Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dementia 13

Sources: Google Video, Internet Archive

In 1963, after completing production of The Young Racers with an extra $20,000 left over, B-movie king Roger Corman approached the young Francis Ford Coppola, wanting him to make a psychological horror film along the lines of Hitchcock’s recent film, Psycho. Crafting a story over night, writing a screenplay in a matter of days, and shooting the entire film in a single location over the course of only a few weeks, Coppola’s Hollywood directorial debut stands up suprisingly well.


In the Library:
  • Lewis, Jon. 1995. Whom God wishes to destroy--: Francis Coppola and the new Hollywood. Durham: Duke University Press. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Lourdeaux, Lee. 1990. Italian and Irish filmmakers in America: Ford, Capra, Coppola, and Scorsese. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Phillips, Gene D. 2004. Godfather: the intimate Francis Ford Coppola. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. [Link: WorldCat]
  • "Francis Ford Coppola." Guide to Literary Masters and Their Works (2007). Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost. [Link: EbscoHost]

On the Web:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Solar System

Source Internet Archive

When he saw saw this film in 1979, George Lucas hired Tom Smith to run his visual effects facility, Industrial Light and Magic. From 1980 to 1986, Smith oversaw the visual effects for many block buster features including: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestial (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and many others. This is his academic film masterwork, which took over a year to create, over 13 weeks to film, and utilized "traveling mattes," with as many as five separate films running in the background, showcasing wonderful models and graphics.

About the making of the film, Tom Smith writes:

"I made that film in 1976 with Richard Basehard as narrator and a classical music score recorded in the Soviet Union... this was the film that turned my career toward visual effects. We shot it in a large rented space in the back of a West Los Angeles dress factory. We hung large black curtains to keep out light out from the factory but we could still hear the sewing machine whirring away behind the curtain. They were making bathrobes at the time, out of luffy material. It took months of preparation before we could shoot our first frame of film. We laid down a forty foot stretch of track of parallel plumbing ipes and put down a camera support whose movements were on a geared guide so every increment of movement could be controlled with the turn of a wheel. Nearly all of the shots involved a moving camera. It was like animation with three dimensional model planets instead of cell images. We found the best material for the planets was hard wood. So we hired a Hollywood cabinet shop to make nine spheres for us, about 18 inches in diameter. These were sanded and painted to match images in astronomy books and observatory photos. Shooting one frame at a time meant we never got more than a few seconds of film shot in a day. One long shot involved the camera moving in on Mars. The first long day’s work was ruined. As the camera came in on the red planet, a large piece of fuzz came into frame, sitting on the planet. It had drifted down on the sphere from the dress factory." - Academic Film Archive


In the Library:

• Rickitt, Richard. Special effects : The History and Technique [WorldCat]

• McCarthy, Robert E. Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects [WorldCat]

• Vaz, Mark Cotta. The invisible art : the legends of movie matte painting [WorldCat]

• Prince, Stephen. The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts: Cinema and Cinematography in the Digital Era. Film Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Spring, 2004), pp. 24-33 [JSTOR]

On the Web:

Industrial Light and Magic official website

Bigoraphy of Thomas G. Smith at the Academic Film Archive of North America

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Source: Google Video

For your Holloween enjoyment, we present F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1921). This groundbreaking German silent film is essentially a “retelling” of the Dracula story. At the time of its production, the estate of Bram Stoker still retained the copyright to the Dracula novel, so Murnau's studio, Prana Film, tried to insert just enough creative license to pass off Nosferatu as a derivative work. Stoker’s estate thought the changes merely cosmetic, and brought Prana Film to court. The courts ruled in favor of Stoker, ordered all copies of the film confiscated, and forced Prana Film into bankruptcy. Fortunately (for posterity), a large number of reels had already been distributed overseas, ensuring the survival of this now classic film. Nosferatu even inspired a big-budget remake in 1979 by acclaimed German director, Werner Herzog.


In the Library:
  • Carter, Margaret L. 1988. Dracula: the vampire and the critics. Studies in speculative fiction, no. 19. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Eisner, Lotte H. 1973. Murnau. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel. 1971. The German cinema. New York: Praeger Publishers. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Skal, David J. 1990. Hollywood gothic: the tangled web of Dracula from novel to stage to screen. New York: Norton. [Link: WorldCat]

On the Web:

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Source: [Google Video (French Subs), (Spanish Subs)]

Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? traces the trials & travails of the General Motors EV-1, the first commercially produced electric car in modern times. The EV-1 was made available through a least program to California and Arizona residents from 1996 to 2003. In August of that year, General Motors made the controversial decision to recall all EV-1s, denying the requests of owners to extent the lease or to purchase the vehicle from GM.

