Thursday, June 19, 2008

100 years...100 reasons to shut the hell up, already

Hellohellohello, your friendly A/C summer editor Anna here.

Actually, not feeling so friendly at the moment—I wiled away about 3.5 hours last night watching the "100 Best Songs of the 80's" countdown on VH1 and doing a bastardized form of liveblogging through text-message with friend and former DI-er Louis Virtel, only to find that, apparently, Def Leppard outranks Michael Jackson and Prince, "Thriller" doesn't make the Top Ten, and Bon Jovi is better than Journey, Madonna, Run-DMC, U2 and R.E.M. Not that I'm still upset or anything.

Phew. Anyway. I don't what is it that has countdowns and lists attracted to me (or vice versa, perhaps) lately, but in the midst of looking something up on the all-knowing Wiki last night, I stumbled across this, which I, a Cinema major and all-around movie geek, had been previously completely unaware—AFI's 10 Top 10.

Pardon my language, but come the hell on. According to that link, this is the 12th such list that the American Film Institute has done since beginning them in 1998 with the granddaddy of 'em all—"100 Years...100 Movies." I used to tune in breathlessly, not just for that one, but for "...Laughs," "...Thrills," "...Passions," "...Heroes and Villains." They were all pretty solid outings, or at least as solid as a pretty BS institution like the AFI's gotten to be, and at the very least they were super fun to watch, reminisce over, quote lines along with, and bicker with my watching companions.

Basically, I'm always in favor of things that put classic movies back in the public eye, and no matter how hokey the AFI stuff was, even at the start, it did that. Forgive me for sounding uber-lame, but if one person wondered who this Atticus Finch person was, outstripping Indiana Jones and James Bond and whatnot, and then went and watched To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time, then the whole thing is completely worth it.

This latest outing in nonsense is not worth it.

"10 Top 10," is, at the very start, annoyingly reductive and repetitive. The AFI has chosen ten genres, then listed the ten best films in its given genre, leaving no room or recognition for films that attempt to do more than one thing. Sure, Chinatown is a fantastic mystery film, but leaving it out of the "Gangster" genre is incorrect. It could also go ahead and fit into "Epics," if you ask me. "Romantic Comedies"? Okay, fine. But what do we do with all the amazing movies that have romance dripping from the screen, but don't make you feel like laughing—Casablanca for example, wouldn't have a spot in this ridiculous list.

Don't even get me started on the utterly bullshit "Animation" category.

"•List breakdown
Disney ruled the animation category with nine animated films that they either produced (seven) or released under their Walt Disney Pictures banner (two produced by Pixar). The only non-Disney cartoon is Shrek."

Oh, really?! I'm stunned. Utterly shocked that this giant corporation that, until extremely recently, has had a chokehold over the animation market in the only country in the running for this countdown "ruled the countdown." (Seriously though, if this was an international countdown, Miyazaki would have done some serious ass-kicking, or I'd be even more fired up than I am now, if you can even imagine it.)

Awesomer than many Disney films (why do you think they want to own the rights so badly?). And I say that as a Disney fan, former Girl Scout's honor.

And the top film is Snow White?! Seriously?? Has anyone at the AFI watched Snow White lately? Not only are all the messages in the film extremely questionable (not to get all feminist, horror of horrors), but that flick is straight-up boring as hell. Just because something's the first doesn't make it the best. Otherwise the best film on the original list when they started counting down ten years ago would have been The Birth of a Nation, and they would still be battling the NAACP over that.

Sigh. Now I'm all worked up again. Oh AFI. I don't like it when we fight like this. Let's just. Go back to promoting interest in old movies together, and restoring film stock, and it'll all be okay again. Okay.



Meryn said...

Hmmmm. I like your feminist indignation act, and the accompanying sarcasm. I'm now going to *gasp *shriek* toss a little racial element into the mix.

-Birth of a Nation is an excellent film. It just unfairly (maybe that's just my opinion, I know, I'm SO sensitive) demonizes a race of people. So, maybe it's unfair to leave it off the top of the list in favor of family-friendly entertainment (which demonizes little people, if you ask me, they should be angrier than women about portrayals in Snow White). I think it's a smart choice by the AFI, and a safe one too. Birth of a Nation is a crucial part of this nation's history, and film history. It's just repugnant, so why not punish the film and D.W. Griffith for its message? After all, art isn't art without dissecting the message.

P.S. Just to be clear, the NAACP is too busy dealing with real problems to fry the AFI over a racist film that's almost 100 years old, had it topped the list. There's too much real racism in our culture to worry about a film that's already been made. But some of those fringe feminist groups are probably going to have a field day with this...

Anna said...

Eh, choices being "safe"? Lame, but predictable, considering the choosers, I guess.

I guess the only place for a D.W. Griffith film in this installment of the AFI's hard-on for lists would have been in the "epics" category. For me, that would have gone to Intolerence, anyway.

As for "Animation," if we're going to get truly argumentative, I think probably Beauty and The Beast or The Lion King would get my top spot. Oftentimes, in my opinion, the AFI lets its original mission of preserving the old cloud its judgement somewhat—those two, for me, truly mark what animation is truly capable of, both in terms of emotion/narrative/character and world-building and in some truly gorgeous work (both visually and in the songs).

Meryn said...

Amen, to everything.

Intolerance as a great epic, yes.

The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, double yes.

AFI slowly losing its relevance and gravitas by doing all of these obnoxious-ass, preach-to-the-choir lists, YES.

La Louis Bonita said...

How did it take me two weeks to read this?

See, I thought the AFI 10 Top 10 was, among all other things, extremely predictable. They've listed nearly all these movies in some form or another already. Now they're just categorizing them more rigidly, which is always the best idea.

Amen to the "Snow White" b.s. Furthermore, "Bambi"? Really? THAT high? My giddiness only escalates when I realize "Shrek" made the list, in spite of being a legendarily overrated movie. God, this all belongs in a text, not a comment. I'll sort this out with you the next time VH1 starts infuriating us again and we require a caucus.