Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Get ready for DC's outdoor movie season

Photo via Bethesda Urban Partnership
You did it! The semester's over! Despite the overcast, soggy weather, we're officially in the academic summer. For those sticking around DC for the summer (as we are), we'll keep you updated on interesting film events and happenings around town.

As part of our favorite DC summer tradition, communities all around the DMV will be hosting outdoor movie screenings from May through August. No matter where in the area you live, you'll find something interesting to watch one evening. We're most excited about the Congressional Cemetery Cinematery, a movie screening series in a graveyard.

We'll update you about these as they come up, but if you want a master list of what to expect, visit the handy website DC Outdoor Films. The site also mentions which screenings will have captions (hurray accessibility!).

Monday, May 02, 2016

On cinema and hunkiness

As we get closer to the end of the finals, we bring you hunky dudes. More specifically, we bring you an examination of the future outlook of hunky dudes in cinema. (Is there anything academic analysis can't un-sexify?)

Flavorwire's Lara Zarum wrote an insightful post about the changing representation of masculinity in movies. As the film industry pushes for better, more substantive roles for women on-screen, many have noticed an odd corollary of more movies with, to use the article's term, beefcake. Magic Mike is an obvious example of the more sexualized appearances of men, but even Daniel Craig's James Bond is, to quote CBC's Rachel Giese, "both Bond and a Bond girl at the same time."

But as Zarum notices, rather than just being walking abs, these sexualized male characters often remain the subjects and have to deal with their changing relationship with women. She cites Jamie Fraser on Outlander as an example: he's a dreamboat, but he deals with the expectations of his relationship and abuse.

The article is unsure whether these new, more conscientious male character archetypes have a net positive effect, considering they still go hand-in-hand with objectification. But they at least reveal areas that can be explored with closer consideration of gender portrayal.

In the meantime, hunks.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Take film with you over summer break with Kanopy

Three days of finals remain! Summer is close, and we imagine everyone wants to head home as soon as possible. It also means that you won't have access to our gigantic DVD collection.

Fear not: you can still stream a whole bunch of movies through Kanopy. We mentioned Kanopy last year; they have a huge library of streamable movies that you can access with your AU login. Just looking at their homepage, you can watch the George Takei documentary To Be Takei, the classic dinner conversation movie My Dinner with Andre, Hong Kong favorite In the Mood for Love, and the child-traumatizing Watership Down. That's a seriously impressive lineup without even diving deeper into the collection, especially their documentaries.

If you're aching to learn more about film on a day off, you can also watch the entire The Story of Film series through Kanopy. The Story of Film might be the greatest documentary series about the history of motion pictures, and you can binge the entire thing for free on a week off.

It's ironic that as soon as classwork is done and you have the free time to watch things, you're probably moving away from campus. But now you can take at least a big chunk of those films with you through Kanopy. Just remember your username!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The future of film preservation is... DNA?

Not that you need any kind of mental stress during finals, but our media librarian passed along this mind-blowing update from the world of film preservation. The best-preserved filmstrips and digital backups will still deteriorate overtime, but the folks at Technicolor (yes, the Wizard of Oz Technicolor) think they've developed a foolproof technique for keeping films stable and format-neutral for thousands of years.

Basically, Technicolor converts a film into code, then – with science indistinguishable from magic – encodes that into DNA. DNA is absurdly dense storage: your phone might hold 32 gigs, but DNA can store about tens of billions times more data in a single gram. Technicolor can bottle millions of copies of this DNA in a small water vial, where it will remain safe probably through the apocalypse.

We have to be a little skeptical just because this is the bleeding edge of film preservation technology, but Technicolor says they'll have it down-pat in a year. Imagine being able to store the entire history of film in a rain barrel. It'll be pricey, but we're astounded.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If you're seeing a movies in the 1910s, kindly remove your hat

Finals week has arrived, folks. In deference to your stress levels, we'll be sharing some light, entertaining things this week.

Firstly, we wanted to show you these great old "lantern slides" that were once displayed in movie theaters at the turn of the 20th century. In the days long before FirstLook and movie theater radio stations, theaters still used the empty screen between movies to explain theater policies and advertise. Apparently in 1912, wearing a hat to the movies was the equivalent of using your phone. (We're sure 1912's AMC briefly considered the idea of a hat-friendly theater.)

You can see a whole bunch of these in the Library of Congress's collection. The world of 2016 would probably benefit from a "Don't forget your umbrella" slide.

