This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Filling in the Gaps

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Filling in the Gaps

Kris Jenson, with whom I've had the best discussions of my life, is an old friend of mine from Boston. We had been talking about the American Film Institute's Top 100 when he got a job at Dig Boston, writing about just that. Instead of letting the conversation end just because he's a big, fancy writer now, I'm going to write responses to his articles. I can't keep up with his movie watching, so I'm only responding to the ones I've seen.

I've fallen off writing these responses. It's a combination of a few things, but some of these movies I just don't have an essay's worth to write about. Seeing no reason to just fill space with words unnecessarily, here's a word or two on the films I've skipped. I can't wait to read what Kris has to say about "Rebel Without a Cause" because I already have a jumping off point, but I don't like putting my thoughts together until I read what he has to say.

The French Connection - *Pretension Alarm* I walked through The National Gallery in London thinking about the idea of a movie becoming dated. Popeye Doyle has inspired an entire generation of movie and TV cops, and that's why when I saw this movie, I felt kind of eh, been there. I kind of feel that way about Baroque and Renaissance painting. Caravaggio's "The Calling of St. Matthew" is just so much more complex and clever than da Vinci's "The Last Supper," even though Caravaggio never would have painted like that without da Vinci and the ilk to inspire him.

An American in Paris - The best thing I ever heard about Gene Kelley is that he always looked at the camera the way he would look at a woman.

The Manchurian Candidate - Maybe one of my favorite AFI movies. Angela Lansbury is such a great villain, and considering the kindly old woman we all think of her from her later career, the performance just seems so much better. I was at first disappointed to see it fall off the updated AFI list, but a fun movie doesn't always make it great.

Network - I haven't seen this movie since I started working in television. I'm definitely going to watch it again soon and write a full piece about it.

The Silence of the Lambs - Sometimes the difference between an average movie and a great movie is as simple as quality. This movie had no right to be anything more than a procedural cop movie, but every piece of it raises to such a high level that it becomes transcendent. The sequel and prequel just prove that movie magic cannot always be repeated, but that doesn't diminish this movie's worth as one of the greatest of all time.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Going back to the discussion about feeling dated, this film just doesn't do it for me. The special effects were probably seen as spectacular then, but now they're just cheesy. What is this movie about, exactly? Movies are about people accomplishing things despite obstacles, but this movie is about an alien force that draws a man to a place, so he goes there. I'll bet back then the cool effects were enough of a pay off that it didn't matter the story never arcs, but now not so much. I saw this film at an outdoor screening, and as a mood piece, it's enjoyable, but I wouldn't call it one of the best films of all time.

Stagecoach - I don't like Westerns, and I especially don't like the direction the genre went later. Fans probably appreciated the depth brought to the genre later on, but I find they got more boring. This and "The Searchers," made at two ends of John Ford's career, illustrate that path. I found "Stagecoach" exciting and engaging and "The Searchers" boring and almost afraid of action, lest it be seen as too old school Westerny. It goes without saying, I liked the former better.

Tootsie - Fuck you, I love "Mrs. Doubtfire." Even though I like Robin Williams less and less the older I get, I still love "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Vertigo - This movie makes we want to watch "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" like "American Psycho" makes me want to watch "Newsies." I don't like Jimmy Stewart creepy, but that's the point. Creepy Jimmy is perfect casting for a purposefully unsettling movie.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - I just have a strange relationship with some movies. It happened with this and "Die Hard." I saw many, many times and absolutely loved "...Last Crusade" and "...With a Vengeance" years before I saw the original. Both of these, I feel are stronger than the original. To this day, I don't know if it's because they are better or because I have the connection to the one I saw first. I wonder sometimes if I had that experience with newer sequels, would I feel the same? Is it possible that "Spider-man 3" isn't that bad, it's just not as good as "Spider-man 2"? (I sincerely doubt it)

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