Friday, January 31, 2014

Let's get it right, people

You might have noticed a change in the right column of this blog.

Actually, of course you didn't, because the thing that changed is so ridiculous that no one but me would notice it. Because, for one thing, it's in a part of the blog I abandoned long ago.

What it is is: A change has occurred in my top 20 films on Flickchart.

Only because I forced it to, though, really.

I wouldn't blame you if you stopped looking at that top 20 list long ago. Not only has it not changed in something like two years, maybe longer, but the bigger problem is this:

It's not really reflective of what I think my top 20 should look like. Not entirely, anyway.

It may be fitting that the film that dropped a notch on the list is the one that would probably earn me the most flak: Ghost. Clearly, I love Ghost and think it's a movie worth defending, but my 13th favorite movie of all time? That may be a stretch.

Well, now it's #14, thanks to Donnie Darko beating it.

I'll tell you what happened, but first I've got to tell you a little bit about Flickchart, if you don't know.

Flickchart ( is a social media movie website that allows you to rank films against each other with the aim of comprising a list of your favorite films of all time. Actually, you don't just get your favorite films -- you get your favorite all the way down to your least favorite. That's what I've been doing in my year-end movie ranking lists since the mid-1990s, so it was no surprise I was drawn to the format. How do you do it? You engage in a limitless set of duels between a pair of movies, simply deciding which one you like better. Flickchart tabulates it and gives you a list of your movies from your favorite to your least favorite, which gets more accurate the more duels you complete. Every time one lower movie beats a higher movie, it jumps up to that spot and pushes the loser of the duel down one spot. In about six months I'll have been using the site for five years.

The problem is, when I reloaded my rankings from scratch a couple years ago, to get a more accurate list than the one I had at that time, the results of that reload seemed sacrosanct to me. After that I wanted only to duel films in the Your Movies -> Your Whole Chart filter, so my #2 movie of all time might just as likely come up against my #3 movie as my #2875 movie.

This, however, is not a productive way to get any movement. If I wanted to shake up the top 20 that came out of that reload project -- a top 20 that was a product of how I was feeling about those movies at that moment -- I'd have to wait not only until two movies in my top 20 came up against each other, but until they were the right two movies to have a lower one defeat a higher one, and therefore take its place. It might take forever.

But my rigid, pure sense that I needed to rank only in the Your Movies -> Your Whole Chart filter, so that any moving of films on my list would be completely organic and not engineered by me, was holding me back. It was permitting me to continue assigning artificial holiness to a group of 20 films that may not really represent me, the movie fan I am right now, in 2014.

So I'm changing the filter.

Now as I rank, I'm ranking in gradually more specific filters until I get all the way to that hallowed top 20. First I rank in the Top 3000 filter. When I get a change there, then I rank the Top 2000 filter. Change there, then it's Top 1000. Change there, then it's Top 500. And so on through 250, 100, 50 and finally top 20.

Now, movies like Ghost will have to prove they truly belong by beating some hungry competition.

Having a list of wrong movies up there only because I'm structured and uptight about the purity of my lists is really not serving anyone. Plus it's telling people that only one of my top 20 films of all time was made before 1975, and that's just not the case. (At least I hope it isn't. It's what I aim to find out as I continue forward.)

So ingrained am I in my ways, though, that I was sure ranking in the Top 20 filter would yield no changes. When you're so familiar with what goes where, it can be hard to conduct a duel based solely on the quality of the films. You know what's currently ranked higher, and you know you can maintain the status quo just by clicking that movie to win.

What's different now, though, is that I'm sick of the status quo.

And lo and behold, after about ten duels without a change, Donnie Darko came up against Ghost. And I said "By golly, Ghost does not deserve to be one spot higher than Donnie Darko." (The duel screen doesn't show you current rankings, but I knew them by heart.) Now, it no longer is.

Is my goal to keep pushing Ghost downward until its out of my top 20? It's hard to say. It's hard to say what my intentions are, in fact, except to force myself to revisit these decisions I made a couple years ago, and decide if I'd make them the same way again today.

And there will be the opportunity for other movies to jump into that top 20, as well, which is probably the most exciting part. Not while I'm dueling in the Top 20 filter, mind you, because all those duels are between films that are already in my top 20. But when I'm dueling my top 50 or my top 100, a film in the top 20 could easily come up against a lower film that's gunning for it mightily. It'll be up to that top 20 movie to prove it really deserves to occupy such rarified territory on my list.

All I can do is try to get it right, people. So I say, let's do just that.

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