The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 3

June 12, 2010

After taking the first 10 films in a couple of easy-to-digest sets of five, we’ve decided to shove ten (10!) films down your throat this time around in the interest of giving your mousewheel some much needed exercise. Brace yourself for the undiluted loquaciousness that is Volume 3 of this still-viable series.

Previous versions:
Volume 1
Volume 2

Unfortunately for Stewart, Donna Reed succumbed to motion sickness almost immediately. And had just eaten.

11. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Capra’s slick inversion of the Scrooge mythology, in which the protagonist (a do-gooding son of a bitch teetering on the verge of suicide) is visited by the ghost of network TV, which attempts to saves its own ass by dragging family members away from each other and back to their rightful place at the receiving end of the “talking picture box.”

Using Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey as a thin metaphor for television’s unblinking one-way eye, the ghost/angel self-servingly points out how un-wonderful life would be without itself, a brutal vision that includes anarchic riots, the collapse of the world’s economy and families interacting with each other around the dinner table.

While arriving decades too early to depict the internet and the damage done, it is, at the very least, prescient enough to slam various board games and Jumbles.

This summer, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

12. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Bad Boys II (2003)

[Ed. note: Given that Sunset Boulevard is only famous for its last line, we have replaced it with an equally powerful film.]

Michael Bay parlays his advertising career into a lucrative money-printing machine with the delivery of Bad Boys and its attendant sequel, Bad Boys II. His embrace of style-over-substance and cliche-over-originality can be viewed as “circuitously ironic” by even the most jaded moviegoer.

Combining the comforting familiarity of buddy-cop conventions with the popularity of blowing shit up (in slow motion), Bay concocts a film that defines “lightweight” and “disposable.” It also gives the two leads (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) a chance to show us what they do best: play Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Hailed as “brilliantly forgettable” and “only in theatres.”

Being a bridge, it was somewhat unprepared for being "shot right in the fucking face."

13. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Light years ahead of its time with its use of “artistic whistling,” The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the true story of American POWs who are put to work constructing an “Overground Railroad” bridge at the behest of the Japanese captors.

Faced with budget issues, lack of motivation and some truly hellish morning stretches/corporate team-building exercises, the POWs surprise their captors with their rather bridled enthusiasm and good old-fashioned American ingenuity.

Will these purpose-driven troops construct this monument of Japanese excess before the war ends/bridge gets blowed the hell up? Only Steve McQueen and his trusty companion, Motorcycle, know for sure. Exceedingly long.

One nipple per ear, just like in the contract...

14. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot paved the way for the cross-dressing comedic hijinks of Bosom Buddies, the Kids in the Hall and The Crying Game. Following the story of two guys who don women’s apparel to get into Marilyn Monroe’s pants (assuming she too wasn’t wearing a skirt), this controversial comedy was a showcase for the comedic stylings of the two leads, as well as being the perfect display case for Marilyn Monroe, who positively shines with her ability to act coy, surprised and coyly surprised. Filmed in United Artists’ groundbreaking “TechniGray.”

Being a large space helmet, it was somewhat unprepared to be "shot in the fucking eye," not to mention begin surrounded by various robots and upper torsos.

15. Star Wars (1977) The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

[Ed. note: Come on. The 2nd movie is twice what the first one is. It’s just simple math.]

Easily the best of Lucas’ Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back is a fluid meshing of fast-paced action and dark drama, no doubt a result of Lucas ceding the film’s writing and directorial duties to actual writers/directors.

Features Mark Hamill (in his only role ever) as Luke Skywalker, a former carpenter named Harrison Ford (born Jesus Harrison Christ) as the anti-hero, Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher as Hamill’s love interest and sister, Princess Leia.

Skywalker loses a hand to his dad and his sister to an unrelated male. The only black man in space sells out to “the Man,” who also happens to be black, but just on the outside and two robots enjoy the fruits of a common-law marriage.

Much, much better than the belated prequels in which Lucas attempts to skew younger by casting a mannequin to play a young Darth Vader and brings in an anthropomorphic Jamaican.

Another lovely shot of Bette Davis capturing her wearing her iconic "I just woke up on the wrong side of humanity" look.

16. All About Eve (1950)
An icy tale about fan obssession and manipulation, All About Eve tells the sordid tale of a fading Broadway star and the fan club president who steals her role and, eventually, her life. As is the case with these “victimless” crimes, no charges are pressed and everyone agrees to bitchily disagree and occasionally “wrestle it out” in a tubful of Jello.

Famous for the lack of chemistry between the two leads, whose Method-acting approach allowed them to take this film over the top and into the annals of filmery. Jello-wrestling notwithstanding, this film is highly recommended to fans of abhorrent human beings and general cattiness. One of nearly 75 films on this list shot in black and white, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Humphrey Bogart stars in "The Emmett Kelly Jr. Story."

17. The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn cavort in the African Outback, bantering bitchily and drinking each other under the makeshift table. Pitched as Madagascar meets The Odd (Heterosexual) Couple, The African Queen is prized for its sweeping vistas and plotless storyline. Every bit as good as its 17th place finish would indicate. Keep your eyes open for some bold full-color shots.

Nothing but ninety minutes of half-naked men and women staring meaningfully at each other.

18. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock shocked audiences and his fellow filmmakers by killing off the only likeable character less than halfway through the movie. The remaning running time combines amateur psychology with taxidermy to weave a harrowing tale of a cross-dressing mama’s boy and the private detective who aims to take him down.

Followed by sequentially-numbered sequels and a shot-for-shot remake which greatly expands the color palette.

Nicholson thoughtfully covered up Dunaway's receding hairline with his chainsmoking habit.

