Thursday, July 05, 2007

A non-rebuttal of a list that's not so interesting

A few weeks ago the American Film Institute released a new list of the 100 all-time greatest movies. Arbitrary thoughts that should be argued freely in the comments:

No. 1: Citizen Kane. How often is something as good as its reputation? The Great Gatsby and Citizen Kane are pretty much it. It never gets old.

Nos. 2 and 32: The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. See above.

No. 14: Psycho. Great set-up, but after Janet Leigh gets stabbed, nothing interesting or memorable happens. Weak sauce compared to Vertigo, Rear Window and North by Northwest.

No. 17: The Graduate. Chris Eigeman's character woodsheds this movie in Barcelona, and rightfully so: "Katharine Ross has just married this really cool guy - tall, blond, incredibly popular, the make-out king of his fraternity in Berkeley - when this obnoxious Dustin Hoffman character shows up at the back of the church, acting like a total asshole. 'Elaine! Elaine!' Does Katharine Ross tell Dustin Hoffman, 'Get lost, creep. I'm a married woman'? No. She runs off with him - on a bus." Hoffman's character is a melodramatic narcissist, very much "a total asshole," and the movie's style and new-age, self-help values have not aged well.

No. 24: E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial. A couple years ago I got the DVD as a gift, and god damn, is this a wonderful movie -- moving and smart, but not at as sentimental about childhood as you might think.

No. 30: Apocalypse Now. Survived assorted recuttings, including that endless, dull scene at the French plantation in Apocalypse Now Redux. The original version is still total greatness. Can't get enough of it.

No. 35: Annie Hall. Deserves to be on the list, yeah, but I'd take Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors over it in a heartbeat. A little too cute for its own good.

No. 36: The Bridge on the River Kwai. The first big-studio big-action epic, and it's full of wit, terrific characters, tension and conflict. Endlessly entertaining. Another one that never gets old.

No. 41: King Kong (1933). Peter Jackson's remake is way better.

No. 43: Midnight Cowboy. What the fuck? Amusing for its kitsch value and depiction of New York, but not good or influential.

No. 44: The Philadelphia Story. One of my stealth favorites. Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in great form, an early forerunner to what later would be known as a chick flick, only that it's super-smart and funny, an old movie where characters behave like actual recognizable people and say and do interesting things. The most charismatic, believable love triangle ever.

Nos. 54 and 59: MASH and Nashville. I'd take The Player or Short Cuts over both. MASH remains pretty great. Nashville is another movie that hasn't aged well. Both feel like outlines for the better Robert Altman stuff to come.

No. 60: Duck Soup. As great as any movie comedy, a total joy to watch, a love letter to anti-authoritarian anarchy, a mockery of European nationalism before World War II, the best of all Marx Brothers movies -- you name it. There's even a great musical number, and I fucking hate musicals, but every time I watch this movie and get to the musical number (it happens when the Groucho decides to lead the country into war) I wish my ass had some banjos and a bunch of peeps in my apartment and people dancing stupid. It's totally indispensable, just fucking wonderful, and, depending on your personality, a key to being a happy person.

No. 61: Sullivan's Travels. Thank tits this made the list, because not only is it fantastic, it's a movie that not a lot of people see or talk about, an old classic that deserves as much attention as possible, and, like Duck Soup, an exercise in joy. Hot-shot studio executive decides that he wants to make meaningful films, so he decides that he's going to go undercover, living with hobos and itinerants and farm workers. A road movie best described as thoughtful slapstick when it abrupty takes a turn toward the end that almost feels like something out of Faulkner's Go Down, Moses, leading us to a conclusion that's touching if slightly predictable. It's been one of my favorites for years, a movie that got me interested in Preston Sturges comedies and old black-and-white movies in general.

No. 64: Network. The awesomest.

No. 66: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Fuck yeah.

