As amazing as Cornell graduates are, not all of them go on to become architects of ubiquitous websites such as Youtube. But this Wednesday, a select few Cornellians who decided to make their way to Cornell Cinema were offered a special appearance by Youtube architect, Mike Solomon ’00. Solomon talked about his illustrious career starting from when he worked at the Cinema to working for Youtube. He also introduced the film Life in a Day, produced from over 80,000 submissions from people in over 190 countries in response to Youtube’s request to record their day on its fifth anniversary.
The feature presentation started with Solomon’s humorous speech detailing his path from programming for Cornell Cinema to somehow becoming an integral part of what we now know as Youtube. The fact that most Cornell students can relate to Solomon’s stressful workload and problems as a senior made his desire to drop out of school both understandable and comical. The transitions he made in between jobs after finally graduating on time were also rendered engaging by his narrative — from how he decided to take the lowest paying job in the area with the highest cost of living at eBay to how he left his job at Yelp for a friend’s idea of a “Flickr for videos” that eventually turned into the Youtube we know today.
Solomon’s 45-minute introduction assured the Cornell audience, at least to a certain degree, that their lives would turn out fine after four grueling years of education. In the meantime, it satiated the audience’s curiosity about Youtube’s fast and enigmatic success by offering an insider’s look into the company’s origins and operations. In response to questions from the audience, Solomon discussed internal arguments over censorship and finances. Overall, his discussion was interesting and provided what the audience expected from him, before he went on to introduce Life in a Day as an “engaging, emotional and thought-provoking” film.
Solomon’s background, however was in no way connected to the film. Nowhere in the introduction was the making of the film mentioned, and the disconnect between the guest appearance and the film became immediately apparent. While the idea behind the film was revolutionary, the end product was nothing but mundane and drawn out. The 90-minute film lacked fluidity and the ability to provide a theme with which the audience could connect.
The movie takes place over 24 hours, and the way the videos are synthesized reflected such an idea. As the movie begins, we see the morning as experienced by people around the world. The day goes on until the movie concludes with a woman telling the audience that it is 11:56 p.m. local time. Usually, many scenes are connected because different people perform the same actions or answer the same questions, a means by which the producers hope to engage the audience to think about the scenes collectively. Nevertheless, the film fails to achieve that, mostly because the disparate videos are sloppily and abruptly combined.
The problem with the film is not the idea behind it but the way in which it is carried out. With such a monumental amount of video submissions, it was definitely difficult to make a film only 90 minutes long in duration. The result is a collection of mini-scenes with no exposition or resolution. Maybe the goal of the producers is to create a film that speaks of the common challenges and daily struggles faced by many around the world, but the idea is lost when a Chilean boy describes how little money he makes from shining shoes right after a man brags about having a Lamborghini and grins. The film closes with a woman concluding that although nothing special happens during the day in her life, it is still a special day, possibly due to the occurrences on the same day around the world shown earlier in the film. Nevertheless, if that is the conclusion the film wants its audience to make, it is very contrived. The woman comes to such a conclusion after failing to find an interesting moment in her life to film and send to Youtube. Her submission is a desperate measure as the time for a possible submission dwindles down at the end of the day. Not only is her action rather pathetic, her logic is non sequitur.
Given how the film can be viewed online at the comfort of one’s home, spending 90 minutes at the theater trying to experience it on the big screen and with a bigger audience turns out to be a waste of effort and time. In the end, the only things that connect the film are a few storylines that appear in the movie multiple times, including that of a Korean bicyclist with visions to unite the two Koreas and of a family coping with the mother’s repeated surgeries as a result of cancer. In the former, a biker devotes his life to cycling around the world, even after being hit by cars six times and hospitalized five times as a result. During his adventures, his distant hope is to see a united Korea. In the latter story, a mother tries to remain hopeful during her battle with cancer with a naïve son looking on. Although these stories can be interesting and carry weight on their own, when combined in Life in a Day, they become nothing more than sob stories that fail to amount to “thought-provoking.”