Lost in Stagnation: or How I Realized I Had A New #1 Movie

10 Oct
2011

“What’s your favorite movie”? This is a question some of us may have had to answer more than once upon telling people we’re into film. Some will reply by saying there are many films they love, but when pressed, we tend to have that one film we always revert to as a standard answer. For me, that film has been American Beauty ever since I first saw it over a decade ago. Once Flickchart implemented its changes to how re-ranking movies was done, I immediately made sure to put it at the top of my list. That was where it belonged. I didn’t even have to think when it appeared in a random match-up. It’s American Beauty! It’s #1! Of course it wins! 

*click*

But what Flickchart is all about is to make you think of the movies you’re picking between. Having this automated thought process really went against everything Flickchart stands for. The mentality I employed led to a certain stagnation in my list. This is something I eventually remedied. First, however, let’s switch gears.

"Don't mind me, just chilling at #1."

Lost in Translation is the movie I always bring up as example of how film taste can change and evolve. I first saw it when I was just starting to get into movies in a big way – the transition from casual to movie-nut, if you will. I had heard good things about it and had always been a big fan of Bill Murray, so I really wanted to check it out now that my movie fandom was kicking off. Looking back, it’s clear I wasn’t ready for it. On a forum I frequented at the time, I wrote: “Right, I’ll admit it: I didn’t get it. Nothing really happened, and there wasn’t any clear-cut message I could interpret. Weird to see Murray in a serious role, though.”

Some time passed, and I had started my first movie blog. I had some visitors (mostly real life friends) but didn’t get many comments on what I wrote. So in order to promote interactivity, I encouraged people to recommend films to me and I would rent and review the first three mentioned. Of course, with friends being friends, they intentionally gave me less-than-appealing films. I ended up having to watch the hum-drum romcom No Reservations and the painfully unfunny Pamela Anderson/Denise Richards comedy Blonde and Blonder. But the third recommendation was Lost in Translation, which was suggested to me by an old classmate from high school (or the closest Swedish equivalent). So I rewatched it and found myself experiencing that feeling of familiarity you sometimes get with films. “Oh right, this is that fun part where…”. But this didn’t make sense! How could I have that reaction if “nothing really happened” in the film, as I had first thought? I still found it quite slow, and the point still went over my head, but I conceded that I thought the film to be okay. Enough for me to buy the DVD soon after when I found it on a sale.

Since then, as my taste in film has evolved, Lost in Translation has grown on me more and more each time I see it. I’ve constantly found new things to enjoy, marvelled at the wonderful performances, and I even carefully fell in love with Tokyo itself – the first watch had actually turned me off from ever visiting the city. I finally started to see the point of the film. What it had to say about mid-life crises and quarter-life crises, and the way two strangers can relate and bond to one another when in an alien place… It all began to make sense to me.

A year or two later, the movie wound up somewhere on the lower edge of my top 10, and I thought “Wow, what a journey it has been for that film.” But it wasn’t going any higher. I had this very rigid idea of my top 10 at the time, what movies were on it, and the rough order. It wasn’t going to change too much. Maybe two movies shifted places every now and then – such as perennial 2006 rivals-in-my-mind Crank and Once – but nothing more than that. When we’re on Flickchart, we constantly have our top 20 staring us in the face. If I was going to have my eyes glaze over it all the time, it should at least look nice and tidy.

But one day not too long ago, from out of the blue, I said “No, screw that. Why am I keeping my list so sterile and unchanging? There’s no reason for this!”. So I set Flickchart to the Your Top 20 filter and forced myself to really think about the films involved in the choices, rather than just automatically going “Well, Amélie is my 2nd favorite film ever, so it’s going to win pretty much every match-up it’s in”. It was startling to realize just how inflexible the top of my list had been. Now, most films climbed and fell a lot. It felt quite refreshing.

And then, when Lost in Translation came up against my long-time favorite American Beauty, I found myself unable to to pick the latter – my unchallenged constant #1 movie ever. Now that my brain was working in high gear and really pondering all these wonderful films, it wasn’t even a hard choice. How could I NOT pick Lost in Translation? It’s an amazing film, filled with unforgettable moments. I replayed my favorite scenes over and over in my head. The shooting of the whisky commercial. Murray singing More Than This on karaoke. The heart-to-heart talk between him and Scarlett Johansson about having kids. The hospital visit. That perfect ending. Then I thought about American Beauty, and while I still very much adored that film, the choice was easy.

