation, and reality TV in addition to scripted series, so they cast a wide net.

Best of all, Rolling Stone didn't intentionally try to get such an eclectic mix. They sent ballots out to a wide range of television industry figures, and the results they got back just happened to be such a jumble. It reflects well on the past, present, and current state of television: even if the Difficult Men genre still gets the most accolades, TV is a unique space where Jeopardy and The Golden Girls can live side-by-side.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

See The Accountant early and for free, with director Q&A!

We have more passes to see movies in advance this week – with a Q&A with the director!

This time around, we have passes for a preview screening of The Accountant, the new Ben Affleck-fronted thriller with a title that doesn't suggest that all. You'd normally have to wait until this hits theaters to see whether a movie about an accountant could actually be exciting, but you can see it for free on Thursday, October 6th, at 7pm in Friendship Heights. Stick around afterwards for the Q&A with director Gavin O'Connor.

We only have physical copies of these passes, so you'll need to swing by in person at the Media Serviecs desk to pick these up. As always, remember that these events are intentionally overbooked, so get there as early as you can to ensure that you get a seat.

Monday, October 03, 2016

What does Netflix's shrinking library mean for film history literacy?

Even with our collection of 14,000 DVDs, we'll all admit to watching things on Netflix and Hulu all the time. Streaming subscriptions are convenient, and we're realizing that it's their primary way that many incoming students watch movies and television now. But we're concerned about how that narrows what movies and television people can watch.

According to a report by Exstreamist, Netflix's library has shrunk by 50% in the last four years. As Netflix has pursued its own original shows and movies, the company has started cutting back on titles by other studios. Today, by Exstreamist's estimates, Netflix has lost over 5000 titles since 2012, and the ones that are left aren't exactly the greatest.

This could have a serious chilling effect on what people watch. Consider the Indiana Jones movies. None are available on any American streaming service unless you pay for a rental. If media consumption habits become more and more reliant of what's available to stream immediately, that cuts off a massive amount of film and television history. And what about independent films that can't break onto a streaming platform?

We hope there's a change in viewing patterns soon. But the library's collection will always have physical copies that won't be removed at the end of the month.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Acquisitions - September 2016, Part 2

Yes, part two! A steady stream of DVDs continues to flow into the library, and we're getting them on the shelves for you. This month in particular had a focus on international films, so let's talk about those.

Pictured above is A Town Called Panic, the first stop-motion film ever screened at the Cannes Film Festival. We've added a number of movies nominated for the Goya Award (Spain's equivalent of the Oscar), like Marshland, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed, and the animated foosball comedy Underdogs. We've also expanded our collection of Arabic films with My Father is on the Tree and Ghazal Al Banat.

If you want to expand your film appetite beyond our shores, this is a great month to start. Follow on to see what else we have...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What was the last VHS ever?

Yesterday's post about Vidiots had us thinking about the VHS format again. Commercial VHSes have been out of print for nearly a decade, and with the last VHS player leaving the factory in July, it's glory days are clearly behind. Just for fun, this got us asking: what was the last VHS ever?

According to Inverse, the last commercial VHS ever published was David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, released on March 14, 2016. Others point to an extremely hard-to-find tape of Cars from 2007, but it's hard to figure out where those came from. Either way, we can safely say the VHS died about ten years ago.

The Inverse article goes on to wonder whether there might be a future market for VHSes in the same way that vinyl records have come back. Basically, there's not. The formats that replaced the VHS are all far better and more useful. We're always in the process of keeping our collection available and up-to-date, but we suspect we won't be purchasing new VHSes in 20 years.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Help a beloved LA film library preserve their old VHSes

If you read this blog, you know we have an affinity for digital preservation and weird, niche films that aren't available anymore. We do our best to serve the university community in those areas, but there are other groups with their own missions. Take Vidiots, a video rental store that's served Los Angeles film nerds (including directors like David O. Russell) for decades with its massive library of hard-to-find titles.

Now, Vidiots has launched a crowdfunding campaign to take wants to take their collection into the modern era by digitally preserving as much of their collection as possible. Vidiots has thousands of rare VHSes that are presumably deteriorating and may be the last copies remaining of certain films, and Vidiots wants to digitize those tapes, license them, and check them out to whoever wants a copy. Additional funds will go to creating programming to showcase these films. This is a huge benefit to the LA film community – which more or less overlaps exactly with Hollywood.

