Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FAQ: Do musicals today follow the same conventions as they used to?

I had a friend who asked me yesterday if musicals followed the same conventions as they used to.

First, a brief history:

Musicals are a genre which means there are certain stylistic conventions that have been cemented over time. In contrast, political films are not a film genre. There might be a number of films that have appeared over history about politics, but they have nothing in common with each other. Part of the reason that musicals are a genre with consistent patterns is because the vast majority of the successful musicals since the dawn of the sound era were all produced under one roof: MGM Studios. From the late '30s to the '50s, the genre's top directors-- Charles Arthur, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, and Vincente Minnelli-- all worked under a branch of production at MGM under producer Arthur Freed and they likely had the same loose guidelines to follow. Additionally, many musicals that made their mark in the movies (i.e. Brigadoon, Kismet, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, Hello Dolly, Oklahoma, The Music Man) made their way from Broadway so those Broadway conventions filtered in to most adaptations. Even when conventions weren't borrowed, the directors faced the same challenges in bringing a Broadway production to the silver screen and deciding which versions to keep.

One of the primary conventions of a musical film is the idea of integration (remember folks, you'll have a quiz on those bold words) which is when characters would spontaneously erupt in song and dance as if it was as natural to them as speaking. It's a somewhat silly concept and one that sometimes gets parodied.

Audiences would have found it equally absurd if not for the fact that audiences were gradually weaned off earlier versions of the musical in which the characters were singing in situations that made sense. This is called the backstage musical. In MGM's early Broadway Melody series, and the Busby Berkley productions at Warner Brothers, the plot centered around performers on a stage, so that whenever their characters were singing, it would make sense within the confines of the plot.

One could see evidence of the gradual transition in a film like "Meet me in St. Louis" in which some of the musical numbers make sense within the context of the plot (Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien singing "Under the Bamboo Tree" to entertain house guests) and some don't ("The Boy Next Door" or "The Trolley Song" are completely unnatural). More interestingly, "Meet me in Saint Louis" has numbers which fall into grey area: In the opening of the film, Judy Garland strolls in singing "Meet me in Saint Louis" and she is joined by her older sister on the piano, before their father storms in and tells them to "turn off that racket." This scene could be taking place outside the context of reality, but when we see the dad (a character who sings no musical numbers over the course of the production) interrupting them, we see the scene differently: it's just two girls getting carried away as they are humming a tune.

Now, the question about whether musicals follow the same conventions as they did before:

The question might have less to do about whether directors have a need to follow conventions as whether or not the makers of modern-day musicals face the same challenges of getting audiences on board as filmmakers did back then (which they did).

The fact that Hollywood didn't really make any musicals for most of the '70s, '80s or '90s is pretty good evidence that modern-day audiences were clearly not familiar and eagerly accepting of musicals at the time. West Side Story, for example, is appreciated by a lot of people, but at the same time, the idea of gangsters being proficient in ballet has been parodied on Family Guy, SNL, and pretty much everywhere else. In order to bring back the musical, Hollywood has had to gradually revert from the integrated musical to the backstage musical. High School Musical and Dreamgirls have had backstage plots, and some of the Broadway-to-movie films that have recently come out on this latest wave (e.g. Rent, The Producers) might have been more acceptable as integrated films because they were integrated musicals on Broadway and didn't tamper too much with the source material. It's also telling that neither of those two films got great reviews anyway.

When a musical does fully embrace an integrated formula like Moulan Rouge, in 2001, it does tend to come out as over the top. Although the sheer ambition of the film was enough to get the film an Oscar nomination and there's a certain class of people who hail the film as genius, the critical reaction and reaction from many moviegoers at the time was fairly polarized (short of going back in time and asking people what they thought of the film right as they walked out of the first screening, I know it's hard to prove that, but that's very much the way I remember it) .

