Thursday, May 26, 2016

1991--The Year in Review

Movies definitely take a dark turn this year, evidenced by the eventual winner of the Best Picture Oscar (and the other top four categories), Jonathan Demme's hit horror offering The Silence of the Lambs, an undeniably thrilling and somehow elegant addition to a genre that had rarely been noted before by the Academy. Of course, Anthony Hopkins hit a new high in his career as Hannibal Lecter, but his character was NOT a lead in the movie, so I have moved his performance over to the Supporting Actor category, which he handily wins. As for Best Actress, as much as I adore Jodie Foster's exacting Clarice Starling, I think Mimi Rogers easily overtakes her in The Rapture in an impossibly intense performance, displayed in a film that's often mindbending in its willingness to go where no other film will venture (that's why I also gave its writer/director Michael Tolkin the Best Original Screenplay award, even over the Coens). As there was one tie in the Best Actress race in 1968, I;m now allowing myself one tie in the Best Actress race for Rogers and Lili Taylor, who's so moving as the wallflower folkie in Dogfight; she commands that little indie so assuredly. But it's that brotherly duo that I think emerged with the best movie of the year: a dank, hilariously layered and beautifully horrifying dip into the life of the mind called Barton Fink, with John Turturro excelling as a pretentious New York playwright struggling to adapt to new surroundings while on a soul-eating sojourn to Hollywood (the film set a still unbroken record at Cannes, winning Best Actor and Best Director on top of the Palme D'or). As much as I love other bleak offerings this year--Raise the Red Lantern, Europa (released in the US as Zentropa), JFK (which I admire on a filmmaking front despite resolutely believing that Oswald acted alone), Defending Your Life, The Double Life of Veronique, Cape Fear, The Fisher King, Poison, Delicatessen, Thelma and Louise, Boyz N The Hood and Naked Lunch, among them--it's the Coens that emerge with the 1991 film that fascinates me most with its smart and troubling imagery. 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. 

(2nd: Raise the Red Lantern (China, Zhang Yimou)
followed by: Defending Your Life (US, Albert Brooks)
The Rapture (US, Michael Tolkin)
The Double Life of Véronique (France/Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (US, Fax Bahr, Eleanor Coppola and George Hickenlooper)
Europa aka Zentropa (Germany/Denmark, Lars Von Trier)
A Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan, Edward Yang)
The Silence of the Lambs (US, Jonathan Demme)
The Commitments (UK/Ireland, Alan Parker)
Cape Fear (US, Martin Scorsese)
Dogfight (US, Nancy Savoca)
The Best Intentions (Sweden, Bille August)
Beauty and the Beast (US, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise)
Poison (US, Todd Haynes)
Thelma and Louise (US, Ridley Scott)
35 Up (UK, Michael Apted)
Delicatessen (France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro)
Bugsy (US, Barry Levinson)
JFK (US, Oliver Stone)
City of Hope (US, John Sayles)
Boyz N the Hood (US, John Singleton)
The Fisher King (US, Terry Gilliam)
Naked Lunch (Canada, David Cronenberg)
Rambling Rose (US, Martha Coolidge)
Jungle Fever (US, Spike Lee)
The Man in the Moon (US, Robert Mulligan)
The Lovers on the Bridge (France, Leos Carax)
L.A. Story (US, Mick Jackson)
Rubin and Ed (US, Trent Harris)
Grand Canyon (US, Lawrence Kasdan)
Daughters of the Dust (US, Julie Dash)
La Belle Noiseuse (France, Jacques Rivette)
A Brief History of Time (US, Errol Morris)
A Little Stiff (US, Caveh Zahedi)
Until the End of the World (Germany/France/Australia/US, Wim Wenders)
Paris Trout (US, Stephen Gyllenhaal)
Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, Alfonso Arau)
Frankie and Johnny (US, Garry Marshall)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (US, James Cameron)
Let Him Have It (UK, Peter Medak)
A Rage in Harlem (US, Bill Duke)
Little Man Tate (US, Jodie Foster)
Enchanted April (UK, Mike Newell)
Not Without My Daughter (US, Brian Gilbert)
High Heels (Spain, Pedro Almodovar)
Poink Break (US, Kathryn Bigelow)
Proof (Australia, Jocelyn Moorhouse)
Toto the Hero (Belgium/France, Jaco van Dormael)
Stepping Out (US, Lewis Gilbert)
The Rocketeer (US, Joe Johnston)
Life Stinks (US, Mel Brooks)
Black Robe (Canada, Bruce Beresford)
Slacker (US, Richard Linklater)
Homicide (US, David Mamet)
New Jack City (US, Mario Van Peebles)
What About Bob? (US, Frank Oz)
The Doors (US, Oliver Stone)
City Slickers (US, Ron Underwood)
The Prince of Tides (US, Barbra Streisand)
Fried Green Tomatoes (US, Jon Avnet)
The Addams Family (US, Barry Sonnenfeld)
My Own Private Idaho (US, Gus Van Sant)
Prospero’s Books (UK, Peter Greenaway)
Night on Earth (France/UK/Germany/US/Japan, Jim Jarmusch)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (US, Kevin Reynolds)
Shakes the Clown (US, Bobcat Goldthwait)
Hook (US, Steven Spielberg)

