Thursday, May 29, 2014

House of Cards crew debates filming in DC, misses entire point of the show

We don't like to focus on current film gossip and industry natter, but this recent local film story was too funny and too ironic to pass up.

Netflix's breakout success House of Cards films primarily in Baltimore, and as anyone who grimaced at the "Cathedral Heights" Metro stop scene can attest, there are some pretty jarring cosmetic differences between Maryland's biggest city and Washington. To drive business in the area, DC government is currently debating whether to provide additional tax incentives to lure House of Cards back to the nation's capital. (Plus, it'll spare us all the embarrassment of explaining to friends how that's not really what DC looks like.)

Many officials (and the crew for House of Cards) are hesitant to bring the show back, specifically citing the previous filming attempts that resulted in a clash between location shooters and MPD. According to Washington City Paper, "The fracas left one location scout fuming that the District’s government is 'corrupt and dysfunctional.'"

Let that sink in for a second. The production crew of a series about the corrupt dysfunction in Washington does not want to shoot in Washington because it is corrupt and dysfunctional.

The irony might be lost on the House of Cards crew, but we love it. If you want to experience the dysfunction for yourself, the first season is the show is available to check out in the library (HU DVD 14099). The second season won't be on DVD for another month or so; remember to check back with us about future episodes!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

AFI Docs announces its 2014 lineup, and it looks terrific

For the uninitiated, every year the American Film Institute hosts AFI Docs, a festival for upcoming documentaries hosted in and around the Washington, DC Metro area. AFI Docs is among the most esteemed documentary film festivals in the world, and ever summer, it is perhaps the biggest film event in the DC area.

The AFI recently announced its 2014 lineup, and it looks pretty great. This year's slate includes 54 full-length documentaries and 28 shorts covering a wide and exciting range of subject matter. You might be interested in Mudbloods, a documentary about collegiate Quidditch players, or Bronx Obama, a biography of a professional Obama impersonator. But there's more serious fare as well, including a documentary about Hal Holbrook's legendary Mark Twain stage show and the life of film critic Roger Ebert.

We highly recommend attending, but tickets of AFI Docs will not be available to the general public until June 2nd. Keep an eye on their website for more information as the June 18th start date approaches!

Good slides are good for us all

There are three life skills that they don’t teach in college - how to iron a shirt, how to steer out of a skid, and how to give a compelling presentation. has the last one covered for you. New courses on this month include Presentation FundamentalsPlanning your presentation, designing effective slides and then how to give a strong delivery. Not surprisingly, it comes down to practice, practice, practice, but this shows you where you should be focusing your attention.

As a current AU student, faculty or staff, you have access to all of's tutorials and resources. First, go to and log in with your AU credentials. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Let's talk about X-Men, because you will probably see X-Men

X-Men: Days of Future Past will probably be the biggest movie of the summer. In fact, if you're reading this, you're likely considering seeing it. Putting the troublesome allegations about the director aside, Days of Future Past looks to be the best installment in the franchise, and critics largely agree. The all-star cast is by far the most exciting part of this new movie – Patrick Stewart! Ellen Page! Peter Dinklage! – but surely the prospect of post-apocalyptic X-Men-on-robot action is reason enough to head to theaters. Plus, you get to see Magneto destroy RFK!

In a big draw for longtime X-Men fans, Days of Future Past will merge the franchise's past and future era storylines. You might've seen X-Men: First Class when it debuted a few years ago, but we bet it's been a while since you saw the original trilogy with Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, et al. If you can believe it, X2 came out eleven years ago!

If you want a refresher before inevitably going to the theaters this weekend, we have the first three X-Men movies available in our collection. Swing by and check them out while you can, because we only have one copy of each!

X-Men – HU DVD 1441
X2: X-Men United – HU DVD 1442
X-Men: The Last Stand – HU DVD 1443

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rolling Stone names its favorite sci-fi movies from this century

The past decade or so have been great for the science fiction in film. Even beyond superhero movies and blockbusters, genre fare has seen critical celebration. Movies like Blade Runner have been rehabilitated to classic status, and newcomers such as District 9 and Gravity see major award nominations. This is a great time for fans of futuristic media.

In honor of last week's update of the long-running Godzilla series, Rolling Stone has taken a moment to write about contemporary genre history and declared their favorite twenty sci-fi movies since 2000. You might not agree with their selections, but the variety indicates strong health and a great future for science-fiction filmmaking. Modern blockbuster masterpieces such as Inception sit alongside weirder films like Under the Skin and Moon. At the least, it's an eclectic selection.

Most of the films on this list are available in the AU Library. (We're clearly fans of science fiction too!) As summer movie season ramps up, we encourage you to check a few of these out to revisit the best of our recent past.

