January 29, 2011

Tackling IMDB's Top 250 Movies

Finding every blockbuster around me in New York closed, I stopped by my local public library and found exactly where all those old DVDs went. Rows and rows, and drawers and drawers of free DVDs all at my disposal -- 100 items at a time, for 7-day rentals each -- presented too great an opportunity for me to pass up. I knew exactly where to start. Out came the blackberry, IMDB's list top-250 movies, and my eye at the top. This was to become my mission: to see them all. And not the old lady, blocking the 'S' shelf as she slowly reads each movie back, or the family man with the shopping card full of Dora the Explorer DVDs will stop me!

After printing out the full list at home, I found that of the 250 titles, I had already viewed 98 of them. Not quite a failing grade on the cinematic literacy test, but certainly not enough to win me prizes on Jeopardy either. But with the simple dedication to view one movie a day for the next 152 days, I can finish my task by June 20th of this year.

While this means that I'll finally get around to viewing classics -- the kind that make friends and parents alike recoil in disgust when they learn I haven't seem them -- it also means viewing a considerable number made pre-color and pre-sound. In my experience, these 'ancestor' movies continue to receive high ratings, not based on the pleasurably of viewing them today, but rather based on the reactions they generated in their own time, and their influence on the great movies of the contemporary cinematic age. Will The Apartment be as good as its inspired descendant American Beauty? Will The Great Dictator still be relevant satire some 70 years after Hitler? Time and three tons of popcorn will tell.

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