Thursday, August 25, 2016

1999--The Year in Review

Some time ago, I launched a series on this site called The 9 Years, calling attention to the final years of each decade as, possibly, the most cinematically fruitful of their times. Though 2009 disappointed me in this regard, I still think that the last year of the 20th Century's filmic decades constituted the most valuable of their periods due to an almost subliminal call for its filmmakers to underline their previous works, or to at least make a mark on the decade. The famed movie year 1939 was a bear to overcome in quality, yet 1969 and 1979 did so quite surely. But 1999 is indubitably in the running for the greatest movie year ever. It took a long time for me to decide which film from this fantastic year should come out on top--I really had to review all the top 20. But, finally, I could not settle on anything other than Paul Thomas Anderson's effusively emotional, mindbending omnibus Magnolia, which feels like it encapsulates the entire 20th Century in its three-hour running time. It lushly calls back to previous decades while perfectly encapsulating that point where we, frankly, still remain. Its cast is an Altmanesque collection of the era's finest actors, backed by a wave of powerful, image-driven feeling that still is nearly unprecedented. It stands as gold medal to Mr. Anderson, a newly-minted master of filmmaking.

This is such a landmark year that I had to expand my nominations lists to include everything I thought was worthy, including: Topsy-Turvy, Mike Leigh's effervescent look at Gilbert and Sullivan's building of their chief work The Mikado; Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's divisive but as yet misunderstood inspection of the deceit incipient in marriage; Alexander Payne's Election, a slyly insightful dissection of political play commanded by Reese Witherspoon's searing lead; three of the finest animated films ever made in Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant, and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut; The Matrix, the Wachowski's gateway smash into a digitally-driven filmworld; David Fincher's bold and unflinching social critique Fight Club; The Insider, Michael Mann's tense, thriller-like audit of the tobacco lobby's legacy; Pedro Almodovar's masterpiece of gender-bending drama All About My Mother; Richard Sandler's brilliant and largely undiscovered The Gods of Times Square, a searching document of faith draped over a sketch of a valued world destination's transformation; Mike Judge's surprise video hit Office Space, which redefined modern worklife in depressing but wonderfully comedic ways; the eventual Oscar winner American Beauty, an exactingly wrought suburban drama that's fallen in popular estimation while remaining stark and insightful; David Lynch's stunningly restrained yet decidedly dark Disney production The Straight Story, with its supreme lead performance by Richard Farnsworth; Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich which, armed with an adventurous Charlie Kaufman screenplay, shattered the rules on where film could venture; American Movie, Chris Price's raucous peeling away of the popular desire for fame and success; The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella's gapingly eerie remake of the already brilliant Purple Noon; an edgy, brutally comedic look at the US involvement in the Middle East named Three Kings; and Werner Herzog's My Best Fiend, a familial assessment of his connection to his famously wild collaborator Klaus Kinski. And, in all of this, I'm not even touching on a third of the remarkable works that make 1999 so astounding. It was a truly incredible year, with prodigious, hysterical, moving things around every corner. We can only hope we'll see its like again. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: MAGNOLIA (US, Paul Thomas Anderson) (2nd: Topsy Turvy (UK, Mike Leigh), followed by: The Insider (US, Michael Mann); Eyes Wide Shut (US, Stanley Kubrick); Election (US, Alexander Payne); The Iron Giant (US, Brad Bird); All About My Mother (Spain, Pedro Almodóvar); The Matrix (US, Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski); The Gods of Times Square (US, Richard Sandler); The Straight Story (US, David Lynch); Office Space (US, Mike Judge); Toy Story 2 (US, Ash Brannon and John Lasseter); American Movie (US, Chris Smith); The Talented Mr. Ripley (US, Anthony Minghella); Three Kings (US, David O. Russell); Fight Club (US, David Fincher); My Best Fiend (Germany, Werner Herzog); American Beauty (US, Sam Mendes); Being John Malkovich (US, Spike Jonze); Kikujiro (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); Public Housing (US, Frederick Wiseman); South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (US, Trey Parker); Galaxy Quest (US, Dean Parisot); Rosetta (Belgium/France, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne); Ratcatcher (UK, Lynne Ramsay); Buena Vista Social Club (Germany/US/UK/France/Cuba, Wim Wenders); Titus (US, Julie Taymor); The Limey (US, Steven Soderbergh); The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Limbo (US, John Sayles); Mystery Men (US, Kinka Usher); eXistenZ (Canada, David Cronenberg); The End of the Affair (UK/US, Neil Jordan); My Voyage to Italy (US/Italy, Martin Scorsese); The Virgin Suicides (US, Sofia Coppola); Beau Travail (France, Claire Denis); L’Humanité (France, Bruno Dumont); The War Zone (UK, Tim Roth); Sweet and Lowdown (US, Woody Allen); Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (US, Errol Morris); The Color of Paradise (Iran, Majid Majidi); The Last Days (US, James Moll); Cremaster 2 (US, Matthew Barney); One Day in September (Switzerland/ Germany/UK, Kevin Macdonald); Bringing Out the Dead (US, Martin Scorsese); The Winslow Boy (US, David Mamet); Genghis Blues (US, Roko Belic); The Girl on the Bridge (France, Patrice Leconte); Go (US, Doug Liman); Bowfinger (US, Frank Oz); Audition (Japan, Takashi Miike); Boys Don’t Cry (US, Kimberley Peirce); The Blair Witch Project (US, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez); A Map of the World (US, Scott Elliott); Dick (US, Andrew Fleming); Cookie's Fortune (US, Robert Altman); October Sky (US, Joe Johnston); The Cider House Rules (US, Lasse Hallström); Judy Berlin (US, Eric Mendelsohn); The Sixth Sense (US, M. Night Shyamalan); Mansfield Park (UK, Patricia Rozema); An Ideal Husband (UK/US, Oliver Parker); Wisconsin Death Trip (UK/US, James Marsh); Aimee and Jaguar (Germany, Max Farberbock); Cradle Will Rock (US, Tim Robbins); Mifune (Denmark/Sweden, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen); Felicia's Journey (Canada/UK, Atom Egoyan); Three Seasons (Vietnam/US, Tony Bui); A Walk on the Moon (US, Tony Goldwyn); Jesus' Son (US/Canada, Alison Maclean); Life (US, John Landis); Fantasia 2000 (US, James Algar, Gaetan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, et al); Guinevere (US, Audrey Wells); Dogma (US, Kevin Smith); Ride With the Devil (US, Ang Lee); 10 Things I Hate About You (US, Gil Junger); The Ninth Gate (Spain/France/US, Roman Polanski); American Pie (US, Paul Weitz); Romance (France, Catherine Breillat))

