Thursday, April 23, 2015

After 30 years, New Coke is still a black mark in marketing history

from Coca-Cola: The Real Story Behind the Real Thing

Thirty years ago today, Coca-Cola unveiled New Coke, a Pepsi-like formula that replaced the original Coca-Cola in stores. In retrospect, this is regarded as one of the worst marketing decisions in history. Fans considered the change a betrayal and stockpiled the classic Coke in an act of consumer protest. The Coca-Cola Company relented and re-introduced the original formula within three months, saving Coke from long-term brand damage.

If you were born after the 80s, you probably never encountered New Coke (or Coke II, as it was later named). Luckily, the frantic media coverage of the Coke switch-up ensures that we have some documentation of the fallout. We found a good segment from Films on Demand about the release of New Coke and its competition with Pepsi; it's short, but it gets to the point and shows the extreme value of the Coca-Cola brand.

It might also be useful to catch up a bit on the importance of branding and image – and why Coca-Cola frantically moved to maintain them. To this end, we offer three streaming documentaries that specifically discuss Coca-Cola iconography: Power of Brands, Understanding Brands, and In Brands We Trust. Each runs under an hour and can be viewed from your choice of device as long as you long in with your AU library account.

The New Coke debacle will likely be discussed for decades in business courses as a prime example of well-intentioned marketing gone awry. We're glad there's video evidence of this calamity, and today is a great time to revisit it through our streaming collections

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day! Say hi to Mother Nature with environmental films

Happy Earth Day, one and all! The AU Library and Media Services take pride in our commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, and we hope our patrons learn about sustainability and green living too.

If you're looking for some entertaining eco-conscious film choices for Earth Day, we have a resource for you! Last year, Media Librarian Chris Lewis put together a filmography for environmental studies which doubles as a handy list of all our films about going green. Some, like The Age of Stupid (streaming video), are documentaries about the impact of our actions on the environment. Others are a little more fun, like YERT (HU DVD 10863), the story of three friends on a green-themed road trip.

We realize that Earth Day can be associated with lecturing about keeping the planet safe for the next generation, so we think some of these green films are a great way to make the day entertaining while still informative. Many of them are streaming, so you won't even have to leave your room to watch them.

And yes, of course we have Captain Planet available. The power – and the first season – is yours! (HU DVD 8841)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Television's reign of visual media continues, bleeds into film festivals

Even in a post-Breaking Bad and nearly-post-Mad Men landscape, television continues to assert its cultural dominance. More directors and actors turn to television for a chance to tell experimental or long-form stories, and the film world has unsurprisingly taken notice. In the latest sign of this explosive growth and relevance, the Toronto International Film Festival is changing tune and including television shows in its regular lineup for the first time.

TIFF is billing this new selection as Primetime, a roster of six shows from around the world that highlight the increasing quality of international television programming. TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey is direct in his praise of television, noticing that "film and television have been converging for years, with many filmmakers gravitating to television to experiment with that medium." It's a bold statement – both the words and the gesture – that suggests the staying power of television's seeming golden age.

Submissions for TIFF are still open, so we can't tell you what they'll be highlighting just yet.

Television has come a long way in public and critical esteem since HBO premiered The Sopranos (many critics consider this the medium's turning point.) We wouldn't be surprised to see other festivals add television episodes to their lineups in the coming years.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Too nice to stay indoors? Come to the Media pop-up library!

We're about halfway into April, and we know that it's gorgeous outside. (Well, except today, since it's raining.) Even with finals season approaching and forcing everyone into their study bunkers, we'd all rather be outside. We see you, Frisbee players! We envy you!

We want to go where our patrons are, so for one day only, we're taking Media Services outside!

On April 14th from 2pm to 5pm, we're setting up a table on the quad outside of the Mary Graydon Center and checking out movies to anyone passing by. We're still working out logistics, but we're going to bring up a decent selection of our newest titles for checkout. No strings attached to this: bring your AU ID, and you can check items out just like you're in the library.

This is the second pop-up stand the AU Library has hosted; the Music Library set the standard with their pop-up library in February last year.

We'll send out another update once we're closer to the event. See you on the quad!

Friday, April 10, 2015

See sci-fi drama Ex Machina with director Alex Garland

Science fiction screenwriter Alex Garland makes directorial debut in theaters today with Ex Machina, a futuristic drama starring future Star Wars co-stars Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac about artificial intelligence. The movie has mostly glowing reviews so far, which bodes well for Garland's transition from the writing desk to the director's chair. If you want to pry his mind a little, we have an opportunity for you...

Alex Garland will be at Landmark E Street Cinema next Tuesday for a special screening of Ex Machina. Although we don't have details about what will happen at this screening, we imagine there will be a Q&A or guided discussion with the director. Garland's career trajectory is putting him on the path to being a big name in science fiction film, so take advantage of this opportunity!

The event takes place at Landmark E Street Cinema on Tuesday, April 14th. Unlike many screenings that we offer passes for, you'll have to RSVP for this one. Send an email to in advance to indicate that you'll be attending. We'll see you there!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The A.V. Club names their eclectic, contentious list of the best films of the '10s

2015 marks the halfway point of the decade, and given our itchy need for instant gratification, why not do some retrospectives now instead of waiting until 2020?