(Thanks to film critic Manohla Dargis for pointing these out!)

Monday, April 25, 2016

See The Terminator with artificial intelligence experts – free!

Tomorrow, AU takes a day-long study break before final exams begin. Use this time wisely if you need it, and don't forget about the library's Final Perk event!

But suppose you're off-campus, have time on your hands, and want something film-y to do. Slate's Future Tense has you covered. Tomorrow, the web magazine's futurist column will host a free screening of The Terminator at 6:30pm at E Street Cinema downtown. The screening will be accompanied by a discussion from robotics and technology experts Kevin Bankston and Sean Luke about the concept of "killer artificial intelligence."

We hope the robot uprising won't happen for many years, but expert testimony and a great movie on the topic are a great way to spend the evening. See the linked article for details about how to attend; you'll need to RSVP via email.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

See local film shorts, featuring the AU Library's Christina Floriza!

We have a special film screening recommendation today: the AU Library's own Christina Floriza is starring in Rendezvous, a new independent short film playing at the NOVA Film Festival tomorrow in Fairfax, VA.

The film looks like a small-scale dinner date dramedy, filmed on location at a restaurant in Tysons Corner. We haven't seen it and can't much it or its merits, but we'll gladly encourage you to go see it to support Christina!

The NOVA Film Festival continues tomorrow, April 25th at 7pm at the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax. Tickets for the two-hour block featuring Rendezvous cost $11 – not a bad price for a bunch of local shorts. Purchase them through the NOVA Film Festival website.

Congratulations to Christina for her theatrical debut!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Movies don't get worse than watching them on Videodisc

Occasionally, we have a laugh about some of the obsolete media formats we keep stocked behind the desk. We still have a large number of VHS tapes and a handful of LaserDiscs – and even an extremely unloved U-matic player that looks like part of the Space Shuttle.

But there's a format even clunkier than all of those. Behold, the CED Videodisc.

The video by retro technology group Techmoan, embedded above, explores this horrible media format. CED Videodiscs combine the impracticality of listening to music on vinyl, the blurry quality of VHS tapes, and the short running time of LaserDiscs. Discs only half an hour on each side and need to be flipped halfway through a movie. And if a Videodisc had any damage or particles stuck on the surface, it would skip wildly; many older discs are almost unwatchable.

We don't have any Videodiscs in our collection, probably because the format was dead by 1984. You'll have to make do with this video if you want to experience the absolutely worst way to watch a movie. Skip to about the 20 minute mark to see it in action.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Want to be a media librarian? Kino Lorber's here to help

Allow us to toot the horn of our own profession for a second. If you're interested in becoming a librarian who works with film, the American Library Association has a scholarship with your name on it.

ALA has partnered with classic and art house film distributor Kino Lorber to offer an annual $1000 award for a prospective library science Masters degree student interested in "work[ing] professionally as a media librarian in an academic institution." The scholarship includes a paid trip to New York City to learn about film distribution at a festival from the Kino Lorber folks – a great hands-on opportunity that uniquely fits the media librarian sub-profession.

We're glad to see Kino Lorber giving back to the library world. Richard Lorber himself shares in anecdote in ALA's press release about how librarians helped him find films to use for his teaching. We certainly hope the AU Library's collection and librarians have been so helpful, and this scholarship is a little boost to keep those sorts of services going in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Browse the history of the small screen in our new television filmography

We recently added dozens of television shows, bringing our collection total to nearly 400 television show. The time seemed right to assemble a formal list of every series in our collection, so after weeks of hard work and formatting from our staff, we bring you our new Television Shows filmography.

In addition to the master list of shows, we've broken up our television collection by genre and, most importantly for television studies, the era the show was released. For the most part, that means distinguishing them by decade (80s shows were very different from 90s shows), but the filmography also sets space aside for the two "Golden Ages" of television in the 50s and 2000s. If you just want to study or watch post-war Leave It to Beaver-type sitcoms, you can now find what we have in stock much more easily.

(It might seem bizarre to put Reno 911! in the Second Golden Age of Television, but it rode the same wave as other critically acclaimed scripted shows!)

We hope this filmography makes your research in television just a little easier. If you're looking for something similar in the realm of film, we have a separate section of films by subject area.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Koyaanistocksi is filmmaking out of balance

Here's a fun one to start off the week: Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi is a striking experimental film that uses footage of nature, people, and technology to convey our often dissociated relationship with the world. It's an unusual, groundbreaking work that, along with its outstanding Philip Glass soundtrack, has become a touchstone for awe-inspiring cinema.

