Monday, June 29, 2015

Spy a few movies in Crystal City on Mondays

Summer is the season for free outdoor film screenings, and with seemingly every neighborhood and area in DC now hosting its own business improvement district, there's no shortage of places to see a movie outside on a big screen. We felt like pointing out one of the bigger festivals happening in the city, Crystal City's annual Crystal Screen series. Every year since 2007, the Crystal City BID has hosted a specially themed film series, and this year, they're devoting the summer to espionage.

We're a little late to this one; the Crystal Screen events started in June, but they're continuing every Monday night all the way through the end of August. Next week, July begins with RED. Argo and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follow through the rest of the month. The series is co-sponsored by the International Spy Museum, which will be handing out free swag and hosting spy-related activities before a few of the movies.

If you've never attending an outdoor movie screening in DC before, the Crystal Screen series is a great place to start. These are probably the most fun summer film events in the city!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How did movie trailers evolve into tiny blockbusters?

Internet nerd-dom had an outrage flashpoint recently when trailers for the upcoming movie Terminator: Genisys revealed multiple major plot twists, effectively spoiling what may have been the most interesting (or only interesting?) parts of the movie. Contrast that with the ominous trailer for the first Terminator movie. How did we go from brief teasers to mini-movies that leave out everything but the ending?

Culture website Hopes & Fears put together an excellent, extended article exploring the timeline of  the movie trailer and, drawing on other writing by film critics and experts, figuring out how film trailers became their own industry in miniature. Author Matthew Schimkowi presents a convincing chronology, starting from their origins as advertisements for serials and following all the way up to the advent of the Inception "BWAAAM" noise. Influential individual trailers get mentioned too, including The Public Enemy, Jaws and Dr. Strangelove. By 2015, he argues, the familiar trailer structure for conveying characters and plot arcs has become its own form of entertainment.

This is a highly recommended read for people interested in the film business, but we warn you that it might ruin trailers for you in the future. You'll be the one yelling about "turn lines" the next time you go to the movies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Acquisitions - June 2015 - Part 2

As promised, here's our second batch of new titles from June. The most obvious major acquisitions are the remaining seasons of the first decade of The Simpsons that we didn't already own. Woop-woop-woop!

Artsier types might enjoy our additions from The Journal of Short film or Goodbye to Language, Jean-Luc Godard's first film in 3D. (Our copy includes a 3D Blu-ray, but we don't have any 3D screens to play it on. If you own one for some reason, be our guest!)

And if you're looking for a crowdpleaser for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, your clear choice is Drunk History, Comedy Central's American history series narrated by intensely drunk amateur storytellers. You haven't truly heard the story of The Star-Spangled Banner until you hear it slurred.

Home Use Collection:

Three Colors, Blue – HU DVD 2137
Three Colors, White – HU DVD 2138
Three Colors, Red – HU DVD 2139
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 17: Fall 2009 – HU DVD 3727
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 18: Winter 2010 – HU DVD 3728
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 19: Spring 2010 – HU DVD 3729
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 20: Summer 2010 – HU DVD 3730
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 21: Fall 2010 – HU DVD 3731
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 22: Winter 2011 – HU DVD 3732
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 23: Spring 2011 – HU DVD 3733
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 24: Summer 2011 – HU DVD 3734
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 25: Fall 2011 – HU DVD 3735
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 26: Winter 2012 – HU DVD 3736
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 27: Spring 2012 – HU DVD 3737
The Journal of Short Film, Volume 28: Summer 2012 – HU DVD 3738
Made in L.A. = Hecho en Los Angeles – HU DVD 4656
Begin Again – HU DVD 11979
Aida – HU DVD 12014
The Cosmic Man – HU DVD 12054
Strangers from Venus – HU DVD 12055
The Flying Saucer – HU DVD 12056
Il Trovatore – HU DVD 12059
The Lusty Men – HU DVD 12077
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem – HU DVD 12078
Code Black – HU DVD 12189
Crossing Delancey – HU DVD 12203
Diplomacy – HU DVD 12204
Last Days in Vietnam – HU DVD 12205
17 Moments of Spring – HU DVD 12206
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – HU DVD 12209
Cathedral – HU DVD 12210
Coonskin – HU DVD 12212
Let Your Feet Do the Talkin' – HU DVD 12215
Paddington – HU DVD 12216
Mr. Turner – HU DVD 12217
Still Alice – HU DVD 12218
The Immigrant – HU DVD 12220
Goodbye to Language: 3D – HU BLU 12211
Selma – HU DVD 12221
Winter Sleep – HU DVD 12223
Wolf Hall – HU DVD 12224
Overnighters – HU DVD 12225
Watchers of the Sky – HU DVD 12226
Le Silence de la Mer – HU DVD 12227
The Johnstown Flood – HU DVD 12228
The Beguiled – HU DVD 12229
Welcome to LA – HU DVD 12230
The Fly – HU DVD 12232
Wizards – HU DVD 12233
Gods and Monsters – HU DVD 12234
Mighty Aphrodite – HU DVD 12235
Maidan  – HU DVD 12236
Reflections in a Golden Eye – HU DVD 12237


