THE AFI TOP 100 MOVIES, AND ASSORTED SHIRTY SUBJECTS

(This was written for the radio show, All Over The Shop, in response to that year’s American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies – ever – listing, which, going by experience, wouldn’t have been that different from the previous year’s, the ensuing year’s, or whatever they have up there right now. 

Those who have longer term exposure to my writing re movies and pop culture in general will be aware that I have limited patience with lists like this. Some of the reasons are indicated below.

I have no idea how many radio shows this was spread over, but it must have been more than one. I’m not sure whether my listing of potential alternative selections at the end  – just a listing of titles, sorry – even made the cut, in terms of getting on the radio. Probably not. I’ve possibly changed opinions slightly on a few of the films, and seen a handful that I hadn’t seen at the time. Otherwise, much like the official supermarket-advertising British rock band of record, it’s pretty much Situation Status Quo.)

MOVIE MAGIC, AND ITS OCCASIONAL NON-APPEARANCE

THE AFI TOP 100 LIST

1 – Citizen Kane

Saves thinking about another number one, a bit like throwing in “Exile on Main Street” by the Stones in top albums polls. It’s roughly in the vicinity of where it ought to be. It was like American movies growing up all in one hit, but not getting all boring and responsible while doing it, like a U2 album.

2 – The Godfather

Buckets of atmosphere and somewhat before its time as a ethnically-based revision of the gangster movie, and has stood the test of time, but I’m probably the one guy around that thinks it’s overrated, a little bit stiff in the armpits, and it’s listed too high here, given a century’s worth of viable competition.

3 – Casablanca

The perfect Hollywood Quality Street assortment of heroism, intrigue, humour and fairy-bread romance all on the one pizza, great leads, rock-solid supporting cast, has worked for 60-plus years and will work for another 60.

4 – Raging Bull

My pick of the Scorsese pictures along with “King of Comedy”, brain-meltingly brutal no-way-out for the viewer character study, probably the best boxing picture ever made which takes in much stronger territory than most sporting sub-genres. As much of a felony assault as a motion picture, but controlled and with perspective, which is what it has over “Goodfellas” with the same two leads. No objections from me.

5 – Singin in the Rain

Not all blithe yodel and tappin tootsies – a very nice sly edge sending up Hollywood movie making lends it humour and a spine. Hasn’t gone off like cheese, probably as a result of this. A classic movie musical that is easily endurable by people who don’t like classic Hollywood musicals.

(Saw it again just recently. Unbelievable attention-to-detail in design and use of technicolor. Movie-deconstructionist material in here – and there’s a lot of it – is clever, but also vital to the movie’s entertainment value in style and structure. Fun and smart movie about the movie-making process that’s just about perfectly done. It may be cheese, but close to the best cheese ever.)

6 – Gone with the Wind

I’m holding off on this one until a rainy millennium. I’ll take everyone else’s word, although a lifelong confusion over the flap-eared alleged hunkidom of Clark Gable presents problems for me.

(Did see it, finally. Of course it has epic sweep, as advertised since day of release. It’s soap, but it’s other things as well, and it does bring the tragedy of the Civil War  close to home regardless of more realistic recountings since and regardless of where your home is. Some lumps in the custard re overall construction, some major inconsistencies of characterisation. Anyway, it’s pretty great.)

7 – Lawrence of Arabia

The epic’s epic and all that trad jazz. I’ll file this under “Gone with the Wind” for future deathbed viewing, although David Lean could make a movie.

8 – Schindler’s List

As someone who used to write film reviews for the Australian Jewish News, I honestly feel I have no need to see any movie involving Nazis ever again *, unless Jack Benny, Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges are in it, and Schindler is right on that list. However I will admit to serious eyebrow raising over any Spielberg picture made any great amount of time after the 1970s, and the more worthy the subject matter, the higher the eyebrow shoots.

* (Approx 8-9 out of ten movies I used to get sent to seemed to be about Nazis.)

9 – Vertigo

All of Hitchcock’s bizarre sex-fear stuff at its most naked crammed into the one nominally mystery movie, but hand-puppeted by a guy who was in total control even when he was getting really out there, pushed over the edge by one of the greatest music scores in movie history. Maybe the greatest movie by a really great movie maker.

10 – The Wizard of Oz

Fantasy, mind-control oriented tunes and low vaudeville combined uncannily aptly, with pictorial alacrity that seems unbelievable for 1939. Whoever cast the movie should have got an Oscar. Absolutely timeless, and I’m sure the kids of 2139 will be enjoying it when they’ll probably be watching it on their toothbrushes, or 20-cent pieces.

11 – City Lights

Chaplin milks the pathos – O Lord, the pathos – in a movie which combines impeccably mounted and somewhat fussbudgetty comedy with kind of a tone poem of base-line romantic emotions, and in other words, I suspect a modern audience might fidget themselves to death during this one, and some of his silent shorts or Modern Times might play better to them now. It’s kind of perfect at what it is, but whether that’s what people would get now, I’ll reserve judgement on.

