Monday, June 23, 2008

Listing from the Lists

Because the Tosy and Cosh charter says I must, here are my pithy reactions to the latest AFI list - this year, a hodgepodge of Top Ten lists, rather than one long Top 100 lists.

But before I commence with the pith, I wanted to make two points in regards to commentary I've read elsewhere:
  1. Some have noted inconsistencies in the lists - for example Tom the Dog has noted that Toy Story was ranked on the 10th anniversary list last year and yet it is rated lower here than animated films that weren't ranked at all in the 100 last year. To which, I parry that A: these lists are not assembled by committee and checked for accuracy, but voted on by a large number of film professionals and critics. I'd rather have these kind of inconsistencies than the vanilla choices committees can make. And B: it is logical, to me, to say that a film is a better overall film than another, but a lesser example of the genre.
  2. Others have accused AFI of doing things like jerry-rigging lists to be representative - by making sure that the sports list has lots of different sports represented, for example. Again, the list is not assembled this way - it's all about pure voting.
OK. I am bolding ones I've seen, greening ones I'd like to see, and redding ones I have no desire to see.

1. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, 1937
I know I've said it before, but I find the notion that in the more than 70 years since the first animated film was released, no one has managed to make one better, laughable. Lists like these tend to place FAR too much emphasis on innovation, and not enough on the ability to take innovative ideas and refine them.

2. Pinocchio, 1940
Again - the second animated film is the second-best ever??

3. Bambi, 1942
Haven't seen this since I was a wee lad, actually.

4. The Lion King, 1994
I like The Lion King fine, but think that Beauty and the Beast is easily the best of the 90s Disney films. The Lion King doesn't balance tone nearly as well (as wonderfully dramatic as the death of the king scene is, it kinds of jars with the potty humor of Timon and Pumbaa) and the Elton John score is far inferior to the glory of Beast's score.

5. Fantasia, 1940
Haven't watched all of this in tears either.

6. Toy Story, 1995 (99)
Genius, but, again, Pixar's first film is not its best. They have learned in the last thirteen years, and the lessons learned are evident in the final products.

7. Beauty And The Beast, 1991
I'd put this one as #1, myself.

8. Shrek, 2001
I like Shrek just fine, but it ain't Top Ten material.

9. Cinderella, 1950
I'd put Sleeping Beauty above it, if forced to put a Disney princess film here.

10. Finding Nemo, 2003
Maybe Pixar's best.

Most egregious omission. The Iron Giant should really be in here.

1. The Wizard Of Oz, 1939
I'd honestly put the Rings trilogy above it, but can't quibble much.

2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, 2001
I understand why they can't treat the trilogy as one film, but it really is. Wholly deserving.

3. It's A Wonderful Life, 1946
Not a fantasy. I really do think AFI would have been better served by more rigorously defining its genres. When this and Rings are on the same list, the idea of carving out genres starts to lose meaning - they really can't be judged against each other except as complete films; they share no real genre attributes.

4. King Kong, 1933
Call me blasphemer, but the Jackson remake belongs here.

5. Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
Not a fantasy. Even if it does treat Santa as real.

6. Field Of Dreams, 1989
Maybe a fantasy. Not really though.

7. Harvey, 1950
Never seen it, but I did the play in high school. Not a fantasy.

8. Groundhog Day, 1993
Again we see the problem with genres being left vague. Great film, though - I don't think anyone would've predicted how well it's aged back when it was released.

9. The Thief Of Baghdad, 1924
Not on my radar.

10. Big, 1988
Sure.An underrated film.

Most egregious omission: The Princess Bride

Science Fiction
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
More blaspheming. I don't like this film. Pretentious and unfocused.

2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977
Sure. Empire Strikes Back is better though.

3. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
Very worthy.

4. A Clockwork Orange, 1971
From what I know if it, though, "science fiction" is a stretch.

5. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951

6. Blade Runner, 1982
Didn't love.

7. Alien, 1979
As others have noted, Aliens sis the better film.

8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
I'm OK with this one.

9. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, 1956
I can only see so many films before I die.

10. Back To The Future, 1985
Hell yes.

Most egregious omission. Children of Men

1. Raging Bull, 1980
Another classic I really did not love.

2. Rocky, 1976
Sure. A great sports film as well, in the way it uses sports as a metaphor for what's great about the human spirit.

3. The Pride Of The Yankees, 1942
Toll old-timey for me.

4. Hoosiers, 1986
I really need to see this.

5. Bull Durham, 1988
Great choice.

6. The Hustler, 1961
Sigh. The Blockbuster list gets longer and longer.

7. Caddyshack, 1980
Some have said that this really isn't a sports film. I say it's really about a larger question - is golf a sport?

8. Breaking Away, 1979

9. National Velvet, 1944

10. Jerry Maguire, 1996
I like this film a lot, but it's not really a sports movie. It's got sports in the background, but it's not about sports in any real way.

Most egregious omission: A League of Their Own

I am not a huge Western fan. So:

1. The Searchers, 1956

2. High Noon, 1952

3. Shane, 1953

4. Unforgiven, 1992
Saw this in the theater and haven't seen since. Really should. Sigh.

5. Red River, 1948

6. The Wild Bunch, 1969

7. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, 1969
Great film. Wonderful balance of tone.