Chicago was able to win an Oscar for best picture as a musical and the unofficial headline in Hollywood was "The musical has officially been revived" (Read the first paragraph of Roger Ebert's 2003 Oscar predictions for supporting evidence: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030316/OSCARS/33010302/1023). Perhaps, Chicago is credited with reinventing the musical because it was able to find a way to make a convincing musical that would go over with audiences while preserving the fun of the integrated musical: Setting the musical numbers in the mind of a character.

Recently, because more musicals have been released in the last few years and the average American moviegoer might be more movie-literate, integrated musicals have done a little better. This past year, Across the Universe and Hairspray (another Broadway holdover) were both greeted fairly well. It could be that filmmakers are gradually learning what works and what doesn't from the few musicals to be released before they started directing their projects.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Director's List progress report

Tom Shadyac, Stephen Spielberg, Peter Segal, Mike Nicholls, Penny Marshall, Rob Reiner and Lasse Hollstrom have all had recent bumps. I'm soon going to watch Lucky You as I just bought the DVD so that film will be receiving a bump as well.

18 Alfred Hitchkock-Family Plot, Torn Curtain, Rebecca, 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Sabetour, The Wrong Man, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, Topaz, The Birds, Psycho, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions), Rear Window

13 (12) Stephen Spielberg-Color Purple, Raiders of the Last Ark, Jurassic Park, Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler's List, Hook, ET, Jaws, War of the Worlds, Plus: Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

12 (11) Woody Allen-Hollywood Ending, Curse of the Jaded Scorpion, Manhattan, Annie Hall, Small Time Crooks, Sweet and Lowdown, Mighty Aphrodite, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Melinda and Melinda, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Bullets Over Broadway. Plus: Sleeper

8 (4) Mike Nicholls-Graduate, Working Girl, Birdcage, Primary Colors Plus: Postcards from the Edge, What Planet Are You From, Charlie Wilson's War, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff

7 Ivan Reitman: Ghostbusters, 6 Days 7 Days, Old School, Space Jam, Fathers Day, Beethoven, Beethoven’s 2nd

7 (5) Rob Altman-Dr. T and the Women, McCabe and Mrs Miller, MASH, Prairie Home Companion, The Player. Plus: Buffalo Bill, California Split

7 Rob Zemeckis-Back to the Future I-III, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Contact. Plus: Romancing the Stone

7 (5) Joel and Ethan Coen-Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Ladykillers, Man Who Knew Too Much, Intolerable Cruelty, Big Lebowski. Plus: Fargo, No Country for Old Men

7 (5) Billy Wilder-Spirit of St. Louis, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, Irma la Douce, Double Indemnity. Plus: Sabrina, Ace in the Hole

6 Mel Brooks-Spaceballs, High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part I

6 Vincente Minelli-Meet me in St Louis, American in Paris, The Pirate, Brigadoon, The Band Wagon, Kismet

6 Frank Oz-Bowfinger, In and Out, Stepford Wives, The Score, What About Bob, Housesitter 6 (3) Frank Capra-Mr Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night, It's a Wonderful Life, Plus: Mr Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, Arsenic and Old Lace

6 (4) Terry Gilliam-Adventures of Baron Muchenhassen, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brothers Grimm, Time Bandits PLUS: Brazil, The Fisher King

6 Martin Scorsesee-Color of Money, Age of Innocence, Goodfellas, Aviator, The Departed, Gangs of New York

6 Peter Segal-Naked Gun 33 1/3, Tommy Boy, My Fellow Americans, 50 First Dates, Get Smart

5 George Lucas-Star Wars I-IV, American Graffiti

5 Terrence Young-Wait Until Dark, 4 Bonds

5 Stanley Donen-Take Me Out to the Ballgame (most sources insist that he really was the director, not Bugsy Berkley), On the Town, Singing in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade

5 Joel Schumaker-Time to Kill, 8 MM, Batman and Robin, Batman Forever, The Client

5 Orson Welles-Citizen Kane, Lady of Shanghai, Othello, Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil

5 John Glenn-5 Bonds

5 (4) Sidney Pollack-Sabrina, Out of Africa, Interpreter, Tootsie. Plus: The Slender Thread

