A special treat for y’all today: a guest post from Michael at the Century Film Project blog! I met Michael recently at the ACRL Conference, and we realized we had a lot in common — after all, we’re both librarians in Oregon with film blogs. Hope you enjoy the guest post!
Hello, gentle readers. Jennifer kindly asked me to post a little bit about myself and my blog here, and I’m honored to do so, even if I scarcely know where to begin.
My blog is called the Century Film Project, and it is a place where I post the reviews I write of century films. “What is a century film?” you may well ask. In my About page, I state:
“[c]entury films are movies that have been in existence for at least 100 years. As we move into the 21st Century, we have a unique opportunity to connect with a past period that no longer lives in human memory. The cinema connects us with the images and the dreamscapes of other eras.”
I have always felt that the most interesting thing about film is that it is a form of shared dreaming. We get to see into the minds of people who are distant from us and often very different, yet we find things there that we recognize as part of ourselves. From a historical point of view, this makes them a very strange kind of source – not a reflection of reality, but of wishes, hopes, and fears.
I originally had the idea of watching century films as a project of my own about 2012, and I started posting brief thoughts about them on my Facebook wall. In 2014, a couple of people I worked with told me they’d like to see these reviews moved to somewhere more permanent/navigable, like a website or blog. Hence, I launched the Century Film Project as a WordPress blog in March 2014. Since then, I have to admit, it’s kind of taken over my free time. The blog itself consists mostly of capsulized reviews of the movies I’m watching, along with occasional posts for context, about the news in the world of 1915, or the early film industry, or a specific filmmaker’s career. The other major part is the Century Awards! I give awards paralleling the Academy Awards on awards night to movies released 100 years earlier. Last year’s big winner was the Italian spectacle, Cabiria (1915).
There are a lot of neat things about looking at movies from 100 years ago, one of which is the way in which dates line up. We can think about how people then understood the Civil War in terms of how people of today remember the 1960s. Or we can think about inventions that became popularized in the mid-90s (internet, anyone?) and compare them with the development of film.
I have a checkered background that includes going to film school and working in film for a brief time, but I’m a professional librarian these days. Some of my first experience with information retrieval, searches, and organizing information came when I was a clerk at Movie Madness, a video store in Portland, Oregon. I still use what I learned there every day.
Jennifer and I met in Portand at the ACRL conference, which she blogged about a bit. There were supposed to be informal lunches for people with different (non-library) interests, and we both showed up for one about movies. I know I was relieved to find people who didn’t only want to talk about the newest releases. And now I’ve gotten to write for her blog! You never know where networking will lead you…
Reel Librarians goes international with Notorious Bib
Today’s post is a special double feature: Reel Librarians goes international! (Bibliothécaire in the heading’s subtitle is French for librarian.) A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Mister Pamp from the Notorious Bib site — basically, the French version of my Reel Librarians site — and after some correspondence back and forth, I suggested the idea of analyzing the same film and sharing our perspectives on each other’s sites. He was up for the challenge, and we chose the 2002 indie film, Miranda. Why? Because we both happened to have personal copies of the film, but neither one of us had yet watched it. Simple as that. Sometimes, practicality rules triumphant. It just so happened that we chose a British-made film.
I enjoyed the experience, as well as reading my French colleague’s take on this film. We ended up with similar outlooks on the film, but it’s interesting to read how we took different routes to end up at the same place. Also, Mister Pamp was able to locate the real-life filming location for the library featured in Miranda!
Miranda is a strange woman. And a strange film. It’s a British-made film starring two American actors: Christina Ricci as the title role and Kyle MacLachlan as a kinky businessman obsessed with Miranda. Although one of the lead characters, Frank (played by British actor John Simm), is (1) a reel librarian, (2) earns second billing in the film’s credits, and (3) whose relationship with Miranda is the film’s central plot, there is NO MENTION of him in the film’s trailer that came as an extra on my dvd copy. John Hurt, in a supporting role, also replaces John Simm above the title on the film’s posters and advertising. Ouch.
Those omissions pretty much sum up how important the reel librarian’s occupation is to this Class II film. As in: not very. He could have been a bank teller or a pharmacist or any occupation seen to serve behind a counter.
Even though the opening scene shows Frank at work in the central public library (he’s actually listening to music with his headphones on and creating a self-portrait out of nuts), we are hit with a sign that reads “Library Closing Down” and this self-narration:
Frank. Barracloff. Rock star. Astronaut. Secret agent. Sex god. That was me, wishing my life away, listening to Elvis, munching on nuts. But now I know, you gotta be careful what you wish for. It might come true. Because at 1:05 pm on the 25th of February, my life changed… forever.
And what changed this reel librarian’s life forever? You guessed it! Miranda. She is a mysterious character — perhaps a better word is shady — a wide-eyed pixie who dons different outfits and contact lenses depending on what con scheme she’s busy orchestrating. Christina Ricci is hilariously miscast as the wannabe femme fatale, while John Simm as the hapless Frank seems to be the only one taking the script seriously.
Although with clunker lines like:
“She hit me like a truck, but with a bit more grace,”
“You are my Virgin Mary … coal … thing,” and
“Even Jesus came back after three days, and he was dead,”
it probably was a tougher job than he expected.
The first ten minutes of the film rushes through the first week of meeting Miranda, as she visits the library every day as demolition day draws nearer and the library shelves become barer. Even though we see Frank unshelving books to pack into boxes — a reel librarian UNSHELVING books, that’s got to be a cinematic first! — and clearing off the front desk, he seems completely unperturbed at losing his job. Even at the very end, as he straightens the empty brochures bin and the front desk bell, he crosses his arms and smiles as is satisfied. The film’s message is clear: What a loser.
What does Miranda do? She sets fire to the sign that warns the public that the library is closing down for demolition. Right before she goes into the library and introduces herself to Frank. Subtle. As subtle as the shot of the crane later demolishing the library facade. Because that’s all it is. A facade. (Seriously, that personal revelation was deeper than this entire movie. That’s not really a compliment. 😉 )
Fast-forwarding, Frank sums up their love story plotline with more lame-o narration, “Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wakes up.” And in a truly terrible song he writes and sings about his beloved, he also foreshadows his quest to find her after she disappears one morning:
And it’s you, Miranda. Wherever I wander, I’ll find her. From New York, to Uganda. Miranda. Got eyes like a Panda. Miranda. If you were a plane, I’d land ya’. Miranda.
At this point, my husband and I were making up stupid rhymes ourselves.
I came up with, “Your name’s not Amanda, it’s Miranda.“
My husband’s best entry, “It’s not a custard, it’s a flan – duh.“
We do get to see several shots of Frank’s apartment — it’s always interesting to see glimpses of a reel librarian’s home life. Frank does have a clearly defined sense of style. It’s very … Elvis.
Time and again, we also witness every.single.character make fun of Frank:
Frank: It’s the best night I’ve ever had. Miranda: You should get out more.
Miranda: You look like a hedgehog. Frank: Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.
Rod (best friend): Frank, your hair is bad. She is exciting.
We’re supposed to root for this guy? All those mean remarks stacking up, it’s tiring. You might say there are enough verbal slaps to cause a nosebleed. 😉
Even though Frank becomes a hero of sorts at the end, he also is burdened with inane dialogue such as this:
Frank: I always buy stuff with preservatives in it. Makes you live longer.
[Narration]: I read this book once. It said 2,000 people disappear every week. They just vanish. By the year 2076 there’ll be no one left. Only me.
Frank [to Miranda]: I love you. … All I’m asking you to do is say three little words. Three little words. And then I’ll go. Three little words. Miranda: Fuck off. Now.
The final frosting on this wilting cake is this conversation between Frank and his best mate, Rod, toward the end of the film. Warning: I cannot be objective about this. This scene made my blood boil.
Rod: She’s beyond exciting. She’s international. Get out there, conquer it.
Frank: I can’t.
Rod: Why not?
Frank: I’m a librarian.
Rod: Frank, you cling to the past. You haven’t even got one. You just stayed in.
Frank [narration]: He was right. That’s all I did. I stayed in. Read books. Until I met her. … In one month with her, I’ve been kidnapped, made 5 million quid from a psychopath. I was alive, electrified by raw, painful, horrible, glorious life.
Frank is a classic Liberated Librarian. His story arc is actually the central one of the film, even though Miranda gets the title role. He starts out the film dreaming of a more exciting life, and he finds that through Miranda. Male liberated librarians usually need outside forces or actions to instigation the “liberation,” and that is true in this case, as well. For all his (awkward) talk of love, Frank can only muster the courage to go after Miranda after (1) he gets drunk and (2) his friend urges him to go after her. And at the end of the film — even after he has saved her TWICE — he cannot experience personal happiness until she tells him that she loves him. The three little words that he actually wanted to hear.
