Saturday, November 3, 2007

100 Ways of Looking At A Movie



I found the above clip linked at Roger Ebert's website, and was really fascinated by it. On the one hand, organizing a history of film strictly through numeric reference seems decidedly offbeat, kind of like only collecting books with blue covers, or only buying jazz records that have pictures of birds on the cover. On the other hand, its very ecccentricity gives it at least two advantages: 1) It avoids a more obvious chronological, generic, narrative or thematic organization, taking cinema away from analytical models that rely too much on literary antecdents, or what Steve Johnson calls "the morality play" of much popular culture critique. Instead, the countdown structure allows for a cutting across time, and across a variety of cinemas, only allowing us cinephiliac moments and glimpses, instead of lengthier scenes, which makes for fun juxtapositions; 2) In organizing in this way, the clip becomes a parody of the quantitative, of numeric systems like the Dewey Decimal System, and of any number of ways in which Hollywood uses numbers as a brander of quality (the blurb next to the clip on its original YouTube page suggests we read it as a parody of things like the AFI lists, but we might also see it poking fun at weekly obsessions with the box office, or all those movies which claim a kind of pseduo-scientific degree of knowledge by hammering their audience with statistics. It also seems notable that a lot of the clips center on questions of age or time--self-reflexive markers of history, hipness, and memory). By extension, then, the project asks us to (re) think the pattern of organization more broadly. Where might this kind of analysis-- one closer to Brecht's scrap collector than to more topdown forms of analysis-- take us next?

2 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pretty cool. Instead of putting The Right Stuff where he did I would've put it at seven. Seven men! Gentlemen all!. And I'm sure everybody has a number one they would use. His was a good choice. Mine would be more nihilistic. From if, "One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place."

With all the home editing equipment now available and movie capturing on hard drive easier than ever I guess people like Chuck Workman won't have much of a career anymore.

Cinephile said...

That's a really good point-- or, at least, we might get some more offbeat "Chuck Workmans" out of it (and i admire Workman's work a lot). I might have substituted a different "one", too (not the biggest LOTR fan)-- doesn't Citizen Kane have a line of dialogue towards the end about how "one word can't sum up a man's life"? I like that line better than the "ring" one, and it also would be a fun self-commentary on the whole idea of clip shows.