Ten TV Shows/Films Similar to Squid Game

Editor’s Note: Spring 2022 will find the IU community immersed in Korean culture through Korea Remixed, a semester-long celebration of “the artists, writers, performers, and thinkers who make Korean culture integral to global culture in the 21st Century.” Learn more by clicking on the link above, and let the Korean titles in this blog post serve as an appetizer for the smorgasbord of events to come in the spring.

It has been almost two months since the wildly popular Netflix show Squid Game, a South Korean production, was released. Alongside the many K-dramas featured by Netflix, here are ten shows/films similar to Squid Game. Some are made in Korea, others elsewhere, but all explore themes of adversity, humanity, and resilience. Among the titles below, those with clickable links are available for checkout at Media Services or through IU online streaming services (the latter requires two-step authentication).

Tower of God

Twenty-Fifth Bam had been alone his whole life until he met Rachel. After Rachel disappears in a veil of light, Bam follows her, vowing to ascend the Tower in hopes of meeting her again. However, the Tower is a dangerous place full of ancient secrets, fearsome monsters, and nefarious humans. Each floor is protected by an Administrator who puts the daring challengers through grueling tests that will push them to their limits.

As he confronts Headon, the Administrator of the first floor, Bam learns that he is an “Irregular,” someone who was not chosen by the Tower but was able to enter it on his own, an extremely rare event inside the Tower. Regardless of this revelation, however, his path forward is clear. Be it wealth, power, glory, or even reuniting with Rachel, all desires will be realized at the top of the Tower.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games. Wikipedia.org.
19 November 2021, http://impawards.com/2012/
hunger_games_ver24.html

Each year, in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol, the ruthless capital of the nation of Panem, forces each of its twelve districts to send a boy and a girl—the “Tributes”—to compete in the Hunger Games. Both sanctions against the population for rebelling and a strategy of intimidation on the part of the government, the Hunger Games are a national televised event during which tributes must fight each other until death. The sole survivor is declared the winner.

The young Katniss, 16, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the competition. She finds herself facing over-trained adversaries who have prepared all their lives. All she has is her instincts and a mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, who won the Hunger Games years ago but is now nothing more than an alcoholic wreck. To hope one day to return home, once in the arena Katniss will have to make impossible choices between survival and her humanity, between life and love.

Escape Room and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (sequel)

In Escape Room, a group of teenagers is abducted and forced to solve a chain of deadly logic puzzles. If they succeed, the surviving teens enter the next themed room (a bank lobby, a picturesque beach, a New York City side street), and hopefully advance to freedom. In Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, two of the previous movie’s players must complete a new series of escape room-style puzzles. The presence of this pair of former competitors—Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), both of whom survived the first Escape Room—immediately establishes this new movie’s emotional stakes, because nobody wants to relive the same nightmare twice. Photo credit: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. Wikipedia.org. 19 November 2021, http://www.impawards.com/2021/escape_room_tournament_of_champions.html

Alice in Borderland

In Alice in Borderland, deadbeat Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) has no job and little ambition to do anything with his life other than play video games and hang out with his friends. One day, while he and two of his besties are goofing around in the famously busy Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, they cause enough commotion to attract the attention of the cops. They hide in a bathroom until the coast is clear, but, when they emerge, they find Shibuya completely deserted, along with the rest of Tokyo.

Alice in Borderland. IMDb.com. 19 November 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10795658/mediaviewer/rm243320833/

With no idea what’s going on, the group follows signs instructing them to go to a game arena. They arrive and learn that whatever alternate reality they’ve entered has at least one rule: They must participate in a series of games, or they will be killed. That may sound like a blast to Arisu, except these competitions have all the absurdity and deadly trappings of the video games he loves, and he won’t be playing them from the comfort of his couch. With no choice but to compete, Arisu must fight to survive and team up with others who’ve found themselves stuck in this strange world. Otherwise, it’s game over.

Battle Royale

Battle Royale. IMDb.com. 19 November 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/mediaviewer/rm2542945536/

Departing from two decades’ worth of domestic and personal dramas and returning to his roots as Japan’s maestro of mayhem, Kinji Fukasaku has delivered a brutal punch to the collective solar plexus with one of his most outrageous and timely films, “Battle Royale.”

Batoru Rowaiaru. Movie Poster Database. 19 November 2021, http://www.movieposterdb.com/poster/39f79d71

This film is based on first-time novelist Koshun Takami’s phenomenally successful dystopian fiction (made even more popular when adapted to a manga) about a sinister game that forces kids in junior high to kill or be killed over the course of three days on a deserted island. The object of unprecedented controversy in Nippon, the film has racked up huge B.O. since its mid-December opening, preceding its international premiere in L.A. at the American Cinematheque’s tribute to the helmer and a slot in the Rotterdam fest.

I Saw The Devil/Akmareul Boatda

I Saw The Devil. Wikipedia.org. 19 November 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Saw_the_Devil

On a dark road, taxi driver Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) comes across a scared female motorist stranded in a broken-down vehicle. He pulls over—but not to help her. When the woman’s head is discovered in a local river, her devastated fiancé, Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun), a trained secret agent, becomes obsessed with hunting down her killer.

Once he finds Kyung-chul, things get twisted. After brutally beating the murderer, Kim lets him go free, and a demented game of cat and mouse begins.

Circle

Fifty strangers facing execution have to pick one person among them to live.Photo credit: Circle: Film Review. The Hollywood Reporter. 30 June 2015. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-reviews/circle-film-review-806035/. Accessed 19 November 2021.

Darwin’s Game

High school student Kaname Sudou receives an invitation from a classmate to play Darwin’s Game, a mobile game he has never heard of. However, as soon as he opens the application, a green snake suddenly pops out from his phone screen and bites his neck, leaving him unconscious. Waking up in the infirmary without any signs of a snake bite, he is told by the school to take the rest of the day off. Although he is puzzled by what has happened, he dismisses the surreal experience as a hallucination and boards the train home.

Loveridge, Lynzee. Darwin’s Game. Anime News Network. 24 March 2020, https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/darwin-game/episode-11/.157897. Accessed 19 November 2021.

Unfortunately, his curiosity gets the better of him and he uses the application once again. As the application appears to be just like any other battle game, Kaname breathes out a sigh of relief and decides to start his first match. However, the pleasant surprise is short-lived, as his in-game opponent unexpectedly appears right in front of him and attempts to hunt him down with a knife.

As he desperately runs for his life, Kaname puts two and two together and realizes that Darwin’s Game is not an ordinary game, but rather, it’s a brutal fight for survival.

Future Diary

Cubillas, Sean. Future Diary: 5 Reasons Why Fans Love It (& 5 Why They Hate It). cbr.com. 4 November 2020, https://www.cbr.com/future-diary-fans-love-it-vs-hate-it/. Accessed 19 November 2021.

Lonely high school student Yukiteru Amano spends his days writing a diary on his cellphone, while conversing with his two seemingly imaginary friends Deus Ex Machina, who is the god of time and space, and Murmur, the god’s servant. Revealing himself to be an actual entity, Deus grants Yukiteru a “Random Diary,” which shows highly descriptive entries based on the future and forces him into a bloody battle royale with 11 other holders of similarly powerful future diaries.

The last person standing is designated the new god of time and space. Yukiteru must find and kill the other 11 to survive. He reluctantly teams up with his stalker, Yuno Gasai (who also possesses such a diary). She takes it upon herself to ensure his safety. But there’s more to the her than meets the eye: she might have other plans for her unrequited love…

Gyakkyō Burai Kaiji

Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji:
Hakairoku-hen.
My Anime List. 19 November 2021, https://myanimelist.net/anime/10271/
Gyakkyou_Burai_Kaiji__Hakairoku-hen

Owing to an increasing debt, Kaiji Itou ends up resuming his old lifestyle. One day, while walking on the street, he stumbles upon Yuuji Endou, who is hunting Kaiji due to the money he owes to the Teiai Group. Unaware of this, Kaiji eagerly follows Endou, hoping for a chance to participate in another gamble, but soon finds out the loan shark’s real intentions when he is kidnapped.

