Friday, January 13, 2017

Silent Movie GIFs shows the sausage-making behind old special effects

Special effects aren't usually exciting anymore. Filmmakers can create worlds and human beings from whole cloth now, so digital trickery doesn't wow like it used to. 100 years ago, though, every difficult shot took a herculean effort.

The Twitter account Silent Movie GIFs recently shared a few explanations for how silent films pulled off their most difficult shots. Many involve the clever use of matte paintings and partially blocked shots. In the above clip from Sherlock Jr., the motorcycle and trucks were filmed separately; the rest of each shot was blacked out, then both were combined.

The level of work needed to pull off even the simplest shots makes you appreciate how relatively easily we can now throw Spider-Man into a movie.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Horror films had another strong year

For all the jokes about 2016 being terrible, last year was in fact a year of horror – for film at least. As Slashfilm points out, 2016 had an unusually strong showing of horror movies of all stripes, and the site's Jacob Hall attempted to break down what led to the genre's success.

Hall mentions a litany of factors, like a focus on character and intimate settings. Two of the biggest driving forces, though, seem to be politics and auteurs. Last year's horror movies embraced politically charged messages (like the uncomfortably timely Neo-Nazi horror of Green Room), and many others fit the mold of an alienating arthouse film that might turn off broader audiences. The author cites the divisive The Neon Demon in particular filling a niche that wouldn't exist without the director's vision.

We see some immediate parallels to the best horror of the 70s, movies like Dawn of the Dead that used their horror for inventive scares, terrific visual art, and social commentary. We'll admit some skepticism too, but the horror renaissance kicked off by It Follows in 2015 is apparently still going.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Take a vacation to the worlds of Studio Ghibli

Ghibli films are notoriously immersive and transporting. From the forests of Princess Mononoke, to Yubaba's bath house in Spirited Away, the worlds of Studio Ghibli are complex, beautiful, and utterly real. How is this feat accomplished? Here's one take:

Even if you're not an anime fan, after watching Asher Isbrucker's video essay, you might be inspired to check out some of AU's collection of Ghibli films:

Castle In The Sky - HU DVD 2978
The Cat Returns - HU DVD 13290
From Up On Poppy Hill - HU DVD 8901
Grave Of The Fireflies - HU DVD 823
Howl's Moving Castle - HU DVD 2979
Kiki's Delivery Service - HU DVD 6077
My Neighbor Totoro - HU DVD 4709
(Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Winds - HU DVD 2977)*
Only Yesterday - HU DVD 13276
Ponyo - HU DVD 6937
Porco Rosso - HU DVD 10216
Princess Mononoke - HU DVD 1206
Spirited Away - HU DVD 586
Tale Of The Princess Kaguya - HU DVD 11898
The Secret World Of Arrietty - HU DVD 7986
When Marnie Was There - HU DVD 13297
Whisper Of The Heart - HU DVD 10126
The Wind Rises - HU DVD 11597

*Did you know, Nausicaa is technically not a Ghibli film?!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

New Acquisitions - December 2016

The library is closing up for winter in about three hours, and much like a student submitting a paper on Blackboard at 11:59, we're going to publish our final new acquisitions for the year!

You might notice a ton of new television shows this month. We've been catching up on television shows – recent (like HBO's Enlightened) and much older (the original Mission: Impossible series and Columbo). Our favorite oddity is the full run of The Munsters, which includes an unaired pilot filmed in color.

On the front for big movies, Captain America: Civil War and How to Train Your Dragon 2 are also both now available.

If you can read this in the next few hours, you can check out any of these films until we re-open on January 3rd. Get to it!

