Librarians love lists. And booktalking. And readers’ advisory.
Rob Christopher’s book, Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, was published last year by Huron Street Press, an imprint of the American Library Association. His book is like viewers’ advisory: a book filled with extraordinary and eclectic films to whet your cinematic appetite.
The first heading of the book’s introduction is entitled “At the Heart of Cinema is a Library.” You had me at hello. ♥
Because this book is published by the American Library Association, you may be wondering what movies have to do with libraries.
As a librarian who writes a blog about movies — ones that feature librarian characters — this is not a question that I personally was wondering. 😉 But I like that Rob is upfront with his (non-librarian) readers and right away urges them to utilize the media holdings of their local libraries, especially as technology and access to that technology keep shifting. Libraries are all about access and providing the kinds of materials their community users want or need. Bravo, Rob, for introducing that point right away.
He goes on to observe that:
Libraries are also staffed by dedicated individuals who are trained to help you find what you’re looking for, even if you’re not quite sure what you looking for. (p. xii)
I ended up going slowly through this book — and at around 150 pages, including the index, it’s not a thick book to get through by any means — because I found myself having to put it down and think about the movies being written about. Conjuring up images of those films that I had previously seen and enjoyed (or not). Pondering over the odd juxtaposition of a book, a print media, being used to promote films, an audiovisual media. Making notes about what movies I now wanted to see, thanks to this book. That, to me, says this book is a success. It excels at what it sets out to do: to inspire others to watch movies. 😀
I also set a rule that I would not skip over any movie write-up, even if I had already seen the film. Keeping an open mind is so important, which a book like this demands! I eventually started tearing off Post-It strips to mark the movies I wanted to go back to. Behold:
And now for my own lists! 😀
Things I liked:
- The different themes, which makes it easier to pick up and peruse this book whenever the mood strikes you. Some themes immediately grabbed my attention, like “Nine Movies for Lively Discussions” and “Flops That Actually Aren’t Half Bad.”
- The differing numbers of films in each list, which ranged from 7 to 12 or 15 or more. There wasn’t a static formula; the rhythm ebbed and flowed along with the writer of that chapter.
- Some films were included more than once, but it was interesting to read how they were included for different reasons. For example, the 1951 Jean Renoir film The River was included in “Great Movies for Tweens, Teens, and Other Kids under the Age of 99” as well as in “Movies on My Mind.”
- Several chapters were compiled by librarians, or library organizations, including:
- Zoe Trope, aka Zoe Fisher, a librarian in the Pacific Northwest (“Seven Reasons to Love Nicolas Cage”)
- Bill Ott, editor and publisher of Booklist, a magazine and review journal for librarians (“Better than the Book!”)
- Eugenia Williamson, a former circulation manager of the Newberry Library in Chicago (“Eight Films about Doomed Romance”)
- Young Adult Library Services Association (“Fabulous Films for Young Adults”)
- ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (“DIY First Amendment Film Festival”)
- Rob’s intro for the “Great Movies for Tween, Teens, and Other Kids under the Age of 99” chapter, in which he reveals from personal experience that “the best way to make sure your kids grow up with a taste for great movies is to get them started early.” I agree with that sentiment, as that was the case with me, as well!
- That the book ends with a list of “Ten Movies So Bad They’re Good” — a perfect culmination to this fun volume. (And, yes, I’ve seen most of the films on this list. Even Troll 2 and The Room, which really “must be seen to be disbelieved.” 😉 )
Things I didn’t like so much:
- It felt off-putting at first to ping-pong between Rob Christopher’s voice and the voices of the other writers, who contributed half of the 24 movie lists in this book. And then about halfway through, I realized the structure mirrored what Rob outlined in the “How to Queue” introductory section, that the best movie nights are often random selections from a bunch of friends. So then the book’s structure made more sense.
- It was too short! I wanted more. But that’s the best type of problem to have, right?
Films I’ve been inspired to watch after reading this book:
Why have I not seen these films yet?!
