Wednesday, July 27, 2016

1996--The Year in Review

Even though I absolutely adore all of the films in my top 20 (and especially in my top five), the top pick I’ve easily settled on is so magnificent, I cannot even measure my love for it. Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves is an otherworldly dive into devotion and faith that astounds me again and again over repeated viewings. If I am to be perfectly honest, it contains one of the three greatest performances in cinema history (I would put Faconetti's The Passion of Joan D'Arc and Brando's A Streetcar Named Desire in that top three). If it weren’t for the unmatchable Emily Watson, the four-year-old Victoire Thivisol, winner of the Venice Film Festival's Best Actress accolade, would have definitely gotten my choice as Best Actress for her remarkably prescient performance as Ponette (actually, the entire 1996 Best Actress roster is just completely out of hand with greatness--1996 might be the best year for female actors ever). Yet Emily Watson--in her debut feature performance--is so superb as the fiercely faithful, love-starved Bess McNeill that her performance seems beyond comprehension (it probably helped that she had rarely been in front of a camera before, even if her relationship to it seems altogether magical). Von Trier, along with his yeoman photographer Robby Muller and an astute team of editors, created a film work that is truly unlike anything ever seen--it's so emotionally powerful, you feel like you've been wholly remade after seeing it. Yes, I love the Coen Brothers' Fargo like everyone else does--it's definitely the best American movie of the year. And I adore Billy Bob Thornton's debut film Sling Blade nearly as much--his lead performance as Karl Childers, an insightful yet slow-minded murderer released into the real world, is easily among the most staggering actor-to-character transformations in cinema (Thornton also wrote and directed the film in an equally singular fashion). 1996 was a dazzling year for independent films, so much so that nearly all of the Best Picture nominees that year hailed from indie outlets. The eventual Best Picture winner, Anthony Minghella's moving epic The English Patient (which wrongfully swept the awards), helped mint Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax Films as a go-to spot for filmmakers looking to tell more challenging stories. From here on to the present day, the Weinsteins' efforts would be considered Oscar gold. 1996, as such, stands as a cinematic milestone. 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: BREAKING THE WAVES (Denmark/UK, Lars Von Trier) (2nd: Fargo (US, Joel Coen), followed by: Sling Blade (US, Billy Bob Thornton); Secrets and Lies (UK, Mike Leigh); Ponette (France, Jacques Doillon); Flirting With Disaster (US, David O. Russell); Citizen Ruth (US, Alexander Payne); Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (US, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky); Lone Star (US, John Sayles); Bottle Rocket (US, Wes Anderson); Trainspotting (UK, Danny Boyle); Bastard Out of Carolina (US, Angelica Huston); Trees Lounge (US, Steve Buscemi); The English Patient (UK/US, Anthony Minghella); Hamsun (Sweden/ Norway, Jan Troell); Hamlet (UK, Kenneth Branagh); Schitzopolis (US, Steven Soderburgh); The Quiet Room (Australia/Italy/France, Rolf de Heer); Microcosmos (France, Claude Muridsany and Marie Perennou); The People Vs. Larry Flynt (US, Milos Forman); La Promesse (Belgium, Jean-Luc Dardenne and Pierre Dardenne); Freeway (US, Matthew Bright); Hard Eight (US, Paul Thomas Anderson); Beautiful Thing (UK, Hettie Macdonald); When We Were Kings (US, Leon Gast); Fly Away Home (US, Carroll Ballard); Tesis (Spain, Alejandro Amenabar); Box of Moonlight (US, Tom DiCillo); The Whole Wide World (US, Dan Ireland); Mother Night (US, Keith Gordon); The Nutty Professor (US, Tom Shadyac); Jude (UK, Michael Winterbottom); Emma (US, Douglas McGrath); The Crucible (US, Nicholas Hynter); William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (US, Baz Luhrmann); The Cable Guy (US, Ben Stiller); Executive Decision (US, Stuart Baird); Ridicule (France, Patrice Leconte); Beavis and Butthead Do America (US, Mike Judge); Pusher (Denmark, Nicolas Winding Refr); Love Serenade (Australia, Shirley Barrett); Courage Under Fire (US, Edward Zwick); Big Night (US, Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci); Beautiful Girls (US, Ted Demme); Grace of My Heart (US, Allison Anders); Saint Clara (Israel, Ari Folman and Ori Sivan); Project Grizzly (Canada, Peter Lynch); The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (US, Susan Warms Dryfoos); The Funeral (US, Abel Ferrara); James and the Giant Peach (US, Henry Selick); Swingers (US, Doug Liman); The Rock (US, Michael Bay); Kingpin (US, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly); Bound (US, Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski); Crash (Canada, David Cronenberg); Brassed Off (UK, Mark Herman); Everyone Says I Love You (US, Woody Allen); Jerry Maguire (US, Cameron Crowe); Kolya (Czech Republic, Jan Sverak); Mars Attacks (US, Tim Burton); Shine (Australia, Scott Hicks); Michael Collins (US/UK, Neil Jordan); Scream (US, Wes Craven))



