Friday, February 27, 2009

Spread of Activation IV: The Unprepared Edition

So I have nothing ready to go on the blog heading into the weekend because of a work situation I'd rather not go into again and because I spent most of last night helping my friend set up a blog. I showed him how to get his music up on it as well as personal movies and he was more than gracious in return. He's a great guy and I was happy to help him. Nonetheless, here I am hastily throwing something together as I don't want to go more than a day or two without an update but don't have time to really flesh out a full review or put together an argument on a trend in movies or discuss the implications of certain types of films according to genre. But I still have much to say. For instance...

Last Saturday my wife and I took in The Earrings of Madam De... at the AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring, MD. Until last weekend neither my wife nor I had ever seen it and afterwards we were damn near speechless. We both thought it was a remarkable film and it made us remember again how many great films are out there and how few of them we have really seen. And once again, the sense of obligation to see new movies diminished as we thought, "Why should we rush to see Movie A, released last year, when we still haven't seen even half of the movies made by Ophuls? We've got some catching up to do." Of course I'll still see new movies, usually about twenty a year on average, and see even more from the last ten years that I didn't catch during their initial run by way of DVD, but the lure of past movies, now available to me on DVD and the big screen courtesy of the AFI, is too much to resist.

Then I started wondering just how many movies have been made. There's no exact figure to be had but I did discover through some basic online research that it is estimated that there have been about 350,000 to 450,000 theatrically released movies made since 1915. That's a wide range but it's mainly because the records are so shoddy for the first thirty years or so of feature length film production. The first feature length film by the way is considered to be The Story of the Ned Kelly Gang, made in 1906 and coming in at 70 minutes in length. Now, if we go from 1906 to 2008, 102 years, and assume the same amount of movie made each year we get over half a million. For instance, this chart of the last five years, courtesy of the Australian Government, shows 5,002 movies produced worldwide in 2007. If we multiply 5,002 by 102 we get 510,204 movies. Now of course, 5,002 feature length films weren't made in 1906 (in fact Ned Kelly was the only one) and even after Cabiria (the first successful epic, over three hours long) in 1914 it was still rare to have more than a couple of hundred movies more than 60 minute in length. And India didn't make its first feature length film until 1913 and didn't begin making movies anywhere near the prolific numbers of today for decades. So you can probably lop off about 4,000 a year until the mid twenties, which would result in around 80,000 less titles or about 430,000 movies. That's a lot but before finding out the figures I somehow thought it would be more. Still, if we use a conservative running time of 90 minutes per movie by 430,000 movies we get 38,700,000 minutes. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. So, if someone used eight hours a day for all of their sleeping, eating, shopping, cleaning and any other life activities, and spent the other sixteen (350,400 minutes for a year of this) doing nothing but watching movies, nonstop, every day, a different movie each time, it would take a little over 110 years to see every movie made up to now. And then of course, they'd have 110 years worth of movies they missed while watching all those other ones. So obviously, you can't see every movie ever made. When you really absorb all those numbers, really think about them, doesn't a top ten best list of all time seem almost obscenely stupid?

Of course, it's also a signal of how many average, mediocre, run of the mill movies are made that so few, so very few, are remembered fondly for very long past their sell by date. I don't really suspect that there is some film among the 430,000 that no one has ever heard of that outdoes the works of the masters we all know and love because had it been that great it would be known if only by legend and reputation, like Greed. But I do suspect there are plenty of titles among that 430,000 that are excellent viewing and entertainment and have sadly been lost to the ages.

And speaking of excellent viewing and entertainment, I got my 50th Anniversary Edition DVD of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) starring Kerwyn Matthews and Kathryn Grant in the mail last week and what a great treat. I love watching that movie but it also has some featurettes on the movie, Dynamation and an hour long doc on Ray Harryhausen. It's a great transfer and I highly recommend it for fantasy film fans. Jason and the Argonauts is still my favorite movie featuring the work of Harryhausen but this one is a close second.

Finally my mind returns to seeing classics on the big screen and I realize I've never seen either 7th Voyage or Jason and the Argonauts on the big screen. I don't know if the AFI will ever play them but may I be the first to petition that they do and that they do so the exact moment the remakes of Jason and the Argonauts and yes, Clash of the Titans go up on the big screen in 2010. This being a new millennium I can't imagine either remake will employ Dynamation unless Nick Park or Tim Burton are involved (they're not) so I don't have high hopes for either and seriously doubt I'll take them in at the multiplex when they're released. Hopefully, I'll be pleasantly surprised to discover they have done the originals justice but even so it will probably take some time for me to get around to them. After all, there are over 400,000 titles in the queue ahead of them. And I've only got one lifetime in which to watch them.