DC rings in the official arrival of The Future

At long last, 26 years after the film’s release, today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future in Back to the Future Part II. Despite occupying only a fraction of the running time of the entire trilogy, the futuristic 2015 is one of the most iconic and memorable depictions … Continue reading “DC rings in the official arrival of The Future”

At long last, 26 years after the film’s release, today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future in Back to the Future Part II. Despite occupying only a fraction of the running time of the entire trilogy, the futuristic 2015 is one of the most iconic and memorable depictions of the future on film.

Dozens of websites have already covered what BTTFII got right and wrong about the distant future of 2015, so instead, let’s round up all the Back to the Future-related happenings in the city today!

Reston, VA is the center of the biggest celebrations: as part of the Washington West International Film Festival, the city has changed its name to Hill Valley and will host a marathon screening of the trilogy at EXACTLY 7pm tonight. On Sunday, WWIFF will also screen a new documentary about the history of the series and a sold-out red carpet celebration featuring Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd.

If you can’t make it out to Reston, the Regal 14 in Gallery Place downtown will host a screening of BTTFII at 5pm… which we assume is as close as they could get to the 4:29pm, the exact time Marty and Doc arrive in the future. The Esquire Network will also run a marathon of the series throughout the day. (Our copy of Back to the Future II is already checked out, sorry! The original is still available though.)

And for the 21+ crowd, Fantom Comics in Dupont Circle will hold a Back to the Future celebration party this evening, complete with a costume and impression contest. Hill Valley-themed drinks are promised.

We could join the chorus bemoaning that we didn’t get hoverboards or self-drying jackets, but instead, let’s celebrate that our 2015 is exciting in different, totally unexpected ways. for instance, you’re reading this blog post that I wrote from the basement of a library instead of a newspaper! Take that, USA Today!

Alternative programming: How about a different holiday?

From The Native Americans We probably don’t need to recap the reasons why Columbus Day has lost favor in the past few years. Ask your favorite history professor or the ghost of Howard Zinn. But, if you’re looking for more material about the real history of Columbus’s expeditions and the lives of Native Americans we … Continue reading “Alternative programming: How about a different holiday?”

From The Native Americans

We probably don’t need to recap the reasons why Columbus Day has lost favor in the past few years. Ask your favorite history professor or the ghost of Howard Zinn.

But, if you’re looking for more material about the real history of Columbus’s expeditions and the lives of Native Americans we are happy to supply you with a few relevant videos. Many groups are pushing to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, so we’d like to tear down the old history narrative at the same time as celebrating the people who should really get the credit for being here first.

Rather than listing individual titles this time, we’ll point you to our Indigenous Peoples of the Americas filmography. The general filmography list has some stirring videos about historical narrative and revisionism, but you’ll most likely want to look at the U.S. / Canada page, which focuses on both the effect of Europe’s expeditions and current Native American life and media portrayals.

That list includes many streaming titles, so you can watch them instantly from your device of choice. It’s certainly a better way to spend an hour than continuing to observe this very strange holiday.

DC’s most genuinely spooky place becomes a landmark

If you’re an AU student who has made the trek to Georgetown, you’ve probably encountered the Exorcist steps, the legendary staircase famously used in a climactic scene from the bone-chillingly terrifying film The Exorcist. It’s in an unassuming spot – behind a gas station on M Street – but it has for decades served as … Continue reading “DC’s most genuinely spooky place becomes a landmark”

If you’re an AU student who has made the trek to Georgetown, you’ve probably encountered the Exorcist steps, the legendary staircase famously used in a climactic scene from the bone-chillingly terrifying film The Exorcist. It’s in an unassuming spot – behind a gas station on M Street – but it has for decades served as a beacon for local horror and movie fans.

At long last, the DC local government has decided to honor the Exorcist steps by making them an official city landmark. The commemoration ceremony will be held on October 30th at 6pm, right in time for Halloween. Public attendees are welcome and are invited to mingle beforehand with writer William Peter Blatty and author William Friedkin. (Bring something for them to autograph!)

