Introducing Letterboxd: Social Networking for Cinephiles


My time-travel project and a temporarily unusual schedule have led to record-breaking levels of movie-watching for me. I managed to average over a film a day throughout the duration, culminating in an insane final month that blew my previous “high score” away. However, I realized early on that, much to my dismay, I was going to have to choose between completing my project in something like a timely fashion, and documenting it here.

It’s the Catch-22 of film blogging (indeed, most interest-based blogging). Unless you’re blogging about blogging, doing more of what you love restricts the time you have to share it with others through writing, and vice-versa. I’ve accepted that, for the foreseeable future, I will always have much more to write about than I will have time to write, but I keep all of my ideas floating around as drafts of posts, and occasionally I peck away at one or another until it’s ready to post.

On this site, I want posts to be somewhat substantial. I want to share insights or information that are unique to me or meticulously researched, rather than just posting a couple of lines about something I just watched, or a string of links to what I’m reading, or to the latest morsel of movie news. I follow sites like that, and enjoy keeping up, but the Internet doesn’t need another one. The problem is that I want to really share my movie-watching habits and tastes, but there isn’t a way to do that effectively here, where I prefer to elaborate formally and avoid off-the-cuff randomness.

I’ve tried to post about general movie-watching previously through regular features like “Film Round-Up,” where I briefly discussed a few randomly chosen films from the list of what I’ve seen, but that was more filler material than I wanted. The same is true of the thrice-yearly lists of “best” films I had watched during the preceding months. And then there’s the “Movielogue.” Not even I am interested in scrolling through a series of dry lists of pure data . . . And using it to link to posts about particular movies was only a depressing reminder of how bad my watching-to-writing ratio is.

I’ve known all of this for a long time, but there wasn’t anything to do about it. And then I discovered Letterboxd, which is not only something to do, it is the thing to do. As an avid reader, I have long enjoyed the website “Goodreads” as a place to keep a public record of what I’m reading, and of my opinions about different books. Letterboxd is a brilliant adaptation of that idea for the film buff crowd.

I have been quietly and happily using Letterboxd since I secured an invitation to the beta in early September. Letterboxd is relatively new (the site went live in April, I believe), and accounts can be opened by invitation only, which is one of the reasons I haven’t talked much about it yet. That said, it’s not a long wait for an invite, if you put yourself on the list, and if you want one, I believe I have a few invitations that I can give out, as well.

And you should want one. Here’s a link to my profile so you can take a look at what I’ve done. There are several pieces of information that are immediately obvious. You can see the 4 films I’ve selected to display as favorites. You can see the four films I watched/logged most recently and how I rated them. You can see a small calendar list off to the side with the last 10 films I watched and the dates I watched them. You can see my two most recent reviews and my two most popular reviews (by number of likes from other users). And there are several other cool things, which I’ll get to in a moment.

It took some time to set everything up the way I wanted to, since I wanted to import my complete log of 2000+ films, with the date I watched them, etc., but that process was also kind of fun. And now I have a handy, public, aesthetically-pleasing, easy-to-update record of every film I’ve seen in the past several years. I can sort them alphabetically, by year of release, by rating, by when I watched them, and by the nebulous metric of popularity (among other Letterboxd users). There are several cool ways for me to display the list, depending on what I want to see.

As I mentioned earlier, Letterboxd allows you to review films as you log them, with an unintimidating comment box that can accommodate anything from a few passing remarks to a lengthy screed of praise or criticism. I have close to 300 reviews posted so far, most just a few paragraphs long. They’re a great way to start or expand conversations about a particular film, and to share your opinions quickly and easily with an interested audience. All reviews show up on that film’s official Letterboxd page for everyone to see.

I also have a “Watchlist.” Every film poster has an icon that you can press to add it to a page of the films you want to see. The film is automatically removed for you after you log it. I am currently using this feature to keep track of films from the current year that I still want to see, and it has been very useful for reminding me to find them. And, now that I’ve connected with my Netflix account (see below), I can actually set the Watchlist to show me all of the movies on it that are available to Watch Instantly. How cool is that? I could be tracking every film I’d like to see, of course, which is more or less how I use my Netflix queue, but I haven’t yet. It would be a very long list, and for several years I have been adding movies much faster than I have been taking them off.

Perhaps my favorite feature, though, and one which I am only just beginning to use, is the “Lists” feature. That should come as no surprise to anyone. Lists can include films grouped in any way you can think of, and I can think of many. Lists can contain any number of films, as far as I know, but only 100 will be displayed per page. You can sort lists easily by clicking and dragging, and choose whether to discuss them individually or not. You can also introduce each list with a post, long or short, explaining what’s going on. Lists can be kept private until you are done working on them, and then shared with the world.

I have already used the list feature to display a few of my projects from this blog, including the top 100 films of the last decade, my ranking of the Disney animated canon (both of which I rearranged a bit as I was building them), and my time-travel project. I’ve used it to rank the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and to list and rank collections of what I call the “essential” Westerns and horror films, and I’m working on other lists by genre and director, as well. I also have a list of “five-star favorites” for movies that I’ve given highest marks, and I used the list feature to record my opinions of the James Bond films after I finished seeing all of them in preparation for the release of Skyfall. I’ve just begun to scratch that surface.

Obviously the Letterboxd team is still rolling things out at this point, and the site continues to improve as a social resource. I was recently able to connect my Letterboxd profile to my Twitter, Facebook, and Netflix accounts, for example, and they have promised mobile apps at some point in the future. I’ll also be watching anxiously for an official WordPress widget to appear, so I can integrate more seamlessly with this site. Meanwhile, you can continue to follow my writing here and follow my movie-watching over there. I’ve added a link to my Letterboxd profile in the sidebar in anticipation of something better to come. Exciting times, and I look forward to seeing more people join the Letterboxd community soon!

~ by Jared on November 30, 2012.

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