Thursday, July 28, 2016

Get a DC Library card to get InstantFlix for free!

DC Public Library's Tenley-Friendship branch is just down the road from us, so we get excited when we can promote their services too. Like audiobooks! AU doesn't have a collection, but the Tenley-Friendship library is just a few blocks away.

Now DC Public is expanding its streaming video collection, which we're happy to promote too! If you have a DC Public Library card, you can now access InstantFlix (also called IndieFlix), a collection of independent movies. InstantFlix is all over the place in a good way: just on the front page, we see a Mythbusters-style reality experiment show, Sundance movies, a Jet Li kung fu movie, PBS documentaries, and something called Angry Nazi Zombies.

InstantFlix also has a "QuickPick" option that tried to give you a recommendation to watch instantly. It's like the movie version of Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. Plus, they have whole categories for cooking videos and campy 80s movies. They have Death Bed: The Bed That Eats! We love that it's highlighting weirder, out-of-the-way stuff.

Once you get your library card (you can register online or in-person), you'll have access to the whole InstantFlix catalog for free. Join, and binge forever

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Would you work for a fictional company? (Don't mind us, we're very tired.)

Alright, listen, we're drained. The weather has been hovering near 100 degrees all week, and after a few weeks of inescapable political talk, we just need something fun and not-heady today. Maybe you do too.

So here's a silly infographic from Euroffice, a British office supply company, rating fictional corporations by how great they'd be as employers. We don't totally agree with their conclusions (Anchorman's news community is too sexist and has way too high of a mortality rate), but it's funny to think about the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from Alien in terms of their pay. Sure, you get ripped in half all the time, but they probably have great benefits

We can think of far worse employers than Office Space's Initech though. The Ministry of Information in Brazil doesn't even give you a real desk!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Checking your perspective on making a documentary

SOC's great film program often has AU students creating their own documentaries and heading out into the local community to capture a slice of life (take the Community Documentary class!). We love that AU students get to collaborate with DC to tell their stories, but there's a potentially fraught dynamic with having college students marching into town to film a struggling neighborhood for class project.

Filmmaker Edward Martinez addresses this in a new article, "Navigating the River: The Hidden Colonialism of Documentary." Martinez found himself falling into the usual traps of making a socially unconscious, potentially exploitative documentary – specifically, reducing its subjects to just standing in for their achievements rather than being actual human beings. This was never their intention, but the tropes of documentaries can encourage filmmakers to create that sort of accidentally condescending film that reinforces power imbalances. To make the problem clearer, Martinez asks "Have you ever seen a documentary about rich white people made by poor black people?"

These are problems that clearly don't only affect student films, but out friends in SOC would do well to learn from Martinez's example of a time his crew attempted to film without permission. What started a confrontation (and borderline assault) with a member of the public eventually turned into an opportunity to have a genuine conversation. Don't be the person using someone else's community to set up their tripod.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The end of the VHS, and what it means for the library

Well, we've been dreading this moment for years now: the VHS is officially obsolete.

Funai, the last company that still manufactures VHS players, will end their production at the end of the month. This comes less than a year after Betamax tapes were also discontinued. As of August 1st, the VHS will be a format permanently in the past; outside of small artisanal efforts (the article we linked to mentions a collector community that might not go down so easily), there will never be any more VHS players than currently exist in the world. That's all we've got.

This won't have too much of a practical effect for most people who have already replaced their VHS collections, but we worry about what will come of all the VHSes that have never been re-released or preserved. Countless documentaries and ephemera will become unavailable, assuming the tapes last longer than the supply of players.

For a few years now, Media Services has been in the process of preserving our VHS collection to ensure that this problem won't impact the AU community. We've been conducting an extensive audit of our VHSes to see what isn't available on any other format and whether we're within the legal grounds to digitize and create our own DVD copy of it. As part of this, we're also collaborating with other groups on campus like ATV and Athletics to preserve other valuable VHS videos, including old commencement addresses.

We still have a supply of VHS players and staff who know how to fix them, so we'll be fine in the long run. Let's take a second to commemorate this inevitable but sad moment for physical media.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

See where Hollywood films around DC

DC pops up in the movies for good reason: if you want to show the halls of power, you go to Washington. And sometimes, when you're showing the halls of power, your characters have to go for a walk or get a drink. This is how places like Adams Morgan ended up in movies like Dave.