American University and the School of Communications appear to be co-sponsoring this event, though we couldn’t find anything official about that. Either way, it’s still unlikely that you’ll be able to go to the invitation-only screening of The Exorcist that follows the ceremony. But certainly head down to see a piece of DC movie trivia become DC history.

Snag an armload of Criterion titles for half-off today!

Like an Arby’s selling piles of loose beef, the Criterion Collection has opened the floodgates on their store and is selling their entire DVD and Blu-ray stock for 50% off for the next 24 hours. This is a fantastic sale that every film buff should consider taking advantage of. The Criterion Collection sells the definitive … Continue reading “Snag an armload of Criterion titles for half-off today!”

Like an Arby’s selling piles of loose beef, the Criterion Collection has opened the floodgates on their store and is selling their entire DVD and Blu-ray stock for 50% off for the next 24 hours.

This is a fantastic sale that every film buff should consider taking advantage of. The Criterion Collection sells the definitive home video restorations of hundreds of classic films, everything from 20s silents to one of last year’s Oscar nominees. They have a formidable storefront, and if you’ve ever wanted to start your own film library, this is the best place to jump in and pick up a few great titles. DVDs that might normally cost $40 are selling for $20, which is a steal considering the extra content and commentary packed onto each disc.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to buy, check out Criterion’s sale dashboard, which tracks the most popular films as well as which ones have almost run out. As of this writing, there’s only a few copies of Videodrome left. Go go go!

(To get the 50% discount, use the promo code SUZY when checking out.)

Clap in a circle to mourn the end (?) of fake birthday songs

After a court decision last night, movie and television characters might finally be able to sing “Happy Birthday to You.” The Summy Company contested for decades that it owned the copyright to the universally recognized birthday song and charged productions $10,000 to include its melody and lyrics. No one really wanted to pay all that … Continue reading “Clap in a circle to mourn the end (?) of fake birthday songs”

After a court decision last night, movie and television characters might finally be able to sing “Happy Birthday to You.” The Summy Company contested for decades that it owned the copyright to the universally recognized birthday song and charged productions $10,000 to include its melody and lyrics. No one really wanted to pay all that for an incidental song (with the bizarre exception of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room), so shows and films have made up their own alternative birthday songs to skirt the copyright.

That era might finally be over, but some of those fake jingles are pretty great. A few years back, the Free Music Archive assembled a collection of some of their favorite royalty-free birthday songs into a video, embedded above. There’s some good choices, especially Police Squad!‘s overdubbed choral replacement and Waiting‘s uncomfortable military chant.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the greatest omission from that video: “Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The character Master Shake wrote this bizarre metal dirge in an attempt to replace the original birthday song and claim royalties once it becomes popular at restaurants. It’s a spot-on parody of the ridiculous hoops creative media had to jump to sing a song that effectively belonged to the public.

As with so many cultural references, all these substitute songs are now instantly relics and will be confusing for future generations. Or maybe we’ll have moved on to “Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary” by then.

A look back at Hugo Award-winning television and film

Yesterday marked the 73rd WorldCon, an annual assemblage of science fiction and fantasy fans and writers that hosts the prestigious Hugo Awards. Named after science fiction editor Hugo Gernsback, the Hugos are awarded every year to groundbreaking genre fiction and proudly include legends like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick among their winners. This year’s … Continue reading “A look back at Hugo Award-winning television and film”

Yesterday marked the 73rd WorldCon, an annual assemblage of science fiction and fantasy fans and writers that hosts the prestigious Hugo Awards. Named after science fiction editor Hugo Gernsback, the Hugos are awarded every year to groundbreaking genre fiction and proudly include legends like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick among their winners. This year’s ceremony was steeped in controversy after anti-diversity groups flooded the nomination process to block submissions by and about people of different races and gender identities, and voters responded by, well, just not giving out some of the awards this time. (Probably an appropriate response!)

Among the many awards for short stories and novellas, the Hugos also honor “dramatic presentations,” usually films and television shows. This year’s crowns went to Guardians of the Galaxy and, for the first time, BBCs Orphan Black. As with the rest of the Hugos, the winners in both the Short Form and Long Form categories have a remarkable pedigree, though we’ll quibble with some of the choices over the years. No win for Last Year at Marienbad in 1963?