ACTOR: Richard Farnsworth, THE STRAIGHT STORY (2nd: Russell Crowe, The Insider, followed by: Matt Damon, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Kevin Spacey, American Beauty; Terrence Stamp, The Limey; Jim Broadbent, Topsy-Turvy; Al Pacino, The Insider; Matthew Broderick, Election; Ray Winstone, The War Zone; Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown)

ACTRESS: Reese Witherspoon, ELECTION (2nd: Annette Bening, American Beauty, followed by: Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut; Cecelia Roth, All About My Mother; Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair; Hillary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry; Sigourney Weaver, A Map of the World; Diane Lane, A Walk on the Moon; Edie Falco, Judy Berlin; Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tom Cruise, MAGNOLIA (2nd: John C. Reilly, Magnolia, followed by: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Magnolia; Harry Lennix, Titus; Christopher Plummer, The Insider; John Malkovich, Being John Malkovich; Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest; Timothy Spall, Topsy-Turvy; Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense; Sam Rockwell, Galaxy Quest)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melora Walters, MAGNOLIA (2nd: Julianne Moore, Magnolia, followed by: Leslie Manville, Topsy-Turvy; Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich; Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown; Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry; Janeane Garafalo, Mystery Men; Sissy Spacek, The Straight Story; Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club; Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense)

DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson, MAGNOLIA (2nd: Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy, followed by: Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut; Michael Mann, The Insider; Richard Sandler, The Gods of Times Square; Alexander Payne, Election; Pedro Almodovar, All About My Mother; Brad Bird, The Iron Giant; David Lynch, The Straight Story; Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Spain, Pedro Almodóvar) (2nd: My Best Fiend (Germany, Werner Herzog), followed by: Kikujiro (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); Rosetta (Belgium/France, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne); Buena Vista Social Club (Germany/US/UK/France/Cuba, Wim Wenders); The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Beau Travail (France, Claire Denis); L’Humanité (France, Bruno Dumont); The Color of Paradise (Iran, Majid Majidi); The Girl on the Bridge (France, Patrice Leconte); Audition (Japan, Takashi Miike); Aimee and Jaguar (Germany, Max Farberbock); Mifune (Denmark/Sweden, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: THE GODS OF TIMES SQUARE (US, Richard Sandler) (2nd: American Movie (US, Chris Smith), followed by: My Best Fiend (Germany, Werner Herzog); Public Housing (US, Frederick Wiseman); Buena Vista Social Club (Germany/US/UK/France/Cuba, Wim Wenders); My Voyage to Italy (US/Italy, Martin Scorsese); Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (US, Errol Morris); The Last Days (US, James Moll); One Day in September (Switzerland/ Germany/UK, Kevin Macdonald); Genghis Blues (US, Roko Belic); Wisconsin Death Trip (UK/US, James Marsh))

ANIMATED FEATURE: THE IRON GIANT (US, Brad Bird) (2nd: Toy Story 2 (US, John Lasseter), followed by: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (US, Trey Parker and Matt Stone))

ANIMATED SHORT: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (Russia, Aleksandr Petrov) (2nd: My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts (Canada/Norway, Torill Kove), followed by: When the Day Breaks (Canada, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby); 3 Misses (Netherlands, Paul Driessen)

LIVE ACTION SHORT: GEORGE LUCAS IN LOVE (US, Joe Nussbaum) (2nd: All is Full of Love (UK, Chris Cunningham), followed by: My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York (US, Barbara Schock); Chrono-Perambulator (Ireland, Damian O'Donnell))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Paul Thomas Anderson, MAGNOLIA (2nd: Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy, followed by: Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich; John Ridley and David O. Russell, Three Kings; Pedro Almodovar, All About My Mother; David Howard and Robert Gordon, Galaxy Quest; Alan Ball, American Beauty; John Roach and Mary Sweeney, The Straight Story; John Sayles, Limbo; Steve Martin, Bowfinger)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, ELECTION (2nd: Mike Judge, Office Space, followed by: Eric Roth and Michael Mann, The Insider; Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Tim McCanlies and Brad Bird, The Iron Giant; Jim Uhls, Fight Club; John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Ash Brannon, Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin and Chris Webb, Toy Story 2; Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Shut; Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut; John Irving, The Cider House Rules)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Conrad Hall, AMERICAN BEAUTY (2nd: Larry Smith, Eyes Wide Shut, followed by: Freddie Francis, The Straight Story; Robert Elswit, Magnolia; Newton Thomas Sigel, Three Kings; Richard Sandler, The Gods of Times Square; Bill Pope, The Matrix; Dante Spinotti, The Insider; Luciano Tavoli, Titus; Dick Pope, Topsy-Turvy)

ART DIRECTION: TOPSY-TURVY, The Matrix, Titus, Eyes Wide Shut, Mystery Men, Sleepy Hollow 

COSTUME DESIGN: TOPSY-TURVY, Titus, Mystery Men, Sleepy Hollow, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sweet and Lowdown

FILM EDITING: THE MATRIX, Magnolia, The Insider, Fight Club, The Gods of Times Square, Three Kings

SOUND: THE MATRIX, Magnolia, The Insider, Fight Club, Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant

SOUND EFFECTS: THE MATRIX, Fight Club, The Iron Giant

ORIGINAL SCORE: Thomas Newman, AMERICAN BEAUTY (2nd: Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story, followed by: Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard, The Insider; Gabriel Yared, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Jon Brion, Magnolia; Carter Burwell, Being John Malkovich; Randy Newman; Toy Story 2; Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, The Virgin Suicides; Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman, Ravenous; Michael Kamen, The Iron Giant)

ADAPTATION SCORE/SCORING OF A MUSICAL: Gary Yershon, TOPSY-TURVY (2nd: Marc Shaiman and Trey Parker, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) 

