Watching the Best
Posted by hyperpat on June 22, 2007
I watched the AFI’s presentation of the 100 all-time best films the other night. This was the latest update to their list (for the complete list, see here), chosen from 400 nominated films, and specifically done to update the list to include those films that had been made since the last time they did this ten years ago. Probably to no one’s surprise, Citizen Kane held on to the top spot. This film has been recognized again and again as perhaps the premier embodiment of what film-making is all about – but for me, anyway, I really don’t think it’s all that great. There are other films I think are better, that have more to say to today’s audiences than a film that’s a not-so-subtle portrayal of William Randolf Hearst, who after all made his mark almost a century ago.
Overall, however, the list does recognize most of what I consider the best of Hollywood. Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind, City Lights, Casablanca, The Grapes of Wrath (a rare case of translating a great book into a great movie), and this time around even Lord of the Rings, almost certainly the best fantasy movie ever made, managed to make the list. There are others I think are rated too highly, most notably The Godfather (it’s good, but #2?). And there are some that didn’t make the list that I think should have: Cool Hand Luke, Fiddler on the Roof, Becket, The Ten Commandments, and The Hustler. But what is there is a pretty good selection.
But beyond just what movies made the list, the presentation the other night was excellent, with Morgan Freeman doing the narration, clips from all 100 movies, and almost always with some commentary by at least one of the actors/directors of said movie that helped define just what it was about that particular movie that was deserving of such recognition. The opening montage, consisting of very short clips from a large number of these movies, showed me just how great an impression these movies had made on me, as I could identify almost all of them from those brief 3-4 second excerpts.
Hollywood produces a tremendous amount of dreck, year in and year out. But every once in a while, there is something produced that deserves the label art, something that becomes part of our cultural heritage, and leaves an indelible mark on its audience.