‘The next three’ seconds

Where do you go to visually shortcut this kind of research process? You guessed it: a library!

My husband and I were scouting around for a movie to watch last weekend, and took a gamble on the Russell Crowe pic The Next Three Days, available for free through our OnDemand subscription. Crowe plays a man who tries to get his wife out of prison for a murder she didn’t commit — or did she? Although this was released in 2010 and starred not only Crowe, but also Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, and Liam Neeson (in a cameo role that made the trailer!), and was written and directed by Oscar winner Paul Haggis, I had NO MEMORY of this film. And that’s rare. How did this film fly so low under the radar? I blame the totally blah title. And generic-looking posters.

All in all, this was quite an entertaining genre flick, although not quite as smart as it thought it was — a signature vibe from Paul Haggis, IMHO. You know Elizabeth Banks had to be so psyched to get the role of Russell Crowe’s wife in this film, a role that played with the is-she-or-isn’t-she-a-murderer-mind-game with the audience. And then nothing came of it. Too bad.

Anywho, Sam and I were just getting into the film when BAM! A reel librarian flashed by! Twenty-three minutes into the film, John Brennan (Crowe) gets busy researching his wife’s legal case and the prison where she’s currently being held. And where do you go to visually shortcut this kind of research process? You guessed it:  a library! โ™ฅ Although we don’t get any shots of John actually asking a reel librarian for help, we do get a flash — and I do mean a flash — as an older librarian (uncredited) rolls by the screen, pushing her cart of books. Definitely an Information Provider in a Class IV film; her reel purpose is to help establish the library setting.

Now you see her…

Screenshot from The Next Three Days
Librarian — and props! — in The Next Three Days

Now you don’t…

Screenshot from The Next Three Days
Blink, you missed the librarian

We also get a couple more shots of John taking notes, gathering up books — the title Handbook on Prisons is highlighted, call number sticker on the spine and all — as well as performing an advanced catalog search for related titles. Judging from the list of results, it was a pretty decent library catalog search, a rarity onscreen.

Screenshot from The Next Three Days
It’s a real book! I looked up that title, which was published in 2007, and edited by Yvonne Jewkes.
Screenshot from The Next Three Days
Screenshot of search results in the online library catalog

The library catalog screen reads “AlleyCat,” and y’all KNOW I had to look that up. Turns out, it’s the library catalog system for the Community College of Allegheny County, located in the Pittsburgh area. Now that’s the kind of accurate detail a real librarian can appreciate. ๐Ÿ˜€

That list of results also led him to this (fictitious) title, Over the Walls, with an author’s picture, seen below. Soooooo not accurate, because:

  1. Library catalog records do not include authors’ pictures, at least none that I’ve seen
  2. They don’t include info about where an author lives (dude, privacy issues)
  3. There would definitely be info in the publisher, pub year, and pages fields, or a note indicating that no such info could be found (but that’s really only for rare old books).
  4. The ISBN listed, 029019745716, is 12 digits, and ISBNs are either 10- or 13-digit numbers. But I still plugged in that number into the ISBN Search database. And yes, there is such a thing as an ISBN Search database. Now you know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But hey, it gives Liam Neeson a bit more screen time (hah!), and propels the plot forward for John to meet up with Damon, an ex-convict who has broken out of several prisons. And I totally get why they used an invalid ISBN for the purposes of the film, like they do with fake 555 telephone numbers.

Screenshot from The Next Three Days
Library catalog record

Moving on…

This reel librarian cameo reminded me of a very similar opening shot in Junior (1994), which I’ve compared below with The Next Three Days (2010). Don’t these look like almost the same shots?! There’s something visually compelling about this kind of angle, how the rows of library shelves focus in like a triangle. And you get kind of a voyeuristic vibe, which helps ratchet up the tension, I’m sure.

Screenshot from The Next Three Days
The reel librarian in The Next Three Days
The reel librarian in Junior
The reel librarian in Junior

And together, these two blink-and-wait-was-that-a-librarian shots reminded me of a scene in the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy, Knocked Up, in which the main guy in the film, Ben (Seth Rogan), is building an online database of porn scenes. To each his own. I’m not judging. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And he and Alison (Katherine Heigl) are starting to watch a film together, and all of a sudden:

Alison:  Boobs! Boobs and bush!

Ben:  All right, credit bush! That’s the best; we’re not even five minutes in.

Except in my case, it could be:

“Buns! Buns and books!”

