Monday, January 22, 2018

Movies at Random: Holy Motors

Holy cow, I forgot about Holy Motors (HU DVD 11008)! Today, this DVD leapt off the shelf into my hands, and this one I've actually seen!

This super weird Leos Carax movie stars Denis Lavant, whose acting generally leans towards hyper-physical mime-like motions, as an actor-like character inhabiting different roles. According to Wikipedia, Carax wrote the role specifically for Lavant, which is not at all surprising given their work together. The movie sparkles with weirdness, and no summary will do it justice, but here's our summary all the same:
Monsieur Oscar, a mysterious, shadowy character, spends a day traveling through Paris in a limousine driven by his loyal chauffeur, Celine. During his travel, he journeys from one life to the next, taking on the appearances of a wide variety of characters, including a captain of industry, an assassin, a beggar, a monster, a reptilian sex god, a melancholy father, and a dying old man.
And if that doesn't sell you on it, here's the trailer:

Happy viewing!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Bible films"

Here in DC, the controversial Museum of the Bible opened back in the fall. There are tons of movies based on the Bible, from religious and historical feature films to documentaries. But, did you know that you can do a keyword search for "Bible films" on our Media services website?

Here's what comes up:

Killing Jesus (HU DVD 12315)
Ben-Hur : a tale of the Christ (HU DVD 3857)
Ten commandments (HU DVD 5930)
King of kings (HU DVD 10395)
Vangelo secondo Matteo (HU DVD 9083)
Genèse (HU DVD 10673)
Salomé ; Lot in Sodom. (DVD 7446)
Robe (HU DVD 2224)


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Enjoy Some Lovely Stop Motion

This insanely cool video by Renana Aldor and Kobi Vogman explains the process of Lost-Wax casting. The video was made for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and you can read more about it here:


If you're now in the mood for fantastic stop motion films, check out Kubo and the two strings (HU DVD 13637). And if you're interested in lost-wax casting, we actually have a streaming video that covers that called Feuer & Flamme. And for more about Hadrian, check out this selection from The Great Courses on Roman Jerusalem.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Movies at Random: While the City Sleeps

Media services has so many movies that I'm always surprised by what I find. Today the movie While the City Sleeps (HU DVD 7621) caught my eye.

This Fritz Lang film was released in 1956. Here's our summary:
"Ask mother" says the message scrawled in lipstick at a muder scene by an unknown serial killer who preys on women. It’s a sensational story - if it bleeds, it leads - and a news conglomerate offers a big promotion to the high-level company exec who solves the case. So begins the wheeling, dealing and backstabbing of the competing media hotshots as they vie to unmask the so-called Lipstick Killer.
Fun fact from Wikipedia: "several props—some of which featured a large K in a circle—were recycled from Citizen Kane, which RKO had made 15 years earlier, and may have prompted the use of the name "Kyne.""

Not a favorite with all viewers (see this review), it's still worth a look. Here's a sample:

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Last Command and The Act of Killing

We've gotten a lot of new movies already in 2018, but one of my favorites so far is a set of three silent films by Josef Von Sternberg. While these films are campus use only (DVD 14852 - 14854), they are truly worth watching and can be viewed by students in our screening room.

One of the films, The Last Command, has an interesting connection to a 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing. In The Last Command, an exiled Russian general turned Hollywood extra lands a role playing a version of his former czarist self, bringing about his emotional downfall. Most of the film covers his acts during the Russian Revolution, including a love affair with a revolutionist. In the film's stunning conclusion, he encounters shadows from his past as he reenacts them, and is transported by them.

In The Act of Killing (HU DVD 12262), the filmmakers examine a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. Again, film making becomes a kind of question, and a way of interrogating the cruelties and injustices of the past.