Given that Kaiji is unable to pay off his huge debt, the Teiai Group instead sends him to work in an underground labor camp. He is told that he will have to live in this hell for 15 years, alongside other debtors, until he can earn his freedom. His only hope to put an early end to this nightmare is by saving enough money to be able to go back to the surface for a single day. Once he is there, he plans to obtain the remaining money needed to settle his account by making a high-stakes wager. However, as many temptations threaten his scarce income, Kaiji may have to resort to gambling sooner than he had expected. RW

Student blogger Richard Wu began working in Media Services this year (2021). Richard is a pianist, and his focus at Indiana University is music. This is his first Media Beat blog post.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: How Tobe Hooper’s Troubled Production Led to One of the Scariest Movies of All Time

Leatherface image, Source: Lattanzio, Ryan. “’Don’t Breathe’ Director Fede Álvarez Producing next ‘Texas Chainsaw’ Film.” IndieWire, IndieWire, 19 Sept. 2019, https://www.indiewire.com/2019/09/fede-alvarez-texas-chainsaw-massacre-sequel-1202175010/. 

As a long-time fan of horror, spooky season has always been one of my favorite times to watch movies. All of the horror classics just resonate so much harder near Halloween, and I always try to make it through as many of my favorites as I can. One of the films I never skip is Tobe Hooper’s infamously gruesome 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I believe Hooper’s iconic film still reigns as the scariest movie ever made, and so I decided to take a look back on what made the movie so great.

For those who have not seen it, the film follows a group of friends in their 20s driving through the sparsely populated fields of Texas. Two of the friends, Sally and Franklin, are brother and sister and want to visit the grave of their grandfather. On the way they run into a strange hitchhiker who attempts to stab Franklin before they throw him back on the road, an event that kicks off a much further descent into strangeness and terror. After stopping to look for the old grave, each of the friends runs into a crazed killer named “Leatherface,” who along with their family attempts to turn each of these people literally into dinner…

Dinner scene, source: McCormick, Rich. “4K Version of ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ Revs up for Theatrical Release.” The Verge, The Verge, 23 June 2014, https://www.theverge.com/2014/6/22/5833378/texas-chainsaw-massacre-4k-version.

Especially for the 1970s, the concept is very twisted, and the film still has this gross and uneasy quality to it decades later. A big part of the effect of the film is related to its production. In addition to being an acclaimed horror film, Tobe Hooper’s movie is also an iconic staple of the indie-film scene. Produced with a small crew and miniscule cast, it is incredible what they managed to pull off. The production conditions were infamous for terrible heat, disgusting props, and lots of fighting between the cast and crew under these undesirable conditions. However, this low-budget and intense production is arguably part of what helps translate to screen the gritty, underground quality which makes this film all the more scary.

Behind the scenes shot, source: Smith, Harrison. “Tobe Hooper, Horror Master behind ‘the Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’ Dies at 74.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 28 Aug. 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/tobe-hooper-horror-master-behind-the-texas-chain-saw-massacre-dies-at-74/2017/08/28/4b0794d4-8bfc-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html.

The no-name actors, the unnervingly specific and strange set design, and handheld grainy camera work all combine to give the film this strange realistic quality. At times, the movie almost makes you feel like you have found some long-lost footage, and thiscombined with the opening title card that gives the idea that these events may be realmake the events that transpire all the more disturbing. It all leads up to a final shot that will be hard to get out of your memory once you see it, one of several iconic, terrifying images in this timeless horror classic that every fan of scary movies must see. JG

Janzen Green joined the Media Services staff this semester (Fall 2021), and this is his first Media Beat blog post. Janzen studies media and film here at IU and is a welcome addition to the Media Services staff.

Dog Days: Five Movies About Our Furry Friends

The best things in life have four legs and a tail. We’ve rounded up five canine-centered movies available at Media Services. Spoiler alert: all of these movies have happy endings. So, this list of films is perfect for a feel-good movie night and a break from midterms!

Isle of Dogs

“In a near-future dystopian Japan where all dogs have been banished to a trash island after a flu outbreak, twelve-year-old Atari sets out for the island to find his lost dog Spots.”* This film has spectacular stop-motion visuals and a heartwarming plot. This makes Isle of Dogs a delightful time for both film buffs and casual viewers. Photo credit: Isle of Dogs Poster. Digital Image. People. 5 Feb 2018, https://people.com/pets/isle-of-dogs-movie-poster/

Lady and the Tramp

“The story of Lady, a cocker spaniel, and her romantic adventures with Tramp, her mongrel friend from across the tracks.”* One of Disney’s greatest animated movies, Lady and the Tramp is a classic love story with a satisfying ending. Photo credit: Lady and the Tramp Poster. Digital Image. Disney. https://movies.disney.com/lady-and-the-tramp

The Secret Life of Pets

“A comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. Max, a terrier, has his favorite-pet status turned upside-down when his owner takes in a stray named Duke.”* Illumination Animation is more than just Minions. Follow six goofy pets as they venture through New York City without their owners watching. Just as the day ends, the dogs learn what it means to be part of a pack. Photo credit: The Secret Life of Pets Poster. Digital Image. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-secret-life-of-pets

101 Dalmations

“Pongo and Perdita have a litter of 15 dalmatian puppies. Cruella De Ville takes a fancy to the puppies and tries to buy them from their human owners, Roger and Anita. Cruella wants to get hold of those puppies, as well as more puppies, to make herself a lovely dalmatian skin coat. Cruella hires some thugs to kidnap the puppies and hold them at an abandoned mansion. Now Pongo and Perdita must use an animal communication system to help find all the puppies.”*
See the original Cruella de Ville in full fur-covered form. 101 Dalmatians sees animals trying to save the day, outsmarting not-so-bright humans along the way. It’s the perfect feel-good movie for a night in. Photo credit: 101 Dalmatians Poster. Digital Image. Disney. https://movies.disney.com/101-dalmatians-1961

Dogs and More Dogs

“An entertaining and affectionate search for the secrets of dog variation and behavior. Visit state-of-the-art dog labs where the latest in genetic mapping and even cloning are in the air. Explore the bond we share with these remarkable animals.”* A documentary film for the science-enthusiasts, Dogs and More Dogs discusses how Man’s Best Friend got that title. Adorable puppies and fascinating theories abound, making this film an engaging and joyful watch. Dogs and More Dogs Poster. Photo credit: Digital Image. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/NOVA-Dogs-More/dp/B00018U9AW

These titles and more are available for checkout at Media Services in Wells Library. For streaming video options, check out the Films On Demand platform, which provides IUB patrons free access to over 3,000 documentaries related to dogs! (CAS Authentication required.)

And in case you are wondering, we’ve got movies for cat people, too! Checkouts are free to IUB students and faculty, so stop by for a free movie night. Click Here for directions and hours. KN

*Quotes are from each title’s IUCAT summary. Click the title link for any item to learn more and check item availability.)

Student blogger Kate Naughton is a new Media Services student staff member who joined us this semester. She is studying marketing.

Feminism in the Visual Arts: Female artists that defied the odds to find success in a male-dominated art world

Zina Saro-Wiwa. The Invisible Man, 2015. Top 30 Black Female Painters. Kooness.com, https://www.kooness.com/posts/magazine/21-black-female-painters. Accessed 22 October 2021.

The other day I came across the documentary, Women Art Revolution (W.A.R.), in the Browsing Documentaries section of Media Services. This sparked my interest: What other films do we have that celebrate female artists? My question led me from the Browsing Documentaries and into our Teaching and Research collection, which holds a significant number of titles, both documentaries and fiction films, depicting the lives and artwork within the diverse community of female artists/feminist art. The department also has a number of streaming titles on this subject available, which can be viewed from any location by anyone with IU login credentials.

