How I Letterboxd: Lise

Long-time member Lise, of Canada, answers our questions about how she uses Letterboxd, and why you should join her March Around the World challenge.

I am not easily bothered by or influenced by others when it comes to the films I love or despise.” —⁠Lise

Hi Lise! How long have you been on Letterboxd?
Lise: TV was still in black and white.

What do you mainly use Letterboxd for? Just a diary? Long reviews or shorter takes? Hilarious lists, or very f—king serious director rankings don’t @ me?
I use the whole shebang: diary, reviews, ratings, watchlist, comments and lists, lots of lists. But mostly I use Letterboxd to keep track of when Jonathan is out to lunch (shameless plug for my He Says She Says list).

Do you rate films?
Absolutely. I rely on ratings to add stuff to my watchlist, and I rate to let others know if I liked the film. I don’t read reviews for films I haven’t seen, so without user ratings I’d be snookered.

Tell us about your March Around The World challenge, in which Letterboxd members sign up to watch and review 30 films from 30 different countries during the month of March. How did it come about, and what’s involved?
I took over the challenge from Berken, who created it and hosted it for the first year. I thought it was a brilliant way to explore the world on the cheap. The review component is important because it expands Letterboxd’s database, especially for under-seen films. It’s been a great success. Many participants like to create lists, and if they can’t watch them all in March they go at it for the rest of the year, which is great. The most important rule about the challenge is to forget the rules and watch international films during the month.

Still from Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973).
Still from Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973).

What are some of the interesting statistics you’ve noticed from your Marches Around the World?
I consolidated all of the spreadsheets I’ve created for each challenge, and there were some surprises. The most viewed film is Touki-Bouki from Senegal (average rating of 3.7). Less surprising is that our most-viewed director is Ingmar Bergman (although I was happy to see Aki Kaurismäki from Finland in second place). The most-viewed countries are France, Japan and South Korea. Another surprise, the best decade is the 1920s (with the 1950s in a close second).

How has March Around the World enhanced your life?
I’m not the sentimental type but when we get a new participant in the challenge I get the warm and fuzzies. If the genie were out of the bottle I would request that all overcome the ‘one-inch barrier’ (subtitles). Watching films ‘from away’, as our East Coasters would say, is one of the simplest ways to combat fears and/or prejudices about other peoples/nations/ways of life that we often don’t realize we have. Every time we identify or root for someone who is ‘other’ it chips away at the walls, and as Maya Angelou has said so eloquently, we discover that “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike”.

What are the responsibilities involved in hosting a Letterboxd challenge?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. A challenge can be as simple as “watch ten films from your watchlist this month”. It’s all about tags. Define a tag, have people add it to their films and their lists, and then you can easily search for and filter those tags. Easy peasy. Mine is a bit more challenging because it has so many requirements, but thanks to some fantastic Letterboxders who volunteer to help with my spreadsheet (you know who you are), it all gets done in a timely manner.

How do you find the time to watch all those films in a single month?!
Jonathan and I have never completed the challenge! Our best year was around 26. That year we got up earlier in the morning and watched the films with coffee, before going to work. That was the best. Nice and fresh and open to anything. Bonus is that we got to think about the film all day and the review-writing in the evening was easier. If it were up to me that’s the way I would watch films all the time.

What other challenges have you taken part in, and how have they enhanced your experience of watching films?
Back in the day everyone was making a list tagged with List of Shame that you filled with all those “You seriously haven’t seen that yet?!” films. I’m still chipping away at it, but of course for every film you watch there are ten more you have to see. To help with the List of Shame I participated in Mr Dulac’s 5×5 series, where you selected five films from five directors and watched them at your leisure. It was a great way to complete filmographies. I still go to that list when selecting a film to watch.

Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood for Love (2000).
Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood for Love (2000).

What are your four favorites on your Letterboxd profile, and why?
In the Mood for Love, because forbidden love is the saddest thing ever, and I could watch Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung go up and down those noodle-shop stairs all day long. The Thin Red Line, because it provides a great sense of place and it’s about the soldiers, not the war. Whispering Star because it is so quiet and touching.

I keep my fourth slot open for a rotating new favorite film that I want everyone to see. I could change these for a different set, but, oh, who am I kidding. I always feel terrible at the thought of ‘demoting’ a film.

