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The African Queen

The African Queen  

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  1. 1. Does The African Queen belong on the AFI list?

    • Never say die. That's my motto!
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    • Gave myself up for dead back when we started.
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  • Poll closed on 11/02/18 at 07:00 AM

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5 hours ago, grudlian. said:

The list, in my mind, definitely is not all American. The current version is more American than the previous edition but their definition of American seems to be primarily American produced. That's why Hitchcock movies are on here or LOTR which is at least as New Zealand as it is American.

As for the list being all white guys, it's because women directors and directors of color basically do not exist in American cinema before the 1980s. I don't want to say the AFI is blameless but it's more 10% AFI/90% Hollywood. It's impossible to include what decades of racism and misogyny in American cinema prevented from existing. I can name a lot of women directors I respect. I can name a lot of directors of color I respect. But if I only include Americans who are active and making good movies before 2008, that list is very, very short. It's Spike Lee, Penny Marshall, Amy Heckerling, John Singleton, Robert Townsend, Sofia Coppola, Ang Lee, Oscar Micheaux (who is more influential than than enjoyable for me personally) and Mira Nair (but I think a lot of her films are international co-productions so maybe don't count?). I'm sure there are some people I'm forgetting or ignorant of but that's a pathetically small list.

I'd definitely dump African Queen or Swing Time or Ben Hur to at least consider Brokeback Mountain, Malcolm X, Clockers, Mo Better Blues, A League Of Their Own, Awakenings, Lost In Translation, Boyz N The Hood, Clueless. So, I guess that negates my argument that there isn't much from women or people of color to include. But is this really it? Am I missing some stuff?

If the AFI updated their list in 2018 and we don't see more presence of people of color or women, that's on them. No real excuses with the influx of people of color, women and lgbt directors to not have greater numbers.

EDIT: for anyone with Turner Classic Movies, they are showing a few hours of silent shorts directed by women this Thursday. If you want the earliest examples of women directors (and one woman of color) in American cinema, I believe this is it.

Why do they have to be active now? Most of the directors who were active before 1980 and are on the list aren't active now, are they (Scorsese and Spielberg being the two exceptions I can think of).

Anyhow, you left off Elaine May, whose comedy partner, Mike Nichols has a movie (The Graduate) on the list. 

If you expanded to independent cinema from the 70s, I think you have a few more options (I'm guessing it's still not a lot), but if John Cassavettes can only get one movie on the ballot, but not on the list, I don't know how much hope those have.

That's restricting ourselves to American films though. 

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11 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

I just can't agree with "coincidence, no story." If it were just a movie where stuff happens, then there would be no reason to make one of the characters a missionary and have them be prominently delivered in the movie through prayer. From my point of view, the movie is pretty specific. It's about a divine being (Rose) experiencing humanity and a man experiencing divinity (Allnut) and how their shared experience elevates each of them.  Along the way, they are faced with obstacles that test their faith and resolve. After successfully navigating through a number of "impossible" trials, they face their toughest challenge - a floral paradise. Despite everything they’ve been through, it is in this moment of Temptation that Rose confesses that even she's having some doubts. However, they persevere. Ultimately, they face their oppressors and are punished by being hanged from a cross...er, I mean a yardarm (an object that looks absolutely nothing like a cross...)

Yardarm.JPG?itok=YeJgZdbZ  

This is why I understand the original ending as the movie would have culminated with our Christ figures (joined as one) making the ultimate sacrifice, but through their sacrifice, they save others. The torpedo blowing up the German ship would have then represented their ascension to Heaven. That being said, I totally get why the studio would want to change that.

Obviously, Paul and Amy didn't see the movie the same way. They said they weren't really sure what they were looking at. Paul said it didn't really jibe for him as a "Hope and Crosby 'Road To..'" movie or as a "Rom-Com." The problem is, the movie isn't either of those things. So if that's what you're looking for or expecting, you're probably going to be disappointed. It might feel like it doesn't have a point of coalesce properly. For myself, I see all the religious stuff because, as a Literature Major brought up in a church, I'm probably a bit predisposed to see it. ;)

And this all leads me back to my original question: does secularism affect ones viewing of The African Queen? This isn't a knock on anyone or their beliefs (or lack thereof). I just wonder if the reason that its lost some of its prestige is because, in the last 70 years, society as a whole has become more secular thus making it harder for modern audiences to relate to its religious themes. In other words, if you're not looking for the allegorical/metaphorical/whatever, or if it's lost on you, is it even possible for it to resonate in the way in which it was intended?       