Reflecting for a moment on the emotional, political, and socio-cultural poignancy that a single painting may contain, these films explore the erasure and belittling of women’s art in a world that has traditionally elevated male works but ascribed “hobbyism” to those from female creators. While the art world has come a long way since the early-mid 20th century, these problems still persist and are reflected in the consistent devaluation of female-created art, the study of which reaches back into the 1970s era of second-wave feminism and Linda Nochlin’s revolutionary essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, an illustrated breakdown of which can be found here. This 2005 New York Times article further explores disparities between men and women artists in the art market: The X Factor: Is the Art Market Rational or Biased?*

Art is one of the most profound ways human beings share their experiences. It is worth asking: what happens when the voices of male artists are valued above those of women artists, in terms of both economic value and content? What does that say to young female and male artists alike about their career options? What great art might we miss by limiting equal participation for half the world’s population and robust exchange between all artists? Photo credit: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Medicine at Playtime, 2017. Top 30 Black Female Painters. Kooness.com, https://www.kooness.com/posts/magazine/21-black-female-painters. Accessed 22 October 2021.

Below is a look at a few of the titles available through the Media Services department which celebrate and explore the field of feminist and women’s art: a true feast for the mind and the senses. Enjoy!

Streaming Titles

Women Artists: The Other Side of the Picture (53 mins)

Where are the works of the great women artists? Why are there so few represented in museums? In this provocative program, respected artists such as Doris McCarthy, Judy Chicago, Joyce Weiland, and Jane Ash Poitras—in combination with curators, art historians, and the Guerrilla Girls—discuss the dearth of women’s artwork in major galleries and examine the poignant social history of women in the fine arts, a story of suppression, marginalization, and omission. The film spotlights the effort of the National Museum of Women in the Arts to balance that one-sided picture of artistic achievement.

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC. Photo credit: APK. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Women_in_the_Arts#/media/File:National_Museum_of_Women_in_the_Arts.JPG. Accessed 22 October 2021.
Chicago, Judy. From “Reincarnation Triptych,” 1973. Tschida, Anne. A #metoo ‘Reckoning’ put feminism back on the table. It never left Judy Chicago’s. https://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/visual-arts/article224898425.html#storylink=cpy. Accessed 22 October 2021.

African Art and Women Artists (17 minutes)

This program focuses on the Kenyan Elizabeth Orchardson-Mazrui. Rooted deeply in African soil, her art comments on life, particularly the contradictory and often hypocritical attitudes of African society toward women; her teaching at the university champions the concept that African art is a valid academic discipline, that African art is intrinsically different in being part of life rather than (as in Western art) a separate element.

The Artist Was A Woman (53 minutes)

The history of Western art has few examples of great women artists. This documentary uncovers the works of some gifted women, while exploring why talent such as theirs was overlooked. We learn that women were denied admission to art school, or if admitted, not allowed to study the human figure. Also, male art historians did not take their work seriously, denying them the recognition they deserved. Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and Georgia O’Keeffe bear witness to the fact that talent knows no gender. Jane Alexander reads from letters and diaries and Germaine Greer provides wry social commentary.

Weaning the Calves, 1879, Rosa Bonheur. Retrieved from https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435703

Latin American Women Artists 1915-1995 (27 minutes)

Surveying some of the most under-appreciated art of the 20th century, this program documents a groundbreaking exhibit of work by Latin American women at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The video opens up the world of these bold and sensitive visionaries, illuminating their accomplishments, their impact on artists outside their own countries, and the relationship between cultural and artistic identity. Featuring the work of legendary painters Frida Kahlo and Maria Izquierdo—as well as living artists Fanny Sanin, Soledad Salame, Elba Damast, and many others—the program reevaluates notions of mainstream and margin in the contemporary art world.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, Frida Kahlo. Retrieved from https://www.fridakahlo.org/self-portrait-with-thorn-necklace-and-hummingbird.jsp

DVD Titles

Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence (30 minutes)

“Florence Italy, is the birthplace of some of the world’s most celebrated artists, scientists, and architects — from Michelangelo and Leonardo to Brunelleschi and Galileo. Yet little is known of the women artists who once painted there. A center for female creativity for more than five centuries, Florence hosts innumerable works by significant women painters from the Renaissance onward. Though these masterful paintings rival the art of their great male contemporaries, they are often unseen by the general public. ‘Invisible Women’ sheds light on these groundbreaking women artists and their virtually unknown works. It also points to the rediscovery and restoration of these works as the guiding forces behind rescuing the art of Florence’s forgotten women artists” (Description from DVD container.)

The Desert is no Lady: Women Artists and Writers of the Southwest (45 minutes)

Women artists and writers discuss the influences of Southwestern culture, geography, and demographics on their work, particularly focusing on the Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo cultures.

Conjure Women (85 minutes)

A Class Ponders the Future, 2008, Carrie Mae Weems (Constructing History Collection). Retrieved from http://carriemaeweems.net/galleries/history.html

This documentary explores the artistry and philosophy of four African-American women: choreographer/dancer Anita Gonzalez; performance artist Robbie McCauley; photographer Carrie Mae Weems; and musician Cassandra Wilson. It includes interviews with these women and shows their works and performances and is intended to challenge assumptions about African-American culture.

W.A.R. Women Art Revolution (83 minutes)

An entertaining and revelatory “secret history” of feminist art, !Women Art Revolution deftly illuminates the under-explored movement through conversations, observations, archival footage, and works of visionary artists, historians, curators, and critics. Starting from its roots in the 1960s antiwar and civil rights protests, the film details developments in women’s art through the 1970s and explores how the pioneering artists created the most significant art movement of the late 20th century.

When you think of women artists, who comes to mind? There is a documented phenomenon of “serial forgetting” of women in creative fields, characterized by an invisibility that recurs generation after generation, even when attempts are made to document women artists, their work, and their history. If you have a favorite woman artist, or you know of other great films about women artists, let us know in the comments! SB

Sarah Bull is a student staff member in a number of departments at Wells Library, including Media Services.

*This linked article may appear behind a paywall. If you are affiliated with IU, you can set up a free account and access the content by clicking here.

10 Underappreciated John Williams Film Scores

As both a lover of film and music, I consider myself generally knowledgeable when it comes to film scores.  Of course, one can hardly have a discussion about film scores without bringing up one of the most famous film composers in modern history:  John Williams.  Everyone knows his most famous works, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park, but the sheer number of projects Williams has done over the course of his career is astounding, and some of them often get the short end of the stick.  Here, I hope to shed light on some of these scores, which I feel deserve more credit than they often receive.

The Cowboys (1972)

Movie poster advertisement for The Cowboys © 1972 Warner Bros.  Digital Image.  Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cowboys_1972.jpg

This 1972 John Wayne film has all the makings of a true Western, and John Williams’s score is certainly no exception.  The film was admittedly met with mixed reviews.  It won the Best Theatrical Motion Picture “Bronze Wrangler” from the Western Heritage Awards, but received varied reviews from critics, some of whom questioned the way the film portrayed boys becoming men.1  Despite the criticism, however, one thing that the film was consistently praised for was its score.  The sweeping strings and triumphant brass lend to a distinctly Copland-esque sound, perfect for any American Western.2

Superman (1978)

Official film poster © Warner Bros.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_(1978_film)

In 1978, Richard Donner directed one of the first films in a genre that has now taken the world by storm:  superhero movies.  His version of Superman, starring Christopher Reeve in the title role, was praised both critically and commercially.  The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Score, and won the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.3  While the “Main Title March” certainly gets its fair share of performances at John Williams concerts, the rest of the score does not get the attention it deserves.  From the delicate strings and twinkling celesta in “The Fortress of Solitude,” to the quirky and off-kilter tuba solo in “The March of the Villains,” and the beautiful soaring melodies in “The Flying Sequence,” some of the lesser-known themes definitely deserve more credit than they often receive.

Photo credits L to R: Official film poster © Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_of_the_Sun_(film); Official film poster © Paramount Pictures.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabrina_(1995_film); Promotional poster by Drew Struzan.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_(film)

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Released in 1987, Empire of the Sun tells the story of Jamie (Christian Bale), a young boy who faces incredible struggles during the Second World War.  As a whole, the movie is considered one of Spielberg’s more underappreciated films, and John Williams’s score is no different.  It was nominated for many awards, including several Oscars, but only won three (Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design, and Best Musical Score) at the 42nd British Academy Film Awards. Having only just recently discovered this score myself, I can’t understand how I’ve never come across it before.

