June 17, 2008

Did you watch AFI's 10 Top 10?

They had the 10 top movies in 10 genres. If you didn't spend 3 hours watching the show, you can absorb the 10 lists easily in about 3 minutes here. I see that over at Television Without Pity the commenters are mostly quibbling about what belongs in which genre and whether they picked the right 10 genres. That was my reaction too.

I was asking: Why are war movies grouped with epic movies? Is "Titanic" an epic movie or a disaster movie or a historical costume drama? The answer seemed to be epic — but only because disaster and historical costume drama were not among the chosen genres.

But what is a genre movie anyway? If a movie doesn't fit in one and only one genre, doesn't that make it not a genre movie? I mean, "Pulp Fiction" isn't a gangster movie, is it? Yet that is how the AFI classified it.

My most-seen category: sci-fi. I've seen them all. My least-seen category? Ironically, it's courtroom dramas.

See what the problem is with these lists? You feel like talking about everything except whether the films are good.

27 comments:

John Lynch said...

Gangster? Huh? Kinda odd to have gangster but not war? Does that say something about us?

John Stodder said...

Genres were great -- in the 50s.

Seems like the game now is more to target audience segments. Hence "chick flicks" and indie films for the unbitter and unclingy and the Apatow-style horny comedies for the guys. When they want mass appeal, they make a superhero flick and try to graft all the genres/segments together, which leaves you with a movie like Spiderman, rife with overthinking, pseudo-"dark" elements, a female character the gals can identify with, but finally with the mega-action payoff.

dewb said...

"Clockwork Orange" is sci-fi? "Field of Dreams" is fantasy?

The Mystery category seems the most defensible. I've seen them all except "Laura" -- which I must rent immediately if it truly belongs between Rear Window and The Third Man.

blake said...

Well, yeah, dewb: "Clockwork" is sci-fi (dystopic subgenre) and "Field of Dreams" is fantasy (light fantasy).

Would you lump them together as "drama"?

dewb said...

Sure, I see why they were put in those categories. Clockwork Orange, being set in some near-future Britain, clearly has strong sci-fi elements, but it is not a genre picture by any stretch. My impression of the AFI's intent was to pick the best genre films, not pick a handful of the best films and shoehorn them into the genre they matched most closely.

While "Field of Dreams" is certainly fantastical ("treacle" might be a better word) it has a lot more in common with the movies that AFI called Sports than the ones in Fantasy. It's about American history, fathers and sons, and aspiration. It's not about positing rich and allegorical worlds of the imagination.

Think of it this way: Someone rents a movie for the two of you to watch, claims it's fantasy, and asks you to guess what it is. Would you feel cheated if after you gave up they told you it was "Field of Dreams"?

I'm probably just reiterating the TWoP discussion Ann mentioned, which I haven't read yet, so I'll stop.

Outis said...

Pulp Fiction is a movie about a bunch of gangsters doing a bunch of gangster shit. Why wouldn't it be considered a gangster movie?

blake said...

Well, dewb, I guess it depends on who I was talking to. Like, when I was a kid, I saw It's A Wonderful Life, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, the '70s remake Heaven Can Wait, and the original Heaven Can wait all described as "fantasy".

Somewhere in there I began to realize that high fantasy was actually pretty rare in Hollywood, and adjusted my expectations accordingly. So, I think AFI's classification is pretty usual.

And flipping over, I see they put in It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and Harvey which are all pretty much about the same stuff Field of Dreams is, without the economic overtones.

Taxonomically speaking, yeah, it's weird lumping in light fantasy with "sword and sorcery", "fairy tale" and "monster movie", but these are films that don't usually get much respect. The three horror films on the list are all in "sci-fi".

As for Field of Dreams, I wouldn't consider it a sports movie, and seeing Caddyshack on the list makes me wonder why they didn't put The Big Lebowski on as a "bowling" movie.

blake said...

I see your point, basically, and concur with the objection that the genres are not particularly inspired.

Revenant said...

Having an "Animation" list and restricting it to American movies is like having a "Best Western Films" list and restricting it to Italian movies -- you get some great movies, but ignore most of the best.

Susan said...

I know this doesn't stay on point, but the top ten courtroom dramas without "Inherit the Wind"? Feh.

Christy said...

I could see Pulp Fiction as a romantic comedy.

Reds, #9 in Epic, was a piece of self-indulgent crap. Real history books are infinitely more entertaining.

The Ten Commandments really doesn't hold up well.

I've never thought Raging Bull was that great, but concede that maybe, just maybe, being a girl I cannot appreciate it fully.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Does Tom Hanks work for AFI?

bearbee said...

Bambi scarred me for life.... hate, hate, hate it. Saw it at a very young age and still remember shock at Bambi's mother murder. At 12 or 13 I figured I could see it in a more dispassionate and kindly light.....it was worst the second time.

