So far, I have watched 2 movies from the AFI list of Top 100 movies, and here are my reviews:
#93: The Apartment (1960)
This seemed like an interesting movie. The premise was that this peon in an insurance company was loaning his apartment out to the company big wigs for their little indiscretions, with the hopes of getting promoted. Shirley MacLaine appears as an elevator girl that the main character (Jack Lemmon) has an interest in. Coincidentally, she also turns out to be the girlfriend of the biggest wig in the movie...when she figures out that her affair is going nowhere, i.e. he's not going to leave his wife, she tries to kill herself in Jack Lemmon's apartment.
This movie was not as funny as I expected, and frankly, it's kind of out of date at this point. I wasn't sure what the big deal was....well, apparently, it made a lot of social commmentary on the white collar industry, which was booming back in 1960. Certainly the dishonesty and immorality of those trying to climb the corporate ladder is still around today. But that's been something that's been in the public eye since, well, 1960, so the movie isn't quite as edgy as it once was.
It's also hard, as a woman in 2006, to relate to the office environment in 1960. The women in the movie are all secretaries and elevator girls, who naively believe their boyfriends will eventually leave their wives. They have no ambition, other than to become a wife, and that's part of the reason Shirly MacLaine takes her boyfriend's dishonesty so hard. So that did not really strike a chord with me, because my life and choices are very different.
I read another review where the author loved this movie and thought it was absolutely hysterical. Well, this person had a bizarre sense of humor. I did not find the scene where they try to save Shirley MacLaine after she's ingested too many sleeping pills funny at all.
Overall, it was an okay movie, but frankly, I don't consider it in my personal top 100, and I would not recommend it.
#8: On the Waterfront (1954)
This movie was really good. It's a story about a longshoreman who stands up to the corrupt union bosses. He inadvertantly participates in the murder of his friend, who was going to testify against the mafia in court. Afterwards, he is wracked with guilt. The situation is not aided by the fact that he falls in love with the murdered man's sister, who is pushing for justice. I won't tell you what happens in the end, just in case you want to watch it.
What I really liked about this movie was that it really held my interest. It seemed like it could be boring, but the entire time I was wondering how he would stand up to the bosses and if he would be murdered too. Marlon Brando did a pretty good job, although I considered him a bit of an overactor. This movie also has a famous quote: "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it." I always wondered where that "I coulda been a contenda" quote came from.
I'm not really sure why this movie is so good. I did really like it a lot, but I can't put my finger why. I tried to look up why it's considered in the top 10 movies of all time, and frankly, I think it's because of the parallels between the plot and Elia Kazan's (the director's) life. He testified against a number of Hollywood celebrities -- including his friends -- in the 1950s during the McCarthy trials (for my non-American friends: an era when the government was trying to eradicate Communism; basically a witch hunt) and was ostracized for it. So Marlon Brando's character is supposed to be like Elia, a whistle-blower whose friends turn on him.
Regardless of why it's a classic, or whether you agree, it's still pretty darn good and I would recommend it.