Wednesday, June 4, 2003

MOST OF MY HEROES DON'T APPEAR ON NO STAMPS: So, the American Film Institute's list of the top 50 Heroes and 50 Villains in film history was released last night, and, overall, it's a respectable list . . .

That is, until you realize that the first non-white hero doesn't appear until #19 on the list (Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) from In the Heat of the Night), and that Gandhi is the only other non-white human on the heroes list. Among the villains, none are non-white humans until you get to #50, Denzel Washington's Alonzo Harris in Training Day. No, Darth Vader doesn't count.

So, which nonwhite heroes and villains did they forget? Perhaps these:
Denzel Washington: as Steven Biko (Cry Freedom), Malcolm X, or as Joe Miller in Philadelphia, a movie in which Tom Hanks' Andrew Beckett placed as the #49 hero, and for which Washington failed to make the list of four hundred nominees.

(Let's compare: an attorney forced to examine is own prejudices, take on an unpopular client and win a major civil rights trial against a large Philadelphia law firm; or a privileged white guy who cheats on Antonio Banderas, has anonymous sex in a movie theater around the corner from where Jen and I got married, screws up a legal filing, contracts a sexually transmitted disease and takes the daring step of . . . suing someone? Denzel's the hero of the movie, not Hanks.)

Morgan Freeman: Crazy Joe Clark in Lean On Me, or how about Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins in Glory? Decent, proud men, heroes both.

Edward James Olmos, as calculus teacher Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver. A real, real-life hero. Shocking that he wasn't in the top fifty, and Michael Keaton's Batman was.

Shaft, the man who would risk his neck for his brother man. Can you dig it?


I've got two, but they're good. That Laurence Fishburne wasn't even nominated on the list of 400 for his portrayal of Ike Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It is an outrage. Man, was he chilling. Also not nominated, and a true modern villain, was Larenz Tate's O-Dog in Menace II Society.

Other complaints, in no order:

1. No Tom Cruise? No Kevin Costner? Is Top Gun's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell not the definition of hero? Or Costner in Dances With Wolves? C'mon, dawg, forgive him for The Postman already.

2. Modern villains who didn't make the cut, but should have, in descending order of personal outrage: Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons), Reversal of Fortune; Mitch Leary (John Malkovich), In the Line of Fire; Jame Gumb (Ted Levine), Silence of the Lambs; Chad (Aaron Eckhardt), In the Company of Men; Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Reservoir Dogs; Aaron Stampler (Ed Norton), Primal Fear; Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), Kids; John Doe (Kevin Spacey), Se7en.

3. Same, but for the heroes: William Wallace (Mel Gibson), Braveheart; Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis), Die Hard; Archie Gates (George Clooney), Three Kings; Neo (Keanu Reeves), The Matrix; Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), The Insider; Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger (Sean Astin), Rudy. The first four, in particular, are no-brainer, top-of-my-head, archetypical, majestic heroes.

4. Where were the comic villains like Dr. Evil and Otto (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda)?

5. I have a real problem with Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) taking #30 on the Villains list. Bickle's no villain. Well, he's no hero either, for sure, but he's too complicated to reduce him to Good or Evil. It'd be like putting Ethan Edwards (John Wayne, The Searchers) or William Munny (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven) on the list.

6. Finally, I'm just glad that Luke Skywalker didn't make the final cut, because we all know that Solo's the real hero, and Skywalker's a blonde wussy douchebag.

Comments? Additions to the list?

edited 6/4/03: Post them here.

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