5 (4) John Huston-Key Largo, Beat the Devil, Man Who Would be King, African Queen. PLUS: Treasure of the Sierra Madre

5 (4) Rob Reiner-Rumor Has It, Alex and Emma, Princess Bride, Stand by Me, American President

5 (3) Tom Shadyac-Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Plus: Patch Adams, Evan Almighty

5 (4) Barry Levinson-Good Morning Vietnam, Rainman, Sleepers, Tin Men, Plus: Man of the Year

5 Robert Rodriguez-El Mariachi Trilogy, Spy Kids and Lava Girl, Sin City

5 (4) Barry Levinson-Sleepers, Rain Man, Tin Men, Good Morning Vietnam. PLUS: Man of the Year

5 Jay Roach-Austin Powers I-III, Meet the Parents , Mystery Alaska

5 (4) Gore Verbinski-Pirates of the Carribean 1, 2, Weatherman, The Mexican. PLUS: Pirates III

5 (4) Howard Hawks-Sgt. York, Bringing Up Baby, Big Sleep, Ball of Fire. PLUS: Rio Bravo

4 Harold Lloyd-Safety Last, Feet First, The Freshman, Kid Brother

4 Guy Hamilton-4 Bond movies

4 Peter Weir-Witness, Dead Poet’s Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander

4 Peter and Bobby Farrelly-Kingpin, Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, Fever Pitch

4 Kevin Smith-Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma

4 Steven Herek-Mr. Holland’s Opus, Three Musketeers, Mighty Ducks, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures

4 Steve Sodebergh-Erin Brockovitch, Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Full Frontal

4 Brett Ratner-After the Sunset, Rush Hour 2, Family Man, X-Men 3

4 Chris Columbis-Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Stepmom

4 John Lynn-Whole Nine Yards, Trial and Error, Sgt Bilko, Whole Ten Yards

4 Tony Scott-Enemy of the State, Déjà Vu, Crimson Tide, Top Gun 4

4 Barry Sonnenfeld-Men in Black I, II, Wild Wild West, Big Trouble

4 Bryan Singer-Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2, Superman Returns

4 (3) Clint Eastwood-Unforgiven, Bronco Billy, Mystic River. PLUS: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

4 Christopher Guest-Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration

4 John Lasseter-Lady and the Tramp, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Cars

4 (3) Wes Anderson-Rushmore, Royal Tannenbaums, Life Aquatic PLUS: Darjeerling Limited

4 (3) Ernst Lubuitsch-Trouble in Paradise, Merry Widow, Ninotchka PLUS: Shop Around the Corner

4 (3) Tim Burton-Batman Returns, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman PLUS: Ed Wood

4 Roland Emmerich-Stargate, ID4, The Patriot, Day After Tomorrow

4 Sam Weisman-Mighty Ducks 2, George of the Jungle, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, The Out-of-Towners

4 (3) Lasse Hollstrom-What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Cider House Rules, Shipping News, PLUS: The Hoax 4 (2)

4 Dennis Dugan-Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, Beverly Hills Ninja, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

4 (3) Penny Marshall-League of their Own, Rennisance Man, Big Plus: Awakenings

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What was the theme of Gangs of New York?

I just saw Gangs of New York from start to finish for the very first time. The film, dating from the holiday season of 2002 is best known as the first of Martin Scorsesee's three grandiose efforts to come up with something masterpiece-ish so he could nab himself an Oscar so he can safely retire into the proverbial cinematic hall of fame. It was a film of impressive scope and it has its advocates and detractors but admittedly, the bar was set very high with the expectations.

The film is certainly an epic, so watching it on TV at home is an experience open to distractions, but in a theater I can imagine it to be even better. The best quality of the film is its authenticity (or rather one of the two best qualities, see Daniel Day-Lewis), it was meticulously researched and takes us to a very interesting period in history. What could be more interesting than New York before all the sky scrapers came up?