Sports - Why no Seabiscuit? Raging Bull is beautiful.

Fantasy - Missing film is Mr. Obama....err ...Smith Goes to Washington. The greatest bs fantasy of 'em all.

Epic -Lawrence of Arabia - the best ever. Schindlers List? Hardly epic.

Brando's death scene in Godfather I. Great stuff

No Elia Kazan? Being punished by Hollywood elites? Since AFI is shoehorning how about: Gangster - On the Waterfront, Western - Viva Zapata

Reds, #9 in Epic, was a piece of self-indulgent crap. Real history books are infinitely more entertaining.

Agree

Does Tom Hanks work for AFI?

Was wondering why Big was selected. Ditto Boring in Seattle

No room at the inn for The Grapes of Wrath?

More AFI categories coming? Hollywood loves to admire itself. It keeps recycling itself. An indication of its creative decline.

SteveR said...

Reds? huh

More or less neuters the whole thing.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Caddyshack is a sports movie? That was the only one that I had seen in that category. I also had only seen one of the westerns. ALL of the sci fi, mystery and courtroom films.

It IS really tough to pigeonhole a movie into one category and as someone said....the classification is in the eye of the beholder.

Ann Althouse said...

"Pulp Fiction" is a black comedy.

"Clockwork Orange" is cultural/political satire. If it's science fiction, then "1984" is science fiction.

Also, why did some English and New Zealandish films get in? Wasn't it supposed to be all American?

Ann Althouse said...

I think some films ranked because they had clips for celebs to talk about. Rob Reiner had to blab about Meg Ryan's orgasm for the hundredth time and then also got to do a lengthy imitation of Lee J. Cobb. Ugh! Spare me!

And "Bambi" isn't such a great animation, but it gives every wizened old actress a chance to say that Bambi's mother's death made her cry. Such awful drivel.

And, yeah, it seems that Tom Hanks owns AFI. (And yet, isn't "Philadelphia" a courtroom drama?)

Kirk Parker said...

Nice to see Unforgiven make th e list for Westerns, but how come there is no category for Spaghetti Westerns??? Clearly the AFI is not serious.

Now, in terms of hating a certain well-known animation, I blame Bambi for the fact that every American suburb is overrun with $#*@&&^! deer and we don't seem to be able to do a #*&*@@!!! thing about it!

rastajenk said...

Surprising there's not Musical genre. They don't make 'em much now, but for the first 3/4's of movie-making history, they were chart-toppers.

William said...

My mother claims that she was scarred for life when I started laughing and applauding when Bambi's mother became venison. Do women cry when the Alien phallic symbol is destroyed by Signourey Weaver?

gophermomeh said...

Fields of Dreams, not fantasy? Ghost ballplayers disappearing into a cornfield and only seen by believers?

Caddyshack - yes, a sports movie. You can't play a round of golf without someone quoting it.

Where was Slapshot? Hands down, best sports movie ever.

Christy said...

And what's with Harold and Maude's inclusion as a romantic comedy (#9)? Does this mean I no longer must hang my head in shame when I mention how many times I've seen it?

Brian O'Connell said...

1984 is science fiction.

As a big genre fan, it kind of cheeses me off that some of the best and most well-respected SF works are "removed" from the category.

"Where are the monsters and spaceships and laser battles? This isn't sci-fi!"

Meh.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

The first thing I saw last night was 'Cat Ballou' being named 10th best Western.

What the Hell!?!?

Is that the only way they had of getting Jane Fonda's face on TV?

I was pleasantly suprised to see three of the Duke's classics in the western catagory; after the poor choice for #10 I figured he'd get snubbed again.

Where is Trooper York today? Probably crying in his beer still over some of these "winners".

Joe said...

Romantic comedy, but not comedy and no War Film category.

Of course, all AFI films lists are self-indulgent crap, though I must admit some of their inclusions were a little out of their ordinary fair.

Turns out I've seen 88 of the 100 films in entirely and couldn't sit through an additional two.

blake said...

Troop and I both ran with it, figuring the problem is, partly, the categories.

He was more productive, and came up with some creative categories. Check it out. His current top category is "Top Ten Movies with Commie Bitchs that are too good to miss." Heh. Just keep scrolling.

My own thoughts and where I solicit category ideas. I'm currently trying to work out a "best post-apocalyptic" or "best dystopic" list. The idea is to really try for apples-to-apples comparisons, not like comparing "Harvey" to "Lord of the Rings".

Bill said...

I agree with Kirk Parker on spaghetti westerns. They should have been represented. But one of my favorite westerns was never mentioned. "HOMBRE" certainly belongs in the top ten...I mean come on...Cat Ballou?????
Hombre was Newman at his best and the movie was ahead of its time.