I think you do. Per the New York Times, a grocery store clerk in Austin has watched more movies than you ever will:
But Mr. Bourland, 58, has spent nearly a decade on a monumental task that he hopes will make his a name to remember in the world of movies. He has ranked the greatest films of the 20th century. Sure, the American Film Institute and endless others have generated Top 10 or 100 Greatest lists. But Mr. Bourland goes them — well, one better isn’t even close. He has ranked the 20th century’s 9,200 greatest movies, watching more than 7,000 of them in the process.
Holy cheez-its. I don’t know about you, but according to my Netflix movie rating history, I’ve watched a few hundred movies in 30 years. I would need to watch basically a movie every other day for the next 28 to catch up with Bourland. Which brings me to this question: how many professional movie critics have seen as many movies as he has?
One of the core debates that always pops up around the arts is whether they deserve to be subsidized at all, since there are plenty of things whose worth we are content to let the commercial market decide. The oft-cited rationale for subsidizing art, of course, is that there’s something special about art that isn’t captured by the market. In making that argument, we are essentially claiming that the market–i.e. the masses, broadly defined–isn’t qualified to judge whether something is worthy of support in the present and, by extension, preservation for posterity. But who is qualified? The only reasonable criterion I can think of to distinguish someone who deserves a greater say over another in determining whether a piece of art lives or dies is whether that person is well-informed about the art’s context. Or to put it another way, the special-ness about a work of art lives in its uniqueness, its individual character – does it say something that hasn’t been said before, or in quite the same context, or to quite the same audience? And the only people who really can know whether something is unique or not are people who know that art form backwards and forwards. Which means we’re talking critics, curators, artistic advisors, literary managers, program officers, etc.–and super-fans like this guy.
Shouldn’t we start taking people in that last category seriously?