Reader poll winner, fall 2017

The votes for the most recent reader poll are in… and the clear winner was Possession! Once again, y’all surprised me (for some reason, I was convinced either Gangster Story or Day of the Falcon would vie for the top spot).

Reel Librarians | Reader poll screenshot, fall 2017

So I will be (re)watching Possession, via the Hoopla streaming service available through my local public library. Next week I will be back with a film analysis post — stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you’d like to peruse previous reader poll winners, check out them out below:

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Reader poll, fall 2017: Choose your next reel librarian adventure

I have opened up a reader poll at least twice a year since Spring 2014, when I ask readers to vote for the next film for me to analyze. You can see past reader polls here.

I usually pull together five film titles from my private collection of reel librarian titles, but this time, I decided to create a list of five film titles from my local public library’s streaming video service called Hoopla.

Now is the time to choose your next reel librarian adventure! The reader poll will stay open through next Tuesday, Nov. 7th, by 10 p.m. PST.


Day of the Falcon (aka Black Gold, 2011)


Movie poster for Day of the Falcon

Starring:
Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim

Film description on Hoopla:
“To find peace after a long and bloody war, two kings declared a large piece of desert, the Yellow Belt, neutral territory, which neither king can claim. But when it is discovered that there is oil in the Yellow Belt, one king breaks the peace treaty and begins drilling for oil. Now, the kings are at war again and it is up to a young prince to find a way to bring peace, and prosperity, to the land.”

Where a librarian fits in:
Tahar Rahim stars as Prince Auda, who is appointed to be national librarian when Emir Nesib (Antonio Banderas) starts to modernize the kingdom. So that means one of the main characters is a reel librarian!


Defense of the Realm (aka Defence of the Realm, 1985)


Movie poster for Defense of the RealmStarring:
Gabriel Byrne, Ian Bannen, Denham Elliott

Film description on Hoopla:
“When a respected British newspaper reporter suffers a heart attack while investigating a possible connection between a British Member of Parliament and a KGB agent, a young cynical reporter picks up the story and reveals a web of conspiracy and potential nuclear disaster.”

Where a librarian fits in:
Gabriel Byrne uses newspapers in the public library to trace evidence of a cover-up and tears out an article from the newspapers. Philip Whitchurch plays the “Cuttings Librarian.”


Gangster Story (1959)


Movie poster for Gangster StoryStarring:
Walter Matthau (who is also the director!), Grace Carol

Film description on Hoopla:
“Jack Martin is a gangster and cop killer. He is on the run from the police and hides in a small town where he robs a bank and gets a whole lot of money. Now he has the police , the local crime boss and the FBI after him.”

Where a librarian fits in:
Fleeing the cops, the gangster ducks into a library where he meets his (future? current?) wife, Carol, a librarian.


He’s On My Mind (2009)


Movie poster for He's On My MindStarring:
Ayo Sorrells, Dylan Mooney, Shamari Berkley, Deja Lewis Smith, Shonelle Blake, Liza Tichenor

Film description on Hoopla:
“Elementary school teacher Kayla King thought she had the perfect relationship, and after an impromptu wedding, Kayla discovers that not only is she the other woman, she’s the other wife. She is spontaneously imbued with the magic ability to intercept men’s thoughts.”

Where a librarian fits in:
Read MacGuirtose plays a cranky librarian, presumably a school librarian at the school the elementary teacher works at.


Possession (2002)


Movie poster for PossessionStarring:
Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Northam

Film description on Hoopla:
“Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) and Aaron Eckhart (Erin Brockovich) star in this sexy, seductively intriguing mystery. Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) are two dedicated literary scholars with nothing in common – except their obsession with the two Victorian poets they have devoted their lives to studying. But all that changes when a newly discovered cache of love letters reveals the two poets were entangled in a forbidden affair. Now, as Maud and Roland embark on a wildly romantic journey in search of the truth, the mystery of the past will engulf them, as the passions of the present possess them.”

Where a librarian fits in:
In an early scene, Eckhart checks out a book at the British Museum library and answers questions from a nosy male librarian, played by Hugh Simon.


