AFInity: Saving Private Ryan
By Kim Hollis
July 10, 2009
We're a list society. From Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die to BOP's very own Best Horror Films (one of our most popular features ever), people love to talk about lists. They love to debate the merits of the "winners" and bemoan the exclusions, and start the whole process again when a new list captures pop culture fancy.
Perhaps one of the best-known, most widely discussed lists is the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies. A non-profit organization known for its efforts at film restoration and screen education, the AFI list of the 100 best American movies was chosen by 1,500 leaders in the movie industry and announced in its first version in 1998. Since then, the 100 Years... 100 Movies list has proven to be so popular that the AFI came forth with a 10th anniversary edition in 2007, along with other series such as 100 Heroes and Villains, 100 Musicals, 100 Laughs and 100 Thrills.
In addition to talking about which films are deserving of being on the list and bitterly shaking our fists because a beloved film was left out, we also love to brag about the number of movies we've seen. As I was looking over the 100 Years... 100 Movies list recently, I realized that I've seen 47 - less than half. As a lover of film and writer/editor for a movie site, this seemed like a wrong that needed to remedied. And so an idea was born. I would watch all 100 movies on the 2007 10th Anniversary list - some of them for the first time in as much as 20 or more years - and ponder their relevance, worthiness and influence on today's film industry. With luck, I'll even discover a few new favorites along the way.
#71) Saving Private Ryan
There was a time - specifically, the years 1993-1998 - that my life had a big black hole in it where movies were concerned. Sure, I got out to see the occasional film, but because I worked odd hours in retail and hadn't yet decided that it was okay to go to the theater by myself, I pretty much missed every big release. That includes stuff like The Lost World, Armageddon, Godzilla, True Lies, Apollo 13, The Rock, Liar Liar and Speed. Also on the list - until this week - was a movie that received countless accolades, including five Academy Award wins (out of 11 nominations - its Best Picture loss to Shakespeare in Love remains the subject of much debate). Since I already gave it away, you know that the title in question is Saving Private Ryan. One of only 11 films released after 1990 to appear on the 100 Years... 100 Movies list, the Steven Spielberg title is regarded as one of the greatest war films ever. It's more than a decade old. Would it have the same impact on me that it might have if I had seen it when it was originally in theaters?
I should probably state right at the outset of my comments that I'm generally not a big fan of war movies. While I remember watching Platoon and liking the symbolism and performances, I've typically either avoided the genre or had trouble sitting through movies that have war as their primary subject matter. The gritty realism can be troubling, particularly in a day and age where we can turn on CNN and see these types of scenes played out in real-time. I don't necessarily need to watch a movie to be appalled by the senselessness of it all.