ACTOR: Billy Bob Thornton, SLING BLADE (2nd: Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket, followed by: Eddie Murphy, The Nutty Professor; Max Von Sydow, Hamsun; Timothy Spall, Secrets and Lies; Woody Harrelson, The People Vs. Larry Flynt; Stellan Skarsgaard, Breaking The Waves; Kenneth Branugh, Hamlet; Steve Buscemi, Trees Lounge)



ACTRESS: Emily Watson, BREAKING THE WAVES (2nd: Victoire Thivisol, Ponette, followed by: Laura Dern, Citizen Ruth; Frances McDormand, Fargo; Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies; Reese Witherspoon, Freeway; Patricia Arquette, Flirting with Disaster; Kristin Scott Thomas, The English Patient; Jena Malone, Bastard Out of Carolina)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: William H. Macy, FARGO (2nd: Dwight Yoakam, Sling Blade, followed by: Edward Norton, Primal Fear; Steve Buscemi, Fargo; Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting; Noah Taylor, ShineCuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire; Paul Scofield, The Crucible; John Ritter, Sling Blade)


SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Katrin Cartlidge, BREAKING THE WAVES (2nd: Courtney Love, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, followed by: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets and Lies; Juliette Binoche, The English Patient; Natalie Portman, Beautiful Girls; Mary Tyler Moore, Flirting With Disaster; Barbara Hershey, The Portrait of a Lady; Joan Allen, The Crucible; Meg Ryan, Courage Under Fire)

DIRECTOR: Lars Von Trier, BREAKING THE WAVES (2nd: Joel Coen, Fargo, followed by: Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies; Jacques Doillon, Ponette; Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade; Danny Boyle, Trainspotting; David O. Russell, Flirting With Disaster; Anthony Minghella, The English Patient; John Sayles, Lone Star)



NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: PONETTE (France, Jacques Doillon) (2nd: The Quiet Room (Netherlands, Rolf de Heer), followed by: Hamsun (Germany/Norway/Sweden/Denmark, Jan Troell); La Promesse (Belgium, Jean-Luc Dardenne and Pierre Dardenne); Tesis (Spain, Alejandro Amenabar); Ridicule (France, Patrice Leconte); Saint Clara (Israel, Ari Folman and Ori Sivan); Kolya (Czech Republic, Jan Sverak))


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (US, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) (2nd: When We Were Kings (US, Leon Gast), followed by: Microcosmos (France/Switzerland/Italy, Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou); Project Grizzly (Canada, Peter Lynch); The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (US, Susan Warms Dryfoos))


ANIMATED FEATURE: BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD DO AMERICA (US, Mike Judge) (2nd: James and the Giant Peach (US, Henry Selick))



ANIMATED SHORT: WAT'S PIG (UK, Peter Lord) (2nd: Quest (Germany, Tyron Montgomery), followed by: Canhead (US, Timothy Hittle))



