Sunday, September 30, 2012

Has television captured the zeitgeist?

If you think about the most popular and highly reviewed media of the year, much of it is from television. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Homeland are all having their moment in the sun. Meanwhile, landmark films such as The Master are playing to receptive audiences in arthouses while Resident Evil: Retribution is at the top of the box office. Shows like Modern Family are at an intersection of critical acclaim and popularity that movies are increasingly straddling on either side.

Andrew O'Hehir from Salon wrote an intriguing, guaranteed-to-boil-blood article on this subject, asking whether television has replaced film as the medium of our time. O'Hehir argues that traditional film culture, in which powerful movies controlled the national conversation, has eroded since in the past decade. In fact, he argues, "the sense that cinema was where you could find the most engrossing stories and characters [...] began to fade after the 'Jaws' and 'Star Wars' era."

It's an intriguing read for anyone with a vested interest in film or television culture. At the Emmy Awards last week, Homeland actor Damian Lewis said that we are currently in a "golden age of television." He might have been on to something.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

We're on Pinterest!

Media Services is now on Pinterest! We're using Pinterest as a way to visually organize some of the popular titles in our collection. One of the most popular parts of our browseable Home Use binder is the poster section in the back, so we decided to take the next step and put them online.

We think this'll be a fun new way for you to browse our collections. It's never good to judge a movie by its poster, but hey, it beats judging it by its title!

Follow us on Pinterest to browse our collections be genre, including a pin board for our 100+ television shows. It's a work in progress, so expect our Pinterest to update rapidly in the near future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vanishing of the Bees tomorrow at 12pm

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's watershed environmental book Silent Spring, the School of International Service's Global Environmental Politics program will screen the film Vanishing of the Bees, a film that looks at the environmental ramifications and causes of the sudden disappearance of honeybees.

The screening takes place at 12pm in the Abramson Family Founders Room. The event, which is co-sponsored by the American University Library, is part of the day-long "Pesticides, Politics ... and Progress?" program. You're encouraged to stick around for the panel discussions, as well as for a screening of A Chemical Reaction at 5pm that evening in SIS 300.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Films on Demand titles - September 2012

Great news for students and faculty: Films on Demand, a streaming video platform used by Media Services, has added the collections of California Newsreel to its catalog. California Newsreel is one of the oldest and most reputable social documentary groups. You might recognize them for producing Race: The Power of an Illusion, a documentary frequently used for classes at AU.

A few notable titles include...

The Language You Cry In (1998, 52 min.)
Spanning hundreds of years and thousands of miles, this program recounts the remarkable saga of how a nursery rhyme sung by the Gullah people of present-day Georgia was confirmed to be of African origin. When 18th-century slavers sent human cargo from Sierra Leone to America’s coastal South, they also sent a trove of cultural information that had been passed from Mende mothers to their daughters for generations—including a particular song that had been carefully preserved because it was used in funeral rites. With the help of anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, linguists, and the singers themselves, the “nonsense lyrics” of the song found in Georgia were identified as those of the Mende dirge. Portions in other languages with English subtitles.

This is Nollywood (2007, 56 min.)
First came Hollywood, then Bollywood, and now Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry, which released 2,000 feature features in 2006 alone. This program explains why Nigerian film production, little known outside its own country until recently, is becoming recognized as a phenomenon with broad implications for the cultural and economic development of Africa. Offering an close look at the technical, economic, and social infrastructure of the industry, the film follows a typical shoot from first day to last, while the director, producer, actors, crew members, and notables from the industry describe how it all works and why they do it.

Color Adjustment (1991, 88 min.)
This award-winning documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs takes a close look at how network television absorbed deep-seated racial conflict and transformed it into the nonthreatening offerings of 20th-century primetime TV. Narrated by Ruby Dee, the film examines popular programs such as Amos ‘n’ Andy, I Spy, Julia, Good Times, Roots, and The Cosby Show, weaving clips from the shows with news coverage of the civil rights movement. Esther Rolle, Diahann Carroll, Tim Reid and other black performers discuss the impact their acting roles had in shaping race relations. With Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons), David Wolper (Roots), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and others.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Your daily timesink: The Moving Image Archive

The Internet Archive is a terrific website that hosts repositories of old websites, public domain audio, and other abandoned media. One of the most fascinating is their Moving Image Archive. It's a diverse collection of videos, ranging from stop-motion Lego films to World War II propaganda reels. Take caution if you decide to click on that link: you could lose hours in there.

