Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learn a language, then watch a movie

You may have noticed that the AU Library recently subscribed to Pronunciator, a Rosetta Stone-style language learning service that is now available free for AU students. The service includes a huge range of languages, everything from the popular ones offered in classes (Arabic, Spanish, etc.) to the lesser-learned (like Macedonian or Xhosa). Pronunciator's two-month courses focus on learning practical language skills for travel, a boon for AU's typically world-hopping student body. No Esperanto sadly, but you're not likely to travel somewhere that speaks Esperanto natively.

The promote this new service, we have a little display in the front lobby of some of the library's foreign language collections. We curated some of our favorite non-English-language films and televisions hows and added them to the showcase, as shown in the picture above.

In case you wanted to check any of these out, we included the full list below. If you learn Japanese, getting to watch The Calamari Wrestler is your ultimate reward.

City of God (Portuguese) – HU DVD 849
In the Mood for Love (Cantonese) – HU DVD 1520
Man Push Cart (Urdu) – HU DVD 2762
Offside (Farsi) – HU DVD 3759
Night Watch (Russian) – HU DVD 4211
A Matter of Size (Hebrew) – HU DVD 4515
Chico & Rita (Spanish) – HU DVD 5477
Satin Rouge (Arabic) – HU DVD 6175
Gomorrah (Italian) – HU DVD 6687
Free Men (French) – HU DVD 7775 
Night of Truth (French, Dioula, Moore) – HU DVD 8046
Macho Dancer (Tagalog) – HU DVD 8178
Soul Kitchen (German) – HU DVD 8390
The Calamari Wrestler (Japanese) – HU DVD 8851
Tokyo Drifter (Japanese) – HU DVD 9060
Ali Zaoua (Arabic) – HU DVD 9095
Chak De! (Hindi) – HU DVD 10273
Touki Bouki (Wolof) – DVD 11202
Secret Garden (Korean) – HU DVD 11459
Trollhunter (Norwegian) – HU DVD 11619

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Have a doubleplusgood Orwell Day!

Two years ago, the George Orwell estate declared January 21st "Orwell Day" in commemoration of the anniversary of the renowned political author's death. It's a relatively new holiday – this is only the third one – but we can't help but get in the holiday spirit anyway. The significance of Orwell's work speaks for itself, and the continued relevance of his namesake adjective in current events demonstrates the long shadow cast by his legacy.

Rather than throw you a list of every film we have involving George Orwell, we'll simply recommend one: George Orwell: A Concise Biography. This half-hour streaming video covers Orwell's life in career with brisk pace, touching on his education, travels, writing, and involvement in politics. If you're taking a lunch break, this is a great way to cram in some Orwell appreciation before the day is up.

Do your part to make this fledgling holiday a "thing"! There's nothing Orwell would have loved more than cultural hegemony, right?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Behold the wonderful insanity of Japanese Spider-Man

Just for fun, we're gonna share something really weird. Marvel Studios has slowly been expanding its line-up television programming, starting with Agents of SHIELD and quickly expanding with Agent Carter and Daredevil. There's plenty to discuss about the business of high-budget television and the current wave of genre shows that we're experiencing, but we're not talking about that today.

Today, we want to share the 1978 Japanese Spider-Man show.

The show, often literally translated as "Supaidaman," has previously only been available in the United States as a bootleg VHS or DVD. But to celebrate a recent comic tie-in with the show, Marvel released two episodes via streaming video, making it legally watchable for the first time. Apart from the usual costume and wall-climbing antics, it has very little to do with Spider-Man. For one, Spider-Man has a gun and rides around in a giant robot named Leopardon. It's highly watchable and extremely bizarre, surely ranking among the least faithful television adaptations ever.

We didn't have a good reason to share this other than finding it really funny. We tend to share informative or serious articles, so once in a while, you need some Japanese Spider-Man. If you ever want to watch some normal Spider-Man with fewer giant robots, we have the original film trilogy and the Andrew Garfield reboot in our collection.

Spider-Man – HU DVD 7121
Spider-Man 2 – HU DVD 7122
Spider-Man 3 – HU DVD 7123
The Amazing Spider-Man – HU DVD 6493

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Observe MLK with a free screening of King: A Filmed Record

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday for reflection and service. If you planned to celebrate the holiday through film, perhaps the most obvious choice is to see Selma, which plays throughout DC (including at the Avalon and Mazza Gallerie theaters close to American). Reviews are spectacular, and squabbling over historical accuracy aside, it's likely a must-see.

But there's another option if you're looking for something more educational and historical. On Monday at 1:45pm, the AFI Silver in Silver Spring will host a free screening of King: A Filmed Record, an epic three-hour documentary about Dr. King's legacy from the Montgomery bus boycotts to his assassination in Memphis. Originally intended to be shown only once in 1970, the film is now considered a classic and one of the most significant documentaries of the civil rights movement.

We're very excited to see so many relevant films being screened in DC for the weekend, especially given the unfortunate, racially tinged incidents of the past year. If you aren't out volunteering or such tomorrow, consider stopping by a local theater to see either of these great films.

In case you miss King, we have a DVD copy in our collection (HU DVD 2801).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Everything is Oscars! See the Academy Award nominees that have hit DVD

Earlier today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for this year's Oscars ceremony. It's a solid if unsurprising list: Birdman and Boyhood earned big nods, and Jake Gyllenhaal is sadly nowhere in sight. For a full list of nominees that you'll have to start learning the names of, check out the Washington Post's list.

(ADDENDUM: One of our staff members points out that this is the whitest and most male Oscar ceremony in decades. No women are nominated in the major awards outside of the actress categories; Iñárritu is the only person of color in those categories. Somewhat a letdown considering the diversity among directors and writers this year.)

Most of the nominated films were released in the last few months, as tends to happen for award-seeking movies, so very few are available on DVD yet. We have a few in process (Boyhood, Gone Girl, and Guardians of the Galaxy are on their way...), but a handful of the foreign and documentary films have already seen home video release. And to be honest, those are the ones you probably needed to watch anyway.

There'll probably be repertoire theaters replaying some of the nominees in the coming weeks, but if you find yourself in the library, consider watching these award contenders in advance of the big ceremony.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – HU DVD 11444
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design

The Lego Movie – HU DVD 11466
Nominated for Best Original Song

Ida – HU DVD 11538
Nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film

Finding Vivian Maier – HU DVD 11547
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Maleficent – HU DVD 11584
Nominated for Best Costume Design

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Внимание! Preview the next season of The Americans at the Spy Museum (21+)

We like to offer passes to upcoming film events, but even the best of those (like one in which Jake Gyllenhaal apparently took selfies with everyone in the audience) are restricted to traditional theater and Q&A settings. You may ask: do we have anything classier to offer?

Just for you, discerning patron, we're proud to announce our first-ever passes to a 21+ event and reception!

Next Tuesday, January 20th at 7pm, the Spy Museum will host an advance screening of the upcoming season of FX's acclaimed Cold War drama The Americans. The screening includes a free tour of the museum (typically $22) as well as free hors d'ourves and, yes, an open bar. This event is of course restricted to attendees over the age of 21.

(NOTE: The tickets list a different starting time, but the event does indeed start at 7pm. Don't be fooled! This is likely a KGB trick.)

Redeem your two-person pass online here. Given the age restriction, there's a small registration required before you can get your passes. You'll want to show up early, as usual, especially since this is such a swanky affair that'll undoubtedly bring out a big crowd.

Hopefully see you then, товарищ!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A behind-the-scenes look at how colorists change raw video into beautiful film

Much of the credit for the filmmaking process understandably goes to the directors, cinematographers, and editors, but many technicians work with film behind the scenes to create the final images that you see on screen. This is especially true for colorists. Notable films such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? use extensive color correction to suggest a different era and aesthetic, but that role has grown now that digital is the default film format. Colorists increasingly deal with raw film to which they add their own lighting and tone, dramatically altering the appearance of the final product.

We rarely get a chance to see raw film from commercial products (it's not like Marvel is going to release the rough cut of The Avengers), so it's surprising and exciting to see an independent filmmaker lay their entire coloring process bare. This horror film in this video, The House on Pine Street, provided plenty of opportunities for colorist Taylre Jones to play with dramatic, high-contrast lighting and color levels. You can see how the film's appearance changes with each step of the process, moving from washed out to crisp and colorful.

Videos like this help you appreciate the less-appreciated work that happens in post-productions that make films pop. This technique has of course seen some backlash, especially in recent blockbusters that overblow their teal and orange levels. But it's a neat peek into a filmmaking skill that's often ignored.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ferris Bueller and The Dude join this year's National Film Registry list

While everyone was out over break, the Library of Congress continued tradition by adding 25 new titles to its permanent archives in the National Film Registry. Each year, the National Film Preservation Board selects films that it deems "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" for preservation for future generations. It's an eclectic collection that spans decades and genres, and this year's additions are similarly well-rounded.

The highest-profile films in the NFR's latest wave include stoner-bowling-mystery-comedy The Big Lebowski, World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, 80s teen wish fulfillment vehicle Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Pixar's first ever short, Luxo Jr. But there are also odder gems beyond that, like 13 Lakes, a long-take documentary about America's lakes, and the untitled Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day, the first film to feature an all-black cast.

You certainly can't fault the National Film Preservation Board for picking some interesting films. If you'd like to catch up on what the government now considers essential, the following recently selected films are also in our collection:

The Big Lebowski – HU DVD 25
Into the Arms of Strangers – DVD 305
Little Big Man – HU DVD 650
Saving Private Ryan – HU DVD 1313
Luxo Jr. – HU DVD 3411
Rosemary's Baby – HU DVD  5783
Down Argentine Way – HU DVD 6094
Ferris Bueller's Day Off – HU DVD 6126
Rio Bravo – HU DVD 7326
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – HU DVD 10240
The Gang's All Here – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 300