One of my favourite movies is “Metropolitan,” an indie movie released in 1990 that looked like it had a sizable budget, if only because the filmmakers got to shoot for free in haughty Park Avenue apartments in Manhattan. It’s about largely affluent teenagers, trying to act and talk like adults — overly educated and privileged ones at that. If you get the chance, see it for the Oscar-nominated dialogue.
One of the scenes that resonated with me, the English major that I was, was an exchange about what’s to love and dislike about Jane Austen. When a girl asks Tom, the protagonist, which Jane Austen novels he’s read, he replies, bluntly, that he hasn’t read any — and he doesn’t read novels, either.
“I prefer good literary criticism,” he says. “That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking.”
Young Tom may have been ahead of the curve. There’s a whole side of the culture now that embraces skipping the subject itself, and spending your time on picking up the gist from someone else.
One of the most popular web video series combines a pop-culture fascination with lists and an appeal to time-pressured viewers who evidently don’t have time to see a lot of movies from beginning to end.
Our son, who’s 13, is a fan of WatchMojo. I did not realize quite how much until a chat one night in which he talked about some particularly gritty scenes from various Hollywood thrillers. “When did you see those?” I asked (not quite in shock, but certainly a bit surprised). It turned out he hadn’t seen any of them, but he has picked up quite a bit of knowledge of various movies and actors, like “Reservoir Dogs,” “Apocalypse Now” and Robert De Niro, by getting hooked on WatchMojo’s offerings.
WatchMojo, which is a Canadian company, has published thousands of videos, many of them following a Top-10 format, with titles like Top 10 movie spies, Top 10 worst CGI effects, and Top 10 funniest movie deaths. The last is one of the most watched clips on its YouTube channel, which is (no surprise) one of the most popular channels on the entire YouTube platform.
There are more than just movies mentioned on WatchMojo; you’ll find videos about guitar solos, comic-book villains, TV finales, and all manner of pop culture bits and pieces. But I think it’s the movies that are the main course here, and I have to admit this: once you watch a couple, you’re inclined to try another one or two … or more. Each typically runs between five and 10 minutes, so it’s quite possible to have an hour run away from you.
Is watching these clip reels a waste of time? Not at all. While my son has had limited interest in watching some of the films mentioned in these clips (“Dad, I already know what happens!”), I think it triggers curiosity for the movies, and I hope as he gets older, he’ll become a dedicated film buff.
But I do wonder if these types of clips are indicative of a culture that puts the accent on short over long, synopsis over detail, highlights over depth and comprehension.
Maybe. But … in the meantime … let’s have a laugh and look at 10 awesome movie explosions.
Elsewhere this week
One Big Photo
With millions of uploaded photographs on the web, what does it take for an image to stand out? I’m not sure if there’s an easy answer, but each of the profiled pictures on One Big Photo show you the power of being ambitious, dynamic and unusual. Click on a picture on the front page, and then explore based on that theme; alternatively, you can start with the top galleries.
The Skunk Pot
A website with a name like this is not going to be about the prettier things in life. Nonetheless, the Skunk Pot may appeal to some Pinterest members, particularly if they favour the funnier, darker side of life. Aimed at young adults, it’s a posting board of photos, design, infographic, illustrations, with such themes as Halloween jewelry and finely-crafted postcards that have their text taken straight from spam emails.
John Gushue is a digital producer with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue.