Celebrate ‘merica with an irrationally patriotic movie marathon

 Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year, so many DC businesses are taking Friday off too – including us! The extended weekend gives us an opportunity to cram in a few more patriotic movies. We have fond memories of spending the Fourth lazily watching Independence Day on basic cable, and for America’s 239th … Continue reading “Celebrate ‘merica with an irrationally patriotic movie marathon”

 Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year, so many DC businesses are taking Friday off too – including us! The extended weekend gives us an opportunity to cram in a few more patriotic movies. We have fond memories of spending the Fourth lazily watching Independence Day on basic cable, and for America’s 239th birthday, we look forward to three days of the same.

When making Fourth of July recommendations, there’s a few classics. Lincoln is a powerful portrait of one country’s greatest presidents, and 1776 will always be entertaining for making Benjamin Franklin singing about “sexual combustibility.” But for a holiday primarily about blowing things up, we also need to recommend the most aggressively, absurdly patriotic movies. There’s a danger, especially in military films, of patriotism turning violent or xenophobic, but the best rootin’-tootin’ America-worshipping movies love our country to an exaggerated level that’s almost harmless in its total silliness.

So, before we close tonight, we recommend swinging by the library for one of these movies that celebrates America – either in serious reverence of its history or in total, deep-fried excess. National Treasure probably falls hallway between those.

1776 – HU DVD 4969
Glory – HU DVD 1171
Independence Day – HU DVD 3111
John Adams (miniseries) – HU DVD 4991 – 4993
Lincoln – HU DVD 6210
National Treasure – HU DVD 11187
The Patriot – HU DVD 347*
Red Dawn – HU DVD 259
Team America: World Police – HU DVD 2089
Top Gun – HU DVD 2959

Documentaries answer: what’s happening in Greece?

News broke today that Greece is in serious financial straits, having missed a major loan repayment to the IMF and now teetering on the edge of default. We admit to not following this situation closely and to being less literate in international politics than likely a majority of the AU students. As is our tendency, … Continue reading “Documentaries answer: what’s happening in Greece?”

News broke today that Greece is in serious financial straits, having missed a major loan repayment to the IMF and now teetering on the edge of default. We admit to not following this situation closely and to being less literate in international politics than likely a majority of the AU students. As is our tendency, we’re turning to documentaries in our collection to get a better understanding of this situation.

We found three quality streaming videos on the Films in Demand database that explain how Europe’s greater currency crisis, Greece’s particular situation and its relationship with banking, and how many Greek citizens are reacting to the austerity measures.

  • The Great Euro Crash – a BBC documentary about the long history of the Euro, tracing its development from theoretical planning in the mid-20th century to the current dilemma in Greece.
  • Greece’s New Odyssey – looks at changing rural life in Greece and how agriculture and barter have become an alternative for young people leaving cities
  • Goldman Sachs and the Decline of Greece – generally about Greece’s crisis but specifically about how American investment bank Goldman Sachs fed its financial collapse

This is of course not a complete picture of what’s happening in Greece, but these videos certainly fill in the details better than many articles we’ve read. Films on Demand regularly updates their collections with quality, timely documentaries like these.

AFIDOCS is underway!

Time for a quick PSA: the annual AFIDOCS documentary film festival kicked off yesterday! AFIDOCS is a terrific, half-week-long, city-spanning event that showcases new documentary features and shorts from around the world. Visit the AFIDOCS website for a list of where and when everything will be playing. Many of these documentaries will screen at the … Continue reading “AFIDOCS is underway!”

Time for a quick PSA: the annual AFIDOCS documentary film festival kicked off yesterday! AFIDOCS is a terrific, half-week-long, city-spanning event that showcases new documentary features and shorts from around the world.

Visit the AFIDOCS website for a list of where and when everything will be playing. Many of these documentaries will screen at the AFI’s flagship theater in Silver Spring, but other theaters throughout the city are participating if you don’t feel like making the trek on the Red Line.

If we have to play favorites with this year’s assemblage, we would pick The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing) and Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, which examines the history of women in computer programming.

Buy your tickets in advance if you can. These screenings will sell out!

Head back to dino-school before seeing Jurassic World

 What will blow up the box office this summer? Dino might. …okay, fine, we’re sorry. The point is that Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, is going to be monstrously successful this weekend. Nearly every child of a certain age became obsessed with dinosaurs at the same time because of Jurassic … Continue reading “Head back to dino-school before seeing Jurassic World”

 What will blow up the box office this summer? Dino might.

…okay, fine, we’re sorry. The point is that Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, is going to be monstrously successful this weekend. Nearly every child of a certain age became obsessed with dinosaurs at the same time because of Jurassic Park. In fact, we’re certain you can still name your favorite dinosaur.

We want to stoke that excitement again. So in addition to promoting our Jurassic Park movie collection (specifically the bonus disc that came with the trilogy box set, DVD 4904), we want to talk about our educational dinosaur videos. A catalog search turns up over fifty dinosaur-related items in our collection; here are a few highlights to get your dino-juices flowing.

(All these videos are available to watch streaming via the library catalog.)

  • Dino Death Trap: Take a close look at a Pompeii-type graveyard of dinosaur species trapped in lava – and well-preserved!
  • Dino Revolution: This video from 2000 sheds light on then-recent discoveries linking dinosaurs to birds
  • How to Build a Dinosaur: Watch up-close as scientists piece together dinosaur skeletons and reveal how they work on these reconstructions.
  • Reconstructing T-Rex: A 2009 documentary about recent discoveries about everyone’s favorite giant terrifying apex predator.
  • Dino Math: So this one isn’t really about dinosaurs, but it has kids solving math problems with dinosaur manipulatives. We figured this would bring back some good memories.

Early reviews indicate that Jurassic World is exciting but not quite as inspiring as the original. We hope this doesn’t prevent a new generation of kids from having their own overly-excited-about-dinosaurs phase. Luckily, we have educational dinosaur content like the videos above the carry the torch.

Oregon Goonies fans never say die, but they’re getting on in years

Beloved 80s adventure movie The Goonies turned 30 last week. That’s a milestone you probably didn’t know or really care about, much like how you missed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie‘s 25th anniversary in March. But it was a big deal in Astoria, Oregon, the small northwest town where The Goonies was filmed. Over … Continue reading “Oregon Goonies fans never say die, but they’re getting on in years”

Beloved 80s adventure movie The Goonies turned 30 last week. That’s a milestone you probably didn’t know or really care about, much like how you missed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie‘s 25th anniversary in March.

But it was a big deal in Astoria, Oregon, the small northwest town where The Goonies was filmed. Over the weekend, Astoria welcomed over 10,000 fans (more than their total population) to take part in a weekend of meet-and-greets, panels, and other Goonies-centric events. The big draw this year was a screening at John Warren Field, a high school athletic field featured in the movie that will soon be torn down. Fans also participated in the “One-Eyed Willy Treasure Geocaching Hunt,” which is about as crudely modern as a Goonies remake would probably be.

We love when people care way too much about their favorite pop culture, and we’re sad that we missed The Goonies anniversary. Only one year left to plan for the Short Circuit celebration!

You can also always check out The Goonies from our collection for a belated celebration (HU DVD 3576).

The unexpected new life of Black Angel

Two years ago, we first told you about Black Angel, a recently unearthed lost film from 1980. Black Angel was an influential fantasy short film that played before The Empire Strikes Back during its first theatrical run; its practical effects and “step-printed” slow-motion paved the way for movies including Legend and Excalibur. But copies of … Continue reading “The unexpected new life of Black Angel”

Two years ago, we first told you about Black Angel, a recently unearthed lost film from 1980. Black Angel was an influential fantasy short film that played before The Empire Strikes Back during its first theatrical run; its practical effects and “step-printed” slow-motion paved the way for movies including Legend and Excalibur. But copies of Black Angel vanished, and even director Roger Christian did not have a copy until a film archivist unearthed a print in late 2012.