ORIGINAL SONG: (TIE) “When She Loved Me” from TOY STORY 2 (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman) and “Save Me” from MAGNOLIA (Music and lyrics by Aimee Mann) (2nd: “I Can Change” from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Music and lyrics by Trey Parker), followed by: “Wise Up” from Magnolia (Music and lyrics by Aimee Mann); “Beautiful Stranger” from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Music and lyrics by Madonna and William Orbit); “Uncle Fucka” from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Music and lyrics by Trey Parker); "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan (Music and lyrics by Phil Collins))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE MATRIX, Fight Club, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Stuart Little, Magnolia

MAKEUP: TOPSY-TURVY, Titus, eXistenZ, Galaxy Quest, Life

Saturday, August 6, 2016

1998--The Year in Review

Though my top 15 or so are all superb films, the drop-off is quite drastic in 1998. It's a period filled with likable works, though few are earth-shaking. The headline of the year was, of course, Terrence Malick's return to directing movies after a two-decade absence. His adaptation of James Jones' highly personal novel The Thin Red Line (which had been previously filmed more traditionally in 1964) elegantly captured the chaotic and exquisite vistas of the battle for Guadalcanal during the final Pacific-centered stages of World War II. Photographed with unparalleled verve by John Toll, the film found itself up against another lauded World War II epic, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, a film that impressed everyone with its sensational 45-minute opening sequence dramatizing the beachhead invasion of Normandy. Even so, this solid work became more by-the-numbers as it moved on, hitting a clutch of war-movie cliches even as it entertained perfectly. Malick's thoughtful film, in contrast, is easily one for the ages, as it confronts not only the violent field of war, but the fulsome reflections of those who fought and died in it. It is the year's most graceful film, instantly reminding us of what we desperately missed about Malick's unique voice.

For me, the closest thing to The Thin Red Line's grand emotional cachet was the first entry into the controversial cinematic movement masterminded by a cabal of Danish directors. Dogme '95 was an attempt by these artists to strip away all technical frills and story cliches from their cinema. It first resulted in The Celebration, Thomas Vinterberg's stunning, extremely unpredictable tale of family schisms shot in a radical, digitally-pixellated style by Anthony Dod Mantle (the Dogme movement would never hit such a height again). As for the acting awards, it's impossible, now, to deny Jeff Bridges and John Goodman their deserved awards for the Coen Brothers' cult hit The Big Lebowski (for which they weren't even nominated, amazingly). Honestly, what was the Academy thinking here? I mean, I know the film was not a big hit when released but, still, how could they have missed out on recognizing the quality of these two iconic performances? I still think Bridges' later Best Actor win for Crazy Heart is a make-up for ignoring his unforgettable turn as Jeff Lebowski, while John Goodman is still awaiting his first nomination. Then again, this is a year in which I part with the Academy on many issues (for instance, if Kathy Bates had not won her Oscar for Misery, she would've won for her more moving performance in Mike Nichols' Primary Colors). 1998 was a strange year for movies--who could've predicted its final winner, the sweet but ultimately inconsequential Shakespeare in Love? But the following year would be one that changed the art form forever. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: THE THIN RED LINE (US, Terrence Malick) (2nd: The Celebration (Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg), followed by: The Big Lebowski (US, Joel Coen); Saving Private Ryan (US, Steven Spielberg); Rushmore (US, Wes Anderson); A Simple Plan (US, Sam Raimi); Primary Colors (US, Mike Nichols); Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (US, Terry Gilliam); Out of Sight (US, Steven Soderbergh); 42 Up (UK, Michael Apted); Dark City (US/Australia, Alex Proyas); Frank Lloyd Wright (US, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick); The Truman Show (US, Peter Weir); After Life (Japan, Hirokazu Kore-Eda); Shakespeare in Love (US/UK, John Madden); Affliction (US, Paul Schrader); There’s Something About Mary (US, Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly); Central Station (Brazil, Walter Salles); The Idiots (Denmark, Lars Von Trier); The Dreamlife of Angels (France, Erick Zonca); Brakhage (US, Jim Shedden); Eternity and a Day (Greece, Theo Angelopoulos); Run Lola Run (Germany, Tom Tykwer); The Opposite of Sex (US, Don Roos); The Red Violin (Canada/Italy/US/UK/Austria, Francois Girard); Buffalo '66 (US, Vincent Gallo); Pleasantville (US, Gary Ross); Hillary and Jackie (UK, Anand Tucker); Regret to Inform (US, Barbara Sonneborn); Ringu (Japan, Hideo Nakata); Bulworth (US, Warren Beatty); Gods and Monsters (US, Bill Condon); My Name is Joe (UK, Ken Loach); The Cruise (US, Bennett Miller); Zero Effect (US, Jake Kasdan); Twilight (US, Robert Benton); What Dreams May Come (US, Vincent Ward); Little Voice (UK, Mark Herman); Half Baked (US, Tamra Davis); Babe: Pig in the City (Australia, George Miller); Great Expectations (US, Alfonso Cuaron); The Farm: Angola USA (US, Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack); A Bug’s Life (US, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton); Permanent Midnight (US, David Veloz); The General (Ireland, John Boorman); The Wedding Singer (US, Frank Coraci); Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (UK, Guy Ritchie); The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (US, Aviva Kempner); The Last Days of Disco (US, Whit Stillman); Pi (US, Darren Aronofsky); SLC Punk (US, James Merendino); High Art (US, Lisa Cholodenko); The Prince of Egypt (US, Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, and Steve Hickner); Love is the Devil (UK, John Maybury); American History X (US, Tony Kaye); Velvet Goldmine (US/UK, Todd Haynes); Happiness (US, Todd Solondz); Elizabeth (UK, Shekhar Kapur); The Mask of Zorro (US, Martin Campbell); I Stand Alone (France, Gaspar Noé); Armageddon (US, Michael Bay))

ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, THE BIG LEBOWSKI (2nd: Ulrich Thomsen, The Celebration, followed by: Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters; Nick Nolte, Affliction; Peter Mullan, My Name is Joe; Jim Carrey, The Truman Show; Edward Norton, American History X; Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan)

ACTRESS: Fernanda Montenegro, CENTRAL STATION (2nd: Jane Horrocks, Little Voice, followed by: Christina Ricci, The Opposite of Sex; Emily Watson, Hillary and Jackie; Gwenyth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love; Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth; Elodie Bouchez, The Dreamlife of Angels; Natacha Regnier, The Dreamlife of Angels)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Goodman, THE BIG LEBOWSKI (2nd: Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan, followed by: Bill Murray, Rushmore; Benecio Del Toro, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Larry Hagman, Primary Colors; Henning Moritzen, The Celebration; Nick Nolte, The Thin Red Line; Dylan Baker, Happiness)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kathy Bates, PRIMARY COLORS (2nd: Bridget Fonda, A Simple Plan, followed by: Paprika Steen, The Celebration; Patricia Clarkson, High Art; Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters; Brenda Blethyn, Little Voice; Jane Adams, Happiness; Rachel Griffiths, Hillary and Jackie)

DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick, THE THIN RED LINE (2nd: Joel Coen, The Big Lebowski, followed by: Thomas Vinterberg, The Celebration; Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan; Wes Anderson, Rushmore; Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan; Terry Gilliam, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Mike Nichols, Primary Colors)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: THE CELEBRATION (Denmark/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg) (2nd: After Life (Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda), followed by: Central Station (Brazil, Walter Salles); The Idiots (Denmark, Lars Von Trier); The Dreamlife of Angels (France, Erick Zonca); Run Lola Run (Germany, Tom Tykwer); Eternity and a Day (Greece, Theo Angeopoulos); Ringu (Japan, Hideo Nakata))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: 42 UP (UK, Michael Apted) (2nd: Frank Lloyd Wright (US, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick), followed by: Brakhage (US, Jim Shedden); Regret to Inform (US, Barbara Sonneborn); The Cruise (US, Bennett Miller); The Farm: Angola USA (US, Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack); The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (US, Aviva Kempner))

ANIMATED FEATURE: A BUG’S LIFE (US, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton) (2nd: The Prince of Egypt (US, Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, and Steve Hickner))

ANIMATED SHORT: MORE (US, Mark Osborne) (2nd: Billy's Balloon (US, Don Hertzfeld), followed by: Bunny (US, Chris Wedge))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: PRAISE YOU (US, Spike Jonze) (2nd: Ray of Light (US, Jonas Ackerlund); Election Night (Denmark, Anders Thomas Jensen); Gasman (Scotland, Lynne Ramsay))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:  Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rutov, THE CELEBRATION (2nd: Joel and Ethan Coen, The Big Lebowski, followed by: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, Rushmore; Andrew Niccol, The Truman Show; Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Scott B. Smith, A SIMPLE PLAN (2nd: Scott Frank, Out of Sight, followed by: Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line; Elaine May, Primary Colors; Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies and Alex Cox, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Toll, THE THIN RED LINE (2nd: Anthony Dod Mantle, The Celebration, followed by: Janusz Kaminski, Saving Private Ryan; Robert Yeoman, Rushmore; Eduardo Serra, What Dreams May Come)

ART DIRECTION: DARK CITY, Shakespeare in Love, Rushmore, Pleasantville, What Dreams May Come

COSTUME DESIGN: VELVET GOLDMINE, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, Pleasantville, Dark City

FILM EDITING: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Celebration, The Thin Red Line, Out of Sight, Run Lola Run

SOUND: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Thin Red Line, The Mask of Zorro, Armageddon, Dark City

SOUND EFFECTS: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Thin Red Line, The Mask of Zorro

ORIGINAL SCORE: John Corigliano, THE RED VIOLIN (won in 1999) (2nd: Mark Mothersbaugh, Rushmore, followed by: Danny Elfman, A Simple Plan; John Williams, Saving Private Ryan; Hans Zimmer, The Thin Red Line)

ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (2nd: Mattthew Wilder, David Zippel and Jerry Goldsmith, Mulan)

ORIGINAL SONG: “There’s Something About Mary” from THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (Music and lyrics by Jonathan Richman) (2nd: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon (Music and lyrics by Diane Warren), followed by: “That’ll Do” from Babe: Pig in the City (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman); "A Soft Place to Fall" from The Horse Whisperer (Music and lyrics by Alison Moorer and Gwil Owen); "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt (Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz))


MAKEUP: ELIZABETH, Saving Private Ryan, Dark City

Saturday, July 30, 2016

1997--The Year in Review

Even though a passel of terrific movies were released in 1997, this is among the weaker years of the decade. Its supposed jewel, James Cameron's magnum opus Titanic, tells a tale previously recounted on screen in better fashions--the 1958 British film A Night to Remember tops them all, and even the 1953 Titanic with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb is superior storytelling. In fact, it won an Oscar for its screenplay, while Cameron's film wasn't even nominated for a screenplay award--rightfully so, though I'm clearly in the minority since it, of course, became the primo moneymaker to that point. Though it was looked at as a possible bomb while its budget ballooned, Cameron's folly ended up highjacking the awards narrative this year, thus tainting the period with distinct air of blahness. The film went on to match another blah epic, 1959's Ben Hur, in its record number of Oscar wins--13, in all. Titanic, for me, was a waste of time until its stunning final hour, where it perfectly recreates the sinking of the supposedly indomitable sea craft (it's the reason the movie captured the popular vote, and this it matches Ben Hur and its ginormous chariot race, which similarly convinced everyone it was the best movie of its year). I don't get any of the larger subtext Cameron means for it ("We're on the Titanic now, worldwide, and we're heading towards the iceberg"). You have to read of Cameron's intent in order to get it, and even then it feels bogus and self-important. He missed a prime opportunity to make Titanic into an widely-swathed omnibus that suitably covered the stories of the multitudes that died and survived, and instead he concentrated on that goofy "Jack! Rose!" passion that obviously never existed. The picture cynically feels like it was made only for challenge of doing it.

