Log in


APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Movie MAFIA -- Marketing AFI Anachronistically

8 Dec, 2000 By: Bruce Apar

Peter Rainer gets it. Hard to say whether Tom Pollock and Jean Picker Firstenberg get it or have lost it.

Firstenberg is director of the American Film Institute and Pollock chairman of its board. Last week they announced that AFI, a prestigious totem of Hollywood (excuse the expression) culture, would at long last come to its senses in fulfilling a long-neglected civic duty. Starting January 9, 2001-–save the date--it will issue an annual list of what it deems-–hold your breath--the top 10 movies. What the world needs now.

I easily can find nice things to say about this development, and plan to do just that a little further down as you scroll. But first, Peter Rainer. Don’t know the man, who is chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, but he and I apparently are kindred spirits.

This past week, I read in the L.A. Times that he has the good sense to suggest AFI should not simply reinforce the soggy status quo of countless top 10, year-end movie lists which, collectively, have a numbing effect on our perception of popular culture.

Let’s face it. The movie MAFIA is all about limiting consumer choice to a handful of highly commercial, feature-length films, exactly the genre AFI intends to further laminate with its imprimatur. I’m with Rainer, who proposes that a more worthy initiative would be to “name the 10 most neglected movies of the year, or the 10 best documentaries, or the 10 best short films,” as he is quoted in the Dec. 5 L.A. Times. “Films that really could use some high-level recognition from an organization like that.”

The AFI, in fact, is a leading incubator of aspiring filmmakers, who can be excused if they look slightly askance at their patron’s succumbing to the starstruck syndrome at the dawn of digital filmmaking. We’re entering an extraordinary era that affords easy, cost-efficient access to creative tools for millions who are outside the sphere of movie industry influence.

In this day and age, movie distribution doesn’t require a reel of film and a multiplex.

In this day and age, a few thousand bucks’ worth of digital camcorder and desktop PC constitute a movie studio. In this day and age, if you think of a movie only as a narrative work at least an hour in length, as AFI unfortunately does, you have another think coming.

What you have to admire about AFI’s attempt to establish itself as a national arbiter of good taste in popular cinema is that it strongly implies the organization’s distaste for how hoary the Oscars have become. In that, it is far from alone. The strongest testament to Oscar’s progressing state of feebleness is how it has let the once-lowly Golden Globes catch a joyride on its coattails. Granted, the Oscarfest is watched by billions the world over, which only goes to prove how broad and bland an event it is.

Besides, as television goes, the Golden Globes in recent years have earned a reputation as more entertaining than the offal Oscarcast. Can it be that AFI senses the vulnerability of the increasingly anachronistic Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Awards’ process and presentation? Perhaps.

We don’t doubt AFI has good intentions, but it also is stuck right in the middle of the movie MAFIA. To those like Peter Rainer and this reporter, who favor the encouragement of new talent forging new forms of content, AFI needs to plug itself in to the digital muse that marks the next millennium. The one that begins in three weeks.

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

Add Comment