A promise to a reel librarian

Every Christmas holiday, my husband and I have a tradition of binge-watching a movie- or TV-series marathon. In past years, we’ve gone through the Harry Potter movies (that took us two days to complete), Star WarsSupermanThe Thin Man series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so on. This year, after having watched Die Hard (1988) and Love Actually (2003) after Thanksgiving, we chose Alan Rickman as our theme for this holiday’s movie marathon. As we left it pretty late, we selected whichever Alan Rickman movies were available to us through our own personal collection, HuluPlus (we have a subscription), and our local public library.

Reel Librarians  |  DVDs of Alan Rickman movies

One of those movies was the 2013 period film A Promise, based on Stefan Zweig’s novel Journey Into the Past. The plotline — as well as the resulting film — is pretty straightforward. Set in 1912 in Germany, a young, hard-working man gains the trust and confidence of an older businessman — and then falls in love with the older man’s wife. Believe me, it sounds a lot racier than the result.

It stars Richard Madden as the young man, engineer Friedrich Zeitz; Alan Rickman as businessman Karl Hoffmeister — sporting an awesome mustache; and Rebecca Hall as his wife, Lotte. One online review summed up the film this way:  “A Promise is an overwrought bodice-ripper that forgets to rip bodices.”

Friedrich, a poor young man who has graduated first in his engineering class, earns Karl Hoffmeister’s confidence through his work ethic and intelligence. Friedrich also reveals that he felt education was his only chance in life.

Much to my surprise while watching the film, A Promise includes a brief library scene. Very brief. As in 15 seconds brief.

A quarter-hour into the film, we see Friedrich in a library, his table piled high with books. He is poring over a book entitled Mexico and a map. [This makes sense later when Friedrich advises Karl to invest in a mine in Mexico. Friedrich is then the one sent to Mexico as the company’s project manager.]

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

While Friedrich makes notes, a male librarian slowly makes his way down the row of tables and deposits a couple of books on Friedrich’s table.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

How do we know he’s a librarian? Because he’s wheeling a book cart, of course! (See also my posts for City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s GoldRicochetand Chances Are, among others.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

An Information Provider, for sure, and one of the most minimal ones at that, ending up in the Class IV category of films. (It didn’t surprise me that the librarian is uncredited.) Amazing that the screen time for the reel librarian in this film is about the same as for the reel librarian in WarGames — but what a difference of significance and importance between the two reel librarian portrayals!

What I did like about this scene is that it underscores Friedrich’s commitment to education and lifelong learning — and how he obviously associates the library with that education, as well. :)

By the way, if you’re interested, here are the movies we watched during our Alan Rickman marathon — a mixture of movies we had seen before along with a few new to us:

  • Two episodes of The Barchester Chronicles (1982)
  • Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves (1991)
  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Dark Harbor (1998)
  • Dogma (1999)
  • Gambit (2012)
  • A Promise (2013)

Although the qualities of the movies varied widely, we did come away with a renewed appreciation of Rickman’s immense acting talents!

2014: Reel Librarians in review

Happy 2015! The WordPress stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Reel Librarians, so here’s a quick look back.

Here’s an excerpt from the annual report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete 2014 report, which includes much more. And if you’re interested, click here for the 2013 report and here for the 2012 report.

Most popular posts of 2014:

The most popular posts last year were actually all published the year before, which the WordPress stats helpers choose to interpret as “Your writing has staying power!” ;)The Killing Kind vs. The Attic” post (published Oct. 23, 2013) was far and away the most popular post with over 2,500 views in 2014.

