I-MUST-CheckMovies Project Wrap-Up

If you've been reading This Week in Geek this year, you'll be aware that my 2015 resolution was to watch the 50 top films on iCheckMovies' most-checked/most-favorited list. (Yes, I know, you stopped smoking and I just did more of what I already do.) Now obviously, I had seen a lot of the top films on that list. The 50th on my list was, overall, 210th. Spread out over such a range, the list included all sorts of stuff from animated adventures to stupid comedies to foreign films to great classics. There was only one criteria that counted: These were films I'd never seen somehow. In some cases, I'd dismissed a film for whatever reason, having decided it didn't interest me. In a lot of other cases, I'd just never gotten to them, but planned to some day. There was even the occasional film I hadn't even heard of. But with number of checks and likes they'd accumulated on my favored film list service, these were movies everyone had watched and liked, and that I hadn't seen. So see them all, I did.

It took me 9 months to the day, and I promised myself I'd wrap things up with a "What have I learned?" column.

What I learned about other people - specifically iCheckMovies users (who must, for the most part, be movie lovers) - is that a lot of them probably have kids. There was a number of animated films on the list, and they proved to have content for adults as well, surely a boon to parents who are forced to watch their kids' favorite DVDs over and over. Other top lists (say, IMDB's) have a lot of "historical significant" films, and consequently a lot of older and foreign films. This list was more about popularity than worthiness, and so there were what I'd call aberrations. Even if everyone seems to agree that Casablanca be up there, you still had dreck like Anchorman and The Hangover. The site obviously has different types of users, and it's entirely possible to run up a lot of checks if you're, for example, strictly a genre fan who watches tons of B-movies. But since I'm only analyzing the 50 films I saw, and not the 160 I'd already seen, it's hard to get a grasp of the typical user.

What I learned about myself isn't any more tangible. In most cases, I liked the films I thought I'd like, and disliked those I knew I'd dislike. I've always prized myself for having good movie radar. I've skipped on a lot of movies in my lifetime, with the innate certainty that they wouldn't measure up to my standards. The pleasant surprises and less pleasant disappointments are thus more interesting. For the most part, the former were films I simply knew nothing about. Radar intact. In a few cases, I'd let an impression, usually aggregated on the Internet or through conversations, dictate my disinterest - Mulholland Dr. isn't as weird or opaque as some made it out to be, and It's a Wonderful Life isn't just a simple Christmas Carol derivative, for example. Over in the disappointing column, there are some movies I knew nothing about and I would come to disagree strongly with their standing on the list. In most cases, the film's reputation seemed well founded, but I found the them severely flawed or perhaps couldn't find their relevance to me today (a bit like rewatching a classic from one's childhood and finding out you'd made up all the good parts and erased the bad ones).

Here's how I think I'd categorize the films in my list:

Knew I'd like it
The Graduate (probably my favorite of all 50)
My Neighbor Totoro
Full Metal Jacket
Rear Window
The Godfather (my father's favorite film, I'd skipped it all these years out of spite/daddy issues, and while I don't love it, I do respect it)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Howl's Moving Castle
How to Train Your Dragon
North by Northwest
Toy Story 3
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Pan's Labyrinth
Requiem for a Dream

Knew I'd dislike (or hate) it
Superbad (and this is the dumb comedy I had the most faith in)
The Hangover (the absolute worst of the 50, remedial in every way)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (nice direction, but still)
Schindler's List (my philosophical issues with it only grew with the watching of it)

Pleasant surprises
Tangled (I'd pretty much accepted that all the CG animation films on the list would be pleasant, but this is the only one I'd consider rewatching within a year)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (obviously, I had to watch all 8 Potter films to get here, and the series really takes a turn for the better in the second half, which is why the last two films figure in this category)
Some Like It Hot
Let the Right One In
Love, Actually (originally judged by its title, so I didn't know what to expect)
It's a Wonderful Life
Mulholland Dr.
City of God
The Lives of Others

WALL-E (for both these animated flicks, the openers are wonderful, and then the movies devolve into childish shenanigans)
The Godfather Part II (Part I gave me hope, Part II has no business being regarded so highly)
Million Dollar Baby
Gran Torino (both Clint Eastwood pictures on my list had huge problems)
Shutter Island (stupid twist, and it started out so well)
Into the Wild (I think, overall, this is the drama I hated the most)
Raging Bull (pretty great, hate to put it here, but the last 15 minutes snuffed out my soul)

Ambivalence, thou art mine
The Prestige
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sweeney Todd
Big Fish

I couldn't place these last few in any category because I didn't care enough about them to. Call them disappointments, if you want. They failed, after all, to elicit any enthusiasm from me. In most cases, I'd call them okay. Chinatown is clearly better than that, but it still left me cold and thinking "what's the big deal?".

I'm not going to continue with this list beyond #50 - I've been asked if I would - because at this point, it changes too often. Movies move up and down all the time. And the results are less definitive too. I'll wind up getting more Hangovers than Casablancas, probably. Anyway, it's October, and I've got to watch tons of horror films. It's a Halloween tradition! But if you're thinking about tackling a similar project, I encourage you to do so. The top checked/favorited list has a lot more variety in terms of genre and era than an IMDB top list, which can be fairly academic at times. I know people who've attempted it and had a hard time getting through it because every other film was either subtitled or from before 1960 (or both), not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. But sometimes you need something lighter to mix with the heavier fare. Let us know if you've ever done something like this or if you ever plan to!

And hey! Now I get all your Harry Potter references!


Toby'c said...

My favourites from that list (all 10/10 on IMDb)
Toy Story 3
The Prestige
How to Train Your Dragon
Pan's Labyrinth
Love Actually
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

My least favoutie is Anchorman (with an admittedly pretty generous 7/10).

The only ones I haven't seen are Big Fish (which I have rented), Kickass (which I own), Superbad and Sweeney Todd.

There's a few others in there that I have on a large pile, which I intend to re-evaluate for 10/10 status: Casablanca, Vertigo, Rear Window and Some Like it Hot. All chosen because of their current placement on or near the IMDb Top 100. (http://www.imdb.com/search/title?lists=ls056227800,ls051624782,!ls079118777,!ls004611035&num_votes=25000,&title_type=feature&user_rating=8.3,)

Speaking of which, I've been trying to complete the IMDb top lists for the last year and a half, and I've cleared the Top 100 a few times (I'm expecting The Martian to be in there by the time it gets to my town), but there's a couple of Top 250 titles I haven't been able to find anywhere in the state (and I have access to a LOT of libraries). Plus a couple that I own but haven't found time to watch because of how many DVDs I have rented at any given time.

"And hey! Now I get all your Harry Potter references!"
Not really. There's a lot of jokes I could make from Peeves the Poltergeist, though I'm struggling to think of one that wouldn't feel really forced right now.

Siskoid said...

Well, there's knowing what a TARDIS is and then there's getting my highly humorous I assure you riff on Vaughn and Packer hahaha! If you know what I mean.

And that's what I meant about Top IMDB lists being problematic. Some of the stuff just isn't that accessible, even if you want to - GASP - get pirated copies, especially with subtitles required. I've known people who've completed the top list by sitting through subtitle-less films in languages they didn't understand just so they could check movies off. I'm not sure that should count! I was actually fairly lucky to have taken a couple of film history courses where they showed historically important films in their entirety instead of piecemeal. I just can't count The Bicycle Thief because it had been a long day and I slept through most of it. Alas.

Toby'c said...

Actually, I haven't had that much trouble finding subtitled movies locally, thanks to Madman and Umbrella Entertainment. Indeed, the one that's giving me the most trouble is an American movie from 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives.


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