So The Better Half and I, for no reason other than it's getting cold out and we seek excuses not to leave the house, have decided to watch the AFI's 2007 Top 100 American Movies list, in reverse order. We watch a movie every Monday, and another one if the time allows. We also may add in some/all of the movies dropped from the 1998 list, if we get so inclined. Movies movies movies. Brief thoughts on each in this ever updating post...
#100 - Ben Hur: Boy howdy is this movie LONG. They could have knocked an hour off if they just cut all the character reaction shots in half. Lawd, lawd. It's stunningly beautiful, and that chariot race is deservedly awe-inspiring... That said, we were decidedly not prepared for Jesus Himself to appear periodically in the literal Deus Ex Machina role. Also, Charlton Heston repeatedly describing himself petulantly as a Jew is something to see. Glad we saw it, probably never watch it again.
#99 - Toy Story: How is this movie just as touching and vibrant 20+ years down the road? The detail, the script, the animation, the performances... everything about this movie works like gangbusters. Just a remarkable achievement. 10/10, will see again.
#98 - Yankee Doodle Dandy: Woof. No thank you please. Nearly half as long as Ben Hur, but felt longer. Stilted dialogue, boring direction, uber-patriotic at a time when such knee-jerk jingoism is as hard to stomach as ever. Can't decide how "funny" it wants to be. Songs are okay if you're into that kind of thing (melodically, anyway: the less said about the garbage lyrics, the better). This was a CHORE. Didn't like any of the characters, didn't understand the motivations of most, didn't care about the rest.
#97 - Blade Runner: Saw this once, years ago, left me so cold I felt certain that I just didn't get it. Watched it again this week, and...meh. Pretty as hell, interesting world-building, wants to be super deep and it really just isn't. Harrison Ford in the early 80s plays "man of action getting the crap kicked out of him before eventually triumphing over opponent" better than just about anyone ever. First nudity on the list, if that's a thing that interests you. Will watch 2049 sometime, now that I at least can remember the plot of the first movie... was okay. Not my favorite. Better than Yankee Doodle Dandy, shorter than Ben Hur, far less enjoyable than Toy Story.
#96 - Do The Right Thing: Wow, what a movie. Vibrant, colorful, energetic. Not quite like anything else I've seen (and I've seen a handful of Spike Lee joints, just not this one). Honestly I'm not 100% sure that casting himself in a fairly important role was the world's best choice, but his low-key approach to acting does play pretty well off of the high-energy direction. Striking, thought-provoking, really an enjoyable watch. It's clear why he's one of our most important directors, even if he can be a little didactic from time to time. Def belongs on this list (and maybe even a little higher).
#95 - The Last Picture Show: First movie on the list that I knew NOTHING about... it's a moving little picture, quiet and searching. Baby Jeff Bridges, baby Cybill Shepherd, Frau Blucher in a non-comedic, sympathetic role... it's definitely a "dude" coming of age story (not to be confused with "The Dude" coming of age, tho wouldn't that be interesting?). Maybe the first really understated movie on this list.
#94 - Pulp Fiction: Well, what more is there to say about Pulp Fiction? If we hadn't just watched Spike Lee, this would be the loudest, brashest thing we'd seen thus far. Great script, great direction, killer soundtrack, this is one of the movies of my youth. Even makes Travolta almost seem human and normal. Samuel L Jackson is never as great at cussing as he is with Tarantino cussing. As a kid I seem to recall hating Bruce Willis' girlfriend; I have no idea why, now. Great flick.
#93 - The French Connection: Okay, look. We all know Gene Hackman is great. We all know Roy Scheider is great. William Friedkin is pretty swell. This movie is...fine. The chase scene is legitimately lauded, makes an interesting use of tension, and who doesn't a super-gritty, contemporaneous look at early 70s New York? That said... I've seen this movie twice in the last maybe six months, and I'm still not 100% sure I can explain the plot, nor how lots of individual scenes fit the plot. It's almost more of a mood poem than a narrative at times, which is interesting, but...
#92 - Goodfellas: I always forget that I like this movie way less than other people do. It's fine, entertaining enough I guess, but I don't really like any of the characters, nor their choices, and I don't think there's anything particularly interesting in the direction either. It's certainly a well-made movie, and it's not without its charms... but every time I see it I like it less than the time before, and I don't recall a time when I particularly liked it initially. It seems like it can't really decide if it's a cautionary tale or not, and it just doesn't grab me. Feel like we've got the Godfather (and Part II) on this list already, was Goodfellas really necessary too?
#91 - Sophie's Choice: This is...not at all the movie I was expecting. Meryl Streep is (unsurprisingly) incandescent (and does just unbelievable accent work), Kevin Kline in his first (!) movie is quite clearly a star from the moment he walks on screen, Peter MacNichol is...fine... I'm not a huge fan of melodrama in general, and each of the three main characters feels like they could be the focus of the movie, and none (in my opinion) have really satisfying arcs. Glad I've seen it, not likely to see it again, not sure that I'd recommend it (which isn't to say it wasn't GOOD...?). Some really beautiful scenes paired with some completely confusing and unnecessary ones.
#90 - Swing Time: Let's not kid ourselves, Fred & Ginger can DANCE. And they can act. And sing. That said, there isn't really a whole lot of movie here. And frankly, not even all that many dancing numbers? I think you absolutely need a Fred & Ginger movie on this list, but I'm not really convinced this was the one. And that's without the surprise blackface. Musicals got better at having plots, and tying those plots to the songs...