Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Obama, Romney share television favorites

With Hurricane Sandy largely out of the way, the media now turns to the upcoming presidential election. Less than a week remains until the election, and without enough time for any more debates or major game-changing developments, the time has come for silly feature stories.

TV Guide scored exclusive interviews with both President Obama and Governor Romney. Rather than pressing them on the economy or gender equality, TV Guide decided to figure out what their favorite television shows are. If you'd believe it, Obama is a fan of HBO dramas Boardwalk Empire and The Wire, while Romney prefers down-to-earth hits like Justified, Magnum P.I., and Friday Night Lights.

You could extrapolate some political points from the list if you wanted to analyze Obama's choice of Homeland or Romney's love for Modern Family, but this is really just a fun list. Also, apparently Romney is a fan of the old Transformers animated series. Who knew!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane update

As a result of the incoming hurricane, the library will be operating on limited hours tomorrow. Media Services will be open from 11am to 6pm.

Alternative programming: Outlast Sandy with disaster movies

If you've looked outside in the past 12 hours, you've no doubt noticed the impending, massive onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. This storm could be pretty serious. The Capital Weather Gang as The Washington Post has put together a guide for how to stay safe and supplied during the storm. Check in with them for updates about how this storm will unfold over the next three days.

That said, if you happen to already be on or around campus, what better way to wait for the inevitable power outage than to watch a few movies? Media Services has a thin collection of disaster movies, but we have plenty of films about survival and the post-apocalypse.

The Wizard of Oz - HU DVD 666
Key Largo - HU DVD 4679
The Road - HU DVD 7217
127 Hours - HU DVD 8294
The Walking Dead: Season 1 - HU DVD 10531 (recommended purchase!)

We also have a movie about boxing called The Hurricane  (HU DVD 491).

Films and documentaries about Hurricane Katrina were intentionally omitted. If you're looking for something more substantive and educational, consider watching PBS's free streaming version of The Hurricane of '38, a particularly brutal hurricane that hit the East Coast nearly a century ago.

Stay safe and dry!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dress up like Death or RoboCop, get a gift bag

Criterion has put their own unexpected twist on the glut of seasonal costume contests and themed events. They are currently running a costume contest rewarding people who dress up as characters from one of the 600+ films in the Criterion Collection. This sounds like a daunting task, since it's hard to pull of a recognizable Antoine Doinel costume, but Criterion's archives are full of exciting and costume-able characters. This is Spinal Tap, Brazil, and Armageddon, for instance, both saw Criterion releases.

If you send Criterion a picture if your costume by the end of the day on Halloween, you'll be entered to win a Criterion-themed gift bag. No telling what's inside except winning!

Wikipedia has a handy list of all the films released by Criterion if you need a reference.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Celebrate Food Day with The Weight of the Nation screening TODAY

As part of a campus-wide celebration of Food Day, a day designated by a D.C. group for celebrating sustainable, healthy food, the School of Education, Teaching, and Health will screen portions of the HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation in Ward 2 today at 2 PM. The screening will be followed by a "multidisciplinary faculty panel discussion."

The documentary covers the consequences of the nationwide obesity epidemic, its effects on children, and the ways to change it. This is an entertaining way to bring attention to the important issues that Food Day addresses.

The two-hour screening will only cover a portion of The Weight of the Nation; the full program lasts closer to five hours. If you want to view the rest of the series, you can view it at Media Services (HU DVD 10386).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sam Raimi turns 53

Self-made director-writer-producer Sam Raimi turns 53 today. Raimi has led a storied and versatile career, starting with the breakout success of low-budget horror movie The Evil Dead. Over the course of three decades, Raimi has collaborated with the Coen brothers, produced hit television shows, and helmed the Spider-Man film franchise. On top of directing major Hollywood tentpole titles, he now regularly returns to his roots and produces and funds small horror movies.

Who knows what next turn Raimi's career will take, but his filmography is diverse and exciting. Especially given the seasonal focus on horror movies, it's worth taking time to look back at some of Raimi's biggest films.