Nos. 71, 72 and 76: Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump. Saving Private Ryan affirmatively sucks, but I'll wait until someone leaves a comment calling me an asshole to explain more about why. I really hate it -- the performances, the piety, the tidiness, inexplicable human behavior and a narrative framing that is literally impossible. (I mean, it's a flashback by a guy who was not present for 90 percent of the movie.) Shawshank is fine, but The Green Mile is my favorite Frank Darabont/Stephen King prison movie. Forrest Gump is likable and imaginative, weird in a way very different from most blockbusters. I don't think any of these three come even close to being top-100 quality, especially when all the great Coen brothers work (Fargo especially, but Blood Simple? Miller's Crossing? Throw them a bone, assholes.) goes unlisted.

Nos. 86 and 92: Platoon and Goodfellas. If I cared more, the low placement of these movies would piss me off. Unrivaled. Saving Private Ryan wouldn't have been even possible without Platoon. Every war movie since Platoon has been mimicking Platoon. Goodfellas foreclosed later mob movies and gave birth to The Sopranos, and its mix of explicit violence and black humor has been echoed in so many descendants (Pulp Fiction and Boogie Nights ) that maybe people forget how exciting and thrilling these movies really are. Both are solid top-30 contenders.

Netflix advice: Movies on the list that most people haven't seen but are totally worth it (in order): Citizen Kane; Duck Soup; Sullivan's Travels; Network; The Last Picture Show; The Philadelphia Story; North by Northwest; The Bridge on the River Kwai; Bonnie and Clyde; Vertigo; Rear Window; On the Waterfront; The Best Years of Our Lives; The Grapes of Wrath.

I'm an idiot for not having seen: High Noon; The Searchers; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Blade Runner; The French Connection.


flop said...

I recently rewatched Saving Private Ryan and it was a gorgeous, beautiful, visually stunning bunch of scenes that added up to nothing memorable aside from their bloody, visceral beauty. Not one character is memorable, and I resented the Tom Hanks guy's trembling hands being used as a shortcut for character insight.

I'll add my own love for Do The Right Thing, Rushmore and Casablanca, all of which fucking rule. I own two of them and have Do The Right Thing saved on my DVR for the first oppressive heat wave of the year.

dmbmeg said...

The Great Gatsby book or movie? The book is my favorite of all time. The movie...not so much.

All Quiet on the Western Front--best war movie ever made.

I cannot stand Apocolypse Now. I put this movie in the same league as Syriana. It's one of those movies that tries to be all profound and shit, just for the sake of it.

You were a little harsh on Saving Private Ryan, don't you think? I mean, come on, when that guy is holding his intestines screaming for his mother, you felt nothing? Have you no soul? I do admit that the movie could do without Tom Sizemore. But then again, the Earth could do without Tom Sizemore.

Annie Hall gets on my nerves. In fact, all Diane Keaton does gets on my nerves. All I hear in my head when she speaks is, "Miiichael. Miiichael!"

The Green Mile is one of those movies I can't sit through. Not because it's bad, but because it makes me sob like a little baby every time I watch it. That part when he is watching the movie with Fred Estaire and Ginger Rogers dancing on the screen, and the light from the projector gives him a halo...I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it.

I own Blade Runner. I'll give it to you. It's one of those movies where you notice something brilliant every time you watch it.

Yes, I do realize you wrote a very eloquent post, and all I could type was, "this sucks," or "this blows," but give me a break. It's past my bed time.

dmbmeg said...

the Royal Tenenbaums is better than Rushmore. Although I must admit, I haven't laughed as hard at a movie asI did during the scene where they're all on stage carrying automatic weapons and flame throwers.

Why no Monty Python? I'm disappointed.

City of God? the Sting? Vanilla Sky? Last of the Mohicans? Wall Street? And I thought I knew you guys...

My one favorite movie that no one else likes: Blow. And no, it's not porn.

crimenotes said...

Agree on Do the Right Thing. I recorded it off HBO a few months ago and it's as good as ever.

I've always been a little flummoxed by Tenenbaums, which I enjoy an awful lot. A big part of it is the style -- the look and the pace of it. The Ben Stiller plot weighs it down for me, no matter how much I like the Luke Wilson/Paltrow storyline and Gene Hackman's performance -- somehow, he's the one I relate to. And the Bill Murray character is a great riff on Oliver Sacks.

