Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb Battle #91 & #90

Two sets this week since Sunday Showdown didn’t happen last week.   

#91 – Sophie’sChoice (1982) vs. The Apartment (1960)

Note to self: Do not watch Sophie’s Choice the same week as losing a close family member. Or any other week. 

Meryl Streep
The movie is sad. Like, rip your heart out of your chest so you never have to feel this much pain again, sad. Piercing to watch from beginning to end.  What is Sophie’s “choice”? (spoiler alert) The biggest is having to choose as she arrives at a concentration camp, which of her two young children will be executed immediately and which will be sent to the children’s camp.  

But the movie is also about Sophie’s other choices: staying with her abusive lover, not telling of her family’s anti-Semitic views, her refusal to grasp the new beginning offered to her, and finally, her decision to kill herself. A fun romp.

But despite the fact I NEVER EVER EVER want to see this movie again, Meryl Streep deserved the Best Actress Oscar she won for this film. Plus every other actress award in the known universe. Seriously, she was that good. 

The Apartment I had also never seen before. Billy Wilder’s follow up to Some Like it Hot, it is a comedy that forgets it is a comedy part way through, but then remembers again by the end.  It won Best Picture in 1960, surprising given the themes of the film: adultery, attempted suicide and more adultery.  

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine were nominated for Best Actor/Actress although neither won (a fact Kevin Spacey found so upsetting he dedicated his 2000 win for American Beauty to Lemmon’s performance). And they both were good, although neither Streep’s caliber.

But on to Janie’s Choice: On the surface the choice is Sophie vs. the Apartment. But really my choice is: do I pick the movie I enjoyed more or the movie I think is better? I definitely enjoyed The Apartment more, but Sophie’s Choice kept me on edge. So I’m going to go with Sophie

Bicycle Thief
I ran into the same quandary with #90 – Swing Time (1936) vs. The Bicycle Thief (1948). In my head, I know The Bicycle Thief is the better movie. It’s an Italian film; the roles played by non-actors (unbelievable given how good everyone is) set in post WWII Italy. The movie is bleak and realist. I had seen it before in a film class in college and thought it was depressing then.

Still depressing 20 years later.

Then I watch Swing Time – arguably Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ greatest film (of the ten they made together). It’s light-hearted and a joy to watch.  Here’s a clip. The whole dance, but especially the last 30 seconds, is mesmerizing:

So once again I’m faced with the dilemma: choose the movie I know is better or the one I  really enjoy? This time I have to go with the one I know is better. So I choose The Bicycle Thief, even though it’s so dreary…

AFI’s Top 100
IMDB’s Top 100 (as of 1/1/12)

Swing Time (1936)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
The Apartment (1960)
Up (2009)
Goodfellas (1990)
The French Connection (1971)
Downfall (2004)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Metropolis (1927)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
The Sting (1973)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gladiator (2000)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Toy Story (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Elephant Man (1980)

Next week: The Sixth Sense (AFI) vs. Braveheart (IMDb).


  1. Good call with Bicycle Thief. That movie is one of the greatest of all time. It's absolutely amazing. It should be higher up the IMDBs list. Like in the top 3.

    1. I would be lying if I said you didn't come to mind in the Bicycle Thief vs. Swing Time choice. I knew I would never hear the end of it if I didn't choose Thief... But the perfect movie? Definitely not for me.