Again, the reader poll will stay open through next Tuesday, Nov. 7th, by 10 p.m. PST. Thanks in advance for helping choose which film I should analyze next!

I’ll be back next week on Wednesday, Nov. 8th, with the winning film.

An ‘Abandon’-ed reel librarian

Continuing analysis of scary movies during this month of October… next up is 2002’s Abandon, starring Katie Holmes as a brainy and beautiful college student… named Katie. (Big stretch.) The film was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who was fresh off an Oscar win for writing the screenplay for 2000’s Traffic. This film was his first time to direct, and the story was “suggested” by the novel Adam’s Fall by Sean Desmond. Gaghan admitted in the director’s commentary that he just couldn’t get the script right, that he was rewriting until the first day of filming — and honestly, you can tell while watching the film. But it is an interesting film to watch, and it includes several scenes in the library!

College senior Katie (Holmes) is dealing with exams, finishing her thesis, doing job interviews, when a cop, Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), starts investigating the disappearance of her ex-boyfriend, Embry (Charlie Hunnam). Then Katie starts seeing Embry again around campus—is she hallucinating, or is he stalking her? A few scenes highlight the socially awkward “Mousy Julie,” a student library assistant played by Melanie Lynskey, who provides insights into how Katie attracts male attention.

Roger Ebert’s review of the film gave it 2.5 stars out of 4, saying it was ultimately unsatisfying, mainly because it had to be a thriller. He called Lynskey’s character “snotty know-it-all.”

Here’s a trailer for the film. Interesting to note that Mousy Julie makes the trailer, as does the library. Its rows of bookcases (and lack of sight lines) makes for dramatic scary moments!

Library scene #1:

Six minutes into the film, we get a closeup of Katie working on her thesis in a study carrel, and then the camera pans over rows of bookcases in the college library, where we glimpse the cop. He has gotten microfilm to look up articles about the college student, Embry, who has disappeared. Old school research alert! One of the newspaper photos includes a shot of Larkin with his girlfriend, Katie, which leads the cop straight to Katie.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

I also rewatched the film with the director’s commentary. Stephen Gaghan is refreshingly candid on the commentary track! Here’s what he had to say during this bit of the scene:

This is one of my favorite sequences in the whole movie. I just love it… you come back to Katie, and she’s just going about the business of being a student.  You’re not really getting hit over the head with anything in particular, just feels sorta real to me. He’s doing his thing, he’s in a very cold blue institutional light, isolated. She’s in a very cold blue institutional light, and completely isolated. She’s down in the basement of the library, and I think it’s the first beginnings of these, hopefully, it feels sort of sinister without calling attention to itself.

The next scene returns to Katie at her library cubicle, tired and rubbing her head. And we get our first glimpse of “Mousy Julie,” who is dressed in a lumpy sweater. Here’s their first conversation, and you can tell Julie is socially awkward:

Mousy JulieHi, Katie Burke. There is a message for you. Your thesis advisor, Professor Jergensen’s office, they said I should find you. So I did. Here’s the message. […] It says for you to come to Jergensen’s house. That’s scary. How’s your thesis coming anyway?

KatieIt’s almost done. How’s yours?

Mousy Julie [with a smirk]:  Turned it in. 

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

The director’s commentary during this part of the scene reveals that they had to build this part of the library set!

Here’s that library again that we were talking about before. That cold light versus the warm light. This is a set that we then link up with a location. The production designer did an incredible job. He built this thing that looks incredible, and I don’t you really feel the seams. […]

Melanie Lynskey, tremendous as “Mousy Julie.” This was a very interesting problem that we had. We had to build this section of the set… we had to build the library carrel set to match something in Montreal, and it was a big problem, I remember. I really wanted to shoot all or most of this movie on location. […] In this particular case, when we were looking at that library set, we didn’t have enough books to build the real maze that we wanted, so we ended up kind of doing it in pieces between different locations.

Library scene #2:

Eighteen minutes into the film, Katie is back in the library working on her thesis. Detective Handler comes up behind her, addresses her as “Ms. Burke?” This is in contrast with Julie, who says, “Katie? Katie Burke?” Handler keeps asking Katie about Embry and the possibility of him killing himself.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Next, Katie’s friends (played by Zooey Deschanel and Gabrielle Union) come up behind her and scream, “We need to be quiet… in the Library!

