Most people are familiar with Good Reads, a social media site that allows users to share the books they read. Users benefit by seeing everything they have read in one place or on one virtual shelf. It gives you a sense of achievement, at least for those that are well-read. Yet for the emblematic visual art that is the movies a site that visualizes and catalogs everything you have seen – excluding TV shows – is a most fitting tribute. A perfect fit! And that is why cinephiles feel so at home on Letterboxd, a free social platform for sharing the movies you’ve seen, rating them, and writing reviews.
What I saw when I looked at all the thousands of films I have logged on Letterboxd? I saw a big picture of me and who I generally am. I saw the overwhelming influence of film in my life and the understated joy film has brought to my life. I saw all the poor decisions I have ever made and said “O God why did I ever watch that?” or “that was a waste of two hours!”. I saw my complexity and my eclecticism. I saw the central ideas the shaped my thinking and the defining phrases that formed my lexicon. Mainly and truthfully, I saw film; I know it sounds weird for that statement to be read. Let’s try again: I saw … Films, cinema, movies. I didn’t see one, I didn’t see some, and I saw it: the very medium, the cultural institution. I saw the long history of film and the brief history of me. I remembered certain important moments in my life when I watched certain important films. I remembered when moving pictures in a dark room was a kind of magical vindication of the imagination. In cultural studies they tell you that anything with meaning to a group of people is a part of their culture but it is the people that attribute said meaning. I saw why we attribute meaning to film; I understood what distinguished French cinema from German films. I saw a collection of pictures flashing before my eyes and together they made a story, my story yet bigger than just mine, ours, our story. Letterboxd made that possible, so in a very real and very tangible way Letterboxd brought movies to life. And as far as I am concerned Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, you can have all the social media platforms you want, Letterboxd is the one I love, the only one.
Looking at someone’s profile in Letterboxd and seeing which movies they rated the highest is like getting to know them. You’ll never know what you’ll see on Letterboxd even if you’ve seen it before.