Posts Tagged ‘Top 100’

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume Whatever

June 7, 2011

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?

Hepburn signals her lower-class upbringing with a typically shite umbrella.

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.”

"A devastatingly hilarious caption."

92. A Place in the Sun (1951)
Cancun.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine run from OSHA inspectors after violating the "Lock-Out/Tag-Out" policy.

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.

From left to right: Sweary Van Browington, Raspy McFBomb and Happy "Kill Crazy" Headpuncher.

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?”)

Original poster photo rejected by Quentin Tarantino as being "too shoesy."

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.

Reviewers praised John Wayne's "restrained perspiration."

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.

Nothing brings up "baby" faster than a chain smoking father figure and another non-chain smoking father figure.

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.

Viewers found themselves confused during long scenes of Clint Eastwood staring at his own back.

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).

Hepburn and Tracy brace themselves for the inevitable culture clash (accomplished mainly by staying white and square).

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.

Cagney plays against type as some sort of rouge-sporting, hat-wearing showgirl.

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!”

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 8

February 18, 2011

Better “sometime” than “never,” it’s the penultimate edition of our long-running, long-winded guide to the “American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films That Everyone Agrees are Pretty Much Good Films.”

Previous editions available here:
AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive

Chaplin's imaginative use of color was completely lost on the film stock, which refused to be anything other than black and white.

81. Modern Times (1936)
Another Chaplin-esque masterpiece, thanks to its prominent use of Charlie Chaplin in a variety of roles, including actor, director and writer. A searing indictment of industrialism, Modern Times is heavily metaphoric, which generally means it plays well with film school students, who have a tendency to read lots of stuff into other stuff, and stoners, who like all things “heavy” and/or “deep.”

Of course, Chaplin’s exuberant physical comedy also tends to make these same stoners feel “tired” and “not able to make it into work today,” leaving them free to channel-surf away to less tiring entertainments like children’s programming or test patterns.

James Dean poses in his traditional give-a-fuck style, dwarfing a nearby house with his outsized persona.

82. Giant (1956)
The second third (see also: Rebel Without a Cause [#59]) of James Dean’s cigarette-burned body of work, Giant details the inner turmoil of an outwardly successful family of farmers or oil barons or something.

Its sweeping vistas and temperamental glowering illustrate perfectly the truism that “money can’t buy happiness” and, unfortunately, neither can “no money.” Along with it not being able to “buy happiness,” “no money” is unable to buy much else, like comfort or stability.

Critically acclaimed despite its lack of leather jackets and Sal Mineo, Giant continues to pose a haunting “What if…” in regard to Dean’s severely truncated career as well as a “What if…” in regard to Elizabeth Taylor, who in later years would seem to have been better off “not living.”

Oliver Stone would rehash this same haunting imagery for the final scene of "Any Given Sunday."

83. Platoon (1986)
Coke fiend Oliver Stone draws upon his own experiences as a Christ-figure during the Vietnam War to craft this Charlie Sheen vehicle. Despite being the hot new face on the scene (a scene which apparently included a whole lot of hookers), Sheen is regularly out-acted by co-stars Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whittaker and the local flora.

Stone’s message-laden film uses its Vietnam War backdrop to allow the viewers to fill in the blanks of his forgone conclusions resulting in a minorly epic biopic which fearlessly bashes an unpopular war more than a decade after it ended.

North Dakota: nothing but dead bodies and snow.

84. Fargo (1996)
Midwesterners: when they’re not murdering their partners in crime, they’re murdering English with their flatly nasal interjections, am I right? Supposedly based on a true story that never happened, the Coen brothers’ Fargo is a dark comedy of errors with a mile-wide mean streak.

On the bright side, Frances McDormand took home an Oscar for her portrayal of a small-town policewoman, marking the first time that the Academy has recognized a pregnant woman in this fashion. McDormand delivered a cute acceptance speech while barefoot and on her way the kitchen to make finger sandwiches for the Academy members.

Unfortunately, a hairdressing accident forced Chico Marx to perform the film wearing a melted showercap.