(Note – Chaplin and Keaton pics that are on here. Where is Safety Last and The Freshman by Harold Lloyd? You could make as good a case for either.)

12 – The Searchers

Expert, fatalistic, picaresque western about an atrocity and revenge which wanders but the audience’s attention won’t. John Ford made pictures that seemed a little less self-important and paternalistic than this one, which is my only reservation about how highly it’s placed on this list. If you’re John Wayne resistant that won’t help either, but he was never much better than he was in this.

13 – Star Wars

If there was a “Casablanca” of space operas, I guess this would be it for the variety and range of entertainment styles it chunders through without the pan ever flying off the handle. But on the other claw, I don’t think there can be a “Casablanca” of space operas. One is a highly entertaining giddy movie that transcends its limitations and the other is a highly entertaining giddy movie. Not George Lucas’s best movie, and depending on how much you loosen the belt-buckle of definition, not even his best science-fiction movie.

14 – Psycho

Another Hitchcock study of sex, fear, fear of sex and sex as fear, this time with a mother complex for the ages and tricked out as a horror movie. A lot of what’s invariably credited to the genius of Hitchcock was right there in the Robert Bloch potboiler novel nobody ever bothers to read, and what he extracts from it, and the little stylistic things he does around it are actually the genius of Hitchcock.

15 – 2001: A Space Odyssey

As science-fiction, before its time then, behind its time now. As a movie it’s kind of a highly involving light and sound show, albeit superior to the one at the Swan Hill goldfields we always used to be taken to at school, and with an ending that is almost entirely dependent on what mental baggage the viewer chooses to bring along with them. It’s definitely worth a look, but Kubrick made better and less untidy movies than this.

16 – Sunset Boulevard

Crunchy Billy Wilder satirical surgery on the subject of Hollywood on Hollywood, sub-section behind the scenes. Great performances. If you know the history, some unusually deadly in-jokes, especially in the casting. Maybe not the Wilder movie most likely to play strongly to an audience now, but before its time at the time.

17 – The Graduate

Something about the older woman-younger clod sex thing frazzled the fuses of the greater world public about this one and it seems to have left an indelible dent on the scones of everyone not named Leaping Larry L. Two great actors in the leads, no doubt, but I can think of five funnier pictures during a two-second knee scratch, and to me comedies mostly get points for being funny, no matter how headachingly they zing the heartstrings. To me this dates nearly as much as the Chaplin.

18 – The General

For an 80 year old silent picture made when its subject of the Civil War wasn’t such old news, this holds up pretty well, mainly because the Buster Keaton lead character has a prosaic off-hand kind of attitude, although a very non-prosaic physical approach to problem solving. One of the great comedians in the sort of rare solid plot setting that helps both the picture and the comedy. Not at all overrated in this position.

19 – On the Waterfront

Elia Kazan made some great movies and seems immune to being ever catching the title of “Great director”. Even with this one, everyone just goes, “Ahh, Brando”. It’s grittiness and blue collar settings won’t have the same impact now, but there’s dramatic guts a-plenty, all over the joint.

20 – It’s a Wonderful Life

Never been tempted. One of Frank Capra’s wish-fulfillment feelgood movies of the thirties, which he didn’t get around to making until 1946, with a rock-solid supporting actor cast which must set some sort of all-time record for faces you recognise without knowing all the names. Awash in decades of viewer goodwill and they can’t all be wrong, but something tells me that “Arsenic and Old Lace” would play better to contemporary audiences than the other Capra movies.

21 – Chinatown

Rollicking Thin Lizzy song, but this is the updated 40s private eye movie Roman Polanski made in the 70s with Jack Nicholson, back when Jack used to act rather than bloat before your eyes and pitch fits while imitating Jack Nicholson at random. Again, I can think of better revisionist private eye movies from this era without twanging a single neuron, but I probably ought to give this one a more recent optic swipe. That said, I think this is ranked too high. Polanski could make movies. He did make better ones than this, from memory.

22 – Some Like It Hot

Guys dressing in drag and having various “Carry On” type whoopsie moments doesn’t really do it for me any more than the “Carry On” pictures did, even with Marilyn’s famous Monroes pitching about hither and yon. I fully acknowledge that the rest of the planet has long since lost their tiny minds about the male dress-wearing in this movie, and that there are funny moments in it, and it’s not a bad picture or anything, but to me this is about the single most overrated comedy movie in history. Billy Wilder made funnier pictures when he was making more serious pictures.

23 – The Grapes of Wrath

Well, they got another John Ford picture in there, and for me this is more the wrong one than “The Searchers”. It’s all highly serious, what with the plight of them poor Okies and the John Steinbeck literary agent backing, the cast is solid and so is the picture. Like wood. It’s quality work, but with all the depression of all relevant kinds, and the gruelling nature of the exercise, not leavened by any noticeable humour, or dramatic changes of pace, it’s also grisly hard work. This movie is as much fun as folk music. It’s an artefact of its time, and not by any means poor, has historical value and validity and I say let’s all go out for pizza and ice-creams.

24 – E.T.