A few interesting highlights worth investigating:
  • Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive: Television played a critical role in how we understood the events of September 11. This collection includes over 3000 hours of international television taken during the week of the attacks, annotated by time. You can watch the events of the day unfold in real-time on over a dozen channels. This is perhaps the most complete collection that will ever be assembled of such a major event.
  • Film Noir: An assemblage of 90 public domain film noirs, including the classic Detour (in our collection as HU DVD 931).
  • Prelinger Archives: Founded by Rick Prelinger, this collection includes thousands of "ephemeral media" – videos that have been forgotten or abandoned by time, like commercials, public access television, and amateur documentaries. Good examples include Dinner Party, a terrifying instructional film that guilts children into proper table manners, and pro-capitalism cartoon It's Everybody's Business.
  • Archiving Virtual Worlds: Several major universities have banded together (with the help of the Library of Congress) to produce this video series that investigates how to preserve digital spaces and worlds. Of particular focus is Tabula Rasa, a huge online role-playing game that was discontinued shortly after it began.
There are nearly one million videos in the collection. One person cannot possibly watch all of them. Have fun!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Media Services Recommends...: Full-time Staff

The Media Services staff frequently gets asked for recommendations. In an effort to help patrons make good choices, we're posting lists of our favorite movies!

These recommendations are from the full-time Media Services staff.
Chris Lewis, Media Librarian
Adaptation. – HU DVD 699*
Scorpio Rising – HU DVD 3297
Rabbit – DVD 4190
Brief Encounter – HU DVD 4233
Chicken Soup – DVD 6965
A Day with Timmy Page – HU DVD 10186

Sean Casey, Media Services Project Leader
Ping Pong – HU DVD 737
Unknown Pleasures – HU DVD 858
Giants and Toys – HU DVD 1280
Dragon Inn – HU DVD 5675
Tokyo Drifter – HU DVD 9060

Molly Hubbs, Visual Media Collections Coordinator
After Life – HU DVD 208
Strictly Ballroom – HU DVD 882
Freaks – HU DVD 919
I'm Not There – HU DVD 4217
Chungking Express – HU DVD 5293

Todd Chappell, New Media Center Coordinator
Trainspotting – HU DVD 1002
Blade Runner – HU DVD 1064
Hard Boiled – HU DVD 3459
Kikujrio – HU DVD 7826
Ip Man – HU DVD 7876

Phil Salvador, Media Services Supervisor
12 Monkeys – HU DVD 145
The Hudsucker Proxy – HU DVD 1054
Cach̩ РHU DVD 2063
Fargo – HU DVD 2393
The Last Emperor – HU DVD 4098
Burn After Reading – HU DVD 5377

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Teddy gets his own documentary

[UPDATE: Oh no, the video is down! It looks like it was put online without permission.]

Poor Teddy. As Nationals fans are keenly aware, Teddy Roosevelt has not won a single Presidents Race since the mid-game event event started in 2006. We can all agree that this is a terrible injustice to the legendary Rough Rider... but is it a conspiracy?!

ESPN produced this short documentary about Teddy's heartbreaking losing streak as part of its E:60 miniseries. They went all out, going as far as interviewing Senator John McCain and featuring the narration of noted baseball fan Ken Burns. The production level that ESPN put into this one-off video is really remarkable.

And who knew there was such a loyal, fervent Teddy following?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It not be too late! Seasonal pirate movies

Avast! Today marks International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a holiday on which you do exactly as described. Frankly, we'll take any excuse to dress up like pirates and speak in a raspy voice.

There's still time to celebrate this dubious holiday. Come visit Media Services and pick up one of these tarrrrrific pirate-related movies, ye scurvy dog:

The Pirates of Penzance - HU DVD 915
Mutiny on the Bounty - HU DVD 1954
The Princess Bride - HU DVD 2817
The Adventures of Tintin - HU DVD 2887
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life - HU DVD 5766
Captain Blood - HU DVD 6595
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - HU DVD 8641
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - HU DVD 8642
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - HU DVD 8643
The Pirate - HU DVD 8784
Blackbeard the Pirate - HU DVD 8786
Buccaneers: The Complete Series - HU DVD 8787
The Pirate Movie - HU DVD 9298

(Media Services does not condone piracy, even the cool kind with gold teeth and buried treasures).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Center for Environmental Filmmaking series begins

Tonight, American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking kicks off its eighth annual film series. In conjunction with Filmmakers for Conservation, the School of Communication will be screening a documentary about environmental conservation every Tuesday evening this semester. Some are even produced by current SOC students!