- The French Connection, 1971. (“Gems from the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress”)
- Carrington, 1995. This made a splash at Cannes way back when, but I’ve never gotten around to watching this Emma Thompson film. An oversight I obviously need to correct. ‘Cause I do love me some Emma Thompson! (“Man ♥ Sheep, Teen ♥ 1958 Plymouth Fury, and Seven Other Unusual Romances”)
- The Red Balloon, 1956. Again, why haven’t I seen this film yet? Any film WITHOUT DIALOGUE that wins an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has got to be great. (“Great Movies for Tweens, Teens, and Other Kids under the Age of 99”)
- Sherlock Jr., 1924. Ah, Buster Keaton. I have not watched enough of your films. (“Great Movies for Tweens, Teens, and Other Kids under the Age of 99”)
- The Train, 1964. A film with Burt Lancaster AND trains AND World War II Resistance fighters? This sounds right up my alley. (“Great Movies for Tweens, Teens, and Other Kids under the Age of 99”)
- The Trouble with Angels, 1966. A minor classic with Hayley Mills and directed by female director and actress Ida Lupino. A film with strong females in front of and behind the camera = YES. (“Movies on My Mind”)
- The Red House, 1947. A Delmer Daves film starring Edward G. Robinson and a film now in the public domain … why have I never even heard of this film until now? I’m on it. (“Fifteen Favorite Late-night Spooky Films”)
Plot/characters/actors sound so crazy/random/cool that I’m intrigued:
- The Silent Partner, 1978. Christopher Plummer plays a Santa Claus planning a bank robbery. WOW. (“Psycho, and Other Surprising Christmastime Movies”)
- Secret Ceremony, 1968. I am intrigued by a film that includes a mix of Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, and Robert Mitchum, plus Taylor decked out in mod 1960s fashions by Christian Dior. (“Flops that Actually aren’t Half Bad”)
- Back Street, 1961. “[Susan] Hayward is Miss Rae Smith, internationally renowned fashion designer who has given up her virtue to [John] Gavin in the film’s turgid first act.” Hello! (“That Magic Moment: Homoerotic Display in Heteronormative Cinema”)
- Little Murders, 1972. Sounds like a crazy roller-coaster of a film, but I do like dark comedies on occasion. This one promises to be very dark indeed. (“Great Movies Based on Plays”)
- Stranger on the Third Floor, 1940. Peter Lorre, an early film noir, and a shadowy crime mystery. Sounds like a cocktail for a good time. (“Fifteen Favorite Late-night Spooky Films”)
Because of reasons:
- Meek’s Cutoff, 2010. Set in mid-1800s in eastern Oregon, and I’ve met the screenwriter. (“Nine Westerns that aren’t Westerns”)
- True Stories, 1986. Reading this write-up of a film that winds its way around a small Texas town reminded me of my own childhood growing up in backwoods Texas. (“Nine Westerns that aren’t Westerns”)
- Vanya on 42nd Street, 1994. I’m not sure why I had mentally checked this film off my mental list in the first place, as I actually am a Chekhov fan. Perhaps it sounded too pretentious, a “behind-the-play” look at the play Uncle Vanya. Or perhaps because it was adapted for the screen by David Mamet, who’s admittedly not a personal favorite, as exposed here. At any rate, I am now intrigued enough to give this film a (first) chance! (“Great Movies Based on Plays”)
- Persepolis, 2007. I’ve read the books and loved them, I like the style of the art, and I like animated films that have substance for adults as well as young adults. (“Fabulous Films for Young Adults”)
And, last but not least, Reel Librarian films that are included in the book’s selections:
- The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, 1989. There’s not really a librarian in this film; rather, Alan Howard plays a bookseller. But there is a rather extraordinary book-filled setting in this oddball film. (“Extraordinary Sound, Music and Film”)
- Brazil, 1985. (“Psycho, and Other Surprising Christmastime Movies”)
- All the Presidents’ Men, 1976. Not one but FOUR reel librarian roles — minor but critical roles in the plotline. (“Twelve Films That Made Me Love America”)
- Christine, 1983. (“Man ♥ Sheep, Teen ♥ 1958 Plymouth Fury, and Seven Other Unusual Romances”)
- Somewhere in Time, 1980. A sentimental favorite of mine! (“Man ♥ Sheep, Teen ♥ 1958 Plymouth Fury, and Seven Other Unusual Romances”)
- Henry Fool, 1997. (“Eight Films about Doomed Romance”)
- Pump Up the Volume, 1990. (“DIY First Amendment Film Festival”)
- Cape Fear, 1962. The original. (“Fifteen Favorite Late-night Spooky Films”)
- Logan’s Run, 1976. (“Ten Movies So Bad They’re Good”)
And if you can’t get enough of Rob Christopher’s wit and taste in movies? Visit his RandomCha blog, where he often posts micro-snapshots of films (“3 things about…”). And if you like Chicago — it’s one of my favorite U.S. cities! — check out his posts on The Chicagoist here.
Thanks again, Rob, for inviting me to review your book, Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie. And now excuse me, I have to go watch some movies… 😉