That’s right, folks. Stay classy.

Sources used:

  • The Next Three Days. Dir. Paul Haggis. Perf. Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson. Columbia, 1989.

Down the rabbit hole

Sharing various paths people take to this Reel Librarians blog

I am a librarian (what, you didn’t know?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), so I’m interested in how people search for information. This includes the keywords and phrases, otherwise known as “search strings” that people choose to search with. So I took a recent look at my WordPress stats — a trip down a rabbit hole if ever there was one! — and wanted to share some of the various paths people take to this Reel Librarians blog.

Out of nearly 20,000 searches (!) that WordPress has recorded since my blog began in September 2011, here are the top 12 searches that led one here:

Most popular search terms
Most popular search terms

This list reveals that yes, people are still obsessed with naughty librarians — big surprise — as well as librarian names and the reel librarian from An Extremely Goofy Movie.

Also a huge theme that jumped out at me as I scrolled through the list of search terms is how many ways people misspell the word “librarian,” especially when in the “naughty librarian” combination. They get the word “naughty” right, but not the “librarian” part. SIGH.

Here are the most popular misspelled variations of this particular search phrase:

  • naughty librian
  • naughty libraian
  • naughty libarian
  • naughty librian
  • naughty librain
  • naught librianian (say whaaaaaat?!)

Here are a few more head-scratchers:

And finally, below are a few search phrases that I found particularly interesting. I would like to meet the researchers who searched for:

  • reel librarians the stereotype and technology
  • when does a stock character become a negative stereotype
  • jennifer snoek-brown
    (Awwww, 16 searches so far for my name. Thanks, y’all! ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Happy searching!

First impressions: ‘Monsters University’

“What are you afraid of? You just angered a 40-foot librarian!”

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how two members of my family had tipped me off to a reel librarian featured in the recent release, Monsters University (2013). Since that post went live, I have had five additional friends recommend I watch the movie, which I did over the Independence Day long weekend.

And once again, here’s the film trailer that features the librarian at 1:50 minutes into the trailer:

Monsters University Final Trailer” video uploaded by Pixar, Standard YouTube License

First impressions? I loved it! Yes, it is VERY over-the-top, but as my fellow reel librarian blogger Maria states over at her Pop! Goes the Librarian blog, “I just canโ€™t bring myself to roll my eyes. Sometimes you just have to laugh.” ๐Ÿ˜€

Monsters University serves as a prequel to the 2001 hit Monsters, Inc., and has shades of the creation story in it, specifically about the wee monster, Mike (Billy Crystal). He’s thrown out of the School of Scaring because he’s… well, not scary. But to get back into the program, he assembles a team out of fellow rejects, including Sullivan (John Goodman) to enter the Scare Games, a series of trials to crown the top scarer at the university.

So where does the library come into the story? It’s the setting for the second challenge of the Scare Games, and the challenge is… wait for it… “Donโ€™t Wake the Parent.” And standing in for the parents — at 40+ feet tall! — is the ugliest monster librarian EVER on screen. I think I can state that with confidence.

Below is the front view of this monster librarian. From the side, as featured in the trailer, there’s the additional bonus of a grey bun perched on the back of her head.

Monsters Librarian screenshot
A ‘Monster’ librarian
Monsters University librarians shushing, as seen in the trailer.

And SPOILER ALERT, what is this university librarian’s monster power? The ability to hear noises at twenty paces or less — and the ability to make the offenders feel her wrath by scooping them up with her squid-like tentacles and throwing them out the roof into the nearby lake. Another point in the “scaring pros” column is her shushing power.

But an obvious weakness? Her poor eyesight. Ahhh, the bane of almost every librarian. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I kind of loved how she didn’t wear glasses on a lanyard, but instead carried the horn-rimmed spectacles around on a stick, like they were opera glasses, or like a masque at a fancy ball. YES.

Side note:  The end credits featured rookie cards for each monster, and I was so wishing there had been one for the librarian. Like when she retired, she became the resident scarer at the university library. She WAS scary, so she was fulfilling her monstrous destiny.

I also liked how she unfolded herself from the desk; at first glance, she may look meek and small, but when angered, she turns out to be almost as big as the library! Also, her tentacles make her the best shelver EVER. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The only downer for me was that while the challenge seemed to be about who could be the quietest, it turned out to be a challenge for who was able to not get caught. SIGH. Mayyyyyyybe not such a great lesson in the end. The ends do not always justify the means.

