Thursday, January 31, 2013

Aw, nerds! Catch up on 30 Rock as it comes to an end


There's some bad news on our mind-grapes today. After seven years of "claps-giving yay ha-rade," NBC sitcom 30 Rock is airing its final episode tonight. Though 30 Rock struggled to break out from the shadow of bigger NBC hits like The Office and MILF Island, it was an enormous critical success, winning a whopping 14 Emmys, scoring a Peabody Award, and pushing the boundaries of the single-camera sitcom format. We love 30 Rock so much, we want to take it behind the middle school and... well, you know the rest.

In preparation for tonight's series finale, grab a bag of Sabor de Soledad and rewatch the first four seasons from our collection:

30 Rock, Season 1 – HU DVD 8921 - 8923
30 Rock, Season 2 – HU DVD 8924 - 8925
30 Rock, Season 3 – HU DVD 8926 - 8928
30 Rock, Season 4 – HU DVD 8929 - 8931

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Very Short post for a Very Short film contest

In the spirit of yesterday's post, here's another off-kilter student film competition that's too entertaining not to share. British newspaper The Guardian recently teamed up with Oxford University Press to host the Very Short Film competition for movies less than 60 seconds long. The Guardian recently narrowed down their finalists, all of which are available to watch online. The final ballot is open to the public, so go watch a few and vote for your favorite. Luckily, even if they're not great films, it'll only take a few minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Enter the Eco-Comedy Video Competition

Attention aspiring filmmakers: Interested in plying your craft for a good cause, getting some publicity in local film circles, and winning some money?

AU's Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Sierra Club have teamed up for the 2013 Eco-Comedy Film Competition. Entrants are asked to make a short, funny YouTube video that draws attention to climate change. The winner will receive $1,000 and will have their short screened at the DC Environmental Film Festival. The usual rules apply (no copyrighted music, for instance).

Entries are due by March 1, 2013. For full information, check the Center for Environmental Filmmaking's website.

Here's last year's winner, a typography video titled "Clean Coal by the Bituminous Marketing Agency." It proves that you don't need a big budget or actors to make an award-winning short.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is J. J. Abrams the right man for the job? See for yourself

The entertainment world went nuts this weekend over news that filmmaker J. J. Abrams will be helming the next installment in the Star Wars franchise. Apart from the sci-fi conflict of interest with his work on Star Trek, the biggest question is whether Abrams's work gives him the chops and wherewithal to take on, arguably, the biggest brand name in entertainment.

Abrams has a longer history as a producer than as a director, but his distinct, complex style has influenced every production he's touched. If you want to get a better idea of what "far, far away" will look like in a few years, dig into our collections and watch some of the works that Abrams has influenced.

The Office, Season 3: "Cocktails" – HU DVD 4018
Lost, The Complete Series – HU DVD 4501 - 4537
Star Trek – HU DVD 7084
Fringe, Season 1 – HU DVD 7981 - 7987
Super 8 – HU DVD 9288
Mission: Impossible III – HU DVD 10699
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – HU DVD 10699

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Acquisitions - January 2013

We're off to a strong start in 2013. Among our new titles, we've acquired a beloved Disney classic, Academy Award-nominated documentaries, action-thriller hits from last fall, unsettling indie success stories, a long-unavailable classic from the 1920s, and a few comedies you might remember from the 90s.

Read on for a full list of what we've acquired this time...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Films on Demand titles - January 2013

Films on Demand, a streaming video platform used by Media Services, has once again added hundreds of new titles available to watch instantly. Their collection is far-reaching, including everything from newsreel footage to informational health videos. Here are a few highlights from the newest batch.

The Difference Between a Cold and the Flu (2011, 2 min.)
So what’s the difference between cold and flu? Most people have a general idea that they are different, but when pressed have a hard time really saying what the difference is.

There Once Was an Island: The Devastating Effects of Climate Change (2010, 80 min.)
The people on a remote Pacific island face the devastating effects of climate change. As an enormous flood threatens to engulf their paradise, who will decide to flee and leave their culture behind forever? And who will stay, hoping that God will save them?
   
