Taking on AFI’s Top 10 Films

Lawrence of Arabia: A Camel-filled Adventure

I am a person who endlessly makes lists. It’s a weird control-freak habit of mine. However, when I found myself bored without anything good on TV to watch except Jerry Springer (and if you’ve seen one pregnant teen throw a chair at her mother, you’ve seen them all), and without any new episodes of my favorite shows up on Hulu, I decided it was time to tackle the biggest list of all: The American Film Institute’s 100 Best Films (the 1998 list – I will be watching the movies they added to the 2007 list after I get through this one).

Needless to say, it’s a long, long process. It has taken me about 3 weeks – although partially Netflix’s fault and partially Lawrence of Arabia’s desert & camel-filled fault – to get through the top 10. I’ve finally watched the movies AFI thinks are the very best of the best. So what is there to say about the films that have it all?

Well, aside from the fact that I found them all very good in their own way, I thought the easiest and most succinct way to do this would be to do a fake awards show and talk about my favorites – performances, picture, and cinematography. For fun we’ll name them after me. Lets call them the Dee-Cademy Awards. The true  list is: 1) Citizen Kane, 2) Casablanca, 3) The Godfather, 4) Gone With The Wind 5) The Wizard of Oz, 6) Lawrence of Arabia, 7) The Graduate, 8 ) On The Waterfront, 9) Schindler’s List, and 10) Singin’ in the Rain.

As a side note:  if any film were to be #1, Citizen Kane is easily a cinematic masterpiece. Just overall, it’s a flawless film. Despite not having a single character to relate to, Orson Welles’ film is still as enchanting as ever. It’s clearly and obviously above the rest, so, bravo.

Now lets get to the awards.

Best Cinematography: Schindler’s List — Leave it to the most current of all the films in the top 10 to have the best look. Spielberg’s black & white historical drama brings just that – a dramatic look to the screen. Runner Up: Citizen Kane — that purposefully induced graininess gives the film the perfect dark look for such a gloomy story of greed and over-zealousness that is Charles Foster Kane’s life.1500-1251gone-with-the-wind-posters

Best Female Performance: Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With TheWind— Maybe it’s because Leigh had a good deal of drama in her personal life, but she played the controlling, determined if not somewhat self-involved, Scarlett O’Hara perfectly. Such a powerful performance. She wins us over by the end, leaving us hoping that she does in fact find a way to get Rhett back.                                                                           Runner Up: Ingrid Bergman as Isla Lund, Casablanca – An unforgettable performance in an unforgettable movie, the beautiful Swede makes us believe she is actually in love with the less-attractive Humphrey Bogart. Now that’s talent.

Best Film: Gone With The Wind— Maybe its because I’m a girl and a bit of a hopeless romantic. Maybe its because I’m stubborn and sympathize a bit with Scarlett. And maybe its because our school mascot is named after the male lead, but  this film has it all. I’m not a fan of chick-flicks but I think this film is the ultimate, one that every woman should watch and every guy should give a try. The acting is superb and although it is a long film, I found myself completely invested, not wanting to turn it off for a single second. It’s a heartbreaking movie of love, loss and, most of all, the will to go on.                                                                 Runner Up: Singin’ in the Rain–Maybe its because I’m a sucker for musicals, but I think Singin’ In The Rain is a way underrated film. The musical of all musicals, this film changed Hollywood and its catchy title song is still known by kids of all generations.

And last but not least:

Marlon Brando, a non-italian, as the most memorable italian in all of film.
Marlon Brando, a non-italian, as the most memorable italian in all of film.

Best Male Performance : Marlon Brando for his role as Don Corleone– I have to say, getting a dentist to make a mouthpiece for him just to get the right look for his jaw is dedication. Also, as a non-Italian, Brando still played the king of the mafia with perfection. For a movie that, to me, was a little lacking on the plot side of things, the acting performance of Brando (and of course Pacino, Caan and the rest of the supporting cast) really made this one a gem. And let me just say, that although Marlon Brando may not be the best looking guy in The Godfather (#3), check him out in #8 – On The Waterfront. Brad Pitt’s got nothing on him. Runner Up: Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, On The Waterfront. No, its not just because hes ridiculous good-looking. His stunning facial structure aside, Brando is incredibly convincing as former boxing star Malloy, who after watching a few men die as a result of a corrupt union-leader, decides to take on the powerful boss himself. And he looks good while doing it.

Now I’m off to tackle the next 10 films on the list. If I’m lucky they’ll be as diverse (and ridiculous) as the first were. And more Marlon Brando-filled.

About Deanna Falcone

Deanna Falcone (CAS '11) is a liberal political columnist for the Quad. She is a political science major and is originally from Danbury, Connecticut.

View all posts by Deanna Falcone →

3 Comments on “Taking on AFI’s Top 10 Films”

  1. Clearly the writer slept through most of Lawrence of Arabia if all she can remember are camels-what about its comment on war and its effect on the human psyche? The dehumanization of the native people by the British occupants who were just there trying to screw with the German’s ally, the ottoman empire? NO MENTION AT ALL ABOUT THE WEST AND ITS CONSTANT FAILURE AT TRYING TO ESTABLISH “GOVERNMENT” AMONG PEOPLE THAT THEY CONSIDER TO BE “INFERIOR” SAVAGES(*consider it the WWI prequel to the same shit our government has been trying to accomplish)????? WHAT ABOUT THE DIFFERENT WAYS CULTURES DEVALUE HUMAN LIVES!!??? Did she even watch the movie-or just look at DVD cover…and this shit got published???? Come on, pick a film student at least…

    Also, no critique over the Wizard of oz or The Graduate, the first of which is one of the first most important innovations of modern celluloid, technicolor printing. Not to mention the cultural significance of all the references of The Wizard of Oz (generally thought of as one of the most watched movies in the world). “Somewhere over the Rainbow” became a hit during WWII because of its popularity among Americans suffering through loss of their loved ones going to war and men in distant lands wishing to be home once more. Its HUGELY significant. The latter holds an amazing self-tortured performance from Dustin Hoffman over morals of what’s right and wrong, what’s passion and direction, led by a groundbreaking soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel, and was one of the “rebel” movies of the early 60s that took power away from the producers and studios and back into the hands of the director and scriptwriter. Those “rebel” films (Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider included) are the reason why MGM Studios no longer exists, Paramount/Sony Studios have to double as Television Studios, and Universal Studios is a theme park…it forever destroyed the studio system as it was from the twenties to the fifties.

    So while the writer did not see fit to write about these films, they are milestones in film and are the forefathers of what we consider industry standards of our time. (Seriously-no color film…think about it…Imagine having to watch cartoons and tv only in the monochrome spectrum…)

    Now for her comments: There’s no disputing Citizen Kane’s artistic chops. End of story. Anyone who disputes it either is bored because it is not in color or is trying to capture their own attention by saying otherwise.

    Of course Schindler’s List has best cinematography, Janusz Kaminski has an entire backlog of how to shoot beautifully from all the masters before him AND has digital film-which made the coloring the little girl’s coat red alot easier and more poignant-better than the way they did it in the pre-digital age (by hand-each frame, 12-15 frames per second). Also, great cine. ain’t worth a damn if you dont have a good story-Spielberg brought it home. With almost every minute of the over 3 hr. epic, you are either scared, crying, or praying for these people-all while keeping your full attention…that is masterful storytelling.

    AND once again-she proves my theory that she never actually watched the film: Citizen Kane is only PURPOSEFULLY grainy in the first 4-6 mins of film (newsreel scene) in order to give an authentic newsreel feel of the the time. THE FILM STOCK OF THE 1940’S ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SMOOTH-CELLULOID PROCESSING OF THAT ERA ARE NOT WHAT IS NOW. People are spoiled by digitally restored versions and think that that’s how an old film is supposed to look. This is not the case. (again, duh…)

    I can generally agree for her choices for female lead-except the comment about Humprey Bogart-because if we’re going to be a 100% honest, Clark Gable wasn’t exactly a looker either-in some of his films, they pinned back his ears because they were so damn prominent. The man had such bad breath he made Vivien Liegh cry when the director wanted to reshoot a kissing scene. The writer probably may not be that into talent, seeing as she wrote off Dustin Hoffman, Peter O’Toole, and
    Gene Kelly altogether. Like her Bogart snub, this is just opinion…

    Eh-I wouldn’t say GWtW is the best, as she stated before, it clearly goes to Citizen Kane (and the Academy agrees-look at that!)

    Again, she’s stuck on some random aspect of the movie, this time Brando. Yes, he’s good-hella good. The reason Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman, Johnny Depp exist=method acting. Also, if Brando was all she noticed throughout the whole film: DID THE WRITER WATCH THE MOVIE??? No mention of Coppola’s direction or cinematic genius Gordon Willis, who is responsible for the dark and ominous look of the movie. But the category of male leads is far too talented to just be overlooked by the same actor of the moment: Orson Welles (slowly turning into a money hungry old bitter man-all from the viewpoints of different people), Humphrey Bogart (putting asides his personal desires for love for the good of the cause-or is it!?), Clark Gable (playing the impossible to understand, wily Rhett Butler, makes women swoon for generations), Peter O’Toole (argues the justifications of war and its costs-all while in charge of a renegade battalion of Bedouin nomads), Dustin Hoffman (unsure of what to do with his life, screws his neighbor’s wife-his girlfriend’s mom-to feel thrill in life), Liam Neelson (poor soul thrown into dealing to buy human lives-in order to save them), and Gene Kelly (he acts to make you laugh-he sings, he dances, he choreographed, and partially directed when Donen stepped down).

    Tsk. Tsk. Where is that journalistic research? You don’t even need books! Basically, one can just use imdb.com and find all the info I’ve used here.

    The writer needs to learn more about her movie history as a whole to appreciate what those films meant to audiences and the talents of those who made them.

    My take on this piece of work: she knows very little about actual film theory and has very little to say that hasn’t already been said- she offers no fresh insights on the ’98 list. Most of her choosings are just that-her personal faves. While I may declare Kevin Smith one of my favorite directors-I would not put Clerks among the top ten films that influenced America.

    Those movies were judged on these guidelines:

    1. Feature-length: Narrative format, at least 40 minutes in length.
    2. American film: English language, with significant creative and/or financial production elements from the United States.
    3. Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print.
    4. Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from organizations in the film community and major film festivals.
    5. Popularity Over Time: Including figures for box office adjusted for inflation, television broadcasts and syndication, and home video sales and rentals.
    6. Historical Significance: A film’s mark on the history of the moving image through technical innovation, visionary narrative devices or other groundbreaking achievements.
    7. Cultural Impact: A film’s mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

    She clearly took no notice over the critical recognition (other than maybe Citizen Kane, which I’m not even sure she watched the entire movie) and the historical and cultural significance. Very poorly researched and mostly out of her own opinions. I hope this was not the best BU can do. Please stick to your political blogging, and leave film alone.

  2. Monica,

    I think you may have missed the point of this article. This was clearly not an expert’s attempt to analyze some of the greatest films ever made. Rather, it was a post by a regular person relating the experiences of watching the top AFI films, which most non film enthusiasts would never have the patience do.

    That said, you clearly have a lot to say about film, and we welcome you to apply for our staff by emailing us at staff@buquad.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *