Woody Allen, appropriately enough, in the “Tow Away” zone.Photo: Courtesy of MGM/Film Forum
The doddering American Film Institute has finally updated its list of the best 100 films (i.e., best big-studio fiction blockbusters made with white marquee stars and male directors in the good ol’ days of Kabuki pomposity like Ben Hur). For New Yorkers, the Los Angeles–based list is predictably awful, but still worse than the last: Do The Right Thing’s token inclusion at pitiful No. 94 stings worse than its omission in 1997 and many of the city’s great filmmakers are still missing (Cassavetes, for starters). We never expected to see some of our personal faves (David Edelstein respects no list without Larry Cohen’s Q, for instance), but we began fuming when we noticed that mainstream picks like Sweet Smell of Success and Scarlett Street didn’t even make the 400-film ballot. Then we noticed Mean Streets was off the list and grew angrier. Our pique peaked when we noticed that Toy Story had been added — and Woody Allen’s Manhattan had not. Thankfully, Film Forum is reviving Manhattan on July 13. See it in protest! And read Bilge Ebiri’s stirring defense, after the jump. —Logan Hill
Annie Hall , included on the list, is great, but Manhattan is the most refined distillation of Woody Allen’s sensibility and his best film. I’ve always believed that it was Woody’s response to 2001: A Space Odyssey: The scene in the planetarium, and the scene framing Woody next to a skeleton suggest that it’s a very human and ground-level reply to those who would seek to find the meaning of life from Olympian heights (or expensive sci-fi epics). Even the celebrated shots of Manhattan emerging to “Rhapsody in Blue” evoke the Monolith emerging to “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” The whole film is Woody saying, “If you can’t find meaning on the city blocks around you, you’re not going to find it.” It’s an absolutely perfect film, one of the few that, a hundred, two hundred years from now, they’ll still be watching, list or not.AFI 100 List Takes ‘Manhattan.’ And Shoves It.