Friday, June 1, 2012

AFI Part III of IV (48-26)

A Network of Classics


      Keep on, Keepin' on!~ And just as a brief reminder, I'm planning to update these posts intermittently as I expand my blog. Please do not be alarmed by the lack of written content for the majority of my selections. My only real intention at this point is to display without illustration or demonstration which films in the two-AFI 100 editions comprise my own. Eventually, and perhaps sporadically, I'll elucidate on why I chose this film and why said film is ranked where it is. Remember, twenty-three films missed the cut and I've undergone quite extensive revisionism to produce my list.



48). From Here to Eternity
      From Here to Eternity is the quintessential period drama and it just so happens to unfold in the epicenter of 20th Century American History. It is the film that Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor desperately sought to recreate, woefully falling short. Not only does Fred Zinnemann capture that iconic moment in history, the day Japan "awakened a sleeping giant," but he also evokes, through the most elegant lens, fierce humanism. It is not a postcard of a time and place ruptured by the travails of war, but a painting which conflates the harsh realities of life with the quiet yet surging moralities of battered men and women. 
      The cast is stunning. Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Warden are all put to incredible use, and their performances, enhanced by Zinnemann's textured atmosphere, project off the screen a poignant romanticism. Zinnemann and company, without being superficial or sentimental, delve unflinchingly into the burdens of manhood. And while the proceedings are colored by tragedy and the events exploited, FHTE still bursts with resolute purpose. It is the rare film that simultaneously strains optimistic souls, tunneling through caves of despair, while warming the coldest of hearts.



47). Blade Runner
      Ridley Scott's Prometheus is so close I can taste it. And my anticipation, hovering at ungodly heights, can be justified by two films whose impact, necessitated by a primal journey to a "galaxy far, far away," (Thank you, Lucas) fostered an unshakable lust for science fiction. My cinematic love affair, now indestructible, was cultivated by filmmakers who were bound by an limitless imagination and an arsenal of visual craft both grandiose and intimate. My cerebral cortex, at the height of adolescence, was nourished by their dynamic flourishes into the cosmos. Men like Ridley Scott, Phillip K. Dick, David Peoples, and Hampton Fancher, chaperoned these forays into fascinating but uncertain worlds. 
      Despite Scott's blemished track record, he is still chiefly responsible for two landmark science fiction films. Blade Runner is perhaps the clearest example of his visionary talent. Alien is probably his most celebrated work. Both films are testaments to Scott's flair for prodigious composition, and specifically, his meticulous harvest of a concentrated mood and atmosphere. Prometheus, marking a certain return to science fiction for the master, is once again so close I can taste it. 



46). 12 Angry Men
      Sidney Lumet's feature-film debut stands as one of the most accomplished. With an uncompromisingly simplistic set-up—the majority of the film occurs in one tiny Jury Room—Lumet excavates colossal artifacts of humanity, of what it means to be human, from one of the most impressively acted films in cinema history. Lumet's tactful approach gleams insights into the dynamics of lenses, the principles of composition, and the importance of camera angles. Lessons are to be learned not only of the character variety, but the art of filmmaking itself. 
      Lumet is a treasure of cinema, but his idea of a bounty consisted not of material gain, but an understanding of hardship. He was often provoked by angst, controversy, inner-turmoil. And in 12 Angry Men, he ascends the mountains of humanity by rigorously examining man's identity. The film mirrors the fabric of New York City unapologetically without false sentiment. An ethnic minefield of personalities color his careful lenses, breathing life into a courtroom drama whose very premise is deliberately claustrophobic. This is a film that demands attention from every conscious moviegoer in every corner of the world. The egalitarianism Lumet's message breathlessly ruminates deserves warmth from every blanket of civilization. 



45). Unforgiven
       I've already sufficiently extolled the virtues of Clint Eastwood's masterwork. My effusive thoughts can be found here. 



44). The Silence of the Lambs
      One celebrated work, decorated by the Academy with the "Big Five" Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay) has already garnered my sincere praise. There are however three films which enjoy this unprecedented achievement. Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs is lucky number three. 
      My first and most immediate recollection of Demme's exhilarating union of horror and crime is Anthony Hopkins, who impregnates Hannibal Lecter with such forceful antipathy that he becomes, in my most flamboyant, alliterative display yet,  a maddening maestro of malevolence. Invigorated by such grim charisma and aided by Sir Hopkins' unrelenting, magnetizing performance, Lecter functions as a kind of unmatched wily mutant of evil. Despite the horror he wreaks upon humanity, it is impossible to look away. And Jodie Foster, the rare feminine protagonist who evinces a steely, unbroken resolve, is exceptional. Their scenes together are less chilling and frightening (Buffalo Bill's lurid depravity always scared me more as a kid particularly in the final act) than they are simply riveting. It's psychological warfare at its best, and Demme, like any great commander of men and women, knows precisely which buttons to push. For the versatile Hopkins, Demme simply pushes the "Revile" button. Foster, as the foil, imbues Clarice Starling with hardened determination and intelligence. Demme; therefore, need only push the "Ellen Ripley" button.



43). Vertigo



42). Bonnie and Clyde



41). Patton



40). A Clockwork Orange



39). The Philadelphia Story



38). Duck Soup



37). Ben-Hur



36). Network



35). Rear Window



34). City Lights



33). Platoon



32). The Best Years of Our Lives



31). One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest



30). Jaws




29). Raiders of the Lost Ark



28). Cabaret



27). The Manchurian Candidate



26). Singing in the Rain

*****STAY TUNED FOR PART IV: 25-1*****

10 comments:

  1. What a list! And I love how you describe Clarice. SOTL is one of my favorite films of all time. I would add that Clarice is rare because she is one of the few female characters "allowed" to be steely in an equal way to her male counterparts. So few H-wood films ever portray women on an absolute equal footing with men. We are constantly softened,seen as the "weaker", "fairer" sex. We can act tough, but must remain inherently feminine (guns and skirts, blech!). Our villains are referred to as villainesses and we're bitches/witches for the most part. We kill because of broken hearts or because we're driven to do it by saving someone like kids. God, do I loathe those stereotypes. Ellen Ripley kicked in those doors even more than Princess Leia, who was at the end of the day, shooting in a dress and left behind when the boys went to the Death Star. To add insult, after she tried to rescue her boyfriend, she ended up chained to a giant blob in a slave girl outfit. Thank you, George Lucas for giving we women a taste of equality, then yanking it all away. I still prefer the original SW trilogy, though. :)

    And there I go on a rant. Sorry! My thoughts get a way with me as I type. I loved all of these movies and cannot wait to see your final 25. I'm really looking forward to your number one and wonder if it will be Scorsese who occupies that spot. You've inspired me to write my own list of greatest films in the near future, but it will be considerably different than anything AFI has done. LOL

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    Replies
    1. Mel, I'm generally not one to declare favorites, but you are by far my most wonderful reader :)

      Your analysis of Clarice is spot-on. I actually should have elaborated further on the importance of her character. As if it's not abundantly clear already—come on, WAKE UP, HOLLYWOOD!—women are just as effective and fierce a protagonist as men. I would argue they can be greater reservoirs of intrigue than men. And I actually had a legitimate LOL moment at your acid description of prior "feminine" roles. You always bring out the proper sass :)

      By the way, I enjoy your rants a little too much. So, feel free to indulge my curiosities as often as you like.

      I hope you enjoy my Top 25 as much as my other picks. And I encourage you to create your own list of greatest films. I would love to carry over the discussion to your blog :)

      P.S. As you know, this list does not accurately reflect my personal 100 Greatest Films of All-Time list. Though I am tempted to construct that list at some point down the road (maybe we can do so concurrently!). Of course you can expect a significant International presence.

      Delete
  2. One week to Prometheus. Expecting something epic. I will admit though, Aliens was better than Alien.
    Good to see Raiders on the list. Still the best adventure movie ever made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YESSSSS! Can you tell I"m overly enthusiastic, perhaps irrationally so, about Prometheus's opening!?!?

      And I evaluate Alien and Aliens separately. They diverge quite significantly in terms of pacing, atmosphere, and style. But regardless, both films are tremendously provocative, and most important, fun.

      Absolutely! Raiders is one of my All-Time favorite adventure films.

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  3. Impressive list! Jaws, SOTL, 12 Angry Men, ROTLA and Rear Window are all amazing movies. You're a true classic movie connoisseur, and I admire you for that reason, because I'm more of a mainstream cinema kind of guy. Bring on the rest of the list. I'm officially curious. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the lofty praise, George!

      It's funny. We're sort of examining two divergent but especially important aspects of cinema: You're keeping me up-to-date and educated on contemporary films while I'm keeping you interested on the classics (Not to say that either of us are neglecting either aspect). Together we comprise one formidable tandem :) I'd hate to be the one to probe our cinema-obsessed minds because there would be too much to decipher.

      Hope you enjoy my Top 25!

      Delete
  4. I loved Raiders and Jaws. I've never seen a few of these. I guess I'll have to look them up. Great list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those two films are landmarks of cinema. Any "Greatest American Films" list would be disingenuous and incomplete without their inclusion.

      Thanks, Ciara!

      Delete
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