Williams’s quintessential soaring string melodies are certainly present, but it is the angelic sound of the children’s choir (a sound not usually found in other Williams scores) that sets it apart for me.  This is a score that I will most definitely be adding to my regular listening.

Hook (1991)

Hook is a film that is close to my heart.  This sequel to the classic Peter Pan story tells of an adult Peter (played by the late great Robin Williams) who has forgotten who he is.  Captain Hook, looking to draw his old nemesis out of hiding, kidnaps Peter’s children Jack and Maggie.  Peter then embarks on a journey of rediscovery as he returns to Neverland in order to rescue them.  The film experienced box office success but mostly negative reviews from critics, and Spielberg himself has admitted it’s certainly not one of his best.5  But despite some of its criticism, the score is one of the film’s highlights.  The main theme has all the whimsy and fanfare needed for any fantasy adventure, and some of the softer themes in tracks like “Remembering Childhood,” and “You Are the Pan,” have enough soulful melodies to melt any heart.  Hook is, by far, one of my favorite John Williams scores, and definitely worth a listen for any fans of his music.

Sabrina (1995)

This 1995 film, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, and Greg Kinnear, is a remake of a film by the same name released in 1954.  The film did not fare well at the box office, and received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom compared it unfavorably to its predecessor.6  Despite the film’s failings, John Williams’s score does not disappoint.  The heavy use of piano and hint of 1950’s cool jazz creates a feeling of intimacy appropriate to the film.  Even still, Williams can’t resist the swelling string melodies that make his music soar.  Regardless of whether or not you like the film, the score definitely deserves more recognition.

Amistad (1997)

Amistad is another of many John Williams and Stephen Spielberg collaborations and tells the story of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad, which was captured by the cargo of African slaves it was transporting off the coast of Cuba.  While criticized by some for its historical inaccuracies, the film was considered a general success for telling such a difficult story with sensitivity.7  The score sounds quite different from the music Williams usually writes, but is gorgeous nonetheless.  The sound is more wide-ranging in nature, utilizing many different sorts of percussion instruments and flutes, and the use of vocals is chillingly effective.  I highly recommend giving this one a listen. Photo credit: Official film poster © DreamWorks Pictures.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amistad_(film)

The Patriot (2000)

While this film is set in the backdrop of the American Revolutionary War, the story it tells of American colonist Benjamin Martin being reluctantly dragged into the war is (mostly) fictional.  The Patriot received average success at the box office and similar reviews from critics, but was mired in controversy regarding some of the historical aspects of its story.8  Nevertheless, its score is most certainly spot on.  Fiddle-like solo violin, militaristic snare drum, and flurries of fife melodies accompany Williams’s quintessential sweeping strings and fanfaric brass, adding a distinctly colonial sound to his music. Photo credit: Official film poster © Columbia Pictures.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Patriot_(2000_film)

The Terminal (2004)

This 2004 film tells the story of Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), who becomes trapped inside John F. Kennedy International Airport after being refused entry to the country, and his home country Krakozhia is taken over in a military coup.  The film was generally well-received by critics and the public as a fun, feel-good movie, and Williams’s score is similarly light and cheerful.9  The clarinet solos littered throughout add an air of mystery and playfulness.  The clarinet features so prominently in this score that Williams later released a solo clarinet piece “Viktor’s Tale,” featuring music taken from the film, and Spielberg insisted that clarinetist Emily Bernstein, who recorded all the solos, be listed in the film’s end credits.10  If you’re looking for a mysteriously playful score to listen to, make sure to add this one to your list.

Photo credits L to R: Theatrical poster © Columbia Pictures.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha_(film); Official film poster © DreamWorks. 
Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terminal; Theatrical poster © Touchstone Pictures.  Digital Image.  Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Horse_(film)

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Based off of Arthur Golden’s book by the same name, this film tells the story of Japanese Geisha pre-World War II.  The film received mixed reviews, partially influenced by controversy regarding the casting of three Chinese actresses in the leading roles.  It was also criticized for Westernizing and misrepresenting Japanese culture.11  Regardless, the score is a true masterpiece, with solos by famous violinist Itzhak Perlman and world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma only adding to Williams’s epic musical storytelling.  No matter how you feel about the film, if you consider yourself a true John Williams fan, this score is a must-listen.

War Horse (2011)

Yet another Spielberg/Williams collaboration, War Horse was adapted from a 1982 novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo.  The story tells of a young British boy and his horse, who is later bought by the British Army for the ensuing conflicts of World War I.  It was generally well received by the public and critics alike, and has been characterized as a cross between Saving Private Ryan and E.T.12  Williams’s accompanying score is both playful and heartfelt, soaring in some places and heartbreaking in others.  Speaking personally, I have only seen the movie once, but I have listened to the score countless times and will surely listen to it again countless more.  I strongly encourage you: don’t miss out on this hidden gem. KE

Honorable Mentions:

Home Alone (1990)

Schindler’s List (1993)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Kathryn Edom is a composer and aspiring music librarian in her first semester of IU’s MLS (Library Sciences) program.  She previously attended Sacramento State University and University of Oregon where she received her BM and MM (respectively) in music composition.  On top of her courses, she currently juggles three different library jobs, and in her limited spare time, enjoys reading, writing music, playing Animal Crossing, and watching Oregon football.

Sources:

1”The Cowboys.”  Wikipedia.  25 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cowboys

2”About John Williams’ The Cowboys Film Score.”  Parker Symphony Orchestra.  20 April, 2016.  https://parkersymphony.org/john-williams-the-cowboys

3”Superman (1978 film).”  Wikipedia.  30 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_(1978_film)

4”Empire of the Sun (film).”  Wikipedia.  18 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_of_the_Sun_(film)

5”Hook (film).”  Wikipedia.  2 October, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_(film)

6”Sabrina (1995 film).”  Wikipedia.  23 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabrina_(1995_film)

7”Amistad (film).” Wikipedia. 2 October, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amistad_(film)

8”The Patriot (2000 film).”  Wikipedia.  23 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Patriot_(2000_film)

9,10 “The Terminal.”  Wikipedia.  18 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terminal

11”Memoirs of a Geisha (film).”  Wikipedia.  1 October, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha_(film) 12”War Horse (film).”  Wikipedia.  30 September, 2021.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Horse_(film)

Gender-Queer Media Representation

For those unfamiliar with the term, the gender-queer community includes anyone who does not identify as male or female, but rather as another gender entirely, such as agender/genderless, nonbinary, intersex, genderfluid, etc. They are generally considered to fall under the transgender umbrella.

Just like individuals of any gender identity, gender-queer people choose the pronouns that they feel suit them best. Their pronouns could be gendered pronouns, like she/her or he/him, or gender neutral, like they/them. There are also neopronouns such as xe/xem/xyr or ey/em/eir, that are gender-neutral pronouns created for those who do not feel the pronoun options available are applicable. Any combination of pronouns can be used based on what someone decides suits them best. For example, I’m agender and use a combination of she/they pronouns, which means anyone referring to me can use they/them and she/her pronouns as well as “female” or gender-neutral honorifics (Mx., Ms., etc.).

Below I have compiled below a guide to some of the media titles we have here at IU Bloomington that have canonically gender-queer characters whose identities are acknowledged on screen.

TV Series

Good Omens (2019)
Pollution, they/them & Crowley, he/him

L: Promotional Image of Lourdes Faberes as Pollution. Digital Image. LGBTQ Characters Wiki. https://lgbtqia-characters.fandom.com/wiki/Pollution 
R: Screenshot of David Tennant as Crowley. Digital Image. http://www.david-tennant.co.uk/2018/05/david-tennant-talks-good-omens-crowley.html

Neil Gaiman, one of the authors of the book that the TV series Good Omens is based on, has confirmed that all the angelic and demonic characters are nonbinary. In the TV series, this is mainly shown through the recurring character Pollution and a main character Crowley, who are both acknowledged as nonbinary within the context of the series3. Pollution uses they/them pronouns as well as the he/him honorific Sir2. Crowley uses he/him pronouns, and has a fluid gender presentation across the series, meaning that the gender he chooses to present himself as changes depending on how he is feeling at that particular time.

