Thursday, November 23, 2017

On Memory

I've kept track of every movie I've watched since 2004 on an Excel spreadsheet, and have regularly backed up my records in Icheckedmovies. This has helped me out in a pinch more than once, as I've come to discover that I simply don't have very good recall of individual titles past a certain point in time. Or below a certain threshold of memorability. One of the little issues with being a movie junkie who watches hundreds of films yearly, is that some of those films inevitably fall through the cracks.

For example, I was reading an article a few weeks ago that brought up "Fair Game," the Valerie Plame movie starring Naomi Watts that came out in 2010. I didn't recognize the title and figured it was one that I'd missed. However, according to my records I had seen it in 2011. And after probing a little deeper, I did remember the film. It was a dull little piece of Oscar bait that hadn't grabbed much attention at the time it was released, and even less subsequently. I watch a lot of films like that, looking for undervalued or misunderstood titles to champion. 90% of the time, of course, they're disappointments.

I've been increasingly relying on Icheckedmovies when writing my Great Directors posts these days, because I'm often writing entries for directors like Sidney Lumet or Francis Ford Coppola, where I've seen lots of their work, but not always at the point in time where I knew it was their work. For instance, I completely forgot that Lumet directed "The Verdict" with Paul Newman, which I watched for a class ages ago. Or that I'd seen a film of his called "Family Business," with Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman. When I was just eyeballing Lumet's list of credits to see if I'd watched enough of his films for a post, I completely skipped "Family Business." I remembered the film, but not the title. Since then, I've always double checked against my records.

The one place I've been running into some trouble is with my Top Ten lists for older years, especially as I've been working my way back into the '80s. Anything I watched before 2004, I have to rely on the Icheckedmovies records, and I've noticed in several cases that certain movie entries aren't tagged or searchable by release dates, or there are double entries thanks to multiple versions. That means I've had trouble getting an accurate count on certain years where I haven't met my fifty film threshold for writing a list. I've resorted to using Wikipedia's movie lists to cross reference against my records, often counting title by title. To date, I'm still not sure exactly how many of the "Pink Panther" movies I've seen. At least four.

I've been thinking about this more since I accidentally lost a chunk of my Excel records recently, and had to spend a few days recreating them. The single document has nearly four thousand entries now, and I desperately need to revise it. I've now backed up extra copies, and started mulling over whether I should start looking for a backup for Icheckmovies. The site isn't nearly as popular as some of the other movie-oriented data wrangling sites, and I'm a little paranoid that one day it's just going to disappear. Then again, I still have the massive, elaborate lists of all the anime I was obsessively watching pre-2004 sitting on my hard drive. If I ever want to pick up "One Piece" again, I'll know right where I left off.

I've written before about my worries about movies I've forgotten, but at least I'm ensuring that I'll be able to check and make sure I don't forget what I've forgotten. That's one of the reasons that I've kept this blog too, to leave another record of what I was watching and enjoying at particular points in time, and what I thought of what was going on in the industry. I already enjoy going back and reading my older entries, refreshing my memory of the early part of this decade. The older I get, the faster it feels like time passes.

But there are still so many good movies left to see. I feel like I've barely gotten started.

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