Saturday, February 18, 2012

Letterboxd Puts Film Obsession in Order


A little over a week ago I signed up for Letterboxd and it ignited a former passion that I had long forgotten. If you have not yet experienced Letterboxd let me provide a brief synopsis. Currently in its beta version, Letterboxd is a site that allows you track the films that you and your friends have recently watched. Think of a film centric version of Facebook without the annoying apps or the mundane status updates. Besides logging what you have recently viewed, the site allows you to write mini reviews, create film centric lists, comment on what others have scene, etc.

Now you are probably thinking “why would you sign up for something like that if you already have a film blog?” Well the answer is two-fold. The most obvious reason is that I do not write about every film I see on this site. While I know many bloggers are now keeping track on their blogs of what they watched during the week and/or month, I have never been that organized. Heck, even when I am listing a few films I have seen on other people’s sites I always end up forgetting a film or two. So having Letterboxd is rather nice, since you can log a movie with a simple click of a button.

While the simplicity of the site is nice, the main reason I signed up for Letterboxd is to keep track of all the films I have seen over the span of my life. It is this feature that has enticed me the most. From a young age I have always been interested in documenting my own personal film history. When I was much younger I use to have binders full of film reviews cut out from the Friday edition of the Toronto Star newspaper. I not only loved to read about the latest films, but I would often go back to those binders after seeing a film to see if my thoughts matched up with film critics like Peter Howell, Geoff Pevere and many others. Although I was underage at the time, I use to wait until a lot of the R-rated films or foreign titles hit The Movie Network. Though it seems silly looking back on it, those binders served as a nice log for many of the films I saw during that period.


As I got older I gave up the paper clippings, as frequently ink-stained hands became a bit of a nuisance, and turned my attention to the DVD Aficionado website. That not only allowed me to keep track of the DVDs I owned, but some of the movies I had seen as well. The problem with that site was that I did not find it to be user friendly. Plus, all the various DVD formats and covers made it time consuming to locate the exact copy of the film I had. It has been well over a decade since I last thought about trying to attempt any type of film log on such a large scale. This, of course, has changed in the last week or so.

When I told my wife about my plan to use Letterboxd to figure out how many films I have seen in my life, or at least a ballpark estimate, her first response was “you’re crazy!” She is probably right as I am fully aware that my quest is doomed from the start since I have already come across at least thirty films not currently listed on Letterboxd. Still it is a venture I plan to attempt nonetheless. Despite some limitations in regards to certain titles, I am actually surprised by the amount of films that are included on the site. I have been able to find obscure foreign films that I have seen at festivals which very few people I know have seen. The best thing of all is that the site even has many of the B-movie level action film, including the ones starring a pre-Tae Bo Billy Blanks, that I use to spend my Saturday nights watching when I was a kid.


There is no prize for seeing the most films, or even the best quality of films, as everyone’s film taste is vastly different. My quest is not even about having bragging rights over my friends as I know there is no way I could top friends already on the site. This is purely something that I have thought about doing for a long time and never had the proper means to do so. I know that one day, when my son grows up, he will probably ask me “how many films do you think you have seen in your life?”, and I would love to have an answer besides the generic “I’ve seen too many to count.” I am sure it will take a few years before I really have a good gauge on the number of films I have seen, but I am in no rush by any means. This is something that I am more than happy to work on in my spare time here and there.

Once again, I know that it might be impossible to truly capture ever single film I have seen on the site. Plus it is tough to remember some of the more forgettable titles that you have endured. However, there is something inherently exciting about finally having a place where I can truly track the films I have seen in a simple format. I would be perfectly happy with a rough estimate. Now if you will excuse me, I just remembered two more films I need to log.

24 comments:

  1. Cool post. I really want to get on this site and check it out, but I believe it requires an invite. Do you know the easiest way to get access to the current version? Thanks!

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  2. Sounds awesome, just heard about this the other day. I'm guessing they are going to open it to all soon?

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  3. Great post. Another site that allows you to keep track of movies seen in your lifetime is Filmbuffet.com. No invite required.

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  4. @Dan - All you need to do is provide your email address on the "golden ticket" and an invite will be sent to you. It took me about a week before I received mine.

    @Pete - I believe the full version should be released soon. They are still working out a few issues, but the site looks great so far.

    @Filmbuffet - It is good to see all these competing sites popping up. It gives us film lovers plenty to choose from.

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  5. Phips2:46 pm

    Im gonna check this out for sure.


    dont know where to post this, but have you seen Take Shelter yet? Im interested to hear your thoughts..I couldnt find a review of it on this blog.

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  6. This does sound awesome. I hope it doesn't turn into another Facebook. I deleted my account 2 years ago. I'm a failure when it comes to social networking.

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  7. It's good fun.

    The folks over at Letterbox supplied me with invites to hand out to people.

    I have about 3 left for those who are interested (Dan Heaton)

    Message me on twitter @SamFragoso

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  8. Oh wow. This sounds like a really cool site. I might give it a shot.

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  9. I signed up about a week ago but haven't used it much. Maybe I'm missing the point... I'll try to invest a bit more effort than I have in the days to come.

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  10. It does sound fun. Like the Facebook to gomiso or getglue's twitter?

