I Know I Saw That Movie, But…

25 Feb

One of the most brilliant things about Flickchart is the vast size of its ever-growing database. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the most problematic.

Simply put: Flickchart has those obscure movies you know you saw, but can’t remember a damn thing about. Since you know you saw them, you can’t rightly click the “Haven’t Seen It” button, can you? It would violate proper Flickchart etiquette.

But it might be easier for some of us if movies like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Strongest Man in the World were not on Flickchart at all, because this means you have to assign a value to them. You have to have a general sense of what they were about, and how much you may have liked them, to figure out how they will perform in duels. I mean, it’s not like you’re planning to go back and re-watch The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes just so you can accurately rank it. Even if you did try that with a couple movies, you’d always be playing catch-up, trying vainly to reacquaint yourself with whichever couple hundred movies were fuzziest in your head at that particular moment.

Well, I’ve got something of a solution. I’ve come to utilize these movies as “line of demarcation movies.” In other words, they help draw a line in the sand between the movies I like and the movies I don’t like. They may not have any intrinsic value I can readily identify, but they do have value relative to the movies they duel.

Let’s take Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. I know I saw Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo relatively soon after it was released in 1977. But I was four years old in 1977, and even if I saw it six years later, I was still only ten. Unsurprisingly, I have no idea what happened in that movie. I assume from the title that a Volkswagen Bug visited a scenic spot on the Mediterranean, but beyond that, search me. I also assume it wasn’t Oscar material, but I’m not willing to assume I didn’t like it. And if my 10-year-old self did like it, I’m not willing to sell him out. (Whether we should still be ranking movies according to our childhood perspectives of them is another post for another time.)

So when Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo comes up in duels, I rank it above movies I don’t like, and below movies I do.

This is not a perfect system. Would I really say, for example, that a movie like Gangs of New York, which I consider to be quite flawed, is actually worse than Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo? Scorsese fans, of which I am one, would wring my neck, and I don’t want to ring my own neck. As it happens, though, I do have Herbie ranked at #2211 and Gangs ranked at #2344, though it’s likely the two films have never dueled. It’s that randomness that makes Flickchart a gloriously inexact science, one that becomes slightly more exact with every new duel. As it turns out, Herbie is an imperfect example for other reasons. If it did truly represent that line between the wheat and the chaff, it would mean I dislike only 519 of the 2730 movies I am currently ranking. And I hate a lot more than 519 movies.

It gets more problematic when it’s a movie you know was good, but you don’t remember why it was good — nor any of the characters, locations, or plot developments. Let’s take The Official Story, an Argentinian historical/political drama from 1985. I know this movie was at least pretty good, because a film professor showed it to us in college. But it couldn’t have struck much of a chord with me, because I don’t remember a single frame. Making it just a “line of demarcation movie” won’t do here, because it’s certainly not worse than all the marginally good movies out there. But how good is it, really? According to me, it’s the 957th best movie I’ve ever seen. But I couldn’t tell you why. So it’s kind of serving as a line of demarcation between films I concretely like, and films I like only somewhat.

Ranking films in Flickchart reminds us of just how much we’ve seen, but also, just how much we’ve forgotten. Which can be sort of depressing.

But don’t despair. Think of it this way: These movies you don’t remember can be a useful tool. A tool to elevate the movies you passionately promote to your friends, and a tool to slap down the movies you want to submit to the lowest depths of ranking indignity. It’s all a matter of relativity.

And if you really can’t square yourself with this approach … well, there’s always the dreaded “Remove from My Flickchart” link.

Your interpretation of proper Flickchart etiquette is your business, not mine.

This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Derek as derekarm on Flickchart, and at his blog: The Audient. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.

  • Travis McClain

    It’s bad enough when Flickchart presents a movie and you’re pretty sure you’ve seen it, but can’t recall it. It’s another thing entirely to have evidence that you’ve seen something you don’t remember. I recently looked through my Netflix rental history and discovered that, apparently, I once rented “The Peacemaker” with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Could I have told you that? No, but I can’t refute it, can I?

    I, too, tend to pick these films who exist in the murky corner of my memory over films I know I dislike. My thinking is that if I were asked which film I would rather re-watch today, I’d be more interested in being reminded what a given movie was actually about than sitting through something I know I did not enjoy previously.

