Sunday, March 30, 2014

Filmmaker IQ whets your appetite with a history of movie trailers

We love Filmmaker IQ and their video crash courses on the history of film. In the past we're posted about their lesson on aspect ratios. This time around, they've prepared a history of movie trailers.

You can either follow along in the video (embedded above) or read the article for roughly the same content. Trailers started as interstitial ads that played after short films, but thanks in large part to companies like the National Screen service, they soon became their own thriving industry.

We won't re-iterate too much more, because the video from Filmmaker IQ is exhaustive and worth watching. If you've ever been curious about when the first trailers started to make it big (would you have guessed as early as 1913?), this lesson is for you. Take 15 minutes out of your Sunday and give it a watch!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Are DVD pirates curating culture?

The film industry has waged an uphill war against piracy for many, many years. Even in parts of the world with sub-par Internet access, physical piracy and reproduction of DVDs continue to dog Hollywood's bottom line. But the continued spread of piracy in developing countries has an unusual cultural effect as well: bootleggers are becoming cultural gatekeepers.

A fascinating article from Vice details how Peru's most active film pirates have become the country's "culture dealers," offering Peruvians access to thousands of films that not have seen international distribution or are otherwise difficult to get. Vice explains that slow Internet speeds in Peru hamper access to movies obtained through both digital piracy and legitimate channels. In that void, brick-and-mortar piracy has taken on a new life, leaving pirates to play the role of studios and sell films to the masses.

There are of course multiple sides to this story: many studios claim that these pirates have run them out of business, and the link between film piracy and gang activity is often very strong. Even so, it is fascinating to consider that for either distribution or competition reasons, piracy is often the only choice for millions of people to experience film.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Moviegoers still give critical reviews a thumbs-up

Social media word-of-mouth isn't much of a punchline anymore. Positive reaction from friends is a strong factor in people's media choices, and with no one to fill the critical void left by Roger Ebert's death last year, some in the blogosphere have speculated that social media is replacing film critics as the go-to source for information about films.

New studies show that it might be too early to write an obituary for the film critics. According to a recent Nielsen survey, 80 percent of Americans read movie reviews and follow that judgment when deciding what films to see. This is nearly double the number who take cues from social media. That said, Hollywood Reporter's breakdown of the same study finds that most of these filmgoers at least use social media, and in the case of the youngest generations, friends are overtaking critics as the most trusted source. In any case, reviews from critics and friends remain more important than in driving viewer opinions than trailers or ads – at least according to a self-reported survey.

We might not have a singular figure anymore whose film criticism is valued throughout the country, but websites like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and MRQE ensure that film reviews are still taken seriously across demographics. It seems we don't yet need someone to step in where Ebert left off. (Sorry, Gene Shalit.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

RIP James Rebhorn, "that guy"

We've had to eulogize legendary directors and filmmakers all-too-frequently this year, but this time, we want to turn attention to a famous and well-loved actor who you might not even recognize by name. James Rebhorn, who died last week at age 65, is the ultimate "that guy," an recognizable actor who appeared in seemingly everything without ever having a starring role.

His career included appearances successful dramas, comedies, and action movies – an incredible feat. You could know Rebhorn best for his work in Independence Day as the headstrong Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki. You might also recognize him as Dr. Kaplan, Liz Lemon's frustrated dentist/matchmaker on 30 Rock. Rebhorn was a chameleon, appearing in 125 works since the late 70s, from soap opera bit parts to recurring role on Showtime's Homeland.

James Rebhorn may not have had the same following as some celebrities and big personalities, but that reflects the lower profile he kept and the way he blended into the many memorable roles he portrayed. No doubt we'll miss Rebhorn's work, if only because he was a familiar face.

If you need an indication of how much diverse work this guy participated in, look no further than his unusual collection of films and television shows he appeared in that are available at Media Services:

Snow Falling on Cedars – HU DVD 99
Cold Mountain – HU DVD 857
The Talented Mr. Ripley – HU DVD 1447
Carlito's Way – HU DVD 1483
Silkwood – HU DVD 1647
The Game – HU DVD 2246
Independence Day – HU DVD 3111
Lorenzo's Oil – HU DVD 3324
North & South – HU DVD 3660
White Squall – HU DVD 5530
Basic Instinct – HU DVD 5729 
Baby Mama – HU DVD 8626
30 Rock, Season 4, Disc 2 – HU DVD 8930
Homeland, Season 1 – HU DVD 10348
Homeland, Season 2 – HU DVD 10349
My Cousin Vinny – HU DVD 10487
Seinfeld, Season 9: "The Finale" – HU DVD 14140, Disc 4

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Transportation coordinator"? How film industry changes affect local businesses

The film industry is very expensive. Big movie budgets often run above $200 million, and even smaller films like Nebraska can cost about $10 million. Where does that all go? Once you remove all the big expenses like actors, special effects, advertising, and various studio fees, much of that budget goes to the crew and affiliated services. These aren't necessarily people employed by studios – it's often local craftsmen, caterers, and propmasters. These small businesses often depend on the film industry for income, but with film credits moving the centers of production, many of these companies are struggling to stay afloat.

