Saturday, September 23, 2017

The quest for 5,000

The next new-to-me movie I see will be my 4,900th, which for all you math whizzes out there means I have just a hundred to go before a major milestone.

I've got to recognize that milestone through something clever and distinctive, but I just can't figure out what viewing #5,000 should be. And it may take every one of those hundred more viewings, which figure to take between four and five months, to land on something suitable.

Can you help?

I guess to be a real help you'd need to know which movies I've seen and which I haven't seen, and I'm not about to post a list of 4,899 films (though I suppose I wouldn't put it past me either). But maybe you can help with the type of film it should it be.

Should it be the greatest film that exists that I've never seen -- a kind of white whale? Should it be the longest feature film I've ever seen? Or should it just be something that deals with the concept of 5,000 or has 5,000 in the title?

It may, or may not, be instructive to look at how I've celebrated previous thousand-film milestones.

My 1,000th film was not something I consciously chose for the occasion. It was the Mel Gibson vehicle Payback, and it must have been 1999, the year of its release, though I definitely watched it on video (it came out in March). I obviously recognized the milestone was approaching because I made note of the title, but I apparently didn't see it fit to schedule something worthy of the occasion. So that's right out in terms of helping us.

Number 2,000 was a different story. List fever fully had its grip on me by then, and I chose Casablanca, which was what I considered my most prominent film on my list of shame at the time. That was only in 2005, which means that yes, I have watched nearly 3,000 films in the last 12 years. A bit scary, but true.

For 3,000 I went for pure cleverness. I had not yet seen the Bernie Mac vehicle in which he plays a former baseball great coming out of retirement to pursue his own milestone, the 3,000 hits that had only barely eluded him when his career was cut short by injury. So Mr. 3000 it was. That was in 2010, in the era of this blog, so you can read about it here if that floats your boat.

I guess I've been speeding up as I go, because after taking 26 years to hit 1,000, another six to hit 2,000 and another five to hit 3,000, viewing #4,000 came along only four years later in 2014 -- four years and three months, to be exact. That's when I watched F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, another in the "great films I haven't seen" tradition. Maybe it being silent also made it seem "special" for the occasion. That's discussed here.

It'll certainly be less than four years for the next thousand, unless it somehow takes me nearly a year to watch my next one hundred. And though it's probably a bit dangerous to reflect on the life choices that have made this increasing speed possible -- there must be something I'm sacrificing -- this will be the first thousand films that have taken place entirely within the era in which I had children, meaning more time at home and more time with the TV set.

If you look at it as a system of alternating philosophies, going back and forth between neglected greats and clever choices, it would be time for another clever choice. But no film comes to mind with the word 5,000 in it, like it did for Mr. 3000. Let's see what IMDB has to offer:

Safari 5,000 is a nearly three-hour 1969 Japanese film that I would almost surely not be able to get my hands on.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T is a 1953 musical written by Dr. Seuss.

And that's it in terms of features. And no, shorts and names of TV episodes will not work for these purposes.

So maybe I need to neglect the alternating system and go again for "greatest film I haven't seen yet." But as I've been doing my due diligence on catching up with the greats, there's no longer an omission as glaring as Casablanca, or even as Sunrise. Sure, there are titles I could put in there, but would they seem 5,000-worthy?

Five thousand is, in a way, the most significant milestone to date, other than maybe 1,000. Milestones are always more interesting when they involve round numbers. It might be the most significant milestone I will ever have, since there's no guarantee I will live long enough to double my current output. (Though if I stay at this increased pace, it could take less than 20 more years to get there.)

So 5,000 could warrant a different approach for honoring the milestone, and that's where something like length comes in. Needless to say, there are behemoths out there I have never made time for. But do I really want to spend all day watching Shoah for my 5,000th movie?

Well, as I said, I've got four or five months to figure it out.

It's possible during that time, something will hit me like a bolt of lightning, announcing itself as the obvious choice. Or, I'll have to compromise and just go with something "good enough." And then there's the part where reality encroaches, where I lose some ability to choose #5,000 by factors outside my control, like movies I may be reviewing. I'd like to think I would be careful about that, but once you get to #4,999, you're out there without a net, and might "accidentally" see something unintended as your next choice -- or suddenly have difficulty sourcing that choice.

Anyway, let me know if you've got any good ideas.

If worse comes to worst, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T is available for rental on iTunes.

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