Top Posts of 2010, Part 1

Overthinking It looks back at its most popular posts of 2010. Part 1 of 2.

It’s time for the holiday shutdown, a blessed, peaceful time during which the OTI staff switches off all televisions and computers, takes long walks out of doors, and recharges their souls by communing with nature. Or not. Who am I kidding? We’re probably all glued to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Christmas maraton.

In case you haven’t already noticed: Posting will be sparse this week, and will consist mostly of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V. But take the opportunity to catch up on exciting overthinking you may have missed during the year. Last year, I reported that half a million people visited OTI during 2009. This year it was three-quarters of a million. Not all 750,000 of you can possibly have ready everything we published; think of this like the class-free study week before Exams, where you get to catch up on the reading you missed during the semester. Why not start with the ten (really thirteen) most popular posts of 2010?

10. (3-way Tie) How to Find Your Shrunken Kids, Is Doctor Who Bad for Women?, and What Do The Storm Troopers Think of Vader?

One of our missions here at OTI is debunking cherished myths about the entertainment we enjoy. The unexamined film is not worth watching, after all, and we delight in skewering not simply inconsistencies or plot holes—most of the time, you have to chalk those up to suspension of disbelief—but rather our own misconceptions about what we see and hear. Viz.: “The smart characters in the movie know what they’re doing.” or “My favorite television show shares my values.” or “The Empire is united under Vader.”

This can indeed incite controversy—you should have seen the AV Club comment thread the Doctor Who article inspired—but what’s life without a little friendly disagreement? Debating the merits of a think prolongs the pleasure you took in enjoying it. Which is one explanation for the Internet.

9. The Shocking Complexity of the Saw

Along the lines of Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You, Belinkie vivisects the many twists and turns of the most convoluted horror franchies ever. From the article:

To understand the Saw series, all you have to do is look at the production company’s logo. Before each film, the words “Twisted Pictures” are ensnared by coils of nasty-looking barbed wire. Horrible pain is inflicted with low-tech tools, and we’re forced to watch. Twisted.

But think about the other meaning of the word “twisted”: as in, “full of twists.” This is far and away the most plot-heavy, convoluted horror film series ever.

This calls to mind the famous description of Odysseus in the first lines of the Odyssey: polytropos, or “many-turned.” I guess the Saw movies are a kind of odyssey, in that they are a series of adventures and tests aimed at establishing or restoring some kind of order. Though, really, any narrative can be shoe-horned into that description, so you’re better off watching the eyeballs be gouged and the limbs severed.

"If only Spielberg hadn't replaced my gun with a walkie-talkie!"

8. Jaws as a Journey from Impotence to Manhood

Belinkie rescues what could have been a middle-of-the-road freshman film studies paper with a nuanced reading of Brody’s character arc with parallel’s to Steven Spielberg’s biography. We like to have fun on OTI, but it’s good to remember that stories are about people and their attempts to cope with the world.

7. Does Christopher Nolan Have a Woman Problem?

The Auteur Theory of filmmaking, associated with mid-20th century French film criticism, the French New Wave, and the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, holds that the director of a film is the primary “author” who provides the work with a unified vision and distinctive touches—often the same from movie to movie—despite all the other cooks in the kitchen. This is, to say the least, problematic, but here Belinkie makes a compelling case for fridge-stuffing as the characteristic feature of Christopher Nolan’s movies. And to add bathos, here’s Fenzel in the comments:

And what does it say that, when the comic book cliche woman is stuffed into a fridge, she dies to motivate the main character, but when Indiana Jones is stuffed into a fridge, he survives a direct hit from a nuclear weapon?

Huh? HUH? What does THAT say?

Any new insights into the material you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments!

Update 2010-12-30: Part 2 is now available.

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