Koyaanisqatsi is also more than the sum of its parts, as demonstrated in the hilarious new video embedded above, Koyaanistocksi. Jesse England recreated the trailer for the 1982 film entirely with stock footage, and his cut matches the original shot-for-shot. It also clearly isn't as good as the original, which makes it a great example of how compelling filmmaking is distinct from just putting together a string of images.

Filmmaking lessons aside, Koyaanistocksi is hilarious for people who will recognize the shots. Life is so out of balance that the sorts of shots that used to be terrifying commentary on society are now packaged and sold by iStock as filler videos.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hollywood's big new technology is 90 years old

As movie theaters search for new technology to drag people into theaters, the latest promise comes from Barco Escape, a three-screen technology designed for "immersive cinema" with a panoramic view or, potentially, action on three different screens at once.

But as Dennis Duffy once said, technology is cyclical. These ideas have come up before – in spectacular fashion.

Back in the 50s, the Cinerama format had a similar concept, using three projectors on a wide-angled screen to create a broader picture. The technique seemed so unusual at the time that the first Cinemera film, This Is Cinerama, is basically a commercial for the format; it opens with an educational lecture about the history of film to prepare viewers for what will come next. Flicker Alley released This Is Cinerama on Blu-ray a few years ago, complete with a fake curved screen. (Available from the AU Library under HU BLU 10798.)

Other movies have used multiple projectors to show several scenes at once, maybe none more famously than the 1927 silent film Napoleon. The 5-hour-long behemoth of a movie includes a sequence with three different projectors running at once. Because of the changing size of the screen and length, Napoleon is nearly impossible to watch correctly at home. You'll have to catch one of the rare theatrical screenings, held only 14 times since the 1930s. (A Blu-ray will also come out later this year.)

Or maybe, if Barco Escape catches on, you can watch Napeleon there. Everything old is new again!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Acquisitions - April 2016
As promised, as part of our year-end push, we're continuing to add huge volumes of classic television shows to our collection. Frasier, The Jeffersons, Get Smart, The Golden Girls, and other famous sitcoms are now available to check out from the library, either for research purposes or just for fun.

Huge thanks to our staff for processing hundreds of DVDs so quickly. This is a staggering volume to turn around in half a month, especially considering how many custom cases had to be created and processed. Kudos to all!

If you're not interested in checking out The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, we've also added several Oscar-contending films from last year. Steve Jobs, Trumbo, and The Big Short are all available too.

Hit the break for a list of everything now in stock...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big-budget independent television is still a dream
This year, Louis C. K. debuted Horace and Pete, an original dramedy television show that he independently produced and released exclusively through his website. The show itself is apparently very good, but its production model caught much of the attention: C. K. financed the entire thing himself, something never attempted for a show with production values like Horace and Pete. Has the media marketplace evolved to the point where it can support independent artistic larks like this?

Evidently – and unfortunately – no. Louis C. K. revealed this week that the first season of Horace and Pete left him several million dollars in debt. Each of the show's ten episodes, with a star-studded cast including Alan Alda, Edie Falco, and Steve Buscemi, cost about $500,000 to produce (cheap for television), and C. K. never saw the return on investment he expected. The same strategy that helped the comedian sell stand-up specials doesn't seem to scale to full television production.

Independent television shows are still possible on a much smaller scale; Broad City started as a no-budget web series. But Louis C. K.'s struggles with Horace and Pete serve as a reminder that, even in an age of television everywhere, somebody still foots the bill.

Monday, April 11, 2016

New infographics break down gender in screenplays... and it's about what you'd expect

Late last week, Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels released a study on Polygraph breaking down the dialogue of over 2000 major screenplays by the gender and age of the actors. If you've followed any of the other news about representation in film for the last few years, the results should come as no surprise: it's men all the way down, and older women are especially absent.

Polygraph bills the study as the largest demographic breakdown of film ever undertaken, and its scope certainly helps make the point. Among the 2000 screenplays dissected, over 75% give a strong majority of their dialogue to men. Only eight screeplays feature all-women speaking roles – a number even that's more troubling in comparison to the 304 scripts with only men. Age breakdowns are similarly frustrating, with roles increasing for men as they age and decreasing for women.

To make the point, the authors included a separate list of statistics just for Disney movies. Even in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a movie noted for its progressive gender representation, men get 72% of the dialogue.

