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A closer look at the AFI's new 100 Best Films list

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Citizen_l

Citizen_lOh yeah — almost forgot. What do you think of the American Film Institute’s updated, re-calibrated 10th Anniversary Edition of their 100 Greatest Movies list? I thought it was a helluva improvement over the AFI  list from 1997, if only for the way that its 1,500 voters booted Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner out of the high 90’s and essentially installed a much better movie about race relations, Do the Right Thing, in its place.

At the other end of the list, isn’t it sort of amazing that Citizen Kane (pictured) held on to the No. 1 slot? I figured for sure The Godfather would usurp it, if only for the way pop culture (especially The Sopranos) has indirectly managed to keep Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece at the top of everybody’s brain for the past eight years, even as black-and-white film classic seemed to be drifting further and further into the past. In fact, I was actually rooting for The Godfather to come out ahead. I love Kane, I’ve seen it all the way through at least a half-dozen times, but I’m not sure I would’ve voted for it over The Godfather. Kane, deep down, is a movie you study; The Godfather is more emotionally involving, a slightly richer experience.

Still, for an old-movie hound like me, it’s great to see a 66-year-old geezer like Kane take the top prize in our 18-to-49 youth-culture age. And this list feels more in tune with wider film scholarship than the last one did — witness the ascension up the charts of Raging Bull (now at No. 4), Vertigo (No. 9), City Lights (No. 11), and The Searchers (No. 12), movies that (even ten years ago) anybody with film sense knew belonged higher up on the AFI’s list than No.’s 24, 61, 76, and 96, respectively.

addCredit(“The Kobal Collection”)

Another good thing: the list of movies that got added this year — which includes The General, Nashville, Sullivan’s Travels, A Night at the Opera, Swing Time, and The Last Picture Show — is stronger than the list of movies that got 86’ed to make room for them, including Mutiny on the Bounty, Wuthering Heights, Amadeus, Doctor Zhivago, Rebel Without a Cause, and The Jazz Singer. My man Roger Ebert is disappointed Fargo didn’t survive the new cut, but I always thought Fargo was overrated; I’d much rather see The Big Lebowski on the list.

As for other movies that came out within this decade, only Saving Private Ryan, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Titanic, and The Sixth Sense were squeezed on. I wouldn’t put any of these on my own personal best-of-the-last-decade list (well, maybe Titanic; that movie gets to me), but they do already seem “classic” in a way that fits in with the AFI’s stately ethos. Can you imagine Boogie Nights getting the buff-and-shine of an AFI slot?

What do you think? Is there a movie you’re sad still hasn’t made the AFI cut? I’d pick the neglected His Girl Friday, maybe the greatest, fastest romantic comedy of all time.