LIVE ACTION SHORT: THE WILD BUNCH: AN ALBUM IN MONTAGE (US, Paul Seydor and Nick Redman), followed by: Around the World (France, Michel Gondry); Kill The Day (Scotland, Lynne Ramsay); Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien (US, Jessica Yu) (won as Documentary Short); Commingled Containers (US, Stan Brakhage))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Joel and Ethan Coen, FARGO (2nd: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Citizen Ruth, followed by: John Sayles, Lone Star; Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies; Lars Von Trier and Peter Asmussen, Breaking the Waves)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Billy Bob Thornton, SLING BLADE (2nd: John Hodge, Trainspotting, followed by: Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson, Bottle Rocket; Anne Meredith, Bastard Out of Carolina; Anthony Minghella, The English Patient)


CINEMATOGRAPHY: Robby Muller, BREAKING THE WAVES (2nd: John Seale, The English Patient, followed by: Caleb Deschanel, Fly Away Home; Roger Deakins, Fargo; Chris Menges, Michael Collins)


ART DIRECTION: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET, Hamlet, Evita, The English Patient, Ridicule

COSTUME DESIGN: HAMLET, Ridicule, Emma, The English Patient, The Portrait of a Lady



FILM EDITING: BREAKING THE WAVES, Fargo, Trainspotting, Evita, The Rock 



SOUND: THE ROCK, Twister, The English Patient, The Ghost and the Darkness, Evita

SOUND EFFECTS: TWISTER, The Rock, Daylight



ORIGINAL SCORE: Carter Burwell, FARGO (2nd: Daniel Lanois, Sling Blade, followed by: Gabriel Yared, The English Patient; Rachel Portman, Emma; Howard Shore, Crash)



ADAPTED SCORE/SCORE OF A MUSICAL:  David Caddick and Andrew Lloyd Webber, EVITA (2nd: Adam Schlesinger, That Thing You Do, followed by: Dick Hyman, Everyone Says I Love You) 

 
ORIGINAL SONG: “God Give Me Strength” from GRACE OF MY HEART (Music and lyrics by Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello) (2nd: “That Thing You Do” from That Thing You Do (Music and lyrics by Adam Schlesinger), followed by: “Trees Lounge” from Trees Lounge (Music and lyrics by Hayden); "You Must Love Me" from Evita (Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice); “Because You Loved Me” from Up Close and Personal (Music and lyrics by Diane Warren))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: INDEPENDENCE DAY, The Nutty Professor, Multiplicity



MAKEUP: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, The Crucible, Evita

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

1995--The Year in Review

There are lots of benchmarks in film history. Animation on celluloid arrived in 1906 with J. Stuart Blackton's Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. Then, in 1927, cinema was reinvented by the sound revolution (with Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse and released in 1928, being the first sound cartoon). Then there came the tints and hues of color in the '30s. Maybe the advent of 3D in the early '50s qualifies as a jump forward. And then the first use of 2D computer graphics in 1973's Westworld registers as a minor jolt (really, short filmmaker John Whitney broke this ground with '60s short films like Catalog and Arabesque). 3D computer graphics smashed into features with the stained glass warrior in 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes. But it's John Lasseter's labor-of-love Toy Story that really provides a clear demarcation line between the old and new ways of moviemaking. Lasseter had been working in Disney animation since the late 70s, but he felt the brand had been losing luster since Disney's 1966 passing. He began experimenting with computer animation in 1984 with the short film The Adventures of Andre and Wally B., and continued with more short titles like Tin Toy and Luxo Jr. (the latter of which would provide the iconic lamp lights backing the logo for Lasseter's computer animation outfit Pixar). When Toy Story finally dropped in late 1995, we became aware of the massively visionary effort to which Lasseter had long dedicated himself. If it had been merely a fully computer-generated feature, it might have faded away as a minor note. But it happened to be accompanied by a truly genius, fully human-generated script, filled with detailed philosophical examinations of a child's lushly layered fantasy world, and even of adult's later perceptions of their own nascent minds.