85. Duck Soup (1933)
Comedy classic featuring a troupe of stereotypes performing under a revolutionary surname, one which garnered them some unwanted attention during the McCarthy hearings. The so-called “Marx Brothers” included Groucho Marx, a philandering wisacre whose numerous affectations included a moustache and eyebrows, a constant cigar and the low-slung gait of a hernia sufferer; Harpo Marx, a mute manchild whose penchant for upskirt glances was offset by his harp ownership; Chico Marx, whose Italian accent and bad habits were an inspiration for the Mario Bros., one of whom was inexplicably named Luigi; and Zeppo Marx, whose vanilla personality rarely conflicted with the extras who frequently stole his scenes.

Their comedy was a mixture of verbal wit, absurdist physical comedy and the occasional show-offy musical interlude. Duck Soup is one of their most typical efforts, filled with all the elements listed. (“State Room Scene” not included.)

Clark Gable combated baldness by grooming his back hair upward.

86. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
An unflinching look at maritime regulations via the denizens of the HMS Bounty, a seafaring ship (that’s a Cusslerism) whose minor uprising became the stuff of near-legend. This cautionary tale offers a somewhat brutal reminder as to why it’s never a good idea to pick a fight in the middle of the ocean, especially with someone who retains very “old school” ideas about crime and punishment.

Unfortunate things are said, most of them “out of line.” Whips are deployed. Everyone gets too much sun. A hierarchy is challenged. Water pretty much everywhere. Someone gazes intently at or through a sextant. Men speak at length in salty, impenetrable sailor lingo.

Nothing pisses off reanimated corpses faster than dimly lit windmills.

87. Frankenstein (1931)
Original film version of Mary Shelley’s beach novel Dr. Frankenstein, which thrilled vacationers with its fast paced mixture of Jewish golem mythology and British Hammer horror. The “Frankenstein” actually refers to the good doctor who earns the ire of both the Homeowner’s Association and the Chamber of Commerce with his affronts to God and outsized electric bill.

The intrusive townsfolk are none too thrilled with the monster either, thanks to a.) it being a monster (and an affront to God) and b.) its habit of tossing things like children into the nearest river to see if they’ll float.

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper terrorize the middle of nowhere with their brash hairstyles and lack of proper safety gear.

88. Easy Rider (1969)
Single-handedly introduced counterculture to the US via the druggy, two-wheeled antics of Jack “Deviated Septum” Nicholson, Peter “Jane’s Dad” Fonda and Dennis “Naturally Batshit” Hopper. Consummate professionals all, Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson insisted on doing all of their own riding and stunts, especially as it became apparent that the film’s tight budget meant no stuntmen would be hired.

The film itself alternates between cautionary and hallucinatory, proving by the shocking final act that it takes a lot more than a couple of hippies and their Harleys to change the status quo. While its sentiments and clothing may seem dated, its lack of a propulsive storyline and competent editing ushered in a “new wave” of self-consciously artistic films.

Patton was later court-maritaled for "contempt of uniform." The "ridiculous pants" and "galoshes" were specifically sited.

89. Patton (1970)
One of the finest war flicks of all time, bringing home an Oscar for both George C. Scott and his co-star Enormous American Flag, the latter of which drew positive comparisons to the gold standard of dramatic backdrops, Charles Foster Kane’s Enormous Head.

Although they only had one scene together, critics agree that nothing else in the exceedingly long running time comes close to the nuanced interplay of Scott’s gruff scene-chewing and Flag’s stoic but judgmental silence. Elsewhere, people shoot people and Scott emotes gruffly. E.A. Flag is folded respectfully and shipped off to New Jersey for a scheduled appearance on a Springsteen album cover.

Exceedingly gruff/long.

Early poster mockup for "Amos and Andrew Ridgely."

90. The Jazz Singer (1927)
When Al Jolson’s blackfaced lips nearly synched up to the soundtrack and offensively stated “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!,” the world of motion pictures was changed forever. No longer would moviegoers have to suffer in silence as a hack pianist cranked out an improvised soundtrack to images of horses running or heavily made-up leading men macking on heavily made-up leading ladies in between title cards stating “Scene missing” or “I want to fuck you like an animal.”

With the advent of sound recording, “talkies” were born, instantly alienating their male audience, most of whom felt that women should be seen and not heard and the deaf, who felt everything should be seen and not heard. (The title cards were hailed by Deaf Gentleman’s Fortnightly as “Braille for the eyes.”)