These two films are both interesting examples of a very different kind of self-witnessing through performance. In a way, they echo community-based theater, including the focus on process in addition to final product. The act of creating is powerful: these films address the power of acting on an actor, even when acknowledged as an act. Both are highly recommended, especially for students of film and theater.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is currently in theaters and was just nominated for six Golden Globes, and it is pretty awesome. I went in totally expecting a Coen brothers movie because Frances McDormand is in it and I basically had only seen the trailer and read nothing about the movie. If I had been paying literally any attention at all, I would have realized that this film is by the ever-clever Martin McDonagh, whose film In Bruges (HU DVD 7081) is tops.

Not to get too spoiler-y, but one of the weird things about this movie that it dramatically follows through on all the promises it makes, and that follow through is immediate in almost every case. There's very little on-screen reflection. You see a gun, it gets used. You think, "Oh, bad thing about to happen," and then it does. Someone says, "You should do this bad thing," and in the next scene, they do it. Or the inverse: try to be a better person, and in the next scene they do. It's not a long, drawn out process of change. There is a big exception to this, but I found it really interesting that there's very little hesitation. The characters are characters of will, who follow through on their impulses immediately. When we get our copy here at the library, I think this bears further study.

The other weird thing about this movie is that it's full of truly kind people doing truly heinous things. And that just never gets addressed. It's totally non-judgmental. Which is something that this movie shares with In Bruges.

Seven Psychopaths (HU DVD 10962) is the missing link for me, and I'm super excited to watch it. But Three Billboards is definitely one to catch in theaters if you can.


Monday, December 11, 2017

A Very Kubrick Christmas

What's your favorite Christmas movie? Today, Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard argues that Eyes Wide Shut is a Christmas movie. Having been subjected to a running explanation of this theory in literally every spare moment of the past month (hi Ethan!) I'm inclined to agree.

So, what makes a Christmas movie? Eyes Wide Shut certainly has all the Christmas trappings, but is it a Christmas movie? Perhaps it is a Christmas movie in some particularly subversive way: Christmas is ever present, but hardly mentioned. It is there only in its most commercial forms. Is there a single religious reference to Christmas? I'm not sure. I'll have to ask my local expert.

I'm certain, of course, that the movie is saying something about Christmas, I'm just not sure what it is. But more importantly, I think a movie can be set at Christmas or be about Christmas without fitting into that set of movies obligatorily watched solely during the holidays, of which Muppet Christmas Carol is the highest and most worthy example. (That's my favorite Christmas movie. I regret to inform Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard that he will have to settle for attending AFI's screening of Muppet Christmas Carol, as his new favorite Christmas movie did not make the list.) Perhaps the isolation of Christmas movies is in fact what defines them. Would you watch it only at Christmas? Then it's a Christmas movie.

In any case, if Eyes Wide Shut (HU DVD 132) isn't your cup of eggnog, here are a five more unusual suggestions that feature Christmas for you to watch this holiday season.


Tokyo Godfathers (HU DVD 819): The story takes place on Christmas Eve in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Middle-aged has-been Gin, aging transvestite Hana, and teenage runaway Miyuki are homeless friends who have formed a makeshift family structure bond. That bond is tested when they find an abandoned baby while searching for food in a trash dumpster. They try to care for the infant themselves, and travel throughout the city in search of the baby’s parents.


The Thin Man (HU DVD 4971): Nick and Nora Charles, a former detective and his rich, playful wife, investigate a murder case mostly for the fun of it. This movie occurs around Christmas, includes an adorable Christmas Morning scene.


Tangerine (HU DVD 12856): It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles. The film notably stars and is about two transgender women of color.


Batman Returns (HU DVD 4702): Batman must face the Penguin and Catwoman in this nightmarish tale. Plenty of Christmas in this. But like Burton scary Christmas.


It Happened on Fifth Avenue (HU DVD 13717): The secret inhabitants of a boarded up mansion on Manhattan’s ritzy 5th Avenue include a philosophizing hobo and some GI families who are unable to find apartments during the post-World War II housing crunch. It just so happens that it happened at Christmas.