One of the great things about living in DC is that so many of our cultural institutions are free to the public. This includes some of the Smithsonian’s special events, like the annual Made in Hong Kong film festival hosted by the National Museum of Asian Art. The festival is virtual this year due to the pandemic, but admission is still free! You can sign up for tickets to virtual screenings here. Some of the films are simulcast, but most will become available on various dates in July. After you purchase passes, you’ll have anywhere from three to seven days to watch each film for free!
This year the festival is celebrating the filmography of Ann Hui. Her forty-five year career spans mediums, genres, and eras, and three of her films — The Golden Era, Keep Rolling, and A Simple Life — will be available for free through the virtual festival starting July 9.
Media Services’ first new acquisition of 2020 is…. The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang! This movie (BLU 16732) was snubbed by the Academy, but Awkwafina made history at the Golden Globes when she became the first woman of Asian descent to win in a leading actress film category. Yes, it took until 2020 for that … Continue reading “New Acquisition!”
Media Services’ first new acquisition of 2020 is…. The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang! This movie (BLU 16732) was snubbed by the Academy, but Awkwafina made history at the Golden Globes when she became the first woman of Asian descent to win in a leading actress film category. Yes, it took until 2020 for that to happen.
So how about showing the love the Academy denied for this movie? We don’t need them to tell us what’s worth honoring.
On March 29th, the world lost Agnès Varda, one of the most quietly influential filmmakers of the 20th (and 21st) century. Varda, who released her first film in 1954, is considered by many to be the ‘godmother’ of French new Wave cinema, if not the first New Wave filmmaker. Her first film, La Pointe-Courte, predated … Continue reading “Remembering Agnès Varda”
On March 29th, the world lost Agnès Varda, one of the most quietly influential filmmakers of the 20th (and 21st) century. Varda, who released her first film in 1954, is considered by many to be the ‘godmother’ of French new Wave cinema, if not the first New Wave filmmaker. Her first film, La Pointe-Courte, predated the first films of Goddard and his ilk by several years.
Perhaps the reason some don’t include her in this
movement was that she seemed to unconsciously separate herself from it. Varga
moved to films from photography, and knew little about the broader (and quite
misogynistic) film industry when she released La Pointe Courte, and even when she released her second film, Cleo 5 to 7, in 1961.
Throughout her career, Agnès Varda did what she wanted to
do. Fiercely independent, her signature blend of documentary and story-telling
examined her subjects with empathy and curiosity, inviting her audiences to
examine her characters and her stories. Her techniques, too, were trailblazing.
In Vagabond Varda ‘interviewed’
characters her main character encounters, similar to documentary features. This
technique today is familiar to anyone who enjoys shows like The Office or Parks
In her later years, Varda moved from her
fiction-documentaries to pure documentaries, such as The Gleaners and I and Faces
Places, which earned her an academy award nomination. Still, these
personal, empathetic films eschewed the hallmarks of a traditional documentary.
With these, as with her earlier works, Varda created something that was all her
You can find most of Varda’s filmography here in Media Services, including:
Part of working at a university library is accumulating and highlighting diverse creators in our collections. For Black History Month, I didn’t just want to just slap a list of Black Films up on our blog and call it a day. Instead, this will be the first of two posts featuring contemporary Black Directors, and … Continue reading “Black History Month: Contemporary Black Directors Part 1”
Part of working at a university library is accumulating and highlighting diverse creators in our collections. For Black History Month, I didn’t just want to just slap a list of Black Films up on our blog and call it a day. Instead, this will be the first of two posts featuring contemporary Black Directors, and highlighting their films in our collection.
Ava DuVernay is quickly becoming on of the most talked-about directors in Hollywood, and she isn’t shying away from the platform she’s built for herself. After directing the critically lauded Selma, DuVernay went on to direct the Netflix documentary 13th, which, while we don’t own it, is definitely worth a watch. With her 2018 film A Wrinkle in Time, she also became the first black woman to direct a film with a blockbuster budget.