If you want to support a good cause that makes the world of film a better place, consider kicking a few dollars their way. Their campaign has about a month left to raise $45,000, any amount helps.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hasta la vista, Molly

We have a bittersweet post to share today: after four years of service, Visual Media Collections Coordinator Molly Hubbs is leaving the AU Library. Molly has been an invaluable member of the Media Services team and a backbone of many of our ongoing projects, especially new acquisition processing and the push to digitize our VHS collection. Although we're sad to see her go, we're excited for her new and exciting opportunities. Best of luck, Molly!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Toronto Film Festival had "its blackest edition ever"

As we saw at this weekend's Emmy Awards, we're finally seeing what happens when diversity in film goes from being a challenge to an asset. Diversity expands the possibilities of storytelling and filmmaking, and NPR saw that in effect at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Normally, the author Bilal Qureshi points out, film festival narratives tend to be dominated by one black film that has to stand in for the entire black experience, as Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation seemed poised to this year. But this year, TIFF had what Qureshi calls "its blackest edition ever" that "[pushed] back against the idea that Hollywood can only absorb one black story at a time." In fact, the filmmakers and organizers have shied away from labeling films "diverse" because, with the lineup they've assembled, there's no reason to pigeonhole non-white filmmakers.

We hope this becomes the new normal for film festivals. Hopefully we can expand the conversation about diversity in film past just its absence to what it looks like in practice.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What last night's Emmys mean for diversity on screen

via Yahoo

Last night's Emmy Awards highlighted the diversity of the nominees and winners, especially in contrast to this year's widely derided Oscars. The 2016 Emmys featured shows, stories, and artists from a wide spectrum of race, gender identity, and disability. Plus, we're happy any time Key & Peele wins an award. Nooice!

The Chicago Tribune published a great summary of why this year's ceremonies were different and how that different mattered creatively. Featuring an increasingly higher numbers of non-white nominees doesn't just capture the country more accurately; it also leads to greater diversity in subject matter, and the huge range of shows at the Emmys – including Master of None, Mr. Robot, and Orphan Black – reflects how media changes when you bring in new perspectives and voices. (There's also the added benefit that diverse representation may help ratings.)

If the Emmys are a sign of the general direction television is heading, diversity in perspective, representation, and talent are intertwined and growing. Take note, film!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

If you want to understand the Emmys, start with Mad Men

The Emmys are tonight! We love a celebration of the best of television as much as anyone, but as with any award show, remember that the nomination process is highly political and probably reflects the tastes and temperament of the voting body more than an objective measure of quality.

It's interesting to see what Emmy voters broadly consider to be the most prestigious shows. The number-crunching wizards at FiveThirtyEight took a shot at quantifying the types of programs the Emmys love to nominate.

Generally speaking, sci-fi, fantasy and period dramas get nods for the technical awards. Late night comedy mops up for writing. Guest appearances on Law & Order will get you a nomination for acting. And right in the middle of all this is Mad Men, a show with a nomination pattern that matches the average Emmy show almost exactly. Unsurprisingly, that's one of the most award-friendly shows in the last decade.

That article is super stats-wonky, but the point is that the Emmys have their own predictable tastes and politics. A show like The Americans is more likely to appeal to Emmy voters than Bob's Burgers, even if Bob's Burgers is wonderful and terrific.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Every Frame a Painting looks at the surprisingly unmemorable state of modern film soundtracks

Every Frame a Painting continues to be one of the best online film criticism video series. Usually the channel looks at editing and composition, but this time, creator Tony Zhou turned his sights to a very difficult film question: why are modern film soundtracks so uninspiring?

Zhou puts forward a cohesive argument, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as its focus. Over the last twenty years, movie soundtracks have become background music that matches rather than sets the mood of what's happening on-screen. That's not inherently good or bad, but it's less memorable than the fanfares and character themes from older blockbusters.

The video spends much of its time addressing a bigger concern, the use of "temp music" in editing. During production, films are often scored with placeholder music from other composers, frequently soundtracks from other movies. Increasingly, rather than starting from scratch, filmmakers ask composers to match the placeholder music, resulting in a soundtracks gradually sounding identical and borrowing the same generic structure and composition.

Speaking unobjectively, we hope that turns around. We understand why tone-setting scores have become popular, but Alan Silvestri's Back to the Future music is far more lovable than his work on The Avengers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

SOC's Media that Matter series kicks off with Thank You for Playing

Every semester, SOC's Media that Matter film series highlights social issues as captured on the screen, from race issues in America to the ethics of food. It's a very AU film series in the best way, and often, the screening includes a discussion with the filmmakers. Last semester, the series included a screening of Best Picture winner Spotlight and an interview with then-Boston Globe editor Martin Barton.

Media that Matter starts again this Wednesday with a screening of Thank You for Playing, a documentary about the development of the video game That Dragon, Cancer – an autobiographical game by Amy and Ryan Green about caring for their infant, who was diagnosed with cancer. That Dragon, Cancer is a raw, emotional experience to play, and Thank You for Playing looks at the people who chose to tell their story through an unexpected medium.

The screening begins at 6pm on Wednesday, September 14th, in the McKinley Building's Forman Theater; the film will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers led by AU Game Lab's Lindsay Grace.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What does a filmmaking class from Werner Herzog look like?

We just love this picture so much. Credit to sarkos on Tumblr.

Last year, the startup company MasterClass began offering six-hour online video lectures hosted by luminaries in their fields. You can learn about acting from Kevin Spacey or signing from Christina Aguilera, complete with assignments to complete on your own. We don't know how genuinely useful these courses are, but our eyes were caught by a filmmaking class led by Werner Herzog. What on earth would that be like?

Jesse Andrews at The Awl took the leap and watched Herzog's class, and if it wasn't completely instructive, it was at least, in his own words, "frankly insane." He recommends "spend[ing] a night in the forest" and takes his screenwriting advice from a drunken bus ride where he wrote Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Still, Andrews says he offers solid advice, such as how to be close with your actors (or control them?) and the importance of reading.

It's certainly not a traditional film course, though, with section titles like "Disorient Your Audience." Herzog's film skills were self-taught, and this sounds like an honest-to-goodness reflection of his approach to filmmaking – helpful or otherwise.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

See Queen of Katwe for free TOMORROW!

One of the great perks of living in a major city is getting to see movies before they come out. This week, we have free passes to see Queen of Katwe, the upcoming biopic about Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi, weeks before it hits theaters! The screening is tomorrow, Monday, September 12th, as 7pm in Friendship Heights.

To redeem your pass, visit SeeItFirst.net and enter the code 625515. You can redeem a pass for one or two people. These screenings are always intentionally overbooked to ensure a full house, so plan to show up early to ensure you get a seat.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Do some TV shows work better un-binged?

So today, a contentious issue came up in Media Services: one of our staff members gave up watching HBO's Deadwood. One reason it didn't click, they thought, was that episodes might not play as well when watched one after another. Unlike some shows with slowburn stories that make sense to watch in extended sessions, maybe Deadwood flowed better with a week between episodes.

We tried to figure out if there was some consensus or scholarly thoughts on this subject, and of course, opinion is split. On the one hand, Grantland once made the strong argument that binge-watching "allows you to completely ‘immerse’ yourself in the world of your new favorite show." "By binge-watching," they say, "you are spending quality time with the characters, forming a deep emotional connection with them."

On the other hand, NPR's Fresh Air points to The Jinx as an example of how rationing out a show through serialization gives the story more time to breathe. "Embracing new technology doesn't mean abandoning old storytelling forms that work," David Bianculli says.

Screenrant has similarly mixed thoughts. Some binge-watched shows benefit from a compressed narrative, but that sacrifices the opportunity to let those shows percolate between episodes.

Obviously, watching a show on DVD with a week between episodes is an artificial constraint, but changing the time dimensions in how you watch something does seem to have an effect on how it's received. And kudos to you if you have the power to hold back that long.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Can someone give Mr. Robot a lamp?

from the trailer for season 4 of The Americans
Current great television dramas are dark. We don't just mean in terms of content, like Mr. Robot or the extremely tense The Americans. They are, literally, dark.