*click*

It was kind of a mildly shocking experience in a way, but there it was: Lost in Translation was at the top of my Flickchart. My new favorite movie ever. American Beauty had been bested, now sitting at the #2 spot. Even now when I glance at my top 20, it looks really strange to my eyes. Yet also so right.

Sometimes when we’re on Flickchart, we just want to relax and maybe kill some time. We just rank away – click, click, click – not really thinking too much about our choices. This is fine to an extent, but I would highly recommend to at some point do what I did: use the Your Top 20 filter, really THINK about the great movies you have before you, and try to dismiss any established notions you have about what your list should look like. You might just end up with a new answer to that old chestnut “What’s your favorite movie?”. I know I did.

This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Emil as eshegnev on Flickchart. 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.

  • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

    Emil, I’m thrilled you wrote this!  We’ve talked about it quite a lot, and this is one time I’m glad someone else wrote what I had wanted to write.  You’ve created (to my mind, anyway) a concrete case in favor of Flickchart flexibility.  If I might make one tiny suggestion, though, it would be to expand that filter to, say, your Top 50.  You’d be surprised how much your Top 20 really changes when the next thirty films are thrown into the mix.  It irks a lot of Flickcharters to think of this as “undoing” their diligent work, but I find it’s rewarding to get a frequently updated snapshot of my taste at any given point in time.

    I’ll have more later, I’m sure, but right now I’m exhausted.  Kudos, though, on a well written debut post!

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      Thank you, Travis! Wouldn’t have happened if not for your suggestion, so you deserve credit too.

      Yeah, the Top 50 filter works great too, and I’ve done that one as well. The Top 20 is to shake up the internal order of the list on the left, whereas the Top 50 helps bring new titles into it. They both serve their purposes.

      I’m interested in hearing what you were planning to write on Flickchart psychology, though!

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  • http://myfilmviews.wordpress.com/ Nostra

    Excellently written and it’s true that with some movies rewatching them changes your opinion on it. Didn’t know about Flixchart before, so will be sure to check it out further.

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      Thanks! I hope you’ll enjoy Flickchart. It can be a very fun way to kill time. :)

    • http://myfilmviews.wordpress.com/ Nostra

      Yes, it is very obvious that it’s an interesting time waster ;)

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      Thanks! I hope you’ll enjoy Flickchart. It can be a very fun way to kill time. :)

  • http://www.flickchart.com/johnmason Nigel Druitt

    My #1 is my #1; I have a hard time fathoming the idea of that changing. (In my case, my #1 represents three films, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and is a little more concrete in that case.)

    A rewatches have exchanged films within my Top 20, though. Terminator 2 left. Galaxy Quest came in. It can happen, but yes, I am totally guilty of that rigidity in my Top 10.

    My biggest problem is that I usually have to watch a film again before I will really consider that it should, perhaps, be higher on my chart.

    This is a well-written piece, Emil. Nicely done.

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      Thank you very much!

      That’s an interesting point about feeling like you have to rewatch a film for it to climb. It’s a valid arguement, if one I don’t subscribe to myself. Sure, I’ll often rerank a film right after rewatching it, which leads to some interesting climbs and falls. But in the end, it all comes down to a choice between two films. And if I, at the time the choice is presented to me, feel that one is better than the other, it will win. But I see your point. Since Flickchart is all about climbing (a film that loses only drops one place after all), once you’ve climbed, you’ve kind of earned your spot. It’s interesting, really. Another example of Flickchart psychology at work.

    • http://www.flickchart.com/johnmason Nigel Druitt

      Part of it is being concerned that I don’t remember a film well enough to properly rank it if it’s been too long since I’ve seen it. For example, I saw Pulp Fiction once, back in about ’97 or so, and while I remember not liking it much, that’s about all I remember. Should I really be ranking that movie…?