So there you go. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy helps girl. Make 5 million quid from pervert. It just didn’t feel right.
[Please note that the following guest post has been translated into English. Any errors in translation are mine (and maybe Google’s, as I used the Google Translate tool). For this post in its original French, click here to visit the Notorious Bib blog.]
The brave film that interests us today is called Miranda and tells the story of a young woman named … Miranda (bravo), but also Frank, a thirty-year-old no-life librarian, who “dreams of a life life beyond his bank loan.” Said in a less literary way: he benefits from a public system and yet could not care less about the public. But it is a strange fact, nobody finds anything wrong with that. Frank doesn’t seem to have any bosses — who are conspicuous by their absence — or users of the library, which also sparks the same absenteeism (with a possible correlation between the two). In short, Frank is called, in the jargon of operational management, a dirty little humbug. However, our kindness will grant a mitigating circumstance. Indeed, in a few weeks , the library where Frank works will definitely close. And closing the public library , except in the minds of some sly students of ENSSIB, we must recognize that this is not the ideal professional perspective to boost the motivation of a librarian. Welcome to …
~~ Miranda (2002)
Unmotivated library workers, we’ve all seen. In general, you recognize them easily. There is Marie-Laure who systematically catches a cold the first day of vacation … in that way, her recovery is also postponed. There is Eric, who recently had the great idea to bring long cigarettes with the aim of prolonging cigarette breaks, or the divine and unconquerable Angelica, who each morning invariably rearranges her book cart with large-print novels because they are easier to shelve, leaving the hard files for her misfortunate colleagues.
Besides these small players is our friend Frank, who wins the prize. At the reception desk, you see him killing time without stopping on a swivel stool that squeaks like a freight train braking, ears plugged into Elvis Presley, and with handfuls of kernels, spreading the shells on the desk to form tribal-inspired frescoes. When the library front door opens, it’s an air current that sweeps away the decoration; then Frank picks up everything and again, until the next visitor.
Of course, all this does not encourage users to respect the place, and you wind up witnessing wastebasket dunks with apples they just swallowed at their desk — or worse , who enjoy burning the library notices posted on the board outside.
Occasionally, one of Frank’s unemployed friends pays him a visit, and then you see how they both change the world: one butt cheek on the counter, casually shooting the bull about love and its hazards.
You say, this is not possible, such things cannot exist. Alas, Menelaus, and we have not seen everything: when the pretty girl enters the library and asks Frank where the conference room, he simply leaves his post and accompanies the young woman in the auditorium, where he will “hold his leg” for twenty minutes to yap about the beauty of her eyes and the impact of those eyes on the male. Yes, in addition to being a pretty lousy professional, Frank gives into the most clichéd phrases for the purposes of seduction.
Leaving for a moment his whimsical and inconsistent attitude, in rare moments is Frank captured by a flash of lucidity. Thus, when yet again he pours his heart out to his friend and when his friend tries to encourage him:
– But what are you waiting for, go find her and seduce her! (…) – I could never … – And why is that? – Well … I’m a librarian …
A beautiful vision, but it is a struggle to appreciate when you see how this young man tries to get a leg up in his career. Especially if you look at the statistics, being a librarian is not so prohibitive. There are plenty who enjoy a healthy social life and even manage to reproduce. It is really sad to see such a lack of confidence in a male librarian; with 75% of women in the profession, it is supposed to be an advantage for heterosexual-level opportunities.
I reassure you, this is not France that would see such things. In fact, I did not want to mention it because I personally abhor denunciation, but I still need to clarify that the charming librarian of this film is an Englishman. This is also why, if you have some basic insight into that from the beginning I type Frank without the “c”. Specifically, our friend works in the great London suburbs, the main library of the town of Harrow, which seems to have a lateral recruitment policy. In any event, the film reassures us that in a few days the library and its staff will not ever hurt anyone because the property is not ready to be only closed, but also wiped off the map.
What does a public library about to be sprayed look like? Here’s a small glimpse:
Apart from its incompetent staff, here is another reason solely sufficient to justify the demolition of the facility: the front pediment above the main entrance.
An excruciating sculpture, it seems to include the cross-sectional representation of a small intestine that have suffered the ravages of chili con carne that’s too spicy. It’s just disgusting. To think that the one part of this building that is cultural would appeal only to an intestinal surgeon.
