The Hedgehog and the Fox or: How Not To Be Distracted By Faye Dunaway On Your Quest For Flickchart Enlightenment
A few weeks ago, I erased all of my rankings (over 2,000) after receiving a shocking revelation: Many of the movies that I'd ranked exist in my mind as fragmented, abstract memories that are only tenuously representative of my overall opinion of the actual films. This injection of harsh reality came rushing in after watching the movie Bonnie and Clyde again after several years. It occurred to me that my positive memory of the movie revolved almost exclusively around the amorous feelings I experienced for Faye Dunaway during the initial viewing. Back when I first saw Bonnie and Clyde, apparently I was so stricken by her charms that ranking the film among my favorites seemed like a perfectly legitimate course of action. After a fresh viewing, however, I was surprised to discover how average I found the rest of the movie to be. For years I've been placing it above films that I enjoyed for more substantial, empirical reasons than just a superficial movie crush (as opposed to a profound movie crush, like with Trasgredire).
The cause of this upheaval, then, is the result of my heretofore willy-nilly approach to movie ranking. I was just watching and ranking as many movies as possible without any sort of unifying vision behind my matchup decisions. Had I evaluated Bonnie and Clyde according to how it fits into the grander scheme of my movie tastes rather than narrowly focusing on the allure of Faye Dunaway, I might not be in this predicament. If I'm going to rank a movie highly based on the desirable dimensions of an actress, there needs to be a broader significance behind the decision. My recent matchup comment for Bonnie and Clyde vs. Bandidas, for example, explains why Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek robbing banks is a better entertainment option for my purposes than Faye Dunaway engaging in the same activity. Yes, I value Hayek and Cruz for their physical contributions, but Bandidas is also more representative of my overall philosophical outlook. Ideally, I would like my Flickchart rankings to accurately depict the spectrum of my aesthetic, intellectual and moral proclivities in regards to film appreciation. (NOTE: I have now officially designated Bandidas as a yardstick movie by which all other movies are judged. For any film to be considered a true favorite, it must surpass Bandidas in my esteem. Bonnie and Clyde falls short of this requirement, and so it was re-ranked accordingly.)
Eventually, after applying more far-reaching standards to the Flickchart matchups, my rankings should configure in such a way that my movie list will provide insight into who I am as a human being. (Kind of how like Cypher in The Matrix sees "blonde, brunette, redhead", except for It'll be a code for reading my own psyche. Yeah, it's deep like that.) This is my current Top 100, which I've been slowly piecing together after The Great Erasing of 2010. I wouldn't try to start deciphering it yet, though, since there are many movies awaiting their proper placement. Right now, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Get Smart both appear to be acquiring a more meaningful position on my list than I once thought possible. This is a frightening and exciting time to be alive.
An important piece of the puzzle? We shall see.
Anyway, some of you may have heard of the essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox" by Sir Isiah Berlin. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I'm familiar with the basics. In the essay, he introduces two categories of thinkers: Hedgehogs and Foxes. The Hedgehogs of the world believe unwaveringly in one Big Idea (whatever it may be), and try to make sense of everything in the context of that Idea. Foxes, on the other hand, don't believe in any one Idea strongly. Instead, they try out a bunch of little ideas and see which ones work best depending on the situation. I figure that I'm mostly a Fox, and I've been ranking movies on Flickchart with a Fox mindset. You may recall my previous article, How to Attain Movie Watching Oneness: The Flickchart/Jeet Kune Do Way, which advocated ranking movies "outside all molds". While I believe that this is the best way to deal with Flickchart matchups, I've been interpreting the philosophy entirely as a Fox. Or, I've been fighting battles without taking into account the whole war.
To avoid the siren call of all those Faye Dunaways (and I encounter a lot), a Flickchart user needs to keep an eye on the prize at all times. That's why the Hedgehog approach is necessary for keeping the Flickcharter on course. There needs to be a Big Idea of some sort to bring it all together. Of course, this doesn't mean that the Big Idea should completely regulate every matchup decision. The Flickcharter must take care to maintain a delicate balance between considering the individual characteristics of a matchup and the greater ramifications of their decision.
So, for example, let's say I am deciding on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen vs. Requiem. My Big Idea, as you know, is that I wish to rank my movies in such a way as to create a window into the very soul of my movie tastes. But I also must consider the specifics or "little ideas" of the matchup. Now, right off, I have to determine if Megan Fox is a legitimate aesthetic asset to Revenge of the Fallen, or just a Faye Dunaway sort of distraction. Is she, in fact, foxy enough to represent my Big Idea's standard of cinematic beauty, and does she truly improve the movie overall? Lord help me... I must say "yes". In the case of Requiem, I have no potential Faye Dunaways to contend with. It's a movie about a plain sort of religious girl who loses her mind. I'm pretty sure that Requiem is morally/intellectually more significant to me personally than Revenge of the Fallen, but it does not have explosions and giant robots. On an aesthetic (by my definition) level, Revenge of the Fallen is a bigger and badder (as in "gooder") hunk of movie than Requiem is on a moral/intellectual level. I like Requiem, but it only makes tiny ripples in the ocean that is my Big Idea, while Revenge of the Fallen creates more of a stir. Not a huge stir, mind you, but I see a distinction.
What does this say about me? It's too early to tell. But with a more organized sense of purpose behind each matchup decision, I believe that I can now utilize Flickchart to its fullest potential (i.e. as a key to total self-awareness).
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain 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.