Thursday, June 19, 2008

"[sigh]...we did twenty takes, and that was the best one."

Discussing the American Film Insitute's Ten Top 10 Lists: Part One

...And if you thought I wasn't going to discuss televised movie lists made by other people, obviously don't know me very well.

At my brother's urging (I believe his exact words were "your Oscar preview...gah"), I'm splitting this up into two posts, each covering five lists. Happy, Taylor?

Legend: Should Be Higher, Should Be Lower, Fine More or Less Where it Is, Should've Been on the List

Off we go:

ANIMATI--zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, wait, wait! I'm awake: This is easily the dullest list of the ten. Hard to muster much enthusiasm for this one.

10. Finding Nemo (2003): highest grossing Pixar picture ever, which I just discovered.'s okay.
-> The Secret of Nimh (1982)
9. Cinderella (1950)
-> Aladdin (1993)
-> Alice in Wonderland (1951)
-> The Iron Giant (1999): [sob]
-> The Incredibles (2004)

8. Shrek (2001)
7. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
-> Robin Hood (1973): my favorite Disney movie ever, if you cared.
6. Toy Story (1995): like, how about #1? For me, this is very probably the best animated movie ever made, and if it's not #1, TS2 might be.
5. Fantasia (1940): about right for this one, though I will note that, seeing this as a child in the theatre, Fantasia freaked the hell out of me. That whole Sorcerer's Apprentice segment was very unsettling.
4. The Lion King (1994)
2. Pinocchio (1940): ok. ok, it's a fine film, but here's the thing: no child under the age of seven would willingly watch this over any of the films I've added. They just wouldn't.
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): see previous comment.

-> Toy Story 2 (1999)

FANTASY: odd, odd category, in that they seem to have confused fantasy movies with "movies that happen to contain a fantastical scene that, aside from that, are pretty much regular comedies and/or dramas." This is almost certainly due to the ridiculously broad definition of "fantasy"--"a genre where live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules ofthe natural world"--provided by the AFI. This also seems to be the only category where superhero films are eligible.

10. Big (1988): cool. But see concerns above. Though its inclusion does explain Elizabeth Perkins' somewhat bizarre presence during the AFI show.
9. The Thief of Bagdad (1924): whatever.
-> Jurassic Park (1993): oddly this wasn't even among one of the nominated films.
8. Groundhog Day (1993): not a fantasy movie.
7. Harvey (1950): kind of a weird selection, but a very good movie.
6. Field of Dreams (1989): not a fantasy movie.
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947): not a fantasy movie. And, more to the point, not even a remotely good movie. What the hell is it doing here?
-> Batman (1989)
-> Edward Scissorhands (1990)
-> Superman II (1980)
4. King Kong (1933): why not the superior-in-virtually-every-way remake here?
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946): sigh...not a fantasy movie. I'm sorry, it just isn't. If you wanted to rank "treacly, somewhat overrated holiday flicks"--much as I love Jimmy Stewart--this probably has to be #1.
-> The Princess Bride (1987): caught this on cable not too long ago, and while I'm not convinced it has aged particularly well, this is a fantasy movie.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001): one higher.
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939): I suppose this has to be #1. OK, then. I've still never seen it.

SCIENCE FICTION: Stupidly, this is where Jurassic Park is nominated.

10. Back to the Future (1985): awesome. And, if they ranked the top 500 SF movies, BTTF 2 might've eeked its way in. My #3.
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
-> Donnie Darko (2001)
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): pretty cool (though I was underwhelmed at the time). I still think it was eclipsed by the original, which was made on, roughly, one-one hundreth the budget. [Note: actually more like one-fifteenth--102 million versus 6.4 million.]
7. Alien (1979): I, for one, kind of miss Tom Skeritt. What has been up to since Picket Fences got cancelled...eleven years ago?
6. Blade Runner (1982): I'd probably put this at #2. One of my all-time favorites.
5. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971): amazing movie, not science fiction. Sorry. If anything, Clockwork is horror.
-> Ghostbusters (1984): Anyone? Inexplicably: not nominated at all.
-> The Terminator (1984): terrific, terrific movie.
-> Mad Max (1979): This, too. (I'd argue that The Road Warrior should be considered, too.)
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): watched this for the first time in probably ten years last New Year's Eve, in a hotel in Blarney, Ireland. Verdict? Still overrated...and, I'm more convinced than ever, pants-crappingly terrifying for children. You let me watch this when I was three, mom and dad?
-> The Matrix (1999): wtf?
2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977): sure. Maybe a bit high.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): awesome. The first #1 selection that I agree with.

WESTERN: I've seen precisely 3.5 of these movies, so I'll be brief here.

