Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reaction to the AFI 100

Well, it's over. The American Film Institute has announced their 100 greatest movies of all-time and updated their previous decade old list to reflect "a changing cultural perspective." The expression "the more things change the more they stay the same" has never been more applicable than now because this list is practically identical to the one they put out a decade earlier with some minor changes, mostly negative. The good news is outside of two or three selections I thought were disgraceful, and one actor's mental breakdown, the show went better than I thought. But that's not saying much.

If one thing stood out it's that the AFI needs to move into the 21st century (or even late 20th). Some of their picks (especially toward the back of the list) were dated and the rankings were predictably all over the map, but that's the AFI for you. Overall, it wasn't horrible. The list skewed older, which I expected. That's why I used my last blog to highlight some newer titles I thought were worthy and unworthy of making it. I knew the classics I liked would be on there so I guess now is my chance to give you my opinion on some of those. So here's their "updated" 2007 Top 100 list. An asterisk indicates a new entry. My analysis follows.

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Godfather
3. Casablanca
4. Raging Bull
5. Singin' in the Rain
6. Gone with the Wind
7. Lawrence of Arabia
8. Schindler's List
9. Vertigo
10. The Wizard of Oz
11. City Lights
12. The Searchers
13. Star Wars
14. Psycho
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey
16. Sunset Boulevard
17. The Graduate
18. The General*
19. On the Waterfront
20. It's a Wonderful Life
21. Chinatown
22. Some Like It Hot
23. The Grapes of Wrath
24. E.T.
25. To Kill a Mockingbird
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
27. High Noon
28. All About Eve
29. Double Indemnity
30. Apocalypse Now
31. The Maltese Falcon
32. The Godfather Part II
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
35. Annie Hall
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai
37. The Best Years of Our Lives
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
39. Dr. Strangelove
40. The Sound of Music
41. King Kong
42. Bonnie and Clyde
43. Midnight Cowboy
44. The Philadelphia Story
45. Shane
46. It Happened One Night
47. A Streetcar Named Desire
48. Rear Window
49. Intolerance*
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
51. West Side Story
52. Taxi Driver
53. The Deer Hunter
54. M*A*S*H
55. North by Northwest
56. Jaws
57. Rocky
58. The Gold Rush
59. Nashville*
60. Duck Soup
61. Sullivan's Travels*
62. American Graffiti
63. Cabaret*
64. Network
65. The African Queen
66. Raiders of the Lost Ark
67. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?*
68. Unforgiven
69. Tootsie
70. A Clockwork Orange
71. Saving Private Ryan
72. The Shawshank Redemption*
73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
74. The Silence of the Lambs
75. In the Heat of the Night*
76. Forrest Gump
77. All the President's Men*
78. Modern Times
79. The Wild Bunch
80. The Apartment
81. Spartacus*
82. Sunrise*
83. Titanic*
84. Easy Rider
85. A Night at the Opera*
86. Platoon
87. 12 Angry Men*
88. Bringing Up Baby
89. The Sixth Sense*
90. Swing Time*
91. Sophie's Choice*
92. Goodfellas
93. The French Connection
94. Pulp Fiction
95. The Last Picture Show*
96. Do the Right Thing*
97. Blade Runner*
98. Yankee Doodle Dandy
99. Toy Story*
100. Ben-Hur

90-100: So far, so good. It feels right for Toy Story (99), Blade Runner (97) and Do The Right Thing (96) to be where they're at. I'm glad The Last Picture Show (95) made it. I really like that film. But wait…why the hell is Pulp Fiction only ranked 94th?!!! And why is M. Night Shayamalan being advertised in the opening credits. Oh no.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

80-90: Everyone will be upset Goodfellas is at 92. I'm not that big a fan so I don't have a problem with it. What follows I do. In a move that likely sent everyone who read my blog Tuesday into hysterical laughter (or tears) The Sixth Sense (89) not only made the list, IT RANKED HIGHER THAN PULP FICTION!!! Shayamalan must have some very incriminating photos of AFI jurors. But hey, at least we got our huge injustice out of the way early and they didn't spoil its twist ending. Don't wory though, they'll take care of that with another film later. I'm sorry but I do think Titanic (83) deserves a spot and it is ranked low (but also higher than Pulp Fiction!) so no one can complain…at least too much. I will admit their video package made Titanic look silier than I remembered. In the clips DiCaprio looks really young and I have to say Winslet looks much better now. Just an observation.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

70-80:I had a feeling All The President's Men (77) would be showing up around now even though it's a new entry. Sorry again, but I think Forrest Gump (76) belongs on the list, even if its placement is way off. The clip reminds us how great Alan Silvestri's score for that film was. However The Shawshank Redemption (72) and A Clockwork Orange (70) should be ranked WAY higher than they are. You could make a case for top 20 or 30 for either. I'm not a huge fan of Saving Private Ryan (71) but I recognize its historical significance. They get a pass from me on that one.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

60-70: Here comes the second batch of fireworks for the evening with Tootsie coming in at 69, or should I say coming in at all. I was going rant about how bad a selection it would be in my last blog but I figured it was a thankless cause. They put it on last time and I thought they'd do it again. I was right, but hey at least it dropped 7 spots. That's not the bad part though. The bad part was Dustin Hoffman's "interview" which saw him burst into tears over the film's importance and deep message. Yes, this on a show that contains films like Schindler's List. I respect Hoffman a lot as an actor, but this weirded me out. Raiders of the Lost Ark at 66-applause. Network at 64-more applause.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