I think I fixated on the miracle explanation part. With you pointing out that original ending though, playing it out in my mind, it's hard to deny that was the original thematic arc (and its DNA wouldn't be completely scrubbed from the ending because the studio decided the movie stars should live).

 

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9 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

I think I just don't expect them to answer that question definitively

Oh yea, I don't either.  But it is the overriding question above everything, I think.  Or at least, that's what I'm thinking about here in this form of cultural education.

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1 hour ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Why do they have to be active now? Most of the directors who were active before 1980 and are on the list aren't active now, are they (Scorsese and Spielberg being the two exceptions I can think of).

Anyhow, you left off Elaine May, whose comedy partner, Mike Nichols has a movie (The Graduate) on the list. 

If you expanded to independent cinema from the 70s, I think you have a few more options (I'm guessing it's still not a lot), but if John Cassavettes can only get one movie on the ballot, but not on the list, I don't know how much hope those have.

That's restricting ourselves to American films though. 

Sorry. I don't think they have to be active now. I think they had to have been an active director before the list was made.

I think if there's an updated list, you can include a ton more people who weren't active before 2008 or weren't making "great" movies before 2008 (such as Kathryn Bigelow who didn't get good in my opinion until Hurt Locker).

As for Elaine May, I've only seen Ishtar. So, I can't judge her work fairly despite it's good reputation.

You're right. If we aren't restricted to American cinema, we have way more options. Certainly for people of color since every east Asian, Indian, most African and South American directors are people of color. But even Europe has Chantel Akerman or Agnes Varda who could have been included.

This actually has me curious though. For more extensive lists that don't have restrictive rules (like They Shoot Pictures or 1001 Movies To Watch Before You Die or BFI), do they have any American films by women or people of color from before 2008? If so, how many? Because I bet there probably not many which points to a Hollywood problem (I mean duh, obviously) with people of color and women as opposed to just AFI (though that doesn't rule out bias against them).

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7 hours ago, grudlian. said:

s for the list being all white guys, it's because women directors and directors of color basically do not exist in American cinema before the 1980s. I don't want to say the AFI is blameless but it's more 10% AFI/90% Hollywood. It's impossible to include what decades of racism and misogyny in American cinema prevented from existing.

Yea, that's true.  I'm not willing to cut a list like this that much slack though, tbh.  And, even if there isn't diverse directors --- it's also not diverse writers, lead characters, or points-of-view.  I know opportunity was and is difficult but there are good movies about women at least.  We're still not getting a very high number of those, even, though I'll have to look through for the numbers.  How many of these 100 movies pass the Bechdel test?

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea, that's true.  I'm not willing to cut a list like this that much slack though, tbh.  And, even if there isn't diverse directors --- it's also not diverse writers, lead characters, or points-of-view.  I know opportunity was and is difficult but there are good movies about women at least.  We're still not getting a very high number of those, even, though I'll have to look through for the numbers.  How many of these 100 movies pass the Bechdel test?

For sure. I don't want to excuse this list because we know, before sending the list to voters, ther AFI made a short list. We don't know what movies they excluded and it could have been movies from women or people of color. And I assume the AFI and whoever they sent their short list to was predominantly white men. Who knows what the list would have looked like if they sent it to people of color or women only?

So, I have a genuine question:  what American movies do you think should be included or considered from 2008 or before that highlight casts, writers, directors, etc. who aren't straight white men? Because I'd definitely be interested in checking some out. 

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12 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea sorry, 2% is not worth mentioning or significant. But yea. It’s not exactly all american either, I don’t think.

but I have a sneaking suspicion this is why the AFI didn’t do another 10-year list yet. You can’t put out a list like that nowadays... imagine!

I'm just a stickler for details.

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I'll have to think about that much more.

But one example: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a pretty great movie about a single woman raising a kid and figuring out her dreams. It's directed by Martin Scorsese.  It nowhere near has the reputation of Taxi Driver, or GoodFellas, or whatnot.  It's pretty melodramatic, don't know if it should, but maybe it should?  Why doesn't it?  