Spielberg’s great talent as a movie maker is to use the medium to tell stories. That’s what he’s good at. To me this is the sort of story that is made for him – one of those heart-tugger kid’s fantasies that has a point to make, emotional highs and lows, and is based enough in reality of a kind to register with adults as well. Stylistic and presentational Spielberg tendencies that became really bad habits are perfectly suited to this project, and for what it is, I think he got it all right. Only reservations – have no idea how it would play today – haven’t seen it since release, and I’m struggling openly with the concept that since Bert Newton invented the moving picture that there haven’t been 24, or 48, or 148 greater movies than this one.

25 – To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck was presumably genetically molded and put on this earth to play the lead role, and that carries a lot of weight in this movie. It’s pointless arguing about this one – pretty much every second person on the planet loves it, it does what it does really well, and though the suits and cars may have dated, and the dialogue is quaintly free of either classic or hip-hop moderne cuss-words, the issues of mob-think and extreme racial uneasiness haven’t changed to the point where current audiences will need too much head-scratching time to recognise them. Presumably director Robert Mulligan’s only risk of being included in a top 100 film listing.

26 – Mr Smith Goes to Washington

Frank Capra, wish-fulfillment, feelgood, 1930s, I said it all before. Probably holds up better than “Billy Jack Goes to Washington”, or Isaac Washington the friendly bartender from “The Love Boat”. 100 greatest movies of all time? Well, like the Americans say, “I have issues”.

27 – High Noon

Iconic western so long considered a classic it’s probably not worth arguing about. I’m not sure the real sagebrush chewin western die-hards would rank this above some of the John Ford or Howard Hawks movies, and I’d make a case for the Sergio Leone’s, at least one Peckinpah, and maybe some of those Randolph Scott-Bud Boeticher oddball ones from the late 50s.

28 – All About Eve

Theatrical expose and showcase for Ac-TORS ac-ting, kicks you around the head emotionally and leaves the heartstrings to their own devices, and in some ways, plays pretty contemporary for subject matter right now. Bette Davis and George Sanders go nuts and they’re just the folks who can do it. No arguments.

29 – Double Indemnity

40s noir crime story revolving around insurance agent – a typically contemporary approach of that time – with Fred McMurray cast against the type that viewers from the “My Three Sons” era would expect to see him as. Handling of material is airlessly tight, the fatalism convincing, puts the viewer right in the position of knowing the protagonist’s scheme is wrong, but desperately wanting it to go right. Kind of unusual material for Billy Wilder, but the genial, questioning, on-screen presence of Edward G Robinson captures that inherent cynicism that human beings will inevitably tend to revert to their worst instincts. It’s a solid pick.

30 – Apocalypse Now

Updating Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War is probably underrated as an audacious approach, and pulling it off as well as this without doing any disservice to the gruesome bitterness of either source stands as something of a miracle. Probably should be higher, and a valid candidate, although not mine, for Coppola’s greatest movie.

31 – The Maltese Falcon

John Huston takes the Dashiell Hammett private eye story to the screen as perfectly as it could be done. Does everything well, from muted heroics, to suspense to dark humour to plausible sense of danger. Great movie.

32 – The Godfather, Part II

Same as I said before. Another really good movie. A lot of other screen-peepers say this one is better than the first, I think it’s more episodic and the first one is tighter and thus grabbier and has more moves in it that people remember. It’s no disgrace to be ranked here though.

33 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Hippie era ethos and author should date it, and maybe they do by now, but essentially a timeless parable of the individual’s need for self-expression vs the dulling demands of an organised but thick-witted societal structure. The novel, script and director Milos Forman’s manipulation of dramatic mile-posts, humour, emotional intensity are judged to a kind of machine-tooled perfection that could almost be intrusive, but this is a movie that needed Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, and got them, so forget about it. Not to mention a cast of supporting faces that would do justice to a police line-up in a Dick Tracy comic.

34 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The Disney house-style of emotional manipulation at its most psychologically deadly and completely disarming. Impossibly impressive technological achievement for the time as well. One of the greatest movies ever made.

35 – Annie Hall

This feels like the token Woody Allen choice, but as a combination of the wheel-spinning dizzy comedy inventiveness of the earlier funnier films, the darker ruminative and more character based tendencies of the middle period before he completely lost it and went into dull melodrama with big words, and a somewhat unexpected variation on traditional Hollywood romance (although in New York) he got it all right here, and it’s a good choice.

36 – Bridge On the River Kwai

A rigorously well-acted and serious study of pluck and heroism in WW II from the unlikely source of the same novelist who wrote the book they got the “Planet of the Apes” pictures from, and not really as much fun as that fantale fact, but it held the attention through 1076 plays on television back in the 1970s. Somehow doesn’t really sing to me as one of the all-time top 50 movies right now.

37 – The Best Years of Our Lives

Extremely conservative jumped-up soap opera which I can understand how everyone went ga-ga city over back in 1946 considering it was about returned WWII servicemen, but my guess is you’d need ocky-straps attached to the seats to keep the kids watching it now, political considerations not even remotely being the issue, not that they’ll help exactly. Leapster says this all-star, all-snooze tissue-grinder is an ever-reliable candidate for possibly being the most consistently over-rated movie in the history of chewing-gum embossed seats, and I can’t for the life of me think of why, except that possibly nobody has actually bothered to watch it since 1946.