Couple that with film's superb voice work from actors as diverse as Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, Don Rickles, Annie Ross, and eventual Pixar good-luck-charm John Ratzenberger, and you had a complete masterpiece here, and one that really changed cinema from top to bottom, to the point where Lasseter matches Disney in maverick inventiveness. I still question if any other computer animated film in the ensuing 20 years has matched Toy Story; I think 1999's Toy Story 2 comes close. Brad Bird's The Incredibles and Andrew Stanton's Wall-E are notable signposts, but I have to jump to 2015's Inside Out in true comparison. And with this all said, I'm ignoring how absolutely sensational the film work of 1995 really is. The influx of single-word titles this year really tells the tale: Seven (my choice for the best live-action movie of the year--and I give Kevin Spacey the Supporting Actor award I think he earned, though the Academy gave him the award for The Usual Suspects, a movie I despise for its popular though transparent trickery), Casino, Heat, Clueless, Safe, Hate, Kids, Restoration, Underground, La Ceremonie, Nixon, and even Showgirls (a misunderstood title, except among those who love it). Even though the Academy delivered its top prize to Mel Gibson's awful Braveheart--the worst Best Picture winner since De Mille's The Greatest Show on Earth--1995 is an astounding year...arguably the best of the decade. And Toy Story is its crown jewel. 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: TOY STORY (US, John Lasseter) (2nd: Seven (US, David Fincher); Casino (US, Martin Scorsese); Babe (Australia, Chris Noonan); La Cérémonie (France, Claude Chabrol); Safe (US, Todd Haynes); Heat (US, Michael Mann); Leaving Las Vegas (US, Mike Figgis); Apollo 13 (US, Ron Howard); Richard III (UK, Richard Loncraine); A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (UK/US, Michael Henry Wilson and Martin Scorsese); Clueless (US, Amy Heckerling); Citizen X (US, Chris Gerolmo); Before Sunrise (US, Richard Linklater); A Little Princess (US, Alfonso Cuaron); A Single Girl (France, Benoit Jacquot); The City of Lost Children (France, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet); The Battle Over Citizen Kane (US, Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein); Ulysses’ Gaze (Greece, Theo Angelopoulos); Dead Man (US, Jim Jarmusch); Underground (Yugoslavia, Emir Kusturica); Hate (France, Mathieu Kassovitz); Sense and Sensibility (US/UK, Ang Lee); The Bridges of Madison County (US, Clint Eastwood); The White Balloon (Iran, Jafar Panahi); Showgirls (US, Paul Verhoeven); Forgotten Silver (New Zealand, Peter Jackson); Cyclo (Vietnam, Tran Anh Hung); Institute Benjamenta (UK, Stephen Quay and Timothy Quay); The Celluloid Closet (US, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman); Anne Frank Remembered (UK/US/Netherlands, Jon Klein); Hiroshima (Canada/Japan, Koreyoshi Kurahara and Roger Spottiswoode); Georgia (US, Ulu Grosbard); Carried Away (US, Bruno Barreto); Dead Man Walking (US, Tim Robbins); Nixon (US, Oliver Stone); Carrington (UK, Christopher Hampton); To Die For (US, Gus Van Sant); From the Journals of Jean Seberg (US, Mark Rappaport); Lumiere and Company (France, 39 directors); Shanghai Triad (China, Zhang Yimou); The Quick and The Dead (US, Sam Raimi); Devil in a Blue Dress (US, Carl Franklin); Stuart Saves His Family (US, Harold Ramis); Unstrung Heroes (US, Diane Keaton); Wild Bill (US, Walter Hill); Angels & Insects (UK, Philip Haas); Cold Comfort Farm (UK, John Schlesinger); The Addiction (US, Abel Ferrera); Circle of Friends (UK, Pat O'Connor); Kids (US, Larry Clark); Mighty Aphrodite (US, Woody Allen); Twelve Monkeys (US, Terry Gilliam); Ghost in the Shell (Japan, Mamoru Oshii); The Star Maker (Italy, Giuseppe Tornatore); Fallen Angels (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai); Antonia’s Line (Netherlands, Marleen Gorris); Cold Fever (Iceland, Fredrik Frederiksson); The Brady Bunch Movie (US, Betty Thomas); Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (US, Gary Fleder); The Usual Suspects (US, Bryan Singer); Day of the Beast (Spain, Alex de la Iglesia); Shall We Dance? (Japan, Masayuki Suo); Die Hard with a Vengeance (US, John McTiernan); Pocahontas (US, Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg); Living in Oblivion (US, Tom diCillo); Rumble in the Bronx (US/Hong Kong, Stanley Tong); Braveheart (US, Mel Gibson))