ACTOR: John Turturro, BARTON FINK (2nd: Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life, followed by: Robert De Niro, Cape Fear; Warren Beatty, Bugsy; Howard Hesseman, Rubin and Ed; Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides; Dennis Hopper, Paris Trout; River Phoenix, Dogfight)

ACTRESS: (TIE) Mimi Rogers, THE RAPTURE and Lili Taylor, DOGFIGHT, (2nd: Gong Li, Raise the Red Lantern, followed by: Irene Jacob, The Double Life of Veronique; Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs; Laura Dern, Rambling Rose; Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise; Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Anthony Hopkins, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (won as Best Actor) (2nd: John Goodman, Barton Fink, followed by: Samuel L. Jackson, Jungle Fever; Rip Torn, Defending Your Life; Michael Lerner, Barton Fink; David Straithairn, City of Hope; Andrew Strong, The Commitments; Brad Pitt, Thelma and Louise)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Juliette Lewis, CAPE FEAR (2nd: Judy Davis, Naked Lunch, followed by: Meryl Streep, Defending Your Life; Amanda Plummer, The Fisher King; Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose; Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King; Sarah Jessica Parker, L.A. Story; Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides)

DIRECTOR: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, BARTON FINK (2nd: Zhang Yimou, Raise the Red Lantern, followed by: Lars Von Trier, Europa; Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Double Life of Veronique; Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life; Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs; Michael Tolkin, The Rapture; Oliver Stone, JFK)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: RAISE THE RED LANTERN (China, Zhang Yimou) (2nd:  The Double Life of Véronique (France/Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski), followed by: Europa (Germany/Denmark, Lars von Trier); A Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan, Edward Yang); The Best Intentions (Sweden, Bille August); Delicatessen (France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro); The Lovers on the Bridge (France, Leos Carax); La Belle Noiseuse (France, Jacques Rivette); Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, Alfonso Arau); High Heels (Spain, Pedro Almodovar); Toto the Hero (Belgium/France, Jaco van Dormael))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE (US, Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr) (2nd: 35 Up (US, Michael Apted, followed by: A Brief History of Time (US, Errol Morris))


ANIMATED SHORT: ENTRE DEUX SOUERS (Canada, Caroline Leaf) (2nd: The Comb (UK, Stephen and Timothy Quay), followed by: The Sandman (UK, Paul Berry))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: LOSING MY RELIGION (US, Tarsem Singh) (2nd: Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment (US, Debra Chasnoff) (won as Documentary Short), followed by: Bedhead (US, Robert Rodriguez); World of Glory (Sweden, Roy Andersson))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Tolkin, THE RAPTURE (2nd: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Barton Fink, followed by: Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life; Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, The Double Life of Veronique, Callie Khouri, Thelma and Louise)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Ted Tally, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (2nd: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais and Roddy Doyle, The Commitments, followed by: James Toback, Bugsy; Ni Zhen, Raise the Red Lantern; Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK) 

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lun Yang and Fei Zhao, RAISE THE RED LANTERN (2nd: Roger Deakins, Barton Fink, followed by: Robert Richardson, JFK; Darius Khondji; Delicatessen; Freddie Francis, Cape Fear)

ART DIRECTION: BARTON FINK, Raise the Red Lantern, Bugsy, The Rocketeer, Delicatessen

COSTUME DESIGN: BARTON FINK, Raise the Red Lantern, Bugsy, The Addams Family, The Rocketeer

FILM EDITING: JFK, The Commitments, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Silence of the Lambs, Thelma and Louise

