Sunday, July 13, 2014

Movie Guy: AFI Countdown 15 to 11

As we near the top ten, I do want to let you know that there will be an additional post after I get all the way through the list. I have taken issue with a few of the films on the list, so - in fairness - I am going to list some movies with which I think they should be replaced. However, that's a couple more entries from now, and I have no issues with any of the five films mentioned in this entry being on the list.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Kubrick makes the list again with this epic, visually-stunning science fiction film. From the dawn of man through humanity's exploration of space, Kubrick's meticulous attention to detail provides us with very realistic depictions of what - to audiences at the time - could only have been speculative fantasy. Even now - thirteen years beyond the "future" depicted in the film - a manned Jupiter mission is still only a distant possibility. Kubrick declined to explain the final sequence of the film, encouraging audiences to draw their own interpretations, and you can find many such interpretations from avid fans on the internet. I'd share my own theories, but I'm eschewing spoilers as much as I can in these blurbs. I do very much like this film, and I consider essential viewing for sci-fi fans.

Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock had to shoot this film on a very tight budget, because studio executives were opposed to the idea of dramatizing Robert Bloch's novel about a deranged serial killer. They would not give him his usual budget. He had to fight with the censors over the violence and sexuality, as well. (Amazingly tame by today's standards, though, of course.) However, it all paid off as Psycho was a huge hit with audiences. In fact, it was the most profitable film of Hitchcock's career. It remains a highly popular film. I like it very much, too. It's not my favorite from Hitch, but I can see why it's high on the list.

Star Wars (1977)
This was my first movie in a theater. Apparently, I sat captivated in my seat for the entire two hours without budging. Considering that I was a rambunctious three-year-old at the time, that speaks to how much I enjoyed this film. I do remember making myself hoarse the next day from imitating Chewbacca's various yells. Chewbacca was my first favorite movie star, and when I got to meet the man behind the furry mask, Peter Mayhew, a little over a year ago, I was more moved than I expected to be. Who hasn't seen this movie? Really.

The Searchers (1956)
John Wayne won his Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, but I really feel that this was his best performance. Ethan Edwards is also probably the most complex character Wayne has ever played. When his nieces are kidnapped by Comanches, Edwards sets out on a years-long Homeric odyssey to find them. Some critics found the movie a little repetitive, but I think that was director John Ford's way of conveying the frustration inherent in the long search. Good movie. If you like Westerns, you should definitely check this one out.

City Lights (1931)
As I've said before, it's hard for me to pick my favorite Chaplin film, but this is one of the tops for me, definitely. This one has the prize fighting sequence, which is absolutely one of my favorite scenes ever on film. This is a great film. I'm definitely with the AFI voters on this one.

I still recommend seeing the whole movie, but here is that boxing sequence from the aforementioned City Lights.

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