The Good Place (2016-2020): Janet, she/her

Screencap of D’Arcy Beth Carden as Janet. Digital Image. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/the-good-place-janet-optimistic-ai

Janet, one of the main characters in The Good Place, identifies as genderless/agender and uses she/her pronouns2,3. Janet’s identity is frequently acknowledged on-screen, generally when she corrects those who misgender her by mistake. The most common occurrence of this during the series is when she reminds other characters that she does not use any gendered terms to refer to herself (e.g. “woman”, “girl”, etc.), and that she identifies as genderless, a fact that is not negated by her use of she/her pronouns.

Star Trek Discovery (2020): Adira Tal, they/them

Though they don’t come out until the third season, Star Trek: Discovery has a nonbinary character, Adira Tal, who is played by nonbinary actor Blu del Barrio2. The character Adira and the actor del Barrio use they/them pronouns. Photo credit: Screencap of Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal. Digital Image. ScreenRant. https://screenrant.com/star-trek-discovery-adira-admiral-tal-trill-twist/

Feature Films

The Kings of Summer (2013): Biaggio, he/him

Main character Biaggio in the film Kings of Summer tells his friends during a scene in the woods that he doesn’t see himself as necessarily having a gender. Biaggio doesn’t use the agender/genderless label explicitly, but he does express feelings that coincide with a gender-queer identity. Photo credit: Screencap of Moises Arias as Biaggio. Digital Image. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2PCqEuSpLE

John Wick 3 (2019): The Adjudicator, they/them

Screencap of Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator. Digital Image. Villains Wiki. https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/The_Adjudicator

The third John Wick film has side character The Adjudicator who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. The Adjudicator is played by actor Asia Kate Dillon who is nonbinary as well and also uses they/them pronouns. Dillon has also portrayed several other gender-queer characters in media including Val(entina) Romanyszyn on the animated show Gen:Lock who is gender-fluid and changes their pronouns and name depending on their current gender presentation, and Taylor Mason on the TV series Billions who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns3.

XXY (2007): Alex, she/her

Screencap of Ines Efron as Alex (right). Digital Image. Wikipedia. https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/XXY_(film)

The main character of the film XXY is a teenager named Alex who is intersex and uses she/her pronouns1. The film focuses on Alex’s experience with questioning her gender identity before the surgery her parents scheduled to have her “male” sex organs removed6.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001): Hedwig, she/her

Screencap of John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig. Digital Image. FrameRated. https://www.framerated.co.uk/hedwig-angry-inch-2001/

Hedwig, the titular character of the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, identifies as genderqueer and uses she/her pronouns1,2,3. The film takes place after her botched gender change surgery that didn’t fully remove her “male” sex organs, hence the “Angry Inch” in the title7. Her actor John Cameron Mitchell, who also doubles as the writer/director of the film, described Hedwig in an interview as “more than a woman or a man. She’s a gender of one”7, as Hedwig considers herself to be beyond gender.

Video Games

Borderlands 3 (2019): FL4K, they/them

FL4K is a player character in Borderlands 3 who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns2. Their character design shows them with a pin on their gear with “no” symbol (🚫) in the colors of the nonbinary pride flag8. The pin can be seen right above the bright green pin on FL4K’s jacket collar. FL4K is an AI, but the creators don’t ascribe that to FL4K’s gender identity as FL4K is fully sentient and chose to identify as nonbinary because that is what felt right to them8. Photo credit: : FL4K’s Nonbinary Pin. Digital Image. Twitter. https://twitter.com/flailmorpho_/status/1173692242638209024

IU Resources About Gender

The LGBTQ+ Culture Center at IU has a house on campus for in-person discussions, programs, etc. Through the house they have a library, which is comprised of films and books related to the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, they have compiled a list on their website of resources at the local, state-wide, national, and international level, as well as resources they’ve created regarding education and support for a wide variety of LGBTQ+ matters, including gender identities.

Culture Center: https://lgbtq.indiana.edu/

Resources Compilation: https://lgbtq.indiana.edu/resources/index.html

Sources

1“Other-Gender Representation in Film.” iMBD. 19 Jun., 2012. https://www.imdb.com/list/ls009788538/

2”Nonbinary Gender in Fiction.” Nonbinary Wiki. https://nonbinary.wiki/wiki/Nonbinary_gender_in_fiction#Movies

3 “List of Fictional Non-Binary Characters.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_non-binary_characters

4Kenny, Lisa. “A Short(ish) Guide to Pronouns and Honorifics.” LinkedIn. 26 Jan., 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/shortish-guide-pronouns-honorifics-lisa-kenney

5Gaiman, Neil [@neilhimself]. Twitter. 14 Jul., 2019. https://twitter.com/neilhimself/status/1150428978475409408

6”XXY (2007).” iMBD. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0995829/?ref_=ttls_li_tt

7Ouzounian, Richard. “John Cameron Mitchell to Host Hedwig and The Angry Inch Sing-Along in Toronto.” Toronto Star. 18 Jun., 2014. https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2014/06/18/singalong_hedwig_and_the_angry_inch_comes_to_lgbt_film_fest.html

8Stevenson, Leo. “Gearbox Confirms that FL4K is the Franchise;s First Non-Binary Character.” PowerUp Gaming. 15 Aug., 2019. https://powerup-gaming.com/2019/08/15/gearbox-confirms-that-fl4k-is-the-franchises-first-non-binary-character/

Student blogger Cas Regan (she/they) is a Junior at IU in the Earth Science B.S. program with minors in Chemistry and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In addition to classes and working for Media Services, they are also the VP of the Beekeeping Club at IU and spend their free time caring for the club’s hives at IU’s Hilltop Gardens.

Five Binge-Worthy Favorites at Media Services

If you are as weary as I am of watching another eight or so bucks deduct from your bank account every month just so you can see the end of your favorite classic sitcom, then you have two options available to you: a) get a gullible friend or relative to lend their streaming passwords to you (this works wonders, but gets awkward when you accidentally log out and have to ask a second time…plus, you know, laws) or b) take advantage of the resources provided by your local library. This blog post is totally above board and therefore about the latter.

The collections at Herman B Wells Library’s Media Services department contain all manner of art films and educational documentaries, which are frequently used by instructors in all manner of courses in many different fields. But the holdings in our collections are not all obscure, “highbrow,” or educational, as much as those types of films may thrill some of our patrons.

L: Bergman, Ingmar. Senses of Cinema. Digital Image. https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2002/great-directors/bergman/. R: Federico Fellini. Wikipedia. Digital Image. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Fellini#/media/File:Federico_Fellini_NYWTS_2.jpg.

In fact, many films in our collections are iconic classics and recent blockbusters. One of my personal favorite sections is our television series section, which boasts more than 50 TV series, most of them complete, from the early days of the medium to recent titles. If you have not visited us yet, here are five potentially amazing TV binges we have at Media Services for you to check out!

The Office

The Office (US version) is like the “Sweet Caroline” of TV shows; when it first came out it wasn’t bad but also wasn’t very popular until years later. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this mockumentary sitcom based on the British series by the same name is about an awkward, eccentric paper manufacturing regional manager (Michael Scott, played by Steve Carrell) and his employees’ experiences in the workplace. This show’s comedic writing and interesting characters launched it into the mainstream after its availability on Netflix, and since then has become a cult classic and a quotable cultural cliché. You won’t regret watching or re-watching such a classic hit!

The Office  cast on set. Digital Image. Thrive Global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/mindful-communication-lessons-from-the-office/.

Game of Thrones

The HBO masterpiece that needs no introduction, Game of Thrones is a cinematic, 8-season show based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Critically acclaimed (with a 92% average on RottenTomatoes.com), some fans will argue that the series only devolves as it progresses.

Game of Thrones Promotional Artwork. Digital image. Digital Spy. https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a33833081/game-of-thrones-an-oral-history-of-the-greatest-tv-show-of-our-time/.