SOUND: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, Beauty and the Beast, The Commitments, The Doors, Barton Fink



ORIGINAL SCORE: Carter Burwell, BARTON FINK (2nd: Howard Shore, The Silence of the Lambs, followed by Ennio Morricone, Bugsy; John Williams, JFK; Zbigniew Priesner, The Double Life of Veronique)

ADAPTATION SCORE/SCORING OF A MUSICAL: Alan Menken, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (won as Best Original Score) (2nd: Elmer Bernstein, Cape Fear, followed by: G. Mark Roswell, The Commitments)

ORIGINAL SONG: “Be Our Guest” from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman) (2nd: “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman), followed by “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman); "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman); “Everything Do (I Do For You)” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Music by Michael Kamen, lyrics by Bryan Adams and Rob Lange))


MAKEUP: NAKED LUNCH, The Addams Family, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Friday, May 20, 2016

TOP GUN and Tom Cruise: A Look Back

In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the release of Top Gun, I am reprinting my interview with Tom Cruise, which was conducted in May 1986 at the UN Plaza Hotel in New York City, the day after the film premiered for press at the Paramount Theater. The article originally ran in the May 20th 1986 edition of the Georgia State University Signal's Tuesday Magazine: 

Tom Cruise is neither as arrogant nor as innocent as he may sometimes seem on screen. He constantly walks a tightrope between the two extremes, yet he recklessly does so in a way that could make one think he could flip-flop at any moment. He could probably make a person feel indispensable one minute, then turn and intimidate them with his own assuredness. He doesn't seem like the type of person who would actually do that. But he could if he wanted to.

That strength of personality has afforded Cruise the opportunity to tackle a variety of roles in his five-year film career. He has moved swiftly from the pathological Red Beret in Taps to the naive high school student in Risky Business to the ambitious football player in All The Right Moves to the heroic hermit Jack O' The Green in Legend and has approached each role with vitality and a total commitment to purpose. Perhaps that is why he was the first actor to pop into the minds of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop) when it came time to cast their newest film Top Gun. The producers knew they had to have an actor that could express an exceptionally vigorous love for his (and for the lead character's) profession, so Simpson and Bruckheimer agreed Cruise was their man.

In the film, Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, one of the finest fighter pilots enrolled in the Navy Fighter Weapons School, a training program set up for the Navy's most expert and elite pilots--a program more popularly known as "Top Gun."

In an interview conducted on a sunny May day at New York's UN Plaza Hotel, I found that, as he does with much of his acting, Cruise puts force behind his words and beliefs, not solely because it's his job, but because he himself wouldn't have it any other way. It would be unwise just to write off what he has to say about his acting and his films as a con--he speaks that intensely. It would be simple to flick his emphatic stance away and to disregard it as a fervent performance given by an expert salesman. But Cruise, dressed modestly in a pair of fashionably worn cowboy boots, an over-sized brown wool sweater, some slightly baggy white pants, and with a then-unoccupied pierced left ear, is not a salesman; he may sport that brand of tenacity, but he speak with a clear-eyed honesty.

For instance, he doesn't hesitate to admit that, while he was taken with the film's script from square one, he had his reservations about agreeing to star in Top Gun when the producers first offered it to him. "I didn't want to make a war film. I was more interested in making a piece about character. Luckily, [Simpson and Bruckheimer] didn't want to make a war movie, either. If we had wanted to make that type of film, we would've opened with MiGs blasting out and put explosions all the way through it. We could have done that," Cruise says, smiling at the thought. "But we were careful to stay away from it. "

The actor maintains that, in keeping an open mind about the military, he learned a few things about it if which he previously (from working on Taps back in 1981) only had inklings. "The thing that I understood prior to Top Gun was that the military was just a tool of the government. You're not making policy, you're enforcing it. I got involved five months prior to the shooting of the film. I did a lot of research, going down to San Diego, spending time at the Top Gun base in Miramar, spending time looking for what it was about this character that makes him what he is. Going into the film, I had, maybe, this idea of the fighter pilots themselves, even when I was getting involved with them and spending a lot of time with them. In doing that, I met these great old fighter pilots from World War I and World War II. Talking to them, I got the feeling--especially from the older guys who flew the B-51s--of their passion for flight and their love of competition. I found that, among these pilots, there's a camaraderie, a great and equal respect for any man who's brave enough to go up and fly in these jets. It's a whole different world, a different reality."

