Makin’ a List

Still blogging from suburban franchise coffeehouses, so this post will have to be relatively brief, but I’ve been intrigued by the discussions of ten best lists, starting with Andy Horbal’s list of reasons why he doesn’t like ten best lists (also see Jim Emerson’s response to Andy). Keeping with my personal blogging tradition, I’ll wait until after the holidays before I contribute my own top ten list, but thinking about this year’s list has encouraged me to reflect on my viewing habits and how those habits were altered to some extent by moving from DC to North Carolina this year (of course, given that I had a chance to attend Silverdocs, this year, you can probably guess that once again, my list will be loaded with documentaries).

But as online video culture continues to evolve, I’ve also been thinking about what it might mean to start creating a “canon” of internet-based videos. Obviously, online video is still very much an ephemeral, nascent medium, but it would seem that such a young medium would stand to benefit from this form of preservation. As many film scholars have pointed out, most early films have been lost, in part due to the fragility of the film medium but also because not enough people recognized the importance of preserving this important part of our history. So I’ve been contemplating what it might mean to create a “ten best list” of online videos or whether it would even be plausible to compile a representtaive list when there is so much material out there. There’s already one interesting Top Ten list out there, compiled by the folks at, which includes what I regard as one of the best online videos of the year, “George Bush’s Imagine” (thanks to Virginia Heffernan for the link).

Of course a top ten (or twelve) list of online videos brings to the surface questions of taste and aesthetics that are far from established (the same might be said of top ten film lists, but critics’ lists do tend to overlap quite a bit). The list is notable because the listmakers chose to list single films from a set of categories or genres (machinima, mashups, parodies, remixes, male and female vlogs) rather than simply choosing ten favorite videos, an approach that succeeds in depicting the diversity of material now available online. I’m not sure I’ll have enough computer time until after the New Year, but I may try my hand at compiling a similar list or at least highlighting a few of my favorite online videos from the last year.


  1. michael Said,

    December 20, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    Top ten things I don’t like about year-end lists.
    1. They leave too many good things off
    2. They include too many things that don’t belong
    3. They are a form of narcissism: hey, come admire my good taste!
    4. There are too many of them and one tires of reading so many (this obviously doesn’t apply to web video lists, of which there are only a few…including one on my newish blog)
    5. They make me feel bad about having missed so many things that other people caught and loved
    6. They pretend to total knowledge–only someone who has seen every film released during the year should be qualified to compile a list of its best films, and no one has seen every film
    7. They almost always aim not for simple bestness but for representativeness. Your best music list has to have some mainstream pop to balance your esoterica. Film lists can’t totally avoid Hollywood or you will seem like a snob. So the list is not so much a reflection of your true taste as it is a projection of how you would like others to see you.
    8. They seem to spring more naturally from the minds of boys and men (see High Fidelity) and thus very well might be a tool of the patriarchy, which would totally suck.
    9. They segment different forms of media in ways that reinforce existing aesthetic hierarchies…why not make a list of all of one’s audiovisual media experiences of the year instead of keeping film in its special place?
    10. They’re just too, you know, listy.

  2. Chuck Said,

    December 20, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

    Fun list, Michael. I actually considered making a top ten list that mixed film, TV, and video this year (especially given my admiration for When the Levees Broke and, maybe, Ugly Betty).

    And, yes, a disproportionate number of these lists seem to come from white men with bad taste. But I also love their partiality, their subjectivity, their arbitrariness. Although living in Fayetteville has made me acutly aware of just how lucky I was, moviewise, to be living in DC for a year.

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