For New Yorkers, the Los Angeles–based list is predictably awful, but still worse than the last: Do The Right Thing's token inclusion at pitiful No. 94 stings worse than its omission in 1997 and many of the city's great filmmakers are still missing (Cassavetes, for starters). We never expected to see some of our personal faves (David Edelstein respects no list without Larry Cohen's Q, for instance), but we began fuming when we noticed that mainstream picks like Sweet Smell of Success and Scarlett Street didn't even make the 400-film ballot. Then we noticed Mean Streets was off the list and grew angrier. Our pique peaked when we noticed that Toy Story had been added — and Woody Allen's Manhattan had not.I love the New York perspective that it's all a big struggle between the two giant coastal cities. It's so Woody Allenish. And the Woody Allen film they put on the list -- "Annie Hall" -- is itself about the struggle between the two cities. One character is deeply, neurotically bonded to New York (and a basket case on his trip to L.A. ) and the other blooms in L.A. By contrast, "Manhattan" fixates on Manhattan. Nowhere else matters.
The AFI's list is obviously not the 100 best films, but a collection of best films fiitting various categories that seem significant enough to include. Although a few directors -- Hitchcock, Scorsese, Chaplin -- are given more than one slot, it's pretty obvious that there is a second level category that the AFI deemed worthy of one slot. Thus, we have one, but only one D.W. Griffith film on the list (and it's not "Birth of a Nation"), and one but only one Woody Allen film. It's not a question, then, of whether "Manhattan" is better than "Ben-Hur," but only which Woody Allen film should get the Woody Allen slot.
This is my second post on the AFI list, and in the first, I said I'd tell you the films on the list I haven't seen, so let me do that now:
30. "Apocalypse Now," 1979.Four of those movies I've had in my DVD collection for years and keep meaning to watch. I'm not able to admit that I never want to watch them. Three of them have made it into the DVD player. Two of those I tried to watch, maybe for an hour, then paused. I still half think -- months or years later -- that I'm going to finish. The third is the DVD I chose to test out my HDTV when I first set it up. I watched 5 minutes and thought -- brilliant! -- why have I gone all these years without seeing this movie?
45. "Shane," 1953.
59. "Nashville," 1975.
66. "Raiders of the Lost Ark," 1981.
72. "The Shawshank Redemption," 1994.
73. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," 1969.
81. "Spartacus," 1960.
82. "Sunrise," 1927.
90. "Swing Time," 1936.
95. "The Last Picture Show," 1971.
100. "Ben-Hur," 1959.
One of those movies -- "Sunrise" -- is something I would have seen long ago if it were around and playing in the revival houses back in the 1970s when I did most of my catching up with movies that were made before my time. It's not on DVD either. So my failure to see that says nothing about my preferences.
The rest of them... it just doesn't matter. I've had enough Fred and Ginger in various clips of their dancing and don't need to sit through "Swing Time." And a few of those movies I actively snubbed when they first ran, and I don't feel any more warmly toward them because they made this list.
As for "Shane," well, I used to love the old TV show "Shane," with David Carradine. That's the original for me personally.