Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The AFI list

I feel like the new version of the AFI Top 100 American movies list is an improvement over the version from ten years ago; creaky movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Jazz Singer were kicked out in favor of The General and Nashville and the whole thing just feels more modern. I like these lists, not merely because I like lists but also because I agree with the idea that these kinds of lists bring more attention to the existence of old movies and therefore get more people to explore movies they'd otherwise never care about. Sure, the list is kind of middle-brow and safe, but that's to be expected - I don't expect the AFI to promote Eraserhead, which they helped to produce, or Pink Flamingos on a primetime TV special.

One interesting change from the old list to the new was the swap of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance for his earlier The Birth of a Nation; a good idea, since Birth is notoriously racist. What strikes me as odd is Roger Ebert's quote on the matter, where he says that in his estimation, Birth is the "better film" of the two, because it was influential and invented cinema. No argument on those points, but influential does not 'better' make, and the film's racism, to me, disqualifies it from being a good film in any way; and this isn't just casual racism of a contemporary, 'they didn't know any better' variety; Birth of a Nation is a deeply racist movie down to its very core; promoting the Klan and bemoaning the decline of the White Race in the South are key to the film's existence. What is Ebert thinking?

(Side topic, from the same Ebert column: after trashing what Ebert calls 'dead teenager movies' in reference to the AFI list, and in the face of horror-movie defenders, Ebert claims, "I agree that Halloween is great, but disagree that it is a DTM [Dead Teenager Movie]" which he describes as "a movie that starts out with a lot of teenagers, and kills them all, except one to populate the sequel." Again, huh? This describes Halloween to a T, one of the movies that invented this subgenre. Ebert is clouding the issue to avoid having to defend his categorical declaration, which is false. Most teenage slasher movies are junk, but there are plenty that aren't.)

It seems that everyone is countering with their own Top 100 lists, so here's mine. My main criteria were to limit the list to American movies, which means that I eliminated movies that felt too British, including such AFI movies as The Third Man, Bridge on the River Kwai, and Lawrence of Arabia, among other British or Canadian productions. I stuck with the time frame of no movies more recent than 2005 and allowed documentary titles into the mix (why not?). 42 of my movies were on one or both AFI lists. so here we go:


THE GOLD RUSH (1925, Charlie Chaplin)
THE GENERAL (1927, Buster Keaton)
THE CROWD (1928, King Vidor)

FREAKS (1932, Tod Browning)
DUCK SOUP (1933, Leo McCarey)
KING KONG (1933, Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack)
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935, Sam Wood)
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939, Victor Fleming)
NINOTCHKA (1939, Ernst Lubitsch)

FANTASIA (1940, Walt Disney)
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940, Howard Hawks)
THE BANK DICK (1940, Eddie Cline)
CITIZEN KANE (1941, Orson Welles)
THE LADY EVE (1941, Preston Sturges)
CASABLANCA (1942, Michael Curtiz)
CAT PEOPLE (1942, Jacques Tourneur)
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944, Billy Wilder)
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946, Frank Capra)
THE BIG SLEEP (1946, Howard Hawks)

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950, Billy Wilder)
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952, Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly)
HIGH NOON (1952, Fred Zinnemann)
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953, Byron Haskin)
ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953, William Wyler)
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953, Samuel Fuller)
REAR WINDOW (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
KISS ME DEADLY (1955, Robert Aldrich)
THE SEARCHERS (1956, John Ford)
VERTIGO (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958, Orson Welles)
IMITATION OF LIFE (1959, Douglas Sirk)
RIO BRAVO (1959, Howard Hawks)

PSYCHO (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)
THE APARTMENT (1960, Billy Wilder)
WEST SIDE STORY (1961, Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins)
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962, John Frankenheimer)
THE BIRDS (1963, Alfred Hitchcock)
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964, Stanley Kubrick)
POINT BLANK (1967, John Boorman)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, George A. Romero)
THE WILD BUNCH (1969, Sam Peckinpah)

MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971, Robert Altman)
THE GODFATHER (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
PINK FLAMINGOS (1972, John Waters)
THE EXORCIST (1973, William Friedkin)
THE GODFATHER PART II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
CHINATOWN (1974, Roman Polanski)
THE CONVERSATION (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
NASHVILLE (1975, Robert Altman)
DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975, Sidney Lumet)
TAXI DRIVER (1976, Martin Scorsese)
NETWORK (1976, Sidney Lumet)
CARRIE (1976, Brian DePalma)
STAR WARS (1977, George Lucas)
ANNIE HALL (1977, Woody Allen)
MARTIN (1977, George A. Romero)
ERASERHEAD (1977, David Lynch)
DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978, Terrence Malick)
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, George A. Romero)
HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter)
GATES OF HEAVEN (1978, Errol Morris)
APOCALYPSE NOW (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)

RAGING BULL (1980, Martin Scorsese)
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, Irvin Kershner/George Lucas)
AIRPLANE! (1980, David Zucker/Jim Abrahams/Jerry Zucker)
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981, Steven Spielberg/George Lucas)
BLOW OUT (1981, Brian DePalma)
KOYAANISQATSI (1983, Godfrey Reggio)
AMADEUS (1984, Milos Forman)
GHOSTBUSTERS (1984, Ivan Reitman)
THE TERMINATOR (1984, James Cameron)
BRAZIL (1985, Terry Gilliam)
BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985, Robert Zemeckis)
BLUE VELVET (1986, David Lynch)
RAISING ARIZONA (1987, Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)
ROGER & ME (1989, Michael Moore)

GOODFELLAS (1990, Martin Scorsese)
JFK (1991, Oliver Stone)
SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993, Steven Spielberg)
PULP FICTION (1994, Quentin Tarantino)
ED WOOD (1994, Tim Burton)
DEAD MAN (1995, Jim Jarmusch)
FARGO (1996, Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)
TITANIC (1997, James Cameron)
FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL (1997, Errol Morris)
THE THIN RED LINE (1998, Terrence Malick)
MAGNOLIA (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson)
FIGHT CLUB (1999, David Fincher)
TOY STORY 2 (1999, John Lasseter/Ash Brannon/Lee Unkrich)

A.I. (2001, Steven Spielberg)
ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002, Alexander Payne)
THE NEW WORLD (2005, Terrence Malick)

This gives us four titles each from Hawks, Hitchcock, Coppola, and Spielberg; three from Wilder, Romero, Scorsese, and Malick; and two each by Welles, Ford, Kubrick, Altman, Lumet, DePalma, Cameron, the Coens, Morris, Lynch, and two Star Wars movies.


iaintnobody said...

Hey Jeff MCM, I didn't know you had a blog. You should keep us informed of such things.

Sasha (bipedalist)

Jeff McMahon said...

I had it for a while, let it slide, now it's up again. Thanks, though!