  • Don Handsome

    I also have many “line of demarcation movies” within my Flickchart, and I don’t have a problem with them when they’re pleasantly buried in the middle of my rankings – they come up in a duel every so often and I think that in a perfect world, I’d be able to rewatch it someday, or I momentarily reflect on what line that film is marking and then I quickly move on.
    A problem presents itself when I follow my innate tendency to assign value to every movie. It is my compulsion to at least have an opinion on a film (no matter how malformed) that allows a film like The Osterman Weekend to make it to #177 in my rankings. I saw the Osterman Weekend for sure, but I have no real recollection of it. I know I saw it because I can remember who I watched it with, and therefore can narrow it down to one of three year different college years. I can remember clearly that my friend insisted that we watch it because it is a Sam Peckinpah film, and you know, we thought that all Peckinpah films were worthwhile. And then I remember nothing else about it. I do consider myself a liker of Peckinpah still, and as a result, I’ve assigned it a heavy positive weight in Flickchart. This weight must run deep because The Osterman Weekend has won enough duels that it sits within my top 250, taunting me. It didn’t earn this honor, it just achieved it because of a silly, and relatively arbitrary bias. I guess the best course of action for when a line of demarcation movie gets juiced in this way is to actually rent it and watch it again and see if it deserves the ranking it has achieved. I’d rather that than removing it from My Flickchart.

  • http://www.theaudient.blogspot.com Derek Armstrong

    But Travis, is it possible you rented The Peacemaker and then returned it unwatched because it sat under that pile of magazines for two months, and eventually you decided it was probably going to be crap, so might as well just bite the bullet and get something you actually want to see?

    I agree that the “which would I rather watch” principle gets you far in Flickchart. It’s the best way to make a really tough decision, or in this case, a not-very-tough decision in which you lack the proper information to make a correct decision. However, that too has its imperfections. I would almost always rather watch Animal House than Citizen Kane, but I know Citizen Kane is better. Just one of the many wonderful things about Flickchart — you make up your own rules and rationalizations.

    Don, now I want to see The Osterman Weekend. Send me your copy when you’re done with it. If you send the return envelope, I promise I’ll return it for you.

  • johnmason

    I like this post. I have plenty of films on my Flickchart that I really don’t remember. (Interestingly, another Herbie movie, “Herbie Goes Bananas” is one I’m sure I saw as a kid, and am ranking, but will likely never watch again and really don’t remember.)

    I know some people purposely leave off films they don’t remember. I’m too much of a completist. I seem to have to have everything in there that I know I’ve seen. Just came across “Cop and a Half”, starring Burt Reynolds, the other day. Had to rank it, ’cause I know I saw it as a kid. Probably not a good movie; never watch it again; but there it is on my chart.

    Yet, there are a couple of exceptions. There has been a movie here or there that I’m sure I do want to try and see again, so I haven’t ranked them. The most notable example is “Pulp Fiction”. Saw it nearly a decade and a half ago, remember next to nothing about it, yet I could rank it, as I remember not terribly liking it. Yet, I’ll probably give it a shot again sometime, so I’m currently treating it as “Haven’t Seen”.

    But it’s a decision I wrestle with. I am currently ranking “E.T.”, even though I haven’t seen it in years, and don’t remember it much better than “Pulp Fiction”. I know I want to see “E.T.” again, so why am I ranking it? It’s a tough decision….

  • http://themoviewhore.com The Movie Whore

    I saw Condorman back when you had to choose between VHS and Beta and there were no video stores yet. I am 35 now and this was in 80-81. I was 6 or 7.

    I still remember enough of it to know I liked The Thing more which I saw when I was 8 or 9. I have revisited The Thing because it was good enough to initiate my interest in seeing it again where as I am pretty sure that if I watched Condorman again, I might just slit my wrists.

  • Travis McClain

    Derek, I am relatively confident that I did not return the movie un-watched because it was one of the first movies I ever received from Netflix. I have only returned two unwatched, and those came much later and for odd timing reasons.

    As for the re-watch factor vs. being the “better” film, I then defer to the old stand-by of asking myself: If I had to rebuild my home library today, which would I start with between these two? If you’d add “Animal House” before “Citizen Kane,” then I say Orson Wells loses that round, but then that’s not my call to make, is it?

    While I’m at it…has anyone else gone through stages of keeping ticket stubs? Not just concert stubs, but movie theater stubs. I tossed most of mine a few years ago, but only after creating a database telling me what movies I’ve seen, on what date and at what theater.

  • http://flickchart.com Jeremy Thompson

    Oh yeah, I keep all my ticket stubs… have for years. I think it’s actually an illness, but there’s probably not a name for it yet. Malstubbiness? Packratix? Stuberculosis?

    Which is why I hate it when the person at the ticket window hands me one of those cheapy little tabs of paper as a “ticket,” because I know the ink’s going to bleed onto my pocket liner by the end of the movie.

    I like “if I had to rebuild my home library” — never heard that one. The problem I have with “which would I want to watch now” is that it’s too mood-based and fleeting for me… the library approach encourages a longer-term view.