Monday, July 25, 2016

Checking your perspective on making a documentary


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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

See where Hollywood films around DC


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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's okay: Scorsese has guilty pleasures, too


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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

More big movies streaming through the AU Library


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Even reviews of media for women are more hostile


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

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

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fandor spotlights twenty acclaimed films by women


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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

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

via Variety

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Meet the Media Services guide collection


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

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

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

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

RIP Abbas Kiarostami, defining voice of Iranian cinema

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

New Acquisitions - July 2016


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

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

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: The Purge: Election Year

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The five years in Chicago when movies were forbidden

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Learn the secrets of directing from Adam Nimoy this Thursday

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Independence Day: Resurgence

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

AFI Docs begins tonight with a Werner Herzog treat on Friday


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

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

See Inside Out tonight in Adams Morgan!


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

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Finding Dory

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vanity Fair turns blockbuster movie credits into a budget list


A $200 million movie budget almost seems abstract. We can say that a whole bunch of that money went to the effects, but what does that actually mean? How much does the assistant director figure into it? Does Robert Downey Jr. just get $180 million and everyone else splits it up?

Vanity Fair made a mock movie credit roll to break down how much money goes to each crew member, and the numbers are sobering. Pay rates vary wildly from position to position; cat cameos get paid more than some stuntpeople. The most unusual are the positions where people earn different amounts for the same jobs. Set production assistants, for instance, have a $5000 range, maybe because some spend longer or only work with the second unit.

Watching a giant wall of credits can become a little numbing, but you start to get the sense of the scale of film production when you see that $229,000 went into matte painters. And if you feel a little anger at the lead actor being paid about as much as the rest of the cast combined, we don't blame you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A roundup of Tonys-related films from the Music Library


This Sunday was the 70th Annual Tony Awards, which featured awards for a few adaptations and revivals that have existed on film before. Rather than ramble about it ourselves, we're going to turn things over to the Music Library, which put together a list of all the items in the library collections related to this weekend's big winners.

Of note for us, we have DVDs of The Color Purple, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and You've Got Mail (adapted from the same source material as She Loves Me).

Monday, June 13, 2016

FiveThirtyEight figures out the most and least successful movies based on books


A book is not a film. Each format has strong and weak points, and as common as book-to-movie adaptations are, not every story is well-suited for both. Fans of the original books might bemoan when the movie version misses the point, but sometimes movies end up being the right way to tell a story that started in print.

We were alerted to this quick study from FiveThirtyEight last year that tried to figure out, statistically, what benefited and lost the most in the move to the screen. Using ratings from Metacritic and Goodreads (admittedly not a perfect comparison since Goodreads reviews come from fans), FiveThirtyEight zeroed in on books with the greatest quality disparity from their movies. Many of the most poorly rated movie adaptations are based on young adult or genre novels – which, again, fans may have inflated ratings for.

More interesting are the movies that significantly outperform their books: Up in the Air, Apocalypse Now, The Graduate, and others on the list were either adapted from books with middling ratings or reworked the premise for the zeitgeist (both, in the case of Up in the Air). Metropolis is a particularly interesting case, because the movie brought so much invention to film as a whole that the novel has been almost totally forgotten.

Both versions of Battlefield Earth, meanwhile, continue to be despised about equally.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Now You See Me 2

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

So, we have a weird relationship with Now You See Me. Years ago, we got a publicity package from the film's producers, filled with Now You See Me shirts, hats, flashlights (?), gum (?!), and other strange branded products. Forgive us if we have a soft spot for this deeply silly movie series. It's supposed to be about magic, but it's closer to one of G.O.B.'s illusions.

Instead, let's pivot to actual magic. In particular, let's look at two films about magicians with the same name: The Illusionist. 2006's Illusionist tells a story of romance about magician in 19th century Austria-Hungary; 2010's Illusionist is a melancholy animated film based on a screenplay by late French filmmaker Jacques Tati.

Both are certainly sadder films, but they do a better job capturing the enchantment of illusions compared to... whatever Now You See Me is doing.

The Illusionist (2006) – HU DVD 1779
The Illusionist (2010) – HU DVD 8704

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The next time you need a camera, check KitSplit


The AU Library is happy to lend out cameras, tripods, and microphones for students, staff, and faculty working on film projects, and SOC students also have the option to borrow equipment from the Media Production Center.

But what happens if you graduate, or if you need something higher-end or specialized? You'd normally rent from a production house, but honestly, keeping track of private rental services in the city can be difficult.

Enter KitSplit, a new site that aggregates equipment rental spots around the city. They have an extremely broad audience in mind: renters and rentees range from individuals to major corporations, and models range from the simplest up to experimental virtual reality cameras. The low-rent horror movie schlockhouse Troma Entertainment uses the service too, so if you're looking to make a film with a low budget, KitSplit could work for you.

It's great to see more local resources for film alumni folks. Consider swinging by the site if you need some nice and/or inexpensive equipment if the library isn't an option.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Meet the new canon of black film


As much as we enjoy poring over lists of the best films ever made, Aisha Harris and Dan Kois make a good point over at Slate: those lists are overwhelmingly white. And when film buffs follow those recommendations in search of the great art, they'll watch predominantly white movies. We can lose sight of contributions to film from people of color this way.

