Sometimes I see a movie that I don’t really feel that inspired to write about (usually because I liked it well enough but didn’t feel too strongly about it), but this year I want to make a conscious effort to write more for the blog and I also have been wanting to incorporate Flickchart more into my posting somehow. Flickchart is a website for ranking movies: it gives you two movies and you choose which one is better (or which one you like more – the best vs. favorite discussion is an old standby among die-hard Flickcharters and one I won’t get into just here except to say that I personally rank on Flickchart according to what I like/enjoy the most, not according to what I think is the best). Over time and many rankings, it builds a list of your favorite movies based on your rankings. One thing I really like about Flickchart is how it presents you with two films that you never would’ve thought of in the same context at all and forces you to really think about them in relation to each other. I don’t really believe anymore in the value of the minute rankings it ends up with, but as a macrocosm of taste and as a method of thinking about films in a context you otherwise wouldn’t, it has worth.
With due props to my friend Travis McClain who has pitched this format and uses it sometimes for his own reviews, I’m going to try this series charting how a newly-watched movie enters my Flickchart. When you add a movie to Flickchart manually, it goes up against a series of films strategically spread throughout your chart. For example, in the first ranking, it will go against the film in the very middle of your chart. If the new film wins, it will go against the film equidistant between the top and the middle. It continues like this until it finds its correct spot in your list. In my case “correct” is kind of a general term, because my chart is kind of messy once you get below about 500. But the point of this approach in this series is to compare the new film with the existing films as I go along, which will hopefully give me something to write about those films that I don’t have too much to say about.
First up – Tim Burton’s 1996 alien invasion parody Mars Attacks!
In this spoof on low-budget science fiction films of the 1950s, especially Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (from which the Martian spaceships are directly lifted), spaceships clutter the sky over Earth. The US President (Jack Nicholson) attempts several diplomatic meetings, each one agreed to by the Martians, who then proceed to blow everything to hell. Eventually the situation devolves into all-out zany war.
When we watched this, I thought it was the last film standing between me and seeing all of Tim Burton’s feature filmography. But I forgot about Dark Shadows. So I’m still one dubious film away from adding Burton to my 100% Club. I enjoyed Mars Attacks!, mainly for the anarchic glee the Martians seem to take in shooting everything up. You’d think after the first time, the humans would’ve realized that the Martians couldn’t be taken at their word to honor diplomatic procedure, but nope. I also enjoyed seeing pretty much every actor in Hollywood cameo in this thing – it’s really ridiculous, and I didn’t know most of them were going to be in it when we started. I should point out that I also have a lot of fun with the kind of bad sci-fi this film is sending up, including an un-ironic love for Plan 9.
How It Entered My Flickchart
Mars Attacks! vs Branded to Kill
The first matchup is the most important – it determines whether a film will move its way up in the top half of the chart or drop into the obscurity of the bottom half. That said, moving into the bottom half of my chart isn’t that bad a deal, because I watch far more films that I like than that I don’t like, so the middle of the chart isn’t really the tipping point between liking and disliking for me. Branded to Kill is a Japanese New Wave film by Seijun Suzuki, one of three Suzuki films I’ve seen and definitely the weirdest so far. It’s like a cross between a gangster film and Un chien andalou. I don’t get it, but I do like it, and it gets a lot of style points, which help it beat Mars Attacks! Mars Attacks! is a lot of goofy fun and it’s more narratively comprehensible, but I can’t pass up the evocative style of Branded to Kill.
Branded to Kill wins, and Mars Attacks! gets an initial ranking of #2951 (out of 3375).