The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: 41-50

March 31, 2011
[Author’s note: As some of you are probably aware, a writer is a delicate human being with a fragile psyche (oft damaged by rejection notices and unnoticed misspellings) and an apparent inability to count. Hence, this skipped-over section of the Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films is appearing now (rather than never) and screwing with the whole 1-100 countdown we all agreed on sometime last year.
Further, Fundamental Jelly has indicated he would like to hear about my current tastes in media, but I don’t really have anything useful to recount at this point, other than: Archer. Watch. This. Show. Thanks in advance for your understanding and for keeping your mocking comments to a minimum.
Oh, yeah: the previous, randomly ordered entries can be found here:
The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive]

Choreography by the Mens/Ladies Restroom Dance Troupe of Greater New York.

41. West Side Story (1961)
Coming on like a glee club production of Romeo and Juliet (mixing one-half Colors with one-half Michael Jackson video), West Side Story obscures its rote storyline with just enough added elements (finger snapping, singing) to keep familiarity from breeding contempt like so many Shakespearean rabbits.

Features some of the most beloved songs ever sung by non-threatening gang members and the women who love them, including “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty” and “99 Problems.” Exceedingly musical.

James Stewart, looking as nonchalant as a telescopic zoom lens will allow him to look.

42. Rear Window (1954)
Hitchcock’s entry into the “scary murderous neighbor” genre, following closely in the footsteps of Sliver and Pacific Heights. Jimmy Stewart plays an injured man whose recuperation takes the form of scaring the bejesus out of himself (and his wife) with his obsessional, psychopathic relationship with his telescope. Is his neighbor a killer? Is 120x recommended for apartment-to-apartment viewing? Will his leg ever heal?

These questions and more will remain unanswered as the third reel has been misplaced. Sorry about that, folks. Please stop by the box office for a partial refund.

King Kong, though an effective anti-terrorist deterrent, tended to create nearly an equal amount of collateral damage in NYC.

43. King Kong (1933)
Singlehandedly credited with creating the “monster movie” genre which plagues us to this day, King Kong is a triumph of movie mythmaking. As the action shifts from the tangled jungle of what-could-possibly-go-wrong-here Monster Island to the mean streets of New York City, viewers are forced to confront uncomfortable questions about “who the real monster here is” and to what extent the love story would have gone, had biplanes and other nuisances not interrupted the mismatched couple pre-coitus.

Featuring the big screen debut of Earl, the Bigoted Horse.

44. Birth of a Nation (1915)
Early movie mogul D.W. Griffith employs a cast of thousands of whites to rewrite the history of the United States as it was still being made. Although somewhat heavy-handed and exceedingly long, Griffith manages to keep his “alternate reality” film fresh by deploying such seldom-used plot devices as the KKK in non-villain roles and a bumbling depiction of Abraham Lincoln that would not be equaled until Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (#89). The cast of thousands lauded Griffith for his “slavedriver” work ethic and lax interpretation of EOE requirements. Exceedingly long.

Brando's endorsement contract with Russell Athletic ended shortly thereafter.

45. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
A Tennesee Williams’ Joint, A Streetcar Named Desire stars Marlon Brando as abusive, alcoholic everyman Stanley Kowalski whose iconic cry of “Stellaaaaaa!!!” (very often misquoted as “Adriaaaaannn!!!”) has become part of modern folklore.

Parents: Steer your children clear of this film. In addition to the psychosexual antics of some sweaty Southerners, this film also teaches kids not only to talk to strangers, but to “rely on their kindness.”

Kind of like Lenscrafters, but without the advantage of improved sight. Still, gotta love the speed!

46. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Yet another dystopian treatise on the many problems with today’s youth, not the least of which is their tendency to take long drives into the countryside for the sole purpose of smashing in someone’s skull with a large, phallic sculpture. That they are also partial to Hollywood musicals, Ludwig van Beethoven and milk is not comforting in the least, thanks to Kubrick’s ominous depiction of what was once considered an “unfilmable” book (Martin Hanford’s dada-esque tale of dislocation and hats, Where’s Waldo?).

Another “highlight” is the made-up language Nadsat, which has given the English language several new words, including ultraviolence, codpiece and tween.

De Niro, the consummate actor, heads toward his trailer to work on his "pocket pool" technique.

47. Taxi Driver (1976)
Scorsese’s ultraviolent (see above) take on the second-oldest service profession brings to life an “alternate” version of New York City where the streets are filled with rude assholes and 12-year-old hookers.

De Niro went “Method” of course, working 12-hours shifts as a cab driver when not flaunting his unlicensed weapon and nifty new mohawk. Inspired by his tireless efforts, Jodie Foster attempted a Method approach as well, resulting in the arrest of every adult on the set. Inspired by these events, a lone gunman interrupted Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of the US President with some well-placed bullets.

Inspired a new wave of filmmaking and one presidential assassination attempt, claims only equaled by Big Momma’s House and Big Momma’s House 2. Also inspired a generation of piss-poor De Niro impressions.

As is noted by the poster, being eaten by a massive mechanical shark may be "too intense" for younger children.

48. Jaws (1975)
Directly responsible for dozens of inferior monster movies and various Shark Weeks, Jaws (or Jawrs in the Northeastern US) is the tense tale of a rogue great white shark and a somewhat modern day triumph of filmmaking. Budget limits forced Spielberg to hand rig a variety of nearly-functional sharks and cast Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss over younger, more attractive men who would have better handled the main characters’ often shirtless banter.

