AFInity: A Streetcar Named Desire
By Kim Hollis
July 17, 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.
#47: A Streetcar Named Desire
On July 1, 2009, Karl Malden passed away at the age of 97. Though I had primarily recognized him during my childhood as the guy in the American Express commercials ("Don't leave home without it!"), he was a prolific actor, appearing in such movies as On the Waterfront, How the West Was Won and Patton, as well as the television series The Streets of San Francisco. Perhaps his most acclaimed role, though, was in a Streetcar Named Desire. Malden would win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the film, which he was able to leverage into a continued series of roles in the years to follow. Although Malden's passing was overshadowed some in the days to come by the circus surrounding Michael Jackson's death, his contribution to motion picture arts was substantial. With that in mind, it seems the perfect time for AFInity to look at A Streetcar Named Desire.
I've been a voracious reader from the time I was able to pick up a book and read it to myself, leading me to eventually choose to major in English. It seemed ludicrous to me that I should be able to read books, plays and stories and then comment on them via class discussion and research papers for a grade. I was thrilled to discover new authors I'd never experienced previously, but also enjoyed new ways of looking at the works of writers I'd read in high school and before. One such writer was Tennessee Williams, whose plays gained a deeper and richer impact the older I got. The man worked within what is now one of my favorite genres – Southern Gothic – and along with Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, instilled in me a real appreciation for the deconstruction of social mores in the Southern U.S. of the 20th century.