The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 6December 5, 2010
Holy hell! Does this thing still exist? And for why?
It does, exceptionally bad grammar notwithstanding. Catch up via the way-way-wayback machine with the following links:
51. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
An anomaly on this list, The Philadelphia Story is the biopic of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which traces the history of the “City of Brotherly Love” from its humble beginnings as one of several “birthplaces of Democracy” to the battery-throwing thug it is today.
Other highlights include a montage of Dr. J dunks, an exploration of Lenny Dykstra’s financial empire and a football stadium full of fans booing Santa Claus. Also includes a few shots of the Liberty Bell and its famous crack, showing yet again that the citizens of Philadelphia “just can’t have nice things.”
52. From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director Fred Zinnemann makes the most of a pre-World War II Hawaiian backdrop to set the stage for two hours of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making out on the beach. Occasionally bits of storyline pop up to keep the guys’ attention and avoid being shut down by the ratings board.
53. Amadeus (1984)
Biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s severely truncated life as filtered through one of his bitterest rivals. A child prodigy who was composing etudes by six weeks of age, Mozart (or Amadeus) died at the tender age of 35, proving the old adage that “the candle which burns twice as bright giggles twice as psychotically.”
Traces Amadeus’ (or Wolfgang’s) story arc (which follows his “life arc” quite closely) as he plays for idiot royalty, tangles with surly rivals and giggles psychotically. Tom Hulce shines in the title role, before vanishing completely from the public radar.*
*What about Dominick and Eugene? Are you seriously asking that? Then let me clarify: by “public radar” I meant other high-profile starring roles, not award-baiting portrayals of retarded trashmen.
54. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The “War Movie to End All War Movies,” All Quiet on the Western Front‘s detailed take on World War I was, like the war slogan itself, a bit too optimistic about its place in history. Much like the idea of “no more wars after this one” keeps getting its ass handed to it by each successive war, this war movie has been on the receiving end of its own ass several times since its original release.
The most notable of these ass-handings is Saving Private Ryan, whose depiction of the Normandy Beach landing will not soon be topped, thanks to Spielberg’s insistence on using live ammunition and anti-personnel mines.
55. The Sound of Music (1965)
One of the very few musicals with Nazis as central characters (see also: The Producers; Inglorious Basterds), The Sound of Music is the supposedly true story of the singing Von Trapp family, whose blonde-haired, blue-eyed good looks would not be tolerated by an incoming Nazi regime, hence the escape during the final reel.
As is the case with most musicals, there’s a hell of a lot of singing , which adequately handles some of the exposition as the movie itself seems unconcerned with propelling the love story of a glorified nanny and her patrician lover. The children have plenty to say/sing as well, which they handle by running through fields or wandering around the gazebo area. Anywhere but inside the house, goddammit, unless you’re taking your adorably blonde asses right to bed.
If the story isn’t enough, there’s also some beautiful scenery which you may be able to glimpse briefly through the swelling strings and freshly-scrubbed, aggressively blonde faces. Directly responsible for some of the most disturbing images on the internet.
56. M*A*S*H* (1970)
While America was busy dealing with the Pyrrhic losses of Vietnam, iconoclastic director Robert Altman was attempting to distract viewers from the “war at home” (“home” being a southern Asian nation) with a war story about Korea, which had absolutely no parallels with the current situation.
Filled with dark humor, drinking and classic Altman touches like letting every character talk at the same time, M*A*S*H* is one of the finest war films ever made, beating out John Wayne’s The Green Berets, which attempted to rewrite history while it was still being written.
Led to a successful TV show that lasted 15-20 times as long as the Korean War itself while dipping heavily into mawkish sentimentality and providing baby boomers with a collective set of false memories. It also served notice to Americans that their doctors drank and smoked more than they did and that crossdressing = crazy.
57. The Third Man (1949)
Orson Welles’ other film on AFI’s list, a post-war drama hailed universally as “not Citizen Kane” and “#57 on AFI’s List.” Despite the dubious accolades and faint damning praise, The Third Man is still worth a look for its tense set pieces and continuous mockery of the Swiss people and their customs.
In addition to Welles’ ad libbed quote about years of Swiss neutrality resulting in only the cuckoo clock, Welle’s also riffs on their cheese (“It’s more what’s between the holes, eh comrades?”) and peculiar outerwear (“Neutrality means never owning a complete set of pants.”) He goes on to say “At least you can be sure the Swiss Miss is a “miss,” unlike Sweden where everyone changes sexes as often as conversation topics,” concluding, “Bah. I’m old, fat and bitter.”
58. Fantasia (1940)
An outgrowth of America’s burgeoning Drug War, in which hallucinogenics were never taken but rather forced on American soldiers and, in this case, undersexed American animators toiling under the thumb of a somewhat benevolent plutocrat.
And toil they did, animating a collection of disjointed vignettes in a futile attempt to “sketch the crazy out.” Hippos dance with alligators. Volcanoes erupt. Furious gods make appearances. Mickey Mouse himself battles armies of reproducing brooms in a none-too-subtle indictment of our current immigration problem. One of only a handful of films considered “umfilmable,” easily on par with anything Kubrick, Gilliam or Lynch have produced.
[A side note: The Disney Corporation briefly considered turning this movie into a ride (and then into a movie again) but harsh daylight and strychnine cramps derailed this idea before it could become anything more than a coloring-outside-the-lines wet dream.]
[Another side note: Disney animators are encouraged to “spill their ink” on company time as this periodic release reduces the number of penis drawings appearing in children’s movies.]
59. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
This proto-teen flick, full of raw adolescent emotion and disjointed mumbling, is still an influence on teens today who, like their hero, Will Smith, are sure their parents “just don’t understand.”
Featuring the eyes-down acting of James Dean, whose insouciant good looks and fast living saw him leave behind a good-looking corpses (and red jacket) after only three films. Despite this truncated resume (or “C.V.” everywhere else in the world), his influence is still echoes, mainly through the acting style of Luke Perry who, like James Dean, had a severely truncated career. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the decency to die but would apparently rather live on through a series of straight-to-DVD movies.
This tale of teen angst and the damage done culminates in a shocking act of violence, in which Sal Mineo is killed in the observatory with a gun, most likely at the hand of Professor Plum.
60. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A throwback to the days of classic cinema, a fondly remembered time that is often referred to when disparaging current films, often using the phrase, “They don’t make them like they used to.” Of course, they don’t make paint with lead anymore and most schools are free from asbestos and cyanide-laced Tylenol, but still, things were much “better” back in the day.
In this modern reimagination of the old Hollywood serials, Harrison Ford takes on the role of Dr. Indiana Jones, swashbuckling archaeologist and bullwhip enthusiast. Taking a tongue-in-cheek approach, Ford coasts through the adventure with a look of perpetual bemusement, building on earlier roles in films such as Star Wars (perpetual cocky disbelief), Apocalypse Now (perpetual clean-shaven officiousness) and Bladerunner (perpetual indigestion).
This formative role would lay the groundwork for Ford’s later emotional expansiveness in The Mosquito Coast (perpetual sweatiness), Presumed Innocent (perpetual Ceaeser), Regarding Henry (perpetual glower followed by perpetual idiotic wonder) and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (perpetual refrigerated bemusement).