Saturday, June 28, 2014

Movie Guy: AFI Countdown 90 to 86

Moving on with the countdown of the AFI's top 100 films of all time, we come to positions #90 to #86.

Swing Time (1936)
A review of this film published in Dance magazine in 1936 states, in part, that "Astaire and Rogers are the picture; everything else seems to have been put in to fill the time between swings. Dance routines are fresh and interesting, dance is superb." hard to argue with that. The plot is plenty contrived but also cute. Astaire and Rogers carry the film almost entirely upon their shoulders, but they carry it well. It's a great dance film - great enough to be considered a great film without qualification.
Trigger warning: there is one number - highly impressive, technically - that Astaire performs in black face.

The Sixth Sense (1999)
I like this film, and I like M. Night Shyamalan as a screenwriter and director - even as he has fallen out of favor with audiences and critics. He has been accused of being a bit of a one-trick pony with each of his films having a jaw-dropping twist in the final moments, and, certainly, it is the "gotcha" moment in this film that probably earned it a place on this list. Future lists may omit it, since it is impossible for audiences to recreate that moment for themselves on subsequent viewings. Still, I think it is a clever, moody film. I like it. However, I also liked Unbreakable, and I am in the minority in that opinion.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The beloved reputation of this film really stems from a decade or so after it was originally released due to its being shown on television in the 1950s. I tend to favor the opinion of the audiences in 1938 that let this film flop. It's a cute movie, with lots of great quips from Cary Grant, and it has no shortage of laughs, but is it one of the 100 best films ever made? Hepburn has been much better and in roles where she seemed infinitely more comfortable. This movie, like others on this list, seems to be here out of nostalgia rather than actual merit. It's not a terrible film, by any means, but there are at least 100 more that are better, in my opinion.

12 Angry Men (1957)
Originally a teleplay for Studio One, this story got the big-screen treatment under the direction of Sidney Lumet. Even as well-received as the television version was, it still seems risky to make a movie out of a story that takes place in one room, around a table, and with no action beyond some heated conversations. It's a risk that pays off, however, because this is a riveting piece of cinema, aided in no small part by the performance of Henry Fonda as Juror #8.

Platoon (1986)
This movie has the distinction of being the first Hollywood film about the Vietnam War directed by a Vietnam veteran - despite what Michael Cimino would have us believe. (Oh, we'll get to The Deer Hunter. I have plenty to say about that film.) This is a film about the horrors of war, but it doesn't spend much time moralizing on that point. Director Oliver Stone simply puts us on the ground in the middle of a jungle war, and lets us draw our own conclusions. I'm really not sure why this film is so far down the list. I can think of at least one Vietnam movie further up the list that should not be ahead of this one.

Enjoy this perfect dance number from Swing Time featuring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire:

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