Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quick! Name Your 100 Favorite Movies Right...Now!

Nah, that's just a clever title, don't do that.

This is just my way of passing on the news that the American Film Institute -- you know, that vaguely prestigious-sounding organization that bestows a Top 10 list every year and produces one of those "100 Years, 100 x" specials that air on CBS once a summer -- is going to re-calibrate their initial "100 Years, 100 Movies" list (essentially, a Top 100 Films of All Time) to reflect the ten years (actually nine years, but we live in imprecise times, I guess) that have passed since the special was first aired.

This is cool for a couple reasons. Most obviously, it means that great films that have been produced in the ensuing ten years will become eligible for consideration. Though I'm not sure I'd get my hopes up to see some of the more recent classics on the list. In 1998, only eight movies from the '90s were on the list (Schindler's List, The Silence of the Lambs, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Unforgiven, Forrest Gump, and Dances With Wolves).

But the cooler reason is that we get to see how opinion on older films has evolved over the last ten years. Did the Star Wars prequels damage the legacy of original film (#15 in 1998)? Does the recent death of Robert Altman mean he'll have more movies on the list than simply M.A.S.H. (#56)? How many of those films from the 1990s withstood another decade of scrutiny (if I had to guess, I'd say Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven drop out, and probably Gump and Fargo as well, though it'd be a shame for the list to go Coen-less)? Do the list-makers look at the original, old-skewing list and make a conscious choice to get hip? Ah, the politics of list-making. The true dork's trivial pursuit.

I have to say, I really love this idea. Because I'm a list-nerd, true, but also because all-time lists (and more importantly the discussions that accompany them) shouldn't be set in stone. What good is it to have a list that tells you what the top 100 Movies were as of the summer of 1998? This stuff is fluid, as it should be. And while the movies we're discussing haven't changed, our perceptions of them may have. And that's what's cool about film culture.

Anyway, the new special airs in June, so expect the list to go public on the Wide Wide World of Web around May.


JA said...

No, they can't ditch Fargo! I'd be fine with any of the other ones you mention going, but not Marge Gunderson!!!

Ahem. Anyway, I'm most curious what films they'll deem worthy from the past 10 years.

Deirdre said...

This has me stupidly excited, too, even though the AFI lists have gotten more and more transparently about "we need something to put on TV during the hiatus" since the first list came out.

I'd agree Dances With Wolves might go, and possibly Gump as well, but they won't ditch Unforgiven unless it's to replace it with another Eastwood flick. To paraphrase Stephen Fry, Hollywood's built a flat halfway up Clint's bottom, and I don't see them vacating any time soon.