Others argue that the creative directions in the middle and final seasons were unexpected and therefore fascinating. However, no one will argue that the story and world that is experienced by watching Game of Thrones will keep you hooked and begging to know to whom does the throne end up with at the end of the game.

Photo credit: Game of Thrones. Digital Image. IMDB.com. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0944947/mediaviewer/rm3519114752/

Arrested Development

Arrested Development (2003) Cast. Digital Image. Den of Geek. https://www.denofgeek.com/tv/why-you-should-watch-arrested-development/.

Arrested Development is about Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), a man who is forced to inherit his father’s company, built on criminal activity, all the while rebuilding his eccentric family’s reputation and fortune and his relationship with his son. But what’s more interesting than the story of Arrested Development is the story behind Arrested Development. When the show first aired on the Fox network in 2003, it got pretty good reviews and developed a loyal fanbase, but by 2006 and after three successful seasons, the creator felt that he had told the story he wanted to tell. Those are the three seasons that are available at Media Services, but the remaining two seasons, released in 2013 and 2018-19, were only released as Netflix exclusives. Fortunately, the seasons we do have are considered the best by loyal fans, so let’s just say we did that on purpose.

Arrested Development (2013) Cast. Digital Image. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/17/15653446/arrested-development-netflix-fifth-season.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

The show that was there for a whole generation of children, Avatar: The Last Airbender mastered the formula of the kids-show genre. It does this by mixing traditional elements like good morals and a simple plot with more complex storytelling and worldbuilding. The fantastic world of Avatar tells a story of what it means to have a destiny or a purpose, and what it means to value life itself. Not only that, but it tells the story set in a magical world where people have the ability to control either fire, water, air, or earth, but only one hero can master all four elements. That being is known as the avatar, and Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), the next avatar, must travel the world with his friends to master the elements and stop the evil fascist Fire Nation from enslaving the rest of the world! A simple story with high stakes, all three seasons of ATLA are a must-watch!

ATLA Characters. Digital Image. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/avatar-the-last-airbender.

Boy Meets World

Last but not least is Boy Meets World, an appropriate series for those who are inching closer to graduation year and starting to look back on your educational experience. This 90s sitcom is about the life of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and the lessons he learns as he navigates a life of middle school, high school, and eventually college. Along the way, Cory learns life lessons about love, family, work, society, respect, health, and a myriad of other themes that would be featured on an after-school special, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call Boy Meets World an extension of exactly that. Although the 90s humor and morality-grounded plot may get monotonous, those who already love the series will love to know that Media Services has every season of Boy Meets World! Even if you’ve never seen it before, this timeless series is definitely worth a binge!

Boy Meets World (1993) Original Cast. Digital Image. Vulture. https://www.vulture.com/2012/11/5-things-the-boy-meets-world-sequel-needs-to-do.html.

All of the shows mentioned above are very different, with completely different storylines, plots, settings, themes, and overall vibes. But there are two things each of these series do have in common: they are all incredibly good classic TV shows that are hard to tear away from, and they are all available to check out for free at Media Services! BC

Student staff blogger Brandon Carr is a recent graduate of IU Bloomington with a BA in Psychology and a double minor in Counseling and Japanese. He has worked at Media Services since 2017, and he also likes to play video games in his spare time. This summer is Brandon’s last with Media Services, and we are so grateful for his many contributions to the department over the years. We wish Brandon the very best in his next chapter and will miss his fun spirit!

Nostalgic Games That Will Make You Feel Like It’s 2006 Again

Media Services desk staff member Brandon Carr, a recent IU graduate in Psychology, shares his gaming-as-coping experiences during Covid.

While the world is finally (seemingly) returning to that lukewarm, slightly-less-terrible state of yore, it’s time to reflect on what got us all through these tumultuous times. Some people got really into politics, some people finally caved in and downloaded Tik Tok, and others even baked a mildly satisfying first attempt at banana bread. I, however, like many introverted geeks, turned to old video games.

I played some games for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, I got a Steam account to play some PC games, and I finally began taking advantage of those online memberships my relatives got me for my birthdays and what-not. For a while, I was satisfied in the modern world of digital entertainment. But the realer-than-life graphics and polished soundtracks became dull and monotonous after a while, and my attention shifted from my PS4 to the PS2. I traveled back twenty-odd years to video games that, for their time, represented the vanguard of gaming entertainment, games that are coincidentally among the holdings of the IU Media Services Department. So for my fellow gamers out there, here are some classics for the PS2 and Microsoft Xbox to revisit and rediscover.

For Playstation 2

God of War (2005)


God of War (2005) Cover Art. Digital Image. Ocean to Games. www.oceantogames.com/god-of-war-1.

Released in 2005, this game was an instant hit for Western audiences and solidified the classic hack-and-slash, level-up system in the modern gaming era. The high-intensity soundtrack keeps you constantly on your toes, the puzzles leave you stumped between areas and force you to use your mind over your swords, and the bloody, gory battle scenes with waves of enemy hordes are horrifically addictive. The first installment of the series and my personal favorite, God of War incentivizes carnage, an appropriate theme for a vengeful Hellenic warrior on a quest to kill the ancient Greek gods themselves!

Kingdom Hearts (2002)

Imagine the videogame lovechild between the Disney and Final Fantasy franchises, injected with some spiky-haired original characters with spiky hair and parents we never see, with a web of confusing, tangled plots and backstories that make the Game of Thrones look like a kids’ show, and you have yourself the glorious, and frustratingly difficult, mess that is Kingdom Hearts.

As strange as that may sound (and it’s admittedly not everyone’s thing), the mixed-up jumble of elements coalesce better than you might expect, with a compelling combination of action and role play, and the soundtrack is great. The game was a commercial and artistic success and won numerous awards upon its debut. Photo credit: Kingdom Hearts (2002) Cover Art. Digital Image. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/kingdom-hearts-and-when-judging-a-game-by-its-cover-goes-so-right/.

Jak & Daxter (2001)

Jak and Daxter. Digital Image. Games Radar. https://www.gamesradar.com/jak-and-daxter-the-precursor-legacy-anniversary-making-of/

Jak & Daxter and the Precursor Legacy has neither the confusing storylines of Kingdom Hearts nor the mind-teasing puzzles of God of War. Instead, you are faced with the dreaded world of… early 2000s platforming! The blocky platforms are hard to reach and made even worse by the game’s lack of momentum control. That said, the game is truly a fun experience and not that hard once you get the hang of it. So if you’re a fan of the Mario series or other games of the genre, then you’ll love the original and colorful world of Jak & Daxter! This game transports you to a fantastical land with a simple mission; to save the world with your furry best friend, and to find the mystery behind the life force known as Eco.

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

This game puts the cinema in cinematic. Released in the same year as God of War, Shadow of the Colossus is a familiar tale about a boy on a journey to rescue a princess. With minimalistic yet impactful atmospheres and a heart-wrenching story that immerses you into the perspective of the protagonist, SOTC is also action-packed, full of boss fights with gargantuan enemies.

This revolutionary title is often cited as one of the best games ever made and won awards for its soundtrack, design, and quality as a whole (IGN.com). So if you are looking for a compelling story and immersive experience rather than violence and combat, then bare your blade, and dare to strike down the beasts of gods! Photo credit: Shadow of the Colossus (2005). Digital Image. Team Ico Wiki. https://teamico.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_of_the_Colossus

For Microsoft Xbox

Halo (2001) and Halo 2 (2004)

Halo (2001) Cover Art. Digital Image. Games Radar. https://www.gamesradar.com/how-combat-evolved-halo/

Widely regarded as one of the most well received and successful video game franchises ever, the Halo series had its humble beginnings on the Microsoft Xbox. Before its release, games of the “first person shooter” genre were blocky, and often required a great deal of skill, luck, or both. However, upon its release, Halo was the first game of its time to successfully utilize dual stick controls, and it introduced the video-game industry to several amazing new improvements. Snapping crosshairs allow for the player’s camera to lightly stick to the enemy as they move. Friction and acceleration mechanics sped the camera up when no enemies were present, but slowed it down in the presence of enemies to increase accuracy. Magnetism allowed for the player to successfully hit enemies as long as their aim was “good enough” rather than extremely precise, as in previous titles.

