Thursday, March 17, 2005

This Just In: AFI Releases Tedious List!

Herewith, for your edification, commentary, and sport fishing with heavy weaponry, the first half of the American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 Films of All Time:

1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)2. CASABLANCA (1942)3. THE GODFATHER (1972)4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)7. THE GRADUATE (1967)8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)11. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)12. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)13. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)14. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)15. STAR WARS (1977)16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)17. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)18. PSYCHO (1960)19. CHINATOWN (1974)20. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)21. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)22. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)23. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)24. RAGING BULL (1980)25. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)26. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)27. BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)28. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)29. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)30. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)31. ANNIE HALL (1977)32. THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)33. HIGH NOON (1952)34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)35. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)37. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)38. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)39. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)40. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)41. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)42. REAR WINDOW (1954)43. KING KONG (1933)44. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)45. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)46. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)47. TAXI DRIVER (1976)48. JAWS (1975)49. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)50. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)

I know that small minds are quick to nitpick at "best of" lists into which a good deal of critical thought, research, debate and compromise have gone. That is why I think we will all have a good deal to merrily bash here. Spitting, kicking, and gouging, far from being unacceptable, are encouraged.

For myself, a few immediate responses: Citizen Kane, though technically impressive and occasionally fun, is not a very good movie. Neither is A Streetcar Named Desire, which, if it hadn't been disembowelled by Marlon Brando's grand mal performance, might have risen to basic expository mediocrity. Not so On The Waterfront, in which Brando's overwrought blubbing is strangely effective, despite its contrast with more plausible performances by good workaday actors elsewhere in the movie; I watch this about once a year. Singin' In The Rain I can watch anytime; this suggests that AFI members don't spend all of their time stroking goatees, knitting brows, and ejaculating pronunciamentos of conventional wisdom. It's A Wonderful Life becomes a darker movie each time I watch it, and I've even started to be suspicious of the title. Psycho has long been overly familiar to me and increasingly dull as a result; but I cannot deny that it thrilled me to the quick in 1963 -- as did The Blob (not on this list), which was on a double bill with it at the time. North By Northwest, however, I've watched a dozen times, and I never tire of it. Not very good movies include: Apocalypse Now (another Brando seizure, for once in keeping with the entire production); The Graduate; Some Like It Hot (which is just not funny, though those who think so seem to feel that the very notion of men in dresses is an occasion for wet smirks and gunshot guffaws); One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (a movie with A Big Message, the thought of which makes me want to nap); The Grapes of Wrath (ditto); To Kill a Mockingbird (double ditto, and what is it with didactic boredom and bird names?) There are also a great many movies which are good enough in their own way, some even worth rewatching -- but Top 100 material? How many members of the AFI have actually sat through a goodly number of these movies in recent years? (Let's be fair, and allow that such viewing need not have been voluntary.)

I've seen upwards of 90 of the 100, which is a grade of A-minus by high school standards. And, as with consistent A's in high school (which I didn't get, thankfully), this qualifies me for Drooling Geek status, film division, in the school of life. A status I've already credibly established in a number of distinct subjects.

The entire list, for those who can't predict the rest already with ninety percent accuracy, is right here.