Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Maltese Falcon sells at auction; dreams made of $4 million

Dorothy's red slippers. Rosebud. The One Ring. Wilson. Certain film props have become so iconic that they are beyond any sensible or estimable value. These objects have become part of our cultural history. How much worth can you assign to something as storied as the wood chipper from Fargo or Butch's gold watch in Pulp Fiction?

As it ends up, you can assign a lot of value to these things. The eponymous Maltese Falcon from The Maltese Falcon was auctioned for a whopping $4 million yesterday, making it perhaps the most expensive non-automotive item of film memorabilia ever sold. It's a shocking number, but it shows the weight and meaning that we attach to films. Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre have long been dead, but the Maltese Falcon will live on as a physical attachment to an indelible cultural work.

Would you pay $4 million for a connection to a great classic film?

If you don't feel like dropping that much on the statue, you can always just borrow our copy of the movie from the AU Library (HU DVD 130) .

Thursday, November 21, 2013

This Thanksgiving, avoid these insane television recipes


With Thanksgiving only a week away, we're quickly approaching perhaps the single most gluttonous  month of the year. We'll take any opportunity to fill ourselves up with delicious food, but the stretch from now until to the end of the calendar year will be particularly hazardous for our health.

We're not explicitly going to recommend that you eat anything too unhealthy, but if you do, you might consider taking a page from the amazing TV Gourmet series from Uproxx. The brave and entrepreneurial souls behind TV Gourmet have committed to creating and ingesting some of the most unusual and disgusting foods ever portrayed in media, from Milk Steak (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and the Mayonegg (Arrested Development) to the disgusting slurry Bill drinks on Freaks and Geeks. Some are simply endurance tests, like Homer Simpson's midnight snack of 64 slices of American cheese.

These are really not quality foods, but you have to admire the tenacity of the writers. I can't say anyone on this staff would ever try Cheesy Blasters, but we can eat vicariously through Uproxx's apparently cast-iron stomachs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New software quickly pieces together (ridiculous) movies


Given the immense volume of quickly-created content on the Internet – automatically generated music, 3D printed combs, etc. – it's surprising that it took so long for someone to come up with a fast movie creator. Plotagon, currently in beta, is a new free service that allows users to assemble clips in a traditional screenplay format. Just specific the scene, characters, and their actions, and the program will produce an adequately-directed short film. It's reminiscent of XtraNormal, the skit-creating software that was discontinued in October, but its option to export movies in screenplay format is decidedly film-focused.

It's... not great right now. Everything is really stilted and there's only a small selection of content to choose from. It's like watching an old Nintendo 64 game. In any event, there's something fun about making a slapdash film in 30 seconds. This isn't the future of filmmaking, but it's an interesting starting point for rapidly prototyping movies. The company promises continued support for the software, including future content packs that you can purchase for $10 a piece.

Included below is a sample movie. It's pretty heinous, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What was the deal with Gettysburg? Watch this video for a refresher


Because of all the inevitable "fourscore" jokes today, you may be aware that November 19, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln's address at the Gettysburg memorial at the height of the Civil War is among the most significant and quotable (and shortest) in American history. But despite its immense historical significance, it can often be easy to forget the context of the speech and the reasons why Lincoln's words continue to resonate.

To this end, we humbly offer access to Lincoln and Gettysburg, a documentary about the history of Gettysburg and the historical situation in which Lincoln delivers his memorializing speech. At 48 minutes, it's a breezy watch that anyone forgetting the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg would do well to watch.

Lincoln and Gettysburg is available to watch online via the AU Library. To view this video, you will need to log in using your WRLC Account.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coen brothers fan? See Inside Llewyn Davis THIS THURSDAY!


Whoa! We get a lot of movie passes, but this one is especially cool. Inside Llewyn Davis, the next film from the legendary Coen brothers, is playing this Thursday at 7pm in Friendship Heights, and we have passes! This is a big movie with high award prospects, and we're excited that our friends and customers will have a chance to see the film weeks before it formally hits theaters.

This time around, we're able to distribute these passes online! Visit this website to claim and print your passes for the movie.