Here are the most popular posts of 2014 of those actually written and published last year:

My personal favorite posts of 2014:

I always find it an interesting exercise to take a look back and identify my own personal favorite posts of the year. Reminds me of why I dedicate so much of my spare time to this blog! Last year, I chose a personal favorite from each month; this year, I’ll keep thing simpler by choosing my top 5 favorite posts from 2014:

  • WarGames and research (Dec. 31, 2014):  My most recent post and final post of 2014 — and one of my absolute faves! This one surprised me, as I really didn’t expect much at all out of the few seconds of screen time of this film’s reel librarian — and yet the research montage scene was so layered and interesting.
  • The Lindgren trilogy (July 23, 2014):  This post finished up a series of posts I had written about the librarian in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, comparing LINDGREN the archives librarian character from the 2005 book, the 2009 Swedish film version, and the 2011 American film version.
  • Enough, said the librarian (Feb. 25, 2014):  An unexpected reel librarian portrayal in James Gandolfini’s last major film role in Enough Said. I also enjoyed researching what a “digital archivist” was.
  • Pride and Prejudice and librarians (Feb. 28, 2014):  Hello, Jane Austen — reason enough to enjoy this post. But I also enjoyed digging into the reasons why the Mr. Collins character in this 1940 film adaptation was changed from a clergyman to a librarian. I’d also like to think I was channeling Jane Austen to release some of my snark in this post. ;)
  • Review of ‘Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie’ (Jan. 21, 2014):  This was a fun post to write, as well as a fun book to read. This was the first book I was sent a copy of and asked to review for the site — by no less than the author himself, Rob Christopher! — so it holds a sentimental place in my heart — and my bookshelf. :D

If you haven’t caught up on these reader (and personal) faves, enjoy! I’ll be back next week with another film analysis post to start off the new year!

WarGames and research

As another year draws to a close, here is a final film analysis post for 2014!

Last month, a reader left a comment on my Class IV page — films in which the reel librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue — about WarGames (1983).

Reel Librarians  |  Reader comment about 'WarGames'

Lo and behold, I had a personal DVD copy of this cult classic film — some might argue it’s a straight-up classic, and I would not disagree. I was looking forward to rewatching it, as I had not seen the film in years. And I was very pleased to find that WarGames holds up well, especially for a film about cutting-edge technology made in 1983. Also, part of the film’s setting is in Oregon, and it was filmed mostly in the state of Washington! :)

Screenshot of 'WarGames' trivia on IMDB.comMany retrospective reviews tout how the film was a touchstone for computer geeks, as it tapped into the psyche of the younger generation and the fun of exploring exciting technology and being creative in ways unfathomable to an older generation. I can totally see its influence today. And it was influential back then, too. I recommend reading the trivia on the film’s IMDb.com page to find out how influential it was. FASCINATING!

One major aspect of the film that gets overlooked, time and again, is about how it’s also a powerful anti-war film. That’s the message I remembered from first watching WarGames. The core message — SPOILER — is that when it comes to war, “The only winning move is not to play.” An anti-war film with the word “War” in its title, no less. A truly brilliant film that manages to be both of its time as well as timeless.

The only discordant note I found while rewatching the film is that it definitely skews male; I wish there could had been more female computer programmers in the film to inspire young females along with young males. (Ally Sheedy’s character has much-needed spunk, but let’s face it, her role in the film mostly consists of listening to Matthew Broderick’s character explain things.)

Now onto the research. There is a very important research scene in a library, as Marco mentioned in his reader comment, but the reel librarian shows up for only a few seconds toward the end of that scene. So yes, it does fall into the Class IV category of reel librarian films.

A little over a half-hour into the film, David (Matthew Broderick), begins a quest for the back door password to hack into a computer game system. From the system’s list of games, he researches the first game on the list, “Falken’s Maze,” as well as the game’s creator, Stephen Falken. (FYI, the character of “Stephen Falken” was inspired by real-life genius Stephen Hawking.)

And where does David go first to start his research? The library, of course!

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

We also learn later that he’s been skipping school to do this research — as an educator myself, something I cannot endorse — but it does provide a clue that the library featured in this research montage must be that of a college or university library. And look, as you can see above, there are call numbers on the spines of the books. It’s a real library! :)

By the way, I looked up filming locations to try and ferret out the real library used for the reel library. There are several locations listed on the film’s IMDb.com entry, and some info here on this “WarGames Filming Locations” post, but no info specific to the library. The commentary track of the director and screenwriters during the library scene also did not reveal anything about the actual library used in the film. I suspect it’s one of the libraries either at the University of Washington in Seattle or the California State University – Long Beach, but I can’t confirm that.

The following montage highlights a very important — and overlooked — aspect of research:  that it is REsearch. Meaning, you expect to search more than once. And so David does. He first finds a journal article on Falken’s maze from the Scientific American periodical.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

He then goes back to look for more articles using microfilm and a microfilm reader. (Yes, I sighed in nostalgia for microfilm. Cutting-edge technology in its day.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

He then goes back a third time and shuffles through a card catalog drawer to locate a card for Falken’s thesis, as seen below. (More sigh of nostalgia.) Another clue that he’s researching at a college library, because the call number is a Library of Congress (LC) call number, which uses a combination of letters and numbers. (Most public and school libraries use the Dewey Decimal call number system.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

And yes, I totally looked up that call number in WorldCat. The first part of the call number, QA76.9, is spot-on, as that’s in the call number range for computer systems and software. The Qs are for Science, and the QA subclass is for Mathematics. Also, all of the research materials in this film are super-convincing. None of the articles are real — there’s no Stephen W. Falken, of course — but the film’s prop masters used real publications, like Scientific American and The Atlantic to add an edge of verisimilitude. Also, somebody studied real library catalog cards, as that is the best faux-library catalog card I’ve ever seen onscreen. Look at all that info!

In the next clip, David then hands a card to a librarian at a counter. We only get to see the back and side of the reel librarian’s head. She appears to be younger, with contemporary clothing and a bun. (Of course.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

The librarian then prints out a list of Falken’s publications and a brief bio; this looked to me like some kind of combined authority control file and publications bio for Falken.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

The reel librarian, only onscreen for a few seconds, does relay some very important information, to both David and the audience. First, she relays the information that Falken is deceased; later, we learn that David has printed out a copy of Falken’s obituary. We can piece together that the librarian’s information then led David to this obituary, when then led David to the backdoor password for the computer game system, when then led to the major plot of the film.

Librarian prints out Falken’s bio (includes date of Falken’s death)


 clue to password for computer game system

war games ensue and real plot of movie begins

Thanks, librarian! :D A well-deserving Information Provider.

As the director John Badham also chose to include a shot of the reel librarian using a computer to locate this important information about Falken, as seen below, the audience also associates the librarian (and library) with technology. We see David reflected in his home computer monitor several times throughout the research montage, and we ALSO see the librarian reflected in the library’s computer monitor. Therefore the audience cannot help but draw a connection, however brief and fleeting, between the two.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

He is young and a student, while she is older and part of the education establishment. However, they are both using technology, and she aids him on his quest. The significance of this reel librarian portrayal makes a much bigger impact than its few seconds of screen time initially suggest.

I also appreciate this research scene for showcasing several different types of research materials (including peer-reviewed journal articles, newspaper articles, a thesis, and a documentary video), as well as different methods of approaching research. David is persistent and creative when it comes to researching Falken — we also find out later that he even checked out a videotape of Falken from the library! — and that is a very important concept when it comes to research. There’s never just one way. There’s always a back door to research. Just like with computer systems. ;)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

David, a computer whiz, also knows that not everything he needs can be found through the computer. It’s an easy trap for young people to fall into — especially today — to limit themselves only to what is available online. Yes, some of the information that David finds in this 1983 movie could be found online today, but those resources would be available in different systems. And not everything is available for free on the web. Some of those resources, like the thesis, would probably be available only in a library’s print or perhaps digitized collections — and even then, available only to its users, or by special request. (It’s notoriously difficult to track down theses and dissertations, by the way. And obituaries. Just so you know. You would need a librarian’s help to find those resources.)