Even so, Cruise notes, there is a darker, colder, heavier side to the military that he had also never fathomed before: namely, its effect on men as individuals, not as just pilots or officers. "The thing they say," Cruise remembers, "is if they had wanted you to have a family and a wife and kids, they would've issued them to you. So it's tough. I mean, we lived on a carrier for four days and I was thinking the whole time I was going through it that these guys are on there for nine months at a time. Nine months of their lives. They kiss their wives goodbye, maybe she's two months pregnant and they come back and there's a baby that's a couple of months old." Shaking his head, thinking back on his experiences, Cruise says "Living on a carrier, it's prison with the threat of drowning. That is definitely not a nice environment."

Though Cruise is still very much the actor, he inevitably has been bitten by the production bug. Like many actors, he has his own production company set up in Los Angeles, with six projects in development, both for himself and for others. Top Gun, he says, was useful in his filmmaking education, as it finally gave him the chance to study what goes on behind the camera. "It was my first time in getting involved that strongly on the production side of it," he says. "Getting that whole different point-of-view [producers] Don and Jerry really shared a lot of that with me: the development of the piece, breaking it down. Some films come in and they're three or four hours over their projected length and you've got to cut them and reshape the whole film. These guys are very sound with what they do because they start out with a lean script and they decide what kind of picture they want to make prior to the shoot. Every scene that we shot," he says pridefully, "is on the screen. There's no excess."

Overall, the actor adds, he is pleased with Top Gun as a final product. The film is everything he expected it to be, especially when he takes into consideration how difficult the extensive aerial sequences were to shoot. Cruise feels that the combined effects of the air story and the ground story are going to be well received by audiences. "My little sister at in the theater, watching the film, and I was right behind her," Cruise says, trying to control the grin that begin to curl at his mouth. "I watched her and her head, every now and then, would go like this..." Cruise ducks his head violently, then laughs. "So I felt satisfied with the film."

One interesting thing about Cruise's latest effort are their directors. Top Gun, on one hand, was director Tony Scott's follow-up to The Hunger, an immensely popular cult film starring David Bowie as an aging vampire. Legend, on the other hand, was directed by Tony's more famous brother, Ridley Scott, who has given us such visual masterpieces as The Duelists, Alien and Blade Runner. In tone and in visual style, the Scotts' films are peas in a pod, particularly in their smoky cinematography. However, Cruise finds it difficult to compare their directorial methods without being unfair. "They're two different people," he says. "Their common interest is one of wanting to make different, interesting, bigger-than-life films. They're ambitious filmmakers. But it would be unfair to compare them because of the different types of films. If I had worked with Ridley on a character piece like Top Gun, or possibly even Alien, then I would be able to make a comparison. But as it stands, they were two totally different films."

Legend, in release for over a month now after being shelved for a year by Universal Pictures, has received fairly lukewarm notices, with most of them praising Ridley Scott's technical acuity rather than Cruise's acting, which has gotten, for the first time in his career, roundly slammed. Cruise is not bothered by the critical reaction to the film, though, just as he won't be bothered by the reception of Top Gun, whether it be good or bad.

"If I did let things like that bother me, for the rest of my life and career, I'd go nuts. I knew exactly what I was getting into with Legend. In the future, I'm going to take a lot of risks. And there are going to be other films people are not going to like. It's going to be that way. But it's the process and the actual making of the work that is the challenge, or at least most of the challenge. I mean, I want everyone to love my movies and everyone to go see them and to get great notices, but that can't be the reason for doing them."

Cruise is one of a handful of very successful young actors today that is not a member of the so-called "Brat Pack." However, he still takes offense when the term is dredged up. He feels that it is not only an insult to the actors to whom the label is aimed, but is, in reality, an insult to all actors, including himself. When asked why he hadn't done a film with the actors more famously included in "The Brat Pack," he struck back, not with aggressiveness, but with a modicum of irritation in his voice.

"First of all," he said, "using that phrase, I think, is such a cop-out for the press. There's no such thing as 'The Brat Pack.' It's such a writer's device, y'know? It's really... cute. People who write that kind of stuff, it makes it very secure for them. Then they don't have to deal with the actors as individuals. Anyway, I've been offered those films and other things--I don't want to get specific--but I didn't look at the scripts in terms of how they were going to affect my image. When I read a script, I look at it in terms of 'Okay, what is this script saying? What would I want to say with this piece? What would I be communicating?' and then approaching it on that level." In spite of the success he's so obviously reached, Tom Cruise still has a healthy attitude about being a celebrity and an admired actor. With the most modest of airs, he says "I'm always up-and-coming as far as my work goes. You look at Paul Newman, in his early 60s. He's still growing as a person and an actor. The roles that he's played, he just keeps getting better and better."