Sex and the Wailing Wall: The Battle of the Sexes at the Holiest of Sites (2011, 45 min.)
A band of brave Jewish women is fighting back for the right to raise their voices at the Wailing Wall. The holy site is the most potent symbol for Jews. But it is dominated by the ultra-Orthodox, who seek to maintain segregation of the sexes and limit the rights of women who want to pray there. This documentary tells how a group of women is challenging the iron grip of the reactionaries and demanding reform.

USA: Soldiers of Conscience (2008, 54 min.)
A U.S. Army study conducted after World War II revealed that a surprisingly large number of combat troops failed to fire on the enemy when given the chance to do so. It became clear that whether a soldier pulled the trigger or not, most wrestled with their conscience either during the event or afterward. In this program a group of American soldiers, some who were able to kill with few qualms and some who have become conscientious objectors, discuss their positions on warfare.

Clouds Are Not Spheres: The Introduction of Fractal Geometry (2009, 51 min.)
Until recently geometry was incapable of describing the irregular shape of a cloud, the slope of a mountain, or the beauty of the human body. With fractal geometry, however, Benoit Mandelbrot introduced a language able to describe our natural world. In this captivating documentary, he explains this groundbreaking discovery

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Relive last year's Sundance with 2012 notables


The Sundance Film Festival is underway! It'll be some time before we know what films will come out with good deals or publicity, but suffice to say, the spotlight has never been brighter on Park City. 2012 festival favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild recently received multiple Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director, leaving many to wonder if they'll find the next big thing at Sundance this year.

Last year certainly turned out a few notable movies, many of which are in our collection. Several have been nominated for major awards as well.

The Ambassador – HU DVD 10722
Arbitrage – HU DVD 10864
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry – HU DVD 10873
Beasts of the Southern Wild – HU DVD 10813
The Invisible War – HU DVD 10567
Putin's Kiss – HU DVD 10885
The Queen of Versailles – HU DVD 4553
Safety Not Guaranteed – HU DVD 10874
Compliance – HU DVD 10905
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 349

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Remembering — and maybe introducing — Nagisa Oshima

Japanese director Nagisa Oshima died yesterday following long-term stroke complications. Oshima may not be the most well-known director outside of Japan, but he leaves behind an award-winning legacy. Oshima's films dealt with a wide range of subjects, typically set during wartime Japan and (controversially) involving explicit sexuality. This style and thematic content earned him a distinction as one of the most notable Japanese New Wave filmmakers.

Oshima is not especially well-known in the United States. If you have never heard of the director, now is a good time to start watching. We have several of Oshima's films in our collection, including a lengthy interview he conducted with acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Win The Dark Knight Trilogy!

To celebrate the start of the semester, we're giving away a digital copy of The Dark Knight Trilogy, which includes all three of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises).

For a chance to win, leave a comment naming all three of the actors who have portrayed Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the Batman movies. (If you need a hint, they come from the movies in our collection with call numbers DVD 4701, DVD 4703, and DVD 10791.)

We'll pick a random winner from our blog, Facebook, or Twitter. Good luck!

EDIT: The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Jonathan Waldroup for winning!

Lynda.com branches out with new tutorials


American University has a subscription to Lynda.com, a video tutorial website that can teach you skills ranging from high-end multimedia software like Photoshop to office programs like Excel. Any active member of the AU community (current students, faculty, staff, etc.) can access these tutorials through american.edu/lynda.

But Lynda.com isn't just for production software. The site has been expanding its selection of tutorials to include business skills, creativity, and services that you might not think would need video tutorials. A few highlights from their most recent batch include:
Lynda.com is a seriously useful resource, and it's exciting to see them expand into new skillsets. Give them a watch at american.edu/lynda.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Website reveals widespread movie screener piracy


Movie piracy is a major issue, but it can be easy to attribute it to overzealous hackers or teenagers who sneak cameras into theaters. Turns out this isn't the case: even members of the film community are prone to leak new movies onto the Internet.

An amazing new spreadsheet compiled by the author of Waxy.org tracks the history of Academy Award screener leaks. Essentially, distributors will give free movies to voting members of the film community for consideration during awards season. These copies are usually branded with some sort of watermark indicating that they should not be released or distributed. Still, it happens. Bigger movies with widespread appeal, such as The Hobbit and Lincoln, have already had screener copies leak, but niche movies (including Argo and Beasts of the Southern Wild) have yet to see preview copies hit the Internet.