In addition to highlighting creativity in research, David also shows EFFORT in this research scene. As a librarian myself, I really appreciated seeing this onscreen. David tried out several avenues first by himself, and then when he hit a roadblock, he enlisted the help of a librarian. Another aid to his research! And she obviously helped, as the information she provided led him eventually to the answer, as well as the plot of the movie. Well done, David. And well done, anonymous (and uncredited) reel librarian. Together, you’ve shown a successful research process in action!

Writing this analysis post of WarGames (1983) surprised me. The research scene is only a few minutes long, and the reel librarian portrayal only a few seconds long. I wasn’t expecting to get so much from so little. But there are so many layers to this scene, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated, with a lot of useful information relayed to the audience.

Analyzing this research montage, therefore, was a maze in and of itself. A-maze-ing! (I couldn’t resist.) ;)

Next week, I’ll be back with a round-up of yearly stats. Happy New Year!

Home by Christmas

Oddly enough, there don’t seem to be that many Christmas-themed movies with reel librarians (unlike scary movies for Halloween). I’ve highlighted this issue before, including in this round-up post of reel librarian Christmas films.

My mom was super sweet to send me one of the films on that list, a 2006 TV movie called Home by Christmas. All I knew about it was that a librarian was included in the credits, and it starred Linda Hamilton. My husband and I had so.much.FUN. watching this TV movie together… although the movie itself wasn’t so fun.

Reel Librarians |  DVD of 'Home by Christmas'

The IMDB plot summary for the TV movie makes it sound really depressing (on par for a Christmas-themed film!):

After a well-to-do woman divorces her cheating husband, she ends up homeless through a series of mishaps.

An IMDb user review begins in much the same way:

Home by Christmas starts out fairly predictable and depressing, with Linda Hamilton’s character being cheated on by her husband and then going through a series of (certainly plausible) extremely hard and devastating times.

The reel librarian, listed only as “Librarian” and played by Donna White, is listed near the end on the film credits; I didn’t have high hopes for a big role for the reel librarian.

A library first gets mentioned a little over halfway into the film. Julie (Linda Hamilton) has been befriended by Selma (Brenda Crichlow), who decides to show Julie the ropes of how to stay classy while being homeless. [Not kidding.] Eventually, she convinces Julie to try for a real estate license.

Julie:  But I’m not a licensed agent!

Selma:  So get your license! Look, you study a couple of books, you take a test. It’s not like you gotta go to school. All the books you need are in the library. And it’s not like you ain’t got nothing to do.

Julie:  Good advice.

I can’t comment on how realtors might feel about that conversation nugget above… but I can comment on how much it warmed my heart to hear that last line from Selma — that if you got nothing better to do, you go to the library! Spread the Christmas cheer, y’all! ;)

My husband quipped, “A library is a homeless person’s best friend.” And there is some truth to that statement. Libraries are free and open to the public, with a warm and welcoming staff and environment, complete with soft furniture and resources to help improve people’s lives. Of all the different kinds of libraries, public libraries tend to serve the biggest homeless populations, and it’s enough of an issue to necessitate special trainings in library school as well as on the job.

The next shot in the film reveals the library interior in the film — and a side shot of the reel librarian.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Home by Christmas'

My husband scored again with this reaction:

I’m pretty sure that’s the librarian. There are chains on her half-moon glasses, and that’s a pretty hideous cardigan.

Julie walks around the front desk and promptly asks the librarian for the “books one studies to get ready for the real estate license exam.” (Very formal way of asking that, right?)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Home by Christmas'

But the movie doesn’t even allow the reel librarian to answer! They just cut straight to Julie poring over a stack of books at a library table.

