Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hey look! it's the AFI Top Ten Top Ten list!

This three hour TV show was on last night and I made it through about the first hour and a half before doing the dishes became more important. Top ten lists are always fun because they're always so disagreeable, but I tend to view them as somewhat educational. I mean, if all the "experts" are getting together to vote on what's "important", don't you want to see how your opinions jive with the experts'? And if there were ever a set of Experts who really knew how things work in the world, it's Movie Experts.

Well, they didn't ask me. This list rides the line of mind-boggling and asinine, and reading it you can easily fall off either side of the horse. First they come up with the "Top Ten Genres", which is awesome because I didn't realize there were even ten genres to begin with. Seriously, did you know "animation" was a genre? I mean, I suppose it is. I always thought it was a technique, personally. I guess "Foreign Language" and "Black and White" didn't make it into the top ten genres. And we have "Courtroom Drama" and "Gangster" here, which is fine, too, I guess. Still, "Movies Located in Peru" and "Movies with Incas" could fall into that sort of categorization method. Note that there is no "Action" or "Adventure" genre, thus excluding anything with Indiana Jones. What genre is Raiders of the Lost Ark anyway? Why is all this important again?

I am particularly bothered by the "Sci-Fi" genre which the American Film Institute defines as "a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation." Look, I went to college. Did the AFI experts go to college? No, they went to AFI. This is why they put E.T., Back to the Future, and Star Wars on the Sci-Fi genre list. Excuse me professor, those movies are all fantasy. It should be obvious. Please explain your decision. The truth is, half of those Sci-Fi movies on the list are fantasy and the other half are only vaguely literate science fiction (except for Blade Runner and Terminator 2.) If they had just defined Sci-Fi as "having something to do, even remotely, with outer space" then you'd get no argument from me. It's always bothered me that no one understands what Science Fiction really is. Clearly, I have been wrong all along. I take back what I said.

Sports. Fine, it could be a genre. You have the underdog destined to win, either through contest or triumph of the spirit. He is the Everyman with a talent in a game. It conflicts with his home life, but his passion to win will make him complete, inspiring the world around him. But hey, I suggest we define it somewhat more loosely, like say, "films with protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition," that way we can slip Caddyshack in there at number seven and disregard that boring Chariots of Fire flick altogether. Or The Natural, anyone? It's shocking that Blazing Saddles didn't make it into the Top Ten Westerns, but that would so easily make it onto the Top Ten Comedies list.

Oh wait, "Comedies" didn't make the Top Ten Genres. Neither did "Musicals", "Horror", "Thrillers", or "Documentaries".

"Epic" is a genre. "Boring" could also be a genre. Most of these films are actually pretty good, but so are so many other films that vaguely have an epic sensibility about them. "Mystery" is a genre. "Noir" could also be a genre, but no one knows how to pronounce it. "Arthouse" could be a genre. Then we'd actually have a place for Blue Velvet, instead of having to shoehorn it into "Mystery." There are a bunch of Hitchcock films in there. "Hitchcock" could be a genre. When we run out of lists, we'll just have the "Top Ten Your Favorite Director/Star/Writer/Whatever Movies." Raiders would finally make a few lists!

These lists must make AFI a lot of money, because they keep putting them out. Bored people like me keep watching them, too, so I guess I blame myself, but I just like to see a bunch of my favorite scenes from a bunch of great movies all at once. It's my attention deficit disorder. I was hooked last night when they showed scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -a terrific movie, and a total pleasure to watch. Rent it.

Here's a genre for the ADD set: "Top Ten Montages of Sweet Movies."

And everyone in Hollywood will agree, Precious Images is number 1. It's eight minutes long and a feast for the senses. It makes movie lovers weep every time. If you've seen a lot of movies, it will rock your memory cells. Most of all, it will remind you how great movies are, what great movies are, how many great movies there are, and why top ten movie lists are so utterly meaningless.