Cruise mentions Newman, he acknowledges, mainly because he just finished filming a movie with him in Chicago. Titled The Color of Money, the film is a sequel to Robert Rossen''s masterful 1961 film The Hustler, starring Newman as “Fast Eddie” Felson, a hot-shot pool shark. “It's a movie that stands on its own,” Cruise says. “If you haven't seen The Hustler, it's not going to make any difference when you see this film. It's Eddie Felson 25 years later. He hasn't played pool in all that time, and I'm this comer, this naive but arrogant pool player. It's interesting. For his character, his whole philosophy is 'Money won is much sweeter than money earned.' My character is 'I don't care about money, I just want a guy's Best Game. I just want the best game I can get.' He just wants the challenge. So, throughout the film, Eddie wants to take me on the road, to take me to Atlantic City—we got six weeks—and it's just this conflict of the young and the old. It's almost like the cleansing of Newman's character and the corruption of mine.” Cruise also notes that he did learn to shoot pool for the film, working for many months with pool champion Mike Segal. “Newman and I make every shot in the movie,” he says.

Cruise admits that doing the Scorsese movie was quite a different experience from making Top Gun. “My involvement with Top Gun was much greater. When I came on to The Color of Money, Paul and Marty had already developed the script with the writer, Richard Price. I come off Top Gun, you know, carrying the picture, and then, with Marty and Paul, I was, like, this...kid.” He chuckles now about the experience indicating that it perhaps brought him down a notch. Still, he is close to being speechless when asked to describe working with these two cinematic legends. Acting with Newman was, “exciting—really terrific” while taking direction from Scorsese was a heartfelt “Great!”

But, in all ways, Tom Cruise displays an adventurous streak that, in the past, has usually proven crucial to being a movie star. At no time in our talk did he let this attitude peek through more clearly than when asked about his aggressive style of acting. “I guess I identify with Maverick in the sense that I feel it's unhealthy to just think in terms of only wanting to be the best. I think you should be the best that you can be. If I woke up in the morning and didn't have that feeling that 'Today, I want to do the best that I can possibly do, emotionally or physically, in any situation,' I wouldn't even get out of bed.”

I should note something about my meeting with Cruise that I didn't detail in this article. After our interview, I tried to get him to sign my All the Right Moves poster, but I didn't bring a workable pen. So he kindly told me to bring it back up to his room later on and, then, he would sign it for me. After some frantic searching, I found the correct pen and brought the poster back to his room hours later. He was just then getting ready to leave the UN Plaza Hotel, so he invited me downstairs where he was going to wait at the bar for his car to arrive. We talked for a bit in the elevator, and he asked where I was from. When he found out I was from Atlanta, he perked up because he was getting ready to join Paul Newman at the Atlanta Speedway (where he would get a race-car-driving bug from Newman, which led to his film Days of Thunder, and further, to his marriage to co-star Nicole Kidman). At the bar, he had a cranberry juice and I a beer, and he dutifully signed my poster. We talked a bit about the state of the film industry in Atlanta, and before I knew it, he was flashing that famous grin and shaking my hand as we parted. Even today, I still recall his surprising kindness and generosity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

1990--The Year in Review

1990 was an unremarkable year for film, though its primary note, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, was easily the movie of the year, and the entire decade, judging by its clear influence three decades hence. Two other gangster related films, The Coen Brothers' regal Miller's Crossing and Stephen Frears' The Grifters, were similarly terrific. Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet was the most humanistic work of the year, while Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves took all the awards. But it's Scorsese's film that remains the most memorable and widely loved. 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.