Drunk History, Season 1 – HU DVD 11975
Drunk History, Season 2 – HU DVD 11976
Fortitude, Season 1 – HU DVD 12213
The Simpsons, Season 4 – HU DVD 14327
The Simpsons, Season 5 – HU DVD 14328
The Simpsons, Season 6 – HU DVD 14329
The Simpsons, Season 7 – HU DVD 14330
The Simpsons, Season 8 – HU DVD 14331
The Simpsons, Season 9 – HU DVD 14332
The Simpsons, Season 10 – HU DVD 14333

In-Library Titles:

Stromboli – BLU 11972
Europe '51 – BLU 11973
Journey to Italy – BLU 11974
In Bed with the Arab Spring – DVD 12060
No Fire Zone – DVD 12075
What is Catholicism? – DVD 12084
The Greatest Management Principle in the World – DVD 12086
A Clone of Frogs – DVD 12090
Budapest: Communism with Tanks – DVD 12099
Iacocca: An American Profile – DVD 12100
Depression: The Shadowed Valley – DVD 12161
NOW with Bill Moyers, November 22, 2002 – DVD 12162
NOW with Bill Moyers, April 4, 2003 – DVD 12163
Wall Street: Money, Greed, Power – DVD 12164
The Yellow Gash: John-Paul Sartre on Tintoretto – DVD 12165
The Wall Street Fix – DVD 12172
Academy Award Winners: Animated Short Films – DVD 12173
Will There Always be an England? – DVD 12175
Betrayal – DVD 12182
Moliere – DVD 12186
Streetwise – DVD 12207
Being with John F. Kennedy – DVD 12208

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

RIP James Horner

We're shocked and saddened by news of the untimely death of James Horner, Academy Award-winning composer of classic soundtracks for films including Apollo 13, Titanic, Braveheart, The New World, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Horner was a world-class composer whose works are among the best in film; he was still an active composer and enhanced every movie he scored. His death is a significant loss to the medium.

Listen to his contributions to any of his films below for a reminder of the enormous talent we've lost.

Apollo 13 – HU DVD 529
Aliens – HU DVD 886
Glory – HU DVD 1171
Testament – HU DVD 1665
The New World – HU DVD 1963
The Name of the Rose – HU DVD 2106
Titanic – HU DVD 2290 
Apocalypto – HU DVD 4052
Braveheart – HU DVD 4787
Troy – HU DVD 6200 
Avatar – HU DVD 7045
An American Tail – HU DVD 7796
Hocus Pocus – HU DVD 7852
The Pelican Brief – HU DVD 7936

All the King's Men – HU DVD 3662
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – HU DVD 9732
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – HU DVD 9733
The Mask of Zorro – HU DVD 10750 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

AFIDOCS is underway!

Time for a quick PSA: the annual AFIDOCS documentary film festival kicked off yesterday! AFIDOCS is a terrific, half-week-long, city-spanning event that showcases new documentary features and shorts from around the world.

Visit the AFIDOCS website for a list of where and when everything will be playing. Many of these documentaries will screen at the AFI's flagship theater in Silver Spring, but other theaters throughout the city are participating if you don't feel like making the trek on the Red Line.

If we have to play favorites with this year's assemblage, we would pick The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up to The Act of Killing) and Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, which examines the history of women in computer programming.

Buy your tickets in advance if you can. These screenings will sell out!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Watching all of Star Wars at once is a surrealist nightmare

We understand that the Star Wars movies have exciting stories, loveable characters, and terrific sound editing. Forgive us if, for the remainder of the day, we remember it as a video art provocation that almost gave us a headache.

Archer animator Marcus Rosentrater created Star Wars Wars (embedded above), a mashup of all six of the current Star Wars movies into two hours of total cinematic chaos. Iconic scenes flit in and out of view, often covered by lightsabers, bright lights, sand dunes, or subtitles. Sound effects and now-incomprehensible dialogue slam together into a Star Wars-approximating white noise. People often lazy call any psychedelic or surreal experience a drug trip, but this is legitimately close.

Enjoy before it's taken down... and grab some Motrin or Dramamine.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Even in booming China, independent filmmakers struggle for funding and attention

Last month, we posted about the iffy state of film and television production credits in the United States. You might assume that the recent boom of China's film industry has created a new market for incentives overseas, but evidently, the purse strings are tight there as well.

