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 picture I’ve easily chosen as 1996's champ 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. Honestly, it contains one of the three most devastating 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 since the 1950s). Yet Emily Watson--in her debut feature performance--is superb as the fiercely faithful, love-starved Bess McNeill; her performance, in fact, 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 athletic 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 (its final shot kills you with a devastating gut punch--you have to rub your eyes to take it in). 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--it's a shame he hasn't been able to match it; the difficulty of getting a movie made and seen has really gotten to him). 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 though predictably 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; Sebbie Reynolds, Mother; Barbara Hershey, The Portrait of a Lady; Joan Allen, The Crucible)

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 Coen 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


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


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