New DVDs for Thanksgiving Break

Can’t go home for Thanksgiving? Check out our newest acquisitions: Home Use: Henry Miller: Asleep and Awake (DVD 16056) Dolores (DVD 16091) Deadpool 2 (DVD 16097) Daniel Day-Lewis Triple feature (DVD 16108) Annihilation (DVD 16107) A Ghost Story (DVD 16106) From Caligari to Hitler (DVD 16105) Beirut (DVD 16104) Hereditary (DVD 16102) Jane (DVD 16101) … Continue reading “New DVDs for Thanksgiving Break”

Can’t go home for Thanksgiving? Check out our newest acquisitions:

Home Use:

Henry Miller: Asleep and Awake (DVD 16056)

Dolores (DVD 16091)

Deadpool 2 (DVD 16097)

Daniel Day-Lewis Triple feature (DVD 16108)

Annihilation (DVD 16107)

A Ghost Story (DVD 16106)

From Caligari to Hitler (DVD 16105)

Beirut (DVD 16104)

Hereditary (DVD 16102)

Jane (DVD 16101)

Eighth Grade (DVD 16109)

Conduct! Every Move Counts (DVD 16100)

Campus Use: 

The Rape of Recy Taylor (DVD 16103)

I missed ‘Annihilation’ in theaters. I’m glad we have it, because now I can watch Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson team up.

Five Movies Featuring… Death by TB

I don’t cry very often at movies, except for one, glaring reason. If someone snuffs it due to tuberculosis (aka Consumption), I will ugly cry. Not a couple of poignant tears, but full-on weeping. It doesn’t matter how bad the movie is, I will bawl my eyes out. Unfortunately for me, TB is a popular … Continue reading “Five Movies Featuring… Death by TB”

I don’t cry very often at movies, except for one, glaring reason. If someone snuffs it due to tuberculosis (aka Consumption), I will ugly cry. Not a couple of poignant tears, but full-on weeping. It doesn’t matter how bad the movie is, I will bawl my eyes out.

Unfortunately for me, TB is a popular disease to die of in movies, especially in the period dramas I love so much. I’m doomed to an eternity of tears because of movies like these.

The Wind Rises (DVD 11597)

This one messed me up good. I cried in the movie theater, I cried in the lobby, and I cried into my hot chocolate at the café we retreated to afterward. It’s one of my favorite films.

Moulin Rouge (DVD 297)

Is there any movie scene more sad than consumptive Nicole Kidman dying in Ewan Mcgregor’s arms? I don’t think so.

Bright Star (DVD 7070)

In which the waifish John Keats dies of TB in Rome, forever separated from his beloved Fanny.

Tombstone (DVD 2812)

Doc Holliday battles tuberculosis…. And outlaws. I haven’t seen this one yet, but now I have to.

Les Miserables (DVD 254)

Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance as the long-suffering Fantine left me in tears.

Bonus:

The Forgotten Plague (DVD 12023)

Just in case you want to learn more about tuberculosis, the good people at PBS have you covered.

Random Movie Monday — A Tale of Two Cities: The Circuit City Story

This week’s random movie seems appropriate for the week of Black Friday: A tale of Two Cities: The Circuit City Story (DVD 16523). Here’s our summary: In early 2009, more than 34,000 American workers lost their jobs and one of retail’s greatest stories of entrepreneurship abruptly came to an end. After 60 years in business … Continue reading “Random Movie Monday — A Tale of Two Cities: The Circuit City Story”

This week’s random movie seems appropriate for the week of Black Friday: A tale of Two Cities: The Circuit City Story (DVD 16523). Here’s our summary:

In early 2009, more than 34,000 American workers lost their jobs and one of retail’s greatest stories of entrepreneurship abruptly came to an end. After 60 years in business and a presence in every major U.S. city, Circuit City seemed to just disappear. How and why did it happen?

Now that I think about it, Circuit City did kind of just…disappear. Here’s to the changing economy I guess?

News DVDs! New DVDs!

