“What’s left to say?”
This simple question looms over every conversation we ever have. We fret over making sure our audience has all the necessary information and context(s) from which to reach the conclusions we’re hoping they find. As listener or reader, we search for the cues that tell us that it’s okay to begin processing and reacting. At some point, on either side of the discourse, we wonder whether it’s run its course and we’re now free to move on to other things.
Discussing film works just like any other topic. There’s an introductory phase, full of enthusiasm and epiphanies. You start off going crazy over Star Wars, and from there you’re making comparisons with The Empire Strikes Back. This leads you to Star Wars’s half-brother, Indiana Jones (co-created by George Lucas), and from there to the filmography of Steven Spielberg. Spielberg can lead you to any number of places, from Stanley Kubrick to David Lean. Each of these leads to more areas of cinema. One night, you’re watching Grand Illusion and you get excited thinking about how Captain Rittmeister von Rauffenstein is clearly an antecedent of Darth Vader but then you get sidetracked by the rousing, defiant performance of “La Marseillaise.” Now you can place Star Wars and Casablanca on the same cinematic family tree, and it dawns on you that Rick Blaine is clearly Indiana Jones’s father.
It doesn’t really matter the order in which you first see any of these movies. You could just as easily begin in Casablanca and wind up on Tatooine. This is the process by which we all come to film. We start with something that already has our attention and from there, we spider-web our way through the last century-plus of the medium. Our to-see lists grow with each interview we watch, each critic’s list we read, and each online forum discussion we follow.
Eventually, though, we become aware that someone wants to know: “What’s left to say?”
I encounter this as both a reader and writer of film-centric blog content. I often have a sense of déjà vu because, frankly, the canon of discussed films isn’t quite as large as one might think. Flickchart currently has somewhere around 35,000 films in its database, including short films, TV movies and direct-to-video sequels and prequels. If you only saw the top 3500 (10%), that would be sufficient to carry you through most casual movie discussions. It doesn’t help that Hollywood has historically struggled with originality; between endless sequels, remakes, and obvious imitators, there can often be a sense that if you’ve seen this, you needn’t bother seeing those.
Here’s a microcosm of how that works. Flickchart tells us that The Dark Knight is “The Best Movie of All-Time.” That makes Batman Begins semi-required viewing, and The Dark Knight Rises will be mandatory, but it also means that if you didn’t see any of the previous Batman movies, you’re free to skip them unless you happen to be into the character. Canon only has room for so many Batman movies after all, and the current trilogy has displaced its predecessors (also, its star power has rubbed off on Christopher Nolan’s filmography in general, as witness Inception currently being at #6 on the global chart). If the point of discussions, criticism, lists, and ranking is to offer viewers a guide of where to start, and what can wait, then it should be pretty obvious how one movie can overshadow several others while extending long coattails to other groups of movies.
I suppose that’s helpful, but as a blogger I still struggle with it. What is left to be said? By the time I might have seen enough movies to offer an authoritative argument for or against anything you might want to see, I’ll still be no better informed about new releases than you are. Worse, there’s always that sort of tunnel vision that accompanies any specialized, niche expertise. Being told how pedestrian my taste in film to date has been is a particular pet peeve of mine, and I’m particularly self-conscious about saying anything that might reek of that kind of snobbery whenever I do chime in about movies. If I’m not an authoritative expert, then, and I’m afraid of going too far down that knowledgeable rabbit hole anyway, then what is left to say?
This is only partly rhetorical, Dear Reader. I actually do have an answer to the question of why we keep talking about movies, despite the dearth of redundancy. No matter how many others have seen, felt, and articulated the same things about a given film, there’s something about having those personal connections ourselves that calls out for expression. Casablanca is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and it’s difficult to imagine anything truly original left to be found in discussions of that film. I went to a screening of the newly remastered digital presentation last month, though, and fell in love with it all over again. I suspect somewhere out there is someone else seeing it for the first time, and she needs to tell the world how it got under her skin. It’s a compulsion we have to share not our admittedly unoriginal insights, but our genuinely strong emotional reactions.
I continue to watch movies, looking for the ones that provoke me into prattling on, because I have to share how funny / terrifying / heartwarming / awesome something is. That’s why I blog about movies, and it’s why I read about them, too.
Still, now is as opportune a moment as any to ask: what topics do you feel are worthy of attention here on the Flickchart blog? Just try to suggest something that hasn’t already been covered.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Travis as TravisSMcClain 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.