10. Cat Ballou (1965): with a score of 6.9 out of 10 on, I'll wager this is the lowest scoring movie of any of the 100 charting movies. Any takers?
9. Stagecoach (1939)
8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971):
supposed to be terrific. I really must see this.
-> The Magnificent Seven (1960): one of the more surprising omissions, frankly.
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
6. The Wild Bunch (1969)
5. Red River (1948):
winner of the coveted "movie I've never even heard of but apparently should have" award.
-> The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
-> The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948):
outstanding movie. Curiously: not included on the ballot, which is incredibly stupid. 5 other John Huston movies, but not this one. Odd.

4. Unforgiven (1992)
3. Shane (1953)
-> No Country for Old Men (2007): is too a western.
2. High Noon (1952)
1. The Searchers (1956):
solid choice.

SPORTS: [rubs hands together]

OK...I pretty much hate this list. For clarity's sake, I'll put my Top 10 at the end...which you can count on being blown up into a 10,000 word entry at some point ( that's something to look forward to.)

10. Jerry Maguire (1996): not a sports movie. Put it this way, it's about as much of a sports movie as Almost Famous is a musical.
9. National Velvet (1944): really? Really??
8. Breaking Away (1979): inspired choice! A beautiful movie.
7. Caddyshack (1980): funny enough, I suppose. I just don't love it as much as most.
6. The Hustler (1961): ummm....ok. I'll be honest, I haven't actually seen this one. Just so we're clear, the Top 10 sports movies of all-time list includes: 1 movie that's not even really about sports, 1 about basketball, 1 about equestrian, 1 about golf, 1 about cycling, 1 about pool, 2 about baseball, and 2 about boxing.
5. Bull Durham (1988): I won't go as far as Bill Simmons and say this is a chick flick, but it does chick flickish elements. Also, the baseball scenes get approximately 2% worse every year, so...
4. Hoosiers (1986): are you fucking kidding me?? This has to be number one. I refuse to argue about this.
3. The Pride of the Yankees (1942): no, no, no, no, no. I won't even get into this. Here's a shocker, though: did you know that this was nominated for eleven Academy Awards in '43? I'm amazed they even had eleven categories back then! I'm assuming at least four of them dealt with pies to the face and/or spit takes. (It only won one, by the way, for Film Editing.)
2. Rocky (1976): I like the first one just fine--though I continue to find it riotous that it won best picture back in '76--but the fourth one, in terms of sports films, is pretty clearly vastly superior.
1. Raging Bull (1980): not (really) a sports movie. And here's a perfect example of how the voters don't really "get" what a sports movie is all about. I'll chalk a lot of this up to more shoddy definition work--AFI defines “sports” as a genre of films with protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition. Well, that definition Pulp Fiction (boxing) and The Deer Hunter (Russian roulette) are probably technically eligible. But the bigger problem is that there's no "inspirational"/"gets you pumped up"/"makes you weep" (and Gehrig dying in PotY doesn't count, btw, because it's just sad. I'm talking more along the lines of "Kyle is watching Hickory win the state title for, like, the 100th time, and still tears up" crying). Now, don't get me wrong, I think Raging Bull is a terrific movie, but, when it's done, I don't want to shawdowbox, or spar, or go 12 rounds with anyone. I just want to curl up in the fetal position on my bed and gently rock myself back and forth. Accordingly, I don't consider this a sports movie.

My Top 15 Sports Movies (with only the briefest of comments here--again, see 10,000 word comment above):

15. Teen Wolf (1985): stroke of genius (both the movie and me including here).
14. Hoop Dreams (1994): a bit overrated (your mind immediately jumps to the basketball scenes, which are terrific, and ignores the forty minute stretch where it's just Arthur's father being a huge asshole)--still, it's very compelling.

13. The Program (1993): underrated.
12. Breaking Away (1979): heartwarming...and you know I hate using that expression.
11. Rounders (1998): you recoiled instantly, I can tell. But you're warming up to it now, right?
10. The Bad News Bears (1976): this is the part where you pretend you didn't have a crush on young, pre-crazy Tatum O'Neal. I don't believe you.
9. Tin Cup (1996)
: admittedly, too much involving Costner and ever-increasingly mannish looking Rene Russo here, but the golf scenes hold up very well (except for the part where it looks like Costner can only hit it about 150 yards off the tee, yet the ball goes twice as far.)
8. Varsity Blues (1999): yeah...what of it? Go on, make fun, but this movie rocks.
7. Rocky IV (1985): the best of series.
6. The Natural (1984): not nearly as good as I remember, but it remains a classic.
5. Without Limits (1998): Taylor, go change your pants.
4. The Karate Kid (1984): not even listed among the Top 30 on ESPN's list, which is astounding.
3. Friday Night Lights (2004): great movie, even better soundtrack.
2. A League of Their Own (1992): did I just blow your mind grapes? You're welcome.
1. Hoosiers (1986): and it's not even all that close.