As with other tests and measurements, this isn't an indication of whether a movie is a good or morally acceptable. It also isn't wholly reflective of individual movies: men have a majority of the dialogue in Kill Bill, but the movie has an exceptional cast of women. But it's statistical confirmation that, on the whole, women (and older women) are still disproportionately out of the spotlight.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

After People v. O. J., a closer look at the Trial of the Century

The People v. O. J. Simpson, the first season of FX's American Crime Story, ended last night to thunderous reviews. For a generation that didn't live through the Simpson murder trial and never had to endure a year of Jay Leno monologue jokes, American Crime Story was a sensationalist look at a period of history that continues to explain so much about the current state of celebrity culture and race relations in America. Intrigue about O. J. and the trial are at their highest since 1995.

Viewers gripped to the show probably want to learn more; the obvious starting place is in the books written by the trial's participants. We'd also like to offer up two documentaries in our collection, one about the trial itself and one that shows the effect of the verdict.

First, watch American Justice: Why O. J. Simpson Won (HU DVD 11111), an A&E documentary hosted by Bill Kurtis about the legal and cultural significance of the case. The hour-long documentary includes interviews with Johnnie Cochran and Fred Goldman. A&E claims this is "the definitive wrap-up" of the trial, and it may be able to solidify the themes – however exaggerated – that the show introduced.

If you want to see a first-hand example of how Cochran's symbolic victory opened up discussions about police and race – if only on a cursory level – you can watch a streaming version of Racial Profiling and Law Enforcement: America in Black and White, ABC News's special report on racially motivated police practices produced three years after the trial ended. Its messages should come as no surprise to anyone following police violence in the past few years, but the special is clear evidence of these issues' heightened profile after the trial. The participation of prosecutor Christopher Darden is also telling evidence of trial's long shadow.

Again, sadly, you don't have to look far to see the same sort of racial discord. But if you want something more factual than the show, these two documentaries are a closer look at what happened in the trial, why it happened, and what it meant.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

See horror's John Carpenter in DC... at a concert?

Master horror filmmaker John Carpenter is beloved for directing Halloween, They Live, and The Thing. Many people don't know that he scored many of this movies as well. Carpenter composed the famous Halloween theme song, and since largely setting aside his film career, he has continue to dabble in the minimalist, terrifying synthesizer music that he has helped popularize as the soundtrack of horror.

Even so, we're surprised that John Carpenter has launched a national concert tour where he'll be performing horror themes and original music. His second album, Lost Themes II, debuts on April 15th. To support it, Carpenter will be visiting DC's Lincoln Theater on July 12th for a retrospective night of his music, past and present. He'll probably perform the Halloween theme – of course – but we're curious about what else will "[inspire] people to create films that could be scored with this music."

Tickets are pricey, starting at $55, but we can't really think of another event this unusual. Horror fans especially should jump at the rare chance to see a famed auteur working his craft.

Monday, April 04, 2016

A new site can find movies by describing them... for the most part

Every once in a while, we get stumped trying to remember a certain movie starring a certain actor. Usually those questions can be answered with a quick search (or by asking your librarian!), but there are trickier ones too: how do you find a movie by the subject matter? Today, we stumbled across a new site attempting to make all movies searchable with natural language results.

What is My Movie? is a tech demo for technology by a video analysis company called Valossa, which aims to make videos machine-readable by their content in conjunction with transcripts. Valossa has so far parsed 40,000 movies for their content; you can search by year of release or director, like anywhere else, but you can also look for information about the content and themes of the movie.

Sometimes it works well: "Paul Newman movies from the 70s about hockey" brings up Slap Shot. Sometimes it doesn't work well: "sad movies starring Brad Pitt" brings up Slap Shot.

What is My Movie? is definitely a work-in-progress, but using movie searching as a proof-of-concept for their engine is a clever, practical use of the technology. Take it for a spin and see if it turns up your favorite movie by a description. When there's finally a comedy starring Daniel Day-Lewis about competitive eating, we'll be able to track it down.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Stealthy challenging censorship in China with film

Film has always been an instrument for pushing back against media censorship. The need is less visible and more subtle in America than it was during the years of the Hays Code (see This Film is Not Yet Rated, HU DVD 2414), but in other countries, overt suppression of creative content continues to be the norm. In one of the most audacious examples, China continues to prohibit depictions of same-sex relationships in movies and television. (This is an equality issue the country has long struggled with, having only effectively decriminalized same-sex relationships in 1997.)