All week, the pop culture aficionados at The A.V. Club have been posting the results of a highly debated internal poll to determine the top 100 best movies released so far this decade. "The largest film poll The A.V. Club has ever attempted" apparently uses rigorous survey methods to determine the top choices. We really want to know the methodology, because their list – especially the top 20 – is startlingly varied.

You can read parts 1, 2, and 3 on The A.V. Club's site. We're sure you'll disagree with many placements (ranking The Master as the top film of the decade is bold), but we love the audacious selections here. You can't sum up this list better than looking at its #20 and #19 choices: Cannes-favorite Iranian drama Certified Copy and comic-book-based action-comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

We're very proud to have all but one of The A.V. Club's top 20 in our collection (Two Days, One Night is not yet available on DVD in the United States).

#1: The Master – HU DVD 11009
#2: A Separation – HU DVD 10336
#3: The Tree Of Life – HU DVD 9230
#4: Frances Ha – HU DVD 4507
#5: The Act Of Killing – HU DVD 11069
#6: Boyhood – HU DVD 11713
#7: Dogtooth – HU DVD 8089
#8: Under The Skin – HU DVD 11598
#9: The Social Network – HU DVD 7969
#10: Before Midnight – HU DVD 1100
#11: The Grand Budapest Hotel – HU DVD 11444
#12: Margaret – HU DVD 10302
#13: Holy Motors – HU DVD 11008
#14: Her – HU DVD 11340
#15: Inside Llewyn Davis – HU DVD 11235
#16: Two Days, One Night (unavailable)
#17: Whiplash – HU DVD 11897
#18: Winter's Bone – HU DVD 7696
#19: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – HU DVD 5070
#20: Certified Copy – HU DVD 10031

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

SOC's International Cinema Series concludes Friday with British film

Back in the fall, SOC teamed up with the National Gallery of Art to kick off the International Cinema Series, a year-long roster of world cinema screenings and discussions. Over the course of the academic year, the series has covered Italy, China, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Brazil.

This Friday, the International Cinema Series wraps up with Ken Loach's Spirit of '45, a documentary about changes in the United Kingdom after the end of World War II. Prior to the screening, SOC will host a reception featuring guest speaker Paul Smith, Director of the US British Council and Cultural Counselor at the British Embassy. These NGA events have been terrific so far, and we expect this one to be great too.

The reception begins at 6:30pm on Friday, April 10th near the Forman Theater in MGC. The film will begin at 7pm.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

For real? Furious 7 carries the torch for practical effects in movies

The latest entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise is apparently on-track to crush April box office records. There's a plethora of reasons why the series has been so successful – this entry in particular attracting attention after the death of actor Paul Walker – but its greatest asset might be its continued use real, practical effects. In era when films can use CGI to portray all manner of spectacle (something that audiences no longer find as appealing), the Fast and the Furious movies still use real cars and real stuntwork. Yes, even Furious 7's ridiculous cars-falling-out-of-a-plan scene actually happened.

HitFix quickly points out that despite the recent glut of CGI, Furious 7 is only the most recent movie to use practical effects in stunning ways. Writer Emily Rome points out twelve other examples – some recent, some quite old – when filmmakers did the real thing instead of faking it. Our favorite tidbit? Christopher Nolan actually upended a truck in Chicago's financial district for The Dark Knight. And the Red Sea in the 1956's The Ten Commandments came as close to parting as possible: effects workers simulated the scene by reversing footage of a studio tank filling up from the sides.

The human eye can somehow tell when something is computer-animated. Films like the ones mentioned by HitFix might have cost more to produce, but they undeniably pack powerful that you can't get from rendering software. Pick up the DVDs for any of those films and check out the special features for more in-depth looks at how they pulled off their madness.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

All the President's Men wins Washingtonian's bracket; SOC professor has some choice words

In February, we reported on the Washingtonian's bracket to determine the most "DC" movie of all time. Much to our sadness, the Mr. T-starring DC Cab did not win, but top honors went to the classic Watergate drama All the President's Men. AtPM beat out lobbyist ode Thank You for Smoking for the top prize, also knocking out presidential dramas Lincoln and The American President along the way.

Not everyone is happy with the top choice though, especially not SOC professor W. Joseph Campbell. Professor Campbell's objects that the film glossed over the many other forces in Washington that contributed to the unraveling of Nixon's presidency, including criminal investigators and the courts. Dubious mythmaking aside, we love the movie (sorry Professor), but we agree that in the spirit of the competition, it doesn't do service to the other institutions in DC.

Professor Campbell suggests the Nixon parody comedy Dick as an alternative winner, but of the other choices on the bracket. We might have also gone for Burn After Reading, if only for actually shooting at Constitution Gardens.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

What is world cinema? American's Cinema UC answers

Under the preview of film professor Jeff Middents (friend of Media Services), AU's Critical Approach to Cinema University College group has helped on-board new undergraduate students into the world of cinema studies. This year, as a capstone project, Middents asked his UC group to make sense of contemporary world cinema. The UC students produced a series of critical video essays about films from twelve different countries – and they're available to watch right now!

Head to the Contemporary World Cinema Project's YouTube page for a look at what these students have been working on. The project covers a great range of countries, from Australia to Argentina to North Korea (yes, North Korea!). For many of the participants, this was their first time editing a video project, and they make great use of selected clips from their film subjects.

We've embedded a playlist of all the video essays above. Each one runs six or seven minutes, putting the running time at just about the length of a Disney movie. Give them a watch, and leave some comments for these up-and-coming film scholars!