Whether or not the decision to discontinue development of the EV-1 was a practical business decision or one shrouded in ulterior motives, the decision resulted in American auto manufacturers abandoning research into alternative fueled vehicles, while Honda and Toyota continued to develop battery and hybrid gas-electric designs. The decision to kill the EV-1 is one that Larry Burns, Chief of Research & Development for General Motors, recently lamented in Newsweek, stating, “If we could turn back the hands of time ... we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.”


In the Library:
  • Exum, Kaitlen Jay, and Lynn Messina. 2004. The car and its future. The reference shelf, v. 76, no. 5. New York: H.W. Wilson. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Shnayerson, Michael. 1996. The car that could: the inside story of GM's revolutionary electric vehicle. New York: Random House. [Link: WorldCat]
  • Westbrook, M. H. 2001. The electric car: development and future of battery, hybrid and fuel-cell cars. IEE power and energy series, 38. London: Institution of Electrical Engineers. [Link: WorldCat]

On the Web:

Duck and Cover

Source Internet Archive

Duck and Cover was a civil defense film produced in 1951 by the United States federal government's Civil Defense branch shortly after the Soviet Union began nuclear testing. Written by Raymond J. Mauer and directed by Anthony Rizzo of Archer Productions and made with the help of school children from New York City and Astoria, New York, it was shown in schools as the cornerstone of the government's "duck and cover" public awareness campaign. Narrated through Bert the Turtle, the movie states that nuclear war could happen at any time without warning, and U.S. citizens should keep this constantly in mind and be ever ready.

Although duck-and-cover drills are no longer held in United States schools and most fallout shelters have been closed down or abandoned, Duck and Cover, which was shown to an entire generation of children, is part of American popular culture. The idea has been constantly referenced in television shows and movies, usually in a context implying Duck and Cover is an example of kitch. - Wikipedia


In the Library:

• Cannell, Roger S. Live; a handbook of survival in nuclear attack. [WorldCat]

• United States Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. Protection in the Nuclear Age. [Government Document D 14.8/3:20]

• United States Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Fallout Shelter : Modified Ceiling Shelter, Basement Location Plan A. [Government Document FEM 1.8/3:12-A]

• Davis, Tracy C. Between History and Event: Rehearsing Nuclear War Survival. TDR, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter, 2002), pp. 11-45. [JSTOR]

On the Web:

• 1979 Office of Technology Assessment The Effects of Nuclear War

Production History of Duck and Cover

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Man Who Planted Trees [L'homme qui plantait des arbres]

Source Google Video

The Man Who Planted Trees, also known as The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met, and The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness, is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953. It tells the story of one shepherd's long and successful single-handed effort to reforest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps near Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century. Undeterred by two World Wars, and without any thought of personal reward, the shepherd tirelessly sows his seeds and acorns with the greatest care. As if by magic, a landscape that seemed condemned grows green again.


In the Library:

• Giono, Jean. The song of the world [WorldCat]

• Giono, Jean. Blue Boy [WorldCat]

• Giono, Jean. Regain, Roman [WorldCat]

• Giono, Jean. Le chant du monde [WorldCat]

On the Web:

Biography of Jean Gino

The Fog of War

Source Google Video

Robert S. McNamara discusses his experiences and lessons learned during his tenure as Secretary of Defense under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He talks about his work as a bombing statistician during World War II, his brief tenure as president of Ford Motor Company, and the Kennedy administration's triumph during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, the film focuses primarily on his failures in Vietnam. The theme of the film are his "eleven lessons" learned during this time. Some of these include improving military efficiency, understanding your enemy, and the frustrations of trying to deal with (and unsuccessfully trying to change) human nature.


In the Library:

• Dobbs, Michael. One minute to midnight : Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the brink of nuclear war. [WorldCat]

• Freedman, Lawrence. Kennedy's wars : Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. [WorldCat]

• McNamara, Robert S. Argument without end : in search of answers to the Vietnam tragedy. [WorldCat]

• McNamara, Robert S. In retrospect : the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam. [WorldCat]

On the Web:

Fog of War: The Official Site

CNN Cold War Episode Interviewing Robert S. McNamara

Friday, October 24, 2008

Night of the Living Dead

[Link: Google Video]
[Link: Internet Archive]

With Halloween approaching, we offer the 1968 George A. Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead. While not the first zombie movie (that honor goes to the 1932 Victor Halperin film, White Zombie, starring the legendary Bela Lugosi), Night of the Living Dead redefined the genre, spawned a ravenous horde of sequels and imitators, and its influence has infected virtually all media, from movies, books, and music to comic books and video games (there is even a zombie musical).