The Gift - HU DVD 897
The Hudsucker Proxy - HU DVD 1054
Spider-Man - HU DVD 7121
Spider-Man 2 - HU DVD 7122
Spider-Man 3 - HU DVD 7123
The Grudge - HU DVD 7779
Evil Dead - HU DVD 8141
Evil Dead II - HU DVD 8142
Drag Me to Hell - HU DVD 10122

Monday, October 22, 2012

60 Minutes gets in Spielberg's head

Steven Spielberg is widely accepted to be among the most notable and important (if not one of the best) contemporary American film directors. With the impending release of Spielberg's highly anticipated Lincoln, it makes sense that there's a renewed interest in the now-65-year-old director's work.

Yesterday, 60 Minutes had an extensive interview with Spielberg about how his childhood and relationship with his father have influenced his films. While the 14-minute piece is more of a biography than an incisive look at Spielberg's oeuvre, the video is still worth watching for a glimpse into how Spielberg has exorcised his demons — and how his new films take an entirely different tact.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Films on Demand titles - October 2012

Films on Demand, a streaming video platform used by Media Services, continues to surprise with the size and breadth of its collection. The service just added in excess of 450 streaming videos to its database that you can view from on- or off-campus. Though they aren't yet in the library catalog, they can all be accessed from the Films on Demand website. A few highlights include...

Last of the Giants: Medical Mysteries, Series 1 (2001, 50 min.)
Giants are not just the stuff of myth and legend; they are real people, and their condition is caused by a medical disorder that can now be treated. John Paul Ofwono of Uganda is currently the tallest man in the world. Though that makes him a celebrity in his country, he urgently needs treatment for acromegaly, the condition that now threatens his life. Acromegaly is caused by a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes it to produce excessive amou­nts of growth hormone. It is likely the same condition that made the biblical Goliath such a huge man. The program features famous giants and several young people who would have died in early middle age, but who have now been successfully treated.

Student Speeches for Analysis, Volume 1 (2005, 105 min.)
By observing and analyzing some of the best and worst speech techniques, students are encouraged to examine their own speeches more critically. A supplement to any speech textbook, this first volume examines introductions plus informative and persuasive speeches.
The Foolish Wise Ones (1957, 35 min.)
This classic program focuses on the savant syndrome, telling the story of three severely mentally handicapped people. Each possesses an extraordinary talent—for playing music, creating art, or remembering dates. Noel Patterson is autistic and requires constant care, yet he is an exceptional pianist and can reproduce almost any music effortlessly. David Kidd has an IQ of only 68, but he is an expert in the recondite mathematics of calculating the calendar. Although Stephen Wiltshire is mentally challenged, he draws remarkable pen-and-ink likenesses of buildings from memory. The savant syndrome was first identified by a 19th-century French psychologist, who referred to these remarkable individuals as the “foolish wise ones.”

Plastics: Quirky Science (2011, 30 min.)
Plastic has become ubiquitous—impressive, since we’d been living without it for centuries! Can you imagine that plastic was invented accidentally—for the purpose of making billiard balls? This program investigates the history of plastic: from the first plastic—discovered when someone witnessed how Southeast Asian farmers used the poop of a little beetle, called shellac, to preserve wood—to Dupont's development of nylon, the first synthetic material to replace silk. But plastic is made with oil and is hard to break down. See how a U.S.-based company is creating a bioplastic grown inside microorganisms. Plastic grown in the field? Now that is quirky! Part of the series Quirky Science.

Off the Grid: American Communities in the Wake of the Financial Crisis (2011, 75 min.)
Crafting a unified response to economic turmoil is no easy task at the federal level, but towns and cities across the U.S. have faced the aftermath of the 2008 recession in ways that are quick, innovative, and authentic. Their methods, while not always successful, offer a wealth of teaching points for studies in civics, economics, sociology, and political science. In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a new local currency circulates. In Austin, Texas, big corporations and the federal government alike have triggered community opposition. And in Colorado Springs, the link between an anti-tax philosophy and a lack of city services becomes all too evident. The film also looks at symptoms of the recession seen in America’s broader infrastructure and society—such as declining roads and highways, decaying buildings, and swelling homeless populations.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Learn about fair use next Thursday

Our friends at the Music Library were quick to remind us about the upcoming Digital Futures Forum to be hosted by the library next Thursday. This time around, the topic is the fair use of copyrighted material.