We also get confirmation from her friends that Katie is often in the library:  “10:30 on a Friday night. I wonder where Katie is?

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Her friends then drag her to a party — again, a study in contrast to the previous library set!

Library scene #3:

Almost 40 minutes into the film, Katie’s back in the library! (Remember that previous director’s commentary that he purposely reiterated these scenes? He wasn’t kidding!) We see a bird’s-eye view of her cubicle, which is filled with books, post-it notes, wadded-up paper, and multiple cups of coffee. Her private study space reflects her increasingly frazzled inner state of mind.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

As Katie takes out her laptop and looks through library books, she hears squeaking behind her. We then see Mousy Julie pushing a squeaky library cart — librarian prop alert! — and wearing another dumpy sweater cardigan. Julie waves at Katie, who turns around and suppresses a laugh.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Director’s commentary during this scene:

Trying to make her [Katie] feel more isolated. Also trying to messy up the cubicle to reflect her state of mind, like she’s not caring.

Call numbers + scary thrills:

Katie feels drowsy and puts her head on her arms — but then wakes up suddenly with a whisper, “Katie.” She checks her watch and then notices a call number scratched into the top of her desk:  851.1 .D192i

Reel Librarians | Screenshots from 'Abandon' (2002)

Katie then walks down the rows of bookshelves looking for the call number.

Side note:  It’s interesting to note that this is a Dewey Decimal call number, which is an odd choice for a college/university library. Usually, college and university libraries have larger collections and therefore use the Library of Congress (LC) classification system.

So y’all know I had to look up this call number, right? RIGHT. Turns out it’s the call number for Dante’s Inferno (Embry’s last student production was “Trip Hop Inferno” — spooky!). Then I had to look up where this scene was filmed, and it was in a library at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. That then led me to look up the book in the McGill University’s library catalog — and they use the LC classification system, NOT the Dewey Decimal system! So CLEARLY this whole call number sequence in the movie was created just for the film. Odd.

Back to the film… Katie then tracks down the call number, which is when she sees a pair of eyes staring at her over the tops of books on the shelf. Classic scary movie library scene! She runs away and finds herself in the library’s basement.

Reel Librarians | Screenshots from 'Abandon' (2002)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Director’s commentary during this call number scene:

Here, now we’re on location. You could see how well Gideon matched them. This was in a student library, library in McGill. But it was small. It’s a very small space, and I always wanted this to feel like a labyrinth, you know, like someone could really be lost, and I wanted to take advantage of all the things a labyrinth could give you, mystery, sense of being lost, and we just didn’t have it. We never got it in the locations, and I think it was a mistake although I think Gideon did a great job.

This scene works well because of the hand-held movement, I think. I think once we went into that, we graduated to another level in this scene emotionally. It’s probably the best scare in the film.

I joked several times that we were making a new sub-genre of film called the “thrill-free” thriller, until I learned the catchphrase “mystery.”

Therapy and scary libraries:

Katie then relates this incident to her therapist, played by Tony Goldwyn, who flat-out states that old libraries are “terrifying under the best of circumstances.” Gotta admit, I was IMMEDIATELY biased against this character. 😦

Dr. David SchafferAnd he was locked inside the library with you? … But you hadn’t seen him in two years?

Katie. I know how this sounds.

Dr. SchafferKatie. You fell asleep in an old library, which is terrifying under the best of circumstances. You’re facing your graduation, the completion of your thesis, job interviews, life-changing transitions. You need to make allowances for the emotions that this will bring up.

Library scene #4:

Almost an hour into the film, we see Katie back in her library cubicle, frantically typing away at her thesis. And Mousy Julie again interrupts her to make space for another socially awkward conversation.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

JulieKatie. Hi Katie Burke. Do you know anything about somebody being in the tunnel? Because the door was open and it’s not supposed to be open and it’s to remain closed at all times unless you’re maintenance and you haven’t been around to ask about it and I’m supposed to ask.

