Bob Turnbull on: 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
TrackBack URL for this entry: