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Looking back on it, I was, as I am sure were many other people, baffled by some of the movies that the American Film Institute (or AFI) chose to include on their lists of the 100 Best American-Made Movies. On the first list especially, precedent was infuriatingly given over to movies that were “important,” rather than movies that were “good.” This, of course, led to a baffling (and honestly somewhat embarrassing) number of movies that were hardly the “best” of anything, and very few of which we should want to use to project to the world what the benchmark of American films are.
But, to their infinite credit, the AFI amended their original list ten years later: switching out some of the more troublesome (not to mention lackluster) entries with fresh ones and allowing for more recent movies to be considered (although the most contemporaneous movie that they included was 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). And now, ten years after that, it’s time for the presumed third instalment of the list, leading many (myself included) to speculate about what movies will get in and, maybe even more importantly, what movies get the boot.
Movie - AFI - List - DW - Griffith
Perhaps the most infuriating movie on the original AFI list was D.W. Griffith’s infamously racist The Birth of a Nation (1915) which depicted the South’s Black population as violent savages and lionized the KKK as champions of law and order. This movie was replaced a decade later with Intolerance: a movie of the same epic scope, but with a decidedly different message (as evidenced by its more flowery title). The problem is that early feature-length movies like Intolerance simply lack the technical prowess and advanced cinematic language that would be perfected by the 1920s (and again by the 1940s). And for as much...
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