KatieNo, I don’t. I’m busy. Goes back to typing.

JulieThat’s not very nice. Should I tell you what I know? I was going to, but now maybe I’ve changed my mind.

KatieWhat are you talking about?

JulieHarrison Hobart is missing. That’s two, isn’t it?

[Note:  Harrison is a friend of Katie’s who had a crush on her.]

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Director commentary during this scene:

And Mousy shows up. And heaps more shit on her. … There’s a fatigue from being inside in these dank locations, and there’s a cumulative effect. … [W]e just keep coming back down to these same spaces that are just bleak. I hope it has a tonal effect, cumulatively.

Library scene #5:

Although this next scene in the library follows close on the heels of the previous library scene, at a little over an hour into the film, it serves a very different purpose and has a different look and feel, switching from cold blue tones to warm tones. This next scene is tucked into a little office in the library and features a conversation between Mousy Julie and Detective Wade Handler and the disappearances of Harrison and Embry and their connection to Katie. Mousy Julie ultimately comes off as very observant and also very jealous of Katie.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

JulieI’m sure he was in love with her. Harrison is a good guy. He mooned around, but he was sweet. He got his name on scientific papers when he was about 12. So, what did he know about anything?

WadeDo you think it was odd that he still liked a girl who hadn’t shown him any real interest in over two years?

JulieI thought it was the opposite of odd. Guys are drawn to her like bugs around a bug lamp.

[At this point, Julie switches a window on her computer, which was originally set to an article about grief, but she quickly clicks over to an article about electronic journals available on campus.]

Reel Librarians | Screenshots from 'Abandon' (2002)

JulieFor four years, I’ve had the privilege of watching it.

WadeThat bother you, Julie?

JulieThink you see the horns of jealousy?  You got my angle? You might want to ask yourself why you’re so interested in her. They think it’s a coltish vulnerability, but it’s just self-obsession. The pea brain says, “She needs saving,” and the pea brain says, “I can save her,” and then she doesn’t notice them. So, they go crazy. It’s about the missing dad… and validation. She just needs a friend.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Abandon' (2002)

Very insightful!

Here’s the director’s commentary for this last scene featuring Mousy Julie:

This we used an abandoned elevator foyer to make this little room. I think it looks right. It’s like Mousy Julie’s mousy cubby hole.

Private libraries:

Just a quick note that while watching the film, I noticed that there quite a few private library collections featured in the film, too, including rows of books in her thesis advisor’s office, the counselor’s office, and detective’s home, plus there are book collections in both Katie’s and Embry’s dorm rooms. Writer/director Stephen Gaghan definitely filled his film with different kinds of libraries and book collections!

Deleted scene in the library:

The bulk of the film was shot at a library at McGill University, in Montréal, Québec, Canada. In a behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD, writer/director Stephen Gaghan admitted that he wanted the multiple library scenes to be “ominous and oppressive” — and Montreal provided that!

The DVD’s special features included deleted scenes, which included a scene in the library. We see a bored woman (played by Joan McBride) at a large desk in the middle of the library floor, and Benjamin Bratt looking through a sheet on a clipboard on the counter.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from a deleted scene in Abandon' (2002)

Library assistantCan I help you?

WadeYeah, I’m, um, looking for a student. She’s not at her carrel and I can’t find her in here.

Library assistant:  If she’s not in the book, she’s not in the library.

Director’s commentary during this deleted scene:

I just love this woman and how she delivers this line.

The architecture of the library is quite stunning.

Reel Librarians | Screenshots from a deleted scene in 'Abandon' (2002)

Reel librarian roles:

Abandon lands in the Class III category of reel librarian films, as it features reel librarians as supporting characters.

Melanie Lynskey in the recurring supporting role of Mousy Julie primarily fulfills the character type of the Information Provider. She is there to be a contrast to the central role of Katie, and to relay information and suspicions to the audience. That last scene with Julie, the conversation she has with the detective, reveals a more personal side to Julie, in which she displays jealousy of Katie — and perhaps her own wistfulness of not attracting male attention herself? In this way, she subtly plays off the role of Spinster Librarian, albeit a more modern, younger version of the stereotypical character type.

