The next three seconds

Sam 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! ♥ 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…

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'The Next Three Days'

Now you don’t…

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'The Next Three Days'

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.

Reel Librarians  |  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.

Reel Librarians  |  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. 😀

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. 😉

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.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'The Next Three Days'

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.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'The Next Three Days'

The reel librarian in ‘The Next Three Days’

Reel Librarians  |  A junior librarian

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. 😉 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.

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5 comments on “The next three seconds

  1. From now on, that’s what I’m yelling during all our movies. “Buns and books!” =D

  2. “Buns and books!” Clever! Clever indeed.

    The scene of the librarian in Ghostbusters is also framed similarly to the two examples you have depicted. It’s also an Ivan Reitman film. Coincidence? I wonder!

    • Ahhhh, interesting! I think there must be many more examples of this kind of introductory shot to a librarian… definitely something to add to the watch list. 😉

      • I would think that there are not too many different ways to shoot scenes in libraries. The only camera angle that really makes sense to me is the one that you usually see as in your examples. I suppose that’s why directors stick to this tried and true view. It works, so don’t fix what ain’t broke.

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