So it comes as a major victory that, this year, China will release its first commercial film about a same-sex relationship. Although the promotional materials for Seek McCartney seemingly downplay the romantic aspect of the film, this way of sneaking in socially taboo content is a classic subversion of censorship laws, like the decades of "curious" characters in film.

It's unclear if this is the beginning of a trend – an interviewee in the linked Quartz article above sees the censorship process in China as too unstable to depend on – but at the least, it is a testament to film's continued social power.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Documentarians name their 50 favorite documentaries

We're suckers for any good, contentious list of best films. Whenever a publication puts together their top 300 films or the best horror movies, it inevitably has a few holes, which is an opportunity to talk about what makes art great. (It also give us justification to argue about movies.)

The latest "best of" roundup comes from The Guardian, which asked top documentary filmmakers, including the directors of Waste Land and Man on Wire, to name their favorite documentaries. The usual suspects make the list – Hoop Dreams, Capturing the Friedmans, and The Thin Blue Line makes appearances – as well as a few odder names. (We're pleased to see the inclusion of The Five Obstructions, a Lars von Trier experiment about the process of producing a film under increasingly absurd limitations.)

The list reflects a wide variety of styles, from Holocaust documentary Night and Fog to the strange meta-story of Sherman's March. The Guardian's fifty films are an excellent sampling of the genre. And since the contributors point out that their selections are only reflective of their own tastes, not the whole state of documentary filmmaking, it's hard to quibble with the choices.

Most if every film on this list is available to watch at Media Services in the AU Library. We've also put together our own list of the 500 most essential documentaries in our collection. Both lists are great starting points if you've wanted to watch more documentaries but aren't sure where to begin.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pardon the silence. We're extra-busy!

We've been a little quiet recently, but not to worry! In the past few weeks, we've received an absolute mountain of DVDs for classic television shows, everything from I Dream of Jeannie to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We're working hard to get them to you as quickly as we can.

In the meantime, while we keep our nose to the grindstone, here's Carlton dancing. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Almost fifty years later, you can finally watch the original Batman

This Friday's release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the start of Ben Affleck's new take on Gotham's caped crusader. Batman's nearly eighty-year history has allowed for adaptations of his stories with a wide thematic range. For every dark Batman story about justice, there's another where Calendar Man appears (yes, that's a real Batman villain).

BvS certainly looks like it will fall on the dark end of the spectrum, and we can't think of a better contrast than the original 1966 Batman television series starring Adam West. You probably know this version's for its campy, colorful take on the Dark Knight... but you may not have ever actually seen it. The series was the subject of a decades-long dispute that prevented arguably the most fun and famous version of Batman from ever being seen again.

Adam West's Batman was produced years before anyone expected to worry about rights for television, and it shows. Warner Bros., ABC, 20th Century Fox, and the production company all had some stake in the series, and that knot took years to untie. Beyond that, some costumes, props, music cues, and background actors were not cleared for re-distribution. The series never saw the light of the day from when it ended in 1968 to the DVD release in 2014, apart from the occasional re-run on television.

For your viewing pleasure, we have the entire original series available to check out in the library. We're stunned that it took this long for such an iconic show to become available, but after endless legal wrangling, you can finally watch the show where the annoyingly catchy "Batman!" theme song came from. That one probably won't be in the new movie.

Batman, Season 1 – HU DVD 14261
Batman, Season 2 – HU DVD 14262
Batman, Season 3 – HU DVD 14263

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Screening Room wants you to watch new movies at home, and not everyone's on-board

photo by Mr.TinDC via Flickr
Years ago, we mentioned PRIMA Cinema, the absurdly expensive streaming device that requires a home inspection and, for $500 a pop, allows you to watch first-run Hollywood movies. This was mostly intended as a way for the Jay Lenos of the world to see The Force Awakens in the comfort of their home, something far beyond most people's reach. The selective audience and high price meant that PRIMA Cinema didn't eat into box office revenue too much, so everyone sat well with that.

But a new, similar fight has been brewing in the past several weeks with the proposal of Screening Room, a more budget-minded version of PRIMA Cinema for the average consumer. Tech entrepreneur Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network) has been shopping the idea around to studios and distributors, gaining high-profile support from J. J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and other film icons.