Cameron Diaz gives an excellent performance that completely erases the image of Hollywood lightweight and Leo DiCaprio was starting to transition around this time to pretty-looking childstar to an actor admired by his peers. There's a great ensemble and an interesting web of characters including John C Reilley, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson.

Day-Lewis, one of the other two things the movie is well-known for, created one of the most
memorable characters of the decade. He nearly won an Oscar for one of the most subtle and nuanced performances to be nominated for best actor this decade. This is all the more impressive when you consider that in this day and age, the path to earning Oscar love is to play mentally ill, be bombastic in execution, or play a real-life figure with the utmost precision. Day-Lewis's performance was none of those: Day-Lewis just infused the character with fully-fleshed out details and made him interesting in every second he was onscreen. Day-Lewis's performance had the most buzz that season, and not in terms of Oscar buzz: Bill the Butcher was water cooler talk even for people who aren't Oscar buffs, and he did it again this past year with Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. His win for There Will Be Blood was as much for Gangs of New York as it was for this past year.

What I found interesting was the feeling of contradiction between the Oscar-nominated song "Hands that Built America" which I might take to be the theme, with the actual events of the story. To put it bluntly, I just kind of felt a sense of tragedy, because it's not like these gangs actually accomplished anything heroic and were remembered in history. All they did was kill each other. It was like what the aristocrat said to boss tweed about one half of the poor being hired to kill the other half. I don't feel like any character made any lasting contributions (beyond Tweed) towards anything historically that enables America or New York to exist as it is today. Amsterdam's efforts to get McGinn elected were in vain. There efforts to incite a riot against the draft and get the attention of people in power to change anything were equally in vain because the higher-ups jsut brought out some cannons and killed them like they were all just insignificant thugs. I think Scorsesee wanted me to empathize with their causes more than the people who ran New York at the time wanted them to, but in all fairness, these people "were not the hands that built America." They tried to build America and put forth a noble effort but ultimately they didn't change anything.

An essay of mine against wikipedia

Sometimes it can be frustrating, as one of the many people not in charge of the world, to see society straying down the path of disaster and no one doing anything about it. This is why the next best thing I can hope for is when someone who has more sway than me, in terms of the way the world works, is advocating on my behalf to prevent that chaos. Case in point: I have a weary feeling that the sudden advent of wikipedia could lead to some very negative consequences which is why I’ve been very relieved to have come across the work of Andrew Keen who has published the book “The Cult of the Amateur” in which he discusses the negative consequences of web 2.0.

Andrew Keen recently debated Jimmy Wales, the founder of wikipedia, at Oxford University. Keen said his primary concern was whether knowledge should be given away for free: “We’d all love knowledge to be given away for free just like food or drink or this building to be free, but the realities of this economic system is nothing is free.”

His biggest critique of the web 2.0 is, “It’s premised on the idea that there is some virtue of giving away one’s intellectual labor without monetary reward.” In the process, Wikipedia is disintermediating the creative class and forcing the intelligent minds of society to give away their knowledge for free.Wales responded to this by saying that this is untrue because the creative class is growing and that previous concerns with open source software haven’t held true. On the latter point, the dissemination of scientifically specific data that the average layman can’t understand is much different from giving away things in newspapers. In terms of whether the creative class growing or shrinking, the prevalent example cited by the moderator was how newspapers are cutting their staffs and Wales responds by saying that media is changing but he’s confident it’s just a matter of restructuring along new models. I personally don’t think his “confidence” is enough to put down the red flag just yet. In response to a question by an audience member, Keen said that he didn’t believe the creative industry is growing. Yes, Google is rapidly hiring people to counteract the balance of people being laid off of newspapers, but the new employees of Google are simply selling advertising so the intelligentsia is being cut off.

Despite the fact that a little of general public today have an insistence that the traditional media are inundated with biases, both parties agree that professional journalists do hold great value in our society. In fact, much of wikipedia’s source list is from newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Because it derives its credibility from these sources, wikipedia would be substantially weakened by the loss of these newspapers of which wikipedia is ironically playing a part in its demise. “The idea of a world with no professional journalists is a pretty alarming one,” naturally responded Wales, but he admitted he didn’t really have an answer for how to fix that. If the creator of a catalyst for destroying the jobs in a very crucial industry that contributes to the betterment of society (professional journalists) didn’t see the loss of those jobs coming and doesn’t have an answer for it, I would call him an irresponsible inventor.

