Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reactions to AFI's 10 Top 10

Well, it was an enjoyable evening watching the broadcast counting down ten top 10 lists, with several cries of both joy and dismay from all parties. So without further ado, my conscientious readers, here are my thoughts on the AFI 10 Top 10.

Will Be #1: 6 for 10 (2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) over Star Wars (1977) upsets me, but I am quite pleased Annie Hall (1977) did not take #1.)
Should Be#1: 4 for 10 (I enjoy being a contrarian, what can I say?)
Should But Won't: 10 for 10 (I guess I'm good at predicting what films won't be included.)
Will But Shouldn't: 6 or 8 for 10 (I said Field of Dreams (1989) would make the sports list, but it made the fantasy list, and I said Adam's Rib (1949) would make the courtroom drama list, but it made the romantic comedy list.)

As I predicted, only one non-Disney/Pixar film made the cut, though I am a little surprised that Shrek (2001) ended up being the the lone renegade. I thought The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) would have squeaked in, if only to represent stop-motion animation. And I am VERY happy that Happy Feet (2006) did not make it. This is also one of only two top 10 lists for which I've seen all ten films.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Bambi (1942) at #3 - An overrated story with a bland main character, the message of which is, "Humans are evil." The Fox and the Hound (1981) would have been a much better bad hunter choice.
Most Glaring Omission: Sleeping Beauty (1959) - It is the first Disney film to have a more stylized look, makes wonderful use of Tchaikovsky's music, and has one of the most frightening villains of all time. I had this one pegged to make the top 5.

I am pretty disappointed in this list. There are way too many films (6) on the list that are minimalist fantasy. Two of them the fantasy elements can almost be explained away - Harvey (1950, he's crazy, Harvey doesn't exist) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947, he's delusioned, there is no Santa Claus) - and for two of them, the fantasy elements are merely storytelling gimmicks - Big (1988, a boy wakes up in a man's body) and Groundhog Day (1993, a man lives the same day over and over). Not to belittle any of these films (except Miracle on 34th Street) but none of them contain the amount of wonder that The Dark Crystal (1982), Edward Scissorhands (1990) or The Princess Bride (1987) have. It was cool to see a silent film - The Thief of Bagdad (1924) - make the list. Now I really have to watch it.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Miracle on 34th Street (1947) at #5 - Let's perpetuate the lie that once a year a man breaks into your house, leaving goodies, stealing only baked goods and dairy products, but only if you maintain certain unspecified behavioral patterns.
Most Glaring Omission: Jason and the Argonauts (1963) - There are so many films that I wanted to make the list but didn't, it was hard to pick just one, but I go with Jason because I thought for sure at least one spot would go to Ray Harryhausen, and the scene where Jason fights an army of skeletons is downright cool.

The list pretty much fell out how I thought it would, though I thought there would be at least one film without a downer ending (Some Like it Hot (1959) would have been the choice here). I'm also surprised that Once Upon a Time in America (1984) failed to take a spot on the list.
Film that Scored Way Too High: The Godfather Part II (1974) - It's too long, and comes up woefully short of the original.
Most Glaring Omission: Touch of Evil (1958) - Sometimes it surprises me how little love Orson Welles seems to get from AFI.

Science Fiction
This list turned out pretty much the way I expected. We have a couple 80's joyrides - E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Back to the Future (1985) - a couple intelligent 50's films - Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), a 90's effects extravaganza - Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) - and of course the mainstays of Star Wars (1977), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Blade Runner (1982). Also, if you discount A Clockwork Orange (1970), which I refuse to see, I have seen all the films in this list.
Film that Scored Way Too High: 2001: A Space Odyssey at #1 - Number 1 over Star Wars?! Are you kidding me!? (As you can tell, I am mildly irked at the ordering at the top of the list.)
Most Glaring Omission: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) - Spielberg's surprisingly realistic tale of a visit from benevolent aliens is too unique to be left off this list.

Well, as I feared there were too many revisionist westerns on the list. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Blazing Saddles (1974) fail to make the list. I thought for sure we would get it as the lone comedy (though I am told that Cat Ballou (1965) is a comedy). The list did give me three films to see that I haven't yet.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Unforgiven (1992) at #4 - What is the anti-western doing in the top 5?
Most Glaring Omission: The Magnificent Seven (1960) - This is the ultimate western, has a rousing score by Elmer Bernstein, and is so often imitated, it has almost become cliche.

