Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Hobbit featurette shows the emotion toll of filmmaking

Campus is mostly deserted today, what with everyone leaving early for Thanksgiving. Enjoy the trip!

This happens to be the time of year when courses assign final projects, and for film students, that might mean producing a short or a demo reel. It can be stressful... but you don't know the agony of filmmaking until you've seen director Peter Jackson behind the scenes on The Hobbit.

BoingBoing recently found seven startling minutes of footage on the Blu-ray of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies showing the improvised, chaotic production of the final chapter of the trilogy. The crew finished sets, costumes, and scripts at the last possible moment, shooting battle scenes with no context and eventually delaying filming for a year. This speaks to the troubled final state of the films, but the most distressing part is Peter Jackson's visible fatigue.

In every shot, Jackson looks near-death – haggard, sad, tired, and reportedly going on only three hours of sleep a night. At one point, he took an extended lunch break just to figure out how to make the next scenes work. Look at his thousand-yard stare: if The Hobbit didn't break Jackson, it came close.

So, the film project you're working on over break will not be as stressful as The Battle of the Five Armies. And it definitely won't let down Andy Serkis as much.

Monday, November 23, 2015

See Leonardo DiCaprio's next big (award-winning?) film early!

November and December are the peak release months for prestige films. Academy Award nominees are announced in January, and the big hopefuls have a habit of popping up right before the deadline. We've been fortunate enough to share passes to a few of these movies, but we're saving the biggest for the end of the semester...

We have advance passes to see The Revenant, director Alejandro González Iñárritu's upcoming frontier movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio! The Revenant is in serious contention for Best Picture, and DiCaprio is an early favorite to win Best Actor – potentially his first Oscar. And you can see it almost a month before everyone else. Lucky you!

(Plus, there will be a Q&A afterwards with supporting actor Will Poulter!)

We have only 40 admit-two passes to give away for this screening on Thursday, December 3 at 7pm at the Georgetown Loews 14. Follow this link to redeem your pass before they're gone. This screening will no doubt be packed, so you'll need to arrive way in advance of the 7pm start time to ensure that you get a seat. Passes don't guarantee that you'll get in!

Snag a pass now so you can lord it over your family for Thanksgiving! Or, because it's an incredibly exciting movie that you can see weeks early for free before it becomes a hot topic.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Raise awareness of film censorship by making a censor watch paint dry

Still from Paint Drying via Charlie Lyne
There's a lot of insightful talk about the role film boards play in censorship – why do these unaccountable groups get to decide what can practically be released? – but sometimes it's more fun just to be a jerk about the whole process. This is one of those cases.

In an act of crowd-funded ultra-spite, filmmaker Charlie Lyne plans to submit an epic-length film titled Paint Drying to the British Board of Film Classification, which will require a censor to watch hours of basically nothing. The BBFC charges per minute, so Lyne is raising cash to submit at least 14 hours of video. Besides being obnoxious, Lyne started this project to raise awareness about the censorship performed by ratings boards.

It worked, and now we're cheering for Paint Drying to go the distance. Mashable confirms that the BBFC will be required to watch the entire film, so many Lyne can slip in a single f-bomb at some point just to keep them on their toes.

For a more serious take on the issue, seek out This Film is Not Yet Rated (DVD 2414). In the meantime, we're waiting for a DVD of Paint Drying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Acquisitions - November 2015

Another month has passed, we've added another hundred titles to our collection. The obvious big highlight is the first season of Empire, the massively successful hip-hop drama that has been a boon to television in more than one way. You might also spot Going Clear, the famously damning exposé of the Church of Scientology, and the Wachowski's totally-off-the-rails sci-fi wonder Jupiter Ascending.

But you may notice a ton of oddly named, vaguely threatening-sounding films like A Dangerous Possession and The Tattooed Stranger. Our media librarian Chris Lewis is currently on a mission to add every single film noir to our collection, and these are some of the new additions. We're getting pretty close! If you ever need to research the film noir genre, we are more ready for you than you might be prepared for.

Hit the jump for a full list of what's new...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Television directing is still not very diverse

Behind the scenes of Empire, one of the few shows with a strong track record for diversity in directing talent

Much ink has been spilled about the changing face of television, with new shows (and their showrunners) finally expanding the diversity of experiences and characters on television. But even at a time with different people represented on screen in growing numbers, the picture behind-the-scenes has often still not caught up.

