With the epic demise of Blockbuster, many librarians are getting more questions from movie lovers. We can provide more human intelligence than a Netflix Top Picks List and can consider more than the genres of the last few films the patrons have enjoyed. Plus we get to talk to patrons about topic with almost universal appeal — who doesn’t love movies?
Like many librarians with an interest in readers’ advisory, I enjoy reading great criticism of works almost as much as I would enjoy the original. Growing up I would read straight through Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever (yes, it lives) and read Roger Ebert’s take on every film I came across and also many I didn’t , Now, film reviews, written by professionals or enthusiasts, are readily accessible online.
I enjoy reading The AV Club and Sound on Sight. These websites cover both television and movies and tend to focus on films across decades and genres, rather than just the latest blockbusters. Sound on Sight releases regular podcasts where a panel of critics discuss television and movies in detail, and focuses on film festivals and independent pictures that might fly under the radar.
There are a lot of different factors to take into account while providing readers’ advisory for films. You might want to find movies from the same director, particularly when a patron has enjoyed a film from a director with a clear, distinctive style. A patron might be drawn to a particular performer, in which case one might find recommendations based on the actor’s IMDB page. You can look within particular subgenres but like other formats it’s important to consider the different tones that can change everything about a film’s appeal. One can compare the action-comedy tone of the Evil Dead II versus the grim and foreboding mood of The Exorcist.
However, my experience is that you’re more likely to have a patron ask you about what television series to watch next rather than their next film. Television series, even those with six episodes a season, represent an investment of time that most movies simply are not, therefore some prior research before checking out a pilot has a lot of appeal.
For an overview of the television landscape try listening to Sepinwall and Fiendberg’s Firewall and Iceberg podcast, which reviews modern television while frequently referencing classics from the not-so-distant past. The hosts have good chemistry and touch on new series as they come out, and revisiting existing ones as they jump the shark or hit their stride.
Don’t be afraid to recommend a movie if you believe you’ve found something that would be a good fit for the patron. A patron might not have even considered a regiment of films rather than an ongoing series prior to approaching your information desk.
Let’s turn again to some more tools of the movie maven trade. Rotten Tomatoes is useful and it’s likely you’ve already visited many times on your own. A discovery I just made was that many films on Rotten Tomatoes have a “If You Like This Movie…” section with similar films recommended by the website’s users.
When I’m considering recommending a film I haven’t seen to a younger patron, I use CommonSense Media. They give age ratings and are thorough in the reasoning of their ratings system. Yes, DVDs also have ratings and labels on their covers as well, but rarely is there room to go into as much detail as CommonSense Media provides.
Finally, I find I turn to Youtube often while talking about television and films. Clips and trailers can clarify what a patron is looking for, such as figuring out if the sense of humor of a work is in line with the patron’s.
How often do you find yourself playing Siskel and Ebert at the information desk? Do you use resources that this above post missed?