Friday, July 4, 2008

AFI Roundup

A couple weeks ago, we went over the flawed ballots used in AFI's latest list-making extravaganza. This year's list, the AFI 10 top 10, is a genre-by-genre ranking of American films. While I was reasonably upset with the way the process started, I must admit that the results turned out pretty well.

Of course, they had the gall to include The Abyss and The Apartment in their opening montage even though they left them off the ballot.

Apparently they sent the ballots to the right judges because the final tallies look solid. Or is it really that simple? Looking at the results, we're noticing some trends that make us question whether the fix was in all along. But let's look at each category first. Also, it's worth clicking on the links below because they did a really nice job featuring the films chosen.

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Pinocchio
3. Bambi
4. The Lion King
5. Fantasia
6. Toy Story
7. Beauty and the Beast
8. Shrek
9. Cinderella
10. Finding Nemo

Not really sure what Shrek is doing in here, but the list is solid. I have long had a special place in my heart for Dumbo, but due to certain racial overtones, I can see why it didn't make the list. It's pretty much all Disney. I'm still peeved that Ratatouille didn't make their ballot, but the voters did a good job with what they had.

1. The Wizard of Oz
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. King Kong
5. Miracle on 34th Street
6. Field of Dreams
7. Harvey
8. Groundhog Day
9. The Thief of Bagdad
10. Big

Really nothing to complain about here. Field of Dreams should be in sports, right? Maybe not. I would have liked to see Roger Rabbit in place of Big, but I can't say I'm outraged. And of course, I would put Conan the Barbarian in the list, but I had no delusions that it would make the cut.

1. The Godfather
2. Goodfellas
3. The Godfather, Part II
4. White Heat
5. Bonnie and Clyde
6. Scarface: The Shame of the Nation
7. Pulp Fiction
8. The Public Enemy
9. Little Caeser
10. Scarface

Once again, few complaints. Scarface doesn't belong on the list over a whole litany of superb movies, but whatever. The ballot wasn't superb here, but it's a relatively narrow genre. Pulp Fiction should be higher, but again, I can't complain that much. Also, I forgot to mention previously that The Professional wasn't on the ballot but should have been (#38 all time on the IMDb). Not strictly gangster, but neither is Bonnie and Clyde or Pulp Fiction. And it's American enough...

Science Fiction
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
3. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial
4. A Clockwork Orange
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still
6. Blade Runner
7. Alien
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
10. Back to the Future

Another solid top ten here. I absolutely adore the pick of 2001 at #1. If that makes me a nerd or a snob, so be it. I'm also ecstatic that the underrated T2 made the cut. Yeah, I said underrated. Back to the Future and Invasion of the Body Snatchers both seem like sentimental choices, but they're defensible. Again, The Abyss should have made the ballot and if it had been around for longer, I think Children of Men had a shot at inclusion. On the whole, nice work. (BTW, The Day the Earth Stood Still is playing at Movies in the Park on August 5th.)

1. The Searchers
2. High Noon
3. Shane
4. Unforgiven
5. Red River
6. The Wild Bunch
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
9. Stagecoach
10. Cat Ballou

I really have nothing to add here. The few omissions were egregious, but given what the voters had to work with, another nice job. I've only seen four of these...

1. Raging Bull
2. Rocky
3. Pride of the Yankees
4. Hoosiers
5. Bull Durham
6. The Hustler
7. Caddyshack
8. Breaking Away
9. National Velvet
10. Jerry Maguire

Glaring omission is that The Natural didn't make the top ten, but Jerry Maguire did? Kind of astonishing. It's Kozy's favorite sports movie! Also, Hoosiers should be #1, right? Right? Maybe it's too sentimental for the AFI voters. I'll accept that. Bull Durham is technically a sports movie, but not really. It definitely doesn't belong at #5. Caddyshack is a great film, but does it really belong on this list? What about Rudy (yeah, I went to Michigan - I wrote that through clenched teeth). In sum, this is easily the most botched top 10 on the board. The ballot wasn't great, but the voters underperformed on this one.

1. Vertigo
2. Chinatown
3. Rear Window
4. Laura
5. The Third Man
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. North by Northwest
8. Blue Velvet
9. Dial M for Murder
10. The Usual Suspects

Now that's a list! I jokingly said that this was the "Hitchcock division" and sure enough, he has three of the top four. I wish Chinatown had the top spot, but I'll gladly accept it at #2. I'd swap out The Maltese Falcon with The Big Sleep and do the same with Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. Finally, The Usual Suspects should have been on the gangster list or not at all (I prefer not at all!). When the big mystery is that everything you've just spent two hours watching is complete bullshit, that's not a movie I want on any top ten. Anyway, a great list, and everyone should watch 1-9 before they kick.

Romantic Comedy
1. City Lights
2. Annie Hall
3. It Happened One Night
4. Roman Holiday
5. The Philadelphia Story
6. When Harry Met Sally...
7. Adam's Rib
8. Moonstruck
9. Harold and Maude
10. Sleepless in Seattle

The AFI voters deserve a big pat on the back here. They were dealt a rough hand with a slew of extremely questionable "great" romatic comedies and a large number of glaring omissions, but turned out the best list on the board. Sleepless in Seattle is a horrendous movie where two depressed, boring people finally meet at the end for thirty seconds. Other than that, pat yourselves on the back, folks!

Courtroom Drama
1. To Kill a Mockingbird
2. 12 Angry Men
3. Kramer vs Kramer
4. The Verdict
5. A Few Good Men
6. Witness for the Prosecution
7. Anatomy of a Murder
8. In Cold Blood
9. A Cry in the Dark
10. Judgment at Nuremburg

I decried the inclusion of this genre for being too narrow, but they managed to grab ten good ones. As predicted, Mockingbird first, Angry Men second, and then some decent movies. When Kramer vs Kramer is your third best film, you don't have a superb genre (compare it to Rear Window, Shane, ET - you get my drift). Let's just move on.

1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. Ben-Hur (1959)
3. Schindler's List
4. Gone With the Wind
5. Spartacus
6. Titanic
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. Reds
10. The Ten Commandments

Nothing to complain about here, right? They pretty much nailed it.

So let's go on to some general thoughts. Firstly, the voters did a great job overall, Sports category notwithstanding. They salvaged a flawed balloting system and made a pretty worthwhile output. That's the overarching message here.

However, I can't help but question whether there was some funny business going on here. I have no proof of any kind, but there was one very curious trend throughout the categories. People who mainly take in blockbusters and mainstream comedies often complain that the Oscars doesn't interest them because the movies they like are never represented, that they never even know the names of any of the films. These AFI lists could easily have fallen prey to the same comments, but surprisingly, there was a more mainstream, modern choice on each and every list. And more often than not, this choice ended up in the #10 spot. Here are the "crowd pleasers," films that critics perhaps would not include, but the average movie fan would:

8. Shrek
10. Big
10. Scarface
10. Back to the Future
no example in Western)
10. Jerry Maguire
10. The Usual Suspects
10. Sleepless in Seattle
5. A Few good Men
6. Titanic

Now, clearly some of these are more defensible than others. Nobody's going to sneeze at Titanic or Big. And A Few Good Men was in a thin genre. But I find it extremely curious that with the tenth selection in almost every genre doesn't fit the voting trends. I think AFI let Katherine Harris or Deibold count the votes and put the fix in. Do we really think that Jerry Maguire got more votes than The Natural? I'm not buying it. But what do the rest of you think?

Again, they did a great job on this overall and I recommend checking out their site for some really cool features on all the movies honored here including some of your favorite actors without their favorite makeup artists.

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