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The Reeler Blog

Today in Arbitrary Bullshit: AFI's 100 Years, 100 Movies

This year, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its original 100 Years, 100 Movies hyperbole orgy (which, in a triumph of marketing mathematics, is actually nine years old), the American Film Institute had voters re-rank and reconfigure the 100 greatest American films from Citizen Kane to Ben-Hur. But what are "really, really fascinating," according to AFI chief executive Jean Picker Firstenberg, are films like Raging Bull and The Searchers, which sprung from Siberia (#24) and purgatory (#96) respectively to claim the fourth and 11th spots in 2007. City Lights and Vertigo climbed remarkably as well, while John Huston's hallmark of obsolescence, The African Queen, plummeted 48 spots to #65.

I know this is supposed to be rooted in the spirit of discussion, so here we are. Let's discuss how reading this list is like letting your grandpa yawn in your face -- the grandpa on your stepmother's side, the one you see once a year at some booze-fueled holiday and who pretends to "get it" while foisting his little arbitrary chestnuts of counsel and tradition on you. Except instead of an annual visit, you get one per decade, all joint aches, halitosis and constipation:

While AFI officials have not decided if they will continue the annual lists in coming years, Firstenberg said the institute will do a new list of all-time best American films every 10 years as a guide to changing tastes in future decades.

"With this new list, it became clearer the value of this program was to have five lists to chart rather than one 50-year-old list," (show producer Bob) Gazzale said. "It's not only celebrating the films again and driving people to see them again, but we get to see what's gone up, what's gone down."

Riiiight -- as if you really need another list telling you Citizen Kane is the Greatest. Film. Ever. Or that The Godfather and Casablanca are pretty good, too, or holy shit, Steven Spielberg has made some dandies. Or a list, however democratically assembled, that leaves out David Lynch, John Cassavetes, the Maysles Brothers, the Coen Brothers and offers one film made by a black director and no films made by women. Or on which it wasn't until 2007 that Sunrise, Intolerance, The General, The Last Picture Show and Nashville even appeared.

I'm not gonna waste a lot of time on this, but as I've said before in bumping off the world's most egregious year-end Top 10 lists, if you really wanted a discussion, wouldn't you try something different for once? Say, proposing the 100 most overrated films? Or, if you had to stay "positive," the 100 best forgotten films? Or the 100 most influential films? Who besides its own front-office cheerleaders would discuss at length -- let alone cherish -- a list on which M. Night Shyamalan scores as many selections as Woody Allen? I mean, I know it's Hollywood, and imagination is running at famine-level shortages, but for Christ's sake, AFI. Curb your dog, would you?

Posted at June 21, 2007 9:11 AM

Comments (6)

I'm sorry, did I just see Titanic on this list which ranked above 'Do The Right Thing and Blade Runner? Has anyone seen the 'boat' movie lately which I think contains some of the worst dialogue exchanges I have ever heard. A movie that practically ruined a once exciting performer into a goldie lock pin-up doll(who now hides behind the hips of Marty Scorcesse for cover) -- yeah I'm talkin' to you Leonard DiCRAPIO. What about real movies like 'Boogie Nights' or a 'A Woman Under the Influence', 'Drugtstore Cowboy', c'mon people where is the imagination?

If I may quote my friend John from Cincinnati..."the end is near."

I can't believe they elevated a mediocre example of style over substance like 'Raging Bull' to the position of fourth greatest movie of all time. Such a plodding, monotonous movie featuring a cast of characters that are nothing more than ciphers. One, moreover, that ranks nearly 80 places ahead of Murnau's 'Sunrise.' Now hands up all those who think 'Raging Bull' is a better film than 'Sunrise'? Exactly.

Um, my hand's up. Sasha, I can think of a lot of adjectives to describe "Raging Bull", but "plodding" and "monotonous" would not be among them. And DeNiro's performance is one of the great achievements in modern cinema--certainly more than a "cipher".

There's a lot of things on this list to get pissed off about, but the high placement of Scorsese's masterpiece is not one of them.

'Um, my hand's up.'

Well then you must be one ignorant bastard with zero sense of film history. Hey, you sound like an AFI voter!

In every single respect, from story to direction, production, industry influence, etc - 'Sunrise' soars so far above Scorsese's shallow, pretentious little movie it's ridiculous to even mention the two in the same breath. So don't waste any more of my time with your bullshit. Go & read up on Murnau's masterpiece or, better still, try actually watching it.

Though I can understand annoyance at the list (and boy there's a lot of it out there), I'm having a hard time understanding the anger that's also popping up on a lot of blogs.

Why exactly is it so important that (oh, just to pick an example at random) 'Sunrise' finish ahead of 'Raging Bull'? They are both being recognized as important films that movie lovers should try to see. Though I prefer 'Sunrise' (I just saw it a few weeks ago on the big screen at our Cinematheque - just beautiful), I'm just glad that it got some exposure. Hell, it was probably better for it being lower in the list - likely more people were tuned into the early part of the show...

I don't want to excuse the narrow taste range of the voters, but there's a couple of things to be thankful for here: 1) three hours of prime time network television was dedicated to some (mostly) pretty great and good films, 2) many bloggers mention how the first list 9 years ago made them delve into film deeper, get passionate about it and have their tastes expand - maybe some young folks will do the same after this list? 3) if just a couple of people run out and rent 'Sunrise' (or '12 Angry Men' or 'A Clockwork Orange' or 'Network') then that would make me happy.

Having said that, yeah, AFI could do so much more for encouraging film and helping others get passionate about it. I love the '100 Forgotten Films' idea. Or maybe '100 films that influenced the Top 100 films' (that might be tough I suppose). Or '100 Foreign films that influenced American films' or '100 genre films that influenced...', etc. There is a certain reality here in that the AFI is trying to get good ratings and needs to somehow tie new lists back to a core set of films the general public will be familiar with, but it's doable. I'd love to see them push the boundaries and really get people encouraged to seek out more movies.

That was my biggest disappointment from the list - the lackluster interviews. There were a couple of good moments, but there wasn't enough (OK, I'll use the word again) passion. Oh, and they recycled some clips from 9 years ago too. Tsk. And Halle Berry should not have been allowed to speak. Ugh.

Fuck This! The number 1 film on here is 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It's the only real art masterpiece. Everything else is just a movie. Except for maybe NASHVILLE.

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