Thursday, July 21, 2016

Igby Goes Down ... in my Flickchart rankings

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have expected to have perfect recall of the merits of a movie I watched secretively in the testing lab of my first IT job.

That's right, Igby Goes Down was one of at least three films -- along with The Powerpuff Girls Movie and One Hour Photo -- that I watched ripped digital versions of while passing the hours as a temp in my first IT job. I didn't know at the time that I was going to end up being a key member of that IT department, and was just trying to keep my head down -- while living on the irresponsibly reckless verge of being discovered by my boss, who had already reprimanded me once for minimizing my email when he'd walked up behind me.

But the layout of our floor meant that I'd have pretty good warning if he was going to be walking our way ... even though I had to have headphones plugged in to watch these movies. Fortunately, I was also around a corner.

Well, I didn't get caught, and thank goodness, because that boss would ultimately hire me away from that job to the one I held for nearly seven years after it.

I got back to Igby Goes Down for the first time since 2002 on Wednesday night. As I've already hinted, it really did not hold up well.

In fact, as it was going especially not-well in the first 25 minutes or so, I decided to check where exactly I had it ranked in my Flickchart, knowing it was pretty high.

Pretty high indeed: 392 out of 4314, good for the 91st percentile of my chart. Looking back on my rankings of films in 2002, I also see I ranked it 10th among all the films I saw in time for my deadline that year. Even 14 years later I still had it ranked on my Flickchart as the 11th best film I'd seen in 2002 -- and that's after adding a whole mess of other 2002 movies I hadn't seen at the time I did my rankings, two of which had ended up ahead of it.

Well, this could not stand.

So even though I don't usually re-rank a movie on Flickchart after re-watching it, I decided the risk of future misplacement was too great if I didn't bust Igby down to where he truly belonged.

And that ended up being ... 1616/4314. So from the 91st percentile all the way down to the 63rd.

So what did Igby do to go so far down in my estimation?

The better question may be to try to figure out what drew me to the movie in the first place.

I'd say in late 2002 I was probably still basking in the glow of one of my favorite movies of 2000, Wonder Boys, which I had occasion to write about on this blog just last month. Kieran Culkin likely struck me as a near-perfect stand-in for Tobey Maguire in that movie, and I remember making note of the acting chops I was surprised Macaulay's little brother had.

I now think of the movie as owing more to another movie from that time, Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, which I still haven't watched again since then -- though do still carry around a bias toward it. I have been meaning to give Tenenbaums another chance, because I think it's likely I was only disappointed in it by the lofty standards of a Wes Anderson movie, not in its own right. I feel pretty certain, for example, that Tenenbaums is better than Igby -- even though Tenenbaums still lies in the ghetto of my mid-2000s on Flickchart. So when I do finally get around to that, there could be another re-ranking in the offing.

The problem I had with The Royal Tenenbaums is one I now have with Igby, which is that it's so self-indulgent that it's almost insufferable. I suspect at the time I had not seen as many movies about excessively intellectual high school dropouts wearing scarves as I have today. In fact, I don't think I'd even read The Catcher in the Rye yet, which obviously served as an inspiration for Burr Steers in writing Igby, though I did read it within a year or two of that (for some reason it was never assigned at my high school). The Igby character now strikes me as a totally artificial construct representing someone's wish fulfillment about the type of character they imagined themselves being -- Steers, maybe. He speaks in what sound like thesis statements and he pals around with adults as intellectual peers and he sleeps with two different desirable women and he even gets beat up. He's just shy of being a noir hero in his own solipsistic story of angst and pretty suffering.

That the film still ranks comfortably in the top half of my chart means I certainly did not hate it. I still recognize the success of its basic craft and there are still some highly effective moments. Overall though, it was more broad than I remembered, and not nearly as distinctive. Then again, as I said before, that could be because the type of navel gazing it is is something that has since been done repeatedly and far worse, tainting what once may have seemed like a true original.

Igby Goes Down stands as a good reminder of the fact that our thoughts on films are not fixed -- an obvious statement, perhaps, but one worth testing by revisiting these one-time sacred cows whenever we get the chance. I am sure there are plenty of other movies I'm ranking excessively high on my Flickchart based only on dim memories. Off the top of my head, Matt Reeves' 1996 movie The Pallbearer -- which I liked way more than anyone else I've ever spoken to about it, and ranked ninth for that year -- is probably one of those.

One at a time, though. My ego can't take too many reminders of its own fallibility.

I'm probably like Igby in that way.

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