Fair use is often used as a blanket disclaimer for using copyrighted material, with some leeway provided for educational purposes, parody, and other creative uses. But fair use law has changed recently, especially in relation to changes in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the rise of streaming video services. Knowing the difference between arguable fair use and copyright infringement could save you great legal troubles. Copyright prosecution has actually happened at the university level; it's not a nebulous, unenforceable threat.

If you're planning on using video or other copyrighted content in projects this semester, be sure to learn the limits and privileges of fair use at the Digital Futures Forum next Thursday. For more information and to RSVP, email

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

mental_floss on television that changed the world

Television has been hardwired into our cultural vocabulary for decades, so it's not surprising that shows can change the way we behave and challenge social norms.

When you spell out all their effects, though, it can be staggering. The good people at mental_floss put together an interesting list of television shows that have influenced society outside of their own popular spheres. There are a surprising number of shows that have affected politics, changed our vocabulary, or made us healthier people. Some of these are a little weak — Celine Dion does not count as a world-changing milestone — but the stories about subversive Dutch reality shows and CSI's effect on criminal trials are proof of TV's inescapable grip on our subconscious.

Many of the shows on the list are international programs or shows without home media releases like America's Most Wanted, but a number of them are available at Media Services. Judge for yourself whether our world is different because of them.

The Simpsons – HU DVD 6581 - 6591
Glee – HU DVD 7621 - 7633
SpongeBob SquarePants – HU DVD 8451 - 8459
Star Trek: The Next Generation – HU DVD 6401 - 6449
Curb Your Enthusiasm – HU DVD 5211 - 5226
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – HU DVD 2821 - 2859
Friends – HU DVD 8501 - 8540
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – HU DVD 10291
Sex and the City – HU DVD 3901 - 3919

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Acquisitions - October 2012

Somehow it seems that we're adding even more titles to our collection. This month has probably set some sort of record: we got over 200 titles this month, including 19 television shows. It would be silly to narrow it down to a few highlights, but you are guaranteed to find something you'll love. Epic fantasy movies, award-winning documentaries, romantic period dramas, heist films, beloved children's movies, and a few new Criterion titles... the list could go on for pages. And it does!

Read on to see what else we picked up this month.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pinterest highlight: Horror movies

Time for some first-person editorializing for a second: I absolutely love Halloween. Sure, you have all your other seasonal holidays about togetherness, family, and patriotism, but Halloween celebrates fear. Can't beat that.

I only bring this up because patrons at Media Services seem to love Halloween too. We're still two weeks out from the spookiest of nights, and our horror movie collection is already starting to leave the shelves. Given the absolute glut of horror films out here, it can be hard to figure out what's out there beyond the classics.

As it turns out, we have about 160 great horror movies available for you to take out of the library. Check out our Horror pinboard on Pinterest for a visual guide to our horror collection. Halloween is old hat at this point. Are you ready to take on Hausu?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ben Affleck the latest in a line of actors-turned-directors

The Iranian hostage crisis drama Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, opened in theaters this weekend to strong reviews. Though it's not Ben Affleck's first time behind the camera, its success and acclaim make a good case that Affleck is serious about this whole directing thing.

Affleck, Clint Eastwood, and George Clooney are among the names that come to mind when you think of current actors turned directors, but the transition to the director's chair has a storied history. Entertainment Weekly compiled a great list of actors who later directed films — or did both at the same time. There are a few surprises (Peter Berg was an actor?) and a couple that wouldn't immediately come to mind.

Time will tell if Ben Affleck enters the same esteem as Orson Welles, but this list invites some fun comparisons. It might be the only place where Ed Wood is compared with Kenneth Branagh.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Media Services Recommends...: New Media Center

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 New Media Center staff.

