The other day, I was talking to my friend Ryan about lists. Ryan is a List Achiever (and proud we are of all of them). I have other friends who are also List Achievers. These are the people who find some sort of authoritative list of the 100, the 500, and even the 1,000 best of something–in this case, movies–and they feverishly assault the list. It consumes their movie selections until they can check off every last item. All of this led me to do a lot of thinking about the depth of cinema.
Let’s do some math for a second. Suppose for a minute that you have decided to watch every film on the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. Let’s also suppose that you are a total troglodyte and you haven’t seen any of these movies, at any point, in your whole life. This means you have to watch all 1,001 movies. Last but not least, we’ll say that you watch one movie every single day. It would take you almost three full years to complete the task. Three years! And that also assumes that you wouldn’t watch any other non-list movie. Whatever happens in your life can’t impede your one movie-a-day average. And even then, it’s nearly three full years.
Where I’m going with all of this is that there is a bottomless well of cinema out there. You might be a hardcore cinephile, and yet still be completely unfamiliar with, say, samurai films, Italian Neo-Realism, or Magical Realism. Pick any genre or film movement. To truly understand it, you’re going to have to watch a healthy dose of movies to get a grasp on the subject. And there are millions and millions of films available to you.
I suppose this is what you’d call “one of those good problems to have”. And it’s true. The beauty of film is that there’s something out there for every single person. Everyone has a director, actor, era, or film movement that resonates with them. It would be amazing to know a little bit about all of these. But how much time does one person have? It’s almost a fool’s errand.
And that brings me back to the lists. I admire Ryan and my other friends because of their devotion to completing these lists. The same thing invariably happens every time I try to complete a list. I’ll complete 3/4ths of the list, and then some other facet of film history will pique my interest. I’ll run with the new interest, and the first list stays permanently frozen at 3/4ths complete. It borders on chaos because whatever goals I have stay incomplete. To be blunt, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with all of this. I suppose I’m just fascinated at how much is out there. The sheer volume is mind-boggling in a really wonderful way. I wish all of my problems were this enjoyable.