Outside of a few dark corners of literary studies, anthropology, comparative religion, zombies have until recently gained scant scholarly attention. But within the last decade they have come out of the darkness of pop culture into the light of academia, where these mindless creatures have given rise to serious thought. The philosopher David B. Chalmers used the idea of a zombie to critique generally accepted notions of human consciousness. His book, The Conscious Mind, provoked an onslaught of responses within philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science.

True to their nature, zombies have proven difficult to put down, even in the scholarly world. The zombie infection has slowly spread to other disciplines. In business, zombies have inspired the concept of “zombie firms” -- inefficient, debt-ladden firms which only continue to survive due to support from national banks,and in computer science, there is the “zombie computer” -- an idle computer whose security has been compromised and is being exploited by another. There was even a recent call for papers on interdisciplinary zombie studies. (If interested, you'd better hurry. The deadline is October 31st!)

Chalmers, David B. (1996) The Conscious Mind. New York: Oxford University Press. [Link: NetLibrary]

Cavanaugh, Tim. “We the Living Dead: The Convoluted Politics of Zombie Cimema.” Reason Magazine. Febuary 2007. [Link: Reason Online]

Hoshi, Takeo. 2006. "ECONOMICS OF THE LIVING DEAD." Japanese Economic Review 57, no. 1: 30-49. [Link: Ebsco - Business Source Complete]

Paffinroth, Kim (2006). Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth. Waco, Tx.: Baylor University Press. [Link: NetLibrary]

Kirk, Robert (2006). “Zombies.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Source Google Video

This documentary takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to survive against the presence of Wal-Mart. From a family business owner in the Midwest to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents capture these intensely personal stories. This documentary intends to show that even if your only connection to the company is seeing its large stores pass by the window of your car that its impact probably reaches your life in ways you never imagined.


In the Library:

• Dicker, John. The United States of Wal-Mart. [WorldCat]

• Smith, Hedrick. Is Wal-Mart good for America? {videorecording} [WorldCat]

• Vedder, Richard K. The Wal-Mart revolution : how big-box stores benefit consumers, workers, and the economy. [WorldCat]

• Ortega, Bob. In Sam we trust : the untold story of Sam Walton and how Wal-Mart is devouring America [WorldCat]

• Vance, Sandra Stringer. Wal-Mart : a history of Sam Walton's retail phenomenon. [WorldCat]

On the Web:

NPR - Wal-Mart's Social and Economic Impact

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Source: Google Video

On Friday, the philosophy club will present a showing of the film V For Vendetta (2005), directed by James McTeigue, and based on a graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. Following the showing of the film, Dr. Matthew Butkus will lead a discussion of philosophical themes in the movie. The main conceit of the film is that the character V, who hides behind a mask of Guy Fawkes, threatens to destroy the House of Parliament on November 5th, the anniversary of the gunpowder plot.

It was on that day in 1605 that a group of conspirators led by Robert Catesby hoped to overthrow the government of King James I with the help of a Guy Fawkes. Fawkes, who had become an explosives expert as a soldier fighting for Catholic Spain, shared the conspirator's disdain for Protestant rule. It was hoped that by blowing up the Parliament building during the state opening -- killing both James and the Protestant Aristocracy -- the resulting upheaval would result in Catholic nobility returning to power in England. But on the night of November 4th, Fawkes was captured in a vault beneath the House of Lords, guarding a cache of 36 barrels of gunpowder. His capture put an end to the consiracy, and the discovery of the plot turned public sentiment even more strongly in support of Protestant rule.

To this day, November 5th is a national holiday in the United Kingdom, and is celebrated with the exploding of fireworks.


In the Library:

• Fraser, Antonia. 1996. Faith and Treason: the Story of the Gunpowder Plot . New York: Doubleday. [WorldCat]
• Gardiner, Samuel Rawson. 1969. What Gunpowder Plot Was . New York: AMS Press. [WorldCat]

On the Web:

BBC History - The Gunpowder Plot
UK Parliament - Gunpowder Plot