Cloverfield – HU DVD 767
Minority Report – HU DVD 1969
Donnie Darko – HU DVD 2174
Children of Men – HU DVD 2631
WALL-E – HU DVD 4950
Sunshine – HU DVD 5287
Serenity – HU DVD 5317
District 9 – HU DVD 6686
Moon – HU DVD 7213
The Host – HU DVD 7652
Inception – HU DVD 8000
Primer – HU DVD 8104
Looper – HU DVD 10899
Gravity – HU DVD 11181
The World's End – HU DVD 11185

Monday, May 19, 2014

Adams Morgan gets its own outdoor film series

We're over halfway into the May, and as is the summer tradition, free film festivals continue to open around DC. This week, we'd like to direct your attention to a newcomer in Adams Morgan, only a few hops down the Red Line.

Tomorrow evening, half an hour after sunset, Adams Morgan Movie Nights will kick off its inaugural program with an outdoor screening of Pixar's beloved Up. The event goes down at Marie Reed Elementary School, a few blocks past Amsterdam Falafelshop (to use that as a landmark). Concessions will be available, and you are encouraged to bring your own blankets and picnic gear. In fact, why not get some falafel at Amsterdam Falafelshop? These problems solve themselves. The first 150 attendees will receive mysterious bags full of local swag, so you'll want to get there early.

The series continues every two weeks after, with All the President's Men on June 10th and Rushmore on June 24th. This looks like another great addition to DC's film festival lineup. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

See indie comedy Obvious Child two weeks before theaters!

Our access to advance summer movie passes continues! Sometimes we have tickets to big blockbusters, but this time around, we want to put a movie on your radar that you might not know was coming out.

Obvious Child is an upcoming comedy film that found life on Kickstarter and premiered at Sundance earlier this year. In addition to coming from a first-time director, Obvious Child boasts an impressive lineup of independent comedy names, including Jenny Slate, David Cross, and Jake Lacy. This movie doesn't premiere until June 6th, but you can see it on Thursday, May 22nd at 7pm!

To redeem an advance pass, follow the link here. As with all advance screenings, please keep in mind that your pass does not guarantee entry. These events are intentionally overbooked to ensure a full house, so be sure to show up early to ensure that you get a seat.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

We're here to analyze dialogue and chew bubblegum...

Let's be honest: action movies do not have the most well-crafted dialogue. They usually just devolve into threats, quips, and heavy exposition, but no one has ever pretended to see a Schwarzenegger movie for the script. But there's also something appealing about their simplicity. If acclaimed films can feel literary and obtuse, there's a reassuring comfort in Murtaugh telling us that he does not have time for this shit.

As an ode to these straightforward and sometimes Neanderthalic scripts, the culture infographic fans at Pop Chart Lab created a poster dissecting the structure of the best action one-liners. You might remember sentence diagrams from middle school, and it should come as no surprise that many of these famous quotes (like "I'll be back" and "Welcome to Earth") break down easily. Some with terrible grammar are harder to deconstruct, while others are just too long for any useful analysis.

This chart is a fun and somewhat ridiculous look at the best and worst dialogue from the action genre. Commando might not have won an Oscar for its screenplay, but it sure does make a fun English exercise.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Learn the secrets of Disney animation in 3 minutes

Walt Disney once employed a team informally known as the "Nine Old Men," nine of the greatest animators of all time and the artistic forces behind nearly the first forty years of Disney animation. If you watch classic Disney movies today, their bold and fluid animations are still astounding and a great artistic accomplishment. Two of Nine Old Men, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, explained the "12 basic principles" behind their iconic style in The Illusion of Life, a book that is now considered one of the most important animation reference works.

But let's face it, this is about animation. You want to see it in motion, right?

Artist Cento Lodigiani put together a great 3-minute clip demonstrating each of the twelve principles, from basics like "staging" to advanced ideas like "follow through." Lodigiani is not a Disney animator, but it's easy to see how many of the illustrated principles apply to films like Snow White and Fantasia. Especially "secondary action," which you can see at play in "Whistle While You Work."

There's of course more than twelve principles to quality animation, but this is a fun, non-technical peek into what goes through the minds of great animators.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H. R. Giger, artist of the Alien, dies at 74

Swedish surrealistic H. R. Giger died today at 74. Though he worked primarily in painting and sculpting, Giger is best remembered as the designer of the terrifying and highly Freudian architecture and creatures from Ridley Scott's Alien franchise. Giger designed much of the iconic, dark, and twisted art of that world – from infested hallways in Aliens to the xenomorphs themselves. His style of quasi-organic and arguably erotic machinery indelibly changed the face of futuristic design, affecting everything from Predator to Man of Steel to a Giger-themed bar in Switzerland.

