On the Fandom-Industrial Complex and Moving Forward from Back to the Future
The day Back to the Future fans have waited for is finally here. The thirty-year countdown to October 21, 2015, one of the most well-known dates in movie history (despite how often it has been incorrectly reported on the interwebs), is over . There’s been an ongoing celebration of the trilogy on the internet and in real life: this Wired dispatch by Jason Tanz, “Fandom Eats Itself at New York Comic Con,” spotlights the kind of reception a widely loved favorite like BTTF gets in the more insular (yet quickly expanding) world of nerd culture:
I’ve heard patrons say this to me or other librarians at the information desk so many times. And every time, I want to respond: “That’s what we’re here for!” Maybe we at the desk were talking to each other, or typing on the computer, or reading a trade journal, or even just sitting there waiting to answer a question. Whatever it is, patrons often feel they’re being a bother by asking questions when in fact answering questions is literally the librarian’s job. It’s what we enjoy doing and get paid for. But either they don’t get it or we’re not doing a good enough job making that known.
This could be a design problem: old-school reference desks, which are quickly falling out of fashion, can be imposing, alienating beasts. Libraries of all kinds that have been around a while probably have those hefty wooden desks, long and encompassing like ramparts of Reference Castle, with the lofty librarians holding the front line against the swarming public. Librarian’s Domain: None Shall Pass! Or, at desks that seem to sink into the earth, like Bilbo Baggins at Bag End we burrow in behind computer screens or stand-up signage and treat interruptions (“except on party business”) as inconveniences rather than essential.
Many libraries have done away with the traditional info desk altogether. They take a “roving reference” approach, which either has librarians stand at a table a la the Apple Store or sends them onto the floor with an iPad to actively help people find what they’re looking for. I’d love to hear from other librarians who do this about how well it works. Do patrons feel more at ease if they’re approached by staff? Do you feel like you work at Best Buy? I’d love to see data from two libraries of similar size who take these different reference approaches. Does one get more questions over the other?
As a patron I enjoy being able to browse undisturbed and, being a librarian myself, usually don’t need help getting around or finding something. But I’m also not afraid to approach the desk, and neither should you. Regardless of what the desk looks like, librarians are responsible for answering questions and patrons are responsible for asking them. We can’t read your mind, and we can’t help you until we know what you need help with.
So please: Bother us. Early and often. Whatever else we’re doing at the desk, however game we look for whatever you’re about to ask, ask it—no matter what it is.
(And don’t even get me started on “This is probably a stupid question, but…”)
Sometimes we as moviegoers have to let movies affect us in ways we cannot explain or control. One of those ways is through music. Whether it is an epic orchestral theme or a lone piano suite, music in the movies can make the difference in how I respond to the story. Listening to a CD of movie themes got me thinking about my favorite movie moments that were made better because of their music. There are many such moments, but here are a few that stand out.
Cast Away: Saying farewell to Wilson
When Chuck (Tom Hanks) finally leaves the island four years after crash-landing there, he is mistakenly separated from his beloved anthropomorphized volleyball but can’t retrieve him. There is no music for the entire film until that time, about 50 minutes in. So when the soft strings finally come in, we feel the catharsis the same as Chuck as he paddles away. The theme itself, by Forrest Gump and Back to the Future composer Alan Silvestri, is so tender and affecting.
Video unavailable, but here’s the audio:
WALL-E: Eva and WALL-E’s space dance
I’m glad Pixar has basically locked down Thomas Newman for their film scores, because every one he does its magical, including The Green Mile, American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, and Finding Nemo. In a film full of cute moments between the robotic protagonists, the impromptu, extinguisher-propelled ballet may be the cutest.
Lord of theRings: The wholetrilogy
I’d argue the LOTR score is the most necessary and perfect ever. Howard Shore’s compositions are practically supporting characters in themselves. There are many stand-out moments in that trilogy for me, but there are two that would not have worked without a musical backing:
The first is in Fellowship of the Ring after Gandalf falls into the Mines of Moria as the fellowship looks on helplessly. It is a shocking and grievous moment, but the lone mournful soprano voice over the somber choir does not overwhelm it. It allows us to rest on the sadness if just for a moment.
The second is in Return of the King in one of the many endings, after Aragorn becomes the new king and the four hobbits bow to him. He stops them and says, in recognition of their sacrifices, that they bow to no one. Then the whole crowd bows down to them and the main theme of the trilogy swells one last time, representing the grandest end of an epic adventure.
Once: The breakup song
Once has quickly become my favorite film “musical” more so than real musicals because the music interweaves with the story so seamlessly without the awkward transitions between dialogue and song. In a movie with so many good moments, I still have to choose the scene when the Guy plays the song “Lies” while watching home video of him and his ex-girlfriend. He is still heartbroken, and the song backs him up in that.
Video unavailable, but here’s the audio:
The Truman Show: The end
The piano-heavy score by Philip Glass and Burkhard Dallwitz mixes classical standards with original compositions, adding whimsy and sophistication to Peter Weir’s allegorical tale. The best moment, though, comes at the end when Truman finally hits the wall, literally and metaphorically. It is a culmination of everything Truman has been through and we as the viewers wait in anticipation for how he handles the moment. It’s as good an ending as I’ve ever seen in any movie.
Remember the Titans: The final game
The music throughout the movie builds little by little, but it isn’t until the final game when the orchestra is at full-blast. Trevor Rabin’s score builds with the tension of the final game, but the moment I always remember is when Coaches Boone and Yost exchange congratulations at the end of the game and hold up the ball together. It is a triumphant moment for the team and for the music.
The Turner Classic Movies channel is showing Academy Award winning films all day every day this month in a series called “31 Days of Oscar.” I watched Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night and realized something.
I would remember that trilogy for the rest of my life.
I hadn’t read the books before I saw the first movie. I remember seeing the trailer and being very intrigued. Then I saw the movie and knew I had seen something incredible. I was in 8th grade when Fellowship came out. After that, my friend Tim and I became obsessive teen fanboys. He had read the trilogy plus the supplemental materials before, but we enjoyed the movies together.
I kept a daily countdown until the release of The Two Towers. Every day in chemistry class I would tell my friend Chris how many days were left; he wouldn’t care, but I couldn’t care enough. We bought our tickets in advance and went opening weekend I believe.
We repeated the same process for Return of the King, except I read all of the books before I saw it. I simply could not wait until December to find out what happened. (I’ve read the trilogy twice through since then.) So seeing Return, I had a different perspective, yet I enjoyed it as much as I did the others.
I remember being picked up from school with Tim by my sister Elise. Tim was just crawling into the back seat when Elise began to accelerate. Tim’s foot was not yet in the door, so it got caught beneath the moving tires for a moment. He was pretty jarred, but he made it, and we made to the theater to enjoy what we knew would be the final run-through of our annual ritual. Though we could extend our ritual further with the release of the extended DVDs. I’ve since watched the entire trilogy straight through with Tim—good times.
Lord of the Rings went on to box office and Oscar glory, but it also won the hearts of many youth. My dad never caught on to it; the weird names and twisting plot makes it hard for the Boomers to latch onto it. But it is essentially the Star Wars of my generation. Filmmakers will try for its revolutionary special effects and cultural impact for years. But above all, I will always associate LOTR with the fondness of my youth.
I will think of the great epic story, the lovable heroes, and the grand magic of cinema that creates a world out of nothing to entertain and enlighten the child in everyone.