This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Best Years of Our Lives & Midnight Cowboy

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Best Years of Our Lives & Midnight Cowboy

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 hate both of these movies so much that I can't justify dedicating one post to either. The worst thing about both has to be how much people talk about their greatness. I'm sorry, everyone, these are not good movies. Both movies may have spoken to something important when they came out, but so did "Borat." I loved the hell out of "Borat," but anyone who says people are going to watch it in 10 years and see it as anything but a cheap, poorly shot, mean-spirited yuck fest have no sense of perspective or taste.

I'm going to do "Midnight Cowboy" first because I don't have much to say. When Dustin Hoffman dies at the end, my reaction should have been sadness, but instead I was surprised. This is what the movie was building up to? Should I have spent the last, I don't know, 7 hours (it felt like it) caring about this guy? My favorite movies are bromance movies. I just love watching two guys come together and balance out each others strengths and weaknesses. If that's what this movie was about, I would have cared. But no. Apparently, this movie is about kinky sex. I care so little about this movie, I considered a spoiler alert at the top of this paragraph, but take my word for it, you're not missing much.

Off we go to the far opposite end of the spectrum to talk about the most harmless, saccharine movie ever made, "The Best Years of Our Lives." I first saw it for a class in film school. After the film, the professor gushed over it. He espoused the genius of William Wyler and the cultural significance and the brave performance from the vet with hook hands. I left that lecture so confused. What movie was he watching? I thought the direction was scatter-shot, the message was cheap, and if we're going to judge his performance objectively, yeah, I could totally tell he had never acted before. I went over his lecture in my mind, and I checked books out of the library. I sort of got what people were saying about this movie, but still, it blows ass.

I was so determined to figure it out that when my friends took the same class, I dropped in and watched it again. Nope, still awful. After I graduated, figuring my childish cynicism had worn off, I gave it another try. I feel like I watched it again, but after 10 hours of trying to figure out a movie, I think I may have blocked it out. This movie is fucking horrible, and I simply do not understand the very smart people who say it's not.

Kris, I think, nailed everything wrong with both of these. As much as I want to give these movies a pass because they're "classics," I just can't. In writing about old movies, I'm trying not to use "dated" as a negative. Some movies you have to watch in the context they were intended. "Cowboy" is about sexual taboo and "Best Years" is about cultural catharsis. Maybe at the time these were the best movies that could have been made on these important topics, but so what? A bad movie is a bad movie and making excuses doesn't make it a better movie. I can't really express this without sounding pretentious, so I'm just going to go out on a very douchey limb here. It's not that these movies are "dated," it's that these movies were awful when they came out, it's just that back then people didn't have sophisticated enough movie palettes to know the difference. Luckily, "Cowboy" was yanked from the updated AFI 100, but "Best Years" is about how awesome America is, so it's not going anywhere.


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