Thursday, August 30, 2012

What co-productions mean for creativity in film

The increasing economic cooperation between the Chinese and U.S is no tightly held secret, but its impact on the film industry is just now becoming apparent. China is notoriously strict about which Western films it shows, reportedly refusing to screen The Departed for implying that Beijing has military connections.

That tide is turning. Large movie studios are beginning to enter lucrative "co-productions" with partners in China, utilizing the resources of both countries to create international hits. This, of course, has business implications, such as Dreamworks opening a new studio in China.

But more relevantly, this is affecting the creative process too. Major co-produced blockbusters yet to be released this year, including Looper and Cloud Atlas, prominently feature Chinese characters and settings. Even Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man and other big superheroes, has entered a co-production to create a Chinese superhero movie with global appeal. Creative freedom has always been bounded by business constraints, but this is a surprising new form of synergy.

Who knows if this will become a lasting trend like product placement, but for the near future, it's good to take heed of the business decisions behind new creative directions in film.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two film festivals with very different audiences

Today marks the start of the Venice Film Festival, the oldest international film festival. Though smaller than notable rivals such as Cannes and Sundance, the Venice Film Festival is getting attention this year by premiering new movies from award magnets Paul Thomas Anderson and Terrence Malick. Some might call it the start of the Oscar season; in any event, it's sure to debut some thought-provoking films.

Which brings us to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Tomorrow, the Walker debuts the world's first Internet Cat Video Film Festival, which, it should be clarified, is a real thing that is actually happening. The hour-long festival will be preceded by something identified only as the "Death Metal Drawing Club."

In a way, these festivals embody the immense scope of film. One celebrates the auteurs of a traditional art form, while the other pushes the definition of film as a social experiment. Arguably, they're two great tastes that taste well together.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy fall semester! Watch our best college movies

And with that, the 2012 fall semester at American University has begun. The first day of classes is winding to a close, but for incoming freshmen, the college experience has just begun.

Whether you're taking Leadership Gateway or preparing for your capstone, now is a great time to watch some of the greatest college movies in our collection. Just... don't use them as instructional guides. Especially not The Social Network and Animal House.

School Daze - HU DVD 357
Horse Feathers - HU DVD 1128
Good Will Hunting - HU DVD 1724
The War at Home - DVD 3102
The Great Debaters - HU DVD 4232
National Lampoon's Animal House - HU DVD 4913
Berkeley in the Sixties - DVD 5238
The Social Network - HU DVD 7969
Old School - HU DVD 8779

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Time Out New York crowns the greatest New York films

Here's your controversial (if slightly old) link of the day: Time Out New York has compiled a list of the top 100 movies set in New York City. They put together a fairly complete list – but of course, you can dispute the ones at the top. Judging by the comments section, there are some notable omissions. And The Godfather at #41?

Read on for a spoilerful list of their Top 10 with their call numbers in our collection...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Before Photoshop CS6... there were giant chickens

For as long as we've trusted the authenticity of photography, it seems like, naturally, we've wanted to mess around with photos too. Now it seems like this urge his been around for generations – in this case, a whole century before we started Photoshopping mustaches onto people's faces. Wired recently uncovered a collection of unusual postcards from the turn of the 20th century showing evidence of some of the first photo manipulation... though it appears that back in the 1900s, it was primarily used to make pictures of giant chickens and potatoes.

In any event, these pictures from the Tall Tale Postcards group and the Wisconsin Historical Society are a neat look back at our obsession with photographic fakery. If you want to take a leap into photo editing with modern technology (and presumably beyond pictures of livestock), the computers at the New Media Center are now equipped with Photoshop CS6.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Hunger Games screening TONIGHT!

We've gotten a number of patrons interested in watching The Hunger Games since it was released on DVD this Saturday. We hear you: it's understandably one of the biggest movies of the year. We're in the process of acquiring it, but our copy is still en route. Hang on!

If you don't want to wait, the AU United Methodist-Protestant Community will be screening The Hunger Games on campus tonight at 9 PM in the Mary Graydon Center, Room 200. Now's your chance to catch it before it enters our collection!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Director Tony Scott dies

Film director Tony Scott committed suicide yesterday at age 68. While he was never an arthouse institution and didn't have critical weight, Scott's movies were immensely popular and changed the direction of big-action blockbusters. Perhaps most notably, Scott was sort of a Hollywood kingmaker, directing films that were massively successful game-changers for Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise.