In analysis for Variety, Maureen Ryan discovered that white men directed about three-quarters of all television episodes over the past several years across all networks, including streaming platforms. Even at Netflix – often an incubator for new voices and perspectives – no woman of color directed any episode of their shows last season. As Ryan notes, this is in contrast to elsewhere in television production, where writers' rooms have become increasingly diverse. The article partially points fingers at the exhausting television production process, where only trusted, experienced directors land major jobs... and few of those established names are women or people of color.

The article is an insightful read, particularly for the anecdotes from television industry professionals. Ryan even hints at a few solutions, such as expanding mentorship programs cultivated by the studios and guilds. There's room for practical progress, even if it's coming too slowly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How big movie franchises are bypassing the critics

Last year, we mentioned the idea of a post-plot movie, where property-driven movies transcend the need for strong narrative drive. Bryan Bishop at The Verge has noticed an odder, more troubling trend: the post-critic movie.

Films have historically depended on advance screenings for critics to generate positive buzz. This is especially true for smaller or less-promoted films, which can capitalize on high marks on Rotten Tomatoes to generate pre-release attention. Now, rumors indicate that the upcoming Star Wars film will not screen for critics... because it doesn't need to. Bishop points out that major franchises like Star Wars or Marvel have seized on fans and online communities to generate hype, and for movies with stratospheric expectations like The Force Awakens, studios have no reason to put more information out early.

There's a separate but adjacent phenomenon where studios won't screen bad films to hide their quality (see this summer's Fantastic Four), but this is different. The worry isn't bad publicity: it's losing control of the publicity. If you already have loyal fans at Comic-Con and pop culture sites sharing every trailer, why let critics change the direction of the conversation?

Bishop makes a convincing argument of why this is happening and what it portends for the future of the film. The short version is that people who will see The Avengers in theaters on opening weekend don't care about the quality, so expect more direct marketing to those fans instead of indirectly through reviews. The doomsday scenario Bishop predicts in which non-fan cultural media vanishes is a long shot, but we're definitely steeping in that direction.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

See The Night Before a week early! (Yes, Christmas in November, sorry.)

So here's the deal: we absolutely do not want to contribute to the early glut of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas and holiday celebration. Thanksgiving is a great holiday, and November deserves to be its own month. That said, holiday-themed movies are coming out early this year, and since we have advance passes to one, we are obliged to promote it. (Also because it's an exciting one!)

Our advance passes this time are to see The Night Before, an upcoming, R-rated Seth Rogen comedy about a group of manchildren celebrating their last raucous Christmas party together before they grow up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-stars as one of Rogen's friends, a great casting choice that might counterbalance Rogen's usual antics. The movie opens on November 20th (too soon!), but we have passes to see it on Monday, November 16th at 7:30pm (even sooner!).

The movie screens at the Regal Stadium 14 in Gallery Place on Monday. Grab your passes from this link or in-person at the Media Services desk. As usual, remember that these passes don't guarantee that you'll get in; show up early to ensure that you get a seat.

(Hopefully this will be our last holiday season-themed post for a few weeks... but at least we did it in the service of something funny!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Your new podcast recommendation: You Must Remember This

Via our collections coordinator Molly Hubbs, we have a podcast recommendation for wonky film history types.

You Must Remember This is a weekly hour-long program about secret tales from the classic film era. Every season, host Karina Longworth covers one major topic of Hollywood history across a dozen or so episodes. Earlier this year she tackled Charles Manson's connections to the film business; she's currently working through the stories of MGM's producers and stars. Above, we've embedded the most recent episode (#64) about Spencer Tracy's on- and off-screen relationships.

This is strictly film nerd territory, but if you've ever been curious about the reality behind the glitzy image of old Hollywood, it's audio catnip. You'll come away with a much better understanding of what made the studio era tick.

If you enjoy You Must Remember This, you might also like Moguls & Movie Stars (DVD 8381-8383), a TCM-produced documentary collection about the film business from its birth until the 1970s.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Farewell (again?) to Betamax

It's the end of an era that we thought had already ended. After nearly three decades of stubborn persistence, Sony has finally chosen to discontinue the Betamax videotape.

For those who missed out on the 80s, Betamax tapes were the main rival for VHSes before it was clear which videocassette format would be most popular. Betamax tapes had some clear benefits – compact size and higher image quality – but VHSes cost less to produce and attracted more publishers. (As legend tells, adult entertainment helped drive the sale of VHS machines more than Hollywood movies.) Although Betamax tapes lost the battle, they continued to find use as a recording format for professional film production. But it's unclear why Sony was still manufacturing them... or who was using them.