Below, we’ve assembled a sample of Hugo-winning titles in our collection. It’s not everything, but it’s a good representation of what the Hugos tends to honor. There’s a lot of obvious major names (of course Star Wars won), which if anything is a great indication of how often they get it right. Congrats to the Hugos on their weird but successful year, and we look forward to seeing what joins these annals in 2016!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – HU DVD 480
The Lord of the Rings trilogy – HU DVD 808 – 810
Blade Runner – HU DVD 1067
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – HU DVD 1096
Star Wars original trilogy – HU DVD 1643 – 1646
Pan’s Labyrinth – HU DVD 2770
Slaughterhouse-Five – HU DVD 5727
Star Trek: “The Menagerie” – HU DVD 6201, Disc 4
Inception – HU DVD 8000
The Incredible Shrinking Man – HU DVD 8968
Game of Thrones, Season 1 – HU DVD 10021
Doctor Who: “Blink” – HU DVD 10803, Disc 4
A Boy and His Dog – HU DVD 11420
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Conversations with Dead People” – HU DVD 14011, Disc 2
The Twilight Zone (television) – HU DVD 14063 – 14067
Star Trek: The Next Generation: “All Good Things…” – HU DVD 14209, Disc 7

Four years ago, Scottish environmentalists took on Trump

With all the hot air swirling about Donald Trump in the past week, now because of his debate performance, we often forget that he was a blowhard in business before he was a blowhard in politics. He’s received flak for some of his higher-profile real-estate projects, many of which involve taking over historic spaces like … Continue reading “Four years ago, Scottish environmentalists took on Trump”

With all the hot air swirling about Donald Trump in the past week, now because of his debate performance, we often forget that he was a blowhard in business before he was a blowhard in politics. He’s received flak for some of his higher-profile real-estate projects, many of which involve taking over historic spaces like his purchase of Old Post Office Pavilion downtown. But once in a while when takes on the little guy, the little guy fights backs.

In the 2012 documentary You’ve Been Trumped, Trump pressures the Scottish government into loosening environmental regulations so he can construct a golf course on the coastline. Activists didn’t take kindly to this, and the film documents their protracted fight to preserve the Scottish coast, as well as looks at the general environmental damage caused by over-development. Trump famously tried to prohibit the release of this documentary and later called it “boring,” which to us reads as a glowing endorsement.

AU students, staff, and faculty can watch You’ve Been Trumped for free as part of our collection from Docuseek2. Log in via the catalog to stream the documentary from your device of choice. We understand if you’re sick of the Donald, but this is an excellently made film and a timely opportunity to continue with the pillorying.

75 years later, celebrating Bugs Bunny – and looking at his contentious history

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros.’s de facto cartoon mascot and a symbol of the golden age of animation (and maybe LeBron James’s future co-star?). Though Bugs is an immediately recognizable icon today, it took hundreds of theatrical animated shorts and countless years of Saturday morning television shows to get there. … Continue reading “75 years later, celebrating Bugs Bunny – and looking at his contentious history”

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros.’s de facto cartoon mascot and a symbol of the golden age of animation (and maybe LeBron James’s future co-star?). Though Bugs is an immediately recognizable icon today, it took hundreds of theatrical animated shorts and countless years of Saturday morning television shows to get there. And those decades have left behind countless historical artifacts of the birth of popular animation that Warner has thankfully preserved and shared for future generations – including the unseemly current of prejudice and xenophobia that sadly defined Looney Tunes for years.

This DVD set, the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, remains the best collection of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts available anywhere. Across six volumes, the compilation includes a breathtaking 360 animated shorts, spanning from 1929 (before the Looney Tunes name even existed) up to the 3D, CG-created Road Runner shorts from 2010. Each disc includes audio commentaries for select shorts from famous animators, as well as fascinating Looney Tunes ephemera such as interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. If you ever wanted to see Mel Blanc recording the voice of Bugs Bunny, you can find some candid footage on the first disc of Volume 1.