I admire Wall Street but like Nixon, JFK and Platoon more.

Aside from the stuff I praised individually in the post: Blue Velvet (how the sam fuck is that not one of the top 100 movies ever?), The Thin Red Line, The Last Picture Show (which I didn't say much about, but it's one of the all-time greats), Network (ditto), Broadcast News, Barton Fink (and almost all Coen Brothers movies), After Hours, Boogie Nights (but of course), Magnolia, Once Upon a Time in America, The Big Chill, Animal House, The Last Waltz, Wonder Boys, Gimme Shelter, La Dolce Vita and the Whit Stillman trilogy are on the go-to list. And most of Errol Morris and a great documentary called Hearts of Darkness about the making of Apocalypse Now. The recent King Kong remake is pretty great, too. Anatomy of a Murder (another one that should've been on the AFI list) is pretty special.

I'm going to think more about my defense to Syriana and Apocalypse Now.

Guilty pleasures: the George Romero Zombie movies, the "Evil Dead" movies, The People Under the Stairs, Bubba Ho-Tep, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and above all else, The Real Cancun. They wouldn't make my *best* list, though.

crimenotes said...

Books, movies and albums that live up to their reputation: Citizen Kane; Godfather and Godfather II; Lolita (the novel, not either movie); Gatsby (yeah, the novel, not the movie); The Sound and the Fury; Moby Dick; Don Quixote; The Aeneid; Exile on Main Street; Highway 61 Revisited; live performances by The Hold Steady.

Jason said...

You know, I'm a bit surprised Anal Invasion #7 or Korean Cum Sluts #9 didn't make the list. Guess it just goes to show how the AFI is just another leg of the Bush Administration.

Crunk Raconteur said...

An excellent point about Nashville. About 6 months ago I, embarrassed that I've never seen it, despite admiring Altman AND having spent four years living in Nashville, got it from Netflix. Gotta say, it was quite a bit of a letdown.

Totally agreed on the Godfather as well, and (not to start us down a well-travelled road again) I just made the point to someone two days ago that just another example of how integrated the Godfather has become to our culture is that, well, there's a reason we all thought that guy in the Member's Only jacket was going to come out of the men's room with a gun...

(Note: I fall on the "he didn't die" side, if only because ending the Sopranos with such a blatantly transparent ripoff of the most famous scene in mob movie history would have felt really really cheap.)

Crunk Raconteur said...

Oh, and as an aside, what, no 10 greatest Americans this year? I'd watch my back if I were you, lest some former honorees get pissed and stick a giant Tennessee boot and a gold fucking medal...well, you get the idea...

CrimeNotes said...

We were going to do the 10 Greatest Americans, but the Libby commutation pissed me off so severely that I wasn't in the mood to celebrate America. So it might've been the 10 Worst Americans instead, and the rainy, Wednesday, hooray-corruption quality of this year's Independence Day therefore would have felt even more depressing.

Instead, I went for the heavy-handed metaphor.

Sally Tomato said...

You MUST see 'French Connection'. Must. Must. Must. It is mandatory.

JebusHChrist said...

... and this is why I try not to read too many blogs. I've been working on a similar piece myself, but yours is 100X better so I will now toss mine aside. Thank you.

Don't waste your time with 'Blade Runner', it's very overrated, much like 'Saving Private Ryan'. Two of the most overrated films of all time.

Also, really nice work.

CrimeNotes said...

s.t.: I know, I know. I think I Tivo'd it once and then had to delete it. It's on my to-do list.