Although major Hollywood "co-productions" like Iron Man 3 and the most recent Transformers movie receiving full support, The New York Times reports that young aspiring filmmakers in China have trouble finding funding and support for their work. Many of the Times's interviewees attest that there is a large market for films by and for younger audiences, but few distributors and festival organizers seem interested in tapping that vein. Films by first-time directors are less commercially enticing than Transformers, and the filmmakers responsible often don't have the professional experience necessary to make their case for funding.

The article also dives into the interesting generational structure used to describe Chinese film history, and that's certainly at play in young Chinese filmmakers' struggles for attention and success.

China may be on track to become the world's largest film market by 2018, but their independent filmmakers still face the same challenges as our SOC grads.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Head back to dino-school before seeing Jurassic World

 What will blow up the box office this summer? Dino might.

...okay, fine, we're sorry. The point is that Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, is going to be monstrously successful this weekend. Nearly every child of a certain age became obsessed with dinosaurs at the same time because of Jurassic Park. In fact, we're certain you can still name your favorite dinosaur.

We want to stoke that excitement again. So in addition to promoting our Jurassic Park movie collection (specifically the bonus disc that came with the trilogy box set, DVD 4904), we want to talk about our educational dinosaur videos. A catalog search turns up over fifty dinosaur-related items in our collection; here are a few highlights to get your dino-juices flowing.

(All these videos are available to watch streaming via the library catalog.)

  • Dino Death Trap: Take a close look at a Pompeii-type graveyard of dinosaur species trapped in lava – and well-preserved!
  • Dino Revolution: This video from 2000 sheds light on then-recent discoveries linking dinosaurs to birds
  • How to Build a Dinosaur: Watch up-close as scientists piece together dinosaur skeletons and reveal how they work on these reconstructions.
  • Reconstructing T-Rex: A 2009 documentary about recent discoveries about everyone's favorite giant terrifying apex predator.
  • Dino Math: So this one isn't really about dinosaurs, but it has kids solving math problems with dinosaur manipulatives. We figured this would bring back some good memories.
Early reviews indicate that Jurassic World is exciting but not quite as inspiring as the original. We hope this doesn't prevent a new generation of kids from having their own overly-excited-about-dinosaurs phase. Luckily, we have educational dinosaur content like the videos above the carry the torch.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What do we lose when we revive a TV series?

The next year will see new seasons of Heroes, The X-Files, Coach, Twin Peaks, Prison Break, Full House, and possibly Arrested Development or 24. Television shows long since canceled have found a second life in the increasingly diversified, well-funded world of digital programming. Surely TV fans of a certain generation looks forward to catching up with Agent Cooper and Danny Tanner, but do we risk settling into a cultural rut by revisiting our favorites too often?

Critic Alan Sepinwall tackled this question in an opinion piece yesterday on Hitfix. Sepinwall argues that revisiting an old series is not inherently bad and can often result in some quality television. It helps audiences and networks alike to work with familiar characters and ideas, especially in the current fragmented media climate. But he notes that this has become a crutch in lieu of producing new, original, riskier television. The shows being resurrected, like The X-Files, were once TV's weird outliers, and those chances still need to be taken to ensure the medium's future.

It's appreciated that Sepinwall chose not to rip into television reboots in concept. He notes that the Twin Peaks continuation is among his most anticipated upcoming shows, and when re-runs on Adult Swim garner higher ratings than NBC event programming, there's certainly reason to tap into known properties. This just can't come at the cost of new ideas. After all, what will we reboot ten years from now?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

New Acquisitions - June 2015 - Part 1

As promised, we're going to start updating you about our new acquisitions every two weeks. We just resumed purchasing for the summer, and the latest wave of titles has begun to pour in.

For this most recent batch, our biggest acquisition is the complete run of the Helen Mirren-fronted British crime procedural Prime Supsect. You might also enjoy Tim Burton's artist biopic Big Eyes and the Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice.

Or you could always watch The Young Ones, BBC's short-lived anarchic comedy-musical series that at one point featured a lion tamer.

Home Use Collection:

Walk Cheerfully = Hogaraka ni Ayume – HU DVD 9951
That Night's Wife = Sono Yo no Tsuma – HU DVD 9952
Dragnet Girl = Hijosen no Onna – HU DVD 9953
Where There's a Will There's an A – HU DVD 12081
Giants' First Steps – HU DVD 12155
The Horse Whisperer – HU DVD 12169
The Avant-Garde in Russia, 1910-1930: New Perspectives as Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – HU DVD 12184
Happy Valley – HU DVD 12187
Concerning Violence – HU DVD 12188
Big Eyes – HU DVD 12191
54 – HU DVD 12193
Fire of Kuwait – HU DVD 12194
Americathon – HU DVD 12199
Hey Good Lookin' – HU DVD 12200
Fido – HU DVD 12202
Inherent Vice – HU DVD 12214


Prime Suspect, Series 1 – HU DVD 12031
Prime Suspect, Series 2 – HU DVD 12032
Prime Suspect, Series 3 – HU DVD 12033
Prime Suspect, Series 4 – HU DVD 12034
Prime Suspect, Series 5 – HU DVD 12035
Prime Suspect, Series 6 – HU DVD 12036
Prime Suspect, Series 7 – HU DVD 12037
The Young Ones, Series 1 and 2 – HU DVD 12057

In-Library Titles:

Fate of a Salesman – DVD 12181

Monday, June 08, 2015

Oregon Goonies fans never say die, but they're getting on in years

Beloved 80s adventure movie The Goonies turned 30 last week. That's a milestone you probably didn't know or really care about, much like how you missed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie's 25th anniversary in March.