As with all advance screenings, a pass does not guarantee that you'll get in. You'll still have to show up early and wait in line to ensure that you get a seat.

If you aren't able to print out a pass, we still have plenty that you can pick up in-person too.

We're very excited about this one! The Coen brothers have a great track record, and we can't wait to see if this movie lives up to the hype. See you Thursday!

UPDATE: Looks like we're out of online passes. You can still claim them in person!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We love our new equipment! (And it needs a name)


This might not be the most exciting news for people outside the library community, but it's big for us: we've officially upgraded our checkout equipment!

The guy pictured above is the Mediacheck Model 325. It's faster and more reliable than the equipment we've previously used. It won't make too much of a difference on the user's end, but it's a big step up for us.

If you can think of a great name for these things, please let us know! One member of our staff suggests Domokun, and that's a hard one to beat.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The last DVD checked out from a Blockbuster is appropriate, sad


Last week, home video mainstay Blockbuster announced the closure of its last remaining stores, effectively ending what was only a decade earlier a vertiable empire of film distribution. This is no surprise, especially for those in the DC area (the closest Blockbuster is nearly 30 miles away). Decades later, no one will likely lament the death of Blockbuster at the hands of Internet services, but it's nonetheless a little sad for old-timers to see this era coming to an end. Where else will we get the personal, possibly-substance-enhanced movie recommendations from the guy at the checkout?

As a fitting end to the Blockbuster retail dynasty, the company announced that their final DVD rental was a copy of This is the End. Hold back your tears, folks. After years of accidentally renting Transmorphers from the store shelves and kindly rewinding VHS tapes, this seems like an appropriate send-off.

This isn't to suggest that DVDs and Blu-rays are going anywhere in the long-term. In any event, take a moment to remember the first time you stepped foot in a rental store and how far technology has come since then

Thursday, November 07, 2013

New Acquisitions - November 2013

Boy, has it been a busy month. We're in the process of acquiring DVD copies of films only previously available as VHSes in our collection. While we probably won't be buying Celebrity Deathmatch or Dance Workout with Barbie again, we're hope you enjoy our expanding collection of old and forgotten gems.

But we certaintly didn't forget to get new titles either! Our most recent additions include Academy-Award nominees Wreck-It Ralph and The Impossible, crowdpleaser Star Trek Into Darkness, conspiracy documentary Room 237, new films from notable directors like Joss Whedon and Steven Soderbergh, and acclaimed television shows like Luck and The Thick of It. We love it. We love it more than sharks love blood.

Read on for a full list...

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What a twist! M. Night Shyamalan is at Politics & Prose TONIGHT!

Drop your evening plans! Notable director M. Night Shyamalan will be visiting Politics & Prose tonight at 7pm! Though certainly a controversial and often derided figure in the film world, Shyamalan's rise to fame is a fascinating tale; appropriately, he comes to Politics & Prose to discuss his experience in the education system and the achievement gap with political commentator Chris Matthews.

M. Night Shayamalan will be autographing copies of his book that are purchased at the store. Various other stipulations about the visit (photographs, etc.) are included on the website.

Living in DC leads to all sorts of exciting encounters with political notables, but rarely Hollywood types too! What a twist!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Is it time to leave "cinematic" behind?

Film culture has created an aura around the term "cinematic." A piece of media described as "cinematic" carries with it certain qualities – pace, staging, cinematography, and weight – that are typically seen as ideal or enviable. But as digital distribution democratizes film and television, should directors still chase the same feeling as the cinema?

Ben Sachs of Chicago Reader offers an alternative: maybe television shouldn't strive to be "cinematic." Though admittedly not a big fan of television, Sachs finds shows like Breaking Bad closer to a novel than a film. Television shows, he says, offer a more cerebral, slow-burn format that is friendlier to consumption on tablets and phones. Sachs argues that without the need for home-theater-ready image and sound mixing, television shows can develop their own feel independent of traditionally "cinematic" style.

It's not difficult to imagine that the explosion of quality television will eventually result in creative types abandoning the pursuit of a "cinematic" ideal in search of something new. As digital media opens new platforms of creative expression, it will be harder to uphold any stylistic mode as the best.