The first in the series, Death at SeaWorld, deals with the implications of keeping killer whales in captivity. The event will include a panel discussion with the author of Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity, as well as experts in ocean life conservation. Join Justine Schmidt and Professor Chris Palmer at 7 PM in Wechsler Theater for the start of this exciting series.

Monday, September 17, 2012

You asked, we bought! New titles en route

Down in Media Services, we have a suggestion box where patrons can recommend new movies or television shows for us to purchase. We do read them, we promise!

In fact, at the discretion of the Media Librarian, we just ordered a few of them. The following popularly requested titles are now working their way through our system...
Look for those movies (and our other new acquisitions) in the coming months.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blogger matches film scenes with their real-life locations

A few years ago, a website called Dear Photograph popped up on which people matched up old photos they had taken with the current-day location. The differences were often exciting and resonated emotionally with readers.

FILMography is a similar blog that follows the same premise – but with stills from movies. The author appears to be based in New York City, so most of his match-ups are from iconic scenes set in the Big Apple, but he appears to have taken a few pictures from foreign locales as well.

In any event, the blog is worth a look-through. It's surprising how many landmarks, building facades, and details are still the same as they were in the 1950s.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two weekend screenings show the Middle East on film (and a bonus)

This weekend has no shortage of interesting film screenings to attend on campus and in the DC area.

For starters, today is the second day of the United Arab Emirates Film Festival sponsored by the School of Communications. Two short films will screen tonight at the Greenberg Theater, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers led by Prof. Brigid Maher. The event begins at 6:15 PM tonight. Tickets are available on-site or online at

For those looking for lighter fare, American University Student Government will end Artemas Ward Week by showing Space Jam in the Amphitheater this Friday at 8 PM. If you haven't seen Space Jam, you're in for a treat: it's a movie where Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny play basketball together, and the director is known mostly for his Pepsi commercials. It's brain-dead, but that can be okay.

Finally, on Sunday, Busboys & Poets will screen Iara Lee's The Suffering Grasses, a documentary about the revolution in Syria and the lives of the civilians caught in the crossfire. This is material ripped from the headlines: Lee produced the film in May, which makes it possibly the most up-to-date documentary about the ongoing conflict. The film begins at 6 PM; no RSVP is required.

Surely there's something for everyone in there. You might even be interested in all three!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Media Center's Beyond the Studio series begins

Tomorrow, the New Media Center begins its new series of special training sessions titled Beyond the Studio. Typical New Media Center training sessions cover how to use software such as Photoshop or After Effects; these sessions are designed to teach skills that you can't pick up from a computer, like marketing and other practical skills.

The series kicks off tomorrow with "The Hero w/ 1000 Faces: Storytelling for Video." Telling a story in video requires different skills than shooting one, and author Joseph Campbell once argued that many great stories all use this same structure. If you're interested in entering the world of narrative filmmaking, this session should point you in a tried-and-true direction.

The training session begins tomorrow at 8 PM in the Media Classroom.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Criterion Collection, abridged

The Criterion Collection is an assemblage of some of the most significant films of all time, preserved in great quality with exceptional special features and commentary. Their collection is as prestigious as it is large; assuming each movie is about two hours long, it would take nearly two solid months to work through all of them.

Let's be honest, not everyone has that much time. Luckily, film enthusiast Jonathan Keogh has spliced clips from all 637 Criterion films (current and future) into a two-and-a-half-minute montage. That's a 99.997% reduction in length!

If you want to take the extra hours, Media Services contains many of the full-length films in this montage.

September 11 in film and footage

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks. This is an appropriate and somber time to reflect on how we got here, what happened, and where we're going. To that end, the Media Services collections include many films about the attacks, including a number of creative responses by filmmakers and footage from the time of the events.

