Sunday, March 31, 2013

Yep, Game of Thrones is back on

If you're friends with anyone with HBO, chances are you've heard that the third season of Game of Thrones premieres tonight. The latest installment in George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic is sure to captivate audiences for the next two-or-so-months. And if the books are any indication, this is going to be a particularly violent and shocking season. (We dare not risk even referring to particularly horrific events, but suffice to say, they're the reason that the show's producers wanted to make the series the first place).

If you want to get your Game of Thrones fix in preparation for the third season, Media Services has you covered. We currently have DVDs for the first two seasons available. Act quickly though; the show is immensely popular, and supply will be limited. Either you win or you... have to wait three days for the DVDs to come back.

Check availability with the links below:

Game of Thrones, Season 1 – HU DVD 10021, Discs 1-5
Game of Thrones, Season 2 – HU DVD 10022, Discs 1-5

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hear Oliver Stone on JFK's legacy TONIGHT!

Here's last-minute announcement: Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone will be on campus this evening with friend-of-Media-Services Prof. Peter Kuznick to screen an episode of their Showtime documentary series, The Untold History of the United States.

The event is part of AU's commemoration of John F. Kennedy's landmark commencement address at AU in which he heralded a future of peace. Tonight's episode is, appropriately, about JFK's attempts to find peace during the Cold War and resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It all goes down at 8pm tonight in Ward 2. Take this opportunity to see and speak with a filmmaker whose unconventional, distinctive take on history has cemented him as one of the most important filmmakers of his generation.

(If you're itching for some more Stone, our Pinterest page has a board for all our Oliver Stone movies.)

We love our streaming videos, and you should too

The American Library University has been slowly building up its streaming video collections, as mentioned in previous posts highlighting Silent Film Online, Films on Demand, the Internet Archive, and other collections from Alexander Street Press. We've been slowly accumulating more streaming video resources from across the web and through new databases, and we've finally hit a point where we're ready to promote the vast streaming resources in our collection!

The streaming video resource page on our website offers a search box the only looks for streaming videos in our collection. At last count, that's a whopping 10,000+ streaming videos, including 200 high-use documentaries from Docuseek2 such as King Corn, Goodbye Mubarak!, and In the Ashes of the Forest.

Many of these films are already being used in classes. But now, students also have the option to watch them in their dorms and off-campus. Faculty can embed these videos on Blackboard as well, giving students who miss class an option to watch the videos on their own time without having to come into the library. (But we'd love to see you here anyway.)

We understand the hesitance about relying on streaming videos in class given the inherent unreliability of wireless Internet connections, but these streaming video resources are a terrific way to spice up a class's online presence or spice up a student presentation with clips and video segments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Artist pushes Photoshop pushed to weird limits, turns rust into planets

The New Media Center is getting busy as we head into the second half of the semester, and a good number of our patrons are using Photoshop. The average user might use it to touch up a photo, add text, or do some graphic design work.

But then there are the extreme outlier users like Adam Kennedy. Adam uses Photoshop to transform photos of rusty fire hydrants into stunning planetary landscapes. It's such an out-of-the-box, unusual idea, but it works, and it looks great. This is a terrific example of photomanipulation being pushed beyond what you'd expect. There's also something to say about the re-appropriation of urban decay to create new worlds, etc., but we'll leave that to the critics.

The artist has published more on his personal website and is currently seeking crowd funding to continue this project. In any event, it should serve as inspiration for people working on end-of-semester Photoshop projects. Yes, you can make something as awesome as this with the right tools.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Today's reminder to read: Even Jedis are illiterate

Media Services primarily deals with films, so even though we're part of the American University Library, we don't often get to talk about literacy and books. But once in a while, we get an opportunity to talk about both.

Ryan Britt, an author at science fiction blog, wrote a funny-but-deeply-concerning essay pointing out that no one in the Star Wars universe reads. Almost never do you see a single character pick up a book, read a sign, or get the news. Ancient historical artifacts come in the form of holographic videos. Everyone relies entirely on oral communication, farmers have to buy droids to do math, and the Galactic Senate makes major decisions based on non-empirical anecdotal evidence. It's exhausting and saddening to read.

Britt suggests that the entire overthrow of the Galactic Republic could have been avoided if people learned to read, picked up a newspaper, and disputed what the Emperor claimed with written facts.

None of this was probably intentional on the filmmakers' part, but it's a funny reminder to pick up a book. Please.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot Docs: The Boy Game

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we've recently added to our collection.

The Boy Game (DVD 8955) views bullying from a gendered perspective. The film – only 16 minutes long – posits that the bullying epidemic is in part caused by social pressure among boys to conform to the resilient, tough gender norms common among males of their age group. Interestingly, The Boy Game is not a documentary, but rather a short film that uses a fictionalized encounter based on real testimony. Its story of three boys struggling with their outward image is used to draw attention to real gender and social pressures.