Here’s a huge batch of new acquisitions! Home Use Memories of Underdevelopment: DVD 429 Midnight Cowboy (Criterion Collection): DVD 4987 In Search of History: The Plot to Overthrow FDR: DVD 16068 Nothing Sacred: DVD 16069 My Letter to the World: DVD 16071 Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curios George’s Creators: DVD 16070 Little Women: DVD … Continue reading “News DVDs! New DVDs!”

Here’s a huge batch of new acquisitions!

Home Use

  • Memories of Underdevelopment: DVD 429
  • Midnight Cowboy (Criterion Collection): DVD 4987
  • In Search of History: The Plot to Overthrow FDR: DVD 16068
  • Nothing Sacred: DVD 16069
  • My Letter to the World: DVD 16071
  • Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curios George’s Creators: DVD 16070
  • Little Women: DVD 16072
  • A Foreign Affair: DVD 16073
  • Isle of the Dogs: DVD 16077
  • Holiday Inn: DVD 16078
  • I Am Another You: DVD 16079
  • Hitler’s Hollywood: DVD 16080
  • My Friend Dahmer: DVD 16081
  • Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World: DVD 16082
  • Kill the Irishman: DVD 16083
  • Manila in the Claws of Light: 16084
  • Moonrise: DVD 16085
  • Atlanta: The Complete First Season: DVD 16086
  • Basquiat: From Rage to Riches: DVD 16087
  • Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia: DVD 16088
  • Hockney: DVD 16089
  • Black Panther: DVD 16090 (Two copies)

Campus Use

  • Dolores: DVD 16091
  • Eating Animals: DVD 16092

A Tribute to Stan Lee

American pop culture lost one of its patriarchs today. Stan Lee, born in 1922, revolutionized the comic book industry, helping it to evolve from a niche industry into cultural force.  Lee built an incredible, interconnected world at Marvel Comics, and I don’t know where I’d be personally if I hadn’t had Uncanny X-Men to get me … Continue reading “A Tribute to Stan Lee”

American pop culture lost one of its patriarchs today. Stan Lee, born in 1922, revolutionized the comic book industry, helping it to evolve from a niche industry into cultural force.  Lee built an incredible, interconnected world at Marvel Comics, and I don’t know where I’d be personally if I hadn’t had Uncanny X-Men to get me through some rough patches. He was an impressive businessman, creator, and human, and he will be sorely missed.

There will be plenty of great eulogies and tributes in the days to come, but we here at Media Services know Stan Lee for his cameos in most of the Marvel movies. His brief performances always added a spot of levity to the most serious films, and he was always a delight to watch.

You can see Stan Lee in any of these films in Media Services:

Iron Man: DVD 2763

Iron Man 2: DVD 2764

Iron Man 3: DVD 11830

The Incredible Hulk: DVD 11915

Thor: DVD 10965

Thor: the Dark World: DVD 12292

Captain America: The First Avenger: DVD 10147

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: DVD 11478

Captain America: Civil War DVD 13578

Marvel’s The Avengers BLU 10501

Avengers: Age of Ultron: DVD 12895

Guardians of the Galaxy: DVD 11681

Deadpoool: DVD 13132

Ant Man: DVD 12892

Spider-Man: DVD 7121

Spider-Man 2: DVD 7122

Black Panther DVD 16090

Spider-Man 3: DVD 7123

The Amazing Spider-Man: DVD 6493

X-Men: DVD 1441

X-Men the Last Stand: DVD 1443

Random Movie Monday — Stalag 17

Our WWI series has come to an end, and today’s random movie is all about the Second World War: Stalag 17 (DVD 5384).  Here’s our summary: A group of American G.I.s in a POW camp suspect a spy is among them. A short summary, but I think it adds to the suspense, don’t you? It’s … Continue reading “Random Movie Monday — Stalag 17”

Our WWI series has come to an end, and today’s random movie is all about the Second World War: Stalag 17 (DVD 5384).  Here’s our summary:

A group of American G.I.s in a POW camp suspect a spy is among them.

A short summary, but I think it adds to the suspense, don’t you? It’s definitely going on my war movie watch list.