Now that actors and writers were freed from the tyranny of a single sense, they began cranking out “talkies” left and right, filled to the brim with loud noises and speedy, incessant chatter.

Movies fans spent the next 20+ years being talked at constantly. During the 50s, the backlash began, led by Ghengis Khan impersonator John Wayne, whose easy drawl ran against the grain of whirlwind chatter. As westerns began to take over the cinema, actors went from being described as “hyperactive” and “fedora-clad” to being referred to as “laconic” or “possibly drunk.”

This backlash reached its peak in 1968 when iconoclast and current dead man Stanley Kubrick released 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie whose epic running time consists of long shots very lightly peppered with low-key conversations between a space crew and their computer. The “barely there” conversation drops to near zero later in the film after the computer is given the “silent treatment” by the sole non-murdered astronaut.

Skip ahead 13 years and the backlash against backlash has begun. “Talkies” are big again! Spearheaded by the indie film industry, chattery films fill the multiplex. The seminal My Dinner with Andre is the touchstone, being nothing more than a filmed conversation between two actors. This trailblazer is followed by Clerks (My Dinner with Andre with more talking, swearing and Star Wars references) and Reservoir Dogs (My Dinner with Andre with more talking, swearing, pop culture examination and chillingly soundtracked earcapitation).

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 7

December 19, 2010

This undying series continues to march on, now up to 7 on the scale of “started-finished.” At this rate, we’ll be ringing in 2012 with our jetpacks or whatever, ignoring troubling (and often unreadable) signs of global warming/cooling/non-change and steadfastly ignoring the missing post for #41-50.

Yeah. And we’re going to keep fucking ignoring it until the series winds up. At that point, I’ll start referring to it as a “lost episode” and treat it as though I found it crumpled up in a drawer when I was looking for socks or bullets or condoms or booze.

Play catchup here:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

Even Hitchcock's Spirograph doodles were hailed as "masterpieces" during his heyday.

61. Vertigo (1958)
Classic Hitchcock, dealing with mistaken identities, doppelgangers, semi-rare medical conditions and directorial cameos. A tension-filled suspense piece, revolving around a person seemingly inhabiting two bodies (or perhaps, two people sharing one body with the aid of some hair dye and a Tues-Thurs-Sat rotation or something), Vertigo takes a long (but not that long) look at obsession and the havoc it can wreak on the mental states of those involved, often reducing them to wandering state parks emoting and talking in non-sequiturs.

When people refer to something as being “Hitchcockian,” they’re referring to the psychological horror of situations like those mentioned and most likely not your penchant for stabbing people while they shower.

The Crying Game has nothing on the heartrending scene in which Hoffman gets felt up by Dabney Coleman to the haunting strains of Dave Gruisin abusing some sort of woodwind.

62. Tootsie (1982)
Following the cross-dressing groundwork laid by Some Like It Hot, Tootsie proves the age-old theory that men make the best women, especially in competitive arenas, which, in turn, follows the groundwork laid by Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell proved that white people make the best black people. (Of course, this also factors into the Wayans brothers’ White Chicks, whose late-period revisionism posited that black men make the best white women and Michael Winterbottom’s Nine Songs, which made the bold statement that normal people make the best porn stars.)

Despite Dustin Hoffman’s incredible ugliness, Tootsie was a box office success, making cross-dressing a go-to role for actors of a certain age/ugliness. (See also: Mrs. Doubtfire, which theorizes that ex-husbands make the best au pairs or Benchwarmers, which states that underachieving adults make the best youth softball teams.)

A love triangle for the ages: who will Love Interest #1 choose? Drunky McBagwaver or Ol' Squinteye?

63. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Another quickie hammered out during the post-heyday of Hollywood musicals, taking full advantage of the American public’s willingness to watch anything that contained singing and dancing, even if it was all shoehorned into a genre that really didn’t lend itself to that sort of synchronized emotion.

Paint Your Wagon took viewers back to a simpler time, filled with simpler people living in a world free of stock market collapses and unpopular wars. A time when men were men and wore garters on their arms and women were women and wore overly-complicated dresses. A time when spontaneously (as indicated by the script) bursting into song was viewed as not “clinically insane” or “that part of Magnolia.” Kind of show-offy in all honesty, with a story that could have been told in half the time, if everyone would have just shut the hell up.

