Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb Battle (#94 & #93)

 (Each week I’m comparing the American Film Institute’s (“The Scholar’s”) Top 100 films against the Internet Movie Database’s (“The Masses’”) Top 100 films)

I happened to get through FOUR movies this week (hubby was out of town) so, aren’t you lucky, you get a double batch of Sunday Showdown goodness.
#94 was Pulp Fiction (AFI) vs. Gran Torino (IMDb)

#93 was The French Connection (AFI) vs. Downfall (IMDb)

Let’s start with the losers.

Clint Eastwood
#94: It pains me to make Gran Torino a loser. If haven’t seen Gran Torino, you really must. It’s one of Clint Eastwood’s very best in my opinion. A truly beautiful story of redemption and friendship. Eastwood’s character so reminds me of my own grandfather  - an external  gruffness housing a heart desiring fairness and justice. Deep compassion under a thin layer of racism. The story is just great. I’d seen it before and it was a pleasure to watch it again. 

#93: Downfall. I would assume most people have seen a part of this movie, but not in its entirety.  You might think you’ve never seen any of it, but if you’ve ever been sent a clip where Hitler is ranting about some football team, political figure, video game or anything else in the known universe, then you’ve seen part of Downfall.  My first contact with this meme was about the whole Taylor Swift/Kanye West debacle at the MTV VMAs. Cracked me up (severe language alert):

Since then, I’ve seen the clip a dozen times about other things. Downfall itself is about Hitler’s final days. The film is well acted, and supposedly factually based. But it is utterly depressing and baffling in a “how in the world could this really have happened?” sort of way. I’m not sure I would’ve called Downfall a Top 100, but I’m willing to cut it some slack because the meme has been such a pop culture phenomenon.

The Winners (out of order):

#93 The French Connection.  Theoretically, I understand why The French Connection is in the Top 100 and won Best Picture. I understand why it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as being significant in some way. It’s pretty much the grandfather of the modern-day anti-hero action star (John McClane, meet your granddad, Jimmy Doyle). 

There’s a lot of violence in the movie: whoops, just shot that guy in the back, whoops, just accidentally killed that FBI agent, whoops, just beat up on a bar full of black people – and that’s just what the “good” guys did. Of course, a blended line between “good” and “bad” is the point of the entire film.  There’s no happy ending and everything has a gritty feel to it.

It does a fabulous car/train chase scene, I’ll give you that. But watching the film overall now, it just seems dated; early 70s toughness personified. And it could’ve been entitled “Following Bad Guys on a City Street 101” – seriously, the police tailing someone made up half the movie. Got a little tedious.

I’ll admit, it’s possible because I was watching the movie while running 10 miles on a treadmill yesterday my perception might be a little jaded. Whatever. It still won this week’s battle. But against a stronger film than Downfall it wouldn’t have. That this film makes it onto AFI’s Top 100 while Metropolis doesn't?  Something’s not right there.

Ah, the good ol' days...
Finally: #94 Pulp Fiction. This. Movie. Changed. Everything.  It was 1994. I was 21 years old. Pulp Fiction provided a visual soundtrack for the rebellious stage I was determined to go through. The movie was new, it was different. And I loved everything about it. 

The 1994 Oscars for me is kind of like JFK’s assassination for my parents. I could tell you exactly where I was, who I was with, and what I was thinking. 1994 is the only year in history I can tell you all of the Best Picture nominees without looking them up (Forrest Gump, Four Weddings & a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, and Shawshank Redemption).

I was in college, my friends and I were all over at our film professor’s house, and we all fell on the floor sobbing like toddlers when Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture (doubly for me, I was secretly rooting for Shawshank). I like Forrest as much as the rest of America, but honestly Pulp Fiction should’ve taken it. How young and naive I was then, back before I realized the Oscars aren’t about daring and originality, but about doing the same old thing really well. 

Pulp Fiction is #94 on the AFI list, but it is #5 on the IMDb (much closer to where I think it should be), so it will show back up later (against Singing in the Rain). I’ll admit I became less and less of a Quentin Tarantino fan as the years went on. But Pulp Fiction will always hold a piece of my heart.

So, AFI is steadily pulling ahead:

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

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 is Goodfellas vs. Up.  Sigh. Yeah, that comparison ranks right up there with Toy Story & Unforgiven.


  1. I'm floored that Downfall is on the IMDB list. Given that's the "list of the masses." As you mentioned, I don't think I know anyone (until now) that has actually seen all of it. Much less could name it. So, it being on a popular index is confusing to me.

    Fiction vs Torino is a shame. Hard to pick a winner (but you made the right choice). Fiction will be double winner as you'll chose it over SitR too (although, Singing is pretty fantastic).

    But, Fiction... and this pains me to say/type it... The Bruce Willis part is painful. That entire section just doesn't work right. It should. The pieces are in place and it has the best "story" of each (separately) but it just doesn't work. Every time I watch it, that part works less and less (while the whole works more and more). Speaking of... I need to rewatch it.

    Agree on Connection too. The overwhelming 70s of it... Funny, thematically (the good guys doing bad things) is more of a precursor to the 90s and 00s and not the 80s (where action heroes all became supermen). It almost feels out of place in that regard.

    Spoiler for next week - Pesci puts that cub scout kid's head in a vice.

  2. Honestly, I don't know if I'll be capable of picking Fiction over SitR. Because I LOVE SitR with every fiber of my cynical body. Fortunately, it'll be a year before I get that far up in the list anyway.

    Excellent point about 80s action heroes vs. 70s and 90s/00s. I miss 80s action heroes. Arnold, we hardly knew thee...

    That Up kid is a tad annoying.