Halo 2 (2004) Cover Art. Digital Image. Fully PC Games. https://www.fullypcgames.org/2013/09/halo-2-game.html

What is most iconic about Halo and its sequel, however, is that the control layout that was used for the original 2001 game is the layout that has generally been adopted by every single game of the genre since. For those who are unaware, a control layout is the range of actions that the game will let you input, as well as which buttons they correspond to on the controller (e.g., the bottom button is often used as the jump button). The series introduced crouching, melee attacks, grenades, and more controls to the genre that had not been conceived of prior, and the execution of these novel options was exceptional. If you’re familiar with the new Halo games but have never tried the original, then check out what made the series so iconic!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Knights of the Old Republic (2003) Promotional Artwork. Digital Image. Steam Store. https://store.steampowered.com/app/32370/STAR_WARS__Knights_of_the_Old_Republic

Based on the Star Wars universe crafted by George Lucas, this game takes place several millennia before the events of the first trilogy. Knights of the Old Republic was developed by the same creator as the Dragon Age series, known for its superior storytelling, combat systems, and character creation; luckily, this game also has all three! Although the character creation isn’t as detailed as, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and although the only names available for players’ characters are randomly generated, you can’t help but feel like you yourself are a Jedi in a galaxy far, far away. The best part about this game is that you don’t need to know much about the canon of the Star Wars universe in order to play, making this the perfect game for nerds and newbies alike.

Fable (2004)

Lastly, the cult classic whose sales were overestimated for years before its release in 2004, the one and only Fable. Although the creator of Fable was extremely proud of his product and advertised the game as something the world has never experienced before, its initial release was met with mixed reviews. Photo credit: Fable (2004) Alignment Art. Digital Image. Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/stgower10/fable/

In an embarrassing turn of events, the creator was forced to apologize for the difference in promise and execution. Luckily, an extension to the original game was eventually made and distributed, and the game was ultimately considered a success. Most notably, the game had a dynamic morality system that the protagonist aligned on, and throughout the game, depending on the player’s decisions, their moral alignment would shift. This interesting component compensates for the lack of character customization and personality for the protagonist. Players even get a sweet halo or a wicked pair of horns! If you want to experience a classic RPG, then check out Fable, and become a legend!

Even though we should appreciate all the new things this crazy year has taught us, it’s nice every once in a while to look back on those games we used to play and draw comfort from them once again. Photo credit: Family Playing Video Games. Digital Image. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

And if you don’t have a PlayStation 2 or Microsoft Xbox at home, Media Services have you covered! You can check out our PS2 and Xbox consoles for use within our department Media Rooms for as long as four hours. Photo credit: ONLINE Museum of Old Video Games. Digital Image. RetroGames. https://www.retrogames.cz/

We have additional consoles as well: Xbox 360/PS3, Super Nintendo, N64, PS4/XB1, Switch, and more! All of the games above are also available for checkout at Media Services (unlike the consoles, the games can be checked out to play outside the department) at no cost with your campus ID. BC

Student staff blogger Brandon Carr is a recent graduate of IU Bloomington with a BA in Psychology and a double minor in Counseling and Japanese. He has worked at Media Services since 2017, and he also likes to play video games in his spare time. This summer is Brandon’s last with Media Services, and we are so grateful for his many contributions to the department over the years. We wish Brandon the very best in his next chapter and will miss his fun spirit!

Electronic Ambient Scores in Science Fiction Thriller Feature Films

Science Fiction is the genre in which the widespread use of electronic scores in feature films was pioneered. The sound effects and ambient scores that are created within this genre have an incredible impact on the fantastical worlds that SciFi films absorb their audiences into by emphasizing otherworldly and alien aspects using tonal effects. Electronic instruments are able to create unique vibratos, glissandos, portamentos, and timbres that combine to build up a completely unique atmosphere for a film.

First Image: MiniMoog. Digital Image. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimoog 
Second Image: Jeffrey Tobin Playing the Theremin. Digital Image. Indiana Gazette. https://www.indianagazette.com/news/white-township-man-plays-theremin-with-symphonies/article_ce689220-419e-56a0-a905-326f7545bbaa.html. See vintage footage of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument here.

Electronic music is a broad genre that is only really constrained by requiring the use of some kind of electronic instrument, including theremins, synthesizers, Ondes Martenots, and MiniMoogs. Many electronic instruments were originally developed in attempts to win the race to invent a working telephone. Tweaks in the methods used to send out signals may not have worked as a telephone, but they did make instruments with beautiful otherworldly tones that could be made to express the intense subtleties of human emotions. Listen to a theremin being played and take note of the impactful expression of emotion in the music through each subtle shift in tone, or think back to hearing a synthesizer in a song and how the tones expressed an indescribable feeling.

The following list is composed of SciFi movies that use electronic music to create stunning ambient scores that pull their audience into the “other” and “alien” worlds imagined in the films.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Movie Poster. Digital Image. WRTI. https://www.wrti.org/post/story-behind-really-creepy-sound-film-score-day-earth-stood-still. Listen to The Day the Earth Stood Still, “Prelude and outer space” performed on the theremin here.

One of the more common electronic instruments, the theremin, was used in this soundtrack to generate the sound effects for the aliens in The Day the Earth Stood Still. The enchanting and alien tones composed by Bernard Herrman built the suspense and curiosity in the film, making the audience feel as mystified by the alien arrival as the film’s characters. At this point in film history, electronic music was rarely, if ever, used, mostly to create brief sound effects of fearful unknowns or alien concepts and creatures instead of full scores. Upon the film’s release, the effect of Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack on audiences was huge compared to the orchestral sound design that was typically used, and the effect of its other-worldly mood endures for present-day audiences as well.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Forbidden Planet (1956) Movie Poster. Digital Image. LetterBoxd. https://letterboxd.com/film/forbidden-planet/. Listen to excerpts from the Forbidden Planet soundtrack here.

Forbidden Planet’s score composers, Bebe and Louis Barron, are heralded as pioneers and innovators of electronic music. This was the “first major motion picture to feature an all-electronic film score … predat[ing] synthesizers and samplers” (Stone). The Barrons had to invent their own instruments from cybernetic circuits and magnetic tape that they would manipulate to generate the “ring modulated warbling” (Lynne) tones heard in the film. This was such a unique and new way of creating a score at the time that the American Federation of Musicians refused to allow them to call it music or to be named as composers in the credits. The Barrons were instead credited as creators of “electronic tonalities” (Lynne). However, the dismissal of their work at the time did not diminish the emotional impact that their work had on the film, nor the influence their work would have on the whole genre of SciFi. Bebe Barron herself is quoted as saying that “the sounds which emanate from the electronic nervous systems seem to convey strong emotional meanings to listeners” (Laudadio), and they do so in a way that is fantastical and alien, but still conveys an emotional context that audiences can understand and relate to. The tones that are generated set audiences on edge and plunge them into the same unfamiliar alien world as the characters in the film, fully immersing them into the titular forbidden planet, Altair IV, and the strange and mysterious events that unfold upon it.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (1982) Movie Poster. Digital Image. L.A.Mag. https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/the-essential-movie-library-21-blade-runner-1982/. Click the links to hear Memories of Green, Tears in Rain, and the main title theme from Blade Runner.

Synthesizers (or “synths,” for short) were used in the soundtrack of Blade Runner in a way that could only have emerged from the 80’s. The composer, Vangelis, created the enticing sound design that drew people into the film and cemented Blade Runner as an essential classic film in the SciFi genre. The score created the otherworldly atmosphere of futuristic noir necessary to the storyline. That air and environment was masterfully evoked in the sweeping emotional charge in each track, from the melancholic tonal drawls in the track “Memories of Green”, to the emotional but still uplifting warbles in “Tears in Rain”, to the futuristic awe from the synthetic wails of the main title. The score pulls the audience along through the shifts in emotions from the development of Blade Runner as the story travels along.

Run Lola Run (1998) Original German title: Lola rennt

Run Lola Run (1998) Movie Poster. Digital Image. Sony Pictures. https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/runlolarun. Hear the excerpt Running Two.

