Fluid Flickcharting: The Key to Flickchart Freedom
Last week David wrote about finding the perfect Flickcharting philosophy to achieve a perfect chart. After years of Flickchart frustration borne of trying to create a perfect chart, I’ve come to a rather different conclusion: instead of seeking immobility, embrace fluidity. This, my friends, is Fluid Flickcharting, and I’ve come to believe it is the best way to attain a zen-like contentment with your chart. (For more on Zen Flickcharting, see Chad Hoolihan’s article from the archives.)
Here are a few of the reasons for embracing Fluid Flickcharting.
1. The fluidity of taste
Tastes change over time. This is not a controversial statement. Someone who’s two years old may find Mickey Mouse Clubhouse might be the ultimate in filmed entertainment. (If TVChart were a thing, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse would be my daughter’s #1, no doubt about it.) But as people grow older, they learn to like other things. As we see more movies and have more life experiences, our perspective changes over time, and our charts will need to change to reflect it. At the same time, we rightfully feel nostalgia for things we loved as children or that we saw at particularly formative times, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. You could theoretically create a chart that is “perfect” at this moment in time, but in five or ten years, it would change as your tastes change, so the value of obsessing over the perfect chart is already dubious.
2. The fluidity of reaction
Reactions to films are nebulous things and can be unconsciously based on many things unrelated to the film itself. Were you having a bad day? Were you having a great day? Were you watching a good movie in poor circumstances? Were you watching a bad movie in great circumstances? Were you on a first date? Did you just break up? A movie itself as a physical (or digital) artifact may be a static object, but we can never really judge it objectively because the experience we have with it is inherently subjective. A movie-as-experienced is never a static object, because every individual brings his or her own life experiences and personality to it – similarly, any given viewing by the same individual may be colored by any number of things that are not part of the movie. We may think we can ignore all that and look at the movie as it is, but I don’t think we truly can. Now, I don’t think this necessarily means our reactions are untrustworthy. We felt how we felt and we should be honest about that. But I do think it means that under other circumstances, another viewing, thoughtful reflection back after the memory of the specific circumstances has faded, our reaction may change. We’ll have to rerank. Our perfect chart was imperfect.
3. The fluidity of memory
As time passes since the last time we saw a movie, our memory of it fades until perhaps we’re left with only a vague remembrance of our reaction to the film – “oh, I remember liking that movie” or “thinking about that leaves a sour taste”. Some people choose not to rank films that they haven’t seen in a long time until they’ve had a chance to rewatch them and see how they feel about them now. Memory clouds judgment, certainly, but then achieving the perfect chart would require frequent rewatching whenever our memory of any given film starts to fade. You can still rank according to that vague remembrance, but I can tell you from experience (because I do in fact rank everything I know I’ve seen regardless of how well I remember it), matchups between half-remembered films are often a crapshoot. Our perfect chart is always out of date.
4. The fluidity of opinions
This may sound like point #2 above, but what I mean here is that sometimes even looking directly at a matchup, I know it truly could go either way, and I’d be equally happy about the outcome. Yes, I know, the whole point of Flickchart is to delve past that “but I like these the same amount!” reaction and really examine which one you like better by whatever criteria you choose. David’s problem in his post is that he kept changing what criteria he used, and his solution was to pick a single criterion – “attachment” – to get through those rough places. I don’t disagree with that, and his approach of valorizing attachment is fairly similar to my own. However, it’s not uncommon for me to choose one film in a tough matchup, and then choose the other one if the same matchup comes up again a few days or weeks later. It’s not unheard of for me to completely honestly choose Movie A over Movie B and Movie B over Movie C, but then choose Movie C over Movie A, while still believing my original choices were valid and true. You can simply say that I’m lying to myself, or am wishy-washy, or am not consistently applying the same criteria for judgment. That may be true, but trying to even out these quirks in my chart didn’t lead to a perfect chart. It only led to frustration and despair. My perfect chart never materialized.
5. Embracing imperfection
So we’ve seen that tastes are fluid, reactions are fluid, memory is fluid, and opinions are fluid. Trying to create a unmoving, perfect chart assumes that tastes can be fixed (if not as a child, at least at some point as an adult), that reactions can be divorced from experiences, that fading memories can be renewed, and that opinions can be rigid. I don’t believe any of these things, so I’ve let go of the idea of a perfect chart. Instead, I treat each matchup with seriousness and honestly choose the one I like better, but don’t worry about where it goes on my chart. It jumped 100 places? Fun! It popped into my Top 500? Good for it, we’ll see if it can last!
A few months ago I reranked my Top Twenty, and while everything stayed within the Top Twenty, nearly everything shifted around, including a somewhat precipitous drop for my #2 (Bonnie and Clyde) down to #18. Shocking! Was it overranked before? I mean, I guess. It has been my #1 in the past. When I ranked it #1 or #2, though, I was being honest. When I ranked it down to #18, I was still being honest. A few years passed in between – has my memory clouded since the last time I saw it? Perhaps. Was my #2 ranking inflated since I had seen it so recently when I moved it up there? Perhaps. But that screening (which was amazing) and that passage of time since seeing the film are part of my experience of it. Remember, a movie-as-experienced is not a static thing, and as my reactions toward it change in relation to my reactions to other films, its place on my chart should change. And that’s okay.
6. The freedom of Fluid Flickcharting
Trying to create the perfect chart is a prison. It locks us into trying to form rigid opinions that don’t change over time (unless we rewatch a film and find our opinion has definitively changed), and into a static understanding of our relationship with cinema, with individual films, and of films with other films. Fluid Flickcharting is freedom. Freedom to let our chart follow its own path. Freedom to let our reactions and our opinions be truly subjective, not only at the moment of viewing the film, but at every moment after that. Freedom to change our minds. Freedom to see Flickcharting as a process, not a means to an end. Freedom to throw ourselves fully into each matchup, to live in the moment without fear of the consequences to our chart. My chart will never be perfect. It will be fluid. It will be free.