Thursday, October 30, 2014

Settle in for a night in Halloween town

Tomorrow is Halloween, which, in a rare moment of editorializing, I will declare is the greatest best holiday on the face of the earth. The library's getting into the holiday spirit too; expect lots of the staff to be in costume tomorrow. And as part of the festivities, we're going to show Halloweentown for free!

As part of our new series of Friday night movie screenings, the library has decided to show Disney's Halloweentown in the Mud Box tomorrow at 9pm. (The library held a poll about a month back, and this movie won by a landslide.) The screening is completely free, and from what we understand, there will be some sort of snacks and/or candy involved as well. Embassy trick-or-treating should be done by then, so if you aren't planning on hitting the town for one of the many local festivities, you're strongly encouraged to come by the library and enjoy a Halloween night in.

See you there! Have a spoopy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

AU Music Library gets to know Blind Joe Death

The AU Music Library continues to dig into our combined, meaty collection of DVDs about the DC music scene. This time, they've taken a look at In Search of Blind Joe Death (MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 77), a Kickstarted documentary about a Takoma Park resident and AU alum who became something of an experimental folk and blues legend. Jesse over at the Music Library gives a great summary of this DVD and gives a little history about why Blind Joe Death matters to the local music scene.

We love the local music scene materials that the library purchases, and we love that the Music Library is giving them their due. Swing over to their blog to learn more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Too much Jason? Our staff recommends obscure horror classics

The day will come that you are sick of watching Hocus Pocus. We all love the Halloween standards, but there are only so many times you can watch the same movies every year before you start looking for something different. According to our Pinterest page, we have over 180 horror films in our collection, but it can be difficult to find the hidden gems without some guidance.

So, to be all wheat-vs.-chaff-y about it, we asked our staff for their favorite out-of-the-way horror movies that you should be watching this week. Our choices span almost a century, from a silent classic to a 2012 sleeper hit.

Chris recommends: The Wicker Man (1973) (HU DVD 6542)
When a young girl mysteriously disappears, Police Sergeant Howie travels to a remote Scottish island to investigate. But this pastoral community, led by the strange Lord Summerisle, is not what it seems as the devout Christian detective soon uncovers a secret society of wanton lust and pagan blasphemy. Can Howie now stop the cult’s ultimate sacrifice before he himself comes face-to-face with the horror of the Wicker Man?
Molly recommends: The Haunting (HU DVD 10161)
"It was an evil house from the beginning, a house that was born bad." The place is the 90-year old mansion called Hill House. No one lives there. Or so it seems. But please, do come in. Because even if you don't believe in ghosts, there's no denying the terror of The Haunting. Director Robert Wise returned to psychological horror for this much admired, first screen adaptation of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House." Four people come to the house to study its supernatural phenomena. Or has the house drawn at least one of them to it? The answer will unnerve you in this "elegantly sinister scare movie."
Phil recommends: Berberian Sound Studio (HU DVD 11159)
Mild-mannered sound engineer Gilderoy arrives in Rome to begin work on the soundtrack to a film called The Equestrian Vortex, a tale of witchcraft and murder set inside an all-girl riding academy. Before long he finds himself entranced by the film’s mysteriously terrifying allure, and the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur.
Sean recommends: Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (HU DVD 323)
Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious—instead it’s a witches’ brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous.
Media Librarian Chris Lewis also insisted that we include Vampire's Kiss (HU DVD 6548), an ultra-nutty Nicolas Cage vampire movie. Your mileage may vary with that one.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Drafthouse compiles the greatest movie deaths (WARNING: this is actually horrifying)

This Friday is Halloween, so we'll be attempting to bring you spooky, scary, or otherwise horrifying posts this week! We'll get the crazy stuff out of the way first. To celebrate the impending holiday, Alamo Drafthouse enlisted the filmmakers of the violent short film series The ABCs of Death 2 to curate a supercut of their favorite movie deaths.

Be warned: the results are genuinely horrifying and disgusting. This is basically four minutes of blood and gore. The contents range from famous scenes from Alien and Raiders of the Lost Ark to a particularly disturbing moment from Michael Haneke's Caché to the frequently banned war/torture film Men Behind the Sun. It's a mix of highbrow and grindhouse shlock, and if you have a stomach for the content, it's a supremely entertaining look at how we depict death on film.

(Again, tread lightly if this isn't your cup of tea. Don't worry, November 1st will be here soon.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Screenings galore! More passes available at Media Services

Based on the number of early screening promos we've been running recently, we're clearly in the midst of fall movie season. We never want to disappoint, so this week, we have two advance passes for you!