So Harris and Kois assembled "filmmakers, critics, and scholars" the produce The Black Film Canon, a list of the fifty greatest films by black directors. Notably, this excludes a few prominent films about blackness, like Coming to America, but it reflects the talent of black filmmakers who are often overlooked in the grand assessment of film history. The list spans decades, genres, and countries, including notable African cinema. (Though we do like that Spike Lee warranted his own category.)

We embedded Slate's supercut of The Black Film Canon above. We have most of the movies on their list; a Pinterest board will be coming shortly, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Popstar

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

Every generation gets the music mockumentary it deserves. This is Spinal Tap remains the definitive send-up of hair metal rockstar excess. Popstar: Never Stop Never Popping, the newest film by The Lonely Island, continues the tradition by skewering Justin Bieber, celebrity ego, and flaming out in the age of social media.

It doesn't start or end there: you can look back to 1978's Beatles parody All You Need is Cash or the 90s hip-hop spoof Fear of a Black Hat. When a new type of pop star emerges, the world of film has been quick to drag music culture through the mud. Popstar's Conner4Real is the parody we need right now, but twenty years ago, it needed Chris Rock's CB4.

This is Spinal Tap – HU DVD 538
CB4 – HU DVD 6717
All You Need is Cash – HU DVD 10187
A Mighty Wind – HU DVD 10218
Fear of a Black Hat – HU DVD 12653

And because sometimes life imitates art, we also recommend Anvil! The Story of Anvil!, a real rock documentary so silly it may as well be a joke too (HU DVD 3461).

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

New Acquisitions - June 2016

There has been an acquisition.

Have you felt it?

(We have other things this month, too, like Out 1, a twelve-hour odyssey by recently deceased French New Wave director Jacques Rivette. Follow the link to see what else we added.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Watch AU commencement addresses from years past

AU's commencement ceremonies this year featured addresses from notable speakers like CNN's John King and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Luckily, since we live in the era of free high-quality web video, you can watch all those on AU's official YouTube channel.

We've had a lot of exciting commencement speeches in the years before that, so what happened to those? AU has taped the ceremonies for years, and now the AU Library is stepping up to make them available.

Our collection coordinator Molly Hubbs has been hard at work digitizing old commencement tapes and putting videos of the big speeches online for anyone to view for free. The collection is still a work in progress (there's 16 video right now), but you can watch commencement addresses from David Gregory, Diane Rehm, Tim Russert, and others. We expect over 50 videos in the collection when it's complete.

These videos are a cool piece of AU history that you previously couldn't see, now available to the whole AU community with the help of the library. Go ahead, spend a lazy summer afternoon diving back through the school's history.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Some of the great, weird things we found while cleaning out our desks

 Now that we're in the slow months of summer, we have a chance to tidy up our department. A big part of that this summer is cleaning out desks that haven't been emptied in decades and finding all sorts of goodies in them.

Most of what we found was old files, but a few wonderful relics from the past stood out. We shared some of the best to Facebook. The catalogs are pretty amazing (look at all that wood paneling!), but the cassette of a 1984 Ted Kennedy speech at the nearby Methodist church has some real historical value. Luckily the University Archives had already backed it up!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You can own a piece of Mad Men history – even just an ashtray

Prop auctions are so irrationally fun. A pen might be worth a few cents, but if that pen appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, my god, it's worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. The chance to own a small piece of a movie or television show is the chance for a connection to art and characters we love.

Which means that you, too, can buy the box that Peggy's walking with in that GIF.

In commemoration of the year since Mad Men's finale, the show's propmaster Ellen Freund will be auctioning over 1000 props from the show, including typewriters, office decor, and, of course, drink sets. Now you can buy the empty decadence of Sterling Cooper without actually destroying your life and alienating your family!

The auction begins on Wednesday, June 1st, but you can browse the items for sale right now. If you really, really want the model ship on Pete Campbell's desk, it can be yours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An intro to double Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach


In a choice that shocked many critics, director Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for I, Daniel Blake, a drama about a carpenter fighting for disability benefits. This is Loach's second Palme d'Or (a rare feat) after his 2006 Irish War of Independence film The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Already, film critics are debating whether his newest work is too "aggressively Loachian."

...but what does that mean? If you aren't familiar with social advocacy British cinema, you may not have encountered the director before. Ken Loach's films tend to address issues like welfare and labor with a focus on the realistic living conditions of the individuals affected. His 1969 film Kes, about a delinquent child with minimal family support who befriends a falcon, has often been considered one of the greatest British films of all time.

By all descriptions, I, Daniel Blake fits that mold for good or for ill; the filmmaker's work has been criticized as maudlin and unsubtle at its worst. We have a bunch of Loach's films in our collection – he's been active for six decades after all – so you can judge for yourself.

Sweet Sixteen – HU DVD 1133
Bread & Roses – HU DVD 2619
The Navigators – HU DVD 2653
The Wind That Shakes the Barley – HU DVD 3374
The Spirit of '45 – HU DVD 7594
Kes – HU DVD 8370
Ae Fond Kiss... – HU DVD 8803
Raining Stones – HU DVD 10683

Great Directors (interview with Loach) – Streaming video