What do you get when you put six Alamo Drafthouse programmers in a room and tell them they can't come out until they decide the 100 most unmissable films? The Alamo 100, the theatre chain's list of their 100 essential favorites.
The definitive list of things you woulda, shoulda, betta see was unleashed last night at the Alamo Slaughter Lane by Drafthouse head honcho Tim League. League explained, "We started obsessively compulsively looking at all the 100 best or 100 most influential lists out there and were bored by the exercise. So we took a slightly different spin on it."
The idea was simple. League said, "I'm stranded on this very bizarre desert island that happens to have constant electrical supply, a television, a VCR/DVD combo unit. What 100 movies would I want on this desert island if that was the only entertainment I would have for the rest of my life?"
The definitive 100 starts with 10 Things I Hate About You and ends with You've Got Mail, but in between it goes from the Beaches of Agnes to the Streets of Fire, with a quick stop in Casablanca.
It's not just an intellectual exercise. This list will be a driver for Alamo programming for the year, not just in Austin, but across all its cinemas nationwide. League said, "What drives me to grow the Alamo, and build this to be a bigger company is the idea that we can have a lofty goal to build a young audience for classic film and foreign language film and exciting film." If it works, then "we can build a cinephile audience out of these young whippersnappers with their Twitter and their whatnot."
Last night's list unveiling kicked off with a screening of League's own all-time favorite, Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, a movie that he freely admits still moves him to tears. But this is an Alamo list, not just League's ultimate Christmas gift selection. Enter the rest of the core booking team from the Drafthouse head office: Girly Night hostess and Forever Fest co-creator Sarah Pitre, Greg McLennan of Tough Guy Cinema, Austin creative director R.J. LaForce, Terror Tuesday goremeister Joseph A. Ziemba and the Ritz's Tommy Swenson. Each went away, charged with creating their own list, in priority order. Pitre said, "For some of us that was really easy, and there were some of us that had it really hard."Next came the complex task of putting into some logical shape. Not easy: Six programmers, each picking 100 films, meant a total list of 600 titles, with consensus on only about 40. LaForce said, "It was really fun for us to find out what we agreed upon. Me and Sarah both really love Waiting for Guffman, and we would not have known that at all unless we came up with this list."
The final list contains classics like The Night of the Hunter and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, modern touchstones like You've Got Mail and Uncle Buck, and just enough glorious wildcards to cause endless controversy and debate. For example, Step Up 2: The Streets makes the list, but Citizen Kane doesn't. League described it as "maybe not the most influential movies of all time, maybe not the most important movies of all time, but it's our individual, most beloved and cherished films of all."
For Pitre, that eclecticism is what makes it so joyous. She said, "It's all over the place, and I think it really does reflect the different voices that we have in the programming team."
It's also an opportunity for some real lost gems to get a second chance before audiences. MacLennan said: "The one title that I think has been overlooked for centuries is Joe Versus the Volcano, and finally it has a home. Everyone will go, 'Wait, isn't that that weird Tom Hanks movie from the Nineties?' and then they'll rewatch it and go, 'Wait, that is one of the greatest movies of all time.'"
See the full Alamo 100 – plus all the programmers' individual lists – at www.alamo100.drafthouse.com.
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