The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: 71-80

April 22, 2011

Previous randomly-numbered editions here:
The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive

No. Your other "right."

71. Forrest Gump (1994)
Idiots make the best people. Exceedingly long.

Modern scientists are still perplexed at to how the ancient Romans managed to suspend the hyphen in mid-air.

72. Ben-Hur (1959)
Skirt-and-sandle Charlton Heston vehicle (a chariot, more precisely) recounting the story of an enslaved Jew who rises to prominence thanks to a chance run-in with a pre-crucifixion Jesus Christ.

His life inexorably altered, Judah Ben-Hur goes on to have the ever-loving shit whipped out of him for most of the running time, all the while searching for answers to questions like, “What have I done to deserve this?” and “How come I’m enslaved while other Jews like, say, Jesus are walking around all free and being randomly compassionate?”

While the first question would be answered (well, “echoed” actually) 20+ years later by Neil Tennant, the second would remain unanswered and often revised as “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Still, the chariot race is pretty kickass and the film itself is refreshingly free of NRA bumper stickers. Exceedingly long.

Forlorn with Desire... and Motion Sickness.

73. Wuthering Heights (1939)
I have no idea. Something about subletting a rent-controlled apartment? Wackiness/trenchant drama presumably ensues. Shot in black and white, hence its appearance on this list. Often remembered as “If you only see one movie this year, it will probably be Gone With the Wind.”

Charlie Chaplin attempts to cook off his patented "hobo stank."

74. The Gold Rush (1925)
A lighthearted romp through the pre-Great Depression, helmed by (and starring) Charlie Chaplin, whose physical comedic prowess was only equalled by his notorious womanizing* and Hitlerriffic ‘stache.

Full of Chaplin-esque touches, including hats, canes, precocious children and splay-footed walking. Shot in evocative black and white, a bold directorial decision based on available film stock.

*Hence the nickname “The Little Tramp.”

Costner reportedly felt the final poster still needed about "20% more Costner."

75. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner, in the first of many vanity projects, explores the “noble savage” myth over the course of six or seven hours and finds it to be to his liking. Includes all sorts of Oscar bait, including, but not limited to:

  • Sweeping vistas
  • Period costumes
  • Native people
  • Thousands of extras
  • One man’s quest for enlightenment
  • Oversimplification
  • A healthy dose of political correctness
  • Noble savages
  • Interminable running length

Cotten nods in approval as his Boyer-Begman mutant springs to life.

76. Gaslight (1944)
[Note: review TK. Ghost story? Or is it? Gas jokes? Or are was “past” that sort of humor? {Ed.: Probably not, but try not to indulge} Something about a “young Angela Lansbury” aimed at TL. Wikipedia summary with randomly inserted swearing?]

Written and directed by MAD Magazine.

77. American Graffiti (1973)
A nostalgic love letter from George Lucas to a certain place and time: specifically someplace very white during the 1950s. Filled wall-to-wall (Christ, even the tires are white) with fast cars, moderately paced women and a young Harrison Ford (billed as “J. Harrison Christ”).

Takes the viewer back to a simpler time when “cruising” didn’t mean possibly facing arrest or contracting/delivering an STD. Revels in the simple pleasures of small-to-medium town living, in stark contrast to the “small towns are hotbeds of submerged depravity and severed ears” on display in Blue Velvet, which would arrive 13 years later and psychically scar the collective misplaced memories of hundreds of moviegoers, perhaps explaining its glaring omission from this list.

Brain damaged boxer scores a touchdown. Not pictured: out-of-wind caretaker.

78. Rocky (1976)
Populist Stallone vanity project, remaking 1980’s Raging Bull in its star’s own image, that of a well-meaning pugilist who has suffered too many blows to the head. Eliminated in this eerily prescient Raging Bull rewrite are the overtones of misogyny and brutality, replaced with inspiring montages of a rags-to-riches transformation and the worn cliches of redemption and winning the girl back rather than physically and emotionally abusing her.

In some ways much like Hollywood’s adaption of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, into which a sympathetic character was inserted to give the audience someone to root for. (Although in other ways it is very different: for instance, Rocky contains no scenes of someone performing oral sex for coke money.) Exceedingly bicentennial.

Act director: "I honestly can't pick. They're all so good! Just jam them all in there somehow and print!"