When Harry Met Sally - HU DVD 4936
(500) Days of Summer - HU DVD 6579
50 First Dates - HU DVD 7518
The Artist - HU DVD 10193

Audition - HU DVD 397
Spirited Away - HU DVD 586
Festen (The Celebration) - HU DVD 888
RoboCop - DVD 8164
Forgetting Sarah Marshall - HU DVD 8701

The War Room - HU DVD 1013
Dont Look Back - HU DVD 2281
Last Train Home - DVD 8117
Please Vote For Me - DVD 9597

Moulin Rouge - HU DVD 297
V for Vendetta - HU DVD 5558

M - HU DVD 56
Rear Window - HU DVD 368*
Red Sorghum - HU DVD 5405
Léon - HU DVD 9134
In the Mood for Love - HU DVD 1520

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New film journal uses architecture as an angle

Le mépris by Jean-Luc Godard
Not to suggest that film criticism has become rote or stale, but you don't often get a genuinely fresh perspective. That's why the new monthly film journal Interiors Journal is so exciting. The folks at Interiors, who apparently have academic backgrounds in both film and architecture, examine specific scenes from movies and discuss how their use of physical space and architectural design influence the story.

The June issue, for example, examines the cryptic final scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey and reflect on how the classical architectural style and multiple perspectives complement the idea of non-linear time. That sounds like a mouthful, but it makes for a compelling read. Each issue also includes diagrams of the scenes in question, adding a new literal perspective to the scenes as well.

Follow Interiors Journal on Facebook for updates on their next issues. A new one will be out on October 15th!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Happy Leif Ericson Day!

Today is Leif Ericson Day, a day to celebrate the real first explorer to reach North America (take that, yesterday's holiday!). Leif Ericson Day has been an officially proclaimed holiday since 1964; it's difficult to tell if its popularity is sudden or if we're just now noticing that people have already been celebrating it.

In any case, as per the president's orders, today is a day to honor our country's Norwegian heritage. Here's some selections of Norwegian films in our collection, as well as educational videos about the history of Norway and their expedition to North America.

From Norway:

Come - HU DVD 833
Kitchen Stories - HU DVD 3410
Reprise - HU DVD 6560
Dead Snow - HU DVD 7972

About Norway:

Edvard Munch - HU DVD 1912
Christopher Columbus: Explorer of the New World - Streaming video
Go West, Young Man - Streaming video
How Do They Do It In Norway? - Streaming video
Norway - Streaming video
Norway in Revolt - Streaming video
Romans, Saxons, Vikings - Streaming video
The Vikings - Streaming video

Or, you can always watch the Spongebob SquarePants episode about Leif Ericson Day (Bubble Buddy, HU DVD 8454).

Monday, October 08, 2012

New documentary reveals Bergman's love for Ghostbusters

Before he died, legendary director Ingmar Bergman had acquired over 80,000 videocassettes, disposing ones he didn't care for and keeping about 1,700 of them. That's quite the collection, especially when you consider that the ones he kept are among the roughly 2% of films that Bergman decided were worth keeping.

It might surprise you that those movies included The Blues Brothers, Die Hard, and Ghostbusters.

Two Swedish filmmakers are producing Bergman's Video, a documentary series that explores the themes in Bergman's video collection. You would expect that his collections would include French New Wave and other important pieces of film, but... maybe not Romancing the Stone and Jurassic Park.

The point being: if Bergman, the director of The Seventh Seal, can enjoy Ghostbusters, then you have no reason to feel guilty about loving cheesy, crappy movies.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Ken Loach opens personal archives

Here's a tantalizing story for fans of bonus material: filmmaker Ken Loach is publishing his personal archives of notes, scripts, research, and other materials through the British Film Insitute. Loach was awarded the Palme d'Or in 2006 for his film The Wind that Shakes the Barley and has received repute for his use of socialist themes. It will certainly be interesting to take a look behind his filmmaking process when the archives are opened over the new few weeks.

One great example that's already been released comes from his production of Poor Cow. You wouldn't expect a call sheet to be that interesting, but the one posted by the BFI includes a cryptic poem about the film's crew in the footer. Who knows what other mood-setting tidbits are there for future film scholars to pick apart?