38 – Treasure of the Sierra Madre

John Huston’s Billy Wilder style rumination on the Terrible Greed and Base Nature of the species is again, so long entrenched as a classic that at this late date, you may as well suggest we should move the City of Melbourne to King Island for the scenery as question “Sierra Madre’s” classic status. But, for the record, it’s got atmosphere, suspense, plenty of grip on both brain and lower internal organs, but it’s long, and it’s got flat spots. Don’t know how it would wear with a current audience. Atypical Bogart role helps.

39 – Dr Strangelove

The satirical points it makes probably seem a lot more obvious now than they did then, partly because it originated or at least recorded them first, but I’m not sure that helps all these years down the pike, when the Cold War is either no longer on the menu, or is a different kind of –dinner-dance with some different kinds of cast members. Some great comedy performances in tailor-made roles. Overall, it’s ponderous for a comedy, but look who made it. Whether the satirical point-battering makes up for a slightly cack-lite laugh tally for a big-time comedy movie will depend on the individual viewer. It’s definitely a well-made memorable movie.

40 – The Sound of Music

Leave me right out of this one.

41 – King Kong

Yep, even with the 12 inch model dino-bats outacting the featured male lead, there’s a movie-making magic about this that time hasn’t dimmed. What has dimmed is the dull, nothing-happening bits, which is anything up until our favourite big lunkhead of the title comes in, which seems to take about three shades of forever. You can make a case for it. Without even seeing the Peter Jackson mattress, I already know the 1933 one is the best version of this story ever.

(Have now seen P. Jackson’s ultra-extended exercise in human lifespan-shortening and am now entirely convinced it would take the guy three months minimum to make a cup of instant copy. For all the remakes and unofficial knockoffs, without the slightest question the one classic version of this story remains the original.)

42 – Bonnie and Clyde

Unexpected juggling of light and shade in good movie by chronically underrated director, Arthur Penn.

43 – Midnight Cowboy

This was a cold gust of street air up the pants leg of movie-going suburbia at the time, and in a way still is. One of the more unusual buddy movies, although that’s not all it is. No arguments from little me about this one.

(Recently saw this again too. Period and music arguably somewhat dates it, but director’s apparent cynicism towards modish aspects of the period – the “hipsters” don’t come off any less phony than the tensed-up straights encountered by Jon Voight’s character – looks pretty obvious now, and tends to undercut the former.)

44 – The Philadelphia Story

The one time I tried to get through this it put me out like a light. Apparently terribly sophisticated, but the reality is, everyone loves the later musical version, “High Society”, and ask 9000 people at the deli counter at the supermarket when you’re trying to do your shop on a Saturday morning whether any of them have ever seen this one, or remember it.

[Have struggled through it in full some time ago now. A very-dated and flimsy try-on at verbal sophistication fatally undercut (like it needed help) by the bilious portions of soap and schmaltz lobbed at the audience in the storyline. Plus some bizarre kind of attempt at social right-on-isms that would have seemed overbearing in one of those extremely socially right-on-ism inf(l)ected 1950’s television plays.

People still cling to this for some reason, but the musical remake is its superior in every way, including a winning blitheness – i.e. lack of taking itself and its storyline seriously. Also it has the music. And the performances are funny.]

45 – Shane

Again, engrained western classic. You might as well argue about whether doors should be made of wood or not. It’s a decent, honest, earnest movie which holds the attention.

46 – It Happened One Night

Screwball comedy of the time kick-starting the mini-genre of romantic comedies about two people on the road thrown together by circumstance who hate each other’s guts at first but eventually come to a personal accommodation. When John Cusack was in it, they called it “The Sure Thing”. I’m going to struggle through my Clark Gable problem one day and see the original. Meant to be great.

[Did see it. Liked it just fine. Not sure I haven’t seen plenty of romantic comedies as good. “Greatness” may have faded somewhat with time.]

47 – A Streetcar Named Desire

I think the more pictures and Drama, dear, tried to be devilishly contemporary in the 50s, the more they generally date like vintage knitting patterns now, and I think I’m very easily Blanche DuBois-ed out, but as it’s an Elia Kazan movie, I’ll give it the once-over, one of these decades.

48 – Rear Window

Another Hitchcock from the period when his real obsessions were presented at their rawest and his technique was at its most commanding and refined, this is probably the most conventional of the ones mentioned, and more like a regular crime/suspense picture, but with plenty of weirdness on hand to beat the band. Really memorable set-ups and set-pieces, and you’ll never watch Perry Mason or Ironside the same way ever again, presuming you ever watched them in the first place.

49 – Intolerance

Silent historical epic from before the dawn of time, undoubtedly contained its story-telling innovations, and genuine scope and spectacle but you better keep any sharp objects away from any audience members you try to get to watch it now. Probably included because director DW Griffith’s even earlier and in many ways more innovative feature “The Birth of a Nation” featured the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, and that probably doesn’t play quite as well to audiences now.