In the face of this, most critics sided with Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential, an exciting, beautifully-produced bon-bon of retro-flavored action that smashes into you upon first viewing, but shows a certain air of still-entertaining phoniness upon revisitation. For me, the best movie of this year is a gorgeous, resplendently dour look at a dreadful school bus accident affecting a snowy Canadian community. The Sweet Hereafter, from writer/director Atom Egoyan, is a gorgeous, stout, time-juggling marvel studded with an impressive cast that continually takes our breath with their brave stares into the void (veteran Ian Holm, as a money-hungry lawyer, and newcomer Sarah Polley, as a secretive survivor, are its MVPs). It's handily the most emotionally devastating movie of '97, and feels like nothing Egoyan produced before or since. Quentin Tarantino, too, voiced a new tone with his chiefly humanistic, least derivative work Jackie Brown, for which I am totally happy to give acting awards to Pam Grier and Robert Forster, two deserving veterans who, faced with the finest roles of their long careers, modestly depicted a cozy romance, perfectly trumping the one that hoodwinked so many Titanic fans. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: THE SWEET HEREAFTER (Canada, Atom Egoyan) (2nd: L.A. Confidential (US, Curtis Hanson), followed by: Jackie Brown (US, Quentin Tarantino); A Taste of Cherry (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Funny Games (Austria, Michael Haneke); The Ice Storm (US, Ang Lee); Starship Troopers (US, Paul Verhoeven); Mother and Son (Russia, Aleksandr Sokurov); Donnie Brasco (US, Mike Newell); Eve’s Bayou (US, Kasi Lemmons); The Apostle (US, Robert Duvall); Boogie Nights (US, Paul Thomas Anderson); Career Girls (UK, Mike Leigh); Passion in the Desert (US, Lavinia Currier); Lost Highway (US, David Lynch); Waco: The Rules of Engagement (US, William Gazecki); Open Your Eyes (Spain, Alejandro Aménabar); Kundun (US, Martin Scorsese); Ulee’s Gold (US, Victor Nunez); Insomnia (Norway, Erik Skjoldbjærg); Four Little Girls (US, Spike Lee); Good Will Hunting (US, Gus Van Sant); Gattaca (US, Andrew Niccol); As Good as it Gets (US, James L. Brooks); Lolita (US/France, Adrian Lyne); Hana-bi (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); The Full Monty (UK, Peter Cattaneo); Contact (US, Robert Zemeckis); The Fifth Element (US/France, Luc Besson); Happy Together (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai); Breakdown (US, Jonathan Mostow); In the Company of Men (US, Neil LaBute); Children of Heaven (Iran, Majid Majidi); Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Germany, Werner Herzog); Four Days in September (Brazil/US, Bruno Barreto); Nil by Mouth (UK, Gary Oldman); Hands on a Hard Body (US, S.R. Bindler); The Wings of the Dove (UK, Iain Softley); Men in Black (US, Barry Sonnenfeld); Princess Mononoke (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Croupier (UK, Mike Hodges); Private Parts (US, Betty Thomas); Titanic (US, James Cameron); Life is Beautiful (Italy, Roberto Benigni); The Long Way Home (US, Mark Jonathan Harris); The Spanish Prisoner (US, David Mamet); Cop Land (US, James Mangold); U-Turn (US, Oliver Stone); The Butcher Boy (Ireland, Neil Jordan); Face/Off (US, John Woo); The Eel (Japan, Shohei Imamura); Event Horizon (US, Paul W.S. Anderson); Mrs. Brown (UK, John Madden); The Kingdom II (Denmark, Lars Von Trier and Morton Arnfred); The House of Yes (US, Mark Waters); John Grisham's The Rainmaker (US, Francis Ford Coppola); Amistad (US, Steven Spielberg); Love and Death on Long Island (US, Richard Kwietniowski); Ma Vie En Rose (France/Belgium/UK, Alain Berliner); Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (US, Errol Morris); 12 Angry Men (US, William Friedkin); My Best Friend's Wedding (US, P.J. Hogan); Wag the Dog (US, Barry Levinson); All Over Me (US, Alex Sichel); Clockwatchers (US, Jill Sprecher); Dream with the Fishes (US, Finn Taylor); The Castle (Australia, Rob Sitch); Cube (Canada, Vincenzo Natali); She's So Lovely (US, Nick Cassavetes); Character (Belgium/Netherlands, Mike van Diem); Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (US, Clint Eastwood); In and Out (US, Frank Oz); Mousehunt (US, Gore Verbinski); Orgazmo (US, Trey Parker); The Edge (US, Lee Tamahori); The Game (US, David Fincher); Men With Guns (US, John Sayles); Grosse Pointe Blank (US, George Armitage); Lawn Dogs (US, John Duigan))

ACTOR: Ian Holm, THE SWEET HEREAFTER (2nd: Robert Duvall, The Apostle, followed by: Peter Fonda, Ulee’s Gold; Al Pacino, Donnie Brasco; Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting; Homayon Ershadi, A Taste of Cherry; Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets; Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown)