Most of the DuVernay films we have in our collection are her indie earlier works like I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere, which are intimate portraits of black women. Likewise, Queen Sugar, though a tv series, follows two black sisters and their brother after they inherit their family’s sugarcane farm. The series, produced by Oprah, was also the first television series to hire women directors for every single episode.
Ava DuVernay films in our collection:
Selma (DVD 12221)
I Will Follow (DVD 11965)
Middle of Nowhere (DVD 12024)
Queen Sugar (DVD 14844)
Spike Lee may be the most prolific director on this list.
He’s directed twenty-six feature films since 1983, plus eight short films,
twelve documentaries, seven tv shows, nineteen music videos, and three plays,
not to mention acting in several of his own movies. Though he’s known as a
provocateur in Hollywood, his films chronicle the lives of black Americans, and
force movie audiences to confront uncomfortable truths they’d happily avoid.
After winning the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Lee’s most recent film BlacKkKlansman, is currently nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Lee is nominated in the Best Director category, and Adam Driver for Best Supporting Actor. We’ve ordered a copy for Media Services, but it’s stuck in processing limbo. Hopefully we’ll get it in soon.
A (Selected) List of Spike Lee’s films in our collection:
Miracle at St. Anna (DVD 11290)
Do the Right Thing (DVD 38)
She’s Gotta Have It (DVD 4008)
Red Hook Summer (DVD 10904)
Malcolm X (DVD 165)
Jungle Fever (DVD 1153)
Clockers (DVD 162)
4 Little Girls (DVD 1888)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (DVD 8531)
Amma Asante is a British-Ghanaian director most famous
for her film Belle, a sumptuous period
drama that chronicles the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Dido was the illegitimate
daughter of Maria Belle, an enslaved African woman, and Sir John Lindsay, a
British Naval Officer. While Dido was born a slave, her father eventually took
her back to England, where he entrusted her to his uncle, the Earl of Mansfield
and Lord Chief Justice. Belle follows
Dido while she navigates racist English society, her own family’s assumptions,
and the burgeoning abolitionist movement.
Although Asante has only directed four films, she’s definitely a director to watch. In addition to Belle, she directed A United Kingdom, which starred David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, and Where Hands Touch, which starred Amandla Stenberg.
Amma Asante films in our collection:
Belle (DVD 12617)
A United Kingdom (Streaming through InfoBase)
Ryan Coogler burst onto the scene with his first feature
film Fruitvale Station at the ripe
old age of twenty-seven. Fruitvale
Station, tells the story of Oscar Grant’s last 24 hours, and stars Michael
B. Jordan. Oscar Grant was murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police
officers at the Fruitvale BART station in 2009, and his death sparked protests
in the Bay Area and beyond. Coogler tackled this tough subject for his debut
film, which won awards everywhere from Sundance to Cannes.
Coogler followed up Fruitvale
Station with Creed, a Rocky spin-off
that he co-wrote as well as directed, and which starred Michael B. Jordan. This
film drew audiences and pleased critics, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when
Marvel offered him Black Panther.
Again, Coogler co-wrote the script… and got Michael B. Jordan to star as Eric
Kilmonger, the rival for the Wakandan throne. Despite its February release
date, Black Panther is the highest
grossing film directed by an African-American, and the fifth largest opening
weekend box office take of all time. It’s also just a straight up spectacular
film, and if you haven’t seen it, you need to correct that immediately. We have
THREE copies here at Media Services, so you don’t have any excuse. I’ll even
give you the call number: DVD 16090. All you have to do is walk up to the desk
and ask for it.
This week saw the death of two artists, giants in their respective fields. On Monday, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci died at age 77. Bertolucci rose to fame with the 1973 release of Last Tango in Paris, a controversial film that was earned an X rating after extensive cuts. One of these scenes depicted a middle … Continue reading “Bernardo Bertolucci and Stephen Hillenburg”
This week saw the death of two artists, giants in their respective fields. On Monday, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci died at age 77. Bertolucci rose to fame with the 1973 release of Last Tango in Paris, a controversial film that was earned an X rating after extensive cuts. One of these scenes depicted a middle aged man (Marlon Brando) raping his young lover (Maria Schneider), using only butter as a lubricant. Neither Bertolucci nor Brando informed Schneider that this was to take place, as Bertolucci wanted her reaction “not as an actress, but as a girl.” After filming wrapped, Schneider refused to speak to Bertolucci, as she “felt humiliated and… a little raped,” by both the director and Brando.