50 – Lord of the Rings (1st picture – Fellowship)

How do you put one-third of a story in as a great movie? At least Star Wars was a whole picture. Looked great. Largely humourless, hippo-bloato war movie with the occasional stand-out performance, effects, or atmosphere, kind of drowned in dollars. Like all the Rings movies, somehow managed to suck most of the charm, eccentricity, and sense of coherent, complete mythology from the novel.

51 – West Side Story

Pass

52 – Taxi Driver

Yep, tough, complex, valid, vital, and if it had had songs and dancing maybe it could have been as great as West Side Story.

53 – The Deer Hunter

Unlike its amoral roughly contemporary sparring partner “Apocalypse Now” this has a touch of the conservatives about it, but has the unsparing wild eye view of a horrible war that tends to separate it from the political views of its characters, not to mention plunk the viewers’ heads deep into the horror of war bucket again and again. I think it’s a genuine epic, gruelling for the right reasons, and a great movie.

54 – MASH

The book was better than most realise, but had smaller ambitions than Altman’s movie, but he had his unusual, challenging 1970s style, bucketloads of audacity and the ability to entertain so winningly that you didn’t notice him pulling the other tricks off. He also had two extremely aptly chosen leads, Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland. The TV series * and a lot of time have knocked the shock out of the satire, but it’s still a very memorable picture.

* [This was really meant more to mean that the TV series habituated general viewers more to seeing this kind of subject matter – i.e. war and its consequences, and a satirical, negative and somewhat graphic (standards of the time) view of each – as part of their regular media drama/comedy mass media mix. (This was part of the original intent, re TV adaptation – it was meant to be a metaphor for US Vietnam War involvement as there was no way they could have done a Vietnam War show of this nature on US network TV – or any other US TV – at the time.) It wasn’t so much intended as an attack on the TV show blanding out elements of the movie content. However after the first three series, for sure, or the first four series (to take a more generous although not entirely unreasonable view) all of the above would have been a reasonable criticism of the TV version. It toned down and blanded out in every possible way,  by the end bearing no resemblance to the source material, whether original book, or the Altman movie adapted from it.]

55 – North by Northwest

Don’t ask me, my opinion changes every time I’ve seen it. On a bad day, phony and tedious with lousy process work and on a good day, a sparkalarkalarkaling entertainment conceit with touches of genius and human observation above and beyond that. Not his greatest pure entertainment picture though – that was “The Lady Vanishes”.

56 – Jaws

Moby Shark still getting a run-around, eh? Reasonably solid storytelling and characterisation for something like this, plus some good shock set-pieces. Wouldn’t be the best horror picture of that decade much less all time. Can’t see it as a top 100 picture.

57 – Rocky

Push the buttons, count the money. Would be lucky to crack my list of the top ten boxing movies. I’ll have to assume that everyone else is marching in step and I’m the one that’s not. I have incredible Stallone-blindness in almost everything he’s been in.

58 – The Gold Rush

Extremely neat Chaplin silent feature of the 20s with his little tramp character outsmarting the entire frozen wastes of the Yukon and all personnel. The set-pieces are possibly too famous – it’s a bit like how many times you’d like to hear “Stairway to Heaven”. He’s an incredible talent, but I think his short films are a better place to start.

59 – Nashville

More 70s Altman, and I have to see this one again.

[I did. Very very very good picture, told in that overlapping dialogue/storyline/characters way of the 1970s. It’s meant to be one of those “All American life captured in a microcosm” pics that were not uncommon at the time – another time when it was possible for movies to be about something other than everything blowing up and the guy getting the girl, or the vampire getting the girl, or the young archery girl getting more arrows, or whatever it is now – and it’s a good, clever, wry and cumulatively, somewhat sour/sad one.]

60 – Duck Soup

Incredible flying blitz of gags in a variety of comedy styles, from the Marx Bros plus some insane musical production numbers held together by Leo McCarey – a director who generally went more for structure, but gave in to the flow and paced it with gags here. As good a showcase for the Marx Bros as there was on film, although “Monkey Business” and “Horsefeathers” are close.

61 – Sullivan’s Travels

One of writer-director Preston Sturges’ travesties of Americana, studded with memorable minor characters played by top-draw second-banana comedy actors. These tend to play surprisingly well now. There probably had to be one of these on there.

62 – American Graffiti

Almost chokes you with the airless snap-frozen atmosphere of both smalltown cruising 1950s, and that poignant time of total potential (probably about to turn into the disappointingly conventional) of teens enjoying their last independence before inevitable responsibility. George Lucas’s best movie.

63 – Cabaret

One of the few musicals I get. Liza Minnelli is incredible, believe it or don’t. Joel Grey steals the picture. When they made Hogan’s Heroes they thought making a sitcom about Nazis was bizarre. Well, here’s Nazis – the Musical. Staging of musical numbers knocks your head off with both the pictures and the message. Some evil humour in there too, and genuine sadness. Maybe the non-singing drama flags next to the production numbers sometimes, but overall a pretty amazing achievement, from underrated director  Bob Fosse.