8. McCabe And Mrs. Miller, 1971
Tom the Dog has me wanting to see this one.

9. Stagecoach, 1939

10. Cat Ballou, 1965

Most egregious omission: Blazing Saddles (only because Deadwood is not a film.)

Is "gangster film" really a genre?

1. The Godfather, 1972
Of course.

(2)2. Goodfellas, 1990

3. The Godfather Part II, 1974 (32)

4. White Heat, 1949

5. Bonnie And Clyde, 1967
Although as I look at my Blockbuster queue, I'm not optimistic . . .

6. Scarface: The Shame Of The Nation, 1932

7. Pulp Fiction, 1994

8. The Public Enemy, 1931

9. Little Caesar, 1931

10. Scarface, 1983
One of those films I really have no desire to see, having heard so many quotes and seen so many clips.

Most egregious omission: The Untouchables?

I dunno. Do all of these films have puzzles that are resolved at the end? If not, they are not mysteries.

1. Vertigo, 1958

2. Chinatown, 1974
Saw it, did not love it.

3. Rear Window, 1954

4. Laura, 1944

5. The Third Man, 1949

6. The Maltese Falcon, 1941

7. North By Northwest, 1959

8. Blue Velvet, 1986
I do not remember much about this film, but was it really a mystery?

9. Dial M For Murder, 1954

10. The Usual Suspects, 1995

Romantic Comedies
1. City Lights, 1931
I have never seen a Charlie Chaplin film. Commence the stoning.

2. Annie Hall, 1977
All this green is depressing me.

3. It Happened One Night, 1934

4. Roman Holiday, 1953

5. The Philadelphia Story, 1940

6. When Harry Met Sally..., 1989
Sure. I think it's aging very nicely.

7. Adam's Rib, 1949

8. Moonstruck, 1987
Should be higher. Just a wonder of a film.

9. Harold And Maude, 1971

10. Sleepless In Seattle, 1993
Not so much.

Most egregios ommission: The Princess Bride. Really.

Courtroom Drama
1. To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962
As good as advertised.

2. 12 Angry Men, 1957

3. Kramer Vs. Kramer, 1979
Is this really a courtroom film, though?

4. The Verdict, 1982

5. A Few Good Men, 1992

6. Witness For The Prosecution, 1957

7. Anatomy of a Murder, 1959

8. In Cold Blood, 1967

9. A Cry In The Dark, 1988

10. Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961

The least-well defined genre of the ten. What makes a film an "epic?"

1. Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
I may just put this at #1 in my Blockbuster list today. I really want to see it.

2. Ben-Hur, 1959

3. Schindler's List, 1993
As pretty much everyone who's commented on these lists has noted - is this an "Epic?"

4. Gone With The Wind, 1939
I know - I'm a bad person.

5. Spartacus, 1960

6. Titanic, 1997
Sure. A great, great film, that would be much more respected if it had bombed.

7. All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930

8. Saving Private Ryan, 1998

9. Reds, 1981

10. The Ten Commandments, 1956

Most egregious omission: Braveheart.

Until Whenever


R.A. Porter said...

Some friends and I debated these lists last week. They're just all over the place, and "courtroom dramas" is such a strange, strange category to include.

In science fiction, I'd put Gattaca very high, maybe even number one. It's certainly a more interesting and thoughtful film than 2001.

And I'm going to make a pitch for you switching Breaking Away from red to green. A really sweet, character-driven movie about growing up with the classic underdog story as its girders.

bill said...

I found it personally interesting that three movies I consider some of my all time favorites you have no desire to see:

Breaking Away, Shane, and Anatomy of a Murder.

Oh well. You're right about Beauty and the Beast and The Iron Giant, while I can't stand Finding Nemo. I also prefer the straight to DVD Lion King 1 1/2 over the original.

I'd put Brazil in the top 10 for fantasy. I also slightly prefer Alien over Aliens, and also think they're better fits for horror and action genres than straight science fiction. For SF omission, I'd go with Planet of the Apes. For sports, most egregious omission is Slapshot.

I'd put Kill Bill 1&2 under either gangster or epic.

Roger Green said...

Hey, I've never made it through Gone with the Wind, either. Yes, Schindler is an epic.

Tosy And Cosh said...

r.a. - Now I have to ad Gattaca to my list of films to see. Thanks. (Actually, I've been meaning to see it given the Truman Show connection). On Breaking Away, I'll make you a deal - if it shows up on cable, I'll TiFaux it and try and watch. (Although I did that with Fearless a year or so ago and still haven't watched it.)

bill - I don't think I've ever heard someone profess extreme dislike for Finding Nemo. Interesting.

Roger - Does epic just mean long, then?

bill said...

Finding Nemo - it's been too long to accurately recall all the cliched plot points and characters and the unrelenting boring journey that rewards running away as a parental growth experience. Even following the Disney animation rule #1 -- kill a parent -- would've have been easier to take if it didn't also include the deaths of hundreds of Nemo's brothers and sisters. So, basically, starting off with a holocaust put me in a bad mood for the rest of the movie. I have no interest in watching it again and while The Child has seen it, we don't own this one.

bill said...

Breaking Away was on AMC last week, so it does pop up a couple times a year. Maybe with the Tour de France starting, ESPN Classics will show it. Nah, that makes too much sense.

Tosy And Cosh said...

When my kids watched Nemo we skipped to Nemo's first day of school, thereby avoiding matricide and siblicide (?). They loved it until, after many viewings, they decided that the scary dentist ruined the whole film.