With the advent of streaming platforms that now almost universally work in browsers and on nearly an electronic device, it seems that we'll never have another "format war" as intense as what Betamax wrought. Device manufacturers and publishers will always fight over who gets the most popular content, but there's no longer a question of whether one of two whole mediums will become the global standard.

As anyone still setting on their pricey Betamax collection can attest, that's for the best.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Brave Wired blogger binges the entire Bond series for your benefit (and amusement)

From Moonraker, one of the Bond movies on the "Nah" list

James Bond's latest adventure, Spectre, hits theaters tomorrow. Reception on this one is decidedly mixed (Daniel Craig's Bond seems to get it right every other movie), but it will no doubt be a box office sensation here as it has been in the United Kingdom. Love the Bond movies or not – and there's plenty of room to talk about the franchise's sexism – the fact that this is the twenty-fourth film in a fifty-year-old franchise is remarkable and ripe for analysis. How have six different performers treated the role? And over five decades, has the series ever been consistently good?

Wired writer Erik Malinowski tackled the quality question this week in an article breaking down which of the Bond movies work and why. After an apparently 50-hour binge-watching session, Malinowski was able to split the movies roughly in half keepers and half throwaways, with the edge going to the better ones. Much of the article talks about the merits of each individual film, but there's a recurring pattern: the best Bonds are a little campy, thrilling but not too dark or angry, willing to acknowledge their cultural context, and featuring a strong supporting cast for Bond to play off of.

Malinowski's run down is of course subjective but makes a good primer if you needed a refresher on less-remembered Bonds before catching Spectre. If the reviews are credible, there's 14 movies on that list that you might just want to watch instead

(Our collection includes most of the Connery, Brosnan, and Craig films. Ask at our desk to see if they're available!)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Introducing Kanopy, now streaming the Criterion Collection

Cinema fans and students rejoice: you can now stream a huge chunk of the Criterion Collection through Kanopy.

Kanopy is a digital video service the AU Library just subscribed to that offers access to full-length films – and in our case, that means hundreds of the titles available through the Criterion Collection, the go-to brand name for film buffs. Their titles read like a list of the greatest movies of all time. Hoop Dreams, Seven Samurai, The Great Dictator, and Tokyo Story are some of the most cherished, ever, and all five are available to stream instantly from your choice of device.

To access Kanopy, visit this AU-specific website. You might notice movies labeled "Request"; we only have access to the Criterion titles, so not everything on Kanopy will be available. Follow this link for a list of just the Criterion Collection's films. Many of these are also accessible through the catalog now, so if you searched for Burden of Dreams on DVD, you'll find a streaming version too. (As with all our streaming video sites, you'll have to log in with your library credentials if you are off-campus.)

We've bragged about the quality of our world cinema and silent film databases, but access to 300 titles from the Criterion Collection takes the cake. If you need to see a significant film for a course or just want to watch one of the classics, there's a good chance you can see it for free, right now, on the same device you're using to read this.

We'll wait here while you check out Kanopy. You'll want to.

Monday, November 02, 2015

A grueling look at making The Simpsons, start to finish

Digital techniques have greatly sped up the rate at which animation is produced. South Park can turn out a full episode in a week, and some topical YouTube videos can be cranked out even faster. But the producers of The Simpsons have opted to keep things slow, spacing our production over nearly a year to ensure that every little background detail and facial tic has been revised and remastered. For maybe the first time, The Verge offers a look behind-the-scenes, telling the story of how an idea for a Simpsons script grows into a full episode.

Despite the lengthy turnaround, it sounds like this process still often comes down to the last day, and the staff certainly never gets a break. Of particular interest is the work of the "timer," a production member who breaks down every action and detail frame-by-frame as a blueprint for contracted animators. Ongoing quality issues aside, you'll develop a lot more respect for the show's craftsmanship when you see how every single detail – even character fidgets and mouth movements – have to be spelled out for an entire 22-minute episode.

If you want a practical example of why all the revision matters, check out our DVD copy of "Some Enchanted Evening," the last episode of The Simpsons's first season (HU DVD 14324, disc 3). That episode had a famously troubled production cycle, eventually produced twice and resulting in the quality control process described by The Verge. The DVD includes commentary explaining the process as well as a few select clips of the doomed original episode. It's a great complement to the article to prove why the show needs a longer production cycle.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Grab more passes for two weeks of free advance movies

Our steady stream of advance passes for films continues this week with two new release movies that you can see before they hit theaters! If you need a pre- or post-Halloween film happening, we have you covered.

First up is My All American, an Aaron Eckhart-fronted drama about the University of Texas's football team from the writer of Hoosiers. We have no clue if it's any good, but that's some good sports movie pedigree. This one is at 7pm on Thursday, October 29th at the AMC in Friendship Heights. Grab passes here.

A little further down the road, we also have passes for Brooklyn, the story of an Irish immigrant in the 1950s played by Saoirse Ronan. Early reviews from film festivals are very positive (with some Oscar talk, of course), so you might want to see this one before Ronan breaks out. This screening will be at 7:30pm on Tuesday, November 3rd at the Georgetown Loews theater. Early birds can get their passes via Fox Searchlight.

Of course, as we always need to warn that these events are intentionally overbooked to ensure that there's a full house. Arrive early at these screenings to get a seat.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The ultimate guide to movies with really big worms

There are some recurring hazards in movies that we should be glad not to deal with in real life. Quicksand, for one. Also high on that list are massive, carnivorous worms. For some reason, science fiction and fantasy films love giant worm monsters. We understand that fairly big worms do exist somewhere out in the wild, but we rarely have to deal with ones the size of cruise ships.

Should you ever cross paths with a house-eating annelid, Atlas Obscura has created this handy guide to the most memorable worms in movies. This short videos covers a wide range of sizes, all the way up to the Star Wars space slug so big that it was mistaken for a cave. Tremors is always our first thought when it comes to worms in movies, and this is a bizarre reminder that, for whatever reason, deadly super-worms are more common threats than we remembered.

With the exceptions of Labyrinth and The Liar of the White Worm, all the movies featured in this video are available for checkout at the AU Library.

King Kong – HU DVD 1891
Beetlejuice – HU DVD 9030
Men in Black II – HU DVD 11323
Tremors – HU DVD 2811
Dune – HU DVD 6106
The Empire Strikes Back – HU DVD 1644

Monday, October 26, 2015

HitFix hunts for the top 100 horror movies

What is the greatest horror film of all time? Is that too broad? How about a top 10 or even a top 50? With enough aggregated stats and expert opinion, you can probably make a killer list of the best in the genre. The editors at HitFix have done just that, polling horror directors, writers, critics, scholars, and superfans to create a ranked list of the 100 greatest horror movies ever.

The upper end of the list is stacked and difficult to argue against: The Exorcist takes the top spot, followed by The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, Alien, and the usual bedfellows. Once you get further down it gets a little odd, as these lists tend to, with rule-skirting oddities like Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom showing up or the American remake of The Ring ranking higher than the Japanese original. Part of this might be the fault of the odd methodology, which weights the number of mentions over their relative ranking.

It's still a solid list, though, and its greatest asset might be its interviews with film figures about their favorite horror movies. Clive Barker apparently loves Bride of Frankenstein, and we're better hearing him gush about it than knowing that it's #37 on the list.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Night of the Living Dead is getting longer

George Romero's Night of the Living Dead established many of the zombie tropes we still know and love today, like lumbering speed, the importance of beheading, and parallels to contemporary social issues. Though films before it had undead monsters, Night of the Living Dead might be the first (and arguably still most) culturally significant zombie movie. And shockingly, there's even more of this foundational movie that we've never seen before.

At a screening earlier this month, Romero announced that he had discovered an old reel containing nine additional minutes of zombie chaos. Maybe it had been cut to keep the running time trim, but that's a substantial chunk of one of most influential horror films. Hopefully we'll see it resurface on the restoration that Romeo was working on or the inevitable Blu-ray release

In the meantime, you don't need to wait to watch the current version of Night of the Living Dead. As it turns out, the film was never actually copyrighted; it can be streamed from any number of sites and services. We even embedded it above!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DC rings in the official arrival of The Future

At long last, 26 years after the film's release, today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future in Back to the Future Part II. Despite occupying only a fraction of the running time of the entire trilogy, the futuristic 2015 is one of the most iconic and memorable depictions of the future on film.