Finally, an interesting library graphic. The poster is not very attractive, but it looks roughly official:
Spectacular, and more:
A Mercedes S-class parks in front of the library. Can we say the the rich have finally discovered the joys of reading in public? … Nay, this wealthy Japanese comes to examine the library he had just bought with his head full of ideas to build something better once it is destroyed …
Sayonara, library. Instead, we will build a park where dogs can pee, it will be much more useful, and then place the playground next to a weight bench and an expression wall for graffiti artists which may also serve as a urinal if sometimes they do not like their park — and of course a fountain that will fill with the urine and everything that clutters up our pockets with material desires. It will be great and then, finally, we have our third act.
Hmm, it is hard to love a film that has such an apocalyptic vision of the reading public. The reality, thankfully, is not quite as described in Miranda as the film chose as its library location the Gayton Library, in Harrow — which was about to be demolished, but the library actually moved elsewhere, in more functional premises. Harrow librarians have also done well, as the allocation of filming locations was done in return for payment against the sum of €25,000, which was used to purchase new books for other libraries in the city. Apart from that, Miranda is not really the film of the year. Neither of the week, or even your evening, in fact: the love story is stupid, the dialogue is heavy, the actors look like actors in commercials for deodorants. Done with more care, the plot of the film could have been fine (the story of a librarian who is tricked by a femme fatale). But as is, the film is a chore that lasts 90 minutes. Bad.
Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!
Our last — but certainly not least — guest post comes to you from Bob Schroeder @ Cinfolit. A fitting end to the past couple of weeks — or perhaps, a rebirth? Read on, dear readers, read on! 🙂
The Blog Cinfolit at the Crossroads
by Bob Schroeder
A blog posting wherein the author bakes organic bread in Ann Arbor in the ’70s, makes Lord of the Rings allusions, invents a new muse, and poses a most timely and scintillating question to us all.
The question before us ladies and gentlemen is: “How to make a collaborative blog thrive?”
A bit of back story. In July of 2010, Joseph Hardenbrook posted a questions to the ili-list. He was looking for videos that illustrate information literacy topics for library instruction sessions. A great idea! Videos on info lit topics would definitely add some pizzazz to the old shtick in the classroom. Then my inner librarian kicked in and I wondered how would we will be able to find and access all those great videos? An online index of information literacy related instruction videos – of course!
Such was the genesis of the blog Cinfolit (Cinema + Information Literacy).
But how to find all of those great videos I knew were out there, and how to be eternally and incessantly vigilant ? (Even the Eye of Sauron occasionally blinked, right?) That’s when my inner cooperator kicked in. Cooperation has been one of my life’s leitmotivs over the past four decades. I’ve was a member of Ann Arbor’s Peoples’ Coop in the early 70’s , I learned to bake great hippie whole wheat bread at the Wild Flour Bakery, and was a owner/worker of the Soy Plant – cranking out a thousand pounds of tofu a day. My cooperative self even followed me into libraryland, inspiring me to write an article entitled A Cooperative Publishing Model for Sustainable Scholarship. So duh! Making it a cooperative blog seemed to be the obvious answer.
I must confess that while blogging always seemed like a cööl thing to do I was waiting for a muse to enthuse me to rapturous and meaningful words (BTW – perhaps it is time to birth a tenth muse of good blogs, Eupostia?) Finally with Cinfolit a raison de blôgtre! But not only would the content be meaningful and helpful for instruction librarians , it would also be a social experiment for me – seeing if cooperation and collaboration would work on the web.
Fast forward to fall of 2011 – it was then, a year after Cinfolit started, that the last post was made. I’ve been ruminating since on the fate of this blog. It still seems like a good repository for these videos – they’re still great spice to add to instruction sessions, and having the index and links online makes them accessible to anyone with a computer. Just writing this blog post has started some blog regeneration seeds sprouting in my brain. But the question remains about collective action in cyberspace….
“How to make a collaborative blog thrive?”
Do you feel that Cinfolit is a potentially useful source for instruction librarians? If you have any epiphanies on how to reinvigorate a cooperative blog please let me know. You can email be at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!
Next up in our global guest post adventure is Tom Goodfellow, a film nerd and librarian at the University of Sydney, Australia. This post — all about reel libraries and dystopian futures — is derived from his Masters dissertation, where you can enjoy more of his witty insights into libraries and film.
In the eye of the survivor
by Tom Goodfellow
The world as you know it has ended. The countryside is a barren wasteland, resources are scarce, lawlessness is rampant and shadowy forces control whatever remains. First up, you’ll probably need some heavy duty weaponry to defend yourself from marauding wolves/cannibals/robots. Next, some clean water and tinned food are probably necessary, along with clothing and shelter.
