Tuesday, December 06, 2016

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

http://www.vulture.com/2016/12/rogue-one-gareth-edwards-tony-gilroy.html

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.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

See The Accountant early and for free, with director Q&A!


We have more passes to see movies in advance this week – with a Q&A with the director!

This time around, we have passes for a preview screening of The Accountant, the new Ben Affleck-fronted thriller with a title that doesn't suggest that all. You'd normally have to wait until this hits theaters to see whether a movie about an accountant could actually be exciting, but you can see it for free on Thursday, October 6th, at 7pm in Friendship Heights. Stick around afterwards for the Q&A with director Gavin O'Connor.

We only have physical copies of these passes, so you'll need to swing by in person at the Media Serviecs desk to pick these up. As always, remember that these events are intentionally overbooked, so get there as early as you can to ensure that you get a seat.

Monday, October 03, 2016

What does Netflix's shrinking library mean for film history literacy?


Even with our collection of 14,000 DVDs, we'll all admit to watching things on Netflix and Hulu all the time. Streaming subscriptions are convenient, and we're realizing that it's their primary way that many incoming students watch movies and television now. But we're concerned about how that narrows what movies and television people can watch.

According to a report by Exstreamist, Netflix's library has shrunk by 50% in the last four years. As Netflix has pursued its own original shows and movies, the company has started cutting back on titles by other studios. Today, by Exstreamist's estimates, Netflix has lost over 5000 titles since 2012, and the ones that are left aren't exactly the greatest.

This could have a serious chilling effect on what people watch. Consider the Indiana Jones movies. None are available on any American streaming service unless you pay for a rental. If media consumption habits become more and more reliant of what's available to stream immediately, that cuts off a massive amount of film and television history. And what about independent films that can't break onto a streaming platform?

We hope there's a change in viewing patterns soon. But the library's collection will always have physical copies that won't be removed at the end of the month.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Acquisitions - September 2016, Part 2


Yes, part two! A steady stream of DVDs continues to flow into the library, and we're getting them on the shelves for you. This month in particular had a focus on international films, so let's talk about those.

Pictured above is A Town Called Panic, the first stop-motion film ever screened at the Cannes Film Festival. We've added a number of movies nominated for the Goya Award (Spain's equivalent of the Oscar), like Marshland, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed, and the animated foosball comedy Underdogs. We've also expanded our collection of Arabic films with My Father is on the Tree and Ghazal Al Banat.

If you want to expand your film appetite beyond our shores, this is a great month to start. Follow on to see what else we have...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What was the last VHS ever?


Yesterday's post about Vidiots had us thinking about the VHS format again. Commercial VHSes have been out of print for nearly a decade, and with the last VHS player leaving the factory in July, it's glory days are clearly behind. Just for fun, this got us asking: what was the last VHS ever?

According to Inverse, the last commercial VHS ever published was David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, released on March 14, 2016. Others point to an extremely hard-to-find tape of Cars from 2007, but it's hard to figure out where those came from. Either way, we can safely say the VHS died about ten years ago.

The Inverse article goes on to wonder whether there might be a future market for VHSes in the same way that vinyl records have come back. Basically, there's not. The formats that replaced the VHS are all far better and more useful. We're always in the process of keeping our collection available and up-to-date, but we suspect we won't be purchasing new VHSes in 20 years.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Help a beloved LA film library preserve their old VHSes


If you read this blog, you know we have an affinity for digital preservation and weird, niche films that aren't available anymore. We do our best to serve the university community in those areas, but there are other groups with their own missions. Take Vidiots, a video rental store that's served Los Angeles film nerds (including directors like David O. Russell) for decades with its massive library of hard-to-find titles.

Now, Vidiots has launched a crowdfunding campaign to take wants to take their collection into the modern era by digitally preserving as much of their collection as possible. Vidiots has thousands of rare VHSes that are presumably deteriorating and may be the last copies remaining of certain films, and Vidiots wants to digitize those tapes, license them, and check them out to whoever wants a copy. Additional funds will go to creating programming to showcase these films. This is a huge benefit to the LA film community – which more or less overlaps exactly with Hollywood.

If you want to support a good cause that makes the world of film a better place, consider kicking a few dollars their way. Their campaign has about a month left to raise $45,000, any amount helps.

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.