Home Use Collection:

Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – HU DVD 37
More Business of Being Born – HU DVD 216
Higher Learning – HU DVD 5748
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – HU DVD 7802
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – HU BLU 7802
One-Eyed Jacks – HU DVD 10236
Underground New York – HU DVD 13490
Captain America: Civil War – HU DVD 13538
Bayou Maharajah – HU DVD 13547
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar – HU DVD 13548
Code : Debugging The Gender Gap – HU DVD 13556
Food Choices – HU DVD 13558
The Gunman – HU DVD 13559
Céline Et Julie Vont En Bateau – HU DVD 13560
Ella Enchanted – HU DVD 13562
Ella Enchanted – HU BLU 13562
Dracula Untold – HU DVD 13563
Dracula Untold – HU BLU 13563
Choice 2016 – HU DVD 13565
School Of The Future – HU DVD 13566
Subprime Education – HU DVD 13567
Hooligan Sparrow – HU DVD 13568
The Day Of The Jackal – HU DVD 13582
The Deadly Affair – HU DVD 13584


Nurse Jackie, Season 1 – HU DVD 14350
Malcolm in the Middle, Season 1 – HU DVD 14351
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 1 – HU DVD 14485
Vicious, Season 1 – HU DVD 14486
Columbo, Season 1 – HU DVD 14487
Enlightened, Season 1 – HU DVD 14488
Enlightened, Season 2 – HU DVD 14489
Big Love, Season 1 – HU DVD 14490
The Fall, Season 1 – HU DVD 14491
Mission: Impossible, Season 1 – HU DVD 14492
Everybody Hates Chris, Season 1 – HU DVD 14493
Everybody Hates Chris, Season 2 – HU DVD 14494
Everybody Hates Chris, Season 3 – HU DVD 14495
Everybody Hates Chris, Season 4 – HU DVD 14496
The Munsters, Season 1 – HU DVD 14497
The Munsters, Season 2 – HU DVD 14498
F Troop, Season 1 – HU DVD 14499
That Girl, Season 1 – HU DVD 14500

In-Library Titles:

A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy – DVD 13484
Just A Gigolo – DVD 13557
From These Roots – DVD 13561
The Last Colony – DVD 13583

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One of David Bowie's first films is a fascinating mess

As we prepare to close up shop for winter break, we have a very strange new acquisition highlight.

We've mentioned before that David Bowie had a surprisingly robust acting career, starting with the titular role in the classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. Two years later, he returned to film in Just a Gigolo, where he plays a Prussian soldier forced into prostitution in post-World War I Germany. Notably, Marlene Dietrich briefly appears in her last credited role.

Reception for Just a Gigolo was all over the place. Reviews at the time were scathing, and Bowie considered it an embarrassment. "Listen," he told one film critic, "you were disappointed, and you weren’t even in it. Imagine how we felt." An author over at Dangerous Minds found it "actually pretty wild to watch" and visually enticing.

This film hasn't been available in America in basically any format for decades. We recently acquired a VHS, and as part of our long-term archiving project, we've digitized it and created an archival DVD copy. You can watch the strange mess of Just a Gigolo yourself in the AU Library.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Breakfast Club rounds out this year's surprising National Film Registry additions

Yesterday, the Library of Congress named 25 new films to add to the National Film Registry, a permanent archive of the most "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" American films. As usual, the selections span almost a century of film, including drama, horror, comedies, documentaries, and animation.

We're pleasantly surprised by some of the popular movies added this year. The Lion King was inevitable given its legendary stature in animation, but The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? are unexpected newcomers. Deadline's write-up has good descriptions of each movie, including a breakdown of the unusual history behind the 1903 short Life of an American Fireman.

The National Film Registry will take care of these movies for generations hundreds of years from now, but if you just want to watch them right now, we have copies of most everything on this list available for checkout. In fact, you can watch Life of an American Fireman via streaming right now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

14,000 copies of Jerry Maguire to be built into a desert pyramid, because why not

For several years, the online group Everything is Terrible has searched through ephemeral videotapes to find some truly weird art, much like the Found Footage Festival. But they've also had an even stranger side project to collect every known VHS copy of the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire. We still don't really understand why they've undertaken their project. With over 14,000 tapes collected, EiT has more copies of Jerry Maguire than all of our old VHS collection combined.

To commemorate the film's twentieth anniversary, Everything is Terrible is building a video store that only has VHS copies of Jerry Maguire as part of an art exhibit in Los Angeles. This isn't even their final resting place: all proceeds from the show will go towards building a Jerry Maguire pyramid somewhere in the desert.

There's basically no reason for either video store or the pyramid to exist... except as monuments to late-90s consumer excess. Maybe that's as good of an excuse as any.

Sadly, we don't have our own copy to give to the pyramid.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Kirk Douglas!

December 9th was the 100th birthday of Kirk Douglas.

According to TCM:
"The archetypal Hollywood movie star of the postwar era, Kirk Douglas built a career with he-man roles as soldiers, cowboys and assorted tough guys in over 80 films. His restless, raging creations earned him three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and one Golden Globe win for his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in "Lust for Life" (1956). But besides his lasting mark as a seething strong man with a superhero-like head of hair and the most famous dimpled chin this side of Shirley Temple, Douglas was a Tinseltown innovator and rebel. As one of the first A-listers to wrest further control of their career by founding an independent production company, Douglas also effectively ended the 1950s practice of blacklisting Hollywood talent suspected of communist ties when he insisted on crediting famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for his script adaptation of "Spartacus" (1960). Douglas maintained his position as a perennial favorite - often opposite fellow tough guy Burt Lancaster - in Westerns and World War II films until the early 1970s, when changing tastes edged the timeworn genres into the wings. He began a second career as a writer and focused on the philanthropic efforts of The Douglas Foundation, occasionally surfacing throughout the 1980s and 1990s to portray irrepressible old firecrackers in made-for-TV movies and the occasional feature."

Unfamiliar with his work? Check out one of his films from the Media Services Home Use Collection:

Arrangement - HU DVD 2212
Bad and the beautiful - HU DVD 7257
Champion - HU DVD 211
Is Paris burning? - HU DVD 12861
Lonely are the brave - HU DVD 12168
Lust for life - HU DVD 5808
Out of the past - HU DVD 2403
Paths of glory - DVD 3271
Seven days in May - HU DVD 326
Spartacus - HU DVD 3272

Friday, December 09, 2016

The best movies of the year – spliced into one video

Every year, film critic David Ehrlich puts together a montage of what he considered the 25 best films of the year. Ehrlich's tastes tend to lean towards interesting visuals, but we're not complaining. His montages are visual feasts, so he gets to pick whatever he wants. Moonlight tops the list, understandably given the praise we've heard.

This year's supercut has a few surprising selections, including Beyonce's Lemonade and the ESPN documentary series OJ: Made in America. We also love Ehrlich's choice of using music from other notable movies this year. There are a few bonus movies thrown in at the start, too. Ghostbusters wouldn't make the top 25, but we're happy to see the Holtzmann dance again.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

New blood or old blood? What experienced directors bring to big movies

You might have missed that a new Steven Spielberg movie came out this year. The BFG was a bit of a flop, a surprise considering the beloved director at the helm.

As movie studios are learning, director choice holds less and less sway over audiences as studios recruit new talent to headline their films somewhat anonymously. Take Colin Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World after only a few small independent successes. He was affordable, it brought new blood into Hollywood, and frankly, he nailed it. So why would studios hire a marquee name?

Kevin Lincoln suggests in a new Vulture article that the cracks are finally showing in this model. The last two years have been filled with stories of blockbuster movies delayed by reshoots or production troubles, and often, the fingers point to inexperienced directors not accustomed to working with massive budgets under studio control. The horror story behind last year's Fantastic Four reboot is an extreme case (extensive reshoots, the director openly fighting his producers, and a barely coherent final product), but the benefits of confident directors are becoming clearer in their absence.

Don't expect Martin Scorsese to direct the next Star Wars movie. But maybe by the next Fantastic Four movie, the director will have more experience under their belt.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Acquisitions - November 2016

The AU Library previously didn't own The Karate Kid. This month, we fixed that.

Our collection now also includes a slew of highly anticipated titles that you might have wanted to see, like Weiner, the startlingly intimate documentary about the downfall of Anthony Weiner. You can also now check out the second season of Outlander, the wildly popular Starz fantasy series.

History scholars and fans might also want to seek out the Robert Drew documentary collection, includes titles like the death row politics film The Chair and high school sports story Mooney vs. Fowle.

