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The AFI Genre Report

One of my favorite television events of the summer is the AFI television special . . . and I straight-up missed it this time around. This year’s list was the “10 Top 10,” a list of the best examples of various film genres. The full report, straight from the horse’s mouth, can be found here (or here, for the slightly more accessible Wikipedia article). It’s not a terrible idea, but I think it may be indicative of a rather foolish desperation on their part. It seems from this latest list that they are becoming hard-pressed to come up with new ideas, and yet they’ve gone and blown a decade’s worth on a single special. Why not spend the whole special on a single genre? Perhaps with a top-25 list instead? Meanwhile, the genres which were ignored include Horror, Comedy, Action/Adventure, War and Musical. Strange omissions considering some of the genres that were deemed worthy of our attention. Let’s tackle those one by one:

Animation is a fun one to consider, though perhaps a bit pointless when 90% of the list is (albeit rightly) either Disney or Pixar. I don’t have any real complaints about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs claiming the top spot (it is both great and significant), except that it implies that no one has improved on the genre since its inception. In fact, nearly half of the list is comprised of the first few animated features ever made, and then it essentially jumps to the 1990s. I would have bumped Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo up several spots and replaced Shrek with something else.

Romantic Comedies, on the other hand, is a poor choice, no doubt made to pull in a more widely-varied audience. “Comedies” would have been a much better pick. I’m not really qualified to comment, though. It’s obviously not my preferred genre.

Western is, of course, a quintessential American film genre, and this is a pretty good list for the most part. Not much room for revisionist westerns, of course, but overall not bad. The Searchers is a great pick for the top spot. Cat Ballou, on the other hand, is a bizarre choice, even for #10 . . . especially when The Magnificent Seven didn’t make the cut (despite, I hear, having its theme music used to represent the genre).

Sports is undoubtedly the worst genre choice on the list. Almost anything would have been a better substitute. And, of course, the two top spots go to *shudder* boxing movies. Yuck. And Caddyshack? What is that about? Most egregious of all, however, is the exclusion of Chariots of Fire (and, yes, they did use that famous theme, as well). Bad call. Monumentally bad call.

Mystery is probably the best list of the bunch. Five Hitchcocks and some really great film noir. No significant problems here (though I’m sure there are some great films missing from the list that could replace some of the weaker entries). Vertigo is the right choice for the top spot.

Fantasy is by far the weakest entry here, thanks in great part to a ridiculous inclusivism. It also includes the most ridiculous oversight: No Princess Bride. What is that about? That and, not one, but two Christmas movies, Big (?!), and a refugee from the Sports list. I guess they simply couldn’t think of anything to fill things out.

Science Fiction probably should have been combined with Fantasy (that would have eliminated the problematic categorization of Star Wars, for instance). A Clockwork Orange doesn’t really belong here, either. Small hope for a more obscure entry like Gattaca to take its place, though. I would have replaced one of the campy entries with Planet of the Apes, for sure. I see AFI is still laying claim to 2001 as an American film, as well. Nice. Well, it’s not the only British film on the list.

Gangster is another important American film genre, I suppose. And their are some great films on the list. Just like animation, however, it’s a bit predictable. There are no real surprises here. I suppose that’s true of westerns, as well, but not quite as much.

Courtroom Drama is an awesome grouping of movies, but I’m not convinced that it legitimately belongs here. Surely this, even more than any of the other selections, is a sub-genre of mystery, crime, thriller . . . something like that. It definitely swiped a few entries that could just have easily made the mystery list.

Epic is just a crazy mess of a genre pick. It sort of seems to mean “movies that are really long and don’t fit anywhere else.” That’s why we can have Titanic, The Ten Commandments and Lawrence of Arabia (another British flick!) in the same group. Well, I guess they’re all vaguely historical, but the title of the genre seems to imply a certain scale. One could almost call this genre “Oscar” . . . over half of it is made up of Best Picture winners.

All right, AFI . . . Do better next year. Not that I’ll stop paying attention either way.

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~ by Jared on June 19, 2008.

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