64 – Network

Does seem like it came from a stage play with stage intact at times, but hysteria-pitch satire on TV business comes through with scary-funny latter-day accuracy at times, despite some dated wardrobe and haircuts.

65 – The African Queen

Opposites thrown together by circumstance, etc, etc. A star vehicle, time-honoured, and would anyone like to hear Hotel California again?

66 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Even if you considered this series for five seconds, they picked the wrong movie, and if you gave the series five seconds consideration for this list, you picked the wrong planet.

67 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

I am

68 – Unforgiven

Clint’s guernsey on the list, I guess. It might even crack his personal top five. At least it wasn’t “Firefox” or the one with the orang-utan.

69 – Tootsie

At least it wasn’t Mrs Doubtfire. Has anyone compiling this list seen any comedy movies at all?

70 – A Clockwork Orange

The dystopian science-fiction setting, the telegraphed black humour, the production design and punk-rock long underwear and top-hats, and the we are shocking you now pathological cruelty set-pieces are what made it stand-out, made it remembered, and now make it something of a dated curio, like the Ken Russell movie he forgot to direct but came out anyway. Better cast than “Eyes Wide Shut” I guess. “O Lucky Man” with the same star, and even at far greater length, did what this was meant to do a lot better, and a lot less flashily in a way, and if it had had ‘Kubrick’ listed as director, would probably be right here instead of this movie.

[This now seems a little rough to me, but I’d have to see it again to be sure. You could still make the case, I suspect.]

71 – Saving Private Ryan

A guy who can’t help being an involving storyteller at the movies, blows all the artillery in a harrowing, technically exacting, but largely confusing and extraneous opening twenty minutes, and then piles on the emotion-grab coinkydinks and war movie clichés until your attention span heads one way, your bile count the other, and both of them are the wrong way. If anyone’s still rating this movie, and it came as news to me, there’s about 8,093 WWII pictures that did it all better,  but I guess didn’t have the publicity campaign.

72 – The Shawshank Redemption

Never bothered.

73 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Possibly an entertainment/star vehicle of its time, but George Roy Hill probably deserves something on there, and it resonated for a generation of movie-goers, who are now too old to either resonate or be movie-goers. I guess more people now know George Roy for “Slapshot”. Someone should probably take a look at “Slaughterhouse Five” again now that Kurt Vonnegut’s croaked. Personally, I like “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase but both of those things are an acquired taste.

74 – Silence of the Lambs

I think of this as more of a hit of its time rather than something particularly enduring, if that’s a criterion that any of us are caring about. An ok modishly pathological character-based suspense piece with good actors but that’s about the whole bar menu.

75 – In the Heat of the Night

Despite having a lot of the same elements working for it as “To Kill a Mockingbird” – it dates more somehow, but it’s more of a crime-suspense picture and an expertly handled one, and it has star-power in the leads, with Sydney Poitier and Rod Von Steiger. They had to get one Poitier picture in there, since for about ten years he was the biggest star in the history of wildly flung popcorn. Don’t know what this movie means to people now.

76 – Forrest Gump

There was just a whiff of something colon chokingly cute and violently self-consciously “aren’t we clever”, along with a case of the mainstream-audience suck-ups about this one that has succeeded in putting me off it completely right to this day. Anyway, isn’t this basically Woody Allen’s “Zelig” mixed with a few jolts of Peter Sellers’ “Being There”, and haven’t I seen both of those already?

[Did see it, or see it again, or both. It’s pleasant enough, but that’s about the whole bowl of nuts there. Much more conservative than the other pics mentioned above, and it did seem derivative of both.]

77 – All the President’s Men

The game doesn’t change so the Watergate era stuff still resonates. Extra chill injected to highly effective political suspense thriller due to wildly improbable events having actually occurred in the soiled pages of real life. Cast didn’t hurt.

78 – Modern Times

Chaplin incorporated some stuff from his silent shorts, added some new stuff that seemed to be effective comedy variations on “Metropolis” of all comedy-resistant movies, found a new use for his little tramp character as a victimised unit of social satire, and made probably his overall most effective feature. This one still ought to play ok.

79 – The Wild Bunch

Revisionist Peckinpah buddy-group western with elegiac sense of history – of both the West and the movie genre – that is ranked far too low here.

80 – The Apartment

Contemporary references to early 60s style sex “swinging” have brutally dated this Billy Wilder movie, which wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t trying to play a candy-pop romance off against the usual mistaken how’syourfathers and ill-timed whoopsies while milking the sleaze for adult daringness. I dunno, I thought this was medium tedium all the way. All those Billy Wilder pictures and they couldn’t find the Leonard Maltin to look up “Stalag 17”, The Lost Weekend”, or even “Kiss Me Stupid” with  Dean Martin and my favourite martian. And that’s not even counting my pick as his best movie.

81 – Spartacus

Little point arguing.