In honor of Giger's legacy, we recommend watching the Alien series (including Prometheus) that remain his most beloved creations. Though they are among his only contributions to movies, they are perhaps some of the most influential images captured on film.

Alien – HU DVD 885
Aliens – HU DVD 886
Alien 3 – HU DVD 887
Prometheus – HU DVD 10496

Monday, May 12, 2014

See The Fault in Our Stars TOMORROW!

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most celebrated young adult novels from the last few years. Ask anyone who's read it, and they'll probably shed a tear remembering the story of two cancer patients who find love. It's no surprise, then, that the upcoming film adaptation starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort is among the most highly anticipated of the summer.

If you're looking forward to The Fault in Our Stars, you'd normally have to wait until June to see the movie. How about tomorrow instead?

We have free passes to see The Fault in Our Stars tomorrow, May 13th at 7pm at the Regal Gallery Place 14. To attend this special advance screening, visit this link and print out your pass.

As usual, screenings are intentionally overbooked, so you will need to show up early to get a seat.

We hope to see you there! We hope you're excited for this big movie, and we look forward to (hopefully) getting more advance passes over the summer!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Acquisitions - May 2014

Adios, spring semester. Hello, summer! As we wrap up the academic year, the last of our new acquisitions are trickling in. That's not to say we don't have some fantastic new items. Among our favorite items are popular Mexican dramedy Instructions Not Included, debauchery anthem The Wolf of Wall Street, acclaimed Danish political series Borgen, and a Martin Scorsese-approved collection of world cinema.

We'll be around all summer for students taking summer classes. If you're around, stop by and check out one of these great films! Find the full list after the break...

Thursday, May 08, 2014

We're green-certified!

As we decompress from the end of the spring semester and gear up for summer sessions, we want to take a second to celebrate one of our little accomplishments.

Last month, the AU Library Green Team held an internal green certification program for our service desks and employees. We're very happy that the Media Services desk has been awarded silver-level certification! We have made a point of implementing sustainable practices, such as reusing scrap paper, reducing printing, using eco-friendly office supplies, and putting rechargeable batteries in our remotes.

(And best of all, we got brownies!)

Create a Compelling Infographic

New courses on include Design an Infographic. An intensive two hour course on how to turn your data into an easily understandable infographic. Learn how to use Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and Excel together to analyze and chart the data, plot locations on a map, and build a timeline that simply details a complex sequence of events.

Topics include -
Building the grid
Choosing colors and typefaces
Creating a map and diagram key
Creating a pie chart
Modifying stock images
and much more.

As a current AU student, faculty or staff, you have access to all of's tutorials and resources. First, go to and log in with your AU credentials. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Overrated movies: A statistical approach

When discussing film quality, people often resort to declaring popular movies overrated and defending their favorites as underrated gems. These are common defenses, especially in the face of critical drubbing or universal acclaim. And sometimes, that makes it hard to figure out if movies were ever actually beloved or hated to begin with.

Intrigued by this notion, informatician Ben Moore has wielded the statistical powers of film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to create a graph of what movies audiences loved but critics hated (and vice-versa). Moore found that, for the most part, critics and audiences do tend to agree on ratings. But there are notable outliers.

The most statistically underrated films tend to be crude comedies (Grandma's Boy and Super Troopers) and niche audience programming (such Tyler Perry's films and evangelical movies). This makes some sense, as mainstream reviewers generally tend to dislike these types of movies. On the other hand, overrated films mostly include prestige dramas (Greenberg) and children's movies (Babe and Spy Kids). In the case of the latter category, Moore theorizes that children's opinions are understandably left out Rotten Tomatoes user ratings.

Unfortunately, Moore did not include his complete data set. It would have been fascinating to see which other films flaunted the critical consensus. He does include recommendations for future studies in case anyone wants to try their own hand, but we're content knowing that there is apparently a sizable audience for Step Up. (Also, who hates Babe? Really?!)

UPDATE: An interactive version of the chart is now available here. Other highlights include audiences enjoying Mulan II but hating 101 Dalmatians II.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Music Library Sez: 20 Feet from Stardom

We have a lot of music-related films and documentaries in our collection. Our friends over at the Music Library love them too, and they occasionally write reviews for their favorites. In our first post in this series, Music Library part-timer Jesse writes about the recent Academy Award-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom (HU DVD 11199).

Hello, readers new and old! If you're reading this on the Media Services blog, my name is Jesse, nice to meet you! If you're on the Music Library blog, you know me. Either way, it is my great honor to provide you with a review of a new DVD at Media Services: 20 Feet From Stardom.

20 Feet, released in 2013, is a documentary delving into the history, psychology, and philosophy of background singing. Unique for focusing on background talents rather than the usual camera fodder (the stars), it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in March, giving director Morgan Neville his first Oscar!