 

 

What’s the Point of a War Film: War Requiem

We’re ending our series on WWI films with War Requiem. I’d never seen this movie before I watched it for this blog post, but I chose it for this series because it seemed nontraditional. Little did I know. This film was probably the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. Well, I shouldn’t say “weird,” I should … Continue reading “What’s the Point of a War Film: War Requiem”

We’re ending our series on WWI films with War Requiem. I’d never seen this movie before I watched it for this blog post, but I chose it for this series because it seemed nontraditional. Little did I know. This film was probably the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. Well, I shouldn’t say “weird,” I should say avant garde. I didn’t enjoy it, but that’s probably because I don’t enjoy avant garde cinema in general. Still, this film stands out because it is an interpretation of an interpretation of the First World War.

Released in 1989, the film tells a war story, but without any dialogue. Some sound comes from an occasional Wilfred Owen poem, but the film is really a showcase for War Requiem, British composer Benjamin Brittain’s orchestra tribute to the war. Brittain composed the score in the 1960s, but her never served in the War himself. He leaned heavily on Wilfred Owen’s poetry, and the music itself is beautiful. It tells a story of a pointless, unending war. There’s great sadness, but also little victories. Shame, joy, hope, and loss. It’s all conveyed through the music, which makes me wonder why a movie version was even necessary.

The cast, certainly, is star-studded. It stars a young Tilda Swinton, and Laurence Olivier even makes an appearance. There are portions where the characters have conversations with each other, but the audience can’t hear what they’re saying. Most of the acting is basically pantomime, and there are long stretches where the characters seem to be acting out some prearranged ceremony. I think, ultimately, that may be one of the points director Derek Jarman was trying to make. In a way, subsequent generations have reduced the people who lived through and died in the war—people like Wilfred Owen, who’s the main character of the movie—into certain proscribed roles. X ordered Y to go to war and there Y was slaughtered.

But maybe that point isn’t for us, the people who had nothing to do with the War. The film places a huge emphasis on ritual. Tilda Swinton’s Nurse crowns a dead Owen with his helmet. A priest sacrifices Owen while fat civilians in top hats and monocles watch. The Nurse crowns herself and other soldiers with a barbed wire crown meant to invoke Jesus’ crown of thorns. Maybe the reason why the war began, and why it continued, was because the people in power didn’t see their soldiers as humans, but as actors in some scripted, divinely blessed play.

I’m really not sure what to make of this movie. Its anti-war message is far from ambiguous, but it feels like a condemnation. The trouble is, I can’t figure out what it’s condemning. The obvious answer is war and violence, but it feels like something more than that. Maybe I’m searching for meaning where there is none. I think, instead of trying to make sense of World War I, the point of War Requiem is to show just how pointless it all actually is. But was just the war pointless, or is trying to interpret it pointless? That’s definitely not a question I’m prepared to answer.

New Medium, Old Tricks: Animated Propaganda

Today’s entry in WWI on Film isn’t one film. It’s a collection of much shorter films. If you’re an AU student, you can access 20th century film and newsreel clips from the WPA Library and British Pathe. Some of these clips are from WWI, and are basic black-and-white motion pictures. Of course, they don’t have … Continue reading “New Medium, Old Tricks: Animated Propaganda”

Today’s entry in WWI on Film isn’t one film. It’s a collection of much shorter films. If you’re an AU student, you can access 20th century film and newsreel clips from the WPA Library and British Pathe. Some of these clips are from WWI, and are basic black-and-white motion pictures. Of course, they don’t have sound, but it’s fascinating to catch a glimpse of the WWI era.

There are dozens of clips that you can explore, but I wanted to focus on one in particular: an animated short from British Pathe. In the short, the German Kaiser steps onto a balcony (not-so-subtly labeled “Germany”), and gazes up at a smiling moon. The moon’s smile immediately begins to transform into a smirk, and as the Kaiser gazes up, new stars appear in the sky. As the Kaiser watches with growing horror, the stars multiply, and the streaks of moonlit clouds form themselves into stripes, until the night sky looks like an American flag. Just after the stripes morph into bayoneted guns, the Kaiser cowers in fear. A gun shell comes soaring through the air, hitting his balcony and causing a massive explosion. When the smoke clears, the balcony and the Kaiser are gone, and the moon is laughing.

This animated short interests me for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s an early example of an animated film, but it doesn’t feel much like a modern animated film. Instead, it looks like a political cartoon set to motion. The unsubtle symbolism is there, as are the exaggerated reactions.

Its target audience is also different from modern day animation. Animated feature films in the US tend to be marketed towards young children, while this short is clearly marketed to all ages. It’s meant to prove a point, to provide hope, and to make an enemy laughable.

What also strikes me is how the United States is portrayed. While no American is ever shown on frame, the national flag, a potent symbol, saturates the sky like an omen. A bad omen for Germany, yes, but a good omen for Britain and its allies. The entrance of the US into the war meant an injection of fresh troops and other resources (like guns and shells) for Britain and France, which sorely needed them. This short is meant to send a message to British viewers—victory is in sight, now that the Americans are here.

While I can’t link directly to the video due to copyright restrictions, you can find this film by searching “Animated Film Depicts the U.S. Entry into World War I ca. 1917” in the AU Library catalog.

Do We Really Need to Say It: Westfront 1918

Westfront 1918 (DVD 16017)is one of Media Services’ newest acquisitions, but it’s one of the oldest films we’re reviewing for this series. A contemporary of All Quiet on the Western Front, Westfront explores many of the same themes, like the camaraderie between soldiers and alienation from the home front. Like All Quiet, Westfront is based on … Continue reading “Do We Really Need to Say It: Westfront 1918”

Westfront 1918 (DVD 16017)is one of Media Services’ newest acquisitions, but it’s one of the oldest films we’re reviewing for this series. A contemporary of All Quiet on the Western Front, Westfront explores many of the same themes, like the camaraderie between soldiers and alienation from the home front. Like All Quiet, Westfront is based on a memoir/novel by a German veteran. Unlike the American-produced All Quiet, however, Westfront is a purely German production. The movie was actually G.W. Pabsts’ first ‘talkie,’ but Westfront is remarkable for its relative lack of dialogue. Instead, Pabst relies on vocal silence, and the environmental noises of war.

The film follows four German soldiers on the Western Front in the final days of the war. We get a sense that a lot has happened before the movie begins. The men in the company joke and make fun of each other like old friends, they all look haggard, and their uniforms are worn, dirty, and messy. Because we know the context, we can guess about what these men have seen together, but we can only guess. This allows the audience to do two things. First, it lets us fill in the gaps for ourselves. We can imagine something infinitely worse than what they’ve actually experienced, or something easier. Either way, we’ll probably never guess the truth. This, in turn, serves to isolate the men from the audience. Pabst is effectively putting us in the shoes of the men’s families back home, a theme which is explored later in the film.

We’re further isolated from the men because only one of them, Karl, is ever named. The others are simply “the Lieutenant,” “the Bavarian,” and “the Student.” We really only know Karl’s name because he gets home leave halfway through the movie, and that’s how his mother and wife refer to him. Again, the viewer can guess about the men’s lives before the war, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. They are there on the front, and that’s all that matters.

This reticence in details extends to the film’s dialogue. The men don’t need words to communicate. Silence or significant looks work just as well, and they often convey more than mere words could. Again, this binds the men together and excludes the audience, but it also allows their situation to speak for itself. The most common sound in Westfront is not the human voice, but explosions from incoming shells. Nearly every shot features an explosion, or at least the sounds of explosions if the men are in a dugout or behind the lines. The men take precautions, and do what they can to avoid the fire, but they have by and large ceased to be afraid. Sure, they drop to the ground when they hear a shell coming towards them, but you get the feeling that it’s more a matter of procedure than out of terror or fear.

Westfront 1918 reflects the realities of the Western front, and average soldiers’ experiences, without fanfare and without moralizing overtones. While the film definitely has an anti-war agenda, it isn’t overt. Instead, it creeps up on you, and leaves you thinking about war’s implications long after the movie ends.