Take off your faded pink caps and ride into the danger zone one last time with a few of Tony Scott's films:

Top Gun - HU DVD 2959
True Romance - HU DVD 3820
Life in a Day - HU DVD 9229

Retronaut unearths Frankenstein on his off-day

You can easily pull back the curtain of movie magic on almost any recent, major motion picture. It could be as innocuous as a clip of Bane and Batman off the clock, but even obtuse films like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life come with special features explaining their production. For most older movies, the special features usually include commentary from critics and possibly a documentary about its historical context.

That's what makes these behind-the-scenes pictures of Frankenstein from history blog Retronaut so entertaining: you wouldn't have expected these pictures to survive! The image of Boris Karloff decked up in monster make-up is one of the most indelible images of horror, but now you too can experience the joy of breaking down that icon by seeing Frankenstein's monster on his smoke break.

If you want to see the real thing, check out the original 1931 Frankenstein from Media Services (HU DVD 860).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whoa! Man with too much spare time makes a real-life Wall-E

This is too great not to share: hobbyist and madman Mike Senna has spent the past three years constructing a life-sized, remote-controlled Wall-E robot from scratch. Now it's making its rounds through Disney locations, charity events, and hobbyist fairs across the country. You can follow Senna's adventures on his blog, where he posts pictures of Wall-E meeting with dignitaries like Iron Man and a Dalek from Doctor Who.

So maybe it's excessively nerdy, but it's excessively nerdy in an adorable, heart-warming way.

If you're getting the kick rewatch Wall-E now, the film is available in our collections (HU DVD 4950).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Films on Demand titles - August 2012

Films on Demand, a streaming video platform used by Media Services, recently added 225 new titles to its collection, including a large number of TED Talks. Since it would be silly to list every single one, here's a few highlights from their most recent batch...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Acquisitions - August 2012

With the school year about to begin, it's time for another batch of our newest DVDs. The highlight this month is the fourth season of Breaking Bad, one of the most popular shows in our collection. If you're looking for something to watch before the upcoming party conventions, we've added a number of politically charged documentaries too. Other highlights include The Cosby Show, the final season of Entourage, and a documentary about the "endless struggle" between humans and rats in cities.

Read on for a full list of our newest titles...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hitchcock turns 113

It would be remiss not to mention Alfred Hitchcock's birthday, which passed by yesterday. The legendary director, who needs no introduction, would have turned 113.

Celebrate the big 1-1-3 by enjoying a deep cut of his filmography at Media Services:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shark Week begins!

Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week extravaganza has officially begun. Often maligned but never ignored, sharks are one of the most feared and most misunderstood creatures of the seas. Their appearances on screen are among the most memorable, from the sublime blockbuster Jaws to... well, Shark Attack 3 (above).

If your looking for supplemental Shark Week material to sink your teeth into, come to Media Services and check out some of the most well-known sharks on film. The leaping shark from Planet Earth is not to be missed!

Jaws – HU DVD 98
Open Water – HU DVD 1134
Planet Earth, Disc 4 – HU DVD 2724
Search for the Great Sharks – HU DVD 3188
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – HU DVD 5101

If you'd prefer a less ferocious take on these creatures, you can also access the streaming docuementary Fish and Marine Mammals: Swimming and Diving.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Should we be enhancing the classics?

With The Hobbit hitting theaters at the end of the year in ultra-high-definition, it's no wonder that electronics manufacturers are racing to produce televisions and home videos with the brightest colors and crispest image. But in this dash for image quality, they might be losing some clarity. What about films with intentionally dark palettes or unclear images? Or why are there high-definition Blu-Ray versions of films from from the 1930s?

The A.V. Club posted a thought-provoking article on this subject, arguing against televisions and video players that enhance the original product to the chagrin of its creators.

This is a sticky subject. Consumer televisions and playback devices are presenting images in stunning, unprecedented quality. But could this be dangerous for viewing older films in the way their directors and cinematographers intended?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

NoMa doomsday film series ends this month (UPDATED)

The NoMa-hosted summer film series "2012: The End of the World?" ends continues tonight with a screening of Deep Impact, one of several disaster movies from 1998 about a giant meteor on a collision course with Earth. The NoMa Business Improvement District has been screening apocalypse-themed movies all summer long, along with live music and barbecue. Make your way out to the screening tonight – the end is nigh!

The film will be screened tonight at L Street in Northeast DC, between 2nd and 3rd Streets at 7 PM.