The library assistant from the deleted scene is clearly serving a role as Information Provider. The credits also list Robert Burns in the role of Archivist, but I honestly cannot recall seeing or noticing this role. I’m assuming it was a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo kind of role. (I obviously blinked and missed him, both times I rewatched the film.) Regardless, this role serves as another Information Provider.

Sources:

Abandon. Dir. Stephen Gaghan. Perf. Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel. Buena Vista, 2002. Suggested by the novel Adam’s Fall by Sean Desmond.

Abandon (2002) Official Trailer #1 – Katie Holmes Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Trailer Vault, 6 Nov. 2012, Standard YouTube License.

Ebert, Roger. “Abandon.” RogerEbert.com. Accessed 17 October 2017.

Analyzing the library scene in the ‘Ghostbusters’ remake

Last year, I noted a library scene and ghost featured in the all-female Ghostbusters remake (or is it considered a reboot? Discuss). At the time, I compared the librarian ghosts from both the 1984 original and the 2016 trailer, and mused:

If that is indeed a library scene and librarian ghost, I am intrigued by the updates. Definitely a younger, sexier version of the ghost!

I wasn’t able to see the 2016 remake last summer (’cause I was moving), but I did recently check out the DVD from my local public library.

Long story short, no, that is not a librarian ghost sighting in the remake. {Insert sad trombone sound here.} This Ghostbusters remake lands in the Class V category, films that may have library scenes but no reel librarians.

However, there are some interesting library-related bits of trivia still to explore in this remake. Buckle up!

Opening scene in a library

The opening scene in the remake begins at a mansion, the “Aldridge Mansion Museum.” (Definitely not as memorable as the original film’s opening scene in the New York Public Library, which I analyzed in-depth in this post.) A tour guide is leading a group of people through the first level of the mansion, which he describes as “the only 19th century home in New York City preserved both inside and out.”

Aldridge Mansion in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Aldridge Mansion in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

He leads the group into a center atrium, surrounded on all sides by bookcases and iron railings on the second level. He then relates the story of the resident ghost, Gertrude Aldridge, who allegedly stabbed all the house’s servants one night. (Her character was based on the real-life Lizzie Borden.)

It is an impressive private library, although the word “library” is not mentioned at all during the tour. However, there is an “Announcements” sign by the guest book that includes “library hours,” as well as a large sign beside the velvet ropes in the atrium, which reads, “Aldridge Family Library, circa 1830.”

Tour of the Aldridge Mansion library in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Tour of the Aldridge Mansion library in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

Library locale

The “Aldridge Mansion” filming location looks to be the Ames Mansion at Borderland State Park, especially when you compare the photo above to this interior photo of the Ames Mansion library. The idea of the “Aldridge Mansion” being the “only 19th century home in New York City preserved both inside and out” is loosely based on the Merchant’s House Museum in Manhattan, which is open to the public. The IMDB.com Trivia page for this film also suggests that “Aldridge Mansion” may be named for the original film’s costume designer, Theoni V. Aldredge.

The Aldridge Mansion’s historian, Ed Mulgrave (played by Ed Begley Jr.) seeks out help from Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig), because of a book she wrote years ago, Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal.

Ghosts from Our Past book in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Ghosts from Our Past book in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

However, Erin is not pleased to see him and is astounded that he has a copy of her book. (She thought she burned “both copies” years ago!) She is trying to earn tenure as a physics professor at a serious academic institution and does not want to be discredited by her background in the paranormal. In an effort to get her book off of Amazon, she visits her former friend and book’s co-author, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who agrees to take the book down in exchange for an introduction to Mulgrave. This brings us back to the Aldridge Mansion… and back to the library ghost!

Library ghost

As Erin, Abby, and Abby’s fellow scientist, Jillian Holtzmann (played with kooky relish by Kate McKinnon), walk into the center atrium and library, we get to see more of the space, which is filled with mannequins dressed in old costumes, antique furniture, red velvet ropes, old lamps, and more.