Another film I've always loved though I haven't seen in ages is Killer Of Sheep.  That's a great one.  Powerful.

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35 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I'll have to think about that much more.

But one example: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a pretty great movie about a single woman raising a kid and figuring out her dreams. It's directed by Martin Scorsese.  It nowhere near has the reputation of Taxi Driver, or GoodFellas, or whatnot.  It's pretty melodramatic, don't know if it should, but maybe it should?  Why doesn't it?  

Another film I've always loved though I haven't seen in ages is Killer Of Sheep.  That's a great one.  Powerful.

I saw Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore recently and it's good. I think you kind of get at a point I didn't think of:  there's a lot of movies featuring women that are probably near misses to this list. If this were the top 150 or 200, would Alice... be on this list? Because it's a great movie but it's not Taxi Driver or Goodfellas. I'd pick it over African Queen for sure but not over some other Scorsese movies.

I'll definitely keep an eye out for Killer Of Sheep. I've heard the name but know literally nothing about it.

EDIT: The director of Killer Of Sheep is from Vicksburg, Mississippi? Birthplace of bottled Coke and my grandfather? I'm definitely checking it out now. 

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4 hours ago, grudlian. said:

So, I have a genuine question:  what American movies do you think should be included or considered from 2008 or before that highlight casts, writers, directors, etc. who aren't straight white men? Because I'd definitely be interested in checking some out. 

There's a decent amount on the AFI's ballot: http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/Movies_ballot_06.pdf

Just looking at the As and the Bs, I'm seeing:

Writers:
 - Ruth Gordon for Adam's Rib
 - Vina Delmar for The Awful Truth
 - 
Linda Woolverton for Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King
 - June Mathis for the original Ben-Hur

Directors:
 - Penny Marshall for Big
 - 
John Singleton for Boyz in the Hood

I don't feel like going through the whole ballot now, but that would be a starting point. 

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4 hours ago, grudlian. said:

The director of Killer Of Sheep is from Vicksburg, Mississippi? Birthplace of bottled Coke and my grandfather? I'm definitely checking it out now.

He's not from LA?!  I'm surprised, the movie is a poetic portrait of life in South Central.  I need to watch this again now too  

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15 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

He's not from LA?!  I'm surprised, the movie is a poetic portrait of life in South Central.  I need to watch this again now too  

According to Wikipedia, he moved to Watts when he was 2-3 years old. So, basically, he's from LA.

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I'd be curious to see Portait of Jason (I guess I should have watched it  while it was screening here last  year. I guess I should watch it while filmstruck still exists) and Wanda. Actually I need to rewatch Killer of Sheep and Bless their Little Hearts, since the sound wasn't too good and I had a hard time making out what they were saying. 

In terms of Blaxploitation, which probably won't hit any best of lists, though probably still worth watching, I'd be curious to see Superfly and Ganja and Hess.

Girlfriends (1978) is Claudia Weill's only film so it probably won't make any best of list either, but if you've seen Frances, Ha, it was basically a remake of this. I do wonder if Weill had a larger body of work, if it would have more acclaim (coincidentally this is also on filmstruck. I saw it years ago. Apparently Kubrick really gushed about it).

According to my notes, Kiler of Sheep and Wanda are numbers 221 and 222 on the BFI critic's poll (filtering out non-US films, that makes them 87 and 88)

If we're expanding out to movies that focus on well fleshed out female characters, then there's a lot more movies (John Cassavette's A Woman Under the Influence, starring Gena Rowlands for example. Faces and Opening Night, both also good. I haven't seen Shadows and don't know of it fits in on this topic or not).

 

In their list of best movies of type, X, there is this: https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/30-best-lgbt-films-all-time

Though, I'll say, while I love Mulholland Drive, which is on that list, it doesn't really spring to mind as an example of LGBTQ+ cinema. (Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain feels more appropriate, though for the sake of this conversation, that is Canadian, not US).

 

ETA: for Elaine May, I've only seen A New Leaf. I liked it. Do I think it's top a 100 type of movie? Not really. But I feel that way about The Graduate as well. The think The Heartbreak Kid might be the movie that's supposed to work in direct relation to The Graduate from what I've heard/inferred, fwiw.

I do wonder, though this topic showed up in this thread if it would have been better in the create your AFI list thread. Just so that in the future, it's more findable, logically speaking.

 

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