82 – Sunrise

FW Murnau was an artist, knew what he was doing, but this particular cinematic tone poem of emotional shading or whatever it is, has never inspired me to anything in particular other than grinding my teeth. If they’d loosened the pants around their necks about non-US movies, his one in here would be the original “Nosferatu” which you might even be able to nail a contemporary audience into their chairs to watch without instituting mass rioting.

83 – Titanic

Yeah, right, definitely. Next month, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island

84 – Easy Rider

I think there were counter-culture type pictures as good or better around the same time, but this one probably bridged a gap between the vital exploitation pictures of the 60s and the more openly experimental entertainment style of the 70s American movies. It plays well now. You can make a decent case for it.

85 – A Night At the Opera

Very watchable Marx Bros MGM picture with great comedy material interrupted by more or less pleasant and entirely unnecessary musical snooze sections. Not their second best picture.

86 – Platoon

As much of a mess as Saving Private Ryan, riddled with clog-fisted plot rigging and WWII era movie clichés jerrimanders, and an inert performance by Tom Berenger. As erratically Keystone Kops like as his output is, Oliver Stone makes better movies than this almost every time. In fact he probably makes more entertaining bowel movements almost every time. Shocking choice.

87 – 12 Angry Men

It looks like a better shot and camera-choreographed television play, and the emotional rigging is plainly visible through the duh-rama, but there’s some good stage acting in there, and the emotional intensity still holds up. Lee J Cobb is a champ as the heel.

88 – Bringing Up Baby

Howard Hawks screwball comedy of sex and the sexes relies heavily on situations, elaborately obvious set-ups, ooo-err confusion, mugging, has funny moments, but not like a contemporary WC Fields, Marx Bros or Laurel and Hardy movie or anything, and is probably way overrated.

[Saw about 45 minutes of it recently. Found it hard work. Actors and director seem altogether too taken with feeling they are being hilarious while keeping straight face. Current audience members might also have no trouble keeping straight face. “Wild antics” tending to mild drizzle, and you’ve seen plenty wilder. Marx Bros, Laurel & Hardy features underrated by comparison to this stuff, arguably. Say, how about Olsen and Johnson? Maybe some of the better Three Stooges shorts and all.]

89 – The Sixth Sense

You tell me. I think movies should be allowed on here in 20 years time, if anyone still remembers them. It’s not a bad test.

90 – Swing Time

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I generally last around one tap routine. He was obviously a syncopated octopus of a dancer, she was really an appealing performer, but I’m not the one to ask about these movies.

91 – Sophie’s Choice

Like anyone except Meryl Streep’s auntie has seen this one in about 20 years. I remember it dimly in all senses, but regardless of what the novel was, the movie was a soap opera with a lot of rain and storms breaking and Meryl wearing the hell out of a Polish accent and comedy wig.

92 – Goodfellas

Everyone else’s gangster Scorsese choice, but not mine.

(Too rote, by the numbers, ‘all set-pieces when it’s anything’ for me. The whole doesn’t convince, or I’m struggling to locate it. Moments of powerful film-making/violence – well you get that in Tarantino’s declining-years movies too. Still think Casino had more shape/structure, for a similar thing. To me, Raging Bull and King of Comedy are on a different level. Again, to me, this is the MTV music vid version of Scorsese gangsterism by comparison to his better work in the area.)

93 – The French Connection

Well, it was big in its day, and might kind of play ok now, thanks to big action set-pieces and Gene Hackman. Kind of surprised to see it there.

94 – Pulp Fiction

Yes, easily. Tarantino was a great re-user and re-inventor and blasted a hole through what commercial crime/suspense movies had become. Backlash all you like, he was a one-man cinema movement.

95 – The Last Picture Show

Bogdanovich gets his gong. Can’t comment – never seen it all the way through.

96 – Do The Right Thing

Probably as good a choice of Spike Lee movie as could have been made, presuming one had to be in there. Danny Aiello and John Turturro in the cast made a difference.

97 – Blade Runner

This is like Clockwork Orange, only with less claims for social significance. Extremely visually atmospheric settings, with some memorably pathological moments, and it’s kind of 1984 run around again with a detective theme, and it’s watchable and memorable in bits, but basically an entertainment, and basically not quite all there. At least “The Matrix” isn’t in there.

98 – Yankee Doodle Dandy

More old musicals. Supposedly Cagney is a one man riot in this. Not my table, madam.

99 – Toy Story

Put in there no doubt as the archetype of a technological category of movie-making, much as it seemed they put “Snow White” in there. Toy Story is an extremely likeable movie too. However ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is everything a great movie should be – something that interweaves story, characters, visual craft, effects, emotional manipulation, music, other sound, in exactly the right proportions to produce an emotionally exacting, but exceedingly satisfying artistic whole. Toy Story is bright clever and funny. I have no problem with it making the Top 100, but head to head, I think they probably should have put a few more old school Disney features ahead of it.

100 – Ben-Hur

Well it’s big and it’s long and it’s not outstandingly dull, so it’s not Senator Bob Brown, and it deserves to be there more than Ben Affleck, Ben Cousins or Ben Zine. Beats Son of Maciste versus the Yoga Instructor of Hercules too. Mind you, Don Knotts starring in “The Ghost and Mr Chicken” fulfils most of the same exacting criteria.