But it was a big deal in Astoria, Oregon, the small northwest town where The Goonies was filmed. Over the weekend, Astoria welcomed over 10,000 fans (more than their total population) to take part in a weekend of meet-and-greets, panels, and other Goonies-centric events. The big draw this year was a screening at John Warren Field, a high school athletic field featured in the movie that will soon be torn down. Fans also participated in the "One-Eyed Willy Treasure Geocaching Hunt," which is about as crudely modern as a Goonies remake would probably be.

We love when people care way too much about their favorite pop culture, and we're sad that we missed The Goonies anniversary. Only one year left to plan for the Short Circuit celebration!

You can also always check out The Goonies from our collection for a belated celebration (HU DVD 3576).

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The unexpected new life of Black Angel

Two years ago, we first told you about Black Angel, a recently unearthed lost film from 1980. Black Angel was an influential fantasy short film that played before The Empire Strikes Back during its first theatrical run; its practical effects and "step-printed" slow-motion paved the way for movies including Legend and Excalibur. But copies of Black Angel vanished, and even director Roger Christian did not have a copy until a film archivist unearthed a print in late 2012.

Now Black Angel has found a second wind. Earlier in May this year, the film was released for free on YouTube (embedded above), bringing this fantasy short to audiences who never experienced it in theaters. That isn't the end of Black Angel's story either. After receiving an enormously warm response to the re-release, Christian began production of a feature-length remake of Black Angel, tentatively starring Rutger Hauer and John Rhys-Davies.

Consider that this movie was unavailable and almost unknown a few years ago. Black Angel's resurgence is a testament to why film preservation is culturally important.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Pretentious-O-Meter picks out films on the critical-popular divide

Independent and art films are often unfairly criticized as "pretentious." We've all slung that word around to attack a movie at some point, even though we probably enjoy some arty cinema ourselves. But the roots of that insult deserve some additional dissection: is a film really better or worse because critics and film buffs enjoy it more than the layperson?

Pretentious-O-Meter might shed some light on that conundrum. This movie review tool compares ratings from critics and audiences and determines – very unscientifically – which movies are "pretentious" or "mass market." It's fun to see conventional wisdom borne out in numbers: Truffaut's The 400 Blows is 68% pretentious, while The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser is 86% mass market. Each result also includes the movie's overall rating: it might be preferred by critics, but it might also be a bad film.

The site isn't perfect, of course, especially since it only accounts for the reviews around a film's release and not its reception afterwards. Sci-fi mind-bender Primer's initially poor reviews netted it a 54% mass market rating, tied with The Firm, which doesn't make much sense.

As with all big data-driven Internet toys, anything Pretentious-O-Meter outputs should be treated with enormous skepticism. But you might have some fun looking at the statistics behind it and seeing where initial critical responses and later popular reception diverge.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Unearthed transcript reveals the origins of Indiana Jones

The National Geographic Museum downtown recently opened an exhibit about Indiana Jones and the films' connections to actual history. This had us thinking about our favorite tenured action hero. Coincidentally, a link has been making the rounds revealing how Indy got his start – and what he might have been in an early draft.

In 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and writer Lawrence Kasdan sat down to discuss who Indiana Jones was and what his films would be like. Barnes & Noble's Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog provides a good summary of the most interesting parts of a transcript of that meeting, first posted online in 2009. There's mentions of scrapped characters, like an elderly mentor for Indiana who previously assumed the mantle of daring renegade archaeologist. Indiana was also very briefly inspired by Columbo's Peter Falk, and several ideas from the back-and-forth about his adventures ended up in later movies, spinoffs, and media.

(You can also see some of the unfortunately dated politics and language on display when the writers talk about adding "exotic" characters. Nearly forty years have passed since this meeting.)

This transcript is an insightful slice of film development that offers insights into how three of the brightest minds in movies conjured such a memorable character. Only the general idea of an archaeologist in serialized adventures was fully formed; the rest needed hours of discussion. The full conversation is worth committing a day to read. And relevant to the exhibit, it shows how the directors and writers connected real history to a fantastical movie setting.

The finished product is, of course, available in the collection (HU DVD 3251).