Thursday, June 28, 2007

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition (Part 2)

Part 1 tackled the new movies added to this list since the original was created ten nine years ago. Part 2:

The Dropped Movies

Twenty-three new movies were added to the list, which means 23 old movies had to get their carcasses booted off. I'll go in order of highest position on the old list.

Doctor Zhivago is the highest-ranked film suddenly to be deemed unworthy of inclusion. Formerly hailed as the 39th greatest American motion picture ever made, right between Double Indemnity and North By Northwest, it now joins Weekend at Bernie's and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo in unranked limbo. I've never seen it, so I don't know, perhaps it deserves that comparison. Funny how opinions can change so quickly. Hell, nine years ago, I still thought Robin Williams was humorous. Wait, no I didn't.

I touched briefly in the last post on The Birth of a Nation being dropped from the #44 spot. As I said then, it feels like over-sensitivity is what caused this film to get the axe. I recall this film, though offensive in many ways, also to be a significant technical and artistic achievement. Maybe I'm alone here.

From Here to Eternity, formerly #52, is one of the landmarks in movie history that I keep kicking myself for never having seen. I'm amazed it's no longer on the list. Well -- screw it, then. Guess it's not that good after all. I can skip it. Thanks, AFI!

Amadeus is gone from #53. I haven't seen this since I was a kid, in the theater. I've heard that it holds up fairly well, but I have yet to see for myself. I've never seen All Quiet on the Western Front, which used to be #54, and I'm in not much of a hurry to see it, really.

Out at #57 is The Third Man, which is a shock. I think this is a pretty fantastic film, with a tremendously cunning performance from Orson Welles. I'm also shocked by the omission of Fantasia, which was ranked #58. Though it didn't make much of a splash on its original release, it's more recently come to be widely acknowledged as a major leap forward for feature animation. Looks like that perception has slid somewhat over the past decade.

Rebel Without a Cause, #59, is gone, as is (skipping forward a bit) #82's Giant. That's a bit of a blow for the cult of James Dean. I like Dean, and I admire both of these films, to a certain degree. I thought his performance in Rebel was every bit as primal and riveting and excellent as it's been built up to be, though the film as a whole doesn't hold up as well. I thought Giant was a beautiful film to look at, if bloated and boring for long stretches. Giant, I'd say, is a fair cutback to the list. Rebel probably should've snuck in somewhere.

Stagecoach is one of the rare John Wayne/John Ford collaborations I haven't seen; it's gone from the #63 ranking. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which followed it at #64, is also gone, and I think that's okay.

The Manchurian Candidate probably made it to #67 on the original list because, at the time, it had still only fairly recently been rediscovered. It's a great film, a harrowing Cold War-era thriller about brainwashing and assassination, with some standout work from Frank Sinatra, and especially Angela Lansbury, as the worst film mother ever. But I don't think I would say it merits inclusion in the top 100, and I have no problem seeing it get left out.

Never seen An American in Paris, #68, nor Wuthering Heights, #73. I have seen Dances with Wolves, dropped from spot #75. I liked it a lot when it first came out, but I rewatched a bit of it recently, and I didn't grab me the same way. So, oh well.

Removing Fargo from #84 on the list, though, is a real crime. This is a brilliant movie from two of the best filmmakers alive today. And now, the Coen brothers are entirely unrepresented on a list of the great American films, which is absurd. I think a strong argument could be made for several of their films making it to this list, such as Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and of course Fargo. To include none of them ignores some of the most creative, influential, and entertaining work of the past 20 years. I'm tempted to call this the biggest, most glaring error of the entire enterprise (second only, perhaps, to adding Titanic).

I've never seen Mutiny on the Bounty, 86ed from spot #86. And I still haven't seen the original Frankenstein (#87), though I recently, finally watched Bride of Frankenstein. And why that film isn't on the list is a real headscratcher. What an amazing piece of work it is! Just flat-out amazing. And far different from what I had been expecting.

I'm almost equally outraged by the absence of Patton (formerly #89) from the new list as I am by Fargo's. Maybe even more so. This film is incredible, and George C. Scott gives one of the most powerful and iconic performances in American film history. For the opening speech alone, Patton deserves to be counted. Just watch it, you sorry sons of bitches, and dare to disagree with me!

The Jazz Singer is deleted from position #90. I've never seen it, but I've heard that aside from it being the first talkie, it really isn't very good. I liked My Fair Lady, which was #91, but I don't care that it's gone. And I've never seen either A Place in the Sun, #92, or Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, #99. And I don't much feel the need to see them.

Man, two big-ass posts already, and I haven't really even looked at the actual list yet. Tomorrow -- I probably still won't.

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