Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

AFI's new 100 movies list and my own mini version of Great American Films

The American Film Institute,aka AFI,will be showing a tenth anniversary edition of their list of 100 greatest American movies on CBS tomorrow night. I usually like these specials,it's a good way to check out alot of cool clips from classic and not so classic films. Also,film folks chime in with their own rememberances and opinions of the movies in question,so more fun there.

However,having 100 films for your list gives you alot of leeway in terms of what gets picked and where they fall on the list. For example,some of us might think that Frankenstein deserves to be higher up(number 87) rather than say, E.T.(number 25) and why the blue hell is Dances With Wolves(number 75) even on this list?!

This 10th anniversary list is supposed to be "updated",which I hope means that some of the better films that didn't make the first cut were added on. I know plenty of people were fussing and feuding over the original picks,particularly the Top Ten list which included the following:

# Citizen Kane (1941)
# Casablanca (1942)
# The Godfather (1972)
# Gone with the Wind (1939)
# Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
# The Wizard of Oz (1939)
# The Graduate (1967)
# On the Waterfront (1954)
# Schindler's List (1993)
# Singin' in the Rain (1952)

A decent selection to be sure,but not what I would've chosen. "And what movies would you have in your Top Ten,Lady T?" Glad you asked,my fine friend! Actually,I'll just list my Top Five All Time Great American Movies of the Moment(my opinions may change from time to time,especially since there are many excellant films that I've yet to see). Let's get this party started with...

1) It's A Wonderful Life

The Frank Capra flop that became a cult and then an acclaimed family classic thru years of repeat viewings around Christmastime was number 11 on the AFI list but number one in my house. The film's survived bad reviews,neglect and colorization and still keeps on rocking. The main reason for it's staying power is the film's central Everyman theme that even most seemingly uneventful life can be more rewarding than any world traveler's. The ending alone brings tears to the eyes of even the most cynical amongst us:

2) The Godfather

As you can see,the Mario Puzo adaptation is third on the AFI list and I do agree that it is one of the key classics of our time. In a way,The Godfather is the perfect ying to It's A Wonderful Life's yang. This movie beautifully shows us the dark side of the American Dream and the legacies that we intentionally and unintentionally leave to the next generation. The follow up film was just as brilliant(out of respect for Coppola and company,it's best to pretend that Godfather III never happened),a rare thing in Hollywood. Another rare thing is a quiet yet highly dramatic opening such as this:

3) King Kong

Always duplicated but never truly re-created(sorry,Peter Jackson),Kong is the all time king of inspiration to movie makers and the great granddaddy of blockbuster films. Even with it's special effects that now look amusing and quaint when compared to CGI and over the top acting styles from Fay Wray and Bruce Cabot,Kong still holds his own and then some with whatever's up for summertime multiplex viewing:

4) The Wizard of Oz

A childhood favorite shared by so many,Dorothy's quest to find her way home thru the metaphorical dreamland of Oz has given a roost for many a restless soul to find comfort in. No matter where life may take us,you can always have home in your heart somewhere over the rainbow:

5) Superman

I'm talking about the 1978 Richard Donner film,with Christopher Reeve paving the way for other actors to not be afraid of typecasting in such an iconic role and leaving some pretty big footsteps to follow in. The Superman mythos is hardwired into the DNA of American pop culture and as much as I enjoyed the recent Superman Returns,Bryan Singer knew he couldn't top the original and gamely paid tribute to it.



To me,a great American movie is one that even many years later after it's initial release,people who have not seen it at all can still qoute lines and understand references to it. That is a clear sign of something that has truly impacted upon the cultural landscape,in my opinion. It may not be very high faluting but that's just the way my brain works there,people. Please feel free to suggest some of your own personal picks for the best American films of all time and we'll see if this updated AFI list has any of them on the roster.


Pop Culture Diva said...

Good top 5. Mine would be:

1. Wizard of Oz
2. Gone with the Wind
3. The Color Purple
4. The Godfather
5. Pulp Fiction

lady t said...

I like your list,too. The Color Purple would probaly be in my Top Twenty,since I felt the book was much stronger than the film. I do confess to nearly tearing up when I first saw TCP during that early scene where Celie is torn away from her sister.

Pulp Fiction rocks,with so many great lines and GWTW is the ultimate chick flick with battle scenes.