Take that, world. Here it is: the final installment of a series I tried to will into non-existence via misnumbering and inattentiveness. But it proved too strong to be defeated by inactivity and is now proudly counting itself among the “published.” Enjoy?
91. My Fair Lady (1964)
Rex Reed and Audrey Hepburn star in this classic musical which illustrates the old adage (often through song) that with the proper amount of training, any woman can be transformed into a useful (and non-embarrassing) human being, even a woman sporting a horrific Cockney accent and a whorish mouth.
While many women today may find this depiction condescending at best, its defenders like to point out that My Fair Lady was made back in the pre-bra burning mid-60s when it was still “cool” to portray women as out of their depth operating anything more complicated than a roast or a lawn jockey. They’ll also point out that it’s a “love story” which apparently excuses all of its offenses, as does the inclusion of a “shitload of singing.”
92. A Place in the Sun (1951)
93. The Apartment (1960)
Beating Mad Men to the punch by nearly a half-century, Billy Wilder’s comedy depicts the misadventures of a pair of ad execs who decide use a colleague’s apartment as a fuck pad. Wackiness ensues, heavily tinged with soul-searching drama. (So much so in fact, that by the second reel you’ll find yourself yelling at the screen, “Check the nightstand! I’m sure I saw you put your soul in there! You set it right next to your spare watch!”)
Unfortunately, the soul-searching continues for much of the running time, leading to conflict and threats of changing the locks. By the end they’ve found their watches and not much else, forcing them to forge on as soulless ad execs, a condition that helps them “fit in” better at the office.
94. GoodFellas (1990)
Martin Scorsese heads into unfamiliar territory with this period gangster flick, featuring the acting talent of Ray Liotta’s furrowed brow and the highest number of F-bombs to ever appear in a mainstream motion picture. When not splattering the walls and car trunks with blood, Liotta’s gangster character is splattering your inner ear with endless variations of “fuck.” The rest of the cast joins in, raising the ratio of fucks-to-normal-words to an all-time high of 77-to-1, shattering the 58:1 ratio set by Nash Pluto. (Statisticians point out that a majority of the “fucks” were uttered by audience members who wished to know “What the fuck is this bullshit?” and “Where the fuck can I get a refund?” Also recorded: “The fuck?”, “Is this supposed to be a fucking comedy?” and “Six bucks for a fucking soda?”)
95. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Released in conjunction with my 20th birthday (which would make me old enough to be someone’s dad — twice), Pulp Fiction was the first of two seminal pop culture touchstones to share in the unbridled joy that is the day of my birth. (The other is Fatboy Slim’s second album, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.)
Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated followup to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction is a pop culture repository, featuring knowing winks to such kitsch items as Modesty Blaise and Clutch Cargo. It was also a comeback vehicle for John Travolta, who briefly started reading script summaries and showing some selectivity before throwing caution to the wind and cranking out film after goodwill-pulverizing film.
On the other hand, he and Tarantino did manage to resuscitate a moribund heroin market with their tastefully shot ode to shooting up. Just remember, kids: always the veins, never the nose.
96. The Searchers (1956)
Dark proto-noir-western featuring a relatively understated John Wayne as a hat-wearing cow person hot on the trail of a gang of kidnappers. Famous for its signature shot of Wayne standing emotively in an empty doorway, as well as for its willingness to turn genre expectations on their collective ear. Explores themes of redemption, often through the use of iconic doorway shots, paving the way for a new wave of nihilist Westerns directed by many Western nihilists.
97. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Another Depression-era screwball comedy centering on a couple’s misadventures while raising a jaguar (the titular “Baby”). Hijinks (often of the “screwball” variety) ensue, until the final reel when the “Baby” turns on its owners, slaughtering one and maiming the other before going on a kill-crazy rampage. This rampage comes to a halt thanks to a “pushed to the edge” Charles Bronson, who seems to find the “violent revenge” business agreeable and starts up a few “kill-crazy” rampages of his own. The nadir of ’70s dystopian filmmaking with a 30+ year headstart.
98. Unforgiven (1992)
Yet another depressing deconstructionist Western, only two spaces removed from the last one, as AFI continues their downhill coast to #100, grabbing names they’ve heard of and shoving them onto the list.
Unforgiven takes place in the seldom-discussed part of the West where it’s always night and it’s always raining. As is the case with most “avenging a hooker’s disfiguration” films, Unforgiven is chock full of iconic shots of a very tired and iconic Clint Eastwood standing in various iconic doorways (and rainstorms).
99. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Longtime closeted couple Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn star as the uptight, mildly racist parents of a college student who insists on shaking up the status quo by bringing home her new, non-white boyfriend, Mr. Tibbs. A majority of the running time is given over to uptight discussions of the impending blackness, broken up with a second storyline where Poitier’s character deals with even more uptightness at the hands of the local law enforcement he was sent to help.
An IMPORTANT FILM, delivering the message that black people are no different than white people, except they’re more “black” and prone to causing uptightness in insular whites like Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Rod Steiger. Look for a young Rob Reiner as adorable loser, Meathead.
100. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Released during the height of American patriotism, Yankee Doodle Dandy sings and dances its way into the final spot on AFI’s list, presumably pushing John Wayne’s The Green Berets to 101. Filled with cheerfully positive tunes such as “Buy War Bonds,” “Save Your Nylons for the Boys Overseas,” “Buy More War Bonds,” and “Necessity is the Mother of Temporarily Useful Female Employees.”
Very much a product of its time as evidenced by its disastrous re-release during the height of the Vietnam War, tanking miserably at the box office despite the hasty insertion of the timely song-and-dance numbers “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” and “Icn Bin Ein Newly-Minted Canadian, Motherfuckers!”