Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Watch AU commencement addresses from years past

AU's commencement ceremonies this year featured addresses from notable speakers like CNN's John King and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Luckily, since we live in the era of free high-quality web video, you can watch all those on AU's official YouTube channel.

We've had a lot of exciting commencement speeches in the years before that, so what happened to those? AU has taped the ceremonies for years, and now the AU Library is stepping up to make them available.

Our collection coordinator Molly Hubbs has been hard at work digitizing old commencement tapes and putting videos of the big speeches online for anyone to view for free. The collection is still a work in progress (there's 16 video right now), but you can watch commencement addresses from David Gregory, Diane Rehm, Tim Russert, and others. We expect over 50 videos in the collection when it's complete.

These videos are a cool piece of AU history that you previously couldn't see, now available to the whole AU community with the help of the library. Go ahead, spend a lazy summer afternoon diving back through the school's history.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Some of the great, weird things we found while cleaning out our desks

 Now that we're in the slow months of summer, we have a chance to tidy up our department. A big part of that this summer is cleaning out desks that haven't been emptied in decades and finding all sorts of goodies in them.

Most of what we found was old files, but a few wonderful relics from the past stood out. We shared some of the best to Facebook. The catalogs are pretty amazing (look at all that wood paneling!), but the cassette of a 1984 Ted Kennedy speech at the nearby Methodist church has some real historical value. Luckily the University Archives had already backed it up!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You can own a piece of Mad Men history – even just an ashtray

Prop auctions are so irrationally fun. A pen might be worth a few cents, but if that pen appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, my god, it's worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. The chance to own a small piece of a movie or television show is the chance for a connection to art and characters we love.

Which means that you, too, can buy the box that Peggy's walking with in that GIF.

In commemoration of the year since Mad Men's finale, the show's propmaster Ellen Freund will be auctioning over 1000 props from the show, including typewriters, office decor, and, of course, drink sets. Now you can buy the empty decadence of Sterling Cooper without actually destroying your life and alienating your family!

The auction begins on Wednesday, June 1st, but you can browse the items for sale right now. If you really, really want the model ship on Pete Campbell's desk, it can be yours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An intro to double Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach

In a choice that shocked many critics, director Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for I, Daniel Blake, a drama about a carpenter fighting for disability benefits. This is Loach's second Palme d'Or (a rare feat) after his 2006 Irish War of Independence film The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Already, film critics are debating whether his newest work is too "aggressively Loachian."

...but what does that mean? If you aren't familiar with social advocacy British cinema, you may not have encountered the director before. Ken Loach's films tend to address issues like welfare and labor with a focus on the realistic living conditions of the individuals affected. His 1969 film Kes, about a delinquent child with minimal family support who befriends a falcon, has often been considered one of the greatest British films of all time.

By all descriptions, I, Daniel Blake fits that mold for good or for ill; the filmmaker's work has been criticized as maudlin and unsubtle at its worst. We have a bunch of Loach's films in our collection – he's been active for six decades after all – so you can judge for yourself.

Sweet Sixteen – HU DVD 1133
Bread & Roses – HU DVD 2619
The Navigators – HU DVD 2653
The Wind That Shakes the Barley – HU DVD 3374
The Spirit of '45 – HU DVD 7594
Kes – HU DVD 8370
Ae Fond Kiss... – HU DVD 8803
Raining Stones – HU DVD 10683

Great Directors (interview with Loach) – Streaming video

Monday, May 23, 2016

New to the collection: rare car commercials from great filmmakers

Occasionally, we get an unusual item in the collection that we just have to share with everyone. Sometimes it's just an oddity like Executive Koala (HU DVD 8910), but this time we have a special, unusual DVD with a place in film history.

In 2001, BMW commissioned The Hire, an anthology of eight 10-minute short films starring Clive Owen about the driving features of their cars. They were among the earliest successful branded web video content – and make no mistake, they're commercials.

What makes them special is that each film was directed by arguably one of the greatest film talents working at the time. Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Woo, and others all participated; the names BMW attracted were astounding.

The high profile is also one of the reasons you can't watch them anymore: The Hire was extremely expensive, and BMW opted not to continue hosting the videos. Very few DVD copies exist, and some versions omit one of the films because of a contract stipulation from Forest Whitaker. We got our hands on one of the complete promotional DVDs (DVD 13108), so the AU community will always have access to these lost works by great filmmakers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Media Services at the Movies: Neighbors 2

The summer blockbuster season is here! "Media Services at the Movies" will look at what big movie is coming out this week, then offer a few movies like it from our collection.

Summer movie season is, at last, finally upon us. Although the likely biggest movie of the year (Captain America: Civil War) is already behind us, there are plenty of interesting movies over the new few months that we're eager to find similar recommendations for.

The big movie this week is Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, the Seth Rogen- and Zac Efron-fronted generational comedy sequel. As before, Rogen and Rose Byrne duel with their Greek life neighbors to keep their lives under control, but there's a bit of melancholy to their rivalry. The Neighbors movies are crazy and violent, but they're also about growing, moving on, and finding yourself being the older voice of reason. In the new film, apparently even Efron's bro character finds himself drifting from his old lifestyle.

This might be an odd and controversial pairing, but to go with that introspection on growing older, we recommend a few coming-of-age films about finding yourself untethered after graduation. (We know that more than a few of our patrons will be feeling this soon, too.)

American Graffiti – HU DVD 93
Ghost World – HU DVD 362
Into the Wild – HU DVD 4130
Kicking and Screaming – HU DVD 4842
Tiny Furniture – HU DVD 9713

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Our final count: 672 new DVDs this semester!

As we wrap up the academic year, we want to brag for a second. In a typical semester, we add about 200 or 300 new DVDs. Our collection grew by over 3000 titles in four years, which is a pretty great pace.

According to our stats, during the spring 2016, we added 672 new DVDs to our shelves! That's two-to-three times the normal semester output and almost a full year's worth of additions. Much of this can be chalked up to the huge volume of television we purchased (44 discs of Frasier!).

Our staff worked tirelessly to get these DVDs onto the shelf as quickly as we could, and we're proud of the sheer volume we got through. For television shows, we have to make sure all the episodes play correctly, create cases for each disc so we can circulate them individually, and catalog them so you can find them and check them out. It takes almost everyone in our unit to push these through at the rate we did, so kudos to everyone (especially our student staff, who process the cases) for the job well done.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Frame a Painting turns inward with a look at the editing process

Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos's Every Frame a Painting is one of the best film criticism channels on YouTube. The creators are excellent editors, and the attention they put into the pace and structure of the videos shows.

Appropriately, this month, Every Frame a Painting's new video looks at the editing process. Zhou edits films professionally, but when asked, he has trouble figuring out how to describe the logic behind editing film. As the video describes, it's all about reading the emotions of the scene. Stories have rhythms and natural beats, and you can cut earlier or later to get a different reaction from the audience. Where you cut a shot can make moments land differently, and figuring out what each scene needs is sometimes just a feeling.

We can't put it into words much better, so watch the video for some terrific examples of how different editing techniques can change scenes. The examples from From a Few Dollars More, Taxi Driver, and A Brighter Summer Day are particularly interesting and should give you a great idea of the sort of instinctive rhythm that great editors have.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why do TV characters who love coffee not actually drink coffee?

Want to ruin every television show you'll watch for the next week? Look at the cups people drink coffee from.

Critic Myles McNutt has noticed the prevalence of people drinking coffee on TV. It's an easy way to make characters seem relatable and gives them a reason to stand around or meet together. But something has been bugging him for years: their cups are almost always empty. Actors gesture around with cups that should be splashing around or at least have a little weight.

This is a common production flaw, but rather than mock it, McNutt uses it to make a point about the challenging nature of film production. Filling prop cups with liquid could be a nightmare if they spill, especially if they contain real coffee. In the often tightly budgeted world of television especially, having a realistic Starbucks cup is the lowest priority item.

If you want to play along at home, McNutt started #EmptyCupAwards for people similarly annoyed by this. Just don't get sucked down a black hole of noticing every production shortcut.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What does independent film look like today?

via Maryland Film Festival

The slow roll into summer is the time of year when we start to look at our big-picture tasks, so it seems appropriate to share a big-picture article about the state of film.

For The New Yorker, Richard Brody wrote a lengthy piece about the state of "independent film" and what the term means in 2016. Independent film has always distinguished itself from Hollywood by its open experimentation, as well as by what Brody calls the "perpetual crisis" of needing to find a direction to transform film. In his summary of the Maryland Film Festival, Brody sees the current crisis as a resistance to the entire form of the feature film. Digital distribution and cheap production with phones have outmoded the long-standing system of pitching films at festivals for theatrical release. Can "indie filmmaking" grow past its old habits?

Brody's article profiles a few interesting entries from the Maryland Film Festival, but more importantly, it shows what independent film now looks like from the ground. Filmmakers, producers, and others continue to meet behind closed doors to talk frankly about their industry. There's community, but increasingly, it's one that wants to shake out of its usual structure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Watch Purple Rain for free at the MLK Library tonight

Prince graffiti in Tenleytown
Prince's sudden death last month still comes as a shock, and the public outpouring of grief and remembrance has reminded us of his singular musical talent. In the realm of film, Prince also left four movies of varying quality. While Under the Cherry Moon may not be remembered as more than an oddity, his soundtrack and starring role as The Kid in Purple Rain are beloved contributions to the film canon.

As part of the extended mourning period, the MLK Library downtown will host a free screening of Purple Rain at 6pm. This is part of DC Public Library's ongoing Tuesday Night Movies series. The event room can hold 250 people, so whoever shows up first gets a seat.

If you haven't seen Purple Rain before, now is the right time. This is the movie that established Prince is a superstar.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Graduated and moving onto filmmaking? Kodak may have a deal for you

Congratulations to everyone who graduated this weekend! We have no doubt you'll go on to do great things. In particular, we want to talk to AU's graduating film students, many of whom may be looking to start film projects.

If you're considering going down that path, you might need a little crowdfunding money. And if you need a little crowdfunding money, Kodak has a little bonus for you. For qualifying projects on Kickstarter, Kodak will match 20% of your fundraising in 35mm film stock. It's unclear how Kodak vets the project – we imagine access to a 35mm camera is a requirement – but this is a great offer for anyone considering taking a stab at the format who may have been worried about acquiring physical film.

Unless you're Quentin Tarantino, it can be difficult or expensive to get a whole bunch of film stock. Kodak's new initiative should help get film into the hands of more up-and-coming filmmakers. Could you be one of them? Of course you could! Get that Kickstarter together and patch Kodak an email.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Get ready for DC's outdoor movie season

Photo via Bethesda Urban Partnership
You did it! The semester's over! Despite the overcast, soggy weather, we're officially in the academic summer. For those sticking around DC for the summer (as we are), we'll keep you updated on interesting film events and happenings around town.

As part of our favorite DC summer tradition, communities all around the DMV will be hosting outdoor movie screenings from May through August. No matter where in the area you live, you'll find something interesting to watch one evening. We're most excited about the Congressional Cemetery Cinematery, a movie screening series in a graveyard.

We'll update you about these as they come up, but if you want a master list of what to expect, visit the handy website DC Outdoor Films. The site also mentions which screenings will have captions (hurray accessibility!).

Monday, May 02, 2016

On cinema and hunkiness

As we get closer to the end of the finals, we bring you hunky dudes. More specifically, we bring you an examination of the future outlook of hunky dudes in cinema. (Is there anything academic analysis can't un-sexify?)

Flavorwire's Lara Zarum wrote an insightful post about the changing representation of masculinity in movies. As the film industry pushes for better, more substantive roles for women on-screen, many have noticed an odd corollary of more movies with, to use the article's term, beefcake. Magic Mike is an obvious example of the more sexualized appearances of men, but even Daniel Craig's James Bond is, to quote CBC's Rachel Giese, "both Bond and a Bond girl at the same time."

But as Zarum notices, rather than just being walking abs, these sexualized male characters often remain the subjects and have to deal with their changing relationship with women. She cites Jamie Fraser on Outlander as an example: he's a dreamboat, but he deals with the expectations of his relationship and abuse.

The article is unsure whether these new, more conscientious male character archetypes have a net positive effect, considering they still go hand-in-hand with objectification. But they at least reveal areas that can be explored with closer consideration of gender portrayal.

In the meantime, hunks.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Take film with you over summer break with Kanopy

Three days of finals remain! Summer is close, and we imagine everyone wants to head home as soon as possible. It also means that you won't have access to our gigantic DVD collection.

Fear not: you can still stream a whole bunch of movies through Kanopy. We mentioned Kanopy last year; they have a huge library of streamable movies that you can access with your AU login. Just looking at their homepage, you can watch the George Takei documentary To Be Takei, the classic dinner conversation movie My Dinner with Andre, Hong Kong favorite In the Mood for Love, and the child-traumatizing Watership Down. That's a seriously impressive lineup without even diving deeper into the collection, especially their documentaries.

If you're aching to learn more about film on a day off, you can also watch the entire The Story of Film series through Kanopy. The Story of Film might be the greatest documentary series about the history of motion pictures, and you can binge the entire thing for free on a week off.

It's ironic that as soon as classwork is done and you have the free time to watch things, you're probably moving away from campus. But now you can take at least a big chunk of those films with you through Kanopy. Just remember your username!