AFI Top 100 Project, Postmortem

For those of you who are unaware, for the last five years I’ve been doing a project to watch the top 100 American films according to the American Film Institute. And after five years on the project I finally watched them all. Citizen Kane was up top and the last film I watched was the Birth of a Nation.

Seeing some of the films such as Lawrence of Arabia changed my life. I saw that one early on while I was still at MIT. I had decided to watch the films approximately from best to worst just in case I decided to stop or went blind halfway. So Lawrence, he was number five. And the scenes of the desert coupled with the events going on in the Middle East inspired me to learn more. I started taking Arabic from a private tutor. Then I started doing research on Arabic to English translation. Next I started reading every history book on the area I could get my hands on. And then I knew I had to go there.

So I did. I received a scholarship from the US government study to abroad in Cairo for one month at the American University in Cairo. Afterwards I did a bunch of traveling in the area. None of this stopped when I got back and this continued to be a strong theme in my life. I continued taking Arabic at Harvard and working in Arabic to English translation. After graduating I got a job working full time on a speech to speech machine translation unit concentrating on Arabic to English. But before starting my job I spent three months in Jerusalem working as a programming instructor. Later on I spent more than one month traveling all around the Middle East: the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan even a jaunt into Palestine. I got to off-road in the middle of the desert with Bedouin and to see firsthand some of the places where the original Lawrence of Arabia had haunted.

So that’s just a little anecdote just one film out of the hundred but each of them has woven a way into my life as has the project. The whole project became symbolic of something that I would see through from start to finish. There were good times and bad. The last 10 movies were a challenge they seemed to be all Westerns, silent films, or have something inherently wrong with them-morally or otherwise. To get around that I had a few parties theme parties where we would dress up and have a movie marathon.

So all in all I’m super happy I did project. I saw a lot of films I wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise. It led me to new experiences and a deeper understanding about the history of film. Now the question is what next filmwise-I’m thinking about European films but definitely a shorter list probably 25 at a time in different genres. If you have recommendations (of lists, not of individual movies) feel free to comment.

Now if you’re wondering about the more colloquial tone of this post not having an iPhone 4S I was pretty jealous of Siri’s speech recognition. So I splurged and paid 50 bucks for Dragon Express by the company behind Siri which I used to write this post. One unintended consequence is that my “writing” is a bit more blunt and less poetic with a dropped pronoun here and there for spice. Another fun experiment and hoping it will result in me blogging more even when I can’t bear to type another word for the day.

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