Bertolucci eventually won the Academy Award for Best Director for 1987’s The Last Emperor, the first Western film made with the cooperation of China’s communist government.
On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, we mourn the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob is the longest running tv show in American History, and has brought joy to generations of children around the world. For those unfamiliar with this ubiquitous sea
creature, SpongeBob is an enthusiastic, cheerful fry cook who lives in a pineapple under the sea. The show follows SpongeBob and his friends’ adventures and mishaps.
You can find Bertolucci films like The Last Emperor (DVD 4098) and Last Tango in Paris (DVD 4560) in our collection. We also have the first three seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants (DVD 14168, 14169, and 14170). You should definitely check out the second season, which features my favorite episode—“Band Geeks.”
Blade Runner 2049 comes out tomorrow, October 6th, playing basically everywhere.It’s supposed to be a not-awful sequel, which is easy to believe after watching the trailer: Naturally, the library has Blade Runner (HU DVD 1064), as well as Villeneuve’s Incendies (HU DVD 3563), Prisoners (HU DVD 11188), and Sicario (DVD 12919). Oh, and Arrival (HU … Continue reading “Blade Runner 2049”
Blade Runner 2049 comes out tomorrow, October 6th, playing basically everywhere. It’s supposed to be a not-awful sequel, which is easy to believe after watching the trailer:
Naturally, the library has Blade Runner (HU DVD 1064), as well as Villeneuve’s Incendies (HU DVD 3563), Prisoners (HU DVD 11188), and Sicario (DVD 12919). Oh, and Arrival (HU DVD 13753), which I disliked but everyone else on the planet loved.
Incendies is definitely worth checking out! Very hopeful that this sequel will actually not be terrible.
Once in a while, a lost film appears, delighting film buffs and historians. In the past few years, we’ve seen a lost Méliès film, a Hitchcock, and a Star Wars-related short all turn up after decades of absence. But this weekend, someone uploaded the Holy Grail: Jean-Luc Godard’s first narrative film. Une Femme Coquette (embedded … Continue reading “You can now watch Jean-Luc Godard’s first narrative film”
Une Femme Coquette (embedded above) was suddenly and unexpectedly uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday. Although it’s not a masterwork, it’s enormously historically significant. As The A.V. Club‘s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky says, you can see some of Godard’s early tics and style that would eventually become influential in the French New Wave.
We’re stunned that more and more films continue to be unearthed, especially such important ones. Come on, The Day the Clown Cried!
You might have missed that a new Steven Spielberg movie came out this year. The BFG was a bit of a flop, a surprise considering the beloved director at the helm.
As movie studios are learning, director choice holds less and less sway over audiences as studios recruit new talent to headline their films somewhat anonymously. Take Colin Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World after only a few small independent successes. He was affordable, it brought new blood into Hollywood, and frankly, he nailed it. So why would studios hire a marquee name?
Kevin Lincoln suggests in a new Vulture article that the cracks are finally showing in this model. The last two years have been filled with stories of blockbuster movies delayed by reshoots or production troubles, and often, the fingers point to inexperienced directors not accustomed to working with massive budgets under studio control. The horror story behind last year’s Fantastic Four reboot is an extreme case (extensive reshoots, the director openly fighting his producers, and a barely coherent final product), but the benefits of confident directors are becoming clearer in their absence.
Don’t expect Martin Scorsese to direct the next Star Wars movie. But maybe by the next Fantastic Four movie, the director will have more experience under their belt.
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 … Continue reading “A new lost Méliès was discovered… after it was mislabeled”
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.
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 … Continue reading “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.