ACTOR: Nicholas Cage, LEAVING LAS VEGAS (2nd: Ian McKellen, Richard III, followed by: Morgan Freeman, Seven; Robert De Niro, Casino; Stephen Rea, Citizen X; Robert De Niro, Heat; Joe Pesci, Casino; Al Pacino, Heat; Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking)


ACTRESS: Elizabeth Shue, LEAVING LAS VEGAS (2nd: Julianne Moore, Safe, followed by: Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County; Sandrine Bonnaire, La Ceremonie; Sharon Stone, Casino; Alicia Silverstone, Clueless; Nicole Kidman, To Die For; Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kevin Spacey, SEVEN (2nd: Max Von Sydow, Citizen X, followed by: Ed Harris, Apollo 13; James Cromwell, Babe; Don Cheadle, Devil in a Blue Dress; L.Q. Jones, Casino; Donald Sutherland, Citizen X; Gary Farmer, Dead Man; Treat Williams, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead)


SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Joan Allen, NIXON (2nd: Ashley Judd, Smoke, followed by: Mare Winningham, GeorgiaMira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite; Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility; Amy Brenneman, Heat; Eleanor Bron, A Little Princess; Jennifer Elise Cox, The Brady Bunch MovieKathleen Quinlan, Apollo 13)



DIRECTOR: John Lasseter, TOY STORY (2nd: David Fincher, Seven, followed by: Chris Noonan, Babe; Martin Scorsese, Casino; Michael Mann, Heat; Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas; Claude Chabrol, La Ceremonie; Todd Haynes, Safe; Ron Howard, Apollo 13)



NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: LA CEREMONIE (France, Claude Chabrol) (2nd: Hate (France, Mathieu Kassovitz), followed by: Underground (Yugoslavia/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Czech Republic/Hungary, Emir Kusturica); Les Miserables (France, Claude Lelouch); The White Balloon (Iran, Jafar Panahi); Cyclo (Vietnam/France/Hong Kong, Tran Ahn Hung); The City of Lost Children (France/Germany/Spain, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeaunet); A Single Girl (France, Benoit Jacquot); Shanghai Triad (Zhang Yimou, China); The Star Maker (Italy, Giuseppe Tornatore))


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (UK/US, Martin Scorsese and Michael Henry Wilson) (2nd: The Battle Over Citizen Kane (US, Michael Epstein and Thomas Lennon), followed by: The Celluloid Closet (US, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman); Anne Frank Remembered (US, Jon Blair))



ANIMATED FEATURE: TOY STORY (US, John Lasseter) (2nd: Institute Benjamenta (UK, Stephen and Timothy Quay), followed by: Ghost in the Shell (Japan, Mamoru Oshii); Pocahontas (US, Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg))


LIVE ACTION SHORT: CREMASTER 4 (US, Matthew Barney) (2nd: Lieberman in Love (US, Christine Lahti), followed by: Duke of Groove (US, Griffin Dunne); It's Oh So Quiet (US, Spike Jonze); Buddy Holly (US, Spike Jonze))



ANIMATED SHORT: A CLOSE SHAVE (UK, Nick Park) (2nd: The Spirit of Christmas (US, Trey Parker and Matt Stone), followed by: The Chicken From Outer Space (US, John Dilworth); Gagarin (Russia, Alexey Charitidi))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow, TOY STORY (2nd: Andrew Kevin Walker, Seven, followed by: Amy Heckerling, Clueless; Michael Mann, Heat; Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, Before Sunrise)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: George Miller and Chris Noonan, BABE (2nd: Claude Chabrol, La Ceremonie, followed by: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, Casino; Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas; Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Darius Khondji, SEVEN (2nd: Andrew Lesnie, Babe, followed by: Yue Lu, Shanghai Triad; Robert Richardson, Casino; Dante Spinotti, Heat)