ELO: Live at Devil's Tower. (Or Daft Punk, if you prefer.)

64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Spielberg’s pre-E.T. foray into the world of alien lifeforms, which is refreshingly free of central prepubescent characters and new-agey feel-good moments. This means no flying bikes or drunken telepathy, but on the other hand, it allows for more tone-deaf keyboard playing and obssesive mashed potato sculpting.

Suffered the misfortune of being released in the same year as Star Wars, whose pulp serial storyline portrayed outer space as being just like Earth (only darker), full of roaring engines and audible lasers. Because of this, Close Encounters’ deliberate pacing and suspenseful storyline look like your father’s Oldsmobile (i.e., ugly enough to make you want to park it at the back of the lot, but big enough to get you comfortably laid).

This eerily prescient poster foreshadows Jodie Foster's role in "Nell," where she played a feral child cursed with "moth mouth."

65. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The first motion picture to feature a sympathetic cannibal and win an Oscar (sorry, Alive), The Silence of the Lambs gave Jodie Foster one of the best written characters she’d ever played. The resulting popularity garnered her an enormous amount of goodwill, which she quickly squandered by playing a gibberish speaking feral woman-child in a shameless attempt to snag another Oscar for her work in Nell.

Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, went on to play a variety of repressed Brits in a shameless attempt to snag an Oscar or two for himself, which would join his knighthood in the trophy case. The actor portraying serial killer Buffalo Bill went on to be known as the actor who portrayed Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.

As the four floating heads hover menacingly overhead, Peter Finch finds himself trapped in a David Lynch dream sequence.

66. Network (1976)
No movie has done more to alter our collective perception of the nightly news than Network. Once viewed as infalliable and impartial sources of information, newscasters today are viewed as egomaniacal charlatans with misanthropic personalities and sizable drug habits. Those few who have managed to escape this perception are regarded as “bland” at best and “unwatched” at worst.

However, it would appear that most news agencies and their employees are unaware of this shift in mass perception and continue to present themselves as “fair and balanced” (FOX News), “CNN” (CNN) and “not completely unattractive” (your local news team).

Directly responsible for the overused “mad as hell” statement which the moviegoing public has chosen to apply to any situation (tax increases, being charged extra for cheese, being asked to phrase their answer in the form of a question) rather than in their actual context as the ravings of a suicidal madman.

The promotional poster would like to remind you that fuck you for not showing up on time.

67. The Machurian Candidate (1962)
Pitched as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Kills People,” The Manchurian Candidate is one of the finest examinations of Cold War paranoia ever filmed and the only examination to feature the acting chops of a somewhat psychopathic, mobbed-up Las Vegas crooner. (Look for Wayne Newton in a small role as an Army psychiatrist.)

Despite its 67th-place finish, critics are still arguing about its inclusion on this list, citing its distinct lack of gratuitous car chases, gratuitious swearing or tastefully-lit gratuitious nudity. Others have cited its use of black and white film as a cheap ploy to “garner accolades” and disparaged its equally cheap crossover with Murder, She Wrote.

This dog runs on Freedom Fries.

68. An American in Paris (1951) An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
The weak sequel to John Landis’ classic An American Werewolf in London, which wasn’t aided by the decision to release it 16 years after the original, utilizing none of the original writing or directing staff. This is compounded by the leads’ lack of chemistry oracting talent and use of almost-competent CGI.

Followed by several more sequels in the same vein (Ha! Oh, wait… they’re not vampires. Scratch that.), most of which went straight-to-internet (via DVD), including An American Werewolf in Stuttgart, An American Werewolf in the Matrix, An American Werewolf in Phoenix and An American Werewolf in Paris Hilton.

There never was a gunslinger like Carpal Tunnel McGraw.

69. Shane (1953)
Anti-heroic Western riddled with continuity errors. To wit:

“This doesn’t even mention the regrettable error in the final scene, where the climax is undercut by Van Heflin’s accent, which goes from Western American to Scottish to Klingon in a three-minute span. And let’s not even bring up the sudden appearance of a laser pistol in a baddie’s hand during the barroom brawl.”

Getting shot in the back while fleeing: the hallmark of the French "resistance."