Vulture's Kathryn VanArendonk wrote a great column about this phenomenon and how this impacts our perception of the shows. VanArendonk compares Halt and Catch Fire and Silicon Valley: both shows are set in the same sunny California region, but because Halt and Catch Fire looks constantly gloomier even in daytime, it registers as a more serious show. This problem compounds itself. We associate bright colors with comedy, and so dramas are rarely brightly colored anymore. Compare this with Mad Men even a few years ago – or any of the USA Network's former crime shows with extremely bright skies.

This seems like a problem from the same well as the orange-and-teal color correction of blockbuster movies. Audiences want dramas and comedies, and the presentation of those genres becomes polarized and exaggerated.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

New Acquisitions - September 2016

With the first week of classes almost in the bag, we have the Labor Day weekend to look forward to. And with a tropical storm possibly bearing down on us, what better way than to escape a long, stormy weekend than grabbing a few movies?

We're continuing to add new films to our collection that classes are using this semester, but we're also getting more blockbusters, critical favorites, and historically significant movies – like BellaDonna of Sadness, a Japanese animated film that has never been available since 1973.

Other interesting titles this month include ESPN's riveting documentary series OJ: Made in America; Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead; and The Mermaid, the highest-grossing Chinese movie ever. (And we also got the extended cut of Batman v Superman, which runs a whopping three hours.)

We could go on and on this month, but we'll just let you read the list. Follow the link to see what's new for September...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How do you adapt an unfilmable novel?

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini has a reputation for adapting scripts from books that could never translate into films. His screenplays for The Wings of the Dove and especially Drive took novels that would be incoherent if adapted literally and made them natural fits for the screen. So how does one go about writing something like that?

Amini wrote a column for The Guardian about that process, and for him, it's all about the writer's personal experience reading the books. In the best novels, he argues, "the reader's experience of the book becomes as important as the words on the page," and screenwriters can extrapolate from their own interpretations of the characters to create new scenes and moments true to the spirit of the original work.

This is in contrast to films that closely adapt the original text, which Amini considers lifeless. You can see the same distinctive approach in other risky interpretations of unfilmable stories, like Naked Lunch and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which is about attempting to adapt the story it's based upon. We'll take a film that's impressionistic and possibly a disaster over something staid every day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gene Wilder and his triumphant Mel Brooks comedies

As with everyone else, we're saddened by the news of the death of Gene Wilder. He was Willy Wonka, of course, but he was also one of the greatest comedic actors of the 20th century. His collaborations with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor are all-time classics, and hearing that someone with such a sharp mind died from complications from Alzheimer's is heartbreaking.

If you only know Gene Wilder as Roald Dahl's famous chocolatier, this is an opportunity to discover the comedic intensity and chemistry that made him a favorite. We have all of the movies he made though Mel Brooks (though sadly none of his roles alongside Richard Pryor). Wilder has other assorted performances through his career, including stage roles and a bit part in Bonnie and Clyde, and we've included them on this list as well.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask – HU DVD 123
Blazing Saddles – HU DVD 673
Young Frankenstein – HU DVD 865
The Producers – HU DVD 5169
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – HU DVD 10240 
Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros – HU DVD 10815
Bonnie and Clyde – HU DVD 11487
Death of a Salesman – Streaming video
Scarecrow – Streaming video

Monday, August 29, 2016

The New York Times looks at the confusing work of film preservation

Still from Decasia

Welcome back! The fall 2016 semester is underway now, and we're happy to see students back. You can come to us to watch any films you need to watch for class... but as we're often reminded, there are some things we just can't get our hands on.

Last week, The New York Times ran a story about the challenges of preserving films from the silent era. There's a lot of eye-popping statistics – especially that 70 percent of the films from that time are lost forever – but we were most amazed by the stories of alternative versions of movies. Evidently, studios used to produce pre-censored or re-written versions of movies to show overseas or in areas that could not yet play movies with sound, and their content and production vary significantly from the originals. Keeping these versions intact has been a nightmare for preservationists. If you ever need to watch something out-of-print for class, remember all these archivists toiling way to keep culture alive.

This is to say nothing of films that have never been available on a modern format, left behind on VHS. We're taking care of these cases as we find them in our collection, so rest assured, we're doing our part to prevent other films from being lost to time too.

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!