Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hasta la vista, Molly


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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Toronto Film Festival had "its blackest edition ever"


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

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

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

What last night's Emmys mean for diversity on screen

via Yahoo

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

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

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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


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

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

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

What does a filmmaking class from Werner Herzog look like?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

See Queen of Katwe for free TOMORROW!


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

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Do some TV shows work better un-binged?


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Can someone give Mr. Robot a lamp?

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

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

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

Thursday, September 01, 2016

New Acquisitions - September 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How do you adapt an unfilmable novel?


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

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

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gene Wilder and his triumphant Mel Brooks comedies


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

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

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

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

Still from Decasia

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BBC critics poll names the top movies of the century


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

We'll see y'all on Wednesday!

Monday, August 15, 2016

When happens when film crews lack diversity, too?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Take a look inside our old U-matic player

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 08, 2016

Watch HBO documentaries for free through Films On Demand

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

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

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

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Alternative programming: Getting real about Rio

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

New Acquisitions - August 2016


One month left in summer! Everyone panic!

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Matt Damon in The Great Wall sadly isn't unprecedented

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

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

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

Monday, August 01, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Get a DC Library card to get InstantFlix for free!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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


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

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

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Checking your perspective on making a documentary


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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

See where Hollywood films around DC


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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's okay: Scorsese has guilty pleasures, too


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

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

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