Monday, October 31, 2016

The new great directors of horror share their favorites

The horror genre has had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years – not the stereotypical jump-and-scare horror movies, but a wave of subtler, creeping horror like The Witch. All their filmmakers draw on a rich history of horror film for their personal style. So for a look into what the new face of genre loves to watch, The A.V. Club asked these directors to program a 24-hour scary movie marathon.

As you might expect, their picks range from classics to unusual but terrifying gems. Wolf Creek director Greg McLean picked Jaws, for instance, and raved about how animatronics can be special in the CGI era. Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl's A.D. Calvo went weirder and picked Burnt Offerings, a haunted house film starring "late-period Bette Davis."

Their selection add up to a pretty solid 24 hours, from tired-and-true scares to horror that will claw its way into your brain for days. If you want to follow along at home, we have many of the films on this list available to check out!

The Conjuring – HU DVD 11358
The Night of the Hunter – HU DVD 1235
Black Moon – HU DVD 12544 and streaming
Eraserhead – HU DVD 1491 and streaming
Jaws – HU DVD 98
Alien – HU DVD 885
The Exorcist – HU DVD 2002

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Acquisitions - October 2016

October was a sleepy month for new acquisitions, but we've added a few new documentaries and films from around the world. The most recognizable name might be Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which we added well in advance of Thanksgiving.

But the most interesting addition might be The Legacy of I. F. Stone, a documentary about the impact of the famous investigative journalist. This film comes to us by way of the I. F. Stone Papers, a collection of materials relating to Stone donated to the University Archives by his son Jeremy. We're excited to house a little part of that collection!

Home Use Collection:

Bhopali – HU DVD 1343
A Letter to True – HU DVD 10310
Los Laberintos de la Memoria = The Labyrinths of Memory – HU DVD 13409
Being Mick: You Would If You Could – HU DVD 13415
Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War – HU DVD 13416
Kingdom of Shadows – HU DVD 13417
Hopscotch – HU DVD 13438
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – HU DVD 13444
Crashing the Party – HU DVD 13446
Big Trouble – HU DVD 13447
Destination: Planet Negro! – HU DVD 13448

In-Library Titles:

Harry Smith: Selected Films – DVD 13249
Hababam Sinifi – DVD 13414
Milou en Mai = May Fools – BLU 13418
The Legacy of I. F. Stone – DVD 13445

Music Library DVDs:

Florence Foster Jenkins – MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 250

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kanopy Highlights: Film canon classics

Still from Seven Samurai

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We're happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we're focusing on classics from the film canon.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

The Battle of Algiers – "One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s."

City Lights – "City Lights, the most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin, is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street and mistakes him for a millionaire."

El Norte – "Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. The personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism."

Eraserhead – "In David Lynch's 'dream of dark and troubling things,' Henry is left alone in his apartment to care for his deformed baby and has a series of strange encounters with the beautiful girl across the hall and the woman living in his radiator."

M – "In his harrowing masterwork M, Fritz Lang merges trenchant social commentary with chilling suspense, creating a panorama of private madness and public hysteria that to this day remains the blueprint for the psychological thriller."

Man with a Movie Camera – "This dawn-to-dusk view of the Soviet Union offers a montage of urban Russian life, showing the people of the city at work and at play Considered one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era." Includes accompaniment by the Michael Nyman Band.

Seven Samurai –  "One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits."

Stagecoach – "John Ford's smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list and establishing the genre as we know it today. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstances, Stagecoach features John Wayne's first starring role for Ford."

Monday, October 24, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter documentary now available streaming

Films on Demand is a useful database for finding documentaries on a range of subjects, from the environment to teaching math. Now you can add timely social issues to that list as well: you can now stream #BlackLivesMatter, one of the first feature-length documentaries produced about the ongoing protests of racial inequality and police violence.

This is (at least as far as I know) the first documentary in our collection about the Black Lives Matter protests. Although there have been countless critical essays and videos on the topic, this succinct, powerful documentary captures snapshots of the protests around the country and and contextualizes them with history and stories from protestors.

We recommend previewing this film if you're teaching, learning, or just curious about the movement. Video can chronicle social change better than any words, and a well-produced documentary like #BlackLivesMatter is an especially great example.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The first Star Wars trailer is missing a whole lot

For Throwback Thursday (do we have to use the hashtag if it's on a blog?), here's a neat piece of film history. In December 1976, the first trailer for Star Wars was released, about half a year before the movie. Episode Nothing supplied some context in a recent blog post explaining why it looks so rough.