79. The Deer Hunter (1978)
Michael Cimino’s searing indictment of both fronts of the Vietnam War, specifically the mind-altering trauma of the horrors of war and the soul-killing so-called “war at home.”

Robert De Niro plays a returning war vet who finds adjustment to everyday civilian life to be troublesome, what with its unfaithful women, judgmental anti-war activists and a distressing lack of suicidal party games. Most of the story is told through a series of flashbacks which help extend the running time past the three-hour mark and right onto AFI’s list.

Falls well short of the accolades garnered by Apocalypse Now which followed a year later, presumably because of Cimino’s failure to cast a bloated, insane Marlon Brando.

Fun fact: Cimino and Coppola had a running bet as to whose ‘Nam flick would have the longer running time. Coppola won this bet, using his success with The Godfather as leverage against the studio, thus securing him all the film stock he wanted. Cimino, on the other hand, lost several hours of raw footage after informing his studio that he would tear them a new moneyhole with his follow-up.

Rebooted in 1993 as "Grumpy Old Men" (originally titled: "Shoot-y Old Men" before drastic rewrite and recasting).

80. The Wild Bunch (1969)
Sam Peckinpah’s genre-altering Western delivered a new brand of cowboy to the multiplex. Gone were the stock characters, dying bloodless, one-hit deaths, replaced by PCP-laced supermen who often shrugged off a half-dozen bullet wounds, “walking it off” in slow motion while engaging entire battalions singlehandedly.

Perhaps inspired by Bonnie & Clyde (1967), The Wild Bunch gave rise to the notion that a person could only be killed while being shot from as many camera angles as possible.



  1. Ahh Forrest Gump. What a piece of Baby Boomer nostalgic shite disguised as a movie. Your synopsis is the best, and most concise, I’ve ever read.

    Was Andrew McCarthy supposed to be sympathetic in Less than Zero? Mostly I just found myself thinking, “Hey that cardboard cutout looks like Andrew McCarthy, but is a slightly better actor.” To play the devil’s advocate, though, the movie is to be commended for highlighting that cardboard is, in certain cases, capable of more facial expression than an actual human. On the other hand, even cardboard would have to respond to Jami Gertz in her heyday. (Heyday consisted of aforementioned movie and Lost Boys, then quickly faded from hey into just another day. Speaking of, why is Joel Schumacher absent from this list? Or is he on it and I’ve just forgotten. In any case, and to keep this parenthetical going longer than my “main” comment, he should win some awards for controlling the cast of Lost Boys long enough to make a movie, first, and for actually controlling them to the point that the result became a bit of classic ’80s cinema, second. Also a damn fine movie. Maybe it’s #1. Probably not, though, as it was not exceedingly long nor was it shot in black and white. Back to Jami Gertz. She really didn’t age well. Schumacher probably should have gone with Teri Hatcher, who was hot as a dialogue-less dancer in an episode of Love Boat, still hot as Lois Lane, and mostly hot as one of the women on that show my mom watches about that cul de sac in the suburbs. Can’t remember which cul de sac in the suburbs show it is, but I think it’s still on TV. In the industry, they call that staying power.)

    • Took the time to go through the archive and remind myself of the sequence. I actually like Citizen Cane. Of course, The Third Man, which I also own as I’m erudite like that, is better. More of courser, Lost Boys is nonetheless awesomer still.

      OT, sort of. Why is “courser” not flagged as a misspelling? Is WordPress paying homage to another should have been included, that movie that also really like and which is entitled, for some reason as the title is really a feint, Snatch?

    • The movie is already well past the 3-hour mark. I didn’t think that adding a ton of extra text would make that point any clearer. It’s like the “noble savage” archetype, only utilizing morons.

      I think that McCarthy was supposed to be sympathetic, but that his natural tabula rasa acting “ability” kind of smoothed all the edges off that would have made him believable, which is something that goes hand in hand with “sympathetic.”

      Jamie Gertz in her heyday is still much better than Jamie Gertz in any other day, but I still found her to be a bit lackluster. Her chemistry with McCarthy in Less Than Zero was precisely that: nil.

      There’s plenty more on this subject right here:


      Joel Schumacher is not on this list. According to the AFI, you need to have at least one (1) of the following to make their overrated list:

      1. Running time of 3 hours or more.
      2. Black and white cinematography.
      3. Be released before 1981.

      Hence, a Schumacher-less list.