This also explains some long stretches where many people talk about the shark but not many actually see the shark. It also explains some scale inconsistencies in which the great white is portrayed as being anywhere from the size of a large tuna to the size of a 3-bedroom ranch-style home.

Based loosely on Moby Dick and followed by several sequels which stretched the emaciated idea to the breaking point before snapping it completely and continuing forward with absolutely no ideas at all. The nadir of the series (Jaws 3D) posited that the shark was only interested in leaping or charging directly at the camera.

Snow White demonstrates how she we will be paying for only one ticket at the theater.

49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
The first Disney film on AFI’s list, Snow White is also the first animated film to be featured in AFI’s Top 100. A triumph of imagineering, Snow White does what classic Disney does best: take someone else’s story and make millions of dollars off it through aggressive marketing, merchandising and bullying copyright control.

Ostensibly the story of a deathly pale den mother for a pack of overly-hairy child laborers, this Disney film features a timeless story ripped right from the public domain pages of the Brothers Grimm and converted into a successful series of collectors’ plates, outerwear and Happy Meal toys.

There’s some other mumbo-jumbo in there about true love being more effective than CPR and the evils of strip-mining, but mainly it’s just the normal “woman falls in love with a crew of undersexed animators under the control of a marketing machine built by an undersexed megalomaniac with Howard Hughes’ tendencies.” The New York Times Review of Film calls it “timeless,” most likely referring to Disney’s apparently infinite supply of copyright extensions.

Unfortunately, a misfiring blank cost the cameraman everything but his sepia filter.

50. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Proto-bloody cop flick, except that the cops are criminals and the dangerous inner city is the frontier and that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Filled to the brim with shootouts, hijinks and hats.

A highly romanticized portrait of two thugs with screenwritten hearts of gold and the lamest theme song (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head) in the history of lame Oscar-winning theme songs. Features some groundbreaking bicycle usage and positive portrayals of both alcohol use and “bromance.”



  1. An excellent 40 to 50 list. I would have placed Rear Window slightly higher as the sequel, “Rear Entry”, while not critically acclaimed, opened the back door for many film fans.
    Also, Taxi Driver was educational as well. Harvey Keitel taught me how to dress as a pimp and Bob DeNiro showed me how to be inconspicuous when trying to assassinate someone.
    Lastly, I am still amazed by how many midgets Snow White was able to fit under her dress. The smell must have been horrible.

    • “Rear Entry” fell off AFI’s list during the final round of cuts. It seems they felt it was too “sexually active” to make the list. Oddly enough, that was the same reason my sister was cut from the track team. Go figure.

      You’ll have to let us know how the assassination attempts are going. Be sure to refer to yourself as “a friend of mine” so that we don’t get hauled in as “accessories after the fact.”

      Finally, you’re absolutely right. Nothing smells worse than dwarves.

  2. Archer is where it’s at these days. In fact, I think it’s on tonight.

    Haha funny CLT, I’ve got to find a copy of ‘Rear Entry’ now.

    • Archer is the best thing on TV these days. I say that without hyperbole or expertise.

      Check with TL. He seems to know all about it.

  3. Dude, you’re my hero when it comes to perfection. Once you start a series you fucking DO that shit. Unlike some of us who follow our flimsiest whims to a post or three before quitting yet another project. See; The God’s of the 21st Century, and The History of Phrases by me, to name just two out of dozens.

    And your writing is so extraordinary that I never know whether to comment on the material, in this case the movies themselves, or your sharp witted and hilarious prose. In this case I’ve done neither but the failure is all mine. Like always.

    You fucking rock! (If only because you just made me want to watch the ultradancy West Side Story)

    PS- Archer?

    • Scott, thanks for the kind (but misguided) words. I’m only finishing this one off because FJ practically dared me to. If not, it’d just be another hazy memory, like my swings at the Bible, Shakespeare, the History of Media, the All-Inclusive Guide to Rock and Roll, my various abandoned blogs…

      And yes, Archer. Go check it out. That link should take you to some fine clips and full episodes. It’s the funniest thing on TV right now. And it’s a cartoon. Really. Go.

  4. Fuck it. Regular readers of this post will know who I am (had to create a NEW wordpress account to protect the INNOCENT…parent of teens).

    Your mention of Pacific Heights brought back a vivid memory, Cap. I can’t tell you what precipitated this particular event since teens could be reading. Suffice it to say that it is something Scott would have ingested and it would have been E-xtraordinary. So, I’m in the Bay Harbor Islands (Miami Beach) movie theatre sitting with my elderly Mensa member AA sponsor (hey, I wasn’t drinking) and Matthew Modine appears on the screen in all his sexual glory. That’s all she wrote. I just had to have RELATIONS like RIGHT NOW (no, not with my [female] sponsor)…with my boyfriend who was the spitting image of Matthew Modine. I asked my sponsor to go to the ladies room with me and I explained the situation (I left out the ‘extraordinary’ part). She looked at me like I was crazy, but who cared? I called my boyfriend (panting) and had to wait 30 excruciating minutes for him to arrive. Never saw the end of Pacific Heights, but it definitely made my top 100 list.

    • …TMI TL…do not read!!

    • Well, that’s not going to give anything away. And shouldn’t this warning come before the info dump?

    • Relations? Matthew Modine? Mensa?

      Well, at least your sponsor was cool with your E usage. Most of them seem to feel the only acceptable replacement addictions for alcohol are nicotine and shit coffee.

      Of all the elements that make this anecdote nigh unbelievable, it’s the thought that Matthew Modine could get anyone hot and bothered that’s the most unbelievable. He’s like a manila file folder come to life. Basic good looks but would easily get lost in a crowd of other featureless individuals.

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