This list was selected to include thought-provoking and interesting items from our collection. It excludes overtly political or controversial films. If you are interested in media that deals more explicitly with criticism of the government or conspiracy theories, those are available as well.

Feature Films

World Trade Center - HU DVD 2338
United 93 - HU DVD 2339
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - HU DVD 10028

Found Footage

WTC: The First 24 Hours - DVD 808
The 11th of September: Moyers in Conversation - DVD 1095
9/11 and Beyond: Coping Strategies for Trauma and Stress - Streaming video


Twin Towers - DVD 1588
Protocols of Zion - DVD 2074
The Al-Qaeda Files - HU DVD 2283
Up from Zero - DVD 4628
Osama bin Laden - DVD 5648
Longitudes and Latitudes - DVD 5650
Campaign Against Terror - DVD 8847
Faith & Doubt at Ground Zero - Streaming video
The Road to 9/11 - Streaming video
New York, 1946-2003: The Center of the World - Streaming video
7l West Broadway, Ground Zero, N.Y. - Streaming video

Filmmaker Responses

11'09"01 - DVD 1329
Underground Zero - DVD 3284

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Acquisitions - September 2012

This month, the Media Services collection goes in exciting new directions! We've added our first anime television shows, including the legendary Cowboy Bebop, as well as ten new popular Bollywood titles. We also acquired a number of big blockbusters, the first Iranian production to win Best Foreign Language Film, a collection of orphaned films in copyright limbo, and documentaries on subjects ranging from the origins of the cosmos to wounded veterans.

Also, more Community. Pop, pop! Read on for a full list...

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Film screenings on- and off-campus this Friday

We're heading into the second weekend of the semester. Hopefully the workload hasn't piled up too much, because the weather is still pleasant enough for a few movie screenings.

On campus tomorrow, the AU Student Government will show The Hunger Games in the Tavern at 10 PM. The Hunger Games will kick off Artemas Ward Week, the Student Government's annual celebration of the Revolutionary War general who lends his name to the traffic circle near campus. It's an appropriate movie choice that glorifies the same renegade, anti-authoritarian spirit which Ward fought for.

At the same time, National Harbor will continue its outdoor film series with a screening of Spaceballs, the Mel Brooks-directed Star Wars parody. If you have access to transportation to National Harbor, take advantage of this opportunity while the temperature is nice enough.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

DC Shorts Film Festival opens tomorrow

For the second time in a week, two significant film festivals are kicking off. Perhaps the most significant is the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens tomorrow and will premiere a number of film on the radar for the upcoming award season.

More interestingly for the audience of this blog, the DC Shorts Film Festival also opens tomorrow! DC Shorts is entering ninth year and will premiere over 100 films from across the globe. Tickets to screenings are relatively inexpensive, hovering around $12 per screening, or $125 for a festival pass. If you're in the DC area and a fan of world cinema, take advantage of such a large festival going on in the DC area.

Even if you're not, DC Shorts also offers to stream the festival selections online through your computer or smartphone for a small fee. If you're interested, there really isn't much of an excuse at this point.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan dies at 54

Over the weekend, actor Michael Clarke Duncan died from complications following cardiac arrest. Duncan was a towering presence in film, and although he died at a shockingly young age and appeared in only a few big movies, his impact was powerful and is already missed by fans around the world. His performance in The Green Mile was his most famous, earning the actor an Academy Award nomination.

Duncan's filmography runs the gamut from a Mel Brooks comedy-musical to big-budget comic book movies. Many of his roles were from smaller, less notable productions, but some of his most memorable films are available in Media Services.

Sin City - HU DVD 1959
Kung Fu Panda - HU DVD 7932
The Green Mile - HU DVD 8592
The Producers (deleted scenes) - MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 251

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Controversial documentary re-ignites a political crisis

This past Tuesday, Israeli courts absolved the state of responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was killed during the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza. Tempers have flared around the case, alternately framing Rachel Corrie as either a victim of circumstance or a political casualty.

In 2008, filmmaker Simone Bitton produced documentary about the incident. To call it controversial would be an understatement: its screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival caused boycotts and the resignation of the festival's president. The reaction to the film revealed the difficulty of critiquing actions by Israel amid accusations of anti-Semitism.

We don't want to come down one way or another about the documentary, but given its significance, it is part of our collection. Rachel is available to watch in Media Services (DVD 9237).