Dozens of websites have already covered what BTTFII got right and wrong about the distant future of 2015, so instead, let's round up all the Back to the Future-related happenings in the city today!

Reston, VA is the center of the biggest celebrations: as part of the Washington West International Film Festival, the city has changed its name to Hill Valley and will host a marathon screening of the trilogy at EXACTLY 7pm tonight. On Sunday, WWIFF will also screen a new documentary about the history of the series and a sold-out red carpet celebration featuring Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd.

If you can't make it out to Reston, the Regal 14 in Gallery Place downtown will host a screening of BTTFII at 5pm... which we assume is as close as they could get to the 4:29pm, the exact time Marty and Doc arrive in the future. The Esquire Network will also run a marathon of the series throughout the day. (Our copy of Back to the Future II is already checked out, sorry! The original is still available though.)

And for the 21+ crowd, Fantom Comics in Dupont Circle will hold a Back to the Future celebration party this evening, complete with a costume and impression contest. Hill Valley-themed drinks are promised.

We could join the chorus bemoaning that we didn't get hoverboards or self-drying jackets, but instead, let's celebrate that our 2015 is exciting in different, totally unexpected ways. for instance, you're reading this blog post that I wrote from the basement of a library instead of a newspaper! Take that, USA Today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jimmy Stewart takes a detour through Kubricktown

The world has reached peak mashup, with seemingly every television show and movie spliced together with clever editing, so we now only feel compelled to share the really good ones. And one such terrific video has come along featuring a very wary Jimmy Stewart.

"The Red Drum Getaway," published by new film site Gump, features Jimmy Stewart wandering through a ghostly mish-mosh of director Stanley Kubrick's creepiest films. Much of the digital editing involved is extremely obvious and artificial-looking, but Stewart's paranoia and Kubrick's surreal lingering make a great pair. There's a particular inspired combination of the most stylized scenes from Vertigo and 2001: A Space Odyssey that we're surprised no one pieced together earlier.

Now we wish Stewart had starred in a Kubrick film. How surreal would The Shining have been with Mr. Smith as Jack Torrance?

(We should warn that the video includes some footage from the famously explicit Eyes Wide Shut, so use discretion.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

See the acclaimed Room for free on Wednesday!

Although there are some big film-related things afoot on Wednesday, you might be looking towards the future rather than the past. And right now in the movie world, the future looks bright for Room, the claustrophobic Brie Larson-fronted drama that has made waves in limited release. The film currently has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and has garnered some early Oscar discussion. Room hits more theaters this weekend, but you can see this serious award contender before anyone else in the city on Wednesday!

We have passes to a pre-wide-release screening of Room for Wednesday, October 21st at 7pm at the AMC Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights. Visit our page on Gofobo to redeem your pass before they run out (limited quantity this time). As is always the case with pre-release screenings, show up early to ensure that you get a seat; these events are always intentionally overbooked, and your pass only guarantees you a place in line.

Given the extremely positive buzz, we expect this one to be packed, so show up as far in advance as you can. Maybe even at... exactly 4:29 pm! Great Scott! (Sorry, but October 21st is a special day, and we can't get over that. You really should see Room though.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Acquisitions - October 2015 - Part 2

We're pickin' up good vibrations this month... or at least because we just added Love & Mercy, the biopic of The Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson.

That's one of our bigger titles for the second half of October. Our other major highlight is Salad Days, a locally produced documentary about the DC punk scene in the 80s and 90s. David Oyelowo's HBO film Nightingale is an exciting option for anyone looking for under-the-radar prestige. And genre TV fans should be ecstatic to learn that, as part of the tail end of our absorption of the CDI collection, we now have Xena: Warrior Princess. Ayiyiyiyiyiyiyi!

There's lots of great documentaries in this latest round... and also Real Genius, the 80s movie where Val Kilmer blows up a house with popcorn. You should probably watch Love & Mercy instead.

Continue on for a full list of what's new...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Take the Media Services Challenge: watch these 100 great documentaries

Congratulations on, presumably, passing mid-terms! Your workload will likely be in a bit of a downswing before we head into final project season, so you might be ready to spend some time chipping away at things you've been meaning to watch. If you're the type that has always wanted to see more documentaries but never knew where to start, we have 100 films for your list.

This summer, we all put our brains together and made a list of the 100 best documentaries available in our collection through streaming. There are a few classics including The Battle of Chile and King Corn, as well as odder ones like The Yes Men Save the World. All of these documentaries are free to watch via your web browser if you sign into your library account, and they're among the best in our collection.