Defenses of Syriana and Apocalypse Now: Apocalypse Now. The war was irrational, logic-free and corrupt, and the only way to show that without a series of lectures (see Fog of War was through abstraction and metaphor. Mr. Clean shoots a woman trying to save a puppy; Lance trips out and watches the fireworks in a haze; the Playboy bunnies bring out the GIs' inner savages. At the end, there's Kurtz, the central metaphor for it all, brain scrambled, uttering elegant gibberish, practicing brutality for the sake of brutality. U.S. was supposed to be civilizer and redeemer, but the jungle drove the country mad, and the demands of occupying the jungle made the U.S. more savage than the enemy. It's the essence of Heart of Darkness, with the added stylistic benefits of drugs, rock music, and modern warfare technology. This movie lords supreme.

Syriana: The movie's central argument is that markets, politics and violence move in connected but unknowable and unpredictable streams. Showing too much and telling too much in the movie would make the world too tidy. Part of the dread and horror is that we can never know the logic of what happens and why, and what little we know is horrifying. That's why the movie hides its cards, and part of why it's great.

Cock D said...

I protest the omission of "Menace II Society".

Have you no decency, sir?

CrimeNotes said...

cd: Never seen "Menace II Society." I'm more of a "Boyz in the Hood" guy. And "Juice."

Jeebus: Write your post. I'm just spouting off. Everybody tells me I'm missing big stuff in not having seen Blade Runner.

Here's an example of the many, many things in Private Ryan that defy human behavior. Say that you're a guy from the Midwest fighting in France. A bunch of dude show up and tell you that a your brothers have been wiped out in the war, and they're there to take you home to mom. Suddenly you've got a bunch of dead brothers and a pack of guys who just busted their asses to get through enemy territory in order to tell you this, and what do you do? Basically shrug and yell, "Wolverines!" in Red Dawn style, then conclude that you'll stay and fight. It may be realistic or even logical for him to decide to stay and fight, but Ryan's non-chalant response to the movie's entire premise is a sullen joke. Badly written, terribly directed. Matt Damon deserves none of the blame for that.

DrunkBrunch said...

I wasn't aware of The Great Gatsby movie - I must Netflix.

I'm proposing to my guy friends a movie marathon containing all three Indiana Jones movies, not just Raiders.

And thank you for plugging so many Jimmy Stewart movies; I adore him. In fact, I remember where I was when I learned that he had died (Waffle House in Indianapolis, senior year of high school, don't ask). I do a pretty sweet imitation of him too.

dmbmeg said...

I highly doubt Blade Runner is one of the "two most overrated films of all time." Did anyone else actually see Titanic?

Fucking drown already. Enough of this love shit.

JebusHChrist said...

I don't give a shit if some 14-year-old girl likes Titanic. I'm talking about people who know film and people I respect who consistently try to tell me that Blade Runner is a masterpiece.
(insert your own masterpiece of shit joke here)
Also, Meg, I hate it when you get drunk and we argue. Just stop.

crimenotes said...

When you two meet and fuck, entire galaxies will implode.

crimenotes said...

Sorry for that last comment.

Todd said...

Don't be.

As for Blade Runner: It was added to me "must watch" list after Adam from MythBusters wrote an entire piece on it for Popular Science. Either it's a really good movie or he had zero ideas for that piece.

JebusHChrist said...

I fear if Meg and I were to meet, Jason would be there, in the closet, masturbating, again, and the mood would be soiled.

Just watch Blade Runner. Let me know how it works out for you.

dmbmeg said...

we all know you're the one who wants to fuck jebus.


crimenotes said...

Comments are for ripping on co-blogger Flop, not me.

Tivo's got no Bladerunner listing, but I'll see it eventually. Presently watching ESPN's heavily hyped movie about the Yankees in the 70s, and it sucks.

dmbmeg said...

I am ashamed of John Turturro. How do you go from Jesus or Pete to a Yankee???

Hellafied said...

Let me preface this with I have excellent taste when it comes to mediocre movies.

Here are some of my favs that you might want to check out:

Cloak & Dagger
Max Dugan Returns
Flight of the Navigator
Red Dawn
Neverending Story
The Dark Crystal
The Warriors

Classics in their own right. Trust me.

crimenotes said...


Haven't seen Dark Crystal or Labyrinth since I was a kid, but at the time I loved both.