The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 2

June 4, 2010

Just recently we took on the first five films on AFI’s Top 100 Films list, which much like the movie industry itself, is loaded with obvious selections, most of which exceed three hours in length and/or are shot in black and white. The next five films listed promise to be “more of the same.”


As was common in those days, The Wizard of Oz starred several SURNAMES.

6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Well ahead of its time (4:20), The Wizard of Oz is universally considered a “stone classic,” full of singing midgets, hand-tinted film stock and gay icons. Much like Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Wizard of Oz is an extended hallucination suffered by the main character when she is killed by a [SPOILER ALERT!] tornado.

Oz is really two films in one: the first satirizes the blandness of a flat, arid and witch-infested Kansas while the colorful “back nine” pokes fun at the idea that traits like “love” and “courage” somehow make people more “human.”

The posters for The Graduate preemptively give away the entire movie before the trailer has a chance to.

7. The Graduate (1967)
A cautionary tale of plastics and seduction, The Graduate served notice to well-meaning parents everywhere with its chilling portrayal of ennui-laden and aimless youth, many of whom were headed back home for the summer.

Starring a somewhat attractive, young Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichol’s film answered the age-old question “It’s late in the afternoon. Do you know where your children are?” with a resounding “Floating angstily in the pool/banging Anne Bancroft.”

Worth a look for its prescient commentary on plastics, which were “the wave of the future” for years until dethroned by the sudden popularity of kickboxing.

Brando looks around apprehensively for the next green-tied assailant.

8. On the Waterfront (1951)
An unflinching look at union labor, boxing and Father-surrogate son relationships, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront is also known for the powerhouse performance delivered by an oddly coherent and dangerously underweight Marlon Brando.

Shot in Oscar-baiting black and white, On the Waterfront earned Kazan an enormous amount of goodwill, which he quickly pissed away with his extensive sellout of colleagues and competitors during the McCarthy “witch hunts” (which netted surprisingly few witches, but did snare several deadly Communists).

Pitched as "The Matrix" meets "Over the Top."

9. Schindler’s List (1993)
Director Steven Spielberg goes back to his roots as a 1940’s-era director, utilizing the black and white cinematography that was the “all the rage” in the days before color (or colour) film.

Cameo appearances by Robin Williams (as a Good Morning Vietnam-ish radio personality) and Roberto Begnini (as a rubberfaced entertainer whose jokes are all of the “too soon?’ variety) keep the film from sinking into complete pathos. Exceedingly long.

They were later charged with "indecent exposure" and "possession of unlicensed umbrellas."

10. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The first Oscar winner to feature a dropped “g,” Singin’ in the Rain is a charming musical that takes a very dark turn at the midpoint when it’s titular song becomes the soundtrack from some dystopian ultraviolence. A change in tone is also signalled by a change of costumes, from suits and fedoras to codpieces, jumpsuits and bowlers.

The remaining time is given over to a heavy-handed allegorical songfest, which lays out a devastating condemnation of both reckless optimism and the collected works of Ludwig Van. Recommended for its amazing choreography and surprising amount of nudity.



  1. I can’t believe you gave away the ending to Wizard of Oz. I guess I’ll pull it off my Netflix list. Thanks a lot.

    Next thing you’ll tell me is that the soldier in Owl Creek Bridge was really dead.

    • Sorry about the whole “ruining the Wizard of Oz for you” thing. I’m not sure about the Owl Creek Bridge event, as I have not read the story all the way through.

      The Cliffs Notes say: “Dead soldier hallucinates escape.” Hmm. I think that’s open to interpretation.

      Nice to see you, Phoenixism. Thanks for the comment.

    • Oops. Sorry, that was a spoiler touche.

      I got curioser so I dabbled in a little internets research.

      Incident At Owl Creek Bridge (1890) and The Lottery (1948) easily pre-dated The Twilight Zone television series (1959-1964). Bierce and Jackson explored dark, macabre story twists well before Rod Serling experienced any sort of creepy mid-life crisis which may or may not have involved barren roads or lifelike children’s dolls.

  2. While I have still yet to see the The Graduate and may be missing something, I find it really funny that this “older woman” doing the seducing, Anne Bancroft, was actually less than 6 years older than Dustin Hoffman. The age difference between Bancroft and the guy who played Mr Robinson was larger and even the difference between the young Hoffman and the gal playing his “legitimate” love interest was almost as big.

    Yet, never mind the affair, the Bancroft-Hoffman age gap alone was “oh-so scandalous” cradle robbing.

    Today, I look at some of these women 20+ years older than me and I wouldn’t resist their advances for a minute, even if was dating their daughter.

    • That’s some interesting stuff, Sedate Me. It’s hard to believe someone who looks like Dustin Hoffman playing younger than he actually is. It’s like “Beverly Hills 90210” all over again, only preceding it (BH 90210) rather than after it.

      Good luck with your own scandalous relationships, Sedate Me. You’ll have your hands full alternately skewing younger and older as needed, like some sort of Fonzie/Chachi conglomerate.

  3. I am amazed that Porky’s was left off this esteemed list…what the what?

    You are correct regarding Schindler’s List, it wasn’t really that funny.

    Nice work Tamer and I am watching a copy of On the Waterfront as we speak. Look forward to more.