Now Black Angel has found a second wind. Earlier in May this year, the film was released for free on YouTube (embedded above), bringing this fantasy short to audiences who never experienced it in theaters. That isn’t the end of Black Angel‘s story either. After receiving an enormously warm response to the re-release, Christian began production of a feature-length remake of Black Angel, tentatively starring Rutger Hauer and John Rhys-Davies.

Consider that this movie was unavailable and almost unknown a few years ago. Black Angel‘s resurgence is a testament to why film preservation is culturally important.

Unearthed transcript reveals the origins of Indiana Jones

The National Geographic Museum downtown recently opened an exhibit about Indiana Jones and the films’ connections to actual history. This had us thinking about our favorite tenured action hero. Coincidentally, a link has been making the rounds revealing how Indy got his start – and what he might have been in an early draft. In … Continue reading “Unearthed transcript reveals the origins of Indiana Jones”

The National Geographic Museum downtown recently opened an exhibit about Indiana Jones and the films’ connections to actual history. This had us thinking about our favorite tenured action hero. Coincidentally, a link has been making the rounds revealing how Indy got his start – and what he might have been in an early draft.

In 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and writer Lawrence Kasdan sat down to discuss who Indiana Jones was and what his films would be like. Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog provides a good summary of the most interesting parts of a transcript of that meeting, first posted online in 2009. There’s mentions of scrapped characters, like an elderly mentor for Indiana who previously assumed the mantle of daring renegade archaeologist. Indiana was also very briefly inspired by Columbo‘s Peter Falk, and several ideas from the back-and-forth about his adventures ended up in later movies, spinoffs, and media.

(You can also see some of the unfortunately dated politics and language on display when the writers talk about adding “exotic” characters. Nearly forty years have passed since this meeting.)

This transcript is an insightful slice of film development that offers insights into how three of the brightest minds in movies conjured such a memorable character. Only the general idea of an archaeologist in serialized adventures was fully formed; the rest needed hours of discussion. The full conversation is worth committing a day to read. And relevant to the exhibit, it shows how the directors and writers connected real history to a fantastical movie setting.

The finished product is, of course, available in the collection (HU DVD 3251).

With Letterman’s departure, walk back through the old guard of late night

David Letterman ends his late night talk show career tonight. Although he has certainly settled into a curmudgeonly pattern in the last decade or so – and is probably indistinguishable from Jay Leno for many younger viewers – Letterman’s earlier years behind the desk remain some of the stranger and riskier network television ever produced.  … Continue reading “With Letterman’s departure, walk back through the old guard of late night”

David Letterman ends his late night talk show career tonight. Although he has certainly settled into a curmudgeonly pattern in the last decade or so – and is probably indistinguishable from Jay Leno for many younger viewers – Letterman’s earlier years behind the desk remain some of the stranger and riskier network television ever produced.  He pioneered the use of absurdism and sarcasm in the traditional talk show model, like in an episode where the screen rotated throughout the evening. He’s certainly an institution now, but for many years, Letterman broadcast on the edge of what producers would allow.

Letterman is the last remaining network talk show host who started before the year 2000, and his retirement arguably symbolizes the end of the old guard of late night television. This got us thinking about the history of late night and the older figureheads who defined the genre for earlier generations.

If you want to learn a little about the history of late night talk shows, we found a great documentary, Pioneers of Television, that covers the first twenty years of the format. We’re sure everyone is sick of hearing about Johnny Carson’s borderline canonization, but there’s great bits in there, like the story of host Jack Paar’s sudden disappearance mid-program. This is a streaming video, so you can access it off-campus and watch it at any time.