    • Derek Armstrong

      Time for a new example, Nigel — I’ve heard the Pulp Fiction one about 40 times! ;-)

    • http://www.flickchart.com/johnmason Nigel Druitt

      Ha! You’re right, Derek; sorry. How ’bout E.T.? It’s probably been even longer since I’ve seen that one…

  • http://www.flickchart.com/johnmason Nigel Druitt

    My #1 is my #1; I have a hard time fathoming the idea of that changing. (In my case, my #1 represents three films, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and is a little more concrete in that case.)

    A rewatches have exchanged films within my Top 20, though. Terminator 2 left. Galaxy Quest came in. It can happen, but yes, I am totally guilty of that rigidity in my Top 10.

    My biggest problem is that I usually have to watch a film again before I will really consider that it should, perhaps, be higher on my chart.

    This is a well-written piece, Emil. Nicely done.

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      Thank you very much!

      That’s an interesting point about feeling like you have to rewatch a film for it to climb. It’s a valid arguement, if one I don’t subscribe to myself. Sure, I’ll often rerank a film right after rewatching it, which leads to some interesting climbs and falls. But in the end, it all comes down to a choice between two films. And if I, at the time the choice is presented to me, feel that one is better than the other, it will win. But I see your point. Since Flickchart is all about climbing (a film that loses only drops one place after all), once you’ve climbed, you’ve kind of earned your spot. It’s interesting, really. Another example of Flickchart psychology at work.

  • Derek Armstrong

    The rigid thought process I’ve got to get myself out of is thinking that everything on Flickchart must happen “organically.” Like some other people did, I entirely rebuilt my account once the newer more accurate method of adding new films was introduced. Having done that, however, I now feel like I should go back to totally organic again — ranking all my films against each other, and not focusing in on the upper-end of the list. Clearly I recognize that this is a very narrow way to view Flickchart, but I can’t seem to bust myself out of it. Like you, I actually resolved to re-rank movies every time I re-watched them, so as to be sure that my current feelings about the movie were accurately represented in my rankings. Of course, since making that resolution I’ve become gun shy, worrying about a movie jumping (or falling, because that can happen more precipitously when you re-rank using By Title) “inorganically” by too many spots.

    Oh yeah, and — very entertaining read! I think it’s rather amazing that a film you felt “meh” about could end up one day becoming your #1. Cinema truly is a living entity, isn’t it?

    • http://aswedetalksmovies.wordpress.com/ Emil

      I know what you mean with the whole organic thing. Part of what made me (and most likely others) hooked on Flickchart at the beginning was to see your list compiling itself for each ranking you did. Flickchart dictated the perimeters, and you just answered to whatever it presented you with. It becomes more of a fun game when you don’t control what the rules are, so to speak. It’s sort of akin to dreaming. You can have a really cool dream with crazy things happening, and it’s awesome. Then you wake up, but you want to keep dreaming, so you try to let the dream continue in your mind. But since it’s now your awake brain (IE you) that’s in charge rather than your subconcious, it’s just not as fun.

      I like having things out of my control, I suppose. It’s the same with my movie rental list. I understand Netflix lets you order your films in fine detail, but Lovefilm (the Swedish alternative) only gives you 3 priority levels to assign films to. Sure, you could put every movie on priority 2 and bump the one film you want next up to top priority, but I prefer to keep a bunch of them up top. That way, it will be a bit of a surprise what film I’ll get next.

      A living entity it is indeed. But there has been no other film that my opinion has changed as drastically on as Lost in Translation. Some films have gone from “meh” to okay upon rewatches, or from masterpiece to very good, etcetera. But nothing has come close to LiT’s journey.

      I actually watched Sofia Coppola’s latest film Somewhere today. It’s funny, but I had pretty much the same reaction to it as I had for Lost in Translation when I first saw it. Maybe that film will end up high on my chart a few years from now too. Time will tell. For now, it gets to hang out in the 800-ish range.

    • http://www.flickchart.com/johnmason Nigel Druitt

      Yeah, I don’t have any experiences like that – from “meh” to “love”. Definitely a couple in my Top 20 that never would have been anywhere near my Top 20 the first time around, but I at least genuinely liked them the first time…