Comedy & Cross-dressing
What were they thinking? Why do a top 100 list at all? It's not like they ever had a chance in hell of not pissing some people off. Even if they got most of it right - which a fair deal of the learned populace might agree with - there will still be 10,000 yahoos clamoring, "What about the movie where Jim Carrey talks out of his ass?!"
Such demands must take their toll on the American Film Institute.
As they sit in their plush offices, smoking cigars made of old Roger Corman scripts, trying to weigh Keaton versus Chaplin, Cary Grant versus Gene Wilder, the public demands that really terrible, soul-crushing movies appear on the list. It seems inevitable that the need to please both their aesthetic sensibilities and not be lynched by the rabid pack of wild dogs who laughed at There's Something About Mary would cause deep psychoses and a need for disguise.
Hence, as near as can be ascertained: cross dressing. The American Film Institute voters, mainly Hollywood white male fat cats, could only take refuge, Ed Wood-style, in lacy women's undergarments. It would enable them to sneak around the general populace (screaming among themselves to determine the funniest of the Police Academy oeuvre, in case only one can get in) and explain why the hell Tootsie is the second funniest movie in American film history.
Some Like It Hot as number one is a bit of a conundrum in and of itself, but it is certainly a funny movie with the savagely hot Marilyn in it. While many may look askance at the actual level of hilarity in the film, a good case can be made that Some Like it Hot has the most general, total level of "funny" in it for the greatest number of people for the greatest amount of the century of film. The transvestitism, consisting of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in their lipstick hijinks, can be dismissed as part of what makes this film so dang funny. So don't worry about Some Like It Hot. The time is better spent hurling bags of flaming canine excrement at the AFI for Tootsie.
Tootsie. Dustin Hoffman in drag. Transvestites at #1 and #2. What does this say about the Institute that, as they rank them, the top two movies in American history deal with men who dress up as women? You'd think they'd have the decency to spread the transvestite movies apart, as they clearly did with the comedies of the golden age of Hollywood, giving nods to the Marx Bros., Chaplin and Keaton early on, then scattering their movies throughout the top 100 to appear as if they were always in the running.
But no, such is their craven lust for men in lingerie that, despite the risk of public shame at the exposure of their fetish, they could not deny the apparently savagely hot Hoffman the number two spot. Their explanation: simply that Tootsie is the second funniest film in American cinema.
So, reclining on their leather couch, the 1500 members of the Institute (it's a big couch, obviously) would put Tootsie in the VCR and totally crack up. Tears would stream down their face, the guffaws would cause their apartment neighbors downstairs (The National Academy of Performing Arts, or maybe the MPAA ratings gang) to bang on the ceiling with brooms. But to no avail: Tootsie would have them rolling on the floors, wetting themselves, as Tootsie gets herself into another gender-bending shenanigan. Some Institute members would die, they'd laugh so hard. Undoubtedly this is how George C. Scott met his demise. Then Spielberg would roll in, enter the apartment to see the carnage, take the tape out of the VCR and make them swear not to watch it again, the price was too dear, but next Friday night
Tootsie has been known to get some good chuckles out of an audience, it cannot be denied. But number two? Funnier than Duck Soup (#5), Airplane! (#10), The Producers (#11), or This is Spinal Tap (#29)? Hardly. And while the Institute has to be somewhat congratulated on getting the list mostly right, it must account for the fact that %$#@%$ Mrs. Doubtfire ranks as a meaty #67 on the list of the Funniest American Movies of All Time. Which means, according to the list, it is only marginally less funny than Keaton's classic Sherlock, Jr. (#62), slightly funnier than Woody Allen's Bananas (#69), and a damn sight more funny than Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, Spaceballs or even The Blues Brothers, none of which made the top 100.
That Mrs. Doubtfire and 32 other movies are judged more hilarious than The Blues Brothers demonstrates quite ably the merits of AFI's list. Which is: bullpatties. It is ridiculous to get 1500 people to agree on anything, especially a movie (imagine them at the video store). Then tell them to judge a jillion movies on the totally esoteric and self-involved topic of "funny." The very premise is preposterous.
That the Academy chose to do one anyway is a flagrant display of their self-importance. Their list purportedly represents the best comedic tastes of the American movie public. Does it actually? God no. But perhaps their list is better, given how many members of the public would have voted for There's Something About Mary.
Which would have been funnier with Ben Stiller in drag.
Good night and drive safely.