Fun tidbits about the Monsters University library and librarian:

  • The library is on the main quad, perpendicular to the School of Scaring (click here for a map of MU)
  • There are 89,000 books in the MU Library (click here for “MU At a Glance“)
  • The Monsters, Inc. wiki lists one of the librarian’s enemies as “People making loud noises in the library”
  • The librarian is a cephalopod, with six tentacles (Pixar Wiki)
  • To me, the librarian looks like a cross between Roz from Monsters, Inc. and Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

And, parting quote, courtesy of Mike:

“What are you afraid of? You just angered a 40-foot librarian!”


Sources used:

Behind the blog: What goes into a film analysis post

On average, anywhere from 4-10 hours of prep time goes into one film analysis post.

For this week’s post, I thought I’d do a little housekeeping and blow some dust off the curtains that keep this blog-labor-of-love going. When teaching information literacy skills in my librarian day job, sometimes it astounds me how the little things can be what flips on that “light bulb” moment (like using shortcuts in Google like define:procrastinate to look up definitions). I like to tackle the “big picture” issues, but today, it’s all about the details.

I’d like to share what goes into putting together a film analysis post, like this one I posted last week about 2002’s The New Guy. There’s the watching of the film, obviously, and taking notes, and either rewatching the film, or rewatching specific scenes to make sure I got down quotations correctly, etc. Oh, and pausing and rewinding to take screenshots of pivotal scenes. That could take anywhere from 2-4 hours to do, depending on how long the film is and how important the librarian’s role is to the film. Last week’s post was a little shorter at this stage — only about an hour — because (1) I had already seen the film, and (2) I had previously taken notes on the film. So it was about deciphering my prior notes, and seeing if I had anything to add this time around. Spoiler alert: I did. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My initial notes for 'The New Guy'
My initial notes for ‘The New Guy’

Then, either before or after watching the film, I like to do a little research. Go figure! I’m a librarian. Researching is as natural as breathing air. This usually involves at least one visit to Imdb.com and several Google searches, and possibly some library database searches, depending on what I uncover. And checking out what my fellow library film researchers have said, if they’ve seen that particular film, as well. And then there are extra notes.

Ok, now we’ve reached the stage of ACTUALLY PUTTING THE POST TOGETHER. Easy, right? Not so fast! My usual process is to retype, or copy-and-paste, the notes I’ve taken thus far, and then build a post as I begin the initial editing process. This stage looks a little something like this:

Early draft of 'The New Guy' post
An excerpt from the earliest draft of my film analysis post for ‘The New Guy’

This stage usually takes me about an hour, possibly two, including uploading pics, cropping, and hoping inspiration will strike. Oh, and time for, you know, THINKING. And figuring out a title. That’s the hardest part. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fast-forward, the post is done. That means we’re done, right? NOPE. I’m a librarian, so that means… cross-linking and citing sources! For every analysis post, I create a corresponding entry in the Reel Substance section of the site. So The New Guy was a Class III film, based on the librarian’s importance to the film, so it corresponds to this entry and citation in the Class III page.

Citation entry for 'The New Guy'
Citation entry for ‘The New Guy’ on the Class III page

So every film title in a post that is hyperlinked directs the reader back to the film’s citation.

I also then update my Master List as well as the corresponding Actor List, with links back to the film’s citation.

Master List entry for 'The New Guy'
Master List entry for ‘The New Guy’
Actor list for 'The New Guy'
Actor entry for Justine Johnston, who has played a reel librarian twice

And then it’s time to proofread my post, preview what it will look like, make corrections, doublecheck links, assign tags and categories (akin to cataloging and indexing), and then schedule it to post. All of that cross-linking and proofreading takes maybe another hour.

Then it’s SHOWTIME.

Screenshot of film analysis post for 'The New Guy'
The finished post for ‘The New Guy’

After the post goes live, I then update my Reel Substance and Master List pages to then have cross-links back to the blog post. On average, anywhere from 4-10 hours of prep time goes into one film analysis post. So if you’ve ever wondered why I don’t do film analysis posts every.single.week, this post might help explain that. I love love love researching reel librarians, as well as updating this blog/site hybrid to showcase that love, but it does take serious commitment and hard work. But it’s all worth it to me in the end. I hope it is worth it to you, as well, dear reader.

And… the final stage?