Our passes this week are to see Jake Gyllenhaal go full sleazebag in Nightcrawler on Saturday, October 25th at 9:30pm; and Nicole Kidman's spin on Memento in Before I Go to Sleep on Wednesday, October 29th at 7pm. Both screenings will take place at the AMC Loews Georgetown 14. This is one of the rare occasions on which we have a movie that screens on a weekend, so plan accordingly! Assuming you were able to make it to The Wedding Ringer on Monday, that's three free movies in two weeks. Lucky you.

Come to the Media Services desk to pick up your passes. (We're back to doing physical tickets rather than digital passes for these two films.) As usual, remember that these screenings are intentionally overbooked, and your pass does not guarantee entry. Show up early to ensure that you get a seat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alamo Drafthouse CEO weighs in on the physical-vs-digital debate

The debate over the future of physical film has been simmering for a few years now, with major directors and film personalities carving out a place for the future of celluloid. This weekend, Tim League, film advocate and CEO of independent theater chain Alama Drafthouse Cinema, added his voice to the fray. League has a surprising and perhaps divisive perspective, lobbying in favor of the digital transition as a way to preserve the legacy of physical film.

League's op-ed in Deadline is nuanced and difficult to summarize, but it boils down to encouraging the widespread adoption of digital projection to reduce costs and continue the modern relevance of the movie theater. But more importantly, physical films are far harder to project than digital files, and mismanagement can result in damage to the 99% of films that only exist in reel form. Classic films have cultural value, League argues, and we should screen them alongside modern movies – but with greater expert care and attention.

This is a much more complex view than the black-and-white defend-the-future-of-film line that we usually hear from preservationists, but it comes from an experienced theater owner and deserves respect. It adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate, especially from a business perspective. No doubt these stakeholders will save physical film from vanishing in the future, but maybe it can exist alongside digital film as a meaningful alternative rather than a curiosity.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Join SOC and the National Gallery of Art for a new world cinema festival

We certainly think that American University is a cultured place, but our on-campus film screenings are starting to feel more... prestigious. This year, the School of Communication struck up a multi-year partnership with the National Gallery of Art to bring a world cinema festival to AU while the NGA ia undergoing renovations.

The SOC/NGA partnership began last month (sorry, we missed it!) with a series of Italian films. The October festivities kick off tomorrow with "a series of documentary films on rural and urban life in mainland China." The week-long series kicks off with the American premiere of an episode from the series Nostalgia: The Ballade of Village. Screenings continue through the weekend and return for a finale next Friday.

Every month will bring films from a new region: November will feature Czech films, while December focuses on Greek cinema. We'll be sure to update you about these events as they transpire, but you might want to preemptively clear your calendar for the dates on SOC's website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

See Kevin Hart in The Wedding Ringer MONTHS before it hits theaters!

Free advance movie passes have once more returned to Media Services!

This time, we have passes to see The Wedding Ringer, an upcoming comedy in which Kevin Hart plays a for-hire best man for awkward grooms. Between Ride Along and the Think Like a Man a series, Kevin Hart has been on a hot streak, and his co-star Josh Gad is still on top after his success in The Book of Mormon. This movie doesn't normally hit theaters until January 2015, so details are scarce, but those two actors sound like a winning combination.

The screening goes down Tuesday, October 21, at the AMC Loews Georgetown at 7pm. Claim your pass online at our page on (We don't have physical passes for this one.) As usual, keep in mind that these screenings are intentionally overbooked, and your pass does not guarantee entry. Show up early to ensure that you get a seat.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dare you plumb the depths of public domain horror?

Halloween is rapidly approaching (only 17 days away!) so our patrons are understandably checking out loads of horror films. [On a personal editorial note, I find it fantastic that there is an entire month dedicated to fear.] We've previously covered our horror collection on Pinterest, which is still the best resource for finding the various scary movies in our collection.

But what if you want to dig deeper? For the hardcore horror aficionados – as well as anyone who wants to get a good horror movie without leaving their dorm – we wish to direct your attention to Horrortheque.

Horrortheque collects public domain horror movies (essentially, ones for which the copyright has lapsed) and provides videos of them where available. Many films released in the 1930s or earlier have entered the public domain, but others as recent as the 1980s are also freely available. Some of them, like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, are stone-cold classics. Horrortheque grabs many of its videos from public YouTube uploads, many of which have been removed, so their availability within the site is a little iffy. But once you have the names, they should be readily accessible via a quick Google search.

This is a fun site for horror enthusiasts and film history buffs looking for something seasonal that's a little less trodden. The public domain overflows with of all sorts of film oddities, and there's perhaps no better time to dive in than during a holiday about the mysterious and scary.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Get to know Docuseek2, now with new films!

