AFI Top 100

Thursday, May 6, 2010

AFI Top 100 Movie Thursdays: #97

Cover of "Blade Runner (The Director's Cu...Cover of Blade Runner (The Director's Cut)

Last week I promised I would watch #97 again and review it today. Well, I never got around to watching it again. Damn Yankees! So, I will re-watch it at some later point and do a more in-depth review of it at that time. For now, just some cursory thoughts will have to do. Please forgive me. :)

#97 is an interesting one, to say the least. I was surprised when Ridley Scott's 1982 film, "Blade Runner" made it to that spot. The film is worth watching several times. It is complex and raises questions about us and who we are.

The film is set in the not-too-distant future: LA in 2019. One company, the Tyrell Corporation, has created genetically engineered beings called Replicants--indistinguishable from humans with the naked eye. These Replicants were then used as slave-labor in "off world colonies."

Their fully-human realization of oppression resulted in a fully-human violent uprising. They have come back to earth even though they are banned from doing so. They are here illegally. And as it all-too-often happens in real life, the answer to creation by humans is destruction by humans. Harrison Ford's character, Deckard, is hired to kill them on sight.

For me, the question isn't whether or not the Replicants are fully human (they are). The questions this movie raises are about our treatment of humanity. Will the future of cloning allow us to treat replicated human beings as something less than human? Would that be any different than how we treat others now?

Until we treat others as signs of Another Being, it will be a rocky road for sure.

1982 Trailer (theatrical release):

Next week:
#96, A Spike Lee Joint

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

AFI Top 100 Movie Thursdays: On Hold Until Next Week

I know, I know, it seems as if I've forgotten all about the Top 100 Countdown.

I haven't.

It's just that's it's, well...........

....that time of year again.

I've already watched #97 for the countdown, but I must watch it again to give a full analysis of it. And since it's......

...that time of year again, it's been hard for me to get a second viewing in.

Next week.

I promise.

AFI Top 100 Movie Thursdays: #98

I will get hate mail for this. I will be told I have no taste or that I'm un-American. The thing is, the #98 AFI Top 100 spot movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy, isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Now, I'm not saying I hate the movie. I actually like it. James Cagney is magnificently fun as the likable rascal, George M. Cohan. Cagney can sing and he can dance, even if it appears he is dancing with a stick up his........oh, never mind. It's a weird style of movement, but it's also entertaining. It also gets a little too flag-wavery for me. But, I do understand that America was at war when the film came out in 1942, and it was an excellent propaganda piece. That, plus Cohan himself was flag-wavery. In fact, the movie alludes to some circles accusing him of such.

I was expecting a little more biography of Cohan, but got only what would really amount to a paragraph or two in a profile piece. What really makes the movie is that it is a showcase of the talents of Cohan and his contribution to the American songbook and of Cagney's amazing ability to sing and dance (being a Dylan fan, I laughed at the song and dance man line in the movie). Cagney most assuredly deserved the award for Best Actor that year.

Is it a movie I would watch again? Probably not. However, I would enjoy watching some of song and dance scenes occasionally.

Is it worth watching even once? You bet. It's a classic, and you can never go wrong with a classic.

Original 1942 trailer:

For something extra special, check out his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award(1974) speech:

Cagney's point of departure on Life and Art

from the speech:

"Art has had many definitions. The one I like best is 'art is life plus. Life plus caprice. Where the simple declarative sentence becomes a line of Shakespearean poetry. Where a number of musical notes strung together become a Beethoven sonata. Where a walk, done in cadence, by a Freddy Astaire...becomes an exciting dance. That's art.

That definition is given in a chapter on art by William Edward Hocking in a book called "Strength of Men and Nations." It's worth reading...because of the way art affects our everyday lives. Every time we walk out of the house in the morning, we are looking at architecture. We are looking at people doing things that are essentially themselves and what they're doing should be of great interest to everybody from an artistic point of view because if we are looking at it in that way, we are holding the wonder that we were born with."