Run Lola Run delves into the more techno-pop/rave subgenre of electronic music, and while it leans more towards thriller than SciFi, the track is too beautifully done to ignore. The score, composed by Reinhold Heil and Tom Tykwer, embodies the anxiety that the titular Lola is feeling from the life-or-death situation the film’s plot forces her into. The film is fast paced and second-hand stressful to the audience watching Lola’s day devolve, and the score matches that energy perfectly. The overall vibe of this soundtrack and film can be gleaned from a line from the track “Running Two” that says “just go, go/and never, and never think/just do, do” which is exactly how this score makes the audience feel as Lola does whatever she can as fast as she can to save the lives of herself and her boyfriend. The techno pulses reinforce the stress of the film’s action and set the audience on edge right alongside Lola, so that they can feel exactly what she feels and be fully immersed in the film-watching experience.

Ex Machina (2014)

Ex Machina (2014) Promotional Image. Digital Image. RedShark News. https://www.redsharknews.com/creating-the-real-out-of-the-unreal-for-exmachina-sound-production. Click the links to hear Watching and Ava.

The score for Ex Machina, composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, creates an unsettling atmosphere for the full duration of the film that makes the audience feel put off and anxious. Barrow and Salisbury had an interesting way of evoking these feelings, creating an almost minimalist-feeling soundscape that draws the audience in, the intriguing sounds keeping them guessing about what could be coming up next in the plot. There are eerie, haunting trills in some of the tracks like “Watching,” which incite a sense of curiosity that gets counterbalanced with deep rhythmic pulsing that feels like a subconscious warning. But there are also sounds that embody the exciting spirit of innovation and the desire to learn new things. The composers manifest this spirit with echoing chimes that feel light with their uplifting lilts, such as in the track entitled “Ava”. Overall, the electronic tones in this soundtrack dance between emotions in an elegant way, using the intricate tones allowed by electronic instruments.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (2018) Movie Poster. Digital Image. Medium. https://medium.com/@zach.vecker/annihilation-2018-movie-review-4a6e72d7a41. Listen to The Alien from the film’s soundtrack.

In Annihilation, another Barrow/Salisbury soundtrack, the composers chose to develop the electronic music as the plot progresses and the environment changes to become more and more alien. The opening of the film has a more traditional orchestral score and even some acoustic elements, but by the time the final act comes the music is almost entirely electronic. In one of the final tracks “The Alien”, there is no dialogue or sound occurring in the film other than the soundtrack itself, so the composers turned the score into a direct vehicle for conversation and plot development. In that track, they create tones that sound like electric trombones having a conversation, during which they come to a consensus with one another, leading to the resolution of the film. By drawing the ambient soundtrack to the forefront over the course of the film, Annihilation‘s composers communicate the developments that unfold during the surreal final act.

Upgrade (2018)

Upgrade (2018) Movie Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6499752/. Click to hear the Jed Palmer score.

Jed Palmer is responsible for Upgrade’s score, and he created it in a way that cultivates the cyberpunk aesthetic of the film and emphasizes the actions and evolutions of the artificial-intelligence implant, called”STEM”, as the film progresses. The haunting echoed tones throughout tracks such as “Aftermath” evoke a feeling of dystopian bleakness that connects the audience with the deeper themes of grief, revenge, and the dark side of technological advancements that come from the perspective of the main character, Gray. It’s those electronic echoes that set the tone throughout the entire film and pull the audience into the setting of a technologically advanced urban metropolis. The tones can also shift though, to provide the hard energetic lilts that drive the audience through the more eventful scenes such as “Run Gray Run”. The design of the electronic elements in the score complements the emotional shifts in Upgrade and deepens the understanding that the audience has of the film.

Though technological advances in electronic and computer music have changed the craft of soundtrack creation over time, it is fascinating to hear composers use the new technologies to find new ways of conjuring what are often timeless human emotions. CR

Do you have thoughts on how electronics have influenced soundtracks over time? Have you ever seen a favorite film with different music playing over the visuals? Do you tend to notice the soundtrack of a film, or does it only affect you subconsciously? What is the best/worst/scariest/funniest electronic soundtrack you have ever heard? Let us know in the comments section!

Media Services student staff member Cas Regan is a Junior at IU in the Earth Science B.S. program with minors in Chemistry and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In addition to classes and working for Media Services, they are also the VP of the Beekeeping Club at IU and spend their free time caring for the club’s hives at IU’s Hilltop Gardens.

Sources:

Laudadio, N. “What Dreams Sound Like: A Brief History of the Electronic Musical Instrument in Film and Song.” University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Department of English. http://www.trifectapress.com/text/ElectronicInstruments.html 

Lynne, B. “10 Unforgettable Electronic Movie Soundtracks.” Shockwave Sound. 18 May, 2021. https://www.shockwave-sound.com/blog/10-unforgettable-electronic-movie/ 

Stone, S. “The Barrons: Forgotten Pioneers of Electronic Music.” NPR. 7 Feb., 2005. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4486840

Jungle movies

King Kong. Rotten Tomatoes. 25 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1011615-king_kong. IUCAT record: https://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/6431804

In Hollywood, the Jungle is a setting which has often been used to connote danger and intrigue, a setting used to generate tension. For American audiences, the jungle is a place which is foreign, isolated from civilization, and wild.

The history of the jungle in cinema is a long one, with white audiences having gained exposure to the setting via 19th-century exploration and imperialism, especially as those subjects were portrayed in novels. As early as 1918 in Tarzan of the Apes, an adaptation of a novel by Edgar Rice Burrows, literary fascination with the jungle translated to film, and the “jungle movie” was born. Over the next century, the jungle would be used in a variety of different films, some which delighted audiences, others…not so much. Regardless, the jungle has remained a relevant, popular setting in film from its first appearance one hundred years ago to the present day. Though the essence of the jungle as an ecosystem has remained relatively constant (despite severe climate change threats), its cinematic treatment has changed considerably.

In the 1930s, as film began to evolve from short, silent moving pictures into something with which we are more familiar today, a number of jungle movies enjoyed great popularity.

In the 1950s, jungles continued to be used in horror settings. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), used many of the same tropes as King Kong to make a monster movie that audiences wouldn’t forget. Photo credit: Creature from the Black Lagoon. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1004906-creature_from_the_black_lagoon

Between the 1910s and 1970s, Hollywood produced a huge number of Tarzan films, which took up a big portion of the ‘adventure’ side of the jungle movie genre. Still, other light-hearted jungle movies were produced at this time, notably Disney’s The Jungle Book in 1967. Photo credit: Bomba The Jungle Boy. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bomba_the_jungle_boy

Such ‘light-hearted’ films were more common in the late 50s and 60s, with most of the jungle movies of those decades being Tarzan or Tarzan-esque creations.

Apocalypse Now. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/apocalypse_now

In the 70s, the horror aspect of the genre returned to some degree with Apocalypse Now (1979), a Vietnam War movie which plays the madness of the wilderness against the madness of war, and mankind.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, the jungle was used time and time again as a backdrop for horror and adventure movies.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Predator (1987), and Jurassic Park (1993) are all examples of films which use the jungle to convey excitement and/or danger to an audience.

Photo credits, L to R: Raiders of the Lost Ark. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082971/; Predator. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093773/; Jurassic Park. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

Since the turn of the 21st century, jungles have continued to be used in action/horror blockbusters, despite some critical complaints of over-reliance on outdated stereotypes. This was particularly noticeable in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong, which was criticized for its portrayal of the ‘natives’ of Skull Island. Photo credit: King Kong. IMDB.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0360717/

Today, the jungle remains a setting which conveys isolation, and all the danger that may accompany it. Characters that live in the jungle are often either nature-wise and wary, or pagan natives that will either see white people as gods, or special sacrifices. While the real-life jungle shrinks, it’s cinematic presence will remain in the public sphere for years to come, warts and all. Photo credit: Jumanji. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7975244/.

Guest blogger Sarah Bull just started in Media Services during Summer 2021. This is her first post for the department.