Last year, I thought that the AFI finally realized that they ran out of ideas for their “100 Films” series of lists when they reprised the 100 Best Films on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of lists. That being the case, I foolishly forgot about the annual TV special that Jared and I have used for argumentative and gambling purposes in the past.

But last Tuesday, the AFI once again drew from their well of unoriginality and scrounged up 10 new lists of the best “genre” movies. Pigeonholing some of the great classics of the past century into just one of these categories is mystifying…how Field of Dreams gets thrown in with “Fantasy” and not “Sports”, as if they are mutually exclusive,  is just silly. Not to mention that the movie deserves a Top 5 All-Time Sports Movie designation and if you asked anyone who had seen Field of Dreams, I don’t know anyone who would call it a “fantasy.”

I’m getting distracted, however, onto the lists, in alphabetical order. One disclaimer: I will not claim to have seen all 100 selected films…but I’ll be passing judgment nonetheless.

Animation

This list was kind of a no-brainer…throw a few Disney classics with a couple of computer generated hits, and you’ve got a perfectly innocuous and inoffensive group of 10 animated films. I can’t be too picky with much of anything on here, other than that when is the last time someone watched Snow White, Pinnochio, or Bambi without a child under the age of 8. Classics for sure, but sort of vanilla. I’m somewhat baffled by Shrek’s placement on here, and the ballsy option would have been South Park, but the chances of that one landing on this list were slim to none. Or maybe even Nightmare Before Christmas…but if you’re making lists of genre films, then out-of-the-box thinking may not apply.

I’ll save the vitriol for some of the next lists.

Courtroom Drama

I was actually kind of excited to see this as a genre, as I think its a sorely under-appreciated one. Case in point, I’ve only seen one of these films from beginning to end…and its not A Few Good Men. So, I don’t feel at all capable of judging this list. But looking over the 50 nominees, I’d like to give personal shout-outs to: Amistad, historical narrative done well and Djimon Honsou’s coming out; My Cousin Vinny, which defintiely deserved to be on the list; The Rainmaker, the second-best John Grisham movie after The Firm.

On my must-see list before and after the publishing of this list: 12 Angry Men (I know…) and The Verdict.

Epic

Ooh! Fun category time! No question that Lawrence of Arabia deserves the #1 spot, and seeing it on your television on DVD just doesn’t cut it. I still remember seeing it at the AFI Silver a few years back and it is one of my fondest movie memories. But where are the other David Lean epics? No Zhivago or River Kwai? And are war movies like Saving Private Ryan really epics? Ten Things I Hate about Commandments…now that’s an epic.

Fantasy

As reference in my introduction, the films in this category make little to no sense. For me, fantasy occurs in a make-believe land with fantastical elements spread throughout. Creatures and things of supernatural nature are parts of a fantasy. Field of Dreams, Big, and It’s a Wonderful Life are not fantasy films…maybe heartwarming dramas, but not fantasy! Groundhog Day is a comedy with a silly premise!

I’m happy to see the Lord of the Rings recognized and Wizard of Oz is a clear #1. But how do Mary Poppins or Princess Bride not make it here? Or Willy Wonka? and the Muppet Movie isn’t even on the nomination list? Labryinth is a terrible movie inspite of the David Bowie role, so I’m glad it wasn’t in the Top 10, but it is a fantasy?

Is my definition too narrow…or was the AFI just reaching on this one?

Gangster

This is about as near-perfect a list as the AFI could create, but their margin of error was pretty thin. The top 5 are dead-on, and the only additions I’d make are The Untouchables (overrated, but still good) and Casino (underrated, and can’t be watched on cable). I know Jared’s said that Scarface is awful, so maybe that’s the biggest miscue on the list.

Mystery

Also known as the Alfred Hitchcock Memorial category, the choices here are kind of all over the place, and even my favorite wild card film here, The Usual Suspects, I wouldn’t classify as a mystery. AFI defines it as any film that revolves around solving a crime. Is this any different than a courtroom drama? The broad definition allows Big Lebowski to be classified as a mystery.

The AFI even got its Hitchcock wrong. North by Northwest deserves to be higher, and The Man Who Knew Too Much and Rebecca belong more so than Vertigo, which I think is Hitchcock’s most overrated film. Loved Rear Window though…and that brings the deconstruction of a mystery as an art form. And if there was going to be a modern mystery on the list, both L.A. Confidential and Memento are better options than the great story behind Usual Suspects (and how is that not gangster??).

Romantic Comedies

I feel like a sheep wandering into a pack of wolves here, with Jared lurking ready to pounce on me for my bad judgment on romantic comedies. But I’ll give it a good go.

There’s one glaring error on the list. How Pretty Woman doesn’t make it on a list of the best rom-coms, I don’t know. It belongs here alongside When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless of Seattle as the best of the bunch over the past 25 years.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen, well, any of the pre-Annie Hall movies. Put it on my queue, especially It Happened One Night, which has been the answers to my favorite trivia questions since the It’s Ac days (What are the three movies to sweep the Oscars with Best Picture, Director, Actor/Actress?)

You should check out the list of the 50 nominated films…the AFI did a surprisingly good job of putting recent films on the list, including Wedding Singer, 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Clueless.

Sports

Ah, a topic close to my heart. For those of who you may be confused, the AFI defines sports movies as “a genre of films with protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition.” Just wanted to clear the air.

The films that clearly deserve it: Rocky, Hoosiers, Bull Durham, Caddyshack.

The films I haven’t seen so can’t judge: Raging Bull, Breaking Away, The Hustler.

The films I haven’t seen but know they don’t belong: Pride of the Yankees (title says it all) and National Velvet (has anyone under the age of 40 seen this?).

The film I have seen that clearly doesn’t deserve it: Jerry Maguire. It’s not a sports movie. It’s a romantic dramedy, and a mediocre one at that.

For the films I’d liked to have seen here: Field of Dreams (an absolute travesty that deserves top 5 placement), Karate Kid (Sweep the leg, Johnny!!), and Rudy (for some reason, the room is dusty whenever I’m watching the final 20 minutes).

Western

Other than say this is a genre I need to see more of, there isn’t that much for me to say. I loved 3:10 to Yuma from last year, so there’s hope. And Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is in my top 5 films of all time. But I thought The Searchers was too much a product of its time (horribly racist and slow-paced), so I’ll report back after seeing a few of these classics.

Whew….that’s that. AFI…give up the list making, unless you want to do 100 Scores, then put me first on the list as a judge.

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