The library in the Aldridge Mansion in in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

The library in the Aldridge Mansion in in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

Costumes in the Aldridge Mansion library in in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Costumes in the Aldridge Mansion library in in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

The three scientists realize they are about to witness a real-life apparition, er, ghost. And out of the basement floats a spooky figure, dressed in a striped Victorian dress. She looks just like the portrait hanging on the second-floor railing of the library, so this ghost is very clearly the spirit of the daughter Gertrude. She’s definitely NOT a librarian — although based on her hairstyle and clothing, she does look like a younger version of the librarian ghost from the original, doesn’t she? Gertrude the Ghost does make a return in the final battle showdown, and she is also featured in the credits.

Ghost sighting in the Aldridge Mansion library in in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Ghost sighting in the Aldridge Mansion library in in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

Comparing library ghosts from the two 'Ghostbusters' films

As Erin tries to communicate with her, the ghost projects green goo all over Erin. The ghost then flies out of the house, with the three scientists rushing out to try and track her movements. Abby has been filming this entire scene, and the video clip of Erin screaming, “We saw a ghost!” makes it to YouTube and Reddit… ending with Erin getting fired from her teaching position.

That, of course, leads to the formation of the Ghostbusters, with Erin, Abby, and Jillian joining forces with public transportation worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones)!

Additional library sightings

More “library” sightings in the film include:

  • One early call leads them to a hotel and rock concert. When they arrive, a man is being led out on a stretcher and mumbling in Spanish. Erin attempts to translate what the man is saying and ends up (mis)translating, “There’s a chicken frying itself in the library.” Patty has no problem correcting her, “That is NOT what he said.”

Library mistranslation in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

  • When the Ghostbusters are driving to the rock concert, they pass by  the New York Public Library, where the original film opens.

New York Public Library cameo in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

  • During the title sequence, there is a brief ghost of Columbia University Library. A few scenes of the original Ghostbusters (1984) were filmed at Columbia University — although Columbia made a deal back then to keep their name out of the film!

Columbia University Library cameo in 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Additional book-related trivia

There are also a couple more interesting trivia bits concerning books and research tied to the film:

  • A little over an hour into the film, Jillian brings out a research atlas with a map of ley lines in New York City. This is relevant to the film’s plot and the Ghostbusters trying to figure out where all the paranormal activity is originating from.
  • The book that Abby and Erin co-wrote, Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal, was published for real as a movie tie-in book!
Book tie-in from 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

Book tie-in from ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)

What are your thoughts?

Have you seen the Ghostbusters original and remake? Were you also disappointed that there was no additional librarian ghost in the remake? Please leave a comment and share.

Sources:

Ghostbusters (dvd). Dir. Paul Feig. Perf. Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones. Columbia Pictures, 2016.

Ghostbusters (2016):  Trivia.” IMDb.com. N.d. Accessed 11 Sept. 2016.

First impressions: ‘It’ (2017) and its library scene

I recently was able to watch the recent cinematic remake of It, which I thought would make a good entry in my “first impressions” series of posts. These posts document my initial impressions and memories from watching reel librarian films in the movie theater. These post are never as in-depth as my film analysis posts — and don’t have the benefit of careful notes — but the films are more timely. I’ve done “first impressions” posts in the past for movies like Monsters UniversityTinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Hidden Figures.

Since this film serves as “Chapter 1” of the story, featuring only the teenage versions of the “Losers’ Club,” I was not expecting to see any reel librarians. (The character of Mike Hanlon, the sole African-American in the group, grows up to be the town librarian.) But I was mistaken! Although I should have expected it, as when I went back to review the trailer, I realized that the public library earned a brief appearance at the 1-minute mark in the original trailer:

Library scene

Ben Hanscom is trying to hide out from the bullies in the public library, while also doing research on the early days of the town, Derry. In the background, I spied a woman shelving books in a bookcase. The woman looks older, in a print dress.

Note:  This “looming librarian” in the back is one of the entries in this article’s “Easter eggs” of the film. Creeeeeeepy!

And on this Reddit thread, the user “literaphile” described this as their favorite scene from the film:

Best part of the scene was when Ben was sitting at the table reading and one of the “librarians” was standing in the background, out of focus, staring at Ben with an evil grin.