ACTRESS: Pam Grier, JACKIE BROWN (2nd: Joan Allen, The Ice Storm, followed by: Susanne Lothar, Funny GamesHelen Hunt, As Good As It Gets; Rebecca Pidgeon, The Spanish Prisoner; Helena Bonham Carter, The Wings of The Dove; Katrin Cartlidge, Career Girls; Lynda Steadman, Career Girls)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Robert Forster, JACKIE BROWN (2nd: Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights, followed by: Robert Blake, Lost Highway; Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting; Mark Benton, Career Girls; Bruce Greenwood, The Sweet Hereafter; Robert De Niro, Jackie Brown; Lady Chablis, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sarah Polley, THE SWEET HEREAFTER (2nd: Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights, followed by: Nicoletta Braschi, Life is Beautiful; Cameron Diaz, My Best Friend’s Wedding; Bridget Fonda, Jackie Brown; Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter; Gloria Stuart, Titanic; Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting)

DIRECTOR: Atom Egoyan, THE SWEET HEREAFTER (2nd: Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential, followed by: Abbas Kierostami, A Taste of Cherry; Michael Haneke, Funny Games; Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Brown; Ang Lee, The Ice Storm; Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: A TASTE OF CHERRY (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami) (2nd: Funny Games (Austria, Michael Haneke), followed by: Mother and Son (Russia, Aleksandr Sokurov); Open Your Eyes (Spain, Alejandro Aménabar); Insomnia (Norway, Erik Skjoldbjærg); Hana-bi (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); Happy Together (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai); Children of Heaven (Iran, Majid Majidi); Four Days in September (Brazil/US, Bruno Barreto); Princess Mononoke (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Life is Beautiful (Italy, Roberto Benigni) (won in 1999); The Eel (Japan, Shohei Imamura); Ma Vie En Rose (France/ Belgium/UK, Alain Berliner); Character (Belgium/Netherlands, Mike van Diem))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: WACO: THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (US, William Gazecki) (2nd: Four Little Girls (US, Spike Lee), followed by: Little Dieter Needs To Fly (Germany, Werner Herzog); Hands on a Hard Body (US, S.R. Bindler); The Long Way Home (US, Mark Jonathan Harris))


ANIMATED SHORT: THE OLD LADY AND THE PIGEONS (France, Sylvain Chomet) (2nd: Mermaid (Russia, Aleksandr Petrov), followed by: Geri's Game (US, Jan Pinkava))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: DA FUNK (US, Spike Jonze) (2nd: Cutting Moments (US, Douglas Buck); Little Red Riding Hood (US, David Kaplan); Come to Daddy (UK, Chris Cunningham)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING (2nd: Victor Nunez, Ulee’s Gold, followed by: Michael Haneke, Funny Games; Kasi Lemmons, Eve’s Bayou; Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (2nd: Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter, followed by: James Schamus, The Ice Storm; Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Brown; Paul Attansio, Donnie Brasco)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dante Spinotti, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (2nd: Frederick Elmes, The Ice Storm, followed by: Roger Deakins, Kundun; Alexei Yodorov, Mother and Son; Alexei Rodionov Passion in the Desert)

ART DIRECTION: TITANIC, Kundun, L.A. Confidential, Gattaca, Boogie Nights

COSTUME DESIGN: KUNDUN, Titanic, L.A. Confidential, Boogie Nights, Starship Troopers

FILM EDITING: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, The Sweet Hereafter, Boogie Nights, Titanic, Funny Games

SOUND: CONTACT, Titanic, L.A. Confidential, Starship Troopers, The Fifth Element

SOUND EFFECTS: TITANIC, L.A. Confidential, Starship Troopers

ORIGINAL SCORE: Jerry Goldsmith, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (2nd: Mychael Danna, The Sweet Hereafter, followed by: Philip Glass, Kundun; James Horner, Titanic; Nicola Piovani, Life is Beautiful (won in 1999))

ORIGINAL SONG: “Miss Misery” from GOOD WILL HUNTING (Music and lyrics by Elliott Smith) (2nd: “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic (Music by James Horner, lyrics by Will Jennings))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: TITANIC, Starship Troopers, Men in Black

MAKEUP: MEN IN BLACK, The Fifth Element, Lost Highway