And we'd be remiss not to mention Miss Sharon Jones!, an unfortunately newly relevant documentary about the late singer's battle with cancer.

Home Use Collection:

Micmacs a Tire-larigot – HU DVD 13456
Richard II – HU DVD 13458
Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 – HU DVD 13459
Henry V – HU DVD 13460
On the Road with Duke Ellington – HU DVD 13486
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel – HU DVD 13496
Weiner – HU DVD 13499
Mr. Holmes – HU DVD 13500
Dark Side of the Full Moon – HU DVD 13501
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – HU DVD 13502
A Sinner in Mecca – HU DVD 13503
Quakers: That of God in Everyone – HU DVD 13504
Poverty, Inc. – HU DVD 13505
We are the Ones – HU DVD 13511
Fantastic Planet = La Planéte Sauvage – HU DVD 13512
Carnival of Souls – HU DVD 13513
The Dresser – HU DVD 13514
Meru – HU DVD 13516
Shrek 2 – HU DVD 13518
Gang Ren Bo Qi = Paths of the Soul – HU DVD 13519
Stephen King's It – HU DVD 13520
Brilliant but Cancelled: EZ Streets – HU DVD 13521
Brilliant but Cancelled: Crime Dramas – HU DVD 13522
Miss Sharon Jones! – HU DVD 13523
Tokyo Fiancée – HU DVD 13524
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – HU DVD 13525
Moms Mabley – HU DVD 13526
The Karate Kid – HU DVD 13527
The In-Laws – HU DVD 13528
Muriel, or, The Time of Return = Muriel, ou, Le Temps D’un Retour – HU DVD 13529
Zangiku Monogatari = The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum – HU DVD 13530
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – HU DVD 13531
All the Way – HU DVD 13532
Outlander, Season 2 – HU DVD 14337

In-Library Titles:

Given a Chance – DVD 13451
Fly by Light – DVD 13457
Primary – DVD 13475
Mooney vs. Fowle – DVD 13476
On the Pole: Eddie Sachs – DVD 13477
Susan Starr – DVD 13478
Happy Birthday, Captain Blackburn – DVD 13479
The Chair – DVD 13480
Jane – DVD 13481
Storm Signal – DVD 13482
Man Who Dances – DVD 13483
A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy – DVD 13484
On the Bowery – DVD 13488
The Prosperity of Wibisana: A Performance of Javanese Wayang Kulit – DVD 13497
The Prosperity of Wibisana: A Study Guide and Analysis of Javanese Wayang Kulit – DVD 13498
Rabin in His Own Words – DVD 13506

Music Library DVDs:

Dance for Camera 2 – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 269

Monday, November 28, 2016

Watch some cyberpunk movies for Cyber Monday

Today is the increasingly dated-sounding Cyber Monday, an online sales day commemorated when people still had to use their workplace computers to get online. For an event with a name as silly as Cyber Monday, the only appropriate film genre to watch today is cyberpunk.

If you haven't seen any such movies before, cyberpunk is a loose subgenre of science fiction and crime set in near-future dystopias; films in the genre use overwhelming technology and huge corporations as a sounding board for social issues and exploring the idea of consciousness. That sounds vague – and elements have seeped into almost all modern blockbusters – but as consumer electronics exploded in the 80s through the early 2000s, it was a dominant genre.

We come not to taunt Cyber Monday's name but to praise it: like cyberpunk, it reflects a time of uncertainty and expectation about the future of technology. And decades later, they both sound pretty ridiculous.

A few recommendations:

Akira – HU DVD 433
Blade Runner – HU DVD 1064
Dark City – HU DVD 1992
Ghost in the Shell – HU DVD 5155
The Matrix – HU DVD 10154
RoboCop – DVD 8164
Strange Days – HU DVD 584
Total Recall – HU DVD 2040

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Ajami

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

This week, we're focusing on Ajami, a 2009 nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

Ajami is a mixed-religious neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel, where tensions understandably run high. The film tells a crime story in those streets, intercutting between five different stories told from Jewish and Arab perspectives. The film doesn't use its interleaving and grittiness just for show; it reveals and humanizes the tensions of a community divided by religion and class.