70. The French Connection (1971)
The true story of Detective James “Popeye” Doyle whose tireless efforts and breathless car chases singlehandedly took down the heroin industry, freeing America from the clutches of the evil opiate and relegating its usage to rock stars (Pete Doherty, J. Spaceman, Axl Rose, Clay Aiken) and other fringe members of society (mainly Pete Doherty and his girlfriends).

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 6

December 5, 2010

Holy hell! Does this thing still exist? And for why?

It does, exceptionally bad grammar notwithstanding. Catch up via the way-way-wayback machine with the following links:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5


Starring Katherine Hepburn as perhaps the most masculine "gangbangee" ever.

51. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
An anomaly on this list, The Philadelphia Story is the biopic of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which traces the history of the “City of Brotherly Love” from its humble beginnings as one of several “birthplaces of Democracy” to the battery-throwing thug it is today.

Other highlights include a montage of Dr. J dunks, an exploration of Lenny Dykstra’s financial empire and a football stadium full of fans booing Santa Claus. Also includes a few shots of the Liberty Bell and its famous crack, showing yet again that the citizens of Philadelphia “just can’t have nice things.”

US censors indicate that some shady Orientals are to blame for widespread beach makeout sessions.

52. From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director Fred Zinnemann makes the most of a pre-World War II Hawaiian backdrop to set the stage for two hours of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making out on the beach. Occasionally bits of storyline pop up to keep the guys’ attention and avoid being shut down by the ratings board.

Winner of 8 Academy Awards, including "Best Poster Not Having a Goddamn Thing to Do with the Movie"

53. Amadeus (1984)
Biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s severely truncated life as filtered through one of his bitterest rivals. A child prodigy who was composing etudes by six weeks of age, Mozart (or Amadeus) died at the tender age of 35, proving the old adage that “the candle which burns twice as bright giggles twice as psychotically.”

Traces Amadeus’ (or Wolfgang’s) story arc (which follows his “life arc” quite closely) as he plays for idiot royalty, tangles with surly rivals and giggles psychotically. Tom Hulce shines in the title role, before vanishing completely from the public radar.*

*What about Dominick and Eugene? Are you seriously asking that? Then let me clarify: by “public radar” I meant other high-profile starring roles, not award-baiting portrayals of retarded trashmen.

AKA, "All Noisy as Hell on the Overcrowded Poster."

54. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The “War Movie to End All War Movies,” All Quiet on the Western Front‘s detailed take on World War I was, like the war slogan itself, a bit too optimistic about its place in history. Much like the idea of “no more wars after this one” keeps getting its ass handed to it by each successive war, this war movie has been on the receiving end of its own ass several times since its original release.

The most notable of these ass-handings is Saving Private Ryan, whose depiction of the Normandy Beach landing will not soon be topped, thanks to Spielberg’s insistence on using live ammunition and anti-personnel mines.

Members of the Von Trapp cult gaily follow their multi-colored leader to the compound where new Nikes and Kool-Aid await.

55. The Sound of Music (1965)
One of the very few musicals with Nazis as central characters (see also: The Producers; Inglorious Basterds), The Sound of Music is the supposedly true story of the singing Von Trapp family, whose blonde-haired, blue-eyed good looks would not be tolerated by an incoming Nazi regime, hence the escape during the final reel.

As is the case with most musicals, there’s a hell of a lot of singing , which adequately handles some of the exposition as the movie itself seems unconcerned with propelling the love story of a glorified nanny and her patrician lover. The children have plenty to say/sing as well, which they handle by running through fields or wandering around the gazebo area. Anywhere but inside the house, goddammit, unless you’re taking your adorably blonde asses right to bed.

If the story isn’t enough, there’s also some beautiful scenery which you may be able to glimpse briefly through the swelling strings and freshly-scrubbed, aggressively blonde faces. Directly responsible for some of the most disturbing images on the internet.

 

Another M*A*S*H* surgery success story proudly shows off its new hat (and heels).

56. M*A*S*H* (1970)
While America was busy dealing with the Pyrrhic losses of Vietnam, iconoclastic director Robert Altman was attempting to distract viewers from the “war at home” (“home” being a southern Asian nation) with a war story about Korea, which had absolutely no parallels with the current situation.

Filled with dark humor, drinking and classic Altman touches like letting every character talk at the same time, M*A*S*H* is one of the finest war films ever made, beating out John Wayne’s The Green Berets, which attempted to rewrite history while it was still being written.

Led to a successful TV show that lasted 15-20 times as long as the Korean War itself while dipping heavily into mawkish sentimentality and providing baby boomers with a collective set of false memories. It also served notice to Americans that their doctors drank and smoked more than they did and that crossdressing = crazy.

Orson Welles awkwardly (and somewhat frighteningly) tells his Jesus joke.

57. The Third Man (1949)
Orson Welles’ other film on AFI’s list, a post-war drama hailed universally as “not Citizen Kane” and “#57 on AFI’s List.” Despite the dubious accolades and faint damning praise, The Third Man is still worth a look for its tense set pieces and continuous mockery of the Swiss people and their customs.

In addition to Welles’ ad libbed quote about years of Swiss neutrality resulting in only the cuckoo clock, Welle’s also riffs on their cheese (“It’s more what’s between the holes, eh comrades?”) and peculiar outerwear (“Neutrality means never owning a complete set of pants.”) He goes on to say “At least you can be sure the Swiss Miss is a “miss,” unlike Sweden where everyone changes sexes as often as conversation topics,” concluding, “Bah. I’m old, fat and bitter.”

With a sweeping gesture, Mickey Mouse swiftly copyrights the universe.

58. Fantasia (1940)
An outgrowth of America’s burgeoning Drug War, in which hallucinogenics were never taken but rather forced on American soldiers and, in this case, undersexed American animators toiling under the thumb of a somewhat benevolent plutocrat.

And toil they did, animating a collection of disjointed vignettes in a futile attempt to “sketch the crazy out.” Hippos dance with alligators. Volcanoes erupt. Furious gods make appearances. Mickey Mouse himself battles armies of reproducing brooms in a none-too-subtle indictment of our current immigration problem. One of only a handful of films considered “umfilmable,” easily on par with anything Kubrick, Gilliam or Lynch have produced.

[A side note: The Disney Corporation briefly considered turning this movie into a ride (and then into a movie again) but harsh daylight and strychnine cramps derailed this idea before it could become anything more than a coloring-outside-the-lines wet dream.]

[Another side note: Disney animators are encouraged to “spill their ink” on company time as this periodic release reduces the number of penis drawings appearing in children’s movies.]

A rare shot of James Dean's early ad work for Lee Riders.

59. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
This proto-teen flick, full of raw adolescent emotion and disjointed mumbling, is still an influence on teens today who, like their hero, Will Smith, are sure their parents “just don’t understand.”

Featuring the eyes-down acting of James Dean, whose insouciant good looks and fast living saw him leave behind a good-looking corpses (and red jacket) after only three films. Despite this truncated resume (or “C.V.” everywhere else in the world), his influence is still echoes, mainly through the acting style of Luke Perry who, like James Dean, had a severely truncated career. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the decency to die but would apparently rather live on through a series of straight-to-DVD movies.

This tale of teen angst and the damage done culminates in a shocking act of violence, in which Sal Mineo is killed in the observatory with a gun, most likely at the hand of Professor Plum.

Those expecting nothing but "man nipples and bullwhippings" will find "Raiders" incredibly fulfilling.

60. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A throwback to the days of classic cinema, a fondly remembered time that is often referred to when disparaging current films, often using the phrase, “They don’t make them like they used to.” Of course, they don’t make paint with lead anymore and most schools are free from asbestos and cyanide-laced Tylenol, but still, things were much “better” back in the day.

In this modern reimagination of the old Hollywood serials, Harrison Ford takes on the role of Dr. Indiana Jones, swashbuckling archaeologist and bullwhip enthusiast. Taking a tongue-in-cheek approach, Ford coasts through the adventure with a look of perpetual bemusement, building on earlier roles in films such as Star Wars (perpetual cocky disbelief), Apocalypse Now (perpetual clean-shaven officiousness) and Bladerunner (perpetual indigestion).

This formative role would lay the groundwork for Ford’s later emotional expansiveness in The Mosquito Coast (perpetual sweatiness), Presumed Innocent (perpetual Ceaeser), Regarding Henry (perpetual glower followed by perpetual idiotic wonder) and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (perpetual refrigerated bemusement).

-CLT

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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