Library Follow-up

It’s National Library Week. I’ve had some feedback on my Top Ten Movie Libraries list, so here are a few more explorations into fictional libraries:

Attack of the Clones

One of the reasons I didn’t include the Jedi Library on my list was that I have only seen Episode Two like twice and didn’t want to look like a poser. After a friend clued me in on the Jedi Library’s resemblance to the Trinity College Library, I started watching the movie to remind myself of the context. My boyfriend walked into the living room and said, “Why are we watching the worst Star Wars?” I don’t want to get too deep into all that; just let it suffice that I can’t add the Jedi Library to my personal list of favorite movie libraries because it wouldn’t be true.

Still, the comparison is interesting, and Trinity is one of my favorite real-world libraries, so it’s earned a place on this auxiliary post. The scene occurs mercifully early in the movie, before we get into too much off-putting Anakin/Padme romance. Ewan McGregor is doing some research and winds up in the universe’s repository of knowledge. Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has, and when he asks the librarian for help, she gets snippy with him! 

All the President’s Men

This movie, which I’d totally forgotten was adapted for the screen by William Goldman of  Princess Bride fame, includes the famous Library of Congress rotunda pull-away shot. This is an iconic library scene, left off my personal list because I’ve never been to the Library of Congress and I had never seen All the President’s Men. Until now. Last week, I followed an internet trail from Janet Cooke to Bob Woodward and ended up finally watching this film. I had so many questions regarding privacy rights as depicted in this film; these bloggers answered many of them:

Cinematically, I’m drawn to the roundness of this shot compared with the all the other squared-off 70s settings, like the opera house or the parking garage where Woodward meets Deep Throat. I especially love the long looks at the newsroom, capacious and laid out in a grid of low cubicles and straight-edged fluorescent lights, which is repeated in the long tracking shots of the District itself, with its city blocks and the right angles of buildings. Most everything in this movie is low and rectangular, except for that reading room rotunda scene, and even within all those concentric circles, we know there are two men flipping through little quadrilateral checkout slips.

Many, many people have pointed out how that scene shows the magnitude of what Woodstein were getting into–they followed a thread through a winding maze that eventually brought down a presidency. I keep snagging on something else, though: how feminine that shot is, in a movie that is almost entirely masculine.

I’ve written before about women in journalism, and Watergate happened two years after the 1970 Newsweek lawsuit. Nora Ephron’s involvement in both Good Girls Revolt and the screenplay of All the President’s Men has raised a few questions for me as well. Maybe it’s the Men in the title, but I just couldn’t help seeing this movie through a feminist lens, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that it’s a true story. Female characters in this movie have either dated someone who knows something, or they’re acting as cagey sources who are eventually worn down by our intrepid reporters, or they’re the pregnant wife who made Hugh Sloan resign “to spend time with his family.”

The feminist reading pivots on the arrival of Sally Aikens, who has apparently been a reporter at the Post this whole time, but never appeared on screen before now. (This movie has a lot of names and characters; I watched with a notebook and a very active Google search page.) In real life and in Goldman’s original script, Sally was actually Marilyn Berger, a staff writer for The Washington Post. “She’s an awfully good reporter–I can’t remember her getting too much wrong before, can you?” Woodward observes. 

When Sally comes forward with information, Woodward flat out asks if the source was trying to get her into bed, and Bernstein asks why it took her so long to effectively betray her lover’s confidence. Her sexuality on the table and her reporter’s chops in question, she looks at Woodward and voices the thought that had dogged me throughout this whole film, a line not in Goldman’s original script but rendered absolutely hilarious by the fact that Woodward’s source is codenamed Deep Throat:

“I guess I don’t have the taste for the jugular you guys have.”

 13 Reasons Why

I know, I know. But I’ve been casually counseling a bunch of millennials this week, and this is what they wanted to talk about (they thought the cassette tapes were cool). The narrative structure definitely glamorizes suicide and flirts with the dead girl trope, but the catharsis of Clay’s tape has me shook. You also have to admire the integration of plot points and masterful handling of a huge cast of characters, not to mention the geeky aappreciation for music. I’m not trying to sell anyone on this show but I will have another post featuring beloved campus DJ and guardian angel Tony.

This is also a cheat on my part because we never see the actual library on screen, just this sad little annex at career day in the gym and a community room “safe space” for the poetry group. I just really dug Episode Eight because of the sexy librarian, “campus intellectual” Ryan’s snotty attitude, and the Lost-N-Found Gazette.

​Anyway, that’s it for now. Happy National Library Week!

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