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Labor Day isn’t only an excuse to barbecue, procrastinate on homework, or seize your last opportunity to wear your best white ensemble. According to the U.S. Department Labor, it is a day “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and is a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”   As you prepare for your  three-day weekend, consider getting in the original spirit of the holiday by checking out some of these great movies about work and working.   

Harlan County USA (1976) (DVD 5828)

Directed by Barbara Koppel, this Oscar-winning feagure-length documentary follows the activities of coal miners and their families striking against the Brookside mine in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973. This film was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991 and was voted one of the top 5 documentaries of all time by the International Documentary Association.  

Norma Rae (1979) (DVD 7973)

Starring Sally Field, this film depicts a factory worker who becomes involved in a labor union due to the poor health conditions at the factory where she works. The film was based on real-life union organizer Crystal Lee Sutton who was fired from her job at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in North Carolina for trying to organize a union. Her last action at the plant–depicted memorably in Norma Rae–was writing the word “UNION” on a piece of cardboard and standing on her work table, leading her coworkers to turn off their machines in solidarity before she was physically removed by police. Sally Fields won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role and the film was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2011.   

Nine to Five (1980) (DVD 1001)

Although it’s a more light-hearted look at the plight of the worker, Nine to Five is one of my all-time favorite movies that also happens to feature two of my favorites– Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda. This film is a comedic look at how three working women get even with their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical” boss (played by Dabney Coleman) and manage to enact real, positive change in the workplace.  

How Green was My Valley? (1941) (DVD 181)

Winner of 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor, this John Ford picture tells the story of the Morgan family, a Welsh mining family living in South Wales Valleys in the 19th century  

On the Waterfront (1954) (DVD 1319)

Let’s forget for a moment Elia Kazan’s association with the Hollywood Blacklist and his history of ‘naming names’ and appreciate this beautiful film. Focusing on dockworker Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) and his brother Charley (Rod Steiger), the film concerns union violence and corruption on the waterfront of New Jersey. The film won 8 academy awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director. It was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1989.    

Modern Times (1936) (DVD 1967)

In this satirical comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, the Little Tramp struggles against the modern industrialized world with hilarious results.  This film was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1989.  

Blue Collar (1978) (DVD 2434)

Paul Schrader’s directorial debut starring Richard Pryor and Harvey Keittel concerns three Detroit auto workers who are motivated by financial troubles and dissatisfaction with both their management and union leadership to rob a safe at union headquarters.    

The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers’ struggle (1997) (MV 9576) and The Wrath of Grapes (1986) (MV 1309)

Both documentaries focus on the struggles of farm workers and the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). The Fight in the Fields explores the history of the UFW and its founder Cesar Chavez and includes newsreel footage of the groundbreaking 1965 Delano grape boycott. The Wrath of Grapes is an UFW production and takes a closer look at the struggles of farmworkers in commercial grape orchards.  Notably, the UNT Special Collections Department holds the collection of Wrath producer, director, and activist Lorena Parlee.  

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Ever wondered how filmmakers make themselves stand out enough to survive the rush of other aspiring filmmakers?


Check out this article from No Film School discussing what makes the Coen Brothers stand out among the crowd (O Brother, Where Art Thou? ring a bell? Yeah, those guys.)

Here’s a list of the Coen movies in our media library seen in the article’s attached video!

  Coen Brothers Table

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Exploring Paul Schrader’s Film Canon

