By Steve Greene | Indiewire March 9, 2012 at 11:37AM
Movie Lovers We Love looks at the best in entrepreneurial, impassioned and otherwise cool cinephiles and what they create -- the websites, theaters, film programs and ideas we hadn't even begun to consider. If this sounds like you or someone you know, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Ice Age" or "Hangover"? Two movies, one choice. The only thing to do is pick.
That’s the driving force behind Flickchart, a film website launched by Nathan Chase and Jeremy Thompson in late 2009. “The whole premise behind the site is that you’re having to make this hard choice between two movies and that’s your only point of focus for the moment. You have to think with some depth and really compare them," said Thompson, the programming half of the site's central parternership. "When you put one ahead of the other one, you have to suffer the pain that comes with saying, ‘This movie just isn’t as good.’”
Flickchart's main feature is its ranking system. In order to help build a user's comprehensive, itemized list of their favorite films, the site presents a series of movie posters, positioned side by side. (If someone isn't familiar with one or both films, there is a third option: "Haven't Seen It.")
When a user picks one film over the other, that choice is combined with all previous rankings, generating a personalized list. With Thompson handling the coding and Chase designing the interface, Flickchart has maintained the same premise since its inception. The site now boasts a community of 125,000 users who have, in the site's three-year history, chosen between two films 164 million times.
In that time, their database of rankable films has also ballooned to a whopping 35,000 films, in order to accommodate various requests in the over 250 genres that the site has collected and developed. But those movies don't put themselves into the database. Along with Chase and Thompson, a dedicated group of about 20 contributors donate their time doing a majority of the data refinement and other users help keep content fresh on the site’s blog.
So when Chase, Thompson and their small legion of data refiners look to add something to the database, what constitutes a flick? For some, the idea of a Lifetime movie being considered alongside “The 400 Blows” might be sacrilegious, but the guys argue that those kinds of comparisons are what the site is all about. You won’t find adult titles or television shows, but aside from that, there’s a wealth of ranking to be done, specialized or not.
Users can select different filters to rank films from a certain genre, actor, studio or franchise, but if left unfiltered, anything can pop up at any moment. “The users tell us what we’re missing. Honestly, we have a lot of deep, built-in data that a lot of other sites don’t, in terms of the genres and franchises and studios. Even a lot of the poster art that we have is unique and exclusive to our site.”
One thing that the two have been adamant about from the beginning is that the ratings do all the work. Want “Memento” in your Top 20? Then let the algorithm do its magic.
They’ve discovered that not everyone is a fan of ranking. “One guy said, ‘I don’t believe in the concept of gladiatorial combat between works of art.’ But it could just be the one I enjoy more and I got more out of it.” The two would hold up the Flickchart ranking system against any star- or letter-based grading system. Essentially, everyone has their own benchmark films that stand, what Thompson calls “pitting a film against the ideal.”
For others, though, the site is a way of life. “We’ve gotten some top rankers who have ranked over 300,000 times individually. Everyone who posts a tweet uses the word ‘addiction’ in there somewhere,” Chase said, adding that over 10% of all visitors stay on the site for over an hour. That means that there might be a growing list of students and workers who have spent time ranking during work or school. (It’s a list that includes this humble writer. I apologize, Professor Thies. When I discovered they had "Rudolph" and all the other Rankin-Bass Christmas specials available to rank, there was no looking back.)
“I haven’t heard any stories of anyone willing to own up to getting fired for it, but it’s present in tweets and comments where people say, ‘I’m at work. Probably shouldn’t be Flickcharting right now,’” Thompson said.
Even though their site has achieved gerund status, the two have added more features to the site, particularly on the social networking side. The "Haven't Seen It" option is handy in helping users keep track of the films on their To-Watch List. Two or more users can use the combination of their list of unwatched titles to build out a shared Netflix Queue or plan a viewing party.
Because more viewing means more ranking.
We asked the men who started it all for their personal lists and some film matchups on the site that they've found especially fascinating.
Nathan's Top 5:
Jeremy's Top 5:
Some of the most intriguing, unexpected, disparate clashes in the Matchup Section:
On the go? A Flickchart app will soon be available in the App Store. In the meantime, the site can be used on mobile devices here.