Thank you, James Cagney. I am edified by having read these last words.

Next week: A film I've seen already and am surprised it made the list.

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AFI Top 100 Movie Thursdays: #99

Toy Story (1995) was the first fully computer-...Image via Wikipedia
It is The Jazz Singer of it's day. In 1927, the world was introduced to talking motion pictures by Al Jolson's classic film. Motion pictures haven't been the same since.

Fast forward to 1995, and again we are confronted with a new and amazing technical innovation: Toy Story.

Fifteen years on, it is easy to forget how important Toy Story is to cinematic storytelling. Yes, there were scores of animated films before Toy Story, but it's innovation is not just in being the first computer graphic animation, but also in it's story line and how the story is told. The film is shot just as if it were a live action film; no more watching characters march across the screen. We could see from their point of view, as if we were looking through the camera.

I never wanted to see Toy Story. It just wasn't something I was interested in. I probably won't really watch it again, unless I'm babysitting a child. Don't get me wrong, I like the film well enough. It has a good morality tale to it--what it means to be faithful; what it means to sacrifice for another, etc. If it weren't for my promise to watch all 100 films, I wouldn't have watched this one.

Going in, I wasn't sure it deserved to be in the top 100, but since it is historical, it has earned its place.

Original Trailer, 1995:

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Did you see this weeks film? Did you like it? Tell us in the comments section.

Next Week: #98--Yet another film I had no desire to see.

AFI Top 100 Movie Thursdays: #100

I like movies. I also like to blog about the movies I've seen. I also know that I am woefully deficient in having seen many of the classics. So, what better way for me to watch them than by going through the American Film Institute's top 100 greatest American movies of all time? That's right, they are American movies, so there will be no Akira Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, or Jean Renoir.

So let's begin with #100. This was a film that I'd heard about my entire life and absolutely never had any desire to see. I knew it was considered one of the "greats," one of the "classics" but it just never appealed to me. Not even it's most famous scene, the chariot race, could entice me.

That's right, I'm talking about William Wyler's "Ben-Hur."

That I really enjoyed the film is all Wylers fault. He seduced me when he would let me linger in a moment and drink in the drama. At 3.5 hours long, the movie goes quickly without ever feeling rushed. This is the seductive genius of Wyler.

And yes, the chariot race IS all it's cracked up to be. Especially considering the film was done in 1959, when restraint was more the fashion.

But putting aside all of the ground-breaking cinematic techniques, this film is exceptional at depicting the drama of the human condition.

Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston won an Oscar for his portrayal), starts out a peaceful man; Jewish royalty wishing to remain non-violent and just. However, he is a subject of Roman colonization, and when his best childhood friend, Massala, played by an excellent Stephen Boyd,a Roman pagan is made tribune of Judea, Judah welcomes him with open arms.

And he suffers for that. Eventually, Judah is thrown into slavery as a result of being true to who he is and not playing along with Rome's game. Wyler shows us that not only does man physically become enslaved, but his mind becomes enslaved when he is treated as something less than human. Judah no longer wants to remain a man of peace, but instead seeks revenge against his former friend, Massala.

He becomes consumed by the enslavement of revenge. Yet we see a glimmer of hope. Christ appears in this movie, yet it is not a conventional Christian movie, at least as we would think today. Judah has brushes with Christ, but he never fully meets him face to face. It's through these brushes with Christ, first with Christ offering him water and then subsequently through the witness of his sister and mother, that we see vestiges of Judah's true self return.

We become de-humanized when we treat others as objects and when we are treated as objects; as things to be bought, sold and discarded. It is only through encounters with the Divine that we are given our true freedom, whether we recognize the Divine or not.

This is the true genius of Ben-Hur.

1959 Trailer:

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Did you see the movie? Write your opinion of it, or my analysis of it in the comments section.

Next week: Number 99, yet another film I had no desire to see!