Making Something New: Wonder Woman as a WWI Film

Let me make a few things clear. Yes, I know that Wonder Woman (DVD 14777) is completely, 100% fictional. I know that an ancient demi-goddess didn’t end the war. So, why am I including Wonder Woman in this series about World War I movies? First, this is one of maybe two WWI movies which feature … Continue reading “Making Something New: Wonder Woman as a WWI Film”

Let me make a few things clear. Yes, I know that Wonder Woman (DVD 14777) is completely, 100% fictional. I know that an ancient demi-goddess didn’t end the war. So, why am I including Wonder Woman in this series about World War I movies? First, this is one of maybe two WWI movies which feature a woman as the main character. If Hollywood refuses to give me the feminist and historically accurate war films I deserve, then I will claim whatever movie I can get. Second, Wonder Woman hits trope after trope indicative of WWI movies—and then subverts them all.

A common theme seen in WWI movies—including movies we’ve written about in this blog series—is the loss of innocence. A young man goes off to fight a war for his country, sure of himself and in his convictions. After reaching the front, he loses his convictions, his purpose, his sense of self, and his faith in humanity. In Wonder Woman, Diana embarks on this same journey. The war comes to Themiscyra (just as the war came to England and Germany and Austria and France and Russia), and Diana, full of righteous fervor, defies her mother’s wishes and joins the fight. She manages to hold on to her ideals and her sense of self until the climax of the film, during her battle with Ares. By the standard of every WWI movie, something essential and important within Diana should die. And yes, her love interest dies, but Diana’s faith in humanity remains unshaken. In fact, it even grows stronger.

The second WWI trope Wonder Woman adopts is the belief, adopted by filmmakers and historians alike, that common men fought and died in someone else’s war. Usually, when we see this trope in film and in war memoirs, the young foot soldier feels that he’s sent to die because of a politician’s petty grievance. This sense of a manufactured conflict is evident in Wonder Woman, but instead of ascribing blame to politicians, the filmmakers put the lion’s share of the blame on Ares, the god of war. When Diana slays Ares, generals and privates alike emerge from a war-clouded haze, and they rejoice in their unclouded vision and new sense of free will.

Wonder Woman covers too many tropes to discuss in this short post, but I do want to spend some time on one last one: No Man’s Land. Usually, films linger on No Man’s Land as a blighted symbol of lost hope, and of death and meaningless destruction. In Wonder Woman, Diana just… charges across it. It may be No Man’s Land, but Diana is no man. She’s not the cautious Steve Trevor, nor one of the broken men huddled in the trenches. She’s untainted by the true horror and pain of the war, and buoyed by her faith in humanity and her sense of right and wrong.

In most WWI films, No Man’s Land is usually where those kind of ideals go to die. It’s ultimately impassable, because the soldiers depicted have lost the will to fight, the will to live, and even themselves. Crucially, the events that trigger a similar transformation in Diana do not occur until well after she successfully charges No Man’s Land. I have to wonder, would she have been able perform the same feat after her confrontation with Ludendorff?

So we’ve established that Wonder Woman hits all the right tropes for a World War I movie, but we’ve also established that it subverts them.  You could read this a couple of different ways. You could argue that attributing the war to Ares removes blame from people who did contribute to the war’s beginning and continuation. There’s still a flourishing debate about who actually shoulders blame for the war, and it’s convenient to ascribe blame to something totally beyond human control. A less generous reading of the film could argue that by shifting the blame to a god, and the responsibility of ending to war to a demi-goddess, Wonder Woman dismisses the role ordinary mortals played, and can play, in perpetuating and ending violence.

I dn’t think the movie should be read that way. Ultimately, I see Wonder Woman as a movie about coming of age in the midst of a worldwide calamity. This would make the film similar to movies like All Quiet on the Western Front or Testament of Youth. Yes, this generational loss of innocence is reflected in the journey of a mythical demi-goddess, but that doesn’t make the war, or the people who lived through it or died in it, any less real.