Not everyone agrees with the conecpt, though, especially not the theaters that depend on a cut of movie revenue. Only AMC has expressed support for the idea, with seemingly all other theater chains and organizations disavowing the concept for understandable business reasons. Mega-directors James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have also objected to Screening Room, citing not just piracy and abuse but the need to preserve the experience of seeing a movie in theaters.

That may be the strongest argument against this type of idea. With the appeal of cramming into a theater on opening weekend with dozens of people equally excited to watch a new movie on a huge screen, would you really prefer to have to see the next Captain America in your living room? Many people might not care, but for all the convenience of home viewing, film is strongest as a communal experience.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Acquisitions - March 2016

You might notice that we've added a boatload of older television shows this month. We're in the process of filling in our television back-catalog, and the place to start has been Full House and The Norm Show. Look for much more classic television to join the collection in the coming weeks.

We've also started adding many of this year's Oscar nominees that are finally available. Sicario, Spectre, Straight Outta Compton, and Best Picture winner Spotlight are now available to check out. On the odder side of that coin, you can also watch The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, the out-of-left-field Swedish comedy nominee for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

But for a local flavor, our recommendation of the month goes to Sweaty Betty, an improvised movie about a  Hyattsville family and their 1000-pound pig. Indiewire called it "the rare discovery that's bracingly original and down to earth in equal measures."

Hit the break to see what else is now available...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A rough early road for the Irish in film

Still from Whom the Gods Destroy via "Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen"

While St. Patrick's Day is now a generally beloved holiday (we're going to grab Shamrock Shakes in a moment), it's easy to forget that much of the world was inhospitable to the Irish a century ago. The hostile attitudes toward the Irish continued through the early 20th century in the lead-up to the uprising in Ireland in 1916. In an interesting bit of timing, that coincides with the early days of film.

We found this lengthy but extremely in-depth article by Kevin Rockett from Trinity College Dublin about the representation of the Irish in pre-1916 films. To summarize, Ireland didn't have much of a film industry until World War I, so a majority of Irish representation on-screen was left to American producers. Only a few of these films depicted the Irish was menacing stereotypes; most of these films depicted Irish history just because of the interesting content. But more controversially, they scrubbed these stories of their more radical, political elements, possibly as an appeal for cultural assimilation and an attempt to quell the rising anger.

European audiences imported and generally enjoyed these films, but it wasn't until the rise of Ireland's nationalist cinema a few years later that the Irish found their cause represented on-screen. Rockett notes that those nationalist films depicting Irish rebellion sparked such a strong, violent reaction that the film was banned in multiple countries.

Even as critics and producers at the time tried to downplay film as only an entertainment medium and not a political one, the depictions in and outside of Ireland – discouraging versus embracing Irish identity – had a message associated with them. You can read that same thread into modern depictions of race on film too: you can't depict history without at least an implicit message.

This might be a little academic-y for St. Patrick's Day, but we were greatly interested in Rockett's take on this unexamined slice of film.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

For our Metroless day: public transit videos from our collection

In an unprecedented move, the entire Metro system is closed today. Whether or not this was the right choice, it means that DC is spending the day without its main form of public transit. There isn't a documentary about the DC Metro (as far as we know) so we've gathered together three timely media items about this unusual transportation problem.

Firstly and perhaps most seriously, you can stream Subway City, a documentary about all the people who pass through New York's underground rail system. It's not just about the commuters who use it to get to work but "those who work there, those who live there, and those who commit crimes there." Infrastructure on the scale of a subway system changes a city, and this film is a neat peek at what that cultural indentation looks like. (And today, you're seeing what happens when that system disappears.)

Next, for a bit of a laugh, the old newsreel Futuristic Transportation Needs (also streaming) features brief clips of vehicles meant to be the future of transport that missed the mark by a mile. Our favorite is the Aérotrain, the giant Flash Gordon-looking hovertrain pictured above.

And just for good measure, we also have a copy of the How I Met Your Mother episode Subway Wars (HU DVD 11576, Disc 1) in which the main characters try to out-race each other using whatever transportation they can find. The subway-riders don't win, though mostly because of an emotional forfeit.

The Metro may be increasingly dangerous, but be glad that you don't have to ride the Aérotrain. Hopefully we're back to normal tomororw

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Watch these great new documentaries from Docuseek2

From Big Dream

Our media librarian Chris Lewis once called streaming video website Docuseek2 "an embarrassment of riches" for fans of documentaries. We're not gonna disagree: Docuseek2 lets you stream some incredibly high-quality documentary films, and this week, their collection got even larger.