Then we get a close-up to Ben, who is startled by another librarian (or is it the same one?), an older woman with glasses with a thick book in her hands.

She says something to the effect of, “Why are you in the library during summer? In summer, boys are supposed to be outside with their friends.” She pauses, and then asks in a condescending tone, “Don’t you have any friends?

Ben cuts her off with a look and a tart reply, something along the lines of, “Can I have the book now?

This was NOT a positive start to this reel librarian character. In fact, my own initial reaction — for real! — was this:  “Judge-y bitch.”

Ben then flips through the book, which also gets a second of screen time in the third released trailer for the film, at the 1:10 minute mark:

Library archives

Then Ben has his own scary sighting with Pennywise. He sees an egg on the floor in a back room, and he walks down stairs to enter what looks to be the archives basement, filled with bookcases and archival boxes. Of course, it’s a trap, and he tries to escape a headless ghost, a figure from the book he was just flipping through. This figure then turns into Pennywise, but his nightmare run stops short when he runs into the reel librarian again, who demands to know why he’s running in the library.

By the way, this reel librarian role seems to be uncredited in the film’s cast list — unless it’s the “Old Woman” character played by Martha Gibson.

The actor who planned Ben, Jeremy Ray Taylor, posted this pic on his Instagram, a photo featuring the storyboard of this library action scene:

The importance of research

We then see more of Ben’s research into Derry, which he shows to the Losers Club members when they visit his bedroom. He has tacked up photos and maps of Derry all over his walls, along with articles about major killings throughout the years. He’s the one who figures out that the murders occur every 27 years.

It is this research that propels the plot forward, and provides a common thread that connects all the experiences and Pennywise nightmares that the teens have been having. Ben grounds the Losers’ Club and gives shape and purpose to their group.

Role changes from the book to the film

While I appreciated that there was a library scene in the film, I was disappointed that the research angle was taken away from the character of Mike, the only African-American and person of color in the group. In the book, Mike was the historian of the group. His father kept an album of photos of Derry’s history, which included several photos of Pennywise. Mike then researches the history of Derry — and later becomes the town’s librarian. Since he is the only one who stays in the town, he is the one who summons the rest of the Losers’ Club back to Derry 27 years later.

As I stated back in my post last fall about the upcoming “It” remake and scary clown sightings:

Although other characters get more screen time, Mike essentially serves as the catalyst for the entire second half of the plot, as HE is the one who contacts his friends to return to Derry, Maine, and fight “It” once more. Since Mike is the only one of the seven lead characters to stay behind, he becomes the “institutional memory” for the havoc Pennywise wreaked on the town. Also, being a librarian and archivist, he has resources to help his friend research and confront the evil plaguing their town.

In my opinion, Mike is the most important character in the story, and in the end, the town’s true hero.

Therefore, it unsettled me that the remake changed the historian and research role from Mike in the book to Ben in the movie. I agree with Zak Cheney Rice, who wrote in this article on the Mic website:

Muschietti’s adaptation goes a step further than merely cutting corners in the name of economy. The film doesn’t just flatten Mike’s backstory. It reduces him to the kind of token black character that King’s novel was so adept at avoiding.

In the film, Mike barely has any lines. The role of group historian has been taken from him and given to a white character instead. He still gets targeted by Henry Bowers, but gone is the racial subtext that made the experience so entwined with Derry’s history of violence. His blackness seems largely incidental. And as a result, the film never has to address the messy topic of race or how it informs the lone black character’s life.

I highly recommend reading the rest of Rice’s article, as it provides more details and subtext into Mike’s importance as a character and his role as historian and librarian in the original book (and 1990 TV version).

Your thoughts of the remake?

Have you seen the newly released remake of It yet? What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to Chapter 2? Do you lament the historian role change from Mike to Ben? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources:

It. Dir. Andy Muschietti. Perf. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård. New Line Cinema, 2017. Based on the novel by Stephen King.

Rice, Zak Cheney. “Mike Hanlon, the Black Kid from Stephen King’s ‘It,’ has an amazing backstory. The movie erased it.” Mic, 2017.