By the way, my husband and I had two different takes on Julie’s reference question. My husband didn’t like that Julie didn’t even bother to look for the books herself — that she went straight to the reference desk and expected immediate help. I, on the other hand, thought Julie was being efficient and probably saving time by going to the librarian first to get what she needed. (It also helped that she asked her question in a nice, friendly tone of voice, complete with a smile. I would have been glad to help her. And yes, my library has books about real estate license exams, as well.)

Also, Julie’s efficiency helps the plot be efficient. ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Home by Christmas'

Blink, and you’ll miss a brief glimpse of the reel librarian in the background above, helping another patron. My husband said, “You know it’s the librarian because of the ugly cardigan.” LOL! :D

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Home by Christmas'

Also, about an hour into the TV movie, there are a few more short clips of Julie studying more books in the library — but no more librarian.

So that’s it for the reel librarian in this film:  less than thirty seconds and no dialog! Definitely a Class IV category of reel librarians. The reel librarian serves nominally as an Information Provider — Julie does, in fact, become a realtor by the end of the movie!

Home by Christmas is a pretty big downer for the holidays, although everything works out ok in the end. The movie wants it both ways:  to serve as a message movie for the very real and scary issue of homelessness while also sending the message that people succeed if they help themselves.

Hope your holiday season is more cheerful than this TV movie. Merry Christmas!

All about ‘The Librarian’

Can’t get enough of The Librarian or its TV series spin-off? I am a self-confessed fan, and I have posted quite often on different aspects of the original TV movies. I had fun perusing my archives again, and you might enjoy The Librarian-themed posts, as well:

The Librarian

Click collage for image details

Next week, I’ll be back with an analysis post of a Christmas film — just in time for Christmas! <<<|

First impressions: ‘The Librarians’

I’ve done a few “first impressions” posts on this blog, which are not as in-depth as my usual film analysis posts; instead, they’re more straightforward reviews of my initial thoughts, impressions, and yes, personal biases. (If you’re interested in other “first impressions,” click here for the one about Monsters University, or the one about The Amazing Spider-Man, or the one about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.) As you could see from last week’s post, I was pretty excited about the upcoming TV premiere of “The Librarians,” a series spin-off from the popular “The Librarian” TV movies starring Noah Wyle as librarian adventurer Flynn Carsen.

And after watching the 2-hour premiere this past Sunday, I can say that yes, I’m still excited. :)

Here’s what I posted on Facebook immediately after the first scene:

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

What made me cheer? This exchange between Flynn and Eve:

Eve:  How’d you know all that?

Flynn:  I’m the librarian.

And here was my husband’s reaction:

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

I have a soft spot for “The Librarian” TV movies, which are admittedly cheesy, corny, and nerdy. They’re also fun. And that irrepressible, playful spirit all through the TV movies — lifelong learning is THE BEST, y’all! — also inhabits the spin-off series. I also have a soft spot for genre films or television that are unapologetic about their genre; I appreciate total commitment to whatever genre they’re going for. (See also my eternal love for films like SaltWhere Eagles DareDesk Set, EntrapmentEver AfterPitch Perfect, and even cheesy classics like White Christmas.)

You know what you’re getting in “The Librarians,” and I can appreciate that. I want cheesy, corny, nerdy, adventurous fun that also packs a LOT of learning. After all, that’s what this entire blog is about! ;)

I like that this series harkens back to the old serials of the early film era; there is something sweetly old-fashioned about this series, for all their casting of new, younger librarians. I like the throwaway moments like when Flynn stops to marvel at and repeat little-used and cool-sounding words like “vexing.” (Yes, I have been known to do that same thing in real life. The most recent times were for the words “voluminous” and “verisimilitude.”) I also like how much the TV series includes elements and inside jokes that reference the original TV movie — even bringing in the Papyrus font from the original movie’s credits! The series creators are playing to their fans, and yes, I am one.

I also like that the series is filmed in and around Portland, where I live. And that Oregon got mentioned in the 2nd episode. Go Oregon! (Read this review from our local paper, The Oregonian, which also includes some info about Portland locations used in the series.)

So, what’s “The Librarians” all about? There are 10 episodes listed on the TV show’s website, and the premiere included the first 2 episodes, “And the Crown of King Arthur” and “And the Sword in the Stone.” (By the way, extended episodes are freely available now on iTunes; you can also access them through the TV show website.) Someone is killing off librarians — I know, I gasped, too! — and Flynn, with the help of new guardian Eve (Rebecca Romijn), sets off to round up three remaining librarian candidates. In a clever link to the original TV movie, they were invited to interview for the librarian position that ultimately went to Flynn.

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

The librarian newbies are Lindy Booth as Cassandra (my husband’s fave), a math whiz who suffers from synesthesia; John Kim as Ezekiel, a hacker, tech whiz, and thief; and Christian Kane as Jake, a country boy who knows all about art and welding (my personal fave). John Laroquette also joins the cast as Jenkins, a stuffy, fussy man who manages the library’s annex — and who is tasked at the end to train the librarian newbies. The baddies — because there are ALWAYS baddies in “The Librarian” franchise — are unmemorable for the most part, but that’s nothing new.

I laughed, cheered, and groaned in equal measure throughout the premiere. Here are my favorite lines that I shared on Facebook:

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

Of course, other things bugged me. Like the pretty stereotypical (yet charming) character of Jenkins, who pretty much lines up with the Anti-Social Male Librarian character type. Two typical lines from Jenkins:  “This is the library, not the rodeo” and “Good. You’re leaving. I can get back to my work.”

I also sighed at the unrelenting theme that librarians hoard knowledge, like through lines such as “welcome to the secret world,” “knowledge that is locked away” and “the lengths the librarians will go to hide the gift of magic from the world.” That even spilled over into Flynn’s over-protectiveness of his position, insisting that HE was THE librarian.

But at the end, I enjoyed that Flynn, ever the Liberated Librarian, realizes that he cannot do it alone. That there is value in training new librarians. That he is part of a community. I love the message of librarian mentorship and training — something hardly ever explored in reel librarian portrayals! — and it’s clever that the librarian training, or “saving the world every week,” will serve as the structure of the series.

Oh, and I didn’t want to forget to mention one of the major stars of the show, as far as I was concerned:  the totally awesome card catalog that wraps along one side of the staircase in the library office. HELLO to the hotness:

Reel Librarians  |  First impressions:  The Librarians

I totally gasped when this first came on screen. (As did Eve a little bit when she first stepped into the library office.) Gasp-worthy indeed.

“The Librarians” scored over 7 million viewers in its premiere, making it the highest-ranked premiere of new cable series this year. Yay for the librarians, one and all! ;)

Did you watch the premiere of “The Librarians”? Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it!

‘The Librarians’ TV premiere

Last spring, I shared about the exciting news that TNT had greenlit a spin-off TV series inspired by the much-loved “The Librarian” TV movies starring Noah Wyle — and that the series would begin filming soon in Portland, Oregon (where I just happen to live). They did indeed film in the area throughout the summer, mostly around the Salem area south of Portland.

And even MORE EXCITING is that ‘The Librarians’ TV series will premiere this Sunday, Dec. 7, kicking off with a two-hour premiere episode! There are 10 episodes total listed on “The Librarians” TNT website.

They’ve also released a trailer, which yes, did get me fist-bumping into the air. How could you NOT with lines like these:

Chosen for their knowledge, chosen for their skill, these are no ordinary people. This is no ordinary library.

I’m offering you a life of mystery and adventure. More than that, I’m offering you an opportunity to make a difference. Save the world every week.

I love this job.

It looks like Noah Wyle, as librarian Flynn Carsen, is transitioning into a mentorship role, which I quite like. It fits the structure of a TV show, of course, but it also helps promote awareness of and need for mentorship in real-life librarianship.

So y’all know where I’ll be Sunday night. I’ll be back with my first impressions! :)