19. Chinatown (1974)
A hardboiled detective story that recalls the great film noirs of the past, all of whom it apparently outranks. The film follows the footsteps of Jake Gittes (who apparently can’t walk ten feet without being physically assaulted) as he investigates an adultery case that somehow manages to involve water rights, corruption, incest and takeout menus. Jack Nicholson turns in an amazingly gritty performance, one he wouldn’t top for nearly three decades (2003’s Anger Management).

Nicholson spots a name he recognizes; appears pleased.

20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Jack Nicholson follows up his gritty performance in Chinatown with his completely unhinged portrayal of an aging actor with easy access to booze and cocaine. Set in a psychiatric hospital, this Oscar-winning film exposes the abuses of the system by the staff and details the complete breakdown of the human psyche.

A triumph in movie myth-making, featuring an unreliable window-breaking narrator and an unreliable coke-snorting actor.



  1. I have this strange dream sometimes. In the dream I’m dead, but somehow become resurrected (although not in a Biblical way…more like advanced technology). Anyway, I’m back on planet Earth and I have this keen, keen awareness of life. I’m stroking grass, inhaling deeply, twirling in circles and am totally immersed in what it means to be ‘alive’. I am deliriously happy. Every second is full of wonder, delight and awe. I suppose it’s something akin to what George Bailey felt when he had his second chance. Who knows, maybe that reoccurring dream was inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life. Not sure. But, it troubles me that while I am still very mush alive, I’m not stroking grass, inhaling deeply, twirling in circles, immersed in what it means to be alive, and deliriously happy (at least not on the same level as in the dream).

    What a lovely selection of movies, CLT. Well, almost. Even though I am a cosmology nut, I think Star Wars was the most retarded movie ever made. I remembering thinking Cuckoo’s Nest was one of the greatest, that is until I became a psychiatric nurse and then could never watch it again as it was too painful. Like remembering where you were when JFK was assassinated (Tupac for the younger set) or when the Towers crumbled, I can pinpoint where I was and the ‘mood’ when these great movies were viewed (most admittedly later in life). I’m a huge indie fan, but have to admit these were some fine, fine movies. Make that ‘films’ (there are movies and there are films). Always a pleasure to have your ‘take’ and commentary, Capitalist. I’ll have you know I skipped an outing on the Strip tonight to stay in and read your blog. It was well worth it.

    • Elizabeth,

      Your dream sounds wonderful in a very disconnected way, but that’s the way the best dreams go.

      As for the movies/films, I’ll get to the indies at some point in the future. As of now, I’m just trying to stay on point with AFI’s list, which contains no surprises and is filled with safe bets. This is not to say these are not good/great films. It’s just that anybody could have written that list in their sleep.

      Thanks for staying in. CLT > nite on the Vegas strip. That’s going on a t-shirt. I should be able to sell at least two.

  2. So that’s what the “H” stands for.

    • Glad you caught that.

      I told you that joke would stand on its own, mom!

    • The wife laughed blithesomely as well. Fucking brilliant, CLT.

  3. […] Capitalist F Lion Tamer: The History of Media: Visual Arts Edition Vol. 3 and The Fancy Plan’s Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol 3 […]

  4. This is a true measure of your worth of a writer CLT. I’ve gone my whole life without seeing (sorry, I hate to use numbers but it’s easier than naming them) #’s 11, 13, 14, 16 and 17. But thanks you and especially lines like, “Marilyn Monroe, who positively shines with her ability to act coy, surprised and coyly surprised,” I now know that I must illegally download these as soon as I can fire up the Pirate Bay! I always wanted to see Marylyn Monroe and the chance to see her pantless (assuming she was wearing a skirt) is just too awesome to pass up.

    And I had no idea that George Bailey was a metaphor, much less such a thin, almost emaciated one. And you know how I’m always looking for metaphors even where none exists. Because sometime (as I’m learning) field mice are just field mice. Anway, the fact that you can separate the wheat from the chaff (speaking metaphorically about metaphors) so effectively is what makes you the best in the critiquing biz.

    I was wondering if in the future we, your humble fans, could possibly leave requests of our favorite movies for you to review/critique and most likely slam…but in the fun way?

  5. Thanks very much for the compliments, Scott. The truth is that these movies are so ingrained in American culture that nobody really needs to watch them. However, the Pirate Bay sure knows how to get ahold of movies you just can’t get in Spain, like all the numbers you listed (I already typed the names once. I’m not going down that road again.)

    As for the metaphors, I’ll probably be finding a lot of them where they don’t actually exist, each of them so thin as to be translucent. Like rice paper. Or Karen Carpenter.

    By all means, leave requests. I can’t make any sort of lead time promises, but I will get to them as soon as is possible for a blogger who is now down to a couple of posts a week.

    Thanks again for the comment, Scott.

  6. The movie The Bridge on the River Kwai is based on the novel The Bridge over the River Kwai, begging the question whether bridges are on or over rivers.

    • I’m sure it’s all a matter of perspective, especially the perspective of those who made the movie and decided it just wouldn’t sell with the word “over” attached.

      Which would explain the exceedingly long “A Bridge Much Further.”

  7. […] also: Volume Three Volume Two Volume One  Unfortunately, new fonts wouldn't be invented until 1942, forcing the […]

  8. While Carrie Fisher is the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, Fisher is the extremely distant cousin of Russell G. Scott, best known as Blinky the Clown!

    • At first I thought you meant “Binky,” the clown from Garfield’s tv show. But this is much more astounding. Sort of has an Emmett Kelly look about him.

      Thanks for the info, V.E.G. One can’t have too much of that sort of thing cluttering up the mind.

  9. The African queen was a good read. I don’t remember the time when I read it but I still have the plot in my mind.

    • It reads better than it looks. Mainly because of Katherine Hepburn’s mannish hands.

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