ART DIRECTION: RESTORATION, A Little Princess, Richard III, Seven, The City of Lost Children


COSTUME DESIGN: ANGELS AND INSECTS, Casino, Richard III, Restoration, A Little Princess



FILM EDITING: SEVEN, Heat, Babe, Casino, Apollo 13



SOUND: APOLLO 13, Seven, Toy Story, Heat, Die Hard With a Vengeance

SOUND EFFECTS: APOLLO 13, Toy Story, Braveheart



ORIGINAL SCORE: Howard Shore, SEVEN (2nd: Randy Edelman, Citizen X, followed by: Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas; James Horner, Apollo 13; Clint Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus, The Bridges of Madison County)



ORIGINAL SONG: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from TOY STORY (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman) (2nd: “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” from Don Juan Demarco (Music and lyrics by Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen and R.J. Lange), followed by: “I Will Go Sailing No More” from Toy Story (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman); “Dead Man Walkin’” from Dead Man Walking (Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen); “If I Wanted” from Georgia (Music and lyrics by Mare Winningham); "Natural One" from Kids (Music and lyrics by Lou Barlow, John Davis and Wally Gagel); "Color of the Wind" from Pocahontas (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz))

ADAPTATION SCORE/SCORING OF A MUSICAL: Randy Newman, TOY STORY (2nd: Nigel Westlake, Babe, followed by: Alan Menken, Pocahontas)



