Newsweek critic David Ansen has courageously revealed the more quietly kept secret of every cinephile’s being: his lifelong, bordering-on-eccentric, meticulous obsession with movies. You see, he’s been keeping a film diary since he was 12 years old — he’s in his sixth decade now, by our count — in which he’s detailed every film he’s seen since. Every. Single. Film.
In this week’s issue of Newsweek, Ansen unveils his whopping accomplishment: a cinematic bedpost with more notches than most avowed lovers of film likely could match. For a viewing log that spans over five decades, it’s quite a telling survey of the changing tides and trends that Hollywood’s gone through over the years — Cinderella (1950), Night of the Hunter (1955), Truffaut, Bertolucci, Borat (2006), and everything in between. It’s neat to remember that even in the ’50s there were tons of crappy, throwaway movies filling in the holes of the Giants and the Bridge On the River Kwais — just like nowadays!
But what’s more impressive than the 7,714 (and counting) films Ansen has seen, which he modestly tells us has taken up 146 hand-written pages to log (not including movies he’s seen on TV), is that he started the list at all. I marvel at the moxie of a 12-year-old Ansen having the audacity to start such a project; what was I doing at that age? Surely nothing near as ambitious and self-aware — because what other reason has an adolescent to record such a thing, either to boast to others or for his own knowing? You might presume that a child who chose to start such a time-consuming, smart-ass endeavor was probably not out playing stickball in the sandlots or romping about with other normal children. Kids like these were destined to grow up to become film critics. Ansen knows it — his nerdiness knows no bounds, and he’s damned proud of it.
So thank you, David Ansen. You’ve wowed us all and put every so-called movie-lover to shame! We’ve got some catching up to do. I wasn’t watching grown-up films like Carmen Jones and Stalag 17 by sixth grade — it was more like Newsies and The Mighty Ducks — though I’d like to think I had accumulated more mature tastes by my teen years. You’ve got me wondering now, Mr. Ansen, if it’s not too late to start logging all of my all-time views at the ripe old age of 26. I’ll get started now.