Well, one down, one to go. I have been working on two major “lists” over the past few years. One is the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time, which I have just over 90 more to go and the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies 400 nominations. This was for the 2007 list. And, as of last week, I finally finished the entire list. A journey that spanned almost 10 years.
There are plenty of things that I’ve written or said about these films. There were plenty that I liked, many that I really, really liked and a good bit that I really didn’t. When people ask me why I do it, the answer is the same as to why I listen to the RS list: To force me to experience things that I wouldn’t have on my own; either by choice or ignorance or even a mixture of both.
There are many things on this list that I had never heard of. There were things that I had heard of but had decided that I didn’t care about that “genre” of film or had seen enough of them. There were some that had actors that I didn’t think that I liked. There were things that I thought: well, that person is cheesy or I’m not in the mood for a ‘rom com’ or I remember ‘so-n-so’ telling me it was awful and I trust their opinion. The list goes on and on. But, in that thinking, I was missing out on a lot.
One of the first films that I found early on, that I had somehow never heard of, that stands as my “model” of why the list is a good tool, was It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. A rich girl runs away and is aided by a dashing reporter that needs a story. Is it the greatest film ever? No. Is it something that I want to watch over and over? No. But, I would watch it again, several times over my lifetime. I thought it was a fantastic film that I really, really enjoyed and actually purchased for my mother, whose favorite film of all time is Gone With The Wind and is a big Gable fan. I told her this is pre-Rhett and she may like it. I don’t know if she watched it or not. The point is: I wouldn’t have seen the film, or probably ever heard of it, and if I had eventually heard of it, I wouldn’t have watched it; not my bag. But, I am glad I watched it, it was great.
Other greats that I came across (some may have actually been in the final 100): All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), An American in Paris (1951), The Apartment (1960), Beau Geste (1939), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Big Sleep (1946), Blackboard Jungle (1955), Breaking Away (1979), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Broadcast News (1987), Bullitt (1968), The Color Purple (1985), Coming Home (1978), The Conversation (1974), Dances with Wolves (1990), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The Deer Hunter (1978), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Double Indemnity (1944), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), East of Eden (1955), The English Patient (1996), Five Easy Pieces (1970), Funny Girl (1968), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), The Gold Rush (1925), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), Gunga Din (1939), In the Heat of the Night (1967), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Killing Fields (1984), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Longest Day (1962), The Lost Weekend (1945), The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Mean Streets (1973), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Network (1976), Now, Voyager (1942), On Golden Pond (1981), On the Waterfront (1954), Out of Africa (1985), The Philadelphia Story (1940), A Place in the Sun (1951), The Quiet Man (1952), Raging Bull (1980), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), The Searchers (1956), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Sophie’s Choice (1982), Stagecoach (1939), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Terms of Endearment (1983), The Third Man (1949), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), 12 Angry Men (1957), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).This is not, by any means, meant to stand as all that I liked or that I thought they were the greatest, only that I enjoyed watching them. There are more than that.
A few that I didn’t care for? Actually, I’m going to spare you that. Let’s just say that many of the old silent films were a real challenge for my short attention span. Many of them were hard to follow, for me. Some, like Porgy & Bess (1959) and The French Connection (1971), among several others that are escaping me right now, I just don’t get the appeal. Not my thing, and I don’t understand why they’re on this list, other than others thought they were that good. They’re just not my preference.
A few takeaways and revelations I got from this list are: I never gave John Wayne enough credit; his films are mostly really good. I’m thinking I had pre-perceived idea that I didn’t like westerns. Not the biggest of fans of it, still, but I found some that I liked. I had always shied away from most war films as war isn’t something that appeals to me, still isn’t, but films about WWI, especially, really captured my interest, except for some of the silent pictures. WWII was the same. I found that Humphrey Bogart, although he overacts and it seems forced sometimes, is one of my favorite actors of all time. Cary Grant? The same. I had always thought that 1939 was the greatest year in cinematic history and this, to me, confirms that. This list alone has 13 of them: Babes in Arms; Beau Geste; Destry Rides Again; Gone With the Wind; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Gunga Din; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Ninotchka; Only Angels Have Wings; Stagecoach; Wizard of Oz; Wuthering Heights; Young Mr. Lincoln.
Overall, this list did what it was supposed to do, for me, introduce me to new things whilst building on the popular understanding of what makes the list truly a “greatest” list. This list was compiled by industry people: executives, directors, producers, actors, basically top-level leaders in the industry. More than 1500 of them, actually. So, it wasn’t just a few “know-it-alls” that picked their faves. It was based on merit and favor.
I loved doing this list. And, I’m not done. My goal was to finish this before 2017 as I have a feeling an updated list will show up soon, after; a 20-year makeover. But, there are other lists that I’ve been working on like two morbidly titled ones: the Yahoo! 100 Movies You Must See Before You Die and the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, which has several versions, I’ll go with the one I have and modify as I see fit. I’m going to use my checklist of this list to populate the checklist in that massive book. I’ll need to wear my readers and invest in a magnifying glass to do so, but hey, I’ll do what I gotta.
So, to my friend Caitlin (not of The Less Desirables), that I started the list off with in 2007-08 when we raced to see who saw the Top 100 finalists first (she won by a few hours), thank you for that part of the journey. I love you for it and many other things. To Netflix (DVD.com) and the old Blockbuster mail movie services, thank you for being available for me to knock off the first half of the list and thank you to Netflix streaming for helping me with about the next third. Thank you to Blockbuster for going out of business and me grabbing a few things on the list, used. Thank you to Amazon and eBay for helping me find the things that weren’t available otherwise. Thank you to torrents for the out-of-print stuff. Thank you to some oddball social sites and YouTube that actually had a few of the toughest to find films. Thank you to The BCPF for letting me finish it, in hopes that I didn’t drive her crazy in the process. Thank you, Dear Reader, for letting me rant on about it so much. If you have questions about any of it, ask. Some of it has been so long since I’ve seen the films that I had to revisit their IMDb pages to refresh my memories. Thank you AFI for having the list and introducing me to new films.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.” – Joe Gillis (William Holden) in Sunset Blvd. (1950).