If you don't know Ken Loach, now is the time to start knowing. Watch some of his movies at Media Services:

Sweet Sixteen - HU DVD 1133
United Kingdom - DVD 1329
Bread and Roses - HU DVD 2619
The Navigators - HU DVD 2653
The Wind the Shakes the Barley - HU DVD 3374
Happy Ending - DVD 4320
Kes - HU DVD 8370
Ae Fond Kiss... - HU DVD 8803
Land and Freedom - DVD 9048

Thursday, October 04, 2012

James Bond screen tests reveal what might have been

The good folks at Retronaut have once again unearthed some rarely seen behind-the-scenes photos from the set of an iconic movie. Retronaut previously brought us some entertaining pictures of Frankenstein in repose. This time, they found a series of photos from the auditions to replace Sean Connery as James Bond in 1967. There's at least one familiar face in the bunch: George Lazenby, who played James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, is featured in the top five.

The best part is seeing what scenes they used to test each actor. Of course they have the requisite dramatic poses (see right), but it's telling that most of those scenes involve him smoking, fighting, or sharing a moment with a female companion in various states of undress.

Media Services has a small selection of James Bond movies. While George Lazenby isn't part of it, you still catch some of the original Sean Connery movies:

Dr. No - HU DVD 4994
From Russia with Love - HU DVD 5018
Goldfinger - HU DVD 4995
Thunderball - HU DVD 4996

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Media Services Recommends...: Desk 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 part-time Media Services desk staff.

The General – HU DVD 34
The Fall – HU DVD 4716
The Constant Gardener – HU DVD 1739
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – HU DVD 6736
Moon – HU DVD 7213
Stardust – HU DVD 3598

The Vanishing (Spoorloos) – HU DVD 7200
Pan's Labyrinth – HU DVD 2770
Vampire's Kiss – HU DVD 6548
The Elephant Man – HU DVD 1535
Fantastic Mr. Fox – HU DVD 7046
Bad Santa – HU DVD 4355

Adventureland – HU DVD 6464
Altered States – HU DVD 6510
Halloween – HU DVD 419
Seven Samurai – HU DVD 13
2001: A Space Odyssey – HU DVD 1817

Young Adult – HU DVD 4318
In the Loop – HU DVD 7060
Hot Fuzz – HU DVD 3984
Thelma & Louise – HU DVD 1169
Amelie – HU DVD 401

Conversations with Other Women – HU DVD 3607
The Princess Bride – HU DVD 2817
Cool Hand Luke – HU DVD 2178
Jeremiah Johnson – HU DVD 7647
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – HU DVD 2177

The Truman Show – HU DVD 290
Grosse Pointe Blank – HU DVD 7068
Say Anything – HU DVD 3580
American History X – HU DVD 1132*
Gladiator – HU DVD 1424*

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Catch up on 30 for 30

ESPN's award-winning 30 for 30 documentary series starts up tonight for a second volume of 30 hour-long documentaries about the most compelling stories in sports. This week's episode, "Broke," highlights all-star athletes who, despite their success, drove themselves into bankruptcy. 30 for 30 has always highlighted some fascinating, lesser-known stories, and it looks like they're continuing suit.

Before the second volume kicks off, visit Media Services and watch some of the original series. Even if you aren't a big sports fan, there are some really fascinating stories.

30 for 30: Films 1-15 – HU DVD 7901 - 7906
30 for 30: Films 16-30 – HU DVD 7907 - 7912
Roll Tide/War Eagle – HU DVD 10055
Catching Hell – HU DVD 10227

Monday, October 01, 2012

Two master classes at the New Media Center

The New Media Center continues its Beyond the Studio series this week with two master classes on very different subjects taught by American University staff and faculty.

First off, this Tuesday (tomorrow!) at 4PM, SOC Librarian Robin Chin-Romer will speak about the evolution of memes in her training session, "Rick Rolled Again: Memes and Meaning." It's sure to be a lot of fun.

Then, on Wednesday, join Emmy-winning SOC professor Larry Engel at 6PM for a class on how to shoot quality video with a low-end camera. If you've ever come into the New Media Center looking for one of the HD Vixias because you absolutely need the highest quality, you might learn a thing or two about how to get some great shots from your iPhone as well. We're honored to have Prof. Engel come in for this training session.

Beyond the Studio will continue throughout the semester. Check the New Media Center website for a full list of their training sessions this semester.