If you're feeling really driven, we're challenging anyone with a hunger for documentaries to watch all 100 on the list before they graduate. No one has yet completed the Media Services Challenge, but if you do, we will enshrine you in a place of glory that we have yet to determine, probably on the wall next to your desk. It's like a Man vs. Food challenge, but with fewer ribs and more social theory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Arabian Sights Film Festival brings its twentieth year to Friendship Heights

From From A to B

We're close to the start of the unending stream of Halloween-related activities, but the rest of the world doesn't stop in October. There are plenty of film happenings around DC this month, so let's talk about one of the cooler ones, the twentieth anniversary of the Arabian Sights Film Festival.

Sponsored by Filmfest DC and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Arabian Sights is one of DC's best annual showcases of Arab cinema, and it takes place in our backyard at the AMC Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights. From October 16th to October 25th, you can catch ten new films, as well as a discussion panel titled The New Arab Cinema. On the 24th, you are also invited to a free happy hour event celebrating twenty years of the festival.

Each screening costs $13, which is a pretty good price. You can buy tickets in advance from the Filmfest DC website, or you can buy them at the door. Either way, this should all be very tempting for fans of world cinema. If you need to get a little culture in before everything turns to skeletons in a few weeks, Arabian Sights is only a quick walk from AU campus.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Alternative programming: How about a different holiday?

From The Native Americans

We probably don't need to recap the reasons why Columbus Day has lost favor in the past few years. Ask your favorite history professor or the ghost of Howard Zinn.

But, if you're looking for more material about the real history of Columbus's expeditions and the lives of Native Americans we are happy to supply you with a few relevant videos. Many groups are pushing to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day, so we'd like to tear down the old history narrative at the same time as celebrating the people who should really get the credit for being here first.

Rather than listing individual titles this time, we'll point you to our Indigenous Peoples of the Americas filmography. The general filmography list has some stirring videos about historical narrative and revisionism, but you'll most likely want to look at the U.S. / Canada page, which focuses on both the effect of Europe's expeditions and current Native American life and media portrayals.

That list includes many streaming titles, so you can watch them instantly from your device of choice. It's certainly a better way to spend an hour than continuing to observe this very strange holiday.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

DC's most genuinely spooky place becomes a landmark

If you're an AU student who has made the trek to Georgetown, you've probably encountered the Exorcist steps, the legendary staircase famously used in a climactic scene from the bone-chillingly terrifying film The Exorcist. It's in an unassuming spot – behind a gas station on M Street – but it has for decades served as a beacon for local horror and movie fans.

At long last, the DC local government has decided to honor the Exorcist steps by making them an official city landmark. The commemoration ceremony will be held on October 30th at 6pm, right in time for Halloween. Public attendees are welcome and are invited to mingle beforehand with writer William Peter Blatty and author William Friedkin. (Bring something for them to autograph!)

American University and the School of Communications appear to be co-sponsoring this event, though we couldn't find anything official about that. Either way, it's still unlikely that you'll be able to go to the invitation-only screening of The Exorcist that follows the ceremony. But certainly head down to see a piece of DC movie trivia become DC history.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Snag an armload of Criterion titles for half-off today!

Like an Arby's selling piles of loose beef, the Criterion Collection has opened the floodgates on their store and is selling their entire DVD and Blu-ray stock for 50% off for the next 24 hours.

This is a fantastic sale that every film buff should consider taking advantage of. The Criterion Collection sells the definitive home video restorations of hundreds of classic films, everything from 20s silents to one of last year's Oscar nominees. They have a formidable storefront, and if you've ever wanted to start your own film library, this is the best place to jump in and pick up a few great titles. DVDs that might normally cost $40 are selling for $20, which is a steal considering the extra content and commentary packed onto each disc.

If you're having trouble figuring out what to buy, check out Criterion's sale dashboard, which tracks the most popular films as well as which ones have almost run out. As of this writing, there's only a few copies of Videodrome left. Go go go!

(To get the 50% discount, use the promo code SUZY when checking out.)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

New Acquisitions - October 2015

Spooky season is here – and not just because of Halloween. A hurricane might be hitting us soon, and we're not feeling a weekend of overcast, rain, and wind. As with nearly any other circumstance, we see this as a prime opportunity for movie-watching... at least until the power goes out.

