Sunday, January 19, 2014

Me and Me and 500 Movies I Know

This is a blog that likes to recognize milestones.

Not all milestones, mind you. In fact, I missed a big milestone about three weeks ago, when this blog turned five years old. Just sailed by without me even noticing.

But the milestone I'm writing about today is something I've been anticipating for several months, even though it doesn't mean that much.

On Friday night, I re-watched my 500th movie.

That means there are 500 movies that I've seen more than once.

(It was Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know. Ever since I noticed it was streaming on Netflix, I've been craving a second viewing, and I finally allowed myself to have it after finishing cramming 2013 movies for my year-end ranking project.) 

Is 500 a lot? Is it a little? It's hard to say.

I've just passed 3,900 movies overall, so that means that slightly more than one-eighth of the movies I've seen, I've deemed worthy of seeing at least twice. When you look at it like that, it doesn't seem like a small number. It seems perfectly reasonable to rewatch one in every eight movies you see. In fact, that might even seem a bit generous.

But as a straight number, 500 seems somehow small.

It's certainly no indication of how many movies I think are worth watching more than once. If you gave me a couple hours, I'm sure I could go through and easily find 500 more movies I've seen only once, that I would sit down and watch again right now if I had access to them. I just haven't gotten around to that second viewing yet.

This of course does not mean only 500 instances of watching a movie a second time. Of those 500, I bet at least half are ones I've seen more than twice. In fact, that might be something that would be interesting to figure out, and I could do it pretty quickly. In fact, hold on a minute.

[an unverifiable amount of time later]

Okay, it appears that 151 of these 500 movies are movies I have seen more than twice. Again, not really sure what that means, but it's interesting to note.

I suspect that my own viewing behavior is pretty different from most people's. It seems like your average person likes to re-watch their favorites more than I do. Some people I know will watch the same movie once a month until they can recite it forwards and backwards. It's very unlikely for me to watch the same movie twice in a year, with the exception of a quick second viewing after an addictive first viewing. If the film has become a cherished favorite, it won't come up for a viewing any more than once per calendar year, unless strange circumstances arise (a friend who wants to watch it with me, after I just happened to watch it recently myself).

So your average person probably has fewer movies than I have overall, but maybe more repeat watches. Okay, maybe your average person hasn't rewatched 500 movies, but maybe they've participated in more instances of rewatching a movie than I have. I'm not sure. You'd have to ask them.

Of course, figuring out how many movies I'd seen more than twice acquainted me with one of those disappointing realities of a list like this: It's probably not accurate.

When I first came up with my list of movies I'd seen multiple times, it was culled from my greater list of all the movies I've ever seen. There were no doubt instances where I had to make a judgment call on whether I'd seen the movie more than once -- a judgment call that I might not make the same way today. As one example, my Word document called "seen multiple.doc" lists Gone With the Wind as a movie I've seen twice. (At least twice, I should say.) I'm not sure how I came to that conclusion. I clearly remember the first time I watched it, and would certainly remember deciding to sit there for four hours and watch it again.

Yet when a list reaches a certain age of maturity, you have to kind of consider it to be sacrosanct. If I go and edit it now, removing a few suspect titles (I can't recall my second viewing of The Sound of Music either, and probably just assumed I'd seen it twice), then I'm not at 500 yet and I'll have to re-write this post again in three weeks. Neither you nor I want that. Clearly, I had my reasons for saying I saw Gone With the Wind twice, even if I can't now remember what they were.

Of course, going back through these 500 movies also makes me return my attentions to a project I've wanted to work on before: figuring out which movie I've seen the most.

Yep, that one's a doozy.

Only in 2005 did I start making note of when I rewatched a movie. That means that all the rewatches of my youth -- when I watched the movies we owned on VHS five or six times a year -- can be no better than estimates.

Still, what I've wanted to do in the past -- and what I may yet do -- is assign each movie a total number of viewings based on a reasonable estimate. It might be fair to say, for example, that I saw Time Bandits, Superman II, Star Trek II, The Pirate Movie, Splash and a handful of other titles we copied off cable a total of ten times each. I could then add new viewings to their total as we move forward. The times I watch them from now until the day I die will be accurate, at least, so we'd see which of those childhood favorites distinguished themselves as enduring classics I wanted to revisit.

Are you asleep yet? I almost am. It's 11:30 p.m.

So I'll leave off there ... and start planning what #501 might be.

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