A friend once told me that good relationships begin with a “click.” It’s nearly imperceptible to outsiders, but for those involved, it plays in stereo.
Unfortunately, good relationships are notoriously illusive, and so I used to wonder if my friend knew what he was talking about. Not only has he known the click — like that of a treasure chest lock fit with the right key — but like a lucky pirate, he’s also enjoying his treasure.
Today, I can say that my friend is right, because I’m now enjoying a fine, organic relationship too. In fact, it’s so good that I can’t resist sharing it with you.
First of all, my choice of companions may surprise you; but you’ll soon understand the connection TPL, AOS and I share, and hopefully realize similar success.
As a long-time companion, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) has been very helpful to me. Being a research haven, and essentially the frugal reader’s bookstore, we clicked easily. But since learning that it also loans movies, the relationship has blossomed.
Knowing which movies to request can be time consuming, so a vast list of notable movies from a trusted source was key. Enter film critic, AOS (A.O. Scott), who provides video clips of his weekly movie recommendations in the New York Times’ Movie section/Critics’ Picks.
Frequently, older, culturally diverse movies make AOS’ list, and these movies, whether in colour or black and white, are surprisingly relevant to modern times, for they tackle socio-political issues such as discrimination, fanaticism, privacy, and greed, which not only provoke us now, but also provoked earlier generations worldwide.
Still, you may be wondering: Why TPL and not the video store? The answer is simple: Unfortunately, video stores in my area fail to carry many of AOS’ recommendations, whereas the library altruistically opens its extensive database to frugal movie lovers — a nice benefit in these recessionary times. It also allows me to keep a video for seven days, which is longer than some video stores offer without penalty.
Now, after nearly a year-long relationship with TPL & AOS, I’ve come to value films for promoting humanistic values, cultural education, and alternative points of view. A prime example, recommended by AOS, is Japanese film maker Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, Ikiru (“To Live”). It addresses difficult issues such as mortality and conscious living — issues which we often prefer to avoid, but digest more easily in art.
Similar movies are easily found and borrowed within TPL’s system because of its integrated online catalogue and inter-branch loans. This means that if a movie is in the system, and available for loan (not reference material), whether in DVD or VHS format, that movie can be sent to your local branch; you just have to request it online (whether from the comfort of your home, or in-branch on a library computer) by entering search terms including either the film title or its star.
TPL collection development manager, Susan Caron, confirmed via e-mail that the library continuously monitors and updates its movie stock, but she says, “We do have to work within a budget and balance the acquisitions of old and new movies, so we try to select important and significant older films.”
“As the film industry releases older movies on DVD, we do buy them,” she said, “however, we have no control over the titles they choose to convert.” As a result, you may find that some older movies are only available on VHS, while others are in DVD format, or both.
Meanwhile, new movies are acquired upon release or “as close to street date as possible,” with studio releases selected according to “anticipated popularity (box office and reviews) but also independent movies, festival award winners (e.g. TIFF), foreign films and documentaries.”
Popular movies, whether new release or old, usually mean longer wait times. However, you can counter the long waits by adding a variety of movies to your hold list, (except new releases, which must be found in library because holds aren’t permitted) and monitoring it to ensure you always have movies available. I’ve found that choosing less popular movies, and the independent and foreign films, can help reduce wait times. Ditto for less popular formats, such as VHS, if you have access to a VCR.
Be forewarned though, that — as with video store rentals — frequently borrowed movies tend to get damaged over time, or with mishandling; but if you’re conscientious and notify library staff, the item will be removed from circulation and replaced if necessary.
The library has ruled out repairing severely scratched DVD’s. “We have looked at various repair methods but have not been impressed with the results as applied to the kind of wear and tear our DVDs go through,” Caron wrote. “It is more cost-effective to replace damaged DVDs.”
With all that information, hopefully, you feel prepared to create your own such relationship. Enjoy it! And why not share it with friends and/or family? You’ll find that even young people like old movies when exposed to them, and it can help them relate to older individuals. Afterall, it was after a workplace discussion that one older co-worker recommended Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film, 12 Angry Men, which first inspired me to seek out bygone films more often, and eventually forge the TPL/AOS relationship.
What’s more, a good film can change a person’s life. Just ask AOS, who says Frederico Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, inspired his career as an “entertainment journalist.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I noticed new copies were on order at the library, so it won’t be long before I too can taste “the sweet life.”