Letters to the Editor

Volume VI Number 47
Nov. 26 - Dec. 2, 1998

More Top 10 Movies

Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:

A friend just passed on to me your Sept. 10 issue with the interesting discussion of the AFI Top 100 list. I enjoyed the article very much.

Shortly after release of the AFI list, The Modern Library (Random House) released its list of the Top 100 Novels in English of the 20th Century, which I analyzed in terms similar to Edward Allan Faine's in a talk I gave at the Library of Congress.

That of course doesn't qualify me as a film critic, but I have seen most of the films in the AFI list and do take my films seriously, so my comments and selections may be of interest. Here follow my picks, with a few comments.

1. The Wizard of Oz: Unquestionably the best American movie ever made, with most of its lyrics, dialogue, and mythology known by heart by English-speaking peoples ("follow the Yellow Brick Road," "munchkins"). Still fresh, viewable (and saleable) after 60 years, heading the genre in which American films have no equal, the musical.

2. Apocalypse Now: Next to this darkly poetic insight into the soul of violent human delusions and fatal frictions, Platoon is a childish cowboys and Indians and John Wayne just a giggle.

3. Psycho: Nothing like it ever before; nothing like it ever since: it defined the genre and curtailed solo showering for more than a generation.

4. The African Queen: Demonstrated that the runty Bogey could really act and could portray a lovable rogue without punching and shooting people. His leeches scene alone propels this film to the top 25. Hepburn sustained the miracle, radiating passion under apparently glacial reserve.

5. Pinocchio: Was AFI asleep? Generally recognized as the most technically masterful animated feature ever created and still not equaled in an era of megagigabyte computer animation techniques. Snow White started the carousel, but the Nosey One snatched the brass ring.

6. Alien: Like Psycho, this space horror was sui generis. Yet it was also a sort of reverse Psycho. While poor feminine Janet Leigh became the changeling Norman's sacrificial lamb almost before we knew the horrors were beginning, Sigourney Weaver's Ripley successfully ripped into her metamorphosizing monster to make women action heroes in their own right - and action villains as well (this female alien makes Jabba the Hutt look like Toto) - while creating an entire acting career for Weaver. The movie continues to be re-made in endless imitative variations, none touching the original.

7. Frankenstein: What can be said? Like Oz, this movie permeates the American psyche, like it or not.

8. The Godfather: America's Iliad, Odyssey and Eddas all wrapped up in one family saga, with unequaled sequels to boot.

9. Raging Bull: De Niro's shattering performance carries this movie into the top 10 by performing the impossible: making the inarticulate articulate.

10. Fritz the Cat: At least one pick should be completely surprising. Ralph Bakshi has made several animated features that deserve far more recognition than they've received. That will be remedied anon, but anon may be a long, long time. Robert Crumb, Fritz's creator and a major popular artist in his own right, hated this effort, but he shouldn't have since it remained as true as a commercial film of the time could have to Crumb's own outlook. (The recent movie Crumb, featuring Robert and family, would place high on any similar list of documentary films.)

-Tom Holbrook, Silver Spring

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