Monday, November 29, 2010

The 800 Club

There's nothing like a movie-watching milestone to add a little context to your obsession. Last night after watching John Ford's often overlooked Western Rio Grande, I opened my trusty Excel sheet and checked off my 800th movie from the list of 1001 Movies to See Before You Die. Today, I think that calls for a moment of reflection. The list exists in a big red volume that to date has seven editions, the one I'm working from being the oldest (I believe). Mine ends with Kill Bill Vol. 1, whereas the current one ends with Paranormal Activity (automatically invalidating it, no?). I would guess that I've actually seen 800+ from the updated version, given how top heavy it is, but I'll fill in my later gaps in due time. You can find this year's incarnation here.

Here's my abbreviated history with this list. Four years and several months ago, I was just starting film courses at Michigan State, just starting to post at Culturish, and just starting my dependency on netflix. To navigate these far-reaching corners of the entertainment world, I needed something to lean on, and this list became my crutch. It got me through the classics, it introduced me to countless favorite directors, and it certainly had a hand in making me the freakishly star-eyed cinephile I am today. In September 2006, I had seen 119 films from this big red bible. If you do the math, between then and now, that amounts to a metric-fuckton.

My point - that I can't recommend this list enough. Sure, it's far from perfect, and if you're looking for a more accurate assessment of greatest films of all time, then I recommend swinging by They Shoot Pictures, but everything you need to open your eyes to the frickin' possibilities of movies is right here. Some of the recent additions aside (forgivable, because it takes at least a decade to begin seeing films in context) this is a tremendously well balanced list. It places blockbusters alongside arthouse alongside avant garde and generally finds sterling examples from all camps concerned. It doesn't omit any classics, which are the entries I gravitated toward for the first few years, and from there offers recommendations spanning more decades, countries and film movements than you're likely to find on any other list.

Ther lion's share of my favorite films appear here, but not all, which isn't much a point of contention since I often first became aware of the directors thanks to the list. The Scarlet Empress doesn't make an appearance, but Blue Angel and Shanghai Express are, and those movies undoubtedly ignited my von Sternberg obsession. Mulholland Dr. got bumped from a recent edition, but I suspect it will return, as it's finally settling in as the definitive David Lynch film.

So he list is the perfect way to expand your cinematic horizons, a gateway drug to greater things, from the fairytale decadence of Jean Cocteau films, to the dark visions to Kenneth Anger, to everything you need to ride the Czech and Iranian new waves. I've been sprinting lately toward that magical 800 number, but hell, I don't even look at the list much these days because it did such a damn good job of opening my eyes to what's out there. I suspect that it will take some time to polish off the last 201, partly for availability, but mostly because my interests now are positively sprawling. That's all I could have asked for. At the end of the day, I can complain about what they added or what they left off, but I wouldn't feel entitled to had I not sat through the hundreds of fantastic recommendations the list does make.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's some achievement!!! Watching 800 movies from that list - that sure calls for a celebration!