Star Wars was still a work-in-progress at this point in its production. Apart from a few quick space shots, most of the trailer avoids scenes with special effects; the only lightsabers that appear in screen weren't colo red in yet, for instance. And perhaps most glaringly in hindsight, the trailer doesn't have the iconic John Williams score. Without that adventurous music, the movie seems almost dour.

It's a fun glimpse at how a studio decided to promote a movie they didn't realize would be a juggernaut. The whole thing is a dark mishmash that reportedly cost about $4000. We guarantee that if 20th Century Fox knew what would follow, they wouldn't throw together something like this.

Kanopy Highlights: Social justice documentaries

Still from Concerning Violence

About a year ago, we rolled out Kanopy, a streaming service that includes hundreds of films from the Criterion Collection and more. We're happy to see classes and students taking advantage of this great video resource, and we want to spotlight some of the most popular titles from this collection.

This week, we're focusing on powerful documentaries for social justice.

You can click the link on any of these films to watch them instantly, in your browser, for free with your AU login.

5 Broken Cameras – "5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005."

Body Typed series – "Body Typed is series of award-winning short films that uses humor to raise serious questions about the marketplace of commercial illusion and unrealizable standards of physical perfection."

Concerning Violence – "From the director of The Black Power Mixtape comes a bold and fresh visual narrative on Africa, based on newly discovered archive material covering the struggle for liberation from colonial rule in the late ’60s and ’70s, accompanied by text from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth."

In Whose Honor? – "What’s wrong with American Indian sports mascots? This moving, award-winning film is the first of its kind to address that subject. In Whose Honor? takes a critical look at the long-running practice of "honoring" American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports."

Screaming Queens – "Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States - a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Come learn about Boyz n the Hood, "a film that changed America"

The AU Library's ongoing Books that Shaped America series has highlighted some critical pieces of literature from American history. And now, finally, movies are getting their turn, too!

Tomorrow, communication librarian Derrick Jefferson will host a discussion of Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton's 1991 film about youth life in South Central LA. We're excited to see what Derrick has to say about this "film that changed America." Event information is available here; the discussion runs 12-1pm tomorrow in the library's Training and Events room.

It'd probably help if you've seen the movie in advance, so come to the Media Services desk to check out our copy! (Call number HU DVD 327*)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A new lost Méliès was discovered... after it was mislabeled

A Trip to the Moon, not Match de Prestidigitation
First there was the lost Hitchcock film. Then, the lost Laurel and Hardy sequence. Now, film conservationists have found a long-list film by Georges Méliès, one of the pioneers of cinema.

Méliès was one of the pioneers of film as an art form, especially in the area of special effects: the director was an illusionist, and he used his skills to create astounding effects that had never been previously achieved on screen. Méliès reportedly produced over 500 films, and although you may know his famous A Trip to the Moon, most of his work has been lost.

This particular film, Match de Prestidigitation, had the wrong name on the container when it arrived at a Czech film archive. So in addition to the joy of recovering a foundational piece of film history, this is also a great lesson in keeping things organized and described correctly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween nears! Check out our horror movie collection

Halloween weekend is but two weeks away, and like most film nerds, we're ready for horror movie season. Because it would be weird to watch Halloween in April, right?

Almost 100 years have passed since Nosferatu and some of the earliest feature-length horror films, and they're still as terrifying as ever. If you're looking for a horror movie to watch, you have nearly a century of choices that still hold up. So where do you start?

Our horror-themed Pinterest board includes 200 movies in our collection, from The Babadook to the old Phantom of the Opera. You might recognize a few classics like The Evil Dead, but if you're looking to jump off the usual path, you could try something like zombie drama Maggie or the extremely descriptive Slumber Party Massacre.

You could watch 10 horror movies from the AU Library every day until Halloween and still not make it through everything. It's a deep genre! You should probably start on that today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How the West was whitened

The Western genre is having something of a mini-comeback between Westworld and The Magnificent Seven. (Or, maybe we all just love Yul Brynner?) This year's trips to the Old West look a little different than in the past, specifically the actors. Our collective imagined memory of the Western looks white, middle-aged, and male. But if anything, Denzel Washington showing up in The Magnificent Seven is closer to the reality of the western than film has us believe.