Andrew notes that the most distressing thing about web 2.0 is that people who can promote the disintermediation of the work of society’s scholars are the ones who stand to profit the most. You tube has made a bundle of money by providing a vehicle for copyrighted material to be destroyed. The number of copyright violations that exist on you tube are rampant and you tube does not make much effort to eliminate them. There is no form of punishment for people who violate copyright laws on you tube nor is there an easy procedure for anyone to remove a copyright for anyone who doesn’t own it.

At the same time, for wikipedia to be a non-profit organization does far more harm than good. The word “non-profit” has come to denote a force of good in the world, and it is admirable that wikipedia does not wish to make excessive money, but by refusing to ignore the economic realities of the situation and people affected, he is actively keeping money from people who play the most vital roles in our economy. The biggest and most important industry today has switched from manufacturing and service industries to information industries and these are the people at stake. To have a healthy web 2.0 society in which our scholars, artists, and other creative minds are encouraged to continue producing their products, they have to be financially rewarded and compensated.When asked why he doesn’t reward his contributors, Wales said that it’s for the same reason craigslist.org doesn’t want to make or distribute money off his site: Because the users of his site don’t want him too. This is not an accurate representation of what all the stakeholders of his site want or of the people being affected. There surely are scholars and experts in fields who would want to be paid for their work but are unable to demand payment because people are willing to do it for free. As it exists in actual economic situations outside the internet, the market is disrupted in this case.

There are also sources who get cited in wikipedia who are stakeholders as well, and they deserve to have a say in among other things: Whether people get paid for their content, whether people remain anonymous, how actively and quickly copyright violations are removed. When the moderator asked whether Wales partner up with the New York Times or other media outlets, Wales responded that that would be like the Red Cross partnering up with a for-profit hospital. For that analogy to reflect wikipedia’s relation to the New York Times, The Red Cross would have to be taking supplies from a for-profit hospital, because wikipedia hinders the effectiveness of the New York Times and other print media and the benefits that wikipedia gets from the New York Times are a one-way street.

To fix this, Keen recommends we as the general public have to recognize the value of the media. Keen says, “The truth is that the internet is a mirror…The problem with the internet is that it reflects ourselves, it reflects our impatience, our narcissism, our laziness, and we have to be willing either to pay for the physical newspaper or we have to be willing to put up with going on web sites and putting up with advertising.” “If we think that newspapers have no right to make a profit,” than those are the consequences we face. The media does have public value, and whether we use the media in ways that do or don’t reward them, we are all increasingly dependent on a threatened institution.

I think the wikipedia community really needs to address some of these issues. It's important to not give out too much of their source material online.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Prediction on AFI's top 10: Courtroom and Sports genres

The other genre predictions are going to be significantly harder. I have studied academically and on my own the evolution of sci-fi, Western, film noir and musical genres so I have some experience in that, but sports and courtroom drama genres are completely unfamiliar to me to an extent. Yes, I have watched sports movies, but haven't engaged in much discourse over how the great sports movies rank with each other over time:

Courtroom Dramas:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird: The only courtroom drama to make the original top 100 list. It's the definitive parable about bravery and justice in our culture, and Atticus Finch was also named the #1 hero on AFI's list

2. 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet: The definitive courtroom drama, in my opinion. The simple premise of 12 men slowly being swayed by one reasonable man with a conscience embodies everything about our legal system into drama. Plus, it made the list

3. Inherit the Wind, Stanley Kramer-The courtroom speech practically made Spencer Tracy's career. I've heard actors and writers use the term an "Inherit the Wind speech" to describe a monologue so enthralling that it can be the hallmark of one's career

