ABC’s Best in Film and the Trouble with ‘Authoritative’ Lists

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According to Rotten Tomatoes, the greatest comedy film of all-time is Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. According to Bravo, it’s Animal House. According to IGN, it’s Ghostbusters. According to AFI, it’s Some Like It Hot. According to us, the people, it’s none of those.

Last night, ABC aired Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, a Tom Bergeron and Cynthia McFadden-hosted special that named the greatest thriller, romance, etc. movies of all-time (excuse me, OUR time). According to ABC’s website, “In an unprecedented collaboration between ABC News and People Magazine…we gave movie fans the opportunity to vote online for their favorite films of all time…selected from a list created by an elite panel of film industry experts, including dozens of well-known actors, producers, directors, and critics.” The experts included Mel Brooks, Nora Ephron, Cameron Diaz, Ed Harris, Ivan Reitman, Garry Marshall, Harvey Weinstein, and Neil Simon, someone who I thought passed away, like, a decade ago.

The special itself was very well done. Bergeron and McFadden were corny, but they stayed out of the way for the most part, and even told some interesting movie trivia facts that I didn’t know. For instance, in the final scene of Casablanca, the plane in the background is an undersized model and the way the director made it look like a regular aircraft was by hiring small people to walk by it. Also, Monty Python and the Holy Grail only cost $365,000 to make. I suppose both of those tidbits could be found on Wikipedia, but I’d rather hear these kinds of factoids than Hal Sparks talk about his connection to some lame ‘80s toy (we did have to hear Peter Travers state the obvious, though).

There were two categories that a comedy could have appeared in: Best Comedy, obviously, and Greatest Line. Sadly, in the latter category, only one comedy appeared, with the selection of “I’ll have what she’s having” from When Harry Met Sally at #4. The other four selections went to “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Go ahead, make my day,” and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Maybe it’s because I don’t like Sally, or really Billy Crystal in anything that isn’t City Slickers and My Giant (not really), but why is “what she’s having” so popular? Is it because it’s said by an old woman (Rob Reiner’s mother) who wants to have an orgasm, or is it because it’s a quote that can fit into any situation? Like, “Wow, I really like Becca’s new computer…I’ll have what she’s having!” Also, all five of the lines are very direct: “at you,” “I’ll have,” “I’m gonna,” “my day,” and “my dear.” Put ‘em together, and you’ve got the greatest movie line ever: “I’m gonna have my day, my dear, at you.”

Here are the five funniest English-language comedies of all-time, according to the Internet: #5. Tootsie, #4. Young Frankenstein, #3. Some Like It Hot, #2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and #1. Airplane!. So, what do these choices say about us? Well, two things: we love men dressing as women, and we love slapstick. That’s a pretty fair assessment actually. I much prefer the slapstick choices (especially Young Frankenstein, a selection I didn’t think would finish so high), though, and don’t much care for Tootsie and Some Like It Hot. The most recent of those films is from 1982 (Tootsie), unlike the more current selections of Avatar and The Dark Knightin the Sci-Fi and Action categories. Just out of curiosity: if you couldn’t vote for a comedy made before 1985, what would you say is the best?

Like any special that debates the best of something, Best in Filmwas fun, frustrating, and ultimately pointless, which is also the name of my upcoming memoir. You disagree with the films you dislike (Some Like It Hot for me), and are happy to see a personal favorite be so universally loved (Young Frankenstein), while simultaneously being pissed that they didn’t a slightly-obscure comedy that you love (no love for Duck Soup?) At least the comedy category was more surprising than best film overall category (from #5-1, ET, Casablanca, The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind, and less “NO THEY DIDN’T” than the selection of the greatest movie character: Forrest Gump.

Josh Kurp would like to nominate Krippendorf’s Tribe for Splitsider’s greatest comedy ever.