    • FJ –

      I’m somewhat amazed at the lack of Porky’s (or its sequels) on this list. Of course, I’ve only read thru #10 so conceivably there’s still a chance this cinematic tour de force(s) will appear.

      Enjoy your movie, FJ. Remember, if it’s not black and white, Brando and exceedingly long, it’s just not AFI.

  4. Oh man, you beat me to the publish punch on this one. Remember my ‘notes?’ I have an unfinished post in my Word with the movie version. Oh well, it wasn’t coming as easy as I thought it would anyway. Actually it sucked. You win.

    So shit! And Fuck! Dorothy was dead? Damn it’s just like that Lost did to me but now Wizard has done it retroactively. I feel like I’ve been ass raped by a straw man. I didn’t know Dorothy was dead. Now I feel like I should have cried for her like I did for Jack Shepard. I’ve said too much.

    The only movie that taught me more about life than The Graduate was Taboo IV…but in the pukey way .

    Would you believe that I managed to miss all of the last 3? I did. I think I was busy playing with my G.I. Joes or masturbating to Dorothy or Mrs. Robinson or maybe the sister in Taboo…probably all three.

    • Scott –

      Sorry to have beaten you to the punch. I’m sure with proper internet service and living in a real country would have allowed you to surpass my 2 posts/week output. Or at the very least allowed us to “punch” great films below the belt together.

      As for Dorothy being dead: I’d assume so. They don’t come right out and say it, but ask any Kansan about it and they’ll usually tell you how “dead” they feel on the inside, if not the actual outside.

      As for the lessons learned from Taboo IV (the unofficial “reboot” of the Graduate) and molesting your GI Joes? I would have to imagine those are all very subjective and possibly harmful to discuss openly.

      Thanks for the hellacious comment, Scott. You take simple things like playing with GI Joes or masturbating and turn it into something we all wished we’d been able to “un-read.”

  5. Will Mr. Tanager be commenting on your blog? I’m very interested in what he has to say, particularly on the earlier movies (I bet he even has a story about a Korean version of Mrs. Robinson [Mrs. Kim?]). Also, I’ve noticed he is not listed on your blogroll although you are listed on his blogroll. I hope he does not in any way feel slighted due to this oversight.

    What can I say? I didn’t understand the Wizard of Oz until I had kids and was old enough to not fall asleep half way through the movie. Never saw The Graduate but mounted plenty of old geezers in my life. On the Waterfront? He coulda/woulda/shoulda been somebody all right. Schindler’s List: first movie where I sobbed while seated in my theatre chair before the lights even dimmed and the movie got started (had to coach myself “you can do this!!” in order to get my shit together and peek out through sqinted eyes). Singin’ in the Rain…oh God, Gene Kelly, his Savile Row suits, velvety voice and magical airy feet. As a young child, romantic notions were alien so I often wished he were my father. ♫ I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, what a glorious feelin’, I’m happy again, I’m laughing at the clouds…♫

    • E3h –

      I’m not sure if Clifton will be along or not, what with all the other responsibilities he has now. Like leaving lengthy comments pretty much everywhere and posting lengthy answers to questions nobody really wanted answered or even asked. I’m sure he’d have something interesting to say, especially if weighed by the pound.

      Of all the “movie moments” you’ve enjoyed throughout your illustrious life, e3h, I’d have to imagine the “Graduate” moments were perhaps the most, um… “informative.”

      I’m also comforted to see that I’m not the only one who has to force myself to sit through dramatic Oscar-winning films, crying my eyes out the whole time. I had the same experience with “Midnight Cowboy.”

    • Oh, and as for the blogroll… look up top under “The Side Projects.”

    • I hope to see ‘book’ under Side Projects soon, CLT. Please reserve the first copy for me (which I will gladly pay full retail).

      “Full retail” = huge compliment as I almost never pay full retail.

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  7. Has anyone made a violent musical yet? WTF. I think the times are ripe for that sort of thing. It would begin with a guy getting laid-off as his company outsources to survive, dancing out the door with happiness because it was such an oppressive environment. He drinks and dances a lot in choreographed bar brawls. A year later he’s begging for work on the docks, where his sister keeps them afloat by whoring as a witch in costume. She seduces a union boss’s son, and when a hurricane drops a boat on their ass, they are magically transported to the gulf, and hired to clean-up the spill. More dancing. But wait! No . . . that’s it. Cue the music. Great post! Brando’s thin again! Wasting away!

    • I like to think “A Clockwork Orange” sorta fits that bill, Dan. It had a musical vibe and many of the ol’ ultraviolence scenes seemed a bit choreographed.

      I would totally spend my last dime on a whore in a witch costume especially if a broom is part of her repertoire.

    • Dan,

      The time is ripe for a violent musical. Sure, “A Clockwork Orange” laid the groundwork (thanks, Unmarried Man), but someone really needs to push it over the top. You could definitely pitch your idea as “Paint Your Wagon” meets “Sin City” and get Takashi Miike to direct it.

      Don’t know what it is about Kubrick, but he really knew how to make music work visually. Look no further than his use of the “Blue Danube” to soundtrack his beautifully photographed shots of spaceship “getting it on.”

    • Great comment, Dan…funny as hell.

    • Why is everyone acting like they didn’t watch Sweeney Todd?

      Actually, I haven’t seen it either.

    • o/o –

      Well, I bought that movie, which pretty much guarantees I’ll never watch it…

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