      (I’m not sure what that show is either. Desperate Cougars?)

    • No argument there. Lost Boys is awesomer. And my first thought when you asked about “courser” was indeed of the Mirwais-soundtracked* “coursing” scene in Snatch.

      I firmly believe that Ritchie was just fucking with the Americans (in particular, the ratings board) with that title. I took a friend of mine to see it and he actually couldn’t ask for a ticket with a straight face. I imagine that was the sort of thing Ritchie was aiming for. BTW, I heart that movie as well.

      *Samples heavily from “Cannonball” by the Breeders, which explains that low-rolling throb underneath the chassis.

    • Ha, as a devout Fancy Plans reader, I’d read that post on <(<0) and probably subconsciously stole your work when I made fun of McCarthy.

      Less Than Zero was a terrible movie, but I still watch it when it’s on cable. The book, with its abject dearth of heroes, is much better. And Jami Gertz’s “acting” was an abuse of the concept of acting, but at least she was pretty hot for a few years there. At least she was hot to hormone-filled teenagers such as myself. We can probably call my present avocation nostalgia wood.

      The Rules of Attraction was much better as a film. Dawson’s Creek does a great job of being unlikeable. Probably all his experience as Dawson’s Creek. (Yeah, Jay and Silent Bob loved the show, but they’re high all the time so their opinions are suspect and, shall we say, influenced.)

  2. Watched ‘The Wild Bunch’ last night and was not as impressed as I was when I was a kid.

    Your description of Forrest Gump was the best synopsis since I heard ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau was described thusly:

    “Live simply with nature, and now I am going back to work in my family pencil factory, but all that stuff I said still goes.”

    • It’s weird what time does to some of your favorite pop culture icons. I remember Kuffs being awesome 20+ years ago but I’m actually afraid to watch it again. The same goes for Hudson Hawk. My brother and I felt it was criminally underrated, but I get the impression that we might be the last two holdouts. (Or perhaps the last holdout. I haven’t asked my brother about HH recently.)

      The preceding illustrated nothing as neither of those two movies came within miles of this list.

      Also: hahaha! Nicely done, FJ. I assume you’re quoting yourself. Careful with the pencil factory, proto-hippie. Don’t want your head to end up like Henry Spencer’s do you, HDT?

  3. Dreck I tell you. There hasn’t been a decent film since ‘Cool Hand Like.’

    • Harmony, you mouthy, hands-y broad! How have you been?

      I’m 100% in agreement, Harmony. There hasn’t been a good movie made as far as I’m concerned. And all that “Cool Hand Luke” has given us is Guns N Roses “Civil War” and Jackass 1’s boiled egg/puking contest.

  4. First off I wanted to thank you for enlightening me; I always wondered how long ‘interminable length’ was and now I know that’s it is precisely somewhere between 6 and 7 hours. I had also wondered what to use as Oscar bait if I didn’t feel like being gang raped on a pinball machine or having long, almost meaningless conversations with a serial killing cannibal, or without being a knuckleballer for that matter, and now I know. I figure that I can lock up at least 7 of your 9 prerequisites just by filming at the RNC next time it’s in Montana.

    Lastly, I love and worship you for being able to take Rocky from Raging Bull to Less Than Zero. I don’t care what they say about the retarded white guy, you have the most heart.

    • Scott –

      “Interminable length” doesn’t always mean 6-7 hours. Sometimes it just has to feel that way. But I think your plan to film the RNC has its merits and, if done properly, will allow you to grace the lower end of the AFI spectrum in the near future. You’ll probably have to look elsewhere for noble savages, though. There’s rarely any indigenous people at the RNC (unless you count protesters, in which case you’ll probably never have to enter the convention center).

      Sometimes my brain acts like sort of a pop culture centrifuge and spits out some genius-like results, as in your listed example. Other times it coughs out gossamer-thin threads of connection that only I get, like playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” using house rules and loaded dice. Sure, I think it makes sense, but everyone else is all ???

      It’s a mixed blessing, I suppose. But the important thing is that I’m finally able to use “centrifuge” in a sentence without it sounding forced.

      Thanks for the compliments and comment, Scott. Look for my upcoming cameo in Updike’s “Run Forrest Run.”

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