4. The Verdict, Sidney Lumet-One of Paul Newman's great roles, one of Lumet's great pictures

5. Anatomy of a Murder, Otto Preminger-A cult favorite that's been growing in reputation as one of the best films not to make the AFI top 100

6. Judgement at Nuremburg, Stanley Kramer-It was a seminal event, and the film had an all-star cast that earned Oscar nominations for practically everyone, and at least one Oscar win

7. Kramer vs Kramer, Robert Benton-This film beat out Apocolypse Now for an Oscar (which made the AFI list very high up and is unanimously hailed as brilliant) and yet, film buffs haven't named Kramer vs Kramer as a humongous Oscar mistake, which means the film must have some merit. It awarded Oscars to Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, and gave a win to a nobody director over Francis Ford Copolla

8. A Few Good Men, Oliver Stone-One of the classics of the '90s that has still held up as has Oliver Stone's career. A hint that this might do well tonight is that Jack Nicholson's "You Can't Handle the Truth" speech was selected on AFI's top 100 quotes list.

The last 3 are between Man for All Seasons, Paths to Glory, and People vs Larry Flynt

9. Paths to Glory, Stanley Kubrick-The only Kubrick film that I personally can really get into, features one of those "Inherit the Wind speeches" expertly delivered by Kirk Douglas (who is still alive and serving as a TV panelist for the event, hint hint)

10. People vs Larry Flynt, Milos Forman-Sounds like a somewhat unconventional and offbeat choice the AFI could go for just to spice it up a little. The picture earned Milos Forman an Oscar nomination even though the film wasn't nominated.

I wouldn't be surprised if this one made it:

11. Man for All Seasons, Fred Zimmerman-This did get the director his second Oscar and won a Best picture award, and few Oscar buffs have labelled that as a mistake either. It's hard to count a Best picture winner out.

Sports films are a really, really difficult category to predict considering that the vast majority of sports films are not critically revered so even while Bill Durham, Field of Dreams, Bad News Bears, and Hoosiers might be the favorite film of all time for a lot of average joes, they weren't up there in terms of critical respect, so with that being said, it's easiest to start with the few films that are up there in terms of critical respect. After that I could go with films that won or were nominated for an Oscar (Chariots of Fire, Million Dollar Baby won, Seabiscuit, Breaking Away were nominated), I could go to films that are cult favorites, or I could go to films that embody the spirit of sport:

1. Raging Bull, Martin Scorsesee-It's Scorsesee's best picture and Scorsesee is like a God to many in the film community. Raging Bull was ranked as high as #4 on the AFI top 100 list last year.

2. Rocky, William Advelson-I could see Rocky taking best picture because Rocky is like the ultimate sports picture and Raging Bull is not necessarily a sports' film but about a man's demise. Rocky did make the top 100 list both times.

3. Hoosiers-Hoosiers features a legendary actor, Gene Hackman, and it was ranked #1 on ESPN for all-time sports films

4. Field of Dreams, Phil Alden Robinson-Field of Dreams is definitely everything a sports film should be, a favorite of many sports' enthusiasts and it has some commentary underneath the surface about the innocence of sport and the times. According to Mast and Ciwan's History of Film textbook, that escape into politics in the period was a step toward fantasy and to confront political and economic corruption was to dismantle the myth. Kevin Costner's character's efforts to personally heal himself through building a baseball field is metaphorical for healing the problems of the 20th Century. so it's got all that going for it.

5. The Natural, Barry Levinson-Well, I know it's considered a high mark in Barry Levinson's and Robert Redford's careers. People who were willing to bash Barry Levinson on a message board one day, stayed away from the natural.

6. The Freshman, Harold Lloyd-Pretty much every sports movie owes a debt to this silent film and every physical comic owes a debt to Harold Lloyd. His film pulls out all the stops and is a masterpiece, but it's up to the AFI to do their homework and be familiar enough with Lloyd to vote him in.

7. Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood-1) Clint Eastwood is hot 2) This film won an Oscar with few complaints and it's hard to deny an Oscar winner its due. It's also a film that transcends just the genre of sports.