Last semester, our student staff member Sean put together this great map of all the different places in DC that have shown up on film, along with our call numbers for those movies. Most the movies filmed around the Mall, understandably, but you might be surprised to learn about Slam (HU DVD 158), which was filmed near Anacostia. We also liked that Damn Yankees (HU DVD 2706) takes place at Griffith Stadium, at the side of what's now Howard University Hospital.

The map doesn't have ever film every set in DC (no Transformers 3?), but it's a fun way to look around the city and see where movies you might love have stopped by our city. Thanks to Sean for putting this together!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's okay: Scorsese has guilty pleasures, too

Ingmar Bergman apparently loved Ghostbusters. He's not alone among great directors. Even some of the most storied names in film loved popcorn junk once in a while; Film Comment magazine has been collecting lists of directors' favorite guilty pleasure movies for years now, and The A.V. Club rounded up some of their favorite examples.

John Carpenter's love for B-movies probably comes as no surprise given his own work (Halloween and Big Trouble in Little China), but he also loves The Conqueror, the notoriously terrible Genghis Khan period piece starring John Wayne that may have endangered the cast and crew by filming near a nuclear weapons test site. Martin Scorsese admitted to liking Exorcist II and Howard Hughes's opulent (and white-washed) Land of the Pharaohs. And Furious 7 director James Wan is a fan Disney's Tangled – not really a movie you should feel guilty about enjoying, but it's not what you'd expect from him.

Some of these movies are terrible or unwatchable today for their dated politics. But people like what people like, whether you're one of the most famous filmmakers or history or just a random person reading this blog right now. There's no such thing as a guilty pleasure if you really enjoy it!

Monday, July 18, 2016

More big movies streaming through the AU Library

Our streaming video collections got even better this month with a few additions we want to share with you – including a rotating collection that's only up for a limited time.

Firstly, we have two big new titles available to stream. When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee's documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is now available on Films on Demand, and the award-winning Argentinian film La Historia Oficial is available through Kanopy. These films are often favorites for courses at AU, and we hope having them available streaming makes them more accessible.

But for our biggest addition, we've opened the doors to our collection through Swank Digital Campus. Swank allows us to license feature films, but previously we could only share these titles with individual pre-approved classes. Now the collection is available for the AU community to watch for free, including big classic movies like The Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, and All The President's Men.

(The caveat is that we can only license Swank titles for a year at a time, so some of them will expire over the course of the year. Watch them early!)

We know that streaming plays a huge role in how people consume media, so we're excited to bring you more and more of these sorts of high-profile movies through the library.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Even reviews of media for women are more hostile

Gender-targeted abuse and harassment have long made comment sections on the internet borderline unreadable, but those same nasty attitudes have been poisoning the digital well for years in subtler ways. As a recent exposé from FiveThirtyEight shows, online reviews for television shows geared towards women have been artificially lowered by axe-grinding men.

By analyzing a trove of IMDb data, Walt Hickey discovered that among shows more often rated and watched by women, large shares of reviews by men have been extremely low. This has disproportionately tanked their scores: the average 1-to-10 rating for the top 100 shows aimed towards women trails the average for shows aimed towards men by almost a full point. For shows like America's Next Top Model – which we can attest has a health fanbase across gender – men rated the show almost three points lower than women did. But this is an issue with the aggregate, not the quality of individual shows.

It would be easy to blame this on loud sexists, but we should be blaming the way gender and media are talked about. Those men giving Tyra Banks a 1 have probably been subtly, tacitly conditioned their whole lives to look down on things made for women as inherently inferior or less engaging. So, you know, just factor in decades of systemic sexism when looking at IMDb scores.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fandor spotlights twenty acclaimed films by women

Fandor has established itself as the premier digital film service for cinema buffs: in addition to their streaming library, they run Keyframe, a daily film essay and video blog. If you haven't followed them already and like film, you probably should. For one of their videos (embedded above), Keyframe polled fifty film critics about their favorite works directed by women and created a montage of the top twenty results.

As with the cinematographer interviews, the question is whether it's productive to view films primarily through the lens of the filmmaker's gender. In short, it is. As the video's creator Scout Tafoya says, women still face an uphill battle in terms of criticism, funding, and most troublingly acknowledgment for their work. "Unless we make noise," Tafoya adds, "we'll allow it to continue."