That's better.

Part two to follow....


Jesse said...

Rocky IV was a better movie than Rocky I insofar as it perfected the formula, but not insofar as it was not a much, much better movie. I can't see how that doesn't make your sports movie list.

Have you seen Mean Machine?

And, did you exclude MVP because the athlete's a chimp? The first one, not the crappy sequels. I'm not an idiot.

Anonymous said...

I think you know that you're forgetting Slam Dunk Ernest, Kyle.

What about Angels in the Outfield? Yes, I know it's a kids movie, but I remember loving it (although, the last time I watched I was still crapping my pants semi-regularly, so maybe this one shouldn't be included).

If you want to talk about inspirational sports movies, how about Chariots of Fire? I'm kind of surprised AFI didn't include it either.

And, interestingly, Close Encounters of the Third Kind wasn't on the top 10 sci-fi list, even though it's on their 100 greatest movies list.

Question Mark said...

Uh, no Field of Dreams in the sports movie list??

I'm shocked that both AFI and I released 'top ten top ten lists' in the same week. I literally had no idea this AFI special occurred until I read your post. I blame it on going to see the Happening on Tuesday night, which, btw, should never appear on anyone's 'best' lists.

Just the one Lord of the Rings movie in the top ten? I'm at best a casual fan of the franchise, but if you have one movie, don't you need them all? Or was Fellowship's inclusion just a representation of the trilogy as a whole?

Question Mark said...

And, in conclusion, I'm just upset World According to Garp didn't make AFI's sports movie list. Hey, Garp was a wrestler! Lithgow played a transsexual former Philadelphia Eagle (loosely based on Donovan McNabb)! Under the AFI's logic, that should've been enough.

RT Murphy said...

I'll talk to you more on Google, but the big problem with these lists are a very arbitrary and antiquated definition of each genre. For example, is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? animated or what? Would the new Star Wars movies qualify, with so much integrated CGI? Should fantasy, sci-fi and horror be collided into 'speculative fiction'? I think we can agree that 'sports' is really due for an overhaul.

Ryan Ward said...

Great list so far! I found another similar examination of the AFI lists at that's pretty good.

Hal Incandenza said...

...Been inexcusably derelict in my commenting. My apologies.

Spaz: AitO was on a couple weeks ago on--I think--Peachtree. About as bad as I remember, though the fact that the kid is played by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, certainly one of the five most talented actors under the age of 30, is kind of interesting.

Jesse: haven't seen either version of Mean Machine (there was a remake, wasn't there?). And I see what you're saying about the merits of R1 vs. R4, but I still think the latter is better.

I'd forgotten about the MVP joke until now...and laughed again. Well done.

Ryan: I think WFRR falls under fantasy (since there's live action in the film), but I'm not too sure. Agreed re: the categories being too loose/ill-defined, but, on the whole, it was a good excuse to reminisce about old movies for three hours.

Shuk: the thing about Field of Dreams is: I don't think I've seen (or had a hankering to see) it in something like fifteen years. Does it hold up? I'm almost afraid to watch it again.

Re: Garp--> just thinking about Robin Williams' body hair in that movie makes me queasy.

Ryan: thanks for the link. I'm kicking myself for leaving off a couple of those (more on that when we get to the next post).

If I were to do a Top 20 sports movies, I think I'd add:

T20. Eight Men Out
T20. Raging Bull
19. Rocky
18. Field of Dreams
17. Major League (MJ2
was pretty good too)
16. Chariots of Fire

(and Wall*E might just be #2 behind the original Toy Story on the animated list.)

Hal Incandenza said...

At this stage, I'm definitely only debating with myself, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how stupid I feel for leaving Kingpin out of the best sports movies discussion. I'd probably put it at #16.

Jesse said...

You should see the original Mean Machine.

I think by including a non-sports movie like Rounders you've screwed yourself... there's gotta be a tonne of movies which would now qualify for your list that you haven't included. Isn't The Colour of Money some sort of classic?

Hal Incandenza said...

Agreed re: MM. One of these days I'll get around to it. As for Color of Money: meh...I was expecting a lot more, I suppose. It was OK, but hardly the acting showcase for Newman the Oscars made it out to be (total make-up award by them). I found Rounders to be far more intense (but, then, I prefer poker to pool, so that probably played a role).

Months later, I'm still cool with the idea of including non-major (or minor!) sports movies on the list, and think that I really should make a place for Searching for Bobby Fischer and possibly even Spellbound in an expanded Top 25. Maybe I'll bring this back as a post this summer.

Jesse said...

Then you'd better carefully define your terms... Rocky was still a better "movie about sports", whereas Rocky IV was arguably a batter "sports movie".

Of course, you have Varsity Blues up there, so you're obviously formula-friendly.