The talk show has certainly evolved beyond those older shows, with Jimmy Fallon’s energy or Eric Andre’s aggressive surrealism marking the new goal posts for future hosts. But it’s worth a trip back to remember why Letterman’s weirdness mattered in the television landscape.

Sterling Cooper will go out big – but not bigger than Tool Time

AMC’s breakthrough drama Mad Men ends tonight, eight years after its debut that put scripted basic cable television on the map. Despite the show’s cultural ubiquity(some would argue oversaturation) the final episode likely won’t come even close to breaking records for most-watched finales. This has much to do with the ways we now watch television … Continue reading “Sterling Cooper will go out big – but not bigger than Tool Time”

AMC’s breakthrough drama Mad Men ends tonight, eight years after its debut that put scripted basic cable television on the map. Despite the show’s cultural ubiquity(some would argue oversaturation) the final episode likely won’t come even close to breaking records for most-watched finales. This has much to do with the ways we now watch television compared to decades ago; in fact, when considering the finales that made the greatest cultural impact – The Sorpanos, Breaking Bad, and even The Colbert Report – the most-watched finales in history seem downright silly.

Take a quick look at mental_floss’s list of the ten most highly rated television finales. Somehow, Home Improvement makes the list, with other 35 million people watching Tim Allen’s last turn on as Tim Taylor. That has far less to do with the quality of Home Improvement than the network-dominated media environment that led it to massive popularity.

We don’t mean to rag on the quality of some of these shows. The finales of M*A*S*H and Cheers are certainly all-time classics, but it’s startling to consider any show that would draw an audience of over 50 million viewers. We’re sure Mad Men will bring out a big following, but with current media consumption patterns, we expect most fans to watch it on Netflix or Amazon months later.

School’s out! Christen the end of the year with summer vacation movies

In just a few hours, the 2014-2015 academic year comes to a close. We’ve enjoyed this decidedly busy year, but like you, we’re looking forward to cutting back our workload a little. More importantly, we’re sure everyone is looking forward to taking some time off for a little vacation, no matter how big or small. … Continue reading “School’s out! Christen the end of the year with summer vacation movies”

In just a few hours, the 2014-2015 academic year comes to a close. We’ve enjoyed this decidedly busy year, but like you, we’re looking forward to cutting back our workload a little. More importantly, we’re sure everyone is looking forward to taking some time off for a little vacation, no matter how big or small. And given the beautiful weather, we’re giddy thinking about the summer to come. What better way to stoke that excitement than to recommend a few summer-themed movies.

An infinite number of vacation movies and television shows exist, so we winnowed our selections down to a handful that we can learn something from. Everyone’s summer experience is different, but there are enough unifying themes – travel, emotions, and friendship – that we could make a few recommendations that most everyone should connect to.

(We aren’t actually offering these movies and TV episodes as life models, and in most cases, you should probably avoid doing whatever their characters choose. The one exception is the streaming video about travel photography; that one is very useful!)

Wet Hot American SummerHU DVD 1506
The lesson: Don’t be the one to make a grand confessional on the last day of summer; it’s cliched.

SummertimeHU DVD 3964
The lesson: Summer love, though fleeting, can be trouble.

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Season 2, Episode 1, “Vacation” – HU DVD 4026
The lesson: Make new friends, preferably if they have dreads and make a video of your summer.

AdventurelandHU DVD 6464
The lesson: A summer job isn’t so bad, and you might get something more out of it than money.

The Way Way BackHU DVD 8478
The lesson: Take the family trip, even if your stepfather is a jerk.

The Office: Season 3, Episode 22, “Beach Games” – HU DVD 14156
The lesson: Improve your trip to the beach with competitive eating and sumo wrestling.

Travel: How to Take Stunning PhotosStreaming video
The lesson: Remember to bring your camera… but use it well.

Hot SummerHU DVD 495
No lesson here, but we bet you haven’t watched this Germany summer vacation musical.