—————————————————-

 OTHER MOVIES THAT MAYBE SHOULD BE ON THERE

[Ones in brackets are ones I’m either not quite sure about, or not from US and thus outside AFI consideration, as far as I’m aware.]

“The Conversation”  The Lady from Shanghai

Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Bank Dick, It’s a Gift

The Party    The Night of the Hunter    Monkey Business  Horse Feathers

Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)   Duel   The King of Marvin Gardens

Five Easy Pieces

Full Metal Jacket  The Shining

Once Upon a Time in America   Casino

The King of Comedy

All the King’s Men

American Beauty  Storytelling Happiness

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind    The People vs Larry Flynt

Natural Born Killers    Salvador   Wall Street

Bananas   Sleeper   Play It Again, Sam

The Front

(Badlands)

Blazing Saddles   Young Frankenstein   The Producers

Eraserhead   Fantasia  Pinocchio

Cool Hand Luke   The Third Man

A Face in the Crowd    Masque of the Red Death

Bride of Frankenstein   Sherlock Jr

Goldfinger   Dr No

Goodbye Mr Chips   The Browning Version

The Lady Vanishes

Dead of Night

The Black Cat

(The Hustler)

The Last Detail

Rollerball

O Lucky Man   This Sporting Life

Wake in Fright

Forbidden Planet

Arsenic and Old Lace

Little Caesar  The Public Enemy  Scarface (original)

Scarface (remake)   Carlito’s Way

The Lost Weekend

What’s Up Doc

Stardust Memories

My Darling Clementine

(The Wages of Fear  M. Hulot’s Holiday)

The Outlaw, Josey Wales

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Peeping Tom

Nightmare Alley

Reservoir Dogs

Laws of Gravity

The Tenant

Army of Darkness

The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers

The Sweet Smell of Success

This is Spinal Tap    A Mighty Wind    (Best in Show)

(To Be or Not to Be)

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

The Loved One    Lolita

Ride the High Country   Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Schlock    Into the Night    Miller’s Crossing  Barton Fink

(O Brother, Where Art Thou)

A few John Sayles pictures

A Fine Madness  Odd Man Out

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Targets

The Ghost Breakers

I Walked with a Zombie

Cuba

(Night Moves)

Catch-22

Radio Days   (Zelig)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail       Paths of Glory    Horror of Dracula

——————————————

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8 thoughts on “THE AFI TOP 100 MOVIES, AND ASSORTED SHIRTY SUBJECTS

  1. Out of interest, what is George Lucas’ best movie? Surely not THX or American Graffiti. Actually, that does not leave many, if any, excluding the risible SW reboots, so I suppose it must be one of the two. Not much of a Lucas fan.

  2. Well, whaddaya hear, whaddaya say? I just saw American Graffiti was in the top 100, which was something of a surprise to me, since I reckon it is pretty damn tedious.

  3. Sorry TT, meant to respond to this earlier. “American Grafitti” is one of those movies that almost, or should, qualify as its own little genre, since there’s no shortage of them – bunch of youth, certain time and place, all the potentialities and possibilities in the world theoretically ahead of them, and we catch them at the time BEFORE the mold is locked in place and they go on to be whoever they are going to be, just at the moment where they can still influence that, and/or act
    “against type”.
    I guess how much magic the film has depends on how much interest this genre, or sub-genre inherently holds for you, and also in this case, the specifics of the small-town 50s setting would presumably be a factor.
    All that said, I reckon this is pretty masterful movie-making. That airless snap-capturing of time/place and the feeling that these kids are on the brink of something magic, and they’ll never see a time like it again – I thought he got all that. Great cast too. Lucas’s best picture for mine by a mile. Don’t know whether it would alter your opinion but if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, it might be worth another look.

  4. Not many non English speaking films in your list of films that should’ve made the Top 100, Larry. Don’t you rate world cinema?

  5. Ok, the criteria for the AFI list is clearly – CLEARLY, like, as hell – English-language pictures, and pretty much all Hollywood type ones as well. My suggestions for ones they’d left out thus were going to follow that line as well. If you look, among the bracketed ones – which included ones I think are worth a look but might not be eligible for one reason or another – you’ll find one or two non-Hollywood, non-English-language-origins pics that I knew had played to international audiences, including US, which was why I put them in. But there’s not a lot there, because that’s not what the AFI list is about, and if you’re trying to come up with substitutes for their list…

  6. Never really thought about a list like that, as such. For one thing, any list I came up with might be substantially different from one I could come up with the next day. Within a certain sphere of achievement, making distinctions between movies (or novels, or comics, or anything) is entirely arbitrary, and it’s those kind of arbitrary distinctions that you have to make to come up with a list like the top 20 (or 50 or 100 or 1000) movies of all-time, in a particular order. I think these lists make sense only in the sense that people like lists – i.e. it’s inherently a “wrong” thing to do when comparing movies.
    I’ll think about it. Maybe I could come up with an “off the top of me head” list of 20 movies I would unreservedly consider great, but in no particular order.

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