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It is no longer possible for a young filmgoer to watch the history of film and make up his or her own mind: there are just too many movies. It’s barely possible to keep up with the yearly output of audiovisual entertainment on TV and in theaters, here and abroad. Like book readers, filmgoers must rely on the accumulated wisdom of film studies—which films have endured and why—a “wisdom” increasingly polluted by populist or academic criteria. What is needed, disingenuously enough, is a film canon.
We also need the library. Though students and movie lovers can now quickly and easily view movies online through services like Netflix and Hulu, there are actually fewer options available and the thrill of discovery just isn’t the same. Streaming services and Redbox may offer convenience, but they often exclude obscure and classic titles or provide them for only a limited period of time. Thankfully, the Media Library continues to provide access to a wide array of films and television programs. In this posting, we provide just one helpful resource for approaching movies–the abandoned film cannon written by acclaimed critic, writer, and director Paul Schrader. In a 2006 article for Film Comment magazine, “Canon Fodder,” (quoted above) Schrader describes how he came to start and and ultimately abandon the task of creating a film canon. Presented here are his top 20 (Gold films). All but one are available to check out and/or stream through the Media Library. Only two are currently available on Netflix streaming.
  1. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
  2. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
  3. City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
  4. Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)
  5. Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang)*
  6. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
  7. Orphée (1950, Jean Cocteau)
  8. Masculin-Feminin (1966, Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
  10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
  11. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
  12. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
  13. The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges)
  14. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)*
  15. 8 ½ (1963, Federico Fellini)
  16. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
  17. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)
  18. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
  19. Performance (1970, Donald Cammell/Nicholas Roeg)**
  20. La Notte (1961, Michelangelo Antonioni)
*These titles are available on Netflix streaming. **This one title is not currently available through the UNT Media Library.    

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Last week we got you primed for the Fall semester with some last-minute television binge recommendations. This week we present our Top 10 Back to School Movies. Whether you’re already adjusting to the daily grind of classes and homework or still pining for summer, the Media Library has you covered. Even better, all of the movies listed below are not currently available to stream on Netflix! Many of these movies may have been made before your time (the oldest one is from 1982!), but their themes are classic and  influenced coming of age comedies of the next 3 decades. So sit back and watch (and cringe) as the masters of teen comedy give you an education in growing up, fitting in, and falling in love. Back to School (1986) “He’s not just the biggest man on campus…he’s the wildest man on campus!” In one of the more absurd plots from this list, wisecracking Rodney Dangerfield plays a millionaire who tries to prevent his son from dropping out of college in the best way he knows how…by joining him. Naturally, hilarity ensues. Look out for a fabulously 1980s pre-super hero Robert Downey, Jr. as well as a cameo from author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Sixteen Candles (1984), the Breakfast Club (1985), Weird Science (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Some Kind of Wonderful (1986) Filmmaker John Hughes and members of the Brat Pack like Molly Ringwald  and Anthony Michael Hall ruled the 1980’s in these authentically awkward and cringe-worthy tributes to growing up and not quite fitting in. We can’t endorse the library terrorizing of the Breakfast Club crew, but it’s truly a must-see. Also, look out for the strange appearance of Harry Dean Stanton as Molly Ringwald’s father in Pretty in Pink. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) This might be the oldest movie on the list, but it’s still totally relevant. The movie was written by director Cameron Crowe (Jeremy McGuire, Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous) who went undercover at a California high school while working for Rolling Stone magazine. The movie gave many future stars their start including Sean Penn as the infamous stoner surfer Jeff Spicoli, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, and Forest Whitaker. Dazed and Confused (1993) giphy If you’re not ready to accept that school has started, no movie better romanticizes summer than Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Bernie, Before Sunset) 1993 masterpiece Dazed and Confused. Set in 1976 Texas, the film features a number of up-and-coming actors including Matthew McConaughey in his second and most quotable movie appearance. 10 Things I hate About You (1999) All you really need to know about this movie is that it features the late great Heath Ledger as one of the best male romantic comedy leads, a perfectly angsty feminist Julia Stiles, as well as a young horrible Joseph Gordon Levitt. And most importantly, it features one of my favorite 90’s Nickeloden television characters Alex Mack! The Faculty (1998) Despite being directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn), written by Kevin Williamson (Scream) and featuring an all-star cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Elija Wood, Jordana Brewster, Usher, and John Stewart, this movie is kind of terrible. But terrible in a you-must-watch kind of way.  

