It may be a strange thing to say about a television special, but when the American Film Institute put out its list of the 100 best American films ten years ago, it had a pretty profound effect on me. I was 16 at the time, and knew that I enjoyed watching movies. But the AFI list really got me thinking critically about how to judge a film, and to compare it against others. It made for a lot of fun debate. And it also helped to encourage me to seek out older classics, like The Manchurian Candidate, On the Waterfront, and Citizen Kane. And while there is always room for argument over specific rankings, I really do think you are a lesser person for not having seen any of the top ten.
So it was with great interest that I watched a new special last night, where the AFI revisited the list, considering new releases from the last decade, movies that have found new audiences through DVD restorations, and reranking films from the original list. Once again, there is plenty of room for debate and disagreement, but that's half the fun. And I do believe that any and every film in the top 100 is worth watching.
So here are just a few quick-hit thoughts that I had while watching the special and thinking about it afterwards.
There were only 4 movies from the last 10 years (1997-2006) added: Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, The Sixth Sense, and The Fellowship of the Ring. That number will certainly grow the next time the revise the list. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm not sure that Sixth Sense belongs. And it's hard to consider any of the Lord of the Rings movies individually. More than any other film series, I consider Fellowship, The Two Towers, and Return of the King to be one 10 hour epic film. I was glad that Titanic did make the list, considering the rather large back-lash that has occurred over the last few years (which I've never completely understood). Saving Private Ryan seems to be in just about the right place.
Of the many recent movies that I feel deserve consideration, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stands out to me. In 20 years, I really do believe that it will not only be on the list, but very high.
Of all the movies dropped from the list, I was most sad to see My Fair Lady go. It's my favorite musical, one that I prefer to Singing in the Rain (which was #10 and got moved up to #5).
While I have no problem with ET being on the list, the clips that they showed were from the recent ET Special Edition, with is incredibly inferior to the original. While a big deal was made about Speilburg replacing the FBI agents' guns with walkie-talkies (idiotic as that was), what I really took issue with was how they replaced ET's face with a CG cartoon. Terrible.
Yay Toy Story!
I really need to rewatch Raging Bull, which was moved up from 24 to 4. Then I can write an essay about why I've been wrong about criticizing it for all these years, or write one explaining exactly what issues I have with it. But I will say this. There is no way that it should be ranked higher than On The Waterfront (19), if for no other reason that one of the most significant moments in Bull was DeNiro standing in front of a mirror, reciting Marlon Brando's "I coulda been a contender" speech from Waterfront. Also, even if I do change my mind about Raging Bull, I do not thing that there is any way that it could surpass Taxi Driver (52) in the Scorcese pantheon in my mind.
Boo for not correcting the mistake of leaving The Exorcist off the last list. It is the greatest horror movie (Rosemary's Baby fans may argue that point. Saw fans may not.). And much better than the Sixth Sense.
You are not a complete human being if you have never watched Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, or Schindler's List. They are inarguable Top Ten choices.
Citizen Kane once again gets top billing. I can't take too much issue with that choice, except to say this. The Godfather (#2) was made with just as much skill and love, and is a more entertaining movie. I would agree that Kane was more significant to movie-making in general, but I would still lean toward the Corleone family's epic.
That's all I have for now. Here's to ten more years of debate, discussion, and great movies, until the next list comes out!