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Movies! Movies! Movies!
by Asa Butcher
2008-06-19 08:19:28
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You've got to hand it to the American Film Institute (AFI) with their ability to conjure up countdown after countdown associated with all things film. Earlier this week they announced the "AFI'S 10 Top 10", which is the top ten films in the ten more common genres. It may sound as though they are scraping the proverbial barrel, after a decade of "100 Stars" (Bogart and Katherine Hepburn won), "100 Thrills" (Psycho won) and "100 Movie Quotes" (Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!), but you still can't help but look at the final top ten - at least a film freak like myself can't.

10top10_logo_400 This is the AFI's first big countdown since last year's "AFI'S 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition" in which Citizen Kane held on to the top spot it won in 1997's original "100 Movies", with The Godfather swapping positions with Casablanca for the second spot. Only The Godfather makes an appearance in this new list where it tops the Gangster genre, although to be fair you couldn't really fit Citizen Kane or Casablanca into the remaining nine genres: Animation, Romantic Comedy, Western, Sports, Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Courtroom, Drama & Epic.

Let's start with Animation. It shouldn't come as any surprise to discover that the top ten list was dominated by the Mouse Studio. Disney took the top spot with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and also appeared a further six times, plus two more as a partner with Pixar. The only animated feature not to be made with any Disney involvement was Shrek, a DreamWorks production. Strangely, four of the movies (The Lion King, Shrek, Cinderella & Finding Nemo) had never featured in any of the AFI's lists before, while Pinocchio was the only won to have appeared in a top ten with "When You Wish Upon A Star" coming in at #7 in the "100 Songs" list.

The winner of the "100 Songs" was also the winner of the Fantasy section, The Wizard of Oz also managed to snatch victory away from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was most recent release among the ten. The Wizard of Oz seems to be a popular choice among AFI voters because it has appeared in no less than ten previous countdowns, although, on a personal note, it was great to see my all-time favourite film Groundhog Day finally appear in any of their lists, as did The Thief Of Bagdad.

According to the results of the Gangster genre, Hollywood hasn't produced a single noteworthy gangster flick since Tarantino's Pulp Fiction 14 years ago. I can't believe that there has been nothing since, but once you check out the competition you begin to understand why they are missing. As I mentioned earlier, The Godfather claimed the top spot, plus took #3 for its sequel, while the mighty Goodfellas separates them at #2. All ten of the films have been favoured by the AFI before, plus the fact there is the original and its remake, in the form of Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (1932) and Scarface (1983), it also remarkable.

I'll give you one guess as to which film won the Sci-Fi genre, but let's help you eliminate some. Firstly it seems that, like the Gangster category, there are no new sci-fi films of the calibre worthy of the top ten. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, released 16 years ago, is the most contemporary, and The Matrix doesn't even make an appearance. Back to the Future makes its AFI début and Invasion of the Body Snatchers breaks its duck. Alien, Blade Runner and E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial are all there, plus Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope. Kubrick is the only director to appear twice in this list, one is A Clockwork Orange and the other is at number one… yes, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The names John Wayne and John Ford are inextricably linked with westerns, so should come as no surprise to discover that The Searchers sits atop the Westerns category, while another joint venture, Stagecoach, holds the #8 position. John Wayne appears again on the list in Howard Hawks' Red River, while Jane Fonda in Cat Ballou and Julie Christie as Mrs. Miller in McCabe & Mrs. Miller at least brings a feminine element to a primarily male genre. We also have to thank Clint Eastwood for 1992's Unforgiven or the latest entry would have been the aforementioned McCabe & Mrs. Miller, released in 1971.

Like a prize-fighter, Raging Bull punched its way from #4 in "Top 100" to #1 in the Sports category leaving Rocky with a bloodied nose in second place. Enough of the sporting puns… this category seems to have the most films that I have never seen (four of the ten) and I ashamed and inspired to correct that oversight, well that's my goal. There's no football related films in the ten, yet there are the two previously mentioned boxing films, two baseball films and movies about pool, golf, basketball, cycling, horse racing and American Football. It is tragic that Escape to Victory didn't get nominated.

It was no mystery as to which director would dominate the Mystery category and he even claimed the top spot. Mr. A Hitchcock walked away with the first spot (Vertigo), the third spot (Rear Window), the 7th spot (North By Northwest) and the 9th spot (Dial M For Murder) leaving a measly six places for other directors. Roman Polanski (Chinatown), Otto Preminger (Laura), Carol Reed (The Third Man), John Huston (The Maltese Falcon), David Lynch (Blue Velvet) and Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) were the six, yet Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity didn't even get a mention - until now!

When it comes to comedy, there is only one name… Arnold Schwarzenegger - ok, no, but it did make you smile. The name is Charlie Chaplin, the original silent comedy star, and it is his touching comedy City Lights that deservedly took the top spot over Woody Allen's Annie Hall and Frank Capra's It Happened One Night. The quirky Harold And Maude sneaks into the ten, as does the stalker classic Sleepless In Seattle, perhaps Fatal Attraction has a chance in a few years.

I may have lied - actually, there's no maybe - when I stated that the Sports category featured the most films never seen by me because the Courtroom Drama category has five. I'm sorry, but I make no apologies for that… anyway, To Kill a Mockingbird sits in judgement over the nine films below it and there are some that no longer need to be judged - they surpass judgement. Can you handle the truth in A Few Good Men, are you sure he's guilty in 12 Angry Men and prepare for a bellyful of laughs in Kramer vs. Kramer*. My personal disgust at the absence of My Cousin Vinny should be duly noted down.

We've gone from Animation through to Sci-Fi, Sports through to Comedy, which leaves us with just one category remaining and it is a giant, a whopper, an epic if you please. The epic, born from the hands of D.W. Griffith, loved dearly by Cecil B. DeMille and attempted by many adventurous and courageous directors across the decades. However, as they say in Highlander, there can only be one. The one was directed by the Brit Sir David Lean, stars Peter O'Toole and features one of the best, and longest, entrances of an actor on film: the film is Lawrence of Arabia.

To do Lawrence of Arabia the justice it deserves I shall make it the next Best Picture winner to review, so expect to read that within a week. Lawrence of Arabia wasn't the only Best Picture winner to appear in the Top Ten Epic category, in fact five others joined it (Ben-Hur #2, Schindler's List #3, Gone with the Wind #4, Titanic #6 & All Quiet on the Western Front #7). The missing four gives Kubrick another entry in this list with Spartacus, Spielberg gets another entry with Saving Private Ryan, Warren Beatty's Reds is given a nod and, Mr. Epic himself, Cecil B. DeMille, comes in at #10 with The Ten Commandments.

It is an interesting list of 100 films that spans 79 years, from 1924's The Thief of Bagdad to 2003's Shrek, and reminds you of many of the classics that are still out there. Classics that are constantly being ear-marked to be remade and rehashed, but you still can't beat seeing the original. It is frightening to watch a film made four, five or even six decades ago and recognise themes that are still relevant and prevalent today - just watch All Quiet on the Western Front to understand what I mean.

I may have gently mocked the AFI for another countdown, but it has certainly inspired me to seek out those films yet to watch and to revisit some of my favourites. As I said, I will be reviewing Lawrence of Arabia and if it wasn't for this countdown I wouldn't have thought to take it off the shelf… thanks, AFI!

Visit www.afi.com for the full list.

* Please note that Kramer vs. Kramer is not funny... at all.

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Clint2008-06-19 15:00:46
Glad to see a few of my own favourites up there. It was sad to hear the news of Cyd Charisse's death this week. Another loss of my childhood Sunday afternoon film stars.

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