Have you visited Docuseek2 lately? Do you know about Docuseek2? They've put up a whole slew of new content, so now is a good chance to introduce (or reintroduce) you to one of our most exciting streaming video partners. Docuseek2 streams films produced by Icarus Films and Bullfrog Films, two major distributors with a reputation for high-quality documentaries.

We recognize that large streaming video databases can be a little hit-or-miss sometimes, but Docuseek2 is special. Every film is worth watching. We certainly consider many of the films in Docuseek2 – including The Age of Stupid, King Corn, Detropia, and Goodbye Mubarak! – to be among the best in our collection. All of this is free to access if you are American University student, staff, or faculty. We always encourage you to explore our streaming video resources, but consider Docuseek2 a first stop for video in your research and instruction.

Docuseek2 is continuously adding new titles, and American University just gained access to a whole slew of them, like Nanjing, Code Gray, and How Putin Came to Power. You can see highlights from their newest acquisitions on their New Releases page (though several of these may not yet be available via American University's subscription).

This is definitely one of the best video resources accessible through the AU Library. We're very proud of our physical collection, but we also can't wait to see where Docuseek2 grows from here. Seriously consider looking into the new items in their streaming archives; we're certainly excited!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Read the Music Library's review of Minor Threat Live

Our collection has a healthy number of films about music, musicians, and the music industry, so we like to collaborate with our friends over in the Music Library to promote them. Jesse, one of the student workers in the Music Library has been reviewing some of our music DVDs; last week he wrote about our compilation of Minor Threat performances from the 1980s in and around DC (HU DVD 4394).

We'll let Jesse's review speak for itself. Head over to the Music Library blog and see what he has to say about Minor Threat and the role of their show in the history of the DC hardcore punk scene.

Monday, October 06, 2014

"I've got good news!" Twin Peaks will triumphantly return in 2016

We usually don't like to comment on ultra-recent entertainment news, but we make exceptions for stories as big as the return of Twin Peaks. Co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost announced today that the cult classic, which enraptured and infuriated a generation that later tried to warn everyone about Lost, will return in 2016 for a limited third season. Laura Palmer warned viewers at the end of the original series that they'd see her again in 25 years, and it looks like that prophecy has come to pass.

Even decades after the end of the show and the release of its equally confusing film adaptation, Twin Peaks remains a touchstone for serialized television and the template from which True Detective, The X-Files, Fringe, and many similar shows emerged. Fans and casual viewers have misgivings about the second season, which took a dip in quality after David Lynch's departure, but any additional Twin Peaks is frankly a blessing.

Two years is a while to wait, but we figure that's long enough to relive the original run of Twin Peaks in real-time. We have both seasons (HU DVD 14069 - 14070) and the movie spinoff, Fire Walk with Me (HU DVD 5760). If you watch an episode ever other week, that should carry you over for a while.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Tiananmen Square documentaries provide context for current Hong Kong protests

If you've paid attention to international news recently, you may be aware of the large-scale protests (and subsequent government crackdown) occurring in Hong Kong over proposed election reforms that could prevent opposition candidates from seeking office. To outside observers, the so-called "Umbrella Revolution" is turning out distressingly similarly to the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989. We won't pretend to be experts on what's happening right now, but if you wish understand the context of these protests, we want to emphasize the importance of China's uneven history with freedom of expression.

From the famous "Democracy Wall" to the more obscene "grass mud horse," Chinese citizens have for decades struggled to make their voices heard amidst a regime that is has repeatedly been demonstrated hostility to dissident voices. The massacre at Tiananmen Square is perhaps the most visible demonstration of the Chinese government's clash with protestors, and many documentaries have been produced about its causes and effects.

Back in June, we posted a list of films in our collection about the events in Tiananmen Square; it is deeply troubling that this post is once again relevant. We've produced this list again below for your convenience. We encourage you to watch them for a greater understanding of how the current movement is another episode in China's persistent struggle with democratic ideals.

The China Story – VHS 2280
Declassified: Tiananmen Square – Streaming video
The Gate of Heavenly Peace – DVD 10735
The Gate of Heavenly Peace: Tiananmen Square, June 4th, 1989 – Streaming video
Moving the Mountain – VHS 4590
Reform in Crisis: The Aftermath of Tiananmen – VHS 3251 no. 1
The Tank Man – DVD 2251
The Tiananmen Hostage: Fang Lizhi – Streaming video
Tragedy at Tiananmen: The Untold Story – DVD 11328