So we present to you another round up of new DVDs from the last few weeks. Our two biggest names are the box office-annihilating Furious 7 and Divergent sequel Insurgent. On the critical acclaim front, you should probably see the devastating, Marion Cotillard-fronted Two Days, One Night and the Oscar-winning Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour. Television fans could consider HBO's stealth hits Hello Ladies and The Jinx. And if none of that strikes you, surely everyone has a soft-spot for I Am Big Bird.

Follow the link for a full list of what we have this month...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Help fund an archive of weird, dangerous, rare films

In 1990, a film enthusiast named Mike Vraney founded Something Weird Video, a distributor of hard-to-find, sensationalist movies. This included everything from violent exploitation movies to budget Westerns and found footage. Something Weird became a touchstone for the rougher, risky side of film history, and filmmakers including Paul Thomas Anderson and Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn have been involved with the company. Vraney died in 2014, leaving behind a massive trove of some of the only copies of over 6000 strange films – and your help is needed to preserve them.

The American Genre Film Archive has started a project to preserve and re-release as much of Something Weird's archive as possible, and they're looking for $30,000 from a Kickstarter. Something Weird apparently sends out hundreds of prints to film and educational groups every year, and those copies will eventually degrade if not cared for. A proper preservation program like that one AGFA proposes would ensure access to this very odd collection for generations to come.

Consider throwing a few dollars their way. AGFA has chosen the comically ahistorical The Zodiac Killer as its restoration centerpiece, and if you pitch in at least $10, you'll get a free copy when it's available!

Monday, September 28, 2015

See a documentary about Malala early – and for free!

We continue to get advance screening passes for upcoming films, and we're very excited about this next one. We suspect the AU community will be interested in seeing He Named Me Malala, a documentary about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist and the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. Based on what we've seen in the trailer and read it descriptions, it sounds like this will offer a touching glimpse of Malala's family life that we rarely see.

He Named Me Malala opens in limited release next Friday, but we have passes to see the film before it opens on Tuesday, October 6th at 7pm. The screening will take place at the AMC Loews 14 in Georgetown, which is just a quick ride from any number of buses on Wisconsin Avenue.

You can pick up passes online or grab them in person. Please keep in mind that as with all advance screenings, this event will be intentionally overbooked. Show up early to ensure that you get a seat.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Clap in a circle to mourn the end (?) of fake birthday songs

After a court decision last night, movie and television characters might finally be able to sing "Happy Birthday to You." The Summy Company contested for decades that it owned the copyright to the universally recognized birthday song and charged productions $10,000 to include its melody and lyrics. No one really wanted to pay all that for an incidental song (with the bizarre exception of Tommy Wiseau's The Room), so shows and films have made up their own alternative birthday songs to skirt the copyright.

That era might finally be over, but some of those fake jingles are pretty great. A few years back, the Free Music Archive assembled a collection of some of their favorite royalty-free birthday songs into a video, embedded above. There's some good choices, especially Police Squad!'s overdubbed choral replacement and Waiting's uncomfortable military chant.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the greatest omission from that video: "Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary" from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The character Master Shake wrote this bizarre metal dirge in an attempt to replace the original birthday song and claim royalties once it becomes popular at restaurants. It's a spot-on parody of the ridiculous hoops creative media had to jump to sing a song that effectively belonged to the public.

As with so many cultural references, all these substitute songs are now instantly relics and will be confusing for future generations. Or maybe we'll have moved on to "Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary" by then.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

RIP William Becker, the unsung hero of world cinema

A week and a half ago, film distributor William Becker died. His name is not a recognizable one, and his quiet work at Janus Films and the Criterion Collection left a massive imprint on how we consume visual media.

As the co-owner of Janus Films starting in 1965, Becker oversaw the importation of many influential works of world cinema to American shores. He deserves partial credit for the success and influence of directors including Bergman, Kurosawa, and Fellini, filmmakers who might not have come to the United States for some time otherwise. He also co-founded the Criterion Collection, which worked closely with Janus Films to release of hundreds of classic works of cinema and popularized the letterbox film display standard. If you've watched The 400 Blows on a television, you can thank William Becker for that.

One person alone is of course not responsible for reshaping the arthouse and international film market in America, but Becker's transformation of Janus Films significantly helped. Criterion and Janus their exceptional work in distributing high-quality transfers of world cinema, and William Becker silently carved out a spot on the film world for that to happen.