50-60: I love Robert Altman's Nashville (59) and M*A*S*H (54) and I wouldn't complain if they were higher. No one will like Rocky coming in at 57 but I say it's lucky it made the list at all. Is it me or have the visual effects and in North by Northwest (55) not aged well at all? Now here's where we're starting to get some really big titles. Taxi Driver (52) is ranked too low and should be the highest Scorsese picture on here. Higher than Raging Bull which makes a way too high appearance later. Stay tuned for that one. The Deer Hunter (53) could also be bumped up a little, not much. Jaws feels about right at 56.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

40-50: We have our first 21st century appearance on the list with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at 50. It figures they picked the recent film that has the oldest Hollywood feel to it. It doesn't seem out of place though. Next is the oldest with Intolerance at 49. This is what I'm talking about when I said they need to move forward and some of their picks are dated. Is this movie from 1916 even available anywhere? There have been better movies since the early 1900's, AFI. It's okay to admit it. Rear Window (48) is my favorite Hitchcock film. Midnight Cowboy (43) you could argue is top 10 or 20 material. Halle Berry is interviewed for Bonnie and Clyde (42). Speaking of numbers, I can't believe she's 40. Wow. And she's right it's is an awesome movie. Anyone who hasn't seen it should.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

30-40: Dr. Strangelove (39) really fell from last time. 13 spots. I guess something had to, but I could think of others on here more deserving of that huge a drop. Annie Hall, though dated by today standards, was really the first romantic comedy and a huge influence but it's still too high at 35, refecting the AFI's safety first policy. The Godfather Part II held steady at 32 but for some reason I remember it being higher the first time around. I love Apocalypse Now (30) and I really wanted to see it crack to top 10. And this coming from someone who isn't a big fan of war films.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

20-30: Remember my complaint about dated picks? Well, To Kill A Mockingbird (25) is NOT one of them. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have liked anything else I mentioned to take its spot. I kind of get my wish as Cameron Crowe appears for an interview, but unfortunately it's to talk about the overrated Some Like It Hot (22). Is the AFI obsessed with cross-dressing films? Everyone will think E.T. is ranked too high at 24, and while I think certain films below it should be ranked higher, I'm glad it came in where it did. It's my personal favorite Spielberg film and this is the kind of pick I wish there would be more of on this list. After watching the clip of it I became even more convinced. Which begs the question: Why can't Spielberg make imaginative films like this anymore? I had to write an essay on The Grapes of Wrath (23) in high school, which was difficult since I fell asleep in class during the film.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

10-20: I would say Chinatown (21) should be higher but we're in the top 20 now so it's tough to make that argument anymore. The field's crowded at the top and competition is fierce. On The Waterfront (19) dropped 11 spots but I don't think it's top 20 material and wouldn't mind if it fell further. Some people (Roger Ebert included) think The Graduate (17) is massively overrated. They may be happy it dropped out of the top 10. I think it's slightly overrated and still ranked too high. In the AFI's defense, if 2001: A Space Odyssey was number 2 I'd still say it wasn't ranked high enough. That said it should be in the top 5 and Star Wars (13), would have never been made if not for Kubrick's masterpeice. And hey, where's The Empire Strikes Back? Spielberg is interviewed and compares Psycho (14) to The Sixth Sense. Excuse me while I throw up.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

1-10: Morgan Freeman tells us only one film in the top 10 is in the same spot it was a decade ago. Gee, what do you think that could be? My problems with the top 10 are minimal (I mean they're all at least worthy, except Singin' in the Rain) but I have one question: Did Raging Bull (4) take on some new kind of cultural significance this past decade and I missed the memo? It's a great film but its 20 spot jump into the fourth position is laughably extreme. I also think Schindler's List (8) is too high, but that's at least understandable. It's an important film. I do question whether all this praise for Citizen Kane (1) is doing more harm than good to the movie at this point. It's giving the film an intimidating reputation, which may drive casual viewers away. That would be a shame because it is really is good. It also doesn't help that the AFI feels obligated once again TO SPOIL THE ENDING OF THE FILM for those who haven't seen it. And that's more people than you think. They won't be rushing out to buy it now.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
So what's the key to getting your film on the AFI 100? Make sure it's not made within the past 2 or 3 decades. I appreciate that they want to expose the audience to older films, and as expected the special was well done, but it wouldn't hurt if they took a broader, less snobbish view toward films. The Sixth Sense isn't a bad film at all but its inclusion came off even more ridiculous than I thought it would because outside of Saving Private Ryan and The Lord of the Rings it was the only fairly modern movie on the list. However, I don't think it was the worst choice overall (that prize goes to Tootsie). Some films that made it 10 years ago that were wrongfully excluded this go around were: Dr. Zhivago, Fantasia, Rebel Without A Cause, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Fargo, Patton, The Manchurian Candidate.

But really…it's tough to get too upset. This isn't a definitive list of any kind. No list is. It's just their opinions and questionable ones at that. We all know our favorite films and we'll always have them whether they show up on the AFI 100 or not.

No comments: