Do You Belong Here?

My friend Sunny who told me on the weekend that when he reads my blogs he is hoping to one day find a review on a film he’s actually watched – I guess he is expecting something like ‘Iron Man(2008)’ or ‘Training Day (2001)’ to be featured.

Perhaps in the twentieth anniversary there might be some representation of the modern comic, superhero, fantasy genre which seems to be lacking in the current list. But I can put my money on a film like ‘Superman (1978)’ being added long before ‘The Avengers’ (2012) is.  Not because it is necessarily better or more popular than the blockbuster starring Scarlett Johansson, but it did the genre first and is therefore arguably more culturally significant, which is a major criteria for the movies to be considered for the countdown.  Just as I explained why ‘Jaws’ (1975, AFI 1998: #46, 2007:#56) deserved its spot on the AFI top 100 list – It influenced countless of (mostly terrible) horror movies that followed suit or why ‘On the Waterfront (1954, 1998:#8, 2007:#19)’ is regarded so highly on the list. Not only because is it a terrific movie, but it has the timeless “I could have been somebody” line that everyone seems to know (but sadly more and more non classic movies lovers are forgetting where it originated from).

I’ve probably so far watched around sixty classic movies featured on the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time lists and so I’ve agreed that most films earned a place on the prestigious countdown.  But there are some movies that I just don’t understand how they made the cut.

Fonda and Hopper speak on Jack Nicholson’s role in ‘Easy Rider’

For example I don’t see what the big deal is about ‘East Rider (1969, 1998:#88, 2007:#84)’, a coming of age movie about two bikers who travel through the South. It stars Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda who with the money they made through drug smuggling go on an adventure across America where they meet some characters along the way. One of them is pre-frame and very young Jack Nicholson who even though is my favourite modern movie star and plays the role of a drunken Lawyer very convincingly, doesn’t regain my interest in the movie. Although the feature gives a good insight to life in late sixties America the plot is really thin and at times I had to rewind the film because I was getting distracted. The ending is the biggest shock of the film and comes totally unexpected and is definitely the highlight of the film.

Trailer for ‘Easy Rider’

I guess the movie was very unique and taboo busting at the time because it dealt with the hippie movement, recreational use of drugs and promiscuity – all pretty tame by modern standards and done better by Midnight Cowboy (1969, 1998;#36, 2007: #43). I give the movie 2 out of 5 and that’s mostly for the killer soundtrack!

Jack Nicholson seals the show in ‘Easy Rider’

Have I Seen This?

There are some films on the AFI top 100 movies of all time list that you are certain you haven’t seen, I never heard of ‘Duck Soup’ until I began this challenge more than two years ago. But then there are those films that are so famous, so iconic that you’re not actually sure you have seen before.

I know I have seen bits and bobs of E.T. – the famous scene where Drew Barrymore discovers him for the first time, the part where the forensic team sections off the house where the little boy was hiding E.T and obviously that memorable bike ride. But I’m not quite sure I have actually seen Spielberg’s most personal production from beginning to end which is a criteria I must stick to when completing this challenge. I don’t even remember how the movie started. So my dilemma is should I count these movies as ones that I have seen or re-watch them again?

These films are the ones that I’m not quite sure I’ve seen from beginning to end on the AFI top 100 list:

Film Release year 1998 rank 2007 rank
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982 25 24
Jaws 1975 48 56
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 49 34
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 65 74
Saving Private Ryan 1998 71
Ben-Hur 1959 72 100
Rocky 1976 78 57

I think its only fair to see these films again from beginning to end. One of the films that regularly airs on the Sky Movie channels is Jaws from 1975. It is the celebrating it’s 40 Anniversary this year and remains the blueprint for many of the Horror/Thriller/killer animal movies that have come in droves in the last few decades but have failed to match its critical and commercial success.

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider & Richard Dreyfuss in iconic Jaws (1975)

I was quite surprised to see the movie to the list; it seemed quite out of place amongst the Film Noir and emotional War movies that the AFI seem to place in high regard. Perhaps they felt that the films cultural significance was too big to ignore and there are only a handful of horror movies that are represented in the top 100.

The plot of Jaws is pretty simple – there has been a sudden increase of fatal shark attacks in New England’s tourist hotspot Amity Island. The Mayor and Police Chief, Martin Brody (played by the late Roy Scheider) come into blows whether to close the beach which is what the latter wants propose or keep quiet to avoid a disruption in the flow of tourists which is was the Mayor wishes to do. As the attacks become more frequent Brody and professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) make it their mission to kills the beast themselves.

The storyline is as simple as it get, but what was so unique about this film that should have been a B-list or cult movie but instead turned to be the biggest movie of all time at the time of release was the suspense that Spielberg creates throughout leaving the viewer on the edge of their seats. The same effect used Psycho which also made the AFI list. The sharp one liners like ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ (which was apparently adlibbed) brings humour to this often tense thriller which has the one of most recognisable theme music along with Hitchcock’s 1960 smash – you know which one I’m talking about.

Lasting impact – The Jaws tourist attraction at Universal Studios

But does Jaws belong on the list of the greatest 100 movies of all time? The film was highly enjoyable and who can deny it’s influence, but the jury is out with me – let me watch all 100+ films and then decide if it is worthy of a spot.