Keyframe did their part, so we're sharing it. Take at look at the striking imagery from twenty films by women. (Meshes of the Afternoon is unlike anything we've seen in a while.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

What's it like to be a woman in cinematography?

via Variety

Much has been made about the unfortunately small pool of women directing in Hollywood and lack of the opportunities they are given. Things are even more dire for women in cinematography. According to Vulture, only 2% of cinematographers for major films are women, and none have ever been nominated for an Oscar in the entire 88 years of the Academy Awards.

To get a better sense of the state of the field, Vulture's Kevin Lincoln sat down with Natasha Braier, Maryse Alberti, and Rachel Morrison, three cinematographers of critically acclaimed films, and asked them about their experience in a male-dominated field. They dive into the difference in how they're treated on-set by colleagues and especially how societal expectations about mothers and families restricts their work opportunities (DPs commitments for big films can last for months).

Morrison suggests that she'd rather be known for her work than for who she is – but also that the spotlight on women in cinematography is necessary as the field shifts. We hope we'll get there too.

Who run the world? Ghostbusters. It's Women in Film Week on the blog

Haters be warned: the new Ghostbusters movie comes out this Friday, and we are extremely excited. It looks like a whole load of fun, and we're glad to see a big-budgeted action comedy in theaters.

But it's impossible to talk about Ghostbusters in a vacuum, because the discussion around the movie has been dominated by anger over the casting of women in the movie's central roles. Whether in coded language about the sanctity of childhood memories or just outright sexism, the uproar over funny women being Ghostbusters is a sad reminder that film and pop culture are still often hostile towards women.

So this week, we're featuring articles and stories about the experiences of women in film. Bustin' preconceptions about the state of gender equity in the film business makes us feel good.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Meet the Media Services guide collection

When we buy new items for the collection, sometimes they come with bonus guides full of interviews, essays, and commentary. These are super useful for anyone researching film or wanting to learn more about film history. We keep these guides stashed on shelves in the back corner of Media Services, and we realized that we need to make them a little easier for you to find. So we're doing that!

Whenever you check out a DVD that comes with a guidebook, you'll find a little message in the case letting you know about the extra material you can check out. If you have to watch something for a class assignment, you might find something in there to help you out.

We hope this gets you closer to some of the hidden treasures in the library collection!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

RIP Abbas Kiarostami, defining voice of Iranian cinema

Over the weekend, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami died at age 76. Kiarostami was perhaps the greatest and most renowned Iranian filmmaker; he is the only to win a Palme d'Or, had an outsized influence on world cinema, and brought international attention to the Iranian film industry. His admirers include Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, who once reportedly said "Film begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami."

Kiarostami's thematically powerful work often lands on lists of the greatest films ever made, not just for their historical significance but their artistic achievement. His 1997 Palme-winning Taste of Cherry is an milestone in minimalism, with long stretches of silence and inaction that divided audiences on its release.

Below, we've included a list of films by Kiarostami, including some shorts included in compilations. You might also consider watching Cinema Asia: Iran (streaming), a documentary about the history of Iranian cinema that mentions Kiarostami's work.

Segment in Lumière & CompanyHU DVD 283
Crimson Gold (screenplay) – HU DVD 928
The Wind Will Carry Us – HU DVD 1334
Ten – HU DVD 1336
Close-Up – HU DVD 1344 and streaming
ABC Africa – DVD 1345
Where is My Romeo? – DVD 4320
Life and Nothing More – DVD 8247
Certified Copy – HU DVD 10031
Segment in Five: 5 Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro OzuHU DVD 10290
Taste of Cherry – HU DVD 10375
Where is the Friend's Home – HU DVD 11633 
Like Someone in Love – HU DVD 11684
Through the Olive Trees – HU DVD 12018

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

New Acquisitions - July 2016

This month, we've added some of the most critically movies of 2015 to our collection, including The Revenant, Creed, and Concussion. But we want to focus on a particular fascinating movie that probably passed under your radar.

The Tribe is a Ukrainian crime movie filmed entirely in Ukrainian sign language. There are no translations or subtitles. Critics say the movie is captivating, even or perhaps because of the lack of understandable dialogue. Certainly nothing like it has ever been produced before, and for that alone, you owe it a shot.

Follow the link for the rest of what we have for July...