I actually like these silly AFI specials, if only because they remind me of films I keep meaning to finally see - this year's special has me heading over to add All the President's Men, to my Blockbuster queue. That being said, some of the choices this time around I likes, some I didn't, and some just puzzled me. After all, "inspirational" is a pretty vague concept. For the next special, I really think they should start devising some more specific categories that will elicit some new choices. I mean, has The Wizard of Oz not been on any of these lists? Stuff like "Best Screen Kisses," "Best Screen Fights," "Best Screen Kids" - real specific categories as opposed to the pretty general ones they've favored so far.
Anyway, here are some random reactions to this year's stack o' films:
1 -IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Hard to argue with, really. I watch this every Christmas, and I find that it moves and, yes, inspires, me every time.
3 - SCHINDLER'S LIST - I see where they are coming from, but when so much of that "inspiration" is so heavily suffused by real horror and tragedy, is it really fair to call the movie "inspirational?" Even the clip they chose to focus on, with Schindler breaking down over how much more he could have done, highlighted that any Holocaust story still is, at the end of the day, a tragic one.
4 - ROCKY - Rocky loses. He loses. And it's still inspiring. How could Stallone write something this good and then never get anywhere in the same county as good again? I just don't get it.
6 - E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL - That piece of Williams score used in the finale, the one they showed in the clip, could make a blank screen remarkably inspirational.
10 - SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
- One of my favorite films ever, but "inspirational?" Like Schindler's List, it's much more complex than that.
9 - APOLLO 13 - As Ed Harris noted, we know how it will end and we're still glued to our seats. That's good storytelling.
20 - PHILADELPHIA - I can't mention the film Philadelphia without also mentioning that the titular Neil Young song really was the better song.
23 - THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - I'd have placed it higher. That last shot is just killer.
26 - THE WIZARD OF OZ - This is a great film, but is it really "inspirational?" I'm not sure.
37 - FORREST GUMP - Another film that really doesn't feel "inspirational" to me. It's a wonderful fable, but, contrary to popular belief, I don't think Forest is really meant to inspire us.
39 - STAR WARS - If only for the "Han Solo saves the day" moment. And another case where Williams' score does a lot of heavy lifting.
45 - ON GOLDEN POND - I don't know; this is more of a sad film, to me.
54 - RUDY - I hate Rudy. What's the message here? If you are untalented, be a pain in the ass so that you can realize a poorly thought out dream, even if that realization doesn't actually mean anything real?
62 - BRAVEHEART - Should be much, much higher.
78 - THELMA & LOUISE - Are tragedies really "inspirational?"
80 - BABE - A thousand times, yes.
82 - FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - Nothing more inspiring than losing your family and being driven from your home.
98 - THE KARATE KID - The timing on this one is perfect. They could have ended with more, we could have seen more of the celebration, or even some of the aftermath shown in the sequel. But to end with the kick, the victory, and that's pretty much it? Brilliant.