What is your favorite or most useful feature?
The watchlist, filtered by service. It is my dream-come-true feature. I sort by genre, hide short films, select ‘Stream only’ and ta-da! A list of films I’ve been meaning to see that are available to stream. (Now if only I could do the same for films that I own!) [Editor’s note: filtering by your own personal set of streaming services is a Pro feature.]

What’s a movie you’ve done a 180 on because of other Letterboxd members’ opinions?
Great question. Memories of Murder is one of them for sure. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was when I first saw it, but so many of my friends gave it five stars that I watched it again and understood. And just this week, Moaning_Slug posted an interesting comment on my review of Buñuel’s Viridiana that actually makes me want to take another look.

What’s a movie you’ve really had to dig in on your feelings about, despite what everyone else on Letterboxd thinks?
I am not easily bothered by or influenced by others when it comes to the films I love or despise. I seriously disliked Her and Boyhood and pretty much anything by Wes Anderson and all the high ratings have zero effect on me. The technical prowess of a film would never be something that could change my mind (here’s looking at you John Wick: Chapter 2 and 3). What would make me take a second look is if someone were able to point out that I missed something about what the film was saying. I’ve yet to review Jojo Rabbit because while I think poking fun at someone who aspires to dictatorship might actually prevent it from happening, I don’t know what to make of it when it’s making light of a historical or current [aspiring dictator]. Reading reviews about this could definitely influence my take on the film.

Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice (1995).
Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice (1995).

What’s your go-to comfort movie?
The one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, the one with Chris Pratt and the talking ‘rat’, and the one with Tony Leung as badge No. 663 starring the Mamas and the Papas.

If and when you go to the cinema, where do you prefer to sit?
Behind the shortest person in the room, near the back (I hate looking up—it’s a neck thing).

You’re Canadian. What’s the best Canadian film of all time?
South of Wawa, about a donut-shop waitress who receives tickets to a Dan Hill concert in Toronto for her 35th birthday. Okay, so it’s not the “greatest film of all time” but it is my favorite, and it’s got the best last line ever!

These are the Canadian films I’ve seen in order of preference, this is a substantial list of Quebec films and [Letterboxd member] puffin has an extensive Canadian films list (stops at 2018). And I must mention these NFB short classics: The Cat Came Back, The Sweater and one of the most beautifully animated shorts, The Man Who Planted Trees.

When Parasite won Best Picture, what was the reaction in your household?
We tested the bounce on our floor boards at Best Director. We tested the bounce on the ceiling boards at Best Picture.

Please recommend three other Letterboxd members we should follow.
I can’t count, so here goes. I think everyone should follow Punq for the sheer number of films he watches and reviews, but mostly because I don’t think there is a film made before the 60s that he hasn’t seen. Graham Williamson is a good bet as well. His tastes are eclectic and his reviews are always packed with good observations and information. And I also have to recommend fellow Canuck puffin. I don’t know how he manages to watch so many films and review them. I always enjoy reading Melissa Tamminga, who asks questions and is very thoughtful in her reviews, and I have a soft spot for Peter H, who again personalizes his reviews. Nepotism be damned, Jonathan White always writes honest, interesting and personal reviews.

You also round up Letterboxd members who attend TIFF each year—what’s been a good thing about meeting Letterboxd people in real life?
It’s great! Without naming names, I discovered that I could drink a 6'2" Norwegian under the table; a particular New Yorker is so stingy with his ratings that when he gives anything beyond three and a half stars you just have to watch the film; and a New Zealander personally knows anyone who is anyone in the industry over there and can give you all the dirt! Whenever we consider not doing TIFF we are always reminded that it would involve missing our Wednesday meet-up (as well as most other nights where we undoubtedly meet up for beer and film-related arguments), and we easily change our minds.

P.S. In the spirit of connecting Letterboxders… before the TIFF list I thought it would be good idea to create a ‘Letterboxd in [insert City]’ list, Toronto being the first one. It took off, and many users from different parts of the world created lists for their cities; the tag is letterboxdcity.

The March Around the World challenge starts 1 March 2020. Tag your list with ‘30 countries 2020’ and it’ll be added here.


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