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 however, the film's reputation seemed well founded, but I found 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
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
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)
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
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 Perks of Being a Wallflower
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!