UPDATE: Correction from the folks at the NoMA BID: because of a rain date schedule, the series will continue for another week. WarGames will conclude the series next week on August 15th instead. Apocalypse postponed!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies

Prolific composer Marvin Hamlisch died this Monday. Hamlisch was a media legend who won every conceivable award for his music – including an Oscar, Grammy, Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe, and the Pulitzer Prize for Music. His accomplishments are staggering; even if you don't know his name, you may have heard pieces from one of his 45 films, 8 musicals, or one of the countless movies and television shows that have reused his works.

While we don't have all of Hamlisch's films, we do have a handful available for checkout:

Bananas – HU DVD 122
The Way We Were – HU DVD 3087
Ordinary People – HU DVD 3105
Sophie's Choice – HU DVD 4376
The Spy Who Loved Me – HU DVD 4997
Take the Money and Run – HU DVD 5371
Every Little Step – HU DVD 6894
The Informant! – HU DVD 7054
A Chorus Line – HU DVD 9659 and MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 222

Also of interest is Tradition, a streaming PBS documentary about Broadway in the 1960s and 70s for which Hamlisch was interviewed.

Whoops! YouTube accidentally pulls NASA videos

Sunday's impressive Mars landing somehow continues to be relevant for Media Services – this time in a less fun and exciting way.

NASA broadcasted live footage of Mission Control as the Curiosity rover landed, and to commemorate the occasion, they uploaded the clip to YouTube. But because of a snafu in YouTube's copyright enforcement software, NASA's videos were taken down. This apparently isn't even the first time the video sharing website has accidentally thrown out one of NASA's videos.

The situation was fixed fairly quickly, but its implications for the future of copyright enforcement in the digital age – and the permanence of online video – are a little troubling.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Take to the stars with Cosmos

Tonight, NASA will attempt to land the Curiosity rover on Mars to investigate whether the red planet once housed life. It's a risky and hilariously expensive ($2.5 billion!), but the rover is part of an important mission to discover whether or not we are alone in the universe.

Nobody has explored that goal in popular media like Carl Sagan, host of the 1980 miniseries Cosmos. The series is a unique fusion of science, history, and politics that still stands as the high watermark for popular science.

As we re-explore the chances of extraterrestrial life, now's as good of a time as any to watch (or rewatch!) Sagan's legendary series.

HU DVD 4271 - 4277 -- Cosmos

Thursday, August 02, 2012

If you like Total Recall... Philip K. Dick on screen

The remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Total Recall opens in theaters tomorrow, but it's not just a redux of a schlocky movie – it's also a readaptation of the original short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," by science fiction visionary Philip K. Dick.

Even though he saw rousing success in his lifetime with his dozens of short stories and novels, Dick's lasting legacy might be the film versions of his works. Philip K. Dick's stories have inspired some of Hollywood's most famous pictures. Before you get your memory wiped, make sure to experience these P.K.D.-inspired classics in our collection:

Blade Runner – HU DVD 1064*
Minority Report – HU DVD 1969
Total Recall – HU DVD 2040
A Scanner Darkly – HU DVD 2416

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

2012 Sight & Sound poll: Citizen Kane toppled!

Sight & Sound, the esteemed film magazine that polls critics and other professionals every ten years about the greatest films of all time, has released the results of their 2012 survey. For the first time in 60 years, Citizen Kane is no longer the number one film on the list! Vertigo now takes the top honor, while The Godfather got a surprise snub after Sight & Sound rewrote the ballot rules.

This isn't just some random Internet poll: Sight & Sound's poll is the most significant and respected film survey. It's the reason why Citizen Kane is often considered the de facto greatest film of all time -- a mantle that Vertigo will now have to take up!

Alternative programming: The Olympics on film and television

The thirtieth Olympiad is well underway. If you don't feel like watching gymnastics this evening, take the night off and check out one of these gold-quality videos from our collection.

One Day in September -- DVD 450
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Olympic Hide-and-Seek Final -- HU DVD 771
Olympia -- DVD 1663
Munich -- HU DVD 2172
Tokyo Olympiad -- DVD 2791
Charlie Chan at the Olympics -- HU DVD 4004
The Office, Season 2: Office Olympics -- HU DVD 4012
Prefontaine -- HU DVD 5547
30 for 30: Marion Jones: Press Pause -- HU DVD 7911
Have you heard from Johannesburg? -- DVD 7924
Cool Runnings -- HU DVD 7973

If you're sitting out the Olympics this year on account of a pulled hamstring or a stubbed toe, you can always watch the streaming video Sports Injuries: Classification and Management via Films on Demand.