Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How the AFI 100 Movies list changed my life

I don't know, yet, if this is a good or bad thing that AFI is redoing it's top 100 list but I thought i'd put it out there. I think it's possibly a bad thing because I just have always set the first one as the gold standard of what's a film classic, so I'm sorry to see it go, but alas film is a changing art.

I do want to say that the release of the first list pretty much changed my life as it was that list that made me want to learn about classic film. I remember when I heard there was a list out, and I tried to guess what might be on the list. I made a list of what I thought were the best movies of all time. It was a really pathetic list based on the pictures I had seen: There was Cool Runnings and the Mighty Ducks and an obscure Vincente Mineli musical I liked called Kismet, among other things. It was to my amazement, that the list itself was made up of movies I had never even heard of, let alone seen. I was completely taken aback, and furious. I wanted to know what could all these movies have that the Mighty Ducks didn't have, and the next summer, I didn't have a job and with my free time, I went to the library and started checking out some of these classic movies: The African Queen, Bringing Up Baby, The Graduate, Network, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, All About Eve, All Quiet on the Western Front, and that's where my interest was born that I have kept up to the present day.

I kind of did like how the old list was set in stone and I think it's a very good list as is, and i don't want trends of the minute tampering with it. It's very rare that a group of people attempting to nominate the best films of all time ever gets anything remotely right, so why mess with success.

One thing the AFI did was not let short-term memory get to them. Their list was released in 1998, I believe, and their most recent film was 1996's Fargo. They didn't let the Titanic box-office juggernaut cloud their judgement, nor were they impressed enough by those hotshots from Boston, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, to include Good Will Hunting on the list. The list lists 7 films from the 90's: Goodfellas, Dances with Wolves, Silence of the Lambs, Schindler's List, Unforgiven, Pulp Fiction, and Forrest Gump, which I think is a reasonable call for panelists to judge a film by in 1998. Those films had safely passed the test of time by then. I might have been iffy about Silence of the Lambs as anything more than a horror film, even though it did win the academy award, but I think its also remembered as Anthony Hopkins' high career point, and it has a psychological depth to it. Sure, they could have included more cult classics like The Piano, Braveheart or the Shawshneck Redemption but I think they were right to be cautious about letting in too many films from the present day. A classic does need time to age. Also, Shawshnack Redemption's reputation has grown over time, wierdly enough. An indication of this is Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbin's oscars for films in 2004 and 2003, respectively. Now that people have seen a certain cultural prejudice in Mel Gibson, it might have been wise not to include Braveheart on the list back then to a degree that no one would have ever realized. Braveheart did make the voter's top 10, interestingly enough.

I'd expect if the list were to be redone that Clint Eastwood with his recent hot streak, would have a retroactively enhanced reputation (even though he's done some really bizarre and awful films in his early career) and you might see a Sergio Leone film make an appearance as well as a higher rating for Unforgiven. Mystic River might make the cut. I think Shawshneck Redemption would probably make the list, and lately there seems to be a love and a higher appreciation for Warren Beatty, even though I don't believe he's done anything since the last list came out. They might include Reds or Bugsy. I think this had to do with the Reds DVD.

I also would expect Touch of Evil to make the list. It's truly a masterpiece that belongs on the top 25 or 50 films ever made, and now that it's reedited version has been released (it was released in 1996 according to director Orson Welles' original wishes) and everyone has seen it, I think it would make it. I also have heard that there's been a critical reevaluation for Robert Mitchum so he might do better this time around. Since Stanley Kubrick died, there's been a very positive reevaluation of him, and he might have another film like Full Metal Jacket or the Shining make the list. I think Buster Keaton's The General will make the list since people were a little peeved about that. I might also expect Mean Streets to make the list since there's more of a Scorsesee appreciation.

I felt Grand Hotel and Back to the Future got raw deals the first time around, so I'll pull for them. In fact, I might very well be voting on the list myself, since I can join the AFI for 50 dollars (anyone can, actually).

No comments: