Posts Tagged ‘Classics’

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Volume 4

June 22, 2010

The march toward the end of the list continues! (Hmm. That sounded way more exciting before I typed it out…) If you’re just joining us, please fill out the “Getting to Know Me!” card, which is found in the Comment section. We’ll introduce ourselves after we conclude Volume 4 in The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films

See also:
Volume Three
Volume Two
Volume One 

Unfortunately, new fonts wouldn't be invented until 1942, forcing the producers to settle for "Hobo Circus."

21. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Trifling road picture about a family’s ill-fated excursion to California, the land of dreams and cheap-ass labor. Hilarity ensues as Henry Fonda (playing against type as a well-rounded character) leads his family from misadventure to underpaying misadventure, including the inadvertent death of his grandfather, his grandmother’s dog and indeed, the grandmother herself. Directed by John Hughes, the whiter of the two Hughes brothers (directors of Menace II Society). 

SPOILER ALERT: Nothing in this film moves anywhere as fast as that shuttle drawing would indicate.

22. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001 uses then-cutting edge technology to prove the old adage that “In space, no one bothers to write much dialog.” 

The first half of the film is an impeccably shot space travelogue. The second half finds the protagonists dealing with a sentient on-board computer whose unwavering belief that the mission be completed is of greater importance that actually leaving anyone alive to complete it. The third half presents an extended hallucination suffered/enjoyed by the main character as he dies and is reincarnated as some sort of orbiting, metaphoric space fetus. 

Presumably this ending would have been better explained if Kubrick hadn’t blown the entire budget on construction of a full-size, fully-functioning space station and insisting that every scene be shot on location just outside of Jupiter. Exceedingly long. 

Always ahead of his time, Bogie shows off his double-gun action, beating John Woo to the punch by nearly 45 years.

23. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Influential film noir, shot in noir and blanc and starring America’s most noir-ish actor, Humphrey Bogart. Based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, The Maltese Falcon follows the story of several small-time crooks who aim to name the valuable titular bird and the one drunken private dick tasked with getting to it first. Packed with incredible performances, fast-paced dialogue and inadequate lighting. 

Little known fact: Hammett originated the phrase “grinned wolfishly,” a descriptor that Bogie tries tirelessly to emulate by “sucking on his teeth,” which also originates with Hammett. Both phrases have been subsequently beaten to death by many authors since, most notably Clive Cussler and his nearly-sentient offspring, Dirk Cussler

"Insiders noted that De Niro looked 'puffy' and 'hand-shaded...'"

24. Raging Bull (1980)
Scorsese’s 1980’s masterpiece (which doesn’t look a day over 1950, thanks to a film mixup during development) follows the epic storyline of legendary boxer Bobby (Robert) De Niro (La Motta) whose brutal fighting style and even brutaller lifestyle saw him climb the heavyweight hierarchy while simultaneously hitting rock bottom (and his significant others). 

Remade four years earlier as Rocky, which featured a more populist slant, one that culminated with Rocky 4 in which Rocky beats up the Soviet Union. 

Eliott shows up the "magic" of static electricty to his new, and suddenly very scared, friend.

25. E.T. (1982)
Spielberg returns to space (or rather, space returns to earth) five years after his groundbreaking UFO flick Close Encounters of the Third Kind gave us all a much-needed sense of wonder, as well as something to do while playing with our food. 

E.T. follows the story of The Man Who Fell to Earth, except that the “man” is actually a diminutive alien with the voice of a 75-year-old chainsmoker rather than a wispy ambisexual singer. Much like most tourists, E.T. soon expresses a desire to return home, which he soon [SPOILER ALERT] does, but not before touching the lives of the kindly Tanner family via Reese’s Pieces product placement and various small miracles like levitating bicycles and turning guns into walkie-talkies. Goddard routinely cites this film as an influence. 

The military demonstrates the power of its repurposed "Release the Hounds" button.

26. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Kubrick again, this time taking a darkly serious script and turning it into an inadvertently funny film, thanks to his heavy-handed use of black and white film and a major miscasting of Peter Sellers as four different characters. 

A note to young filmmakers: when dealing with something as portentous as the end of the world, you are probably better off utilizing a style similar to Airport ’77 or anything Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) has directed. 

Notable for its Nazi scientist, frank discussions of bodily fluids and stock footage of A-bomb detonations. 

Beatty models his proto-Dick Tracy look while Dunaway laughs drunkenly.

27. Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway set the gold standard for anti-heroes with this biopic. Still as visceral as it was back in the late ’60s, Bonnie and Clyde jumpstarted Beatty’s career, serving notice to Hollywood that this young actor would attempt to bang his female co-stars for years to come. 

Bonnie and Clyde also jumpstarted a new wave of moral panic for its portrayal of criminals as human beings, albeit highly romanticized human beings. The ensuing controversy briefly resurrected the Hays Code, which stipulated that the criminal character(s) must meet a “violent death shot at no less than 72 frames-per-second.” 

Starring Billy Zane as Billy Corgan! Featuring the disembodied head of Gregory Peck!

28. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The war flick to end all war flicks (mainly due to actor attrition and Coppola’s blowing of an entire decade’s worth of film budget), Apocalypse Now follows the story of a soldier tasked with hunting down and destroying Marlon Brando’s massive, bloated ego. As notable for its filming as it is for its epic deconstruction of the Vietnam War, it has nonetheless gained a loyal following that often finds it has four-hour chunks of time just lying around. 

A cultural phenomenon, Apocalypse Now revived “Ride of the Valkyries,” surfing while being shot at, overly-expositional narration and sent a generation of young readers straight into the open, boring arms of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Redefined “War Movie” and ‘Exceedingly long.” 

Alt. title: "Mr. Smith's House of Wax Busts."

29. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
A Will Smith vehicle so utterly banal that it doesn’t even bother with giving his character a new surname (or even a first name) with which to justify his $20 million payday for “acting services rendered.” 

Features the extremely unlikely story of a black man being elected to public office, Mr. Smith exists mainly to showcase Capra’s mawkish “everyman” daydreams and unnatural affinity for black and white photography. Written by Babaloo Mandel. 

Bogie is the last to succumb to argyria, thanks to a lower amount of "silver lust."

30. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Humphrey Bogart stars in this harrowing tale of gold and the damage done. Boldly showing the lengths that man will go to “strike it rich,” The Treasure of the Sierra Madre unflinchingly takes on man’s capacity for evil and the Mexicans lack of badges (and indeed, their inability to comprehend why anyone would need any badges). 

Hailed by uber-critic Rex Reed as a “paranoiac’s wet dream,” who goes on to say “Don’t touch my stuff.” Followed by a much-belated sequel National Treasure of the Sierra Madre 2

-CLT

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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.

-CLT