Leah Williams wrote a great piece for The Atlantic about how classic Western films do a disservice to the historical truth of race in the West. The Searchers was inspired by the stories of a black cowboy named Britton Johnson, but the lead role was played by John Wayne, a notorious white supremacist. Casting non-white actors in a Western is often seen as an act of subversion, but if anything, that's closer to reality.

Sadly, that all-white image is so ingrained in pop culture that it won't be erased anytime soon. In another 50 years, maybe Denzel will be the new John Wayne?

Monday, October 10, 2016

RIP Andrezj Wajda, a voice for Poland in film

Yesterday, Polish director Andrezj Wajda died at age 90. He was among the most distinguished Polish filmmakers of his generation or in general: his accolades include a Palme d'Or for his labor rights film Man of Iron and a 1999 honorary Oscar for his lifetime body of work.

As with Man of Iron, many of Wajda's works were influenced by his lifetime in Poland during its occupation in World War II and rule over the Soviet Union. Many of his films were challenged or banned by Soviet authorities; he was not able to produce Katyń, a film about a 1940 massacre of the Polish, until after Poland's independence.

If you want to watch some of Wajda's impactful, distinctly Polish cinematic vision, we have a number of his films available in the library, including two through streaming.

Ashes and Diamonds – HU DVD 2583 
Danton – HU DVD 5758
Everything for Sale – HU DVD 2626 
A Generation – HU DVD 2581
Kanal – HU DVD 2582 and Streaming
Katyn – HU DVD 6135
Korczak – HU DVD 10546
Man of Iron – HU DVD 3145
Man of Marble – DVD 2014
Penderecki: Paths Through The Labyrinth – Streaming
Promised Land – HU DVD 2655

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Rolling Stone declares The Sopranos the greatest TV show

Alright, everyone gather 'round, we have another Top 100 list to fight over.

This time, Rolling Stone put together its list of what it considers the greatest television shows of all time . The top of the list is pretty much what you'd expect – The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, et al. – but as with all these similar lists, we liked seeing that rounded out the rest of the top 100. Rolling Stone included game shows, talk shows, animation, and reality TV in addition to scripted series, so they cast a wide net.

Best of all, Rolling Stone didn't intentionally try to get such an eclectic mix. They sent ballots out to a wide range of television industry figures, and the results they got back just happened to be such a jumble. It reflects well on the past, present, and current state of television: even if the Difficult Men genre still gets the most accolades, TV is a unique space where Jeopardy and The Golden Girls can live side-by-side.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

See The Accountant early and for free, with director Q&A!

We have more passes to see movies in advance this week – with a Q&A with the director!

This time around, we have passes for a preview screening of The Accountant, the new Ben Affleck-fronted thriller with a title that doesn't suggest that all. You'd normally have to wait until this hits theaters to see whether a movie about an accountant could actually be exciting, but you can see it for free on Thursday, October 6th, at 7pm in Friendship Heights. Stick around afterwards for the Q&A with director Gavin O'Connor.

We only have physical copies of these passes, so you'll need to swing by in person at the Media Serviecs desk to pick these up. As always, remember that these events are intentionally overbooked, so get there as early as you can to ensure that you get a seat.

Monday, October 03, 2016

What does Netflix's shrinking library mean for film history literacy?

Even with our collection of 14,000 DVDs, we'll all admit to watching things on Netflix and Hulu all the time. Streaming subscriptions are convenient, and we're realizing that it's their primary way that many incoming students watch movies and television now. But we're concerned about how that narrows what movies and television people can watch.

According to a report by Exstreamist, Netflix's library has shrunk by 50% in the last four years. As Netflix has pursued its own original shows and movies, the company has started cutting back on titles by other studios. Today, by Exstreamist's estimates, Netflix has lost over 5000 titles since 2012, and the ones that are left aren't exactly the greatest.

This could have a serious chilling effect on what people watch. Consider the Indiana Jones movies. None are available on any American streaming service unless you pay for a rental. If media consumption habits become more and more reliant of what's available to stream immediately, that cuts off a massive amount of film and television history. And what about independent films that can't break onto a streaming platform?

We hope there's a change in viewing patterns soon. But the library's collection will always have physical copies that won't be removed at the end of the month.