Comedy was well represented on the American Film Institute’s seventh annual top 10 list, a sharp contrast to last year’s emphasis on high-minded and downbeat films.
Among the feel-good items were “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” musical “Dreamgirls,” toon “Happy Feet” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Serious pics selected by the AFI film jury were the multi-language “Babel,” the Spike Lee-helmed “Inside Man,” the indie “Half Nelson,” Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language “Letters From Iwo Jima” and Paul Greengrass’ “United 93.”
Missing from the AFI roster was more violent fare such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” as well as films including “Flags of Our Fathers.”
But no-shows shouldn’t despair. The early voting in the awards season points up the wide open race. The National Board of Review kicked off the season Wednesday with its top 10 films, and only four pics (“Iwo Jima,” “Sunshine,” “Babel” and “Prada”) appear on both the NBR and AFI lists. And it’s interesting that the AFI eschewed many of the literary, ambitious films cited by NBR in favor of more crowd-pleasers.
Last year, AFI emphasized “serious” films such as “Brokeback Mountain,” “Crash” and “Munich,” with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” the only comedy.
On the television side, AFI’s top 10 programs of the year included four from NBC: comedy “The Office,” long-runner “The West Wing” and frosh dramas “Heroes” and “Friday Night Lights.”
In the drama-heavy tally, the AFI TV committee also recognized HBO’s “Elizabeth I” and “The Wire,” Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica,” Showtime’s “Dexter,” Comedy Central’s “South Park” and Fox’s “24.”
AFI awards announcement capped two days of secret deliberation by the AFI film and TV juries, each made up of 13 critics, artists, scholars and AFI trustees. Identities of the jurors were kept confidential until Sunday.
The rationale for each award choice will be disclosed at the Jan. 12 awards ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in BevHills.
Hewlett-Packard, which will sponsor the awards luncheon, has created 20 scholarships at the AFI Conservatory in honor of the winners.
AFI’s top 10 movies and television programs of the year:
Films in alphabetical order:
“Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan”
“The Devil Wears Prada”
“Letters From Iwo Jima”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
Television programs in alphabetical order:
“Friday Night Lights”
“The West Wing”
Robert Rehme, chairman
Producer; member, AFI board of trustees
DGA president; director-producer-writer; member, AFI board of trustees
Co-chairman/CEO, Spyglass Entertainment; member, AFI board of trustees
Leo S. Bing Chair in English & American literature and professor of English, USC
James L. Brooks
Professor of history, UCLA
Jane M. Gaines
Professor of literature & English, Duke University
Film critic, National Public Radio
David V. Picker
Producer; AFI trustee emeritus
Producer; chair emeritus, AFI board of trustees
Deputy film editor, Hollywood Reporter
Chief film critic, Los Angeles Times
Richard Frank, chairman
Vice chair, AFI board of trustees
President-CEO, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; member, AFI board of trustees
Kevin S. Bright
TV critic, Los Angeles Times
Staff writer, Hollywood Reporter
Amanda D. Lotz
Assistant professor of communication, University of Michigan
Chief TV critic, Variety/Daily Variety
Associate professor of gender studies and critical studies, USC School of Cinematic Arts
Chief critic, TV Guide
Associate dean of the School of Theater, Film & Television, UCLA; member, AFI board of trustees
Kristal Brent Zook
Associate adjunct professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University