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  The start of the Fall semester is just around the corner and while some of you are scrambling to prepare for classes, others are using the remaining days of summer as a time to complete a few TV series in one sitting. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than preparing for the upcoming school year by spending a few days with several of your favorite academia set TV shows. Get your Trapper Keepers and Beats by Dre ready; it’s time to go back to school!   Saved by the Bell (DVD 12147 V.1-5)   The golden age of Tiger Beat helped this show gain its foothold on pop culture from 1989 to 1993. Although this show may predate some of you, the trials and tribulations of Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski, and the rest of the gang never stray far from the familiar clichés that exist today as they navigate homework, homecoming, and hormones.The Media Library has the first two seasons HERE.   Community (Season 1 DVD 12032 V.1 – V.4, Season 3 DVD 15377 V.1 – V.3) Dan Harmon’s show about one study group’s adventures through Greendale Community College. This show is filled with pop culture references and is known for its refusal to color within the lines as it constantly bends genres with its biting wit and richly developed universe. The Media Library has seasons one and three which you can find HERE and HERE respectively.   Undeclared (DVD 5199 V.1- V.4) The shortest series in the bunch, this show can be consumed in one sitting. It stars a pre- How to Train Your Dragon Jay Baruchel, a pre- Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunam and was created by a pre- The 40 Year Old Virgin Judd Apatow. Incoming freshman Steven Karp, played by the aforementioned Baruchel, moves to a new University where he hopes to start anew after high school. The transition is hard, awkward, but most importantly funny. The Media Library has the complete series HERE. Of course, we have many other shows that we could suggest but it would be irresponsible for us to delay preparation for this new semester (HERE is a link to all of our TV shows for you to browse in case you don’t mind procrastinating). Don’t forget to follow us on our twitter page @UNTMediaLibrary and our Facebook page for any updates with events, materials and other important matters of Media.

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Most of our patrons know that the UNT Media Library has thousands of movies, but our shelves are also stocked with hundreds of table-top games. We have everything from board games and puzzles to card games and trivia. There are familiar classics like chess and backgammon alongside bizarre, unique games that are unlike anything else in our collection. We have many different decks of cards and many-sided die by the dozens. The variety of games in our collection ensure that there’s always something for everyone whether you prefer brain-teasing puzzles, competitive strategy or open-ended, playful absurdity. On Saturday, April 11th we’ll be taking our tabletop games collection across the street to Bruce Hall where UNT students will have all-day access to the very best from our tabletop games collection in celebration of International TableTop Day, a growing annual event started by the producers of TableTop, a popular web-series about games created by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day for the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. They have both been extremely active in the gaming community for and two of the most vocal champions of tabletop gaming in a culture that is sometimes fixated on the multi-billion dollar video game market. They first founded International TableTop Day three years ago as a way for the world to celebrate tabletop gaming together. Every spring fans host thousands of events all over the world and every year the event grows. TableTop Day 2014 was celebrated at over three thousand events in eighty different countries all over the world. The UNT Media Library has been playing along since the beginning and this year we’re excited to team again up with UNT Residence Life to bring our love of gaming to the students of UNT. These past few years since the founding of Tabletop Day have been described as a new Golden age of Board Games thanks to “an approach to game design that considers the creation of shared social experiences to be every bit as important as writing rules or designing physical components.” There’s never been a better time to be a gamer.   Media Library Contributor Garrett Graham

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Film Reels   We would like to welcome you to our first foray out into the Blogosphere.The Media Library will be utilizing this space as a means to discuss a variety of topics related to our collection of films, video games, and board games. For example, we may have something to say about the new Kelly Reichardt film or discuss the role of Dungeons and Dragons in the development of cognitive skills. We may discuss the merits and highlights of the Film Noir genre, or we may elucidate upon how the world in which Mario, Princess Peach, and Luigi inhabit resonates with people all over the world. There are breaking news stories, academic research, and scientific studies that relate to our little corner of the libraries and our contributors would love to expound upon. What better forum for these discussions than a UNT Media Library blog? Our debut feature, by Media Library blog contributor Garrett Graham, highlights an upcoming day many do not know exists; International Tabletop Game Day. Thank you for reading and feel free to comment and discuss.