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

In College Park? Learn about the Coen brothers from an AU professor

Most people reading this blog are probably based in and around Tenleytown, but if you're out in the 'burbs, you have to a chance to hear an AU literature professor share their knowledge.

Professor Erik Dussere (friend of Media Services) will be at the University of Maryland on Friday, November 18th for "Weird American Odysseys: Music, Authenticity, and the Coen Brothers." We don't know exactly what that entails, but since it's part of an event series with "Local Americanists," you can probably figure out the themes Dussere will be touching on. (And with that title, O Brother, Where Art Thou? has to come up, right?)

The talk happens at 3:30pm Friday in UMD's Tawes Hall, room 2115. We won't be able to make it, but if you happen to live or work in the College Park area, swing by to hear some thoughts on the Coens. (As an editorial note, I've taken Professor Dussere's course on the Coen brothers offered at American; you're in for a treat.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A closer look at the realities of an awards bait movie

We're only two months from the start of awards season, which means all the high-profile Oscar contenders about serious, relevant social issues are hitting theaters. Or, as someone more cynical might put it, all the Oscar bait has finally been released into the waters.

Filmmakers want to tell meaningful, engaging movies, but to be frank, studios back those films because they want to capitalize on popular topics and snag awards attention. The Los Angeles Times went into this tension in a recent article; they interviewed directors and writers of current Oscar contenders and found their interests divided between the creative and social dimension and the realities of the movie business.

Take Jeff Nichols, director of the upcoming interracial marriage drama Loving, who found the film's true story important to tell. He also recognized that his film was checking a lot of boxes for distributor Focus Features, adding that fitting into a targeted, award-friendly slot in a studio's schedule is "a big part of the business of this particular film and this model – and to deny that would be kind of silly."

Movies can't exist without support or some plan for revenue, no matter how heartfelt or timely. You might understandably be skeptical that all the serious movies come out right before Oscar nominations begin, but that's a reality that allows them to get made.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Look inside the Library of Congress's explosive film vault

Drive down to Culpepper, VA and you'll find the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, home to the Library of Congress's film archive. This is where preservationists keep a massive storehouse of tens of thousands of films – classics, flops, and even reportedly Jerry Lewis's unreleased disaster The Day the Clown Cried.

YouTube channel Great Big Story managed to a rare peek behind the scenes, and the level of security needed for the collection is astounding. Archivist George Willeman explains that many early films in their collection are printed on nitrate, an explosive chemical that could probably take down building (remember the ending of Inglourious Basterds?). So, much of the archive is kept in a former nuclear bunker.

Thankfully, we don't work with nitrate, so the AU Library isn't going to blow up. Let's thank the archivists doing the heavy lifting.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Smash & Grab

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

This week, we're focusing on Smash & Grab, an experimental documentary about international jewel thieves.

Smash & Grab follows The Pink Panthers, a gang that has reportedly stolen billions in jewelry around the world. Director Havana Marking blends reality and fictional filmmaking techniques in startling ways. The film uses real surveillance footage of The Pink Panthers (we don't understand how she obtained it) to ratchet the tension, and her interviews with the gang members (which, again, we're baffled as to how she arranged) are presented as rotoscoped animation. This a documentary that gets close to its subjects – through the heightened lens of a partially-animated heist film.

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Monday, November 07, 2016

No, a silent film of a train probably didn't cause mass hysteria

You've probably heard this one before: back during the dawn of motion pictures, a short movie showing a train heading for the camera caused audiences to freak out and try to run from the theater. It's a funny anecdote about how much of an impact film made – and it makes those audiences look pretty naive.

But as Atlas Obscura's Eric Grundhauser explains, this probably never actually happened. We can trace the story to a specific film (1898's Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat), the lack of circumstantial evidence like news stories and police accounts of a mobscene suggests this was just a myth. If anything, it was a metaphor for the powerful impact of film, one that spread so quickly it was parodied in a 1901 short (embedded above).

So although audiences probably didn't actually panic, the mental image was real. It might've been exaggerated shorthand. Think of it like a turn-of-the-century straw man argument.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Wild Style

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

This week, we're focusing on Wild Style, a 1983 film credited with bringing hip-hop to the big screen.

