The Flickcharter Who Knew Too Much
I love the purity of impulse involved in duels on Flickchart.
Though I certainly can’t speak for everyone, I personally use the “first thought, best thought” principle when it comes to declaring a victor. You know, the method taught to us in school, to survive multiple choice tests you didn’t study for. This principle states that the first answer you think is right, is probably right. Similarly, whichever dueling movie inspires the greatest instinctive rush of affection – on a primal level, divorced from the paralysis of over-thinking – is the correct choice to win the duel. If you suddenly realize this principle is working too well, and Flickchart autopilot has resulted in an errant click, there’s always the Undo button to correct your mistakes.
However, this principle works best when you are judging the two movies without any knowledge of where they stand in your rankings. It’s by design that Flickchart withholds the current rankings of the two films in question, saving that information for after you’ve already made your choice. That’s Flickchart’s way of saying it doesn’t want your decisions to be biased by outside information. Just compare the two movies on their own merits, as if it were your very first duel.
But the more obsessed we become with Flickchart, the more familiar we become with where our films are ranked. And that’s especially the case with the top 20, which are forever listed in plain sight on the left side of the screen. In fact, those 20 films become so hallowed, so precious, that they can invite fits of over-thinking, the kind we said we’re trying to avoid. Instead of trying to really figure out which film I like better, I start trying to figure out if Movie X really deserves a place in my top 20 – a place it would secure it if defeated Movie Y.
Let’s take a recent duel between Moon and Dances With Wolves. Moon – the brilliant sci-fi film starring Sam Rockwell and directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones – was my favorite film of 2009. I giddily talked it up to anyone who would listen and counted the days until it was available on DVD, at which point, I bought it. I can’t see into the future, but it’s reasonable to assume my love affair with Moon was at an all-time high when it came up against Dances With Wolves, which was ranked #10 at the time. (Moon was ranked in the 200s). If I were a revisionist historian, and chose to remember only what Kevin Costner went on to become, I wouldn’t have hesitated about choosing Moon. But I’m not, and I remember that Dances With Wolves was a terrific film.
Still, I’d seen it only once, within a year or two of its 1990 release, and when faced with this choice, every impulse in my body told me to choose Moon. I was in the throes of out-and-out infatuation with Moon, while Dances With Wolves was, at best, an old girlfriend I thought of fondly on occasion. But Flickchart doesn’t lie, and I decided that the #10 ranking of Dances With Wolves gave it an inherent value that I couldn’t dispute. A value that had stood the test of time, nearly two decades since its release. Meanwhile, Moon was just a hot young upstart, released only last June. Could I really be so quick to elevate Moon to these dizzying heights? Had it earned the #10 ranking?
Cooler heads ended up prevailing. I shut down my impulses and gave Dances With Wolves the victory. I decided that I was showing exceptional wisdom by selecting a stalwart epic, instead of being wooed by the flavor of the week.
But if Dances With Wolves had been ranked at #37 instead of #10, this duel might have turned out differently. When you come right down to it, I was really rendering a judgment not on Dances With Wolves, but on Moon. By being ranked where it was, Dances With Wolves was thrust into the unwitting position of having to defend my top 20 against attacks from unproven films. I could have much more easily endorsed the idea of Moon jumping to #37 than to #10.
So 100% purity isn’t always going to be possible in Flickchart. But that’s why there are always more duels. It’ll all even out over time. In fact, in the couple months since this duel, both films have approached the rankings they actually deserve: Dances With Wolves at #21, Moon at #28. It sits with me better to have Moon creeping up on my top 20, rather than just jumping straight to #10.
The first thought may be the best thought, but the second thought is sometimes the best defense.
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.