Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Love Those Lists

America loves lists. We've got to know who's #1. FORBES knows this and prints lists all year long ranking sports franchises, media folk, rich people, best cities for business, and on and on. I look at every one of those lists and beg for more. TV programmers aren't total dopes either, at least when it comes to lists. Allow me to pull up my satellite grid for a second and see what "list shows" are on tonight. Hmmm, VH1 is showing the 100 Greatest Songs of the 80's, Travel has Florida's Top 10 Beaches, ESPN Classic contributes The Top 5 Reasons Why You Can't Blame Charles Barkley (for what I don't know-- maybe I'll just have to watch), E! lists the 12 Sexiest Vegas Jobs tonight, and KTLA in Los Angeles has the Top 5 Men. They are breaking it into two back-to-back shows of Two And A Half Men each apparently.

Many years ago the American Film Institute (and where would the world's movie watchers be without an institute to promote movie stars, directors, and other Hollywoodsters? Thank goodness for the visionary thinking of Lyndon Baines Johnson!) got all over the Top 100 thing. Since 1998's 100 Years, 100 Movies the AFI has cranked out an annual list show for network broadcast. Last night's version was AFI's 10 Top 10. Basically it was a way to show clips from 100 movies by breaking them into 10 arbitrary genre groupings. It was pure piffle-- and I watched all 180 escapist minutes of it.

List shows work because everybody has an opinion and so there will be disagreements about the list. That leads to what's called water cooler talk. Nobody has actually stood around an office water cooler talking since 1959 but it's still called "water cooler talk." The genius of AFI's 10 Top 10 is that it also plays into our short attention span. After all, a Top 100 list can seem like so much worrrkkkk. In fact, I'm too lazy to complain about all ten lists. I'm just gonna point out how crazy two of them were: Westerns and Sports. I'm picking these because Westerns are my favorite genre and I love sports. I'll leave it to others to pick apart Romantic Comedies, Epics and the rest.
The AFI Westerns List:
1. "The Searchers"
2. "High Noon"
3. "Shane"
4. "Unforgiven"
5. "Red River"
6. "The Wild Bunch"
7. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"
8. "McCabe & Mrs. Miller"
9. "Stagecoach"
10. "Cat Ballou"
OK. I'm not going to get into the rankings, just whether they deserve to be on a Top 10 list. "The Searchers" at #1 is obvious. "High Noon" is lefty claptrap and shouldn't be on any list of great Westerns, although it usually is. People who don't like Westerns put it there I surmise. "Shane" is another movie that's always on these lists but I doubt many people who vote it there have watched it in a long time. If they had they'd know that Brandon De Wilde is the most annoying kid ever filmed. Not only was he a terrible child actor but his screeching "When ya comin' back Shaaannnne?" is distilled fingers-on-a-blackboard stuff. When am I comin' back to "Shane"? Never.
Clint's "Unforgiven" is good stuff although he was purposely trying to mess with Western movie mythology with it. Still, it can be on a list like this. "Red River" is a classic of the genre and must be on the list. "The Wild Bunch" is Peckinpah's best film and if you don't have Sam on your list why don't you just watch girl movies. "Butch and Sundance" is cute. Edit out the stupid bicycle ride to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and it gets another star. You can keep it on the list. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" is a dirty hippie movie set in the west. Get it the hell outta here. Although, Julie Christie looked quite fetching in it so maybe... NO! get it out. "Stagecoach" goes at the top next to "The Searchers." "Cat Ballou"? Insane. So insane it nearly invalidates the list.
So, I opened up four spots. What to add? Well, just off the top of my head: "True Grit", " The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "The Outlaw Josey Wales", and "One-Eyed Jacks". I could watch all four of those movies a hundred times before watching the four I plinked ever again. Although, Julie Christie... NO!
Tomorrow: Sports
And, no, that picture of Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield has nothing to do with the AFI lists. It just means, "Hooray for Hollywood!"