What *is* a movie?
Boy, if I’m asking myself that question, I should definitely not be a film blogger.
But it’s a question Flickchart has actually made me grapple with lately, because not everything that appears in Flickchart is actually a movie – the way I define it.
When you are presented with unranked “films” on Flickchart, there are two ways to approach it. There’s the straightforward way – which is to rank everything you’ve seen, unconditionally. Then there’s the other way – which is to leave certain things “unseen” for a variety of reasons, including the fact that you don’t remember it well enough and want to see it again before you rank it.
Or the fact that it may not actually be – a movie.
Let’s take a pretty extreme example: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This is a 22-minute primetime TV special that first aired on November 20, 1973. I didn’t see it upon first airing, as I was exactly a month old at the time, but I definitely saw it during one of its subsequent airings. When it came up on Flickchart, I chose not to rank it. Quite simply, to me, this is not a movie. I can probably even remove the words “to me” – it’s just not a movie, period.
So why is it on Flickchart, then?
Well, perhaps because Flickchart is a democratic entity, and receives many films into its database because a given user submitted that film for consideration. But obviously, Nathan and Jeremy have veto power – it’s up to their discretion when to use it.
It raises an essential question about the function of Flickchart – one where anyone’s position on the topic is as valid as anyone else’s. Is Flickchart designed to rank only movies? Or should it also have the ability to rank specials and other one-off viewing experiences?
Let’s take another example from the 1970s: The Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired in 1978. You know, the one where they visit Chewbacca’s home world of Kashyyyk (you gotta love those three Ys in a row). This was at least feature length, as it occurred over the course of a two-hour time block on TV. But a movie? Not really. I seem to remember it being more like a variety program. But since it involves the Star Wars universe, it’s clear why some Flickchart users would want to rank it.
What’s the cutoff between movie and non-movie, then? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I’m a bit hardcore in my reasoning. I think that for something to qualify as a movie, it needs to have debuted either in the theater or on video. That’s right. In my own personal way of seeing things, a movie that debuts on HBO is not really a movie. Except, of course, when it is. For some reason, I am ranking two HBO movies (Sometimes in April and The Laramie Project) but not a third (Recount). Admittedly, I’ve got to get my own system straight before I can go write about it (oops, too late).
Then there are the movies that seem like they should be movies just because of their place in cinematic history, even though they are nowhere near feature length. How about Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou? It’s a surrealist masterpiece, but the thing is only 16 minutes long. Then again, when audiences saw it back in 1929, they went to the theater to see it. It kills me, but I’m not ranking it on Flickchart.
I guess ultimately, like most of our idiosyncratic ranking decisions, it’s up to us. Rank what you want to rank. Don’t rank what you don’t want to rank. Flickchart’s role is merely to make all the choices available, and to accommodate any individual ranker’s interpretation of what constitutes a movie.
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.