Here's Kanopy's description...
Wild Style follows the exploits of maverick tagger Zoro (real life graffiti artist Lee Quinones), whose work attracts the attention of an East Village art fancier (Patti Astor) who commissions him to paint the stage for a giant Rapper's Convention. A document of the earliest days of hip-hop in the boroughs of New York, everything in Wild Style is authentic - the story, style, characters, and most of the actors, are drawn from the community. It features a pantheon of old-school pioneers, including Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, The Cold Crush Brothers and more.

"Charlie Ahearn's groundbreaking film about hip-hop, graffiti, break dancing, and rap in eighties." -Sarah Cardace, New York Magazine

"It's a fascinating time capsule, worth examining for anyone interested in the cultural roots of hip hop." -Keith Phipps, AV Club

"Wild Style is a cult classic - indisputably the most important hip hop movie, ever." - David Mattin, BBC
Wild Style was a community breaking through into film, and its impact made its way back. Artists like Nas, MF Doom, and Jurassic 5 have referenced Wild Style. As the film makes its way to museum and retrospectives, it continues to shape perceptions of hip-hop culture.

It's also a really good movie – and a must-watch if you haven't already seen it!

You can follow this link to watch the film instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The new great directors of horror share their favorites

The horror genre has had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years – not the stereotypical jump-and-scare horror movies, but a wave of subtler, creeping horror like The Witch. All their filmmakers draw on a rich history of horror film for their personal style. So for a look into what the new face of genre loves to watch, The A.V. Club asked these directors to program a 24-hour scary movie marathon.

As you might expect, their picks range from classics to unusual but terrifying gems. Wolf Creek director Greg McLean picked Jaws, for instance, and raved about how animatronics can be special in the CGI era. Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl's A.D. Calvo went weirder and picked Burnt Offerings, a haunted house film starring "late-period Bette Davis."

Their selection add up to a pretty solid 24 hours, from tired-and-true scares to horror that will claw its way into your brain for days. If you want to follow along at home, we have many of the films on this list available to check out!

The Conjuring – HU DVD 11358
The Night of the Hunter – HU DVD 1235
Black Moon – HU DVD 12544 and streaming
Eraserhead – HU DVD 1491 and streaming
Jaws – HU DVD 98
Alien – HU DVD 885
The Exorcist – HU DVD 2002

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Acquisitions - October 2016

October was a sleepy month for new acquisitions, but we've added a few new documentaries and films from around the world. The most recognizable name might be Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which we added well in advance of Thanksgiving.

But the most interesting addition might be The Legacy of I. F. Stone, a documentary about the impact of the famous investigative journalist. This film comes to us by way of the I. F. Stone Papers, a collection of materials relating to Stone donated to the University Archives by his son Jeremy. We're excited to house a little part of that collection!

Home Use Collection:

Bhopali – HU DVD 1343
A Letter to True – HU DVD 10310
Los Laberintos de la Memoria = The Labyrinths of Memory – HU DVD 13409
Being Mick: You Would If You Could – HU DVD 13415
Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War – HU DVD 13416
Kingdom of Shadows – HU DVD 13417
Hopscotch – HU DVD 13438
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – HU DVD 13444
Crashing the Party – HU DVD 13446
Big Trouble – HU DVD 13447
Destination: Planet Negro! – HU DVD 13448

In-Library Titles:

Harry Smith: Selected Films – DVD 13249
Hababam Sinifi – DVD 13414
Milou en Mai = May Fools – BLU 13418
The Legacy of I. F. Stone – DVD 13445

Music Library DVDs:

Florence Foster Jenkins – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 250

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Film canon classics

Still from Seven Samurai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter documentary now available streaming

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The first Star Wars trailer is missing a whole lot

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

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

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

Kanopy Highlights: Social justice documentaries

Still from Concerning Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween nears! Check out our horror movie collection

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How the West was whitened

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

RIP Andrezj Wajda, a voice for Poland in film

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Rolling Stone declares The Sopranos the greatest TV show

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

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

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