My mom reads my posts and emails me about any typos and corrections I need to make. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love you, Mom. โ™ฅ

Sources used:

The hand that rocks the school in ‘The New Guy’

The legacy of an 80-year-old reel librarian.

In The New Guy (2002), one of the opening monologue’s lines succinctly sums up the basic plot of this Grade C high school comedy:

In high school, popularity ain’t a contest, it’s a war, and Dizzy Harrison is its greatest casualty.”

At the start of his senior year — and start of the film — Dizzy (DJ Qualls) is humiliated at his old high school, and tries to start over as the cool “new guy” at another school. The scene immediately after the opening credits — a mere five minutes into the film — is a memorable one, showcasing perhaps the crassest, most twisted behavior ever from a reel librarian!


And on that note, I must warn you that about very sexually frank words and descriptions below, which may not be suitable for work.

And… now back to the humiliation. It’s the first day at school, and there are multiple tables along the main foyer, most likely set up for school orientation. After Dizzy starts flirting with a high school cheerleader, a couple of jocks horn in to point out his “pup tent” and proceed to pull Dizzy’s underpants over his head and spin him around toward an older lady sitting at a nearby table.

The old lady (Justine Johnston), dressed in pearls and a vest, screams “What is this?!” and reaches out her hands toward Dizzy and grabs at what is closest to her.

The New Guy screenshot
Take note of the student on the left who is filming this scene of humiliation at the hands — literally — of the school librarian.

Dizzy, understandably in shock, stammers out, “Mrs. Whitman! It’s my…”

Grabbing his penis, Mrs. Whitman screams, “It’s mine now!” and “You can’t bring loaded weapons to school!”

Pushing Dizzy backwards while she moves forward on her rolling chair, she ends the short scene by standing up and proclaiming, “I’m showing this to Principal Zaylor.”


And here is Dizzy’s blood-curdling reaction, screaming in pain and humiliation at this living nightmare:

The New Guy screenshot

You really do feel for the guy, don’t you?

Although less than a minute long, that scene packs quite a punch. And in some ways, it’s quite clever. (Not classy, to be sure, but clever.) For example, the start of the film likens high school to a war. And in that shot above, one is reminded of a gladiator scene. After such a debilitating beginning, will Dizzy be able to rise up (ahem) and become a hero?

However, in that opening scene, it’s clearly Mrs. Whitman who emerges as the victor. And she knows it.

The New Guy screenshot
School librarian showdown in ‘The New Guy’

But how do we know Mrs. Whitman’s a librarian?

The next couple of scenes help illustrate that. First up is a scene at the doctor’s, where Dizzy reveals that he “can pee around a corner.” Hopped up on pain meds, he then creates a disturbance at the local mall and wakes up in jail next to Luther (Eddie Griffin), who begins describing how similar high school is to jail.

Luther:  I seen terrible things.

Dizzy:  Yesterday, an 80-year-old librarian broke my penis.

Luther:  [Pause.] You win.

Personally, I don’t think anyone wins watching this film. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Dizzy also gets to utter this oh-so-eloquent phrase, “If you break your dick in front of the whole school, they remember.”

And remember they do. After a state football championship, the jock football player from his old school replays the video of the librarian incident at Dizzy’s new school. On the big screen. At the Homecoming dance. And being teenagers, everyone starts shouting, “Broke dick. Broke dick.” Just in case we had missed that point earlier.

Ah, the legacy of an 80-year-old reel librarian.

The New Guy screenshot
Gimme, gimme!

In real life, Justine Johnston, who played Mrs. Whitman, was 85 years old at the making of this film. She also played a blink-and-you’ll-miss-that-librarian in Running on Empty (1988) — see also this post about repeat offenders — but she makes a more, shall we say, lasting impression in this film. Her turn as Mrs. Whitman effectively sets in motion the impetus for the entire film. (I know, that line sounded kind of dirty, but it’s not!)

She serves the role of Comic Relief — we the audience are invited to laugh both at her AND her unwitting victim, Dizzy — and her memorable performance, although only a minute long, lands her in the Class III category. After all, her actions set up the plot for the rest of the movie! Her reel librarian, Mrs. Whitman, also joins other librarians on the loose, i.e. reel librarians never seen in libraries but only referred to as librarians by other characters.

And now, go put some ice on that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sources used:

  • The New Guy. Dir. Peter MacDonald. Perf. DJ Qualls, Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel. Bedlam Pictures, 2002.
%d bloggers like this: