The Hotel Rwanda Effect

Apparently Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters disappeared from the list on iCheckMovies for 1980s, my bronze medal in that category disappearing with it (yet my dignity remains!).  To rectify things, I need to watch another movie from the 1980s list.  I’m thinking Fanny and Alexander (kids in Sweden and their imaginations) or Fitzcarraldo (love me some Werner Herzog).  I’m not ashamed to admit that Das Boot and its 293 minutes is way more time than I’m willing to put into a film at this point in my life.  I have trouble sitting down to watch war movies, especially ones about Germans and/or submarines.  To people who have braved Das Boot, I ask you, was it worth it?  Did you enjoy it?  Would you do it again?  More importantly, would you recommend that I do it?  I can’t wait for your answers, so for now I’ll just have to go ahead with Fanny and Alexander.  But someday, I will have to make time for Das Boot.  It’s on 14 lists, after all.

I call this “the Hotel Rwanda effect.”  A few years ago, during the reign of Hotel Rwanda, Slate had a piece on the movies Netflix users keep the longest.  By and large, the list is dominated by uber-depressing movies that everyone feels obligated to see because they are “great” films.  But when it comes down to gouging precious hours out of your lovely Sunday afternoon to watch a film about genocide?  Not a chance!  I see two things here:  one, we are an ambitious people, and two, we love movies for the escape.  A well done film can be about anything as long as it has two out of three of the following: an engaging story, stellar acting, and cinematography that doesn’t hurt my eyes.  Overwhelmingly, we love movies for the fantasy and wish fulfillment.  Happy endings and dramatic resolutions.  Please, don’t keep me mired in reality.  If I loved reality so much, I wouldn’t be here at the cinema, paying you $12 to sit in this dark room with strangers so I can eat popcorn that cost 900% more than what it costs to make at home.  Really, the last movie I’d want to watch right now would be about a lackadaisical secretary who blogs on Friday nights and whose most invigorating moment of the week involves a renewed dedication to flossing.  [Note to self:  get a better plot line for your life]

My secret shame

Today is a milestone!  I checked my 1,000th movie on iCheckMovies.  Like most big things in life, it crept up on me.  No doubt, I would have liked to make this a special thing.  I would have liked to select in advance a film to watch, a memorable film of unquestionable artistic merit.  I’d watch it thoughtfully, considering its importance in my personal film history as the 1,000th film checked.  Then afterwards, I’d sashay over to my laptop to ceremoniously click the 1,000th check box.  It would have been nice.  But instead, one instant I was mindlessly browsing lists, and then — BAM!  I impulsively clicked on a film I’d seen before and the little ticker next to my name went to (1000).  No angels appeared with trumpets, Ricky Gervais delivered no monologues.  So, after two years and 1,000 checks, here’s to you, Wayne’s World!  You are a true classic, and perhaps sadly, one of the movies I remember most vividly from my childhood, long before I knew the true meaning of “Schwing!”

As you may have gathered, I take an unhealthy pleasure in cataloguing films I’ve seen on iCheckMovies.    Prior to this lovely website, I maintained a spreadsheet to keep track of the movies I’d seen.  I started doing it because I didn’t want to forget titles from a Russian film class in college, and I maintained it because, well, I liked it.   It was my secret shame until 2009, when three Dutch guys created iCheckMovies exactly for people like me.  Now this obsessive, nerdy hobby can also be somewhat social, deliciously fun, and most importantly, competitive.  You can see how the films you’ve seen stack up against “best of” lists from all over the world, and see where you rank among your fellow users.  Today, I am number 2,394 and have 37 awards.  I’ve ranked as high as in the 1,400s, but slipped as the site gained users and my dedication to film-going waned (I blame grad school and drinking, not exactly in that order).  Today I’ve decided to get back to watching movies and to chart my progress on this here blog, not so I can lord over anyone my success in checking boxes (and seriously, would anyone care but me?  anyone at all?  nope, didn’t think so!), but so I can celebrate the experience.

May 2012 be a year of many movies!