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  11. @Phips – I usually try and ensure that the film review page is up to date with all our reviews. Having said that, I have not seen Take Shelter yet but I hope to get to it in the next week or so now that it is on DVD. I will definitely share my thoughts on it, as I have been looking forward to seeing it for a while.

    @thevoid – I am not that active on Facebook that much either. As long as Letterboxd keeps the games aspect off the site, and status updates for that matter, I can see it lasting for quite some time.

    @Sam – That is very nice of you. I had not even thought about contacting the organizers to get a few guest invites.

    @Dave – It is worth checking out at least. See if it meets your particular needs.

    @edgar – I think everyone will use the site differently. I find it effective in documenting my cinema history, whereas others may only log in every once and a while. There is really no right or wrong way to go about it.

    @Dan – The funny thing is, I never got people’s fascination with getglue but I am enjoying Letterboxd. Weird, I know.

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  12. I really enjo Letterboxd too and I agree with you that they are doing well with their database stuff. I kind of wished for more integration with twitter etc. However, I assume that might be the case when they release the final version.

    Other than Letterboxd I use Get Glue quite often. Mostly because its twitter connection.

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  13. It is a pretty cool site! Hopefully one day I'll get around to logging all of the films I've seen (which are all on IMDb anyway, but it looks cooler on Letterboxd). Problem is, I get really OCD about the dates that they are logged on! Oh well, it is really fun!

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  14. You sure do make it sound interesting, but I'm so lazy and antsy about signing up for yet another quasi-social network. (Your story about the binders bring back memories.)

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  15. Phips2:55 pm

    so can anyone who signs up for it by submitting their email on the golden ticket get a beta code? or is it selective?

    im eager to try this.

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  16. This sounds exactly like the Friends feature that Netflix, for reasons unknown, removed about 2 years ago.

    Since you could already rate films on Netflix, you could allow your Friends with Netflix accounts to see what you were rating, leave comments for them, make lists, etc. You could also block some ratings from showing up in case you didn't want someone to know you had seen it (i.e. Swedish Stewardesses 4).

    I still use Netflix to track what films I have seen, although it is also limited in that it doesn't list many films that have never been released on DVD.

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  17. @Joel - I noticed that there is a twitter connection on the site but am not sure how efficient it is yet.

    @Stevee - The layout is one of the things caught my attention right away.

    @Andrew - I saw a lot of good, and some really bad, films because of those binders. LOL

    @Phips - As far as I know anyone can sign up to receive a beta code. You just have to wait for them to process your request.

    @Chip Lary - My only experience with Netflix is the current Canadian version. So I cannot really speak to the Friends feature.

    How do you keep track of films you have seen through Netflix when certain films expire? Is there a permanent log feature on the American version of Netflix?

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  18. @CS - I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "when the films expire", but I'm going to guess that you are referring to Instant Viewing and the fact that some films stop being available that way.

    Since I started out on Netflix when it was DVDs only, I got used to using the site via my computer and among the website features is one where you can rate films (just like you can rate a film via your TV after you've watched it Instantly). The big difference is that you can rate anything that Netflix has ever offered on DVD, which is over 50,000 movies.

    Again, assuming you are referring to Instant Viewing and not DVDs, you can still use the website via your computer. When you get there, click the "Suggestions for you" tab. When that comes up, it will show you the total number of films you have rated. (The suggestions are based on what you've rated highly). You should also see a sub-tab titled "What You've Rated". Click on that and you see ever single film you've ever given a rating to on Netflix, no matter how far back.

    As I mentioned, it is still limited. For instance, I went to rate all the movies I own on DVD and I found 2 or 3 that Netflix didn't even list. Apparently I had bought them early in the history of DVDs and they had gone out of print before Netflix got up and running. The end result was that I have been unable to rate those on Netflix, so it is still not perfect.

    Now for a complete list, there's IMDB, where you can also rate movies. I've never done it, though. I actually started doing it on Netflix for the suggestions (the more you rate, the closer the suggestions get to being accurate for you), but then I got interested in using it to track how many films I had seen. I ended up just going through their lists of movies, genre by genre, mousing over them to see the quick description if I was unsure exactly which film this was, and then clicking on the 1 to 5 stars to rate it. I probably did my first thousand ratings in a couple hours. As I got to more obscure movies, though, it took longer. I still every now and then come across a movie I saw long ago, but missed when I was doing these ratings.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment, especially if I was wrong on my guess of what you were referring to.

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  19. @Phips - Letterboxd was kind enough to send me a few guest invites, so shoot me an email an I will pass one on to you.

    @Chip Lary - Yes, I was referring to Instant Watch,so thanks for clearing that up for me.

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  20. Phips3:42 pm

    @CS

    Thanks..I'll do that.

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  21. Phips2:56 am

    so who here in on letterboxd?

    add me: Phips.

    I'm lovng the site.

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  22. @Phips - Glad you like the site.

    I suggest taking a look at a few of the folks I am following as a starting point (in regards of people to follow). Our own JBT should also be on the site within the next few days.

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  23. I was going to do the same thing as you do here on my blog,but I saw the rules on letterboxd says the screencaps are not allowed.Then I have to wait for its official lauch and shout out loud for it.

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  24. @David - I guess it all depends on how you intend to use the screencaps. There are several images floating around online already. I doubt they would have issue with if you are using the images to promote their work. Regardless, I foresee the site going live fairly soon.

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