This spreadsheet is another interesting piece in the ongoing puzzle of piracy. Nobody, it seems, is immune.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscar nominations: What can you watch right now?

The Academy Award nominations are out! There are a few surprises this time around, most significantly the inclusion of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Haneke's Amour. You can view the full list on the official Oscars website.

As much as we would love for you to watch these movies, most of them aren't on DVD yet. That said, we do have a few movies that were nominated, as well as Beasts of the Southern Wild, which is quickly becoming the dark horse in the Best Picture race.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay) — HU DVD 10813
  • Inocente (Best Documentary Short) — DVD 10637
  • The Invisible War (Best Documentary Feature) — HU DVD 10567
  • Marvel's The Avengers (Best Visual Effects) — HU DVD 10567
  • Prometheus (Best Visual Effects) — HU DVD 10496

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Get ready for Oscar nominations with Wings


Tomorrow, the Academy will announce its nominations for the 85th Academy Awards. We can probably expect the likely nominees (Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, etc.), but given the widespread critical acclaim for these films, it will probably be a contentious and exciting contest.

Last year, many were taken aback by the success of The Artist, the first silent film to win the Academy's highest honor since the 1920s. Here's the thing: very few people have seen that movie. Wings, the first winner of the Outstanding Picture award (as it was known at the time), was only ever released on VHS. The original negatives are long lost, preventing a proper redux for decades.

That finally changed in 2012 when Paramount released a retouched version of Wings on DVD and Blu-ray. I can't imagine how time and work went into the restoration process, but the fruits of their labor are finally available for public consumption.

Brush up on your Academy Award history by checking out Wings from Media Services (HU DVD 10854).

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Blu-rays are growing, but is it enough for physical media?

It's no secret that many movie studios rely on DVD sales to make films profitable. Some smaller companies with a direct-to-video model rely exclusively on them. Despite Hollywood seeing record box office returns this year, Bloomberg reports that DVD sales are noticeably declining. High-definition Blu-rays are becoming more popular, but the total amount spent on physical home media has still dropped over 5% in the last year.

Is the future of home media uncertain? Only a little. Studios will continue to make money, but the medium is shifting. DVD subscription services like Blockbuster and Netflix have seen steep drops, but spending on their corresponding streaming video services has increased by 28%. Even if this is a new trend, it's really more of a format change. People will always want to watch movies from home.

That said, the DVD market is nothing to sniff at. The world still spends over $5 billion a year on physical copies of movies. (And we're probably contributing a fare share to that.)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Archivist finds a lost film from... 1980?


In the last few years, film historians and collectors have found prints of famous lost films, including the earliest surviving Hitchcock and an extra-length version of Metropolis. These early silent films almost carry an expectation that they'll be missing or damaged in some form. You would never expect to lost a film made in, say, the 1980s.

As it turns out, that's precisely what happened. The short fantasy film Black Angel was released in 1980 as a pre-movie featurette for some versions of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. For whatever reason, nobody saved a print of it (not even the director), and the movie vanished.

A few weeks ago, director Roger Christian announced that he had located a copy of the film courtesy of an archivist at Universal Studios. This was not the first time that the film surfaced, but this newest version appears to be in the best quality.

Christian plans to release the film again, possibly digitally. Look for Black Angel to come up again in the next few years, especially as Disney prepares to re-release The Empire Strikes Back.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Cracked.com exposes Hollywood's favorite reused sets

The AU library is back and running, but since most students and faculty are still on break, there's still time for some lighter fare.

The comedy writers at Cracked.com have compiled a fun list of famous location shots that are constantly reused in film and television. It incorporates famous sets — real mansions that worked in a pinch for Tim Burton and the Coen Brothers — as well as distinctive natural landmarks that just never seem to go away. There are plenty of examples not included on the list (many films share sets to save costs), but it'll be impossible to escape déjà vu once you read what they've dug up.

Many of the films and television shows mentioned in this article are part of our collection. Search our catalog for them if you want to see more of these shots in action.