Official description from the distributor's website:
The Boy Game tackles bullying among boys at its core:the culture of toughness and silence boys live by. Targets need to be protected, absolutely, but rather than vilify bullies, The Boy Game looks to unpack the the complex dynamics that lead some boys to bully and the majority to stand watching in silent conflict.

The truth is all boys suffer under cultural codes that demand toughness and silence. Boys desperately need a way to talk about the painful gender straitjacketing they are subject to, to develop the resilience needed to stand up, be themselves, and redefine masculinity in terms of emotional, tolerant strength.

Based on off-the-record interviews with boys nationwide, then fashioned into a hard hitting scenario, it was shot like a doc to capture the intense pressures boys face every day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A salute to "breaking the fourth wall"

"Breaking the fourth wall" is one of the riskiest tools in a filmmaker's bag. As recently exemplified in Netflix's version of House of Cards, taking a moment to recognize the audience or the limitations of the visual medium can work like gangbusters for comic or dramatic effect. It can also backfire and distract the audience from an otherwise internally consistent work.

But as history has proven, a solid landing from a fourth wall break can create some of the most memorable moments on film. This supercut of famous winks, nods, and metahumor brings together some of the most disparate works of film into a well-edited 8-minute montage. Everything from Horse Feathers to Michael Haneke's Funny Games gets a shoutout. (Don't worry: the video breaks the fourth wall on its own too.)

There are far, far too many films featured in this video to mention individually. Stick through the credits for a full list.

Monday, March 18, 2013

AU hosts the DC Environmental Film Festival this week!

SOC's environmental film series joins forces this week with the D.C. Environmental Film Festival for a series of weeklong events highlighting the city's best environmental filmmaking – both professional and amateur.

The festivities kick off tomorrow with the premiere of Shooting in the Wild, a film based on Professor Chris Palmer's exposé book about environmental film production. The event, hosted by National Geographic and Alexandra Costeau, is part of "An Evening with Chris Palmer" that includes a Q&A with Prof. Palmer and a screening of the winners from this years Eco-Comedy Video Competition. The event kicks off at 7 PM in Wechsler Theater.

The series continues through Saturday with additional events, including screenings from the Student Environmental Short Film Festival and a panel about how to take action after watching environmental films.

This is an exciting, big Washington event being held right on campus. Take the time to visit the Center for Environmental Filmmaking's website and see if you can fit one of their screenings into your schedule.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hot Docs: Nuclear Savage

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we've recently added to our collection.

Nuclear Savage (DVD 10606) puts a lens on the untold victims of nuclear testing. The effects of nuclear weaponry are well documented, yet few discuss the lives of the people intentionally exposed to radiation during nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. The film uses a combination of historical documents – some recently unearthed – and interviews with those who lived through nuclear testing. It reveals the tragic story of people dealing with the fallout of America's militaristic pursuits.

Official description from the film's website:
Adam Jonas Horowitz shot his first film in the Marshall Islands in 1986, and was shocked by what he found there, in this former American military colony in middle of the Pacific Ocean. Radioactive coconuts, leaking nuclear waste repositories, and densely populated slums were all the direct result of 67 Cold War U.S. nuclear bomb tests that vaporized islands and devastated entire populations.
Twenty years later, Adam returned to these islands to make this award winning shocking political and cultural documentary exposé titled Nuclear Savage; a heartbreaking and intimate ethnographic portrait of Pacific Islanders struggling for dignity and survival after decades of intentional radiation poisoning at the hands of the American government. Relying on recently declassified U.S. government documents,devastating survivor testimony, and incredible unseen archival footage, this untold and true detective story reveals how U.S. scientists turned a Pacific paradise into a radioactive hell. Marshall islanders were used as human guinea pigs for three decades to study the effects of nuclear fallout on human beings with devastating results. Nuclear Savage is a shocking tale that pierces the heart of our democratic principles.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Help us figure out what this is

In the process of cleaning Media Services, we found this unusual... thing in one of our viewing rooms. It appears to be an end-table of sorts, but it goes up or down depending on the weight that's on resting it. You can adjust the tension, but you can't lock it at a particular height.

We're stumped. Does anyone out there have any good guesses about what this is? We assume it has some sort of audio-visual purpose, possibly as a monitor stand, but we've having trouble coming up with a practical application for it.

Please tell us if you can think of a way this would be useful. Help!

Monday, March 11, 2013

SXSW 2013 continues a tradition of fine film

It's spring break here at American University, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the world is on pause. Austin is currently hosting South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual film/music/silly cat festival that attracts big names in media. SXSW festival entrants have launched careers, won top Oscars, and made people look at the world differently. Or at they very least, they've been entertaining.

In the spirit of SXSW's credo of being a "destination of discovery," here is a list of films shown or premiered at SXSW. It's an eclectic mix of niche documentaries and big feature films that's worth exploring.

This Film is Not Yet Rated – DVD 2414
Undefeated – HU DVD 3068
The Horse Boy – HU DVD 3783
Knocked Up – HU DVD 4166
By Hook or By Crook – HU DVD 4353
The Price of Sugar – DVD 6261
The Hurt Locker – HU DVD 6762
Garbage Dreams – DVD 7149
Winnebago Man – HU DVD 7958
Kick-Ass – HU DVD 8005
Blue Valentine – DVD 8296
Marwencol – DVD 8347
Bridesmaids – HU DVD 9104
Tiny Furniture – HU DVD 9713
War Don Don – DVD 10095
Drag Me to Hell – HU DVD 10122
A Mighty Wind – HU DVD 10218
Weekend – DVD 10364
Where Soldiers Come From – DVD 10604
The Cabin in the Woods – HU DVD 10724
Killer Joe – HU DVD 10876
Before the Music Dies – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 158

Thursday, March 07, 2013

New Acquisitions - March 2013

As we head into spring break, we're adding some big titles to our collection. Oscar contenders Argo, Skyfall, and The Master are now available, as is the second season of Game of Thrones. But don't overlook some of our other interesting additions, including The Naked Gun series, experimental film Holy Motors, failed Aaron Sorkin vehicle Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and a documentary about the world's greatest sushi chef.

Read on for a full list...

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Just discovered: Clawed does the Harlem Shake

Greg Smith SFX Collection updated

SOC Professor Greg Smith has previously provided the AU Library with an expansive sound effect library free for anyone free for anyone to use – AU community member or otherwise. It's a very useful resource, especially for people working off-campus who are looking for sounds for one of their projects.

Today we added over 400 new sounds produced by Greg Smith's students to the collection. There's a load of variety in the pack, including motorcycle engine noise, city ambience, and a collection of useful foley effects. As with the rest of these collections, these sounds are free to use in your personal or commercial products.

We're right in the middle of midterms season, so if you have a video project that needs an extra punch, consider using a few sounds produced by people from your own university.

Argo screening on campus TONIGHT!

We can't keep Argo on the shelves. There've been a lot of people trying to get their hands on it (HU DVD 5555), but it's a hot item. You could catch the movie in a number of ways – some theaters are even still playing it in the wake of its Best Picture win – but you usually have to pay for those.

Luckily, the AU United Methodist-Protestant Community is at it again. They will be screening Argo for free tonight at 9 PM in Mary Graydon Center Room 200 as part of their monthly movie night program. Pizza and other snacks are provided as usual. Tonight's your chance to catch the movie everyone has been talking about. And honestly, given the weather about to hit DC, what better excuse do you need to stay indoors?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Hot Docs: How to Start a Revolution

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we've recently added to our collection.

How to Start a Revolution (DVD 10642) travels the globe to demonstrate the influence of Gene Sharp, a noted political scientist whose writings on nonviolent revolution and protest have been used worldwide. From Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War to Egypt during the height of the Arab Spring, Sharp's writings have influenced generations of political upheaval. The film attempts to bring more credit to Sharp's writings and the ways that they have shaped freedom.

Official description from the film's website:
Half a world away from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, an ageing American intellectual shuffles around his cluttered terrace house in a working-class Boston neighbourhood. His name is Gene Sharp. White-haired and now in his mid-eighties, he grows orchids, he has yet to master the internet and he hardly seems like a dangerous man. But for the world’s dictators his ideas can be the catalyst for the end of their regime.

Few people outside the world of academia have ever heard his name, but his writings on nonviolent revolution (most notably ‘From Dictatorship to Democracy’, a 93-page, 198-step guide to toppling dictators, available free for download in 40 languages) have inspired a new generation of protesters living under authoritarian regimes who yearn for democratic freedom.

This new film HOW TO START A REVOLUTION reveals how Gene’s ideas work in action. The film uses extended interviews with Gene himself, his assistant, his followers and leaders of revolutionary movements worldwide, as well as user-generated content from around the globe, to reveal the power of nonviolent revolution on the streets.

The Oscar giveaway is over

Thanks to everyone on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and at the desk who entered our movie giveaway. The turnout was very strong! We've notified the winners.

Look for another movie giveaway in the future!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Hot Docs: A Wild Idea

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we've recently added to our collection.

A Wild Idea (DVD 10631) covers one of the most intriguing economic and environmental deals in recent memory: international interests will pay Ecuador not to tap the massive oil reserves near the Amazon River. It's a radical idea that could save a region, have enormous environmental impact, and set a precedent for the future of international environmental collaboration – should Ecuador accept the deal.

Official description from the film's website:
The film takes the viewer to the Yasuní National Park, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, capturing the rain forest’s stunning biodiversity. It also focuses in the millions of barrels of oil lying beneath the part of the park known as the ITT Block.

Exploiting the ITT seemed to be the logical step Ecuador had to take, but political changes have transformed the way the country views oil development. Through testimony representing different perspectives and rich archival video, A Wild Idea shows how the seemingly utopian ideal of keeping valuable oil underground turned into an official proposal.

As the film progresses, the complex initiative becomes easy to understand. The audience sees what’s at stake if the proposal is not accepted. And the political twists and turns that made it possible and that could also threaten the success of this revolutionary idea.