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YouTube as an art film: 'Life in a Day'

In new feature film that opened this weekend, the brothers who gave us "Top Gun" "Black Hawk Down," and "Gladiator" try to boil down humanity into a single day--with help from the Web and YouTube.

A still from the movie "Life in a Day."
Scott Free Productions/YouTube

All of what YouTube offers is in the new movie, "Life in a Day."

Anybody who has spent a couple of hours tooling around YouTube has experienced awe, revulsion, empathy or boredom. Now imagine if some very accomplished filmmakers acted as curators and distilled footage from a single day into a tale about humanity.

That's what moviemaking brothers Ridley and Tony Scott attempted to do with the help of Google's YouTube and director Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland"). Last year, YouTube viewers were asked to film their life on July 24, 2010 and submit the video. More than 80,000 clips equal to 4,500 hours of digital footage were collected.

The film, which opened last weekend in several major cities across the country, is a stitching together of YouTube videos, only with much slicker video quality, a professional soundtrack and editing. The film has received mixed reviews but I think YouTube fans will enjoy it. It goes a long way to illustrating how the Internet and YouTube help each of us share stories and information and have combined to become the most enabling communication system ever devised. All the color, spectacle, tragedy, monotony, and just plain goofiness of life are found at YouTube and in this movie.

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Dazzling images of a woman skydiver and shimmering polar ice caps are weaved in with a humorous clip of a teenage boy's first shave. A husband and son take care of a woman suffering from cancer, and a man is filmed slaughtering a cow. People at some kind of mass gathering are tragically crushed during a panic and a young man tentatively informs his grandmother that he's gay.

Film critics who didn't like the movie complain that the soundtrack and editing turn the movie into an overly processed story, which plays like an insurance or credit card commercial. There's no denying the brothers Scott, who are known for such movies as "Gladiator," "Blade Runner," and "Top Gun," polished and pumped up the show a bit with some movie magic. But I think they should be lauded for their restraint. Well represented in the "Life in a Day" is the monotony of life: Ukrainian men gripe about milking goats, women pound flower, and there's lots of shots of people from all over the world cooking and eating (isn't it amazing how much of our time is spent on that?)

An angst-ridden woman in the film says that she really wanted something exciting to videotape for the movie but nothing out of the ordinary happened. She concludes that while that's not exciting viewing it was her life and that's okay.