When you give 100 people a sheet of paper and ask them to create a Top 10 list on any topic, the only thing you will get for certain is 100 lists. I take that back — you also get another thing: everyone else hating the list created.
Over the past ten years, AFI has made itself visible to the movie-going public through the use of specials on TV. These specials are meant to celebrate film, but often cause discourse amongst those viewing the specials. In 1998, as part of the celebration of the invention of motion pictures, AFI released a list of what it deemed the “100 greatest movies of all time.” Each year saw a more specific list created, with more controversy.
For 2007, AFI chose to reevaluate its original list. I applaud the sentimentality, but again the list is flawed, as it was ten years ago.
Much has been made this week over the details of the list, so I am going to focus on broader subjects.
The voting body is made up of actors, directors, and some critics, same as it was ten years ago. But how much has this cadre actually changed in ten years? I would argue very little. So was it a surprise to me to see the same basic list as before? No. The same influences are there, just a bit of reshuffling to allow for a few new entries.
Much has been made of the lack of recognition within this list, as well as annual award ceremonies, of the comedy. Since they are meant for light entertainment, the comedy is dismissed due to its lack of impact on political or dramatic issues. Acting in a comedic way means accepting the reality around you and exploring its full potential. Very few actors can genuinely make people laugh; yet, in order to be recognized by their peers as great actors, they turn to dramtic pieces. If you question this, then examine the careers of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Is it any wonder that Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are looking towards dramatic pieces?
Two other genres seemed oddly lacking representation on the list: Horror and Sci-Fi.
Horror had three notable entries: Jaws, Silence of the Lambs and Psycho. I could argue that each is more suspense/thriller than horror; however Jaws is probably the closest to horror. Where are the entries of the classic monster films of the 30s that are still revered today? Where are the slasher films that opened the door for today’s Hostel and Saw? While I may not be a fan of this genre, I can certainly tell that it is underrepresented here.
Sci-Fi gave us the usual entries of ET: The Extra-Terrestial, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Oddessey. I can not believe that in 100 years we have not had more than 3 movies that would qualify for the list. Interestingly, Close Encounters of the Third Kind did appear on the list ten years ago. I can only assume that AFI felt the Lord of the Rings counted in this genre as well.
I was happy that I at least knew a majority of the movies on the list and could count a number of them as some of my favorites. I have to say that the retrospective did not feel special. Other than Morgan Freeman hosting, everything else was left over from 10 years ago. To show those who died, they added a color filter lens. All in all, a poor showcase for the finest of the finest.
My only advice to AFI’s voting group: do not feel guilty for picking comedies over dramas.
To see this list and the others, go to www.afi.com .