8. The Champion, Ron Bozman-Kirk Douglas was in it, and gave one of his best performances, and it won 10 Oscars. Classics usually hold more sway when it comes down to it.

9. Slapshot, George Roy Hill: I feel like this film has enough critical pedigree (Paul Newman, George Roy Hill) and cult fans (I've heard questions about Slapshot be used in pub trivia nights on multiple occasions) to push it into the top 10. Plus, it's not about boxing.

10. Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone: There's the option here of going with the cult favorites or the critically revered, but how about the film whose quality is just plain damn good. That's what Any Given Sunday is and although this would be a surprising pick, it might not be too late to appreciate the film's merits.

Another one:

11. Karate Kid, John Alvedson-One of the most commercially successful films of the '80s, spawned a number of sequels, and got Pat Morita an Oscar nom. The main question is: was the film any good? I personally saw it when I was young, I don't know how I'd respond to it if I rewatched it, and don't have time to find out

Prediciton for the AFI list: top 10 Westerns

1. The Searchers, John Ford-High Noon and The Searchers are usually what most film scholars will tell you are the two greatest Westerns ever made. The Searchers had an outrageously low ranking in the 1998 list of 96, but in the 2007 list, The Searchers skyrocketed up to somewhere between 10 and 20 (if I were to go check, than I might see more results than I want to). The Searchers is the seminal moment in John Ford's career and was John Wayne's richest character, both the two main icons of the film Western. It's also the only Western that some people in the film community cite as the greatest American film ever, period.
2. High Noon, Fred Zimmerman-The other Western that's truly an American classic. It's casting was perfect, it has the most tightly coiled narrative and introduced a number of innovations: The theme music contained an opening song, the film moving in real time, etc. It also had political subtext and the people behind the movie are rewarded with bravery, in retrospect
3. Stagecoach, John Ford-If The Searchers was the apex of Ford and Wayne's career, it all started with Stagecoach which revolutionized the Western by introducing both of them to the big stage. Stagecoach is a masterfully done tale that's admired and next to Searchers and High Noon, I'll bet it's the only film that most people in the film industry agree deserves to be included on the pantheon of classics.
4. Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpaugh-Wild Bunch revolutionized the use of violence in movies and has a terrific narrative. It changed the nature of Westerns toward outlaws vs lawmen rather than on conflicts within a town that a hero would have to chose the right side to be on. It's also a very fun movie, but I most believe it's going to be #4 simply because it was ranked pretty high on both AFI lists, previously.
5. Shane, George Stephens-I find it to be kind of a corny film, but the experts consider it in the realm of classics and it has been voted both times. Jack Palance from City Slickers got an academy award for it. Perhaps, they view it as the definitive Western from the point of view of a child, since the star of the film besides Alan Ladd's Shane character is really a 12-year old kid.
6. Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood-Unforgiven might rank closer to 10 or 12 on a list of Westerns among film scholars who are experts specifically on the evolution of the Western, except for the fact that Clint Eastwood is so hot right now, so retroactively his film career enjoys a big bump. It is truly a good film but it would be an oversight to label it as the first retrospective Western that demythified what came before it. (That might be McCabe and Mrs Miller)
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidd, George Roy Hill-Kind of like the rock stars of the Western, Paul Newman and Robert Redford's characters defined the Western heroes as supercool. But else why would Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidd be selected at #7? Redford and Newman are both still alive and command a lot of respect, and this film made the top 100 twice.
8. Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks-All the John Ford films She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, How the West Was Won, My Darling Clementine, and Man Who Shot Liberty Valance will open the way to some sneakers to make it through do to vote splitting. With the help of Quentin Tarantino's tireless promotion (it's his favorite film) and the crowd that enjoys a light-hearted Western that can make them laugh, fawn over the romantic interests, and root for sympathetic characters plus the Dean Martin fan contingent, Rio Bravo should be able to seperate itself from the rest of the pack nicely.
9. How the West Was Won, John Ford-Is this John Ford's 3rd best film? Not necessarily, but it's his most grandiose title and some voters (like myself at first glance) might confuse this with Once Upon a Time in the West and vote for it. Plus, I hear it has Debbie Reynolds in it, who is still alive and actively pimping her career.
10. McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Rob Altman-I seriously think that whether McCabe & Mrs. Miller makes this list will serve as a litmus test to whether the film community truly feels that Altman's work was great enough to be considered among the classics. Altman had an extra entry in the top 100 last year with the addition of 1975's Nashville, and I know there are a lot of other good films after the first 9 such as Duel in the Sun, Red River, Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and My Darling Clementine but are any of them as definitive as this film (and like I said, there's vote splitting to worry about)? McCabe & Mrs. Miller demythified the genre significantly more than anyone else, and was such an interesting take on existing genre conventions.

