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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.

-CLT

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