Saturday, April 21, 2007

AFI Sticks Another Pin in Their Walrus Voodoo Doll

Like taxes, allergies and summer Blockbusters, some things must be suffered anew each year. The AFI offers its own version of perennial suffering with its irresistible (I’m borderline OCD when it comes to list-making and ranking) and yet infinitely frustrating “100 Years…” series of top 25/50/100 lists. Ever since 1997, the AFI has insisted upon putting out the most embarrassing, conservative, predictable and uninspired lists of “great” films one could possibly generate. Last years top 100 most inspirational films was so sickening from conception to execution that even mainstream critics were shaking their fingers at the institution.

This year, having registered on the AFI site through an exacting procedure in which I provided a valid email address, I was able to download the ballot for this year’s list: a retackling of the top 100 films of all time (to be announced in June 2007). The ballot informed me that, “You have been chosen to participate in a historical moment in American film,” and that my vote mattered “…due to the exclusivity of the voting pool.” Hmmm… I feel so special.

Lest I be overwhelmed and accidentally pick films worthy of attention and admiration, the ballot helpfully advises that I take into account the awards films have already won (which seems likely to make the list redundant) and “success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.” Wow, what do they need me for?

Of films that have come out over the intervening ten years since the last “100 Greatest Films” list I was impressed to see some decent films make the list:

Being John Malkovich
Boogie Nights
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fight Club
Good Night and Good Luck
L.A. Confidential
The Matrix
Rushmore (but no Royal Tenenbaums!)
Saving Private Ryan

However it is tough not to be disappointed to find others present:

The Aviator
Erin Brockovich
Harry Potter
Hotel Rowanda
Pirates of the Caribbean
Spiderman 2 (what!?)
There’s Something about Mary

Ultimately, I am aware that my frustration is misdirected. The whole top ## idea is fun and a method of occupying time and internet space that I fully approve of. AFI just makes the ballot and even allows five write-in votes. It’s really the voters that manage to pour even more press attention on the same melodramatic “classics” and overblown blockbusters. Such a completely democratic system of open voting creates lists that simply repeat box office charts and Oscar winners by year without ever showing insight, excitement, surprise, personality, bravery or minority opinions.

My AFI rancor briefly sated, it’s now time for me to go curl up in front of my TV and watch some foreign films (more giallos, in fact!).


Mad Dog said...

Haha, Magus is gonna throttle you to see you disparage Spider-Man 2: More Screaming Women.

Although I also didn't think it was a bad movie. Certainly leaps and bounds above the frequently embarrassing original.

FilmWalrus said...

I actually liked the second one less, and couldn't understand the hype and positive acclaim. At least the first one had charm, albeit highly constructed charm courtesy of a sterile Hollywood laboratory. The second one just amped-up the badness until everyone was too deaf to judge.

I really do love genre movies (especially when made unconventionally or by former art-film directors) but I can be very picky and very strong in my condemnations.

Anyway, if you are interested in seeing a pdf of the full ballot, I can email it to you. It gives an interesting perspective on the battle between new and old films amongst other things.

Mad Dog said...

See, I just didn't think the first was all that special. I've heard Spider-Man's origin story numerous times by now, and watching it tick along with a willing but mis-cast and horribly costumed Willem Dafoe made an okay movie one that I don't think I'll be revisiting nearly as much as its sequel. I mean, really, remember that terrible/hilarious scene where the Green Goblin breaks in on Aunt May praying? It was difficult to look at the screen, it was so embarrassing. Also, what's-her-face looks like a fetal alcohol syndrome baby, not like Mary Jane Watson, a woman of legendary boner-inducing hotness in the Marvel universe. Add to that the fact that they basically pasted her on top of Gwen Stacy's back story and I have issues with the first movie.

I think that they did leagues better with the casting and execution of Doctor Octopus, although he's still the weakest part of the film (I suspect the trend of Spider-Man villains being the weakest part of the movie will continue onwards with 3). Really, there seemed to be a bit more of a focus on Peter Parker's trials and tribulations, which are the meat of any Spider-Man story. Magus will tell you how much he relished Harry Osborn slapping Peter at the party... which I admit I didn't like nearly as much as he. I also liked the increased amount of humor, since Spider-Man's also known for his one-liners in the comics. I also think that there were better action set-pieces in 2 than in 1. At least ones I remember more. And it was satisfying to see the relationship with Mary Jane reach a head, unlike the blue balls everyone shared after Spider-Man 1.

A proper ripping-into of Spider-Man 1 may be called for at Grump Factory as the release of the third approaches. Maybe I can count how many women scream in it (I lost count in Spider-Man 2).

Thanks for the offer of the .pdf, but no thanks. I'd rather forget that the AFI is still out there fossilizing.

Mad Dog said...

Oh, and for the record I vastly prefer the dizzying pacing and overall dedication to the roots of the comic of the mid-90s Spider-Man cartoon that aired on FOX Kids to the Raimi films. Looking back on them over the past few months thanks to Youtube has renewed the appreciation from Magus and I for their hard work on adapting the Spider-Man mythos for a new generation. If there's one criticism I have, it's the occasionally shoddy animation (typical of most 90s cartoons before every show started looking like Flash animation). We'd frequently give episodes the MST3K treatment. I also have to say that whenever I see Spider-Man, I hear the cartoon's voice of Peter Parker (the same one Marvel used in all of their crossover fighting games). Definitely my pick for the second-best adaptation of a single comic book hero. I'll give you one guess of who the number 1 spot belongs to. :p

FilmWalrus said...

I will certainly grant you that the Green Goblin is the worst villain (costume/performance/concept/etc) to appear in a long, long time. However following it up with Doc Oct is like getting shot with 9mm Luger followed by an 8mm Magnum followed. Sure, I could tell you that the first one hurt more, but why would I measure the exit wound diameters and compare while bleeding all over the theater floor.

Also, I for one found Kirsten Dunst quite attractive although it might just be the switch to red hair. Besides, she's in the second one too so it doesn't count as a point against 1.

I think you and Magus will have to write a review covering all three Spidermen since I have not seen the comics or tv shows. Thus I also can't site any knowledge about their fidelity to the mythos. For me, it was Spiderman 2 where I got bored because I'd already been there before with the original (you had the misfortune of being bored by the first round).

If you write something up, I would like to have a blurb in the defense of my opinion. I can't call it a defense of spiderman 1 since I don't actually like it much either). How's that for manufacturing grump!

Mad Dog said...


But it might have to wait until I get home and have proper screenshot-making equipment. }:3