SPECIAL EFFECTS: BABE, The City of Lost Children, Apollo 13



MAKEUP: SEVEN, Braveheart, The City of Lost Children

Friday, July 8, 2016

1994--The Year in Review

1994 marks the beginning of the Tarantino age, for better or worse (its effects still reverberate today, and mostly from ill-equipped imitators). As stunning as his 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs was, it couldn't prepare us for the time-jumbling tale awaiting in his sophomore directorial effort Pulp Fiction. It was simply impossible to watch this movie without feeling your heart racing so fleetly, you might require a shot directly to the ol' pump to slow it down. Absolutely everything works so perfectly in it that you actually feel in your gut the moviemaking machine operating absolutely to par. It was a slam dunk at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme D'or. But the populist vote arrived when Forrest Gump was released in the summer to absolute acclaim and big box office. I stupidly fell for Zemeckis's film upon first viewing--in fact, it took me a few years to realize it was a venal work, filled with damning judgments directed at its most innocent characters, and ever since then, I've found Forrest Gump unwatchable, even though I like elements of it. It likewise hoodwinked the Academy into awarding it Best Picture and five other accolades (including a second consecutive Best Actor Oscar for Tom Hanks). But Gump never blinded me to the quality of Pulp Fiction, a movie that continues to offer deeper insight into the concepts of loyalty, understanding, and morality--it's a much more lovable and entertaining film, even with its abject bloodiness. Its two closest competitors--Terry Zwigoff's painfully intimate documentary Crumb and Tim Burton's gorgeous, surprisingly joyful biopic Ed Wood (with Johnny Depp again arriving up top under Tim Burton's direction)--come within a hair's breadth of besting Tarantino's epic. And yet the year included additional remarkable titles like Hoop Dreams, Little Women, Natural Born Killers (co-written by Tarantino), Heavenly Creatures, box-office disappointment The Shawshank Redemption, and art house hits Four Weddings and a Funeral, Leon (released as The Professional in the US), The Hudsucker Proxy, To Live, Through the Olive Trees, and surprise Best Picture nominee Il Postino (which wouldn't hit US shores until 1995). I have to note the tie I've arrived at here: it's just impossible to choose between the two finest supporting male performances of the entire decade; as much as I adore Martin Landau's lovingly detailed portrayal of Bela Legosi in Ed Wood, it feels horribly wrong to ignore Samuel L. Jackson's superb showing as the icy, contemplative hitman Jules Winnfield. 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: PULP FICTION (US, Quentin Tarantino) (2nd: Crumb (US, Terry Zwigoff), followed by: Ed Wood (US, Tim Burton); Three Colors: Red (France/Poland/Germany, Krzysztof Kieslowski); To Live (China, Zhang Yimou); Hoop Dreams (US, Steve James); Vanya on 42nd Street (US, Louis Malle); The Shawshank Redemption (US, Frank Darabont); Little Women (US, Gillian Armstrong); Natural Born Killers (US, Oliver Stone); Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand, Peter Jackson); Leon (aka The Professional) (US/France, Luc Besson); The Hudsucker Proxy (US, Joel Coen); Through the Olive Trees (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Il Postino (Italy, Michael Radford); A Pure Formality (Italy/France, Giuseppe Tornatore); Quiz Show (US, Robert Redford); The Kingdom (Denmark, Lars Von Trier); Chungking Express (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai); The Madness of King George (UK, Nicholas Hytner); Burnt by the Sun (Russia, Nikita Mikhalkov); Fresh (US, Boaz Yakin); Spanking the Monkey (US, David O. Russell); Shallow Grave (UK, Danny Boyle); Four Weddings and a Funeral (UK, Mike Newell); Reality Bites (US, Ben Stiller); Being Human (US, Bill Forsyth); The Glass Shield (US, Charles Barnett); Nobody’s Fool (US, Robert Benton); The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Australia, Stephen Elliott); Before the Rain (Macedonia/UK/France, Milcho Manchevski); Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Hong Kong, Ang Lee); Forrest Gump (US, Robert Zemeckis); Queen Margot (France, Patrice Chereau); The Boys of St. Vincent (Canada, John N. Smith); Bandit Queen (UK/India, Shekhar Kapur); Muriel's Wedding (Australia, P.J. Hogan); Death and the Maiden (UK, Roman Polanski); Exotica (Canada, Atom Egoyan); Ladybird Ladybird (UK, Ken Loach); The Last Seduction (US, John Dahl); Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (US, Alan Rudolph); Wyatt Earp (US, Lawrence Kasdan); Interview with the Vampire (US/UK, Neil Jordan); Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (US, Steven M. Martin); A Great Day in Harlem (US, Jean Bach); Barcelona (US, Whit Stillman); I Like it Like That (US, Darnell Martin); Bullets Over Broadway (US, Woody Allen); The Lion King (US, Roger Allers and Ron Minkoff); Once Were Warriors (New Zealand, Lee Tamahori); Cemetery Man (Italy/France/Germany, Michele Soavi); Faust (Czechoslovakia/UK, Jan Svankmajer); I'll Do Anything (US, James L. Brooks); The Mask (US, Charles Russell); It Could Happen to You (US, Andrew Bergman); Ashes of Time (Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wei); Go Fish (US, Rose Troche); When a Man Loves a Woman (US, Luis Mandoki); Speed (US, Jan de Bont); True Lies (US, James Cameron); The Ref (US, Ted Demme); Cabin Boy (US, Adam Resnick); Legends of the Fall (US, Edward Zwick))

ACTOR: Johnny Depp, ED WOOD (2nd: Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George, followed by: Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers, Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption; John Travolta, Pulp Fiction; Massimo Troisi, Il Postino; Roman Polanski, A Pure Formality; Gerard Depardieu, A Pure FormalityTom Hanks, Forrest Gump; Paul Newman, Nobody’s Fool)


ACTRESS: Irene Jacob, THREE COLORS: RED (2nd: Linda Fiorentino, The Last Seduction, followed by: Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle; Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers; Natalie Portman, Leon; Melanie Lynskey, Heavenly Creatures; Meg Ryan, When A Man Loves a Woman; Jessica Lange, Blue Sky)





SUPPORTING ACTOR: (TIE) Martin Landau, ED WOOD and Samuel L. Jackson, PULP FICTION (2nd: Robert Downey Jr., Natural Born Killers, followed by: John Turturro, Quiz Show; Paul Scofield, Quiz Show; Bob Gunton, The Shawshank Redemption; Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction; Dennis Quaid, Wyatt Earp; Myketi Williamson, Forrest Gump)



SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Brooke Smith, VANYA ON 42ND STREET (2nd: Kirsten Dunst, Interview With The Vampire, followed by: Claire Danes, Little Women; Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction; Helen Mirren, The Madness of King George; Janeane Garafalo, Reality Bites; Amanda Plummer, Pulp Fiction; Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway; Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies)


DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino, PULP FICTION (2nd: Tim Burton, Ed Wood, followed by: Terry Zwigoff, Crumb; Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Red; Oliver Stone, Natural Born Killers; Zhang Yimou, To Live; Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption; Steve James, Hoop Dreams; Abbas Kierostami, Through the Olive Trees)



NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: THREE COLORS: RED (France/Poland/Germany, Krzysztof Kieslowski) (2nd: To Live (China, Zhang Yimou), followed by: Through The Olive Trees (Iran, Abbas Kierostami); A Pure Formality (Italy/France, Giuseppe Tornatore); Il Postino (UK/Italy/France, Michael Radford); Chungking Express (Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wei); Burnt By The Sun (Russia, Nikita Mikhalov); Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Thailand, Ang Lee); Before the Rain (Macedonia/France/UK, Milcho Manchevski))



DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: CRUMB (US, Terry Zwigoff) (2nd: Hoop Dreams (US, Steve James), followed by: Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (US, Steven M. Martin); A Great Day in Harlem (US, Jean Bach))


ANIMATED FEATURE: THE LION KING (US, Roger Allers and Ron Minkoff) (2nd: Faust (Czechoslovakia/UK, Jan Svankmajer))



ANIMATED SHORT: BLACK ICE (US, Stan Brakhage) (2nd: Tales From The Far Side (US, Marv Newland), followed by: Bob’s Birthday (UK, David Fine and Alison Snowden)



LIVE ACTION SHORT: TREVOR (US, Peggy Rajski) (2nd: Bottle Rocket (US, Wes Anderson), followed by: Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life (UK, Peter Capaldi) (tied with Trevor)Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade (US, George Hickenlooper); Sabotage (US, Spike Jonze))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery, PULP FICTION (2nd: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Ed Wood, followed by: Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Three Colors: Red; Wei Lu and Hua Yu, To Live; Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Heavenly Creatures)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Frank Darabont, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (2nd: Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George, followed by: Robin Swicord, Little Women; Anna Pavignano, Michael Radford, Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli and Massimo Troisi, Il Postino; Paul Attanasio, Quiz Show)



CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stefan Czapsky, ED WOOD (2nd: Piotr Sobocinski, Three Colors: Red, followed by: Roger Deakins, The Shawshank Redemption; Robert Richardson, Natural Born Killers; Owen Roizman, Wyatt Earp)


ART DIRECTION: THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, The Hudsucker Proxy, Ed Wood, Quiz Show, Little Women


COSTUME DESIGN: THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, Interview With The Vampire, Little Women, The Madness of King George, Queen Margot



FILM EDITING: NATURAL BORN KILLERS, Pulp Fiction, Hoop Dreams, The Shawshank Redemption, Leon



SOUND: SPEED, The Shawshank Redemption, Natural Born Killers, Leon, Forrest Gump

SOUND EFFECTS: SPEED, Leon, Forrest Gump



ORIGINAL SCORE: Thomas Newman, LITTLE WOMEN (2nd: Howard Shore, Ed Wood, followed by: Zbigniew Priesner, Three Colors: Red; Luis Bacalov, Il Postino (won in 1996); Thomas Newman, The Shawshank Redemption)



ORIGINAL SONG: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” from THE LION KING (Music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice) (2nd: "Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King (Music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice), followed by "Circle of Life" from The Lion King (Music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice); "Regulate" from Above the Rim (Music by Warren G., Nate Dogg, Michael McDonald, Dr. Dre, and Bob James, lyrics by Warren G. and Nate Dogg); "Stay (I Missed You)" from Reality Bites (Music and lyrics by Lisa Loeb))



ADAPTED SCORE/SCORE FOR A MUSICAL: David Boeddinghaus, CRUMB (2nd: Hans Zimmer, The Lion King (won as Original Score))


SPECIAL EFFECTS: FORREST GUMP, The Mask, The Hudsucker Proxy

MAKEUP: ED WOOD, The Mask, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein