Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The regrets of ranking early

There's been a lot of 2015 talk in my various film circles about What We Do in the Shadows and how good it is.

Unfortunately, I saw the movie in 2014, so I've been left out of that talk.

Oh, I can still talk about my affection for it. I just can't boost it 20 spots on my real-time rankings as a result of all this reinforcement of its greatness, because I'm not ranking it in real time. I already closed off my 2014 rankings back in January, where What We Do in the Shadows ended at a fairly pedestrian #41 for the year (out of 136).

That's not only the top half, it's the top third. So that's no slouch of a ranking. But if I'd already seen the film twice by my ranking deadline -- my second viewing didn't come until March 20th -- and if I'd already been privy to all the buzz from my (largely American) film circles who were only getting to see it for the first time this year, I would have found a way to get it those 20 spots higher.

The latest reminder of my regret is just now, seeing it as this week's 99 cent rental on iTunes. I have resisted (so far) making that purchase for my third viewing, but it also means I may be hearing more about the movie this week as others use this as their excuse to see Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's mockumentary masterpiece, which is better than all but maybe one of the mockumentaries Christopher Guest directed. (Waiting for Guffman.) And earlier this week one guy posted in my Flickcharters group with a picture of his copy of the movie, saying it was the only movie that had come out so far in 2015 that was worth owning.

But it didn't come out in 2015. Not in Australia, anyway. It came out in 2014, and I saw it on the plane back from the U.S. in November. So even its DVD release was in 2014. I had to rank it last year -- or so I thought at the time.

But I couldn't have anticipated how warmly it would be received upon its eventual U.S. release, and how all the warm feelings about this movie would have bumped it higher and higher in my mind. And indeed they have. (That second viewing, not on an airplane, didn't hurt either.) In fact, I think I wrongly assumed that the movie might have somehow gotten "missed" in the U.S., since I figured a movie featuring American crossover Jemaine Clement would have gotten a same-year release or none at all. Last year was possibly the only relevant year in which to rank it.

I can't seem to figure out how to be in the right year. Usually my complaint is that half the Oscar contenders don't release here until after my ranking deadline, so I'm essentially a year late on them. (I still haven't seen The Wolf of Wall Street or Inherent Vice, because they became less of a priority once they missed my ranking deadline.) Now, instead of missing the boat, I got there before it even sailed into the harbor.

Of course, any year's rankings are necessarily subject to rapid ossification. They are a reflection of how I felt at that exact time, and they fail to anticipate which films will stay with me, which films will greatly improve on a second viewing, and which films will greatly drop. In the cold light of mid 2015, it's easy to see the films I now would have ranked below What We Do in the Shadows -- sometimes as a result of the second viewings of those films. For example:

11. The Interview (big drop on second viewing)
16. Foxcatcher
19. Begin Again
23. Locke
34. Tusk
35. Joe
37. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

(Wait wait wait ... I had the fifth Paranormal Activity movie ABOVE What We Do in the Shadows???)

But those are just some examples, and it doesn't mean they're bad movies. It just means that in mid 2015, What We Do means more to me, and would have likely beaten them as well as some others.

So I guess this post is my mea culpa. And what I can do -- in the shadows or otherwise -- is just keep moving it up on my Flickchart as it wins duels against movies I now realize are lesser. When all is said and done, on my deathbed, assuming I still care about ranking movies this way, Flickchart is going to be the be-all and end-all commentary on my movie tastes, the grand aggregation of everything I thought about the movies I saw.

And I assume What We Do in the Shadows will still make the elderly version of me guffaw.

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