The Los Angeles Times ran a sad but insightful article today about the fates of many "industry-dependent" outfits in the Hollywood area that are now downsizing, moving, or closing shop. For all the good news and industry growth that state-sponsored film credits generate, it's worth recognizing that when something as massive as the film industry relocates, it creates economic ripples. This isn't to suggest that the film industry should never move – but it's worth recognizing the parts of the industry that are struggling the most with these changes.

The next time you're watching the credits of a movie, don't ignore the "payroll master" or "assistant chef." These folks have to make a living too!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Acquisitions - March 2014

Welcome back from spring break! Since you've been gone, we've been very busy. The AU Library is now home to many of the year's biggest award nominees, including Captain Phillips, Blue is the Warmest Color, 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniel's The Butler, Prisoners, and Gravity. And if you're feeling something lighter, we now also have Catching Fire, The World's End, and National Treasure.

It's really been a great few weeks for our collection. Come see what we have! Read on for a full list...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alternative programming: the NCAA's equity problem

As you may have heard, American University's men's basketball team beat Boston University yesterday, winning their first Patriot League title in five years and earning a coveted spot in the March Madness tournament bracket. Go Eagles! This is crazy exciting for AU, but let's step back for a minute. March Madness has become a formidable industry that generates roughly $1 billion ever year. Who actually makes that money? Do the players ever reap the benefits of participating in a billion-dollar sports phenomenon?

The folks at Frontline have provided free access to Money and March Madness, a documentary about the financial inequities of what is arguably still an amateur sporting event. This is an important subject to think about as we head into the most exciting week of AU's comeback season. The entire AU community will almost certainly be watching at home and possibly buying spirit wear, but we should never stop being curious about the effects of what we like and do.

(This is just one of the many documentaries from the Frontline series that has been released for free online. Their full catalog is worth exploring.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SXSW continues to promote original voices in film

South by Southwest , a cultural festival held every March in Austin, may have grabbed headlines this year for its keynote speech from whistleblower Edward Snowden. But SXSW is much more than a soapbox. Each year, the SXSW Film Festival hosts upcoming independent talent, debuting feature films and documentaries from newcomers in the industry. Not all of the highlighted filmmakers go on to big careers and future successes, but the talent is always worth checking out.

It's far too early to say whether any this year's films are the next big thing, but SXSW has a good track record. Many successful movies, including the first work by Girls creator Lena Dunham, debuted at SXSW. Many of the selections, like Best Worst Movie and Winnebago Man, err on the edgy, unusual side that SXSW specializes in. But if that means that this festival has become a haven for new, alternative voices in film, all the better.

The AU Library's film collection includes a number of notable world debuts from SXSW, from war crimes documentary War Don Don to nerd anathema outlet The People vs. George Lucas. Come check them out before SXSW ends this Sunday!

Brooklyn Castle – HU DVD 2826
Beware of Mr. Baker – HU DVD 4400
KumarĂ© – HU DVD 6716
Garbage Dreams – DVD 7149
I Love You, Man – HU DVD 7778*
 Best Worst Movie – HU DVD 7880
Marwencol – DVD 8347
Barbershop Punk – HU DVD 9245
Tiny Furniture – HU DVD 9713
War Don Don – DVD 10095
The People vs. George Lucas – HU DVD 10241
The Cabin in the Woods – HU DVD 10724
Where Soldiers Come From – DVD 10604
Winnebago Man – HU DVD 11171
Short Term 12 – HU DVD 11178
Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies – Streaming video

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

12 Years a Slave now available

A quick FYI: newly minted Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave is now available in Media Serviecs in the AU Library. The DVD for this film was just released yesterday, and given its current critical acclaim, we've made a point of getting this item onto the shelf as quickly as possible. It is available under the call number HU DVD 11176.

Expect it to be checked out almost immediately, but know that we do have a copy available.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The film event of the year: We update our Best Pictures Pinterest!

Tonight, nine films will battle for the ultimate honor in cinema: a place on our Best Picture Winners Pinterest board.* This esteemed list contains 83 of the greatest films of all time, as voted on each year by the film community. From modern successes like No Country for Old Men to classics like Gone of the Wind and Ben-Hur, this highly prestigious Pinterest board is a Who's Who of a century of quality films. Controversy abounds in this list, such as the decision to pin How Green Was My Valley in 1941 over Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon, but this Pinterest board is still widely regarded as the standard-bearer for film acclamation.

Each films on this list of available for checkout in the AU Library. Follow the links on each pin to see whether it's available.

*Additionally, movies added to this Pinterest board are also presented with an Academy Award.