But as mentioned, many of these earlier Bugs Bunny shorts were produced at a time far, far less attune to the hurtfulness of racist and sexist stereotypes. A number of the shorts in this collection traffic in insensitive and damaging racial humor that was unchecked, and Warner Bros. has thankfully included those unedited where possible. Several cartoons known as the Censored Eleven have never been released on home media. Warner Bros. eloquently defends their inclusion in the collection with a message that appears at the top of each DVD:

The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim these prejudices never existed.

That’s a powerful statement in defense of artistic history, and with that unfortunate past acknowledged, it’s easier to appreciate the wealth of animated joy Bugs Bunny and directors Tex Avery and Chuck Jones helped bring into the world.

The AU Library proudly circulates three volumes of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, as well as a massive collection of Tex Avery’s adjacent work from the golden age of animation. Any are suitable viewing for Bugs’s big milestone.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 1 – HU DVD 3231 – 3234
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2 – HU DVD 3235 – 3238
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 6 – HU DVD 8181 – 8184
The Compleat Tex Avery – DVD 9781 – 9789
Space Jam – HU DVD 7990

Watch the suddenly-very-relevant Soy Cuba on the big screen

The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba this week opens some obvious doors – some are surely counting down the days until legal cigar imports – but it also offers an appropriate moment to revisit cultural history we may have ignored intentionally or otherwise. Post-revolutionary Cuban films are sometimes left out of … Continue reading “Watch the suddenly-very-relevant Soy Cuba on the big screen”

https://silver.afi.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/m-0100000010

The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba this week opens some obvious doors – some are surely counting down the days until legal cigar imports – but it also offers an appropriate moment to revisit cultural history we may have ignored intentionally or otherwise. Post-revolutionary Cuban films are sometimes left out of world cinema discussions.

A great place to start that discussion is I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba), a visually stunning work depicting pre-revolutionary Cuba and the spirit of its people, including the country’s early cultural tensions with the United States. I Am Cuba was nearly forgotten and languished in Soviet archives for decades before its found new popularity for its striking camerawork and themes. In an almost-too-perfect programming coincidence, the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring will be screening I Am Cuba tomorrow, July 24th, at 4:30pm, with repeat screenings on Sunday and Monday.

Historically, culturally, and artistically, this is a tremendous and once-again relevant film. If you can’t catch it this weekend, you can always borrow our copy from the AU Library (HU DVD 331)

Why should you care about Ennio Morricone?

San Diego Comic-Con wraps up today, and amid all the Batman and Star Wars news, you might have missed a little announcement that has classic film fans in a tizzy. During a panel on Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, the director announced that film composition icon Ennio Morricone would score the movie, his first … Continue reading “Why should you care about Ennio Morricone?”

San Diego Comic-Con wraps up today, and amid all the Batman and Star Wars news, you might have missed a little announcement that has classic film fans in a tizzy. During a panel on Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, the director announced that film composition icon Ennio Morricone would score the movie, his first Western score in forty years. That’s a big, big deal.

So why the hubbub? Morricone’s work is a cornerstone of the Western genre. Picture a Western movie and the music that pops in your head; it’s probably based on something Morricone composed.

Beyond his most recognizable work, the theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (and that film’s legendary Ecstasy of Gold, embedded above) Morricone also wrote the music for Once Upon a Time in the West and countless near-anonymous spaghetti Westerns that have been sampled by other films. Bits of his score for Navajo Joe, for instance, was re-used in Election and Tarantino’s Kill Bill duology. Morricone’s trademark combination of raw guitars, whistling, choral singing, trumpets, and whipcracking have become ingrained in popular film vocabulary often to the point of parody.

A new Morricone Western score is like a new Hitchcock thriller. It’s a new work by an artist in a medium they so thoroughly defined that everything afterwards is homage.

Of course, you need to listen to his music for the full effect. Instead of recommending that you watch any of the dozens of films Morricone scored, we’ll instead point you to Morricone Conducts Morricone, a streaming video in our catalog of a concert of select notable pieces from his oeuvre. It’s a great taste of how he transformed a genre – and what we can expect from him later this year.