43 new titles are now available via Docuseek2, including the comedic short Drones in My Backyard, women-in-STEM documentary Big Dream, and I Am Become Death: They Made the Bomb, a collection of interviews with participants in the Manhattan Project. Docuseek2 picks their films well, so even without seeing them, we can reasonably recommend everything they've added this month.

We added a full list of Docuseek2's newest additions to the end of this list. If you want to browse the rest of their other 700+ films, you can always browse our full catalog list of Docuseek2 titles.

A Fragile Trust
After Winter, Spring
Arresting Power
Banking Nature
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery
Big Dream
Black Dawn
Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
Cheat Neutral
Code Black
Cuba: The Accidental Revolution - Pt. 2
Diamond Road
Divide In Concord
Drones In My Backyard
Game Over: Conservation in Kenya
Gore Vidal
I Am Become Death: They Made the Bomb
Independent Intervention
Inside Burma
Japan's Peace Constitution
Kabul Transit
Madam Phung's Last Journey
Oil and Water
Racing To Zero
Salvador Allende
School of Babel
Shift Change
Soldiers of Conscience
South Africa Belongs to Us
Split Estate (short version)
The Hand That Feeds
The Homestretch
The Motherhood Manifesto
The Mystery of the Lost Red Paint People
The Storytelling Class
The Tree that Remembers
The Trouble with Bread
They Are We
Where Am I? 
Without Shepherds

Monday, March 14, 2016

Paramount opens their vault to YouTube. Will other studios follow suit?

(embedded above: all of Masters of the Universe! For free!)

Major movie studios are usually extremely protective of their copyrights and lead the charge against video piracy. So it comes as a surprise that Paramount Pictures has opened up a great deal of their film archive for consumption on YouTube.

The Paramount Vault channel, which opened about a year ago, includes over 100 films from the studio's history. These movies are free to stream, with ad breaks interspersed roughly every 15 minutes. These types of studio archive-sponsored YouTube channels tend only to include older, black-and-white films, the Paramount Vault has a few comparatively recent movies as well, like the Wachowskis' directorial debut Bound and 2009 Australian horror movie The Loved Ones.

The quality of the films included is all over the place (we don't have any expectations for American Ninja), but Paramount's willingness to release all these movies into the wild is a good sign for an open future of film distribution. We're happy knowing that The Man from Rio Grande is available for anyone with a phone within a few seconds for no cost.

Monday, March 07, 2016

RocketJump Film School breaks down film cuts

Our staff will be out for a few days for a library conference, so we want to leave you with something substantive to chew on for the week. Enter RocketJump Film School, a film production education group that has been releasing dense, informative videos about specific aspects of filmmaking. It gets pretty wonky; see their video about the difference in camera lens quality for an example.

RJFS's latest video, embedded above, is an 11-minute crash course on cuts, wipes and transitions. This is an excellent overview of the types of cuts filmmakers use and, more importantly, why they use them. Even regular movie fans will learn something from here. Take "cutting on action," for instance: it's a fairly common trick to enhance the action of a movie, and it can help your appreciation of film to look for those techniques.

The entire RocketJump Film School video collection is worth watching if you want to dip you toes into learning about film production, and even for those who are just fans, they'll help you appreciate the film a little more.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Spotlight's director talks about filmmaking failure

Tom McCarthy won deserved accolades for his directorial and screenwriting work on this year's Best Picture winner, Spotlight. But only months before, McCarthy also wrote and directed The Cobbler, an Adam Sandler-starring dramedy about a shoemaker who learns life lessons by literally walking in others' soles. The Cobbler was roundly considered one of the worst movies of the year, both for its maudlin tone and its surprising racism.

McCarthy has maybe the largest single-year quality swing of any filmmaker in history, and somebody finally asked him about it. The director's interview with Jada Yuan in Vulture comes off as defensive, with McCarthy insisting that people actually enjoyed it. But eventually, he offers some wisdom to people having to ride through a failure. "You’re that athlete who's a good pitcher and gives up a home run, and you might think no one's ever going to forgive you for it," McCarthy says. "But you've gotta be like, 'All right! Next season!' and you go back to work."

Not everyone gets that opportunity, least of all first-time filmmakers, but the advice is well-taken for anyone facing creative rejection. Sometimes your work will be poor, and you have to push on through to whatever comes next. It probably won't be Spotlight, though.