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); Heat (US, Michael Mann); La Cérémonie (France, Claude Chabrol); Safe (US, Todd Haynes); 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: Elliott Goldenthal, Heat; Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas; James Horner, Apollo 13)

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

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