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by Indiewire
June 19, 1998 2:00 AM
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AFI Top 100 Films: Some Cry "Don't Believe the Hype"

by Eugene Hernandez



On the surface, it sounded like an innocent enough idea. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American motion picture, the American Film Institute (AFI) decided to survey 1,500 film critics, scholars and others to determine the best 100 American films of all time. From a list of 400 movies, the group was asked to choose their favorites. The results of the poll were announced this week during a three-hour network television special.


If the intent of the survey was to spark "water cooler" conversation, the plan worked. Eavesdropping on conversations the day after the announcement, it was hard to miss the impact. People were passionately discussing the results, commenting on the choices and noticing forgotten favorites. Television programs broadcast the choices, while newspapers delivered the complete list in large articles.


Yet, for some, the AFI announcement is more hype than history. Aside from the primetime special this week, there are number high profile media components. Beginning next week the TNT cable network is airing a series of weekly specials exploring the list, this week Newsweek Magazine published a special issue commemorating the selections, and an alliance of studio home video divisions will distribute the 100 top films with new packaging and at lower "sell-through" prices. The home video component of the campaign is what some are complaining about, fearing that what will be percieved as a definitive list has in some way been tainted through the AFI's collaboration with the studio home video distributors. The AFI campaign was clearly announced as a collaboration with the major Hollywood Studios and home video trade publications gleefully trumpeted the opportunites for distributors to cash in on the list. In an article for Video Store Magazine, Owen McDonald wrote that "the AFI's '100 Years...100 Movies' celebration promises to position film squarely in the minds of American consumers. What's more, its massive promotional thrust, closely aligned with video, may be the closest thing to a generic ad campaign the rental industry has ever seen." On tap for the home video marketing aspect of the AFI plan are Disney, Warner Bros, Fox, Columbia, MGM, Miramax, Paramount, and New Line among others.


Even before film critics began weighing in this week with their thoughts on the top 100, a debate has been raging in online listserv mailings such as the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) group. Particpants in the AMIA list have not only expressed concern that the list will be viewed as some sort of historical canon of American cinema, but others have questioned whether or not a list that grew from an AFI -Hollywood studio partnership can be considered legitimate. Kino International's
Jessica Rosner, a member of the AMIA list, noted the exclusion of influential independent films and the inclusion of Hollywood films like "Pretty Woman" on the initial 400 film list from which the 100 were
chosen. "The criteria here is money first quality second, " Rosner posted before the top 100 were revealed, "How in the world could a film like 'Pretty Woman' end up on a top film list." Dennis Doros, another member of the listserv, echoed Rosner's claims, charging, "The AFI 100 movie list is a commercially paid endorsement of studio films to promote their video sales...the AFI is representing Hollywood's interests, not the public." Supporting his views, Doros added an excerpt from an AFI press release touting the campaign, "The American Film Institute (AFI), in conjunction with an unprecedented coalition of the home video divisions of 13 film studios, today announced an extraordinary multi- million dollar video promotion to support its historic 100 Years...100 Movies celebration. The is the first time in the history of the home video industry that the major studios have joined together for a joint marketing effort."


The complete AFI list of America's 100 Greatest Movies follows:


1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)

2. CASABLANCA (1942)

3. GODFATHER, THE (1972)

4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)

5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)

6. WIZARD OF OZ, THE (1939)

7. GRADUATE, THE (1967)

8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)

9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)

10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)

11. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

12. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

13. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE (1957)

14. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

15. STAR WARS (1977)

16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)

17. AFRICAN QUEEN, THE (1951)

18. PSYCHO (1960)

19. CHINATOWN (1974)

20. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)

21. GRAPES OF WRATH, THE (1940)

22. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

23. MALTESE FALCON, THE (1941)

24. RAGING BULL (1980)

25. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)

26. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)

27. BONNIE & CLYDE (1967)

28. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

29. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)

30. TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

31. ANNIE HALL (1977)

32. GODFATHER PART II, THE (1974)

33. HIGH NOON (1952)

34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

35. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)

36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)

37. BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE (1946)

38. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

39. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)

40. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

41. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)

42. REAR WINDOW (1954)

43. KING KONG (1933)

44. BIRTH OF A NATION, THE (1915)

45. STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, A (1951)

46. CLOCKWORK ORANGE, A (1971)

47. TAXI DRIVER (1976)

48. JAWS (1975)

49. SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)

50. BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)

51. PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE (1940)

52. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

53. AMADEUS (1984)

54. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)

55. SOUND OF MUSIC, THE (1965)

56. M*A*S*H (1970)

57. THIRD MAN, THE (1949)

58. FANTASIA (1940)

59. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)

60. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

61. VERTIGO (1958)

62. TOOTSIE (1982)

63. STAGECOACH (1939)

64. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)

65. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE (1991)

66. NETWORK (1976)

67. MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE (1962)

68. AMERICAN IN PARIS, AN (1951)

69. SHANE (1953)

70. FRENCH CONNECTION, THE (1971)

71. FORREST GUMP (1994)

72. BEN-HUR (1959)

73. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)

74. GOLD RUSH, THE (1925)

75. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)

76. CITY LIGHTS (1931)

77. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)

78. ROCKY (1976)

79. DEER HUNTER, THE (1978)

80. WILD BUNCH, THE (1969)

81. MODERN TIMES (1936)

82. GIANT (1956)

83. PLATOON (1986)

84. FARGO (1996)

85. DUCK SOUP (1933)

86. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)

87. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

88. EASY RIDER (1969)

89. PATTON (1970)

90. JAZZ SINGER, THE (1927)

91. MY FAIR LADY (1964)

92. PLACE IN THE SUN, A (1951)

93. APARTMENT, THE (1960)

94. GOODFELLAS (1990)

95. PULP FICTION (1994)

96. SEARCHERS, THE (1956)

97. BRINGING UP BABY (1938)

98. UNFORGIVEN (1992)

99. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967)

100. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

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