And not forgetting that great essential, the public library.
This being Reel Librarians, obviously my main source for this assertion is the world of movies, which have provided us with a range of apocalyptic futures that feature a surprising number of libraries.
The Day After Tomorrow offers a particularly literal use of the library as a safe space. Following a climate change induced big freeze hoo-ha, a group of chilblained survivors hole up in New York Public Library. They preserve themselves by burning books, allowing for much ironic chat about which tomes should be first for the pyre. Sorry legal librarian readers, but by unanimous agreement the tax codes get it first.
Preservation, in fact, is the key theme here. In several movies, ruined libraries are visited by our square-jawed hero, and the lost secrets (re)discovered therein lead to ultimate victory.
In Zardoz, a copy of The Wizard of Oz inspires Sean Connery (resplendent in ponytail and bright red codpiece/suspenders combo) to discover the power behind the throne of his own society.
Inspiration is also crucial in Logan’s Run, in which Michael York and Jenny Agutter come across the crumbling Library of Congress, thereby understanding some of the culture that preceded them, i.e. 20th century America. The film is not subtle in conveying its agenda, featuring a discussion of who the individual portrayed in a portrait might be (it is Abraham Lincoln) and the eventual impalement of the main villain on a flagpole bearing the U.S. flag, both of which take place in the main reading room.
My favourite, though, is the incomparable Battlefield Earth (I watch it so you don’t have to). Once again the LoC is the setting, and an old text that we recognise as the Declaration of Independence is what spurs Barry Pepper on to defeat the alien critters that John Travolta has inflicted on us all. In a stroke of somewhat implausible good fortune, he also finds an instruction manual for building the nuclear bomb necessary for ridding the world of nefarious extra-terrestrials. As library/patron interactions go, this can probably be marked down as a success.
There is another strand of science fiction/library crossover movies in which a futuristic information source provides library-style information – think The Time Machine, Soylent Green or Rollerball. I could go on about these for a while, but I hear the reader crying (quoting Jane Austen):
Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!
Next, please welcome Beth @ Beautiful-libraries.com, a site of beautiful libraries, indeed. Beth shares her personal inspiration behind the site, and a love of libraries that, as she so rightly points out, connects us the world over.
I have always loved libraries – as a kid, my favorite place was my elementary school library filled with books and beanbag chairs; my parents, university academics both, always had a large collection of books. One of my earliest recollections is waiting for the Bookmobile to park and climbing aboard to choose among the children’s offerings.
As an adult, I assumed I would always be surrounded by books and dreamed of the cozy home library I would someday have. The first thing I did when my new husband and I bought our first house in 1998 was to design and build a wall of four-foot-high shelves in an upstairs room to create an office/library. Those shelves filled up fairly quickly.
The following year, I ran across an article that left a deep impression on me: In the July 1999 issue of This Old House Magazine were photos of a truly magnificent home library addition to an older house in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Since I was reading a public library copy, I returned the magazine, but over the years my thoughts returned often to the magnificence of that home library. About five years ago, I searched online for that back issue, which became the start of a binder I kept of beautiful home library photos, which I added to as I found other impressive library portrayals in Architectural Digest and other magazines, as well as online photos.
Two years ago, my husband, two children and I, well-settled into our third and (we hope) permanent house, and running out of space for free-standing bookcases to hold the 5,000-or-so books I had managed to amass, decided that we might like to build our own library addition.
I immediately began looking through my binder and looking online for inspiring photos of well-designed home libraries, and found, to my surprise, that although several sites had lists of ten or so library photos, no one had yet compiled an extensive collection online.
Thus began Beautiful-libraries.com, a site dedicated to inspirational photos and information about libraries of all kinds: private, public, academic, commercial and many other types – including Libraries in Art and Libraries in Film, naturally!
I have now added over 600 photos and still continue to add more, whenever I have a moment (and we’ve finished our own library addition too, BTW). I try to accompany each photo with information about that library, and personal observations and commentary about its design. And I have received photos of libraries from visitors around the globe, from Europe to Africa to Asia. The love of beautiful libraries is universal.
Many thanks to Jennifer, for her permanent link to my site as well as for giving me this chance to do a guest blog here at Reel-librarians.com. I hope you find a moment to visit and enjoy Beautiful-libraries.com.