Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Doc vs. The AFI, Part Two

(Part One here.)

So, huddled at my computer during the commercial break, I frantically made up my lists . I tried my best to predict what the AFI's lists would be, which meant that I wasn't making my own Top Ten lists based on what I think are quality movies, but rather trying to think like an AFI member and pick the most obvious ones. Sometimes I failed and went for my own personal favourites, but I tried to use their criteria over mine. Like I said, I figured I'd get 30%, maybe 50% depending on how well I knew the genre. How did it go?

Official Definition: AFI defines "sports" as a genre of films with protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition.
My Thoughts: That sounds good, I guess, but I think it's a little too open of a definition. If your protagonist plays a sport, but the movie is mostly about their problems outside the sports arena, then it's still a sports movie. Which I disagree with.

What I Got Right:
10. Jerry Maguire.
9. National Velvet. (I almost guessed Seabiscuit, because it was the first horse-racing movie that came to mind, but I quickly changed it to National Velvet.)
5. Bull Durham.
1. Raging Bull. (Here's where my problem with the definition comes in. Raging Bull is about a boxer, but I don't think it's a "sports movie".)

What I Missed:
8. Breaking Away. Never heard of it.
7. Caddyshack. Really? That is awesome. Don't think it's worthy of a Top Ten mention, but it's kind of a shallow category, so throw the sports comedies a bone.
6. The Hustler. I was this close. (See below.)
4. Hoosiers. I vaguely remember seeing part of this movie on cable once. It seemed okay.
3. The Pride of The Yankees. Haven't seen it so it didn't spring to mind, but I can see this being on the list. Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig? I might even rent it one day.
2. Rocky. I can't believe I didn't pick Rocky. I am dumb.

What I Guessed:
A League of ther Own - I'm very surprised that this was excluded. It was incredibly popular, stars Tom Hanks, and was actually decent. How can you not vote for "There's no crying in baseball!"?
Tin Cup - I thought they might pick a golf movie, but the fact that it was Caddyshack makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. It's definitely better than Tin Cup, anyhow.
Eight Men Out - Haven't seen this movie but it was the only other baseball movie that sprung to mind. This would have been Field of Dreams if I didn't know it was already on another list.
Color of Money - Instead of picking The Hustler, I picked the sequel. I thought the AFI would go for Tom Cruise & Paul Newman over Paul Newman & Jackie Gleason.
Chariots of Fire - I haven't seen it, but I thought it was vaguely about running. That's the only reason I picked it.
The Natural - I haven't even seen the movie, but I know the scene where the guy hits the home run and the lights go out in the stadium. Plus: Randy Newman awesomeness. I thought that might be a good pick.

Other Comments: I was 40% on this one, which was kind of expected because I'm not a sports movie enthusiast. Don't love this category, but I suppose it's a decent American genre. I don't see many French or Italian or British sports movies, but I know of tons of American ones.

Official Definition: AFI defines "western" as a genre of films set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.
My Thoughts: Only the second definition (after sci-fi) that I have zero problems with. It's hard to screw up the definition of a Western, though.

What I Got Right:
9. Stagecoach.
6. The Wild Bunch. (I really do love this movie, but the fact that it beats out a few of the other ones on my "Missed" list kind of rubs me the wrong way.)
5. Red River.
4. Unforgiven.
3. Shane.
2. High Noon.
1. The Searchers. (Pretty obvious, because it's brilliant. Probably the best Western of all time, and yes, I know how film-school-y that is.)

What I Missed:
10. Cat Ballou. I've never seen it, I'd never even HEARD of it, so I can't really comment. But it had better be pretty damned good to beat out any of my other three.
8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Wow, that's actually a really good choice. A surprise nod, but a pleasant one.
7. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. I guess I shouldn't be surprised: it's very well-loved and seen as an American classic, which means . I think it's overrated myself: it's okay, but it's not great.

What I Guessed:
The Magnificent Seven - The fact that this was not on the list is a big shocker to me. So many classic actors, good performances, and a very successful movie. I thought that this would be AFI material for sure.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - They left this off but they had Cat Ballou!?! I call "no way".
Treasure of the Sierra Madre - I figured this would have been classified a Western by the Institute's sometimes-screwy definitions, but I guess not. Because if it was a western it really SHOULD have been on.

Other Comments: I was 70% this time, but I do like American Westerns. And by American Westerns, I generally mean "John Ford, John Wayne, and John Huston". Which is a fairly good definition, anyhow.

Official Definition: AFI defines the "gangster film" as a genre that centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting.
My Thoughts: Wow, this is a pretty good definition, too. No complaints. The AFI is surprising me.

What I Got Right:
10. Scarface. (The Al Pacino version from the 1980s. I picked this to be on their list even though I think the Paul Muni version was better.)
9. Little Caesar.
8. The Public Enemy.
7. Pulp Fiction. (I just barely picked this over Reservoir Dogs; it's a better movie, but it's not as good a "gangster" movie.)
5. Bonnie and Clyde.
4. White Heat. ("Middle of the pack, ma!")
3. The Godfather Part II.
2. Goodfellas.
1. The Godfather. (Part II is a better movie, but you can't have Part II without Part I, so I don't really have a problem with their relative placements.)

What I Missed:
6. Scarface: The Shame of A Nation. Oh wow! That was a pleasant surprise.

What I Guessed:
Chinatown - I thought this was a sure thing. After looking at their definitions, though, since it focuses more on the cops than the criminals, I can see why they left it off.

Other Comments: I expected to do well on the Gangster movie (since I took a course on it in University), but 90%? Things were looking good for me. I think there are better gangster movies than some that are on the list (like Miller's Crossing), and the fact that there were no films noir is a little disconcerting, because lots of film noir protagonists could be thought of as "maverick criminals". A good list, probably my favourite so far in terms of quality.

So far, so good; averaging them all together, I'm batting 60% (stupid "sports" genre). Four more categories to go, and this is where things get kind of screwy for me. Check back in a couple of days for Part Three (and, if these lists stay as long as they are, probably Part Four as well, in an attempt to stay moderately readable).


Dan said...

Cat Ballou? I mean, I vaguely recall I liked it when I saw it on TV when I was a kid, but I'm surprised the AFI remembers it clearly enough to even consider it one of the top ten Comedy/Westerns. I haven't heard anyone mention it for at least 20 years...

Also, given the 20th century definition they give for the "Gangster" genre, does that mean The Departed was left off the list because it takes place in the zany far-off future year 2006?

The Doc said...

Dan, that's a good catch on the "20th Century" reference in their definition. That definition's not so good any more. And to be fair, the AFI's not just looking for quality, but also for cultural resonance, box-office performance, and an impact on how other movies are made. The Departed is just too new to be on their list, I think, although you might be able to make a case for it being able to take Scarface.

morgoid said...

Wow... I'm with you on Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But the Magnificent Seven I can see being left off as it so close a remake of Seven Samurai that it's almost like putting the Kurosawa film on the list without giving him the credit. At least in my mind.

God I love Seven Samurai!