Friday, August 26, 2011

The random rewatch

Hello everybody ...

I've been sick this week -- I still have that sore throat I mentioned in my last post, which makes it a week now -- so I haven't had the stamina for any of my bigger topics I usually like to delve into on The Audient. Okay, maybe not "bigger" -- longer? wordier? Something like that.

So I just have a quick one today ... but it does involve the following preamble:

I used to define being an obsessive film fan as voraciously adding as many new titles as possible to my collection of movies seen. However, I ultimately recognized this as a pretty narrow view of film fandom. Sure, seeing as much as possible is part of it. But if you don't revisit films -- films you love, classic films you want to love better, films that left you feeling ambivalent, or even films you may have hated for the wrong reasons -- you're not really deepening your appreciation of cinema as an art form. Besides, if you don't watch a movie multiple times, how are you supposed to be able to quote it?

Since I started keeping track of the movies I revisited, about six years ago, I've had one period of as long as six months when I didn't rewatch a single film I had already seen. So I decided this simply couldn't stand. And on my blog last year, I came up with two weekly series to help deepen my appreciation of films I'd already seen. One was called Second Chances, where I rewatched movies that I liked less than the average person, to see whether I was wrong, or they were. The series that followed was called Double Jeopardy, where I rewatched movies that qualified as guilty pleasures for me, to see if they still occupied that role, or were indeed the schlock other people found them to be.

These series were fun for me, but they became hard to keep up with, since I was holding myself to a standard of writing one new post each week -- meaning I had to manage the logistical feat of both securing and finding the time to watch one of these movies every week. In fact, I abandoned Double Jeopardy right around this time last year. Today is my son's first birthday, and I know that my final Double Jeopardy post -- about the movie The Story of Us -- posted on the morning of the day we went to the hospital.

Of course, I've kept revisiting films in the past year, even without my blog mandating that I do so. Now that it's something I think of as a parallel focus, with equivalent value to watching new movies, I don't let it fall by the wayside like I used to.

But recently I've been longing to have that mandate back -- to rewatch movies according to some kind of plan, and not just because I feel like it, or because the movie is in my collection at home.

Even when the plan is "no plan."

See, I don't want these revisited movies to be just favorites, classics I need to love better, movies that left me feeling ambivalent, or movies I might have hated for the wrong reasons. I want these revisited movies to be any movie I've ever seen.

Yes, that's right, a truly random rewatch. Cinematic chaos theory at work.

Ah, but how will I do that? Simple. I've found a website that generates random numbers. I'm sure there are many, but this one is called You just create a number range, and it will choose a number randomly from within that range.

My own number range will come from the movies I've ranked in Flickchart, which right now stands at 3,282. #1 will be my favorite movie (currently Raiders of the Lost Ark, as discussed on Monday). #3,282 will be my least favorite movie (the execrable Twentynine Palms). So I will put my range from 1 to 3,282, and whatever number it chooses for me, I will commit to rewatching the film with that ranking.

Even if I hated it. Even if I never want to see it again. Even if it's really hard to get on DVD. Even if I just watched it a week ago.

You may wonder what the value of this will be. Well, I think it's always useful to reconsider movies -- we may see something in them we didn't see the first time, or we may realize we were seeing something that simply isn't there. As mentioned above, I have already done this in the past, but I've been targeting the movies myself.

Now, I'm letting a random number generator do it for me. I think there's value to taking the decision out of my own hands. It'll allow me to watch movies again even if I don't think I want to, or need to. It'll allow me to see how and whether my feelings have changed, even if I might not consciously recognize that my feelings are unsettled on that particular film.

Sure, I'm hoping I'll get some movies that I actually want to watch again, for one reason or another. Movies that I'd need an excuse to rewatch. This would be my excuse.

But I like the uncertain nature of it, and I like binding myself to the results. If #3,282 comes up as the random number, Lord help me, I will sit through Twentynine Palms again.

But because I sometimes feel like a prisoner to the schedules I set for myself about what I need to watch, when, I'm going to leave this series open-ended. Once I've had my movie chosen for me, it's up to me when I get the chance to watch it. I thought about doing one per month -- I could probably keep up with that schedule -- but I like the idea of not putting deadlines on myself. That way, I could actually watch more than one in a particular month, if that worked out for me, and in a particularly busy month I could just let it slide altogether. Each time I watch one, I'll write the corresponding post, then randomly select the next one up to bat.

Yep, that was quite the preamble. And, no one's definition of "quick."

Deep breath ... let's go to the random number generator and get this thing worked out.

Okay, my first movie is the movie I have ranked #672 on Flickchart. A nice softball start, as this movie is in the top 20% of movies I've seen. Now, to see what it is ...

Well well well. Full Metal Jacket. We have a date.

This actually works out well ... for reasons I will refrain from telling you about until I write my first Random Rewatch post.

Until then ...


Thaddeus said...

Yeah, you didn't exactly give yourself less material to write, despite your illness. But until recently, who am I to talk about blogging brevity.

I like your experiment; it's a perfectly valid way of picking projects, and I like the spontaneity of it. I guess the big flaw might be - have you really ranked every picture you've ever seen? I don't even know the name of some pix that I caught on a Saturday night at 11 when they was only NBC, CBS, ABC.

I join you in your love of Indy. One of my first super-long posts was my idea to compare the action content in each of the first 3 flix. It took a lot of work, but was a labor of love. Raiders could easily be my #1 film (I don't think about ranking a lot); I set the theme as my ringtone once, I hum the music to myself, and I find Lost Arc especially to be always watchable.

Vancetastic said...


Yeah, it's true -- but the amount of material is really a function of how much you have to look up/organize, right? I'm a fast typist, so if I'm just writing extemporaneously, it goes quickly, even if it does have a long word count.

I am, actually, the unique case of a person who's ranked every movie I've seen -- or damn near close to it. For 20 years now I've been keeping a list of all the movies I've ever seen. If the list was not comprehensive when I started it, it has become so in the interim, as I have gone on to add every movie I may initially missed, bu then remembered seeing at some point in the intervening 20 years. Then, when I started up with Flickchart ( -- you should check it out if you don't know what I'm talking about), I got the opportunity to load all the films from that list, and have fine-tuned their rankings over time with a series of duels. Plus, in the course of adding films on that site, you ultimately click "Haven't Seen It" on thousands of films you haven't seen. None of those thousands of films reminded me of a film that isn't on my master list.

In reality, I'd say there are probably ten films I may have seen at one point or another that aren't on my list. But it may be only five. And that's close enough that I'm comfortable with it.

I will read that piece of yours on the Indy films.

Thanks for the comment!

Thaddeus said...

Ah, I'd never heard of it before, but it sounds pretty nifty. I'm also impressed by how closely you've tracked all your viewings. Well done!