Predictions for the AFI's lists: Sci-Fi

This is definitely the fun part of the AFI releases their lists is trying to predict beforehand, what they will chose:

I'm well-aware that it's 44 minutes into the program as I'm typing this but I give you my guarantee I'm taping the program now and have yet to see anything.

The mystery genre isn't really much of a genre so I skipped that. Mystery is comprised of traditional whodunnit's in the tradition of Murder on the Orient Express or Sleuth; film noir and Hitchkokian thrillers which all follow their conventions. I would have loved to see a list of film noir but I just felt it was impossible to compare such disparate works.
I skipped the gangster genre out of lack of familiarity and I skipped the fantasy genre as well, because that's not really a genre.

So nonetheless, let's get on with our genres, shall we?
1. Star Wars, George Lucas- I think it will either be 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars. There's some animosity towards Lucas for not doing anything original in the last 30 years and milking his franchises for every last drop, but I'm betting there are enough Star Wars geeks out there.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick-Kubrick died early and made few films, a clear path to being recognized as genius. Furthermore, 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn't have much dialogue and it runs for several hours, winning over the film snobs in the process
3. Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick-Another entry to make the top 100 both times, it's a work of art, cult film, and widely acclaimed classic. Also, it's Kubrick
4. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott-This one has picked up steam in the last 15 years or so since critic's lists have released their top 100s. It has made a number of publications' top 100 lists.
5. Alien, Ridley Scott-Let's go with two Scotts, two Kubricks, and a Lucas in the top 5. Ridley Scott's Alien has that famous scene that is part of pop culture in wich the alien bursts out of Sigourney Weaver's stomach, it has one of cinema's best heroines, especially at a time when the screen was about to be infused with testosterone-laced heroes (i.e. Rambo, etc). Lastly, Aliens isn't in the running, so less vote-splitting
6. Frankenstein, James Whale-It's regarded as a classic but it is also fun to watch, and has been parodied, sequeled, AND remade.
7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stephen Spielberg-E.T. is probably going to get on the list because it's been on both of AFI's top 100 list, but this is far more sci-fi oriented, as I understand it (haven't seen the film start to finish, unfortunately), and it delves into the philosophical and somewhat hardcore issues that sci-fi fans love to go to
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Don Siegel-One of the sci-fi films from the '50s era should really be included and it would either be Invasion or The Day the Earth Stood Still. My money's on Invasion, for some reason. Just a hunch.
9. The Matrix, Wachowski Brothers-I think one of the two bottom choices might be bumped out for E.T., even though E.T. is more about a broken family, than it is a sci-fi film, but I think the Matrix has a storyline that infused itself into pop culture and made many rabid fans. It was a great success in movie marketing and its special effects have influenced every film that came after it
10. Back to the Future, Rob Zemeckis-It spawned two equally profitable sequels, is a classic on DVD, it made Michael J Fox, and it has an absolutely brilliant script. Plus, it's just plain fun and one of the best sendups to the old sci-fi genre in existence
Other possibilities: The Day the Earth Stood Still, E.T., Terminator 2, Planet of the Apes (it got notoriety for being remade and Charlton Heston recently died), Children of Men