We get feel-good movies across the board, except for number one. I guess that's why Raging Bull (1980) took the top spot over Rocky (1976), since it's unique in that the main character is unlikeable and fails to triumph over adversity. Other than that, a pretty straightforward list all around.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Caddyshack (1980) at #7 - Happy Gilmore (1996) would have been a better choice for a golf movie, and I hate Adam Sandler.
Most Glaring Omission: The Freshman (1925) - It is one of the sweetest movies I have seen, but Harold Lloyd gets even less love from AFI than Buster Keaton.

We get four Hitchcock movies: Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959), and Dial M for Murder (1954). Unfortunately, neither of the two films on the nominees list that wish they were Hitchcock films - Charade (1963) and Gaslight (1944) - made the list. This is the other list for which I have seen all ten films.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Blue Velvet (1986) at #8 - There isn't much of a mystery here, and the plot centers on Dennis Hopper being mean to everyone, and being a generally unpleasant person.
Most Glaring Omission: The Thin Man (1934) - This would be both the only comedy on the list and the only one featuring a "I suppose you're wondering why I called you all here" scene. Also, the chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy is exquisite.

Romantic Comedy
I know I am biased, but I think only two films from the 30's (with one of them being City Lights (1931), a silent film) is a travesty. Where are The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), or My Man Godfrey (1936)? While I am pleased to see a (mostly) silent film take number one, I don't know if City Lights really counts as a romantic comedy. Sure it has romance and comedy, but the comedy is not derived from the romantic pickles the lovers find themselves in; instead the scenes of romance are almost entirely laugh-free.
Film that Scored Way Too High: Adam's Rib (1949) at #7 - The romance aspects in this film are a little weak in my opinion, and the film would have been better served to be on the courtroom drama list. If they were going to go with a Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film, Woman of the Year (1942) would have been a much better choice.
Most Glaring Omission: Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Sure it may be a little light on the romance, but it more than makes up for it in the comedy aspects.

Courtroom Drama
Having seen so few of the nominees, I was surprised to see that I have seen seven of the top 10. The pick that took me completely by surprise was A Cry in the Dark (1988), mostly because I had never even heard of it. I'm also surprised Inherit the Wind (1960) did not make the list. I haven't seen it, but I thought the AFI would surely go for a film that honors the pioneers who brought the gospel of evolution into our schools. This list is the one I was least invested in, and most ambivalent towards the outcome.
Film that Scored Way Too High: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) at #1 - Only because 12 Angry Men (1957) should have been number one.
Most Glaring Omission: A funny one - The seven films I did see on the list were all pretty dour, and the three I did not see looked even more so.

There were not many surprises here; pretty much all the major players got some representation. The biggest surprise for me was that David Lean only got one film on the list - Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - when I thought Doctor Zhivago (1965) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) were shoe-ins to be included. I was also pleasantly surprised to see The Ten Commandments (1956) make the list.
Film that Scored Way Too High: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) at #7 - Sure it is an important film in the history of cinema, but it has aged poorly, and is very preachy by today's standards.
Most Glaring Omission: Intolerance (1916) - D. W. Griffith wrote the book on epic filmmaking with this movie, with the Babylon storyline featuring some of the most lavish sets ever made for a film. It's inclusion would have also added to the ranks of the already too underrepresented silent films.

Even though they made lots of mistakes in compiling these lists, I can't complain too much, because when all is said and done, I now have 16 (not counting A Clockwork Orange) films to seek out.

You can see all 10 Top 10 lists at Also, you can find them other places by googling "AFI 10 Top 10."


Adam said...

On westerns: Maybe Mag. 7 didn't make it because it's a remake of 7 Samurai?

Sherida said...

Thanks for your thorough reviews. I did not know AFI was doing this, so I missed the show (I found the site the next day) :(. I have to disagree about To Kill A Mockingbird, though. I think that is a FABULOUS movie, and was pleased to see it get #1.

Herch said...

I suppose that could be one reason The Magnificent Seven did not make the list, but Scarface, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and The Lion King were all remakes, and they made their respective lists.

I do agree that To Kill a Mockingbird is a fabulous film; one of the greatest ever made (and in fact it scores higher on my list of great films than 12 Angry Men). However, I think 12 Angry Men is a better example of a courtroom drama, and would have been better served at number one. To Kill a Mockingbird has too much other stuff in it that have nothing to do with the trial.