(2nd: Europa Europa (Germany/France/Poland, Agnieszka Holland)
followed by: Life is Sweet (UK, Mike Leigh)
Miller’s Crossing (US, Joel Coen)
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (US/UK, James Ivory)
The Grifters (US, Stephen Frears)
American Dream (US, Barbara Kopple)
The Reflecting Skin (Canada, Philip Ridley)
Mindwalk (US, Bernt Capra)
Men Don’t Leave (US, Paul Brickman)
Quick Change (US, Howard Franklin and Bill Murray)
Strangers in Good Company (Canada, Cynthia Scott)
An Angel at My Table (New Zealand, Jane Campion)
C’est la Vie (France, Diane Kurys)
White Hunter, Black Heart (US, Clint Eastwood)
Wild at Heart (US, David Lynch)
Mountains of the Moon (US, Bob Rafelson)
Dances With Wolves (US, Kevin Costner)
The Godfather Part III (US, Francis Ford Coppola)
Begotten (US, E. Elias Merhige)
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (Japan, Akira Kurosawa)
Miami Blues (US, George Armitage)
Edward Scissorhands (US, Tim Burton)
La Femme Nikita (France, Luc Besson)
Close-Up (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (UK, Anthony Mingella)
The Freshman (US, Andrew Bergman)
To Sleep With Anger (US, Charles Burnett)
Henry and June (US, Philip Kaufman)
The Krays (UK, Peter Medak)
After Dark, My Sweet (US, James Foley)
Ju Dou (China, Zhang Yimou)
Tatie Danielle (France, Etienne Chatiliez)
Alice (US, Woody Allen)
Christo in Paris (US, Deborah Dickson, Susan Fromke, David Maysles and Albert Maysles)
Awakenings (US, Penny Marshall)
King of New York (US, Abel Ferrara)
Jacob’s Ladder (US, Adrian Lyne)
Paris is Burning (US, Jennie Livingston)
Riff Raff (UK, Ken Loach)
Dick Tracy (US, Warren Beatty)
Tremors (US, Ron Underwood)
The Sheltering Sky (US, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Days of Being Wild (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai)
Reversal of Fortune (US, Barbet Schroeder)
Vincent and Theo (US, Robert Altman)
A Shock to the System (US, Jan Egleson)
Berkeley in the Sixties (US, Mark Kitchell)
Cyrano de Bergerac (France, Jean-Paul Rappeneau)
Metropolitan (US, Whit Stillman)
Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (US, Chuck Workman)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (US, John McNaughton)
Mo' Better Blues (US, Spike Lee)
White Palace (US, Luis Mandoki)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (UK/US, Tom Stoppard)
The Witches (UK/US, Nicolas Roeg)
The Field (Ireland, Jim Sheridan)
Boiling Point (Japan, Takeshi Kitano)
Avalon (US, Barry Levinson)
Pump Up The Volume (US, Allan Moyle)
Joe Versus The Volcano (US, John Patrick Shanley)
Back to the Future: Part III (US, Robert Zemeckis)
Stanley and Iris (US, Martin Ritt)
State of Grace (US, Phil Joanou)
Bad Influence (US, Curtis Hanson)
Nouvelle Vague (France, Jean-Luc Godard)
Postcards from the Edge (US, Mike Nichols)
Trust (US, Hal Hartley)
Lord of the Flies (US, Harry Hook)
The Hot Spot (US, Dennis Hopper)
Internal Affairs (US, Mike Figgis)
Presumed Innocent (US, Alan J. Pakula)
Green Card (US, Peter Weir)
Texasville (US, Peter Bogdanovich)
Pretty Woman (US, Garry Marshall)
Darkman (US, Sam Raimi)
Total Recall (US, Paul Verhoeven)
Hardware (US, Richard Stanley)
Misery (US, Rob Reiner)
The Two Jakes (US, Jack Nicholson)
Ghost (US, Jerry Zucker)
Graffiti Bridge (US, Prince)
Home Alone (US, Chris Columbus)
Troll 2 (US, Claudio Fragasso (as Drake Floyd)
The Bonfire of the Vanities (US, Brian De Palma)
Die Hard 2 (US, Renny Harlin))

ACTOR: Johnny Depp, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (2nd: Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune, followed by: Gerard Depardieu, Cyrano De Bergerac; Alec Baldwin, Miami Blues; Ray Liotta, GoodFellas; Paul Newman, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Robin Williams, Awakenings; Bill Murray, Quick Change)

ACTRESS: Alison Steadman, LIFE IS SWEET (2nd: Anjelica Huston, The Grifters, followed by: Joanne Woodward, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Jessica Lange, Men Don’t Leave; Laura Dern, Wild at Heart; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miami Blues; Juliet Stevenson, Truly, Madly, Deeply)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joe Pesci, GOODFELLAS (2nd: Robert De Niro, Goodfellas, followed by: Albert Finney, Miller’s Crossing; John Turturro, Miller’s Crossing; Timothy Spall, Life is Sweet; Chris O’Donnell, Men Don’t Leave; Philip Bosco, Quick Change)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Annette Bening, THE GRIFTERS (2nd: Jane Horrocks, Life is Sweet, followed by: Diane Ladd, Wild at Heart; Lorraine Bracco, GoodFellas; Claire Skinner, Life is Sweet; Joan Cusack, Men Don’t Leave; Mary McCormack, Dances with Wolves)

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese, GOODFELLAS (2nd: Agnieszka Holland, Europa Europa, followed by: Mike Leigh, Life is Sweet; Joel Coen, Miller’s Crossing; Stephen Frears, The Grifters; James Ivory, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Phillip Ridley, The Reflecting Skin)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: EUROPA EUROPA (Germany/France/Poland, Agnieszka Holland) (2nd: C’est la Vie (France, Diane Kurys), followed by: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (Japan, Akira Kurosawa); La Femme Nikita (France, Luc Besson); Close-Up (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Ju Dou (China, Zhang Yimou); Tatie Danielle (France, Etienne Chatiliez); Days of Being Wild (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai); Cyrano de Bergerac (France, Jean-Paul Rappeneau); Boiling Point (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); Nouvelle Vague (France, Jean-Luc Godard))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: AMERICAN DREAM (US, Barbara Kopple) (2nd: Christo in Paris (US, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Deborah Dickson and Susan Fromke), followed by: Paris is Burning (US, Jennie Livingston); Berkeley in the Sixties (US, Mark Kitchell); Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (US, Chuck Workman))

ANIMATED SHORT: THE COW (USSR, Aleksandr Petrov) (2nd: Darkness Light Darkness (Czechoslovakia, Jan Svankmajer), followed by: Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse (US, Stan Brakhage))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: NIGHT CRIES: A RURAL TRAGEDY (Australia, Tracey Moffatt) (2nd:  12:01 PM (US, Jonathan Heap), followed by: Bronx Cheers (US, Raymond De Felitta)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mike Leigh, LIFE IS SWEET (2nd: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Miller’s Crossing, followed by: Sally Bochner, Gloria Demers, Cynthia Scott and David Wilson, Strangers in Good Company; Bernt Capra, Fritjof Capra and Floyd Byers, Mindwalk; Andrew Bergman, The Freshman)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese, GOODFELLAS (2nd: Agnieszka Holland and Paul Hengge, Europa Europa, followed by: Donald E. Westlake, The Grifters; Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Peter Viertel, James Bridges and Burt Kennedy, White Hunter, Black Heart)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Vittorio Storaro, THE SHELTERING SKY (2nd: Vittorio Storaro, Dick Tracy, followed by: Barry Sonnenfeld, Miller’s Crossing; Michael Ballhaus, GoodFellas; Phillippe Rousselot, Henry and June)

ART DIRECTION: DICK TRACY, Edward Scissorhands, Miller‘s Crossing, GoodFellas, The Godfather Part III

COSTUME DESIGN: CYRANO DE BERGERAC, Dick Tracy, GoodFellas, Miller’s Crossing, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge

FILM EDITING: GOODFELLAS, The Grifters, Miller’s Crossing, La Femme Nikita, Dances with Wolves


SOUND: DANCES WITH WOLVES, GoodFellas, Miller’s Crossing, Total Recall, The Hunt for Red October



ORIGINAL SCORE: John Barry, DANCES WITH WOLVES (2nd: Thomas Newman, Men Don’t Leave, followed by: Elmer Bernstein, The Grifters; Richard Robbins, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Carter Burwell, Miller‘s Crossing)

ORIGINAL SONG: “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" from DICK TRACY (Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) (2nd: “The Hello Song” from Crazy People (Music and lyrics by Cal Devoll), followed by “Blaze of Glory” from Young Guns II (Music and lyrics by Jon Bon Jovi); "I'm Checkin' Out" from Postcards on the Edge (Music and lyrics by Shel Silverstein))


MAKEUP: DICK TRACY, Edward Scissorhands, Cyrano De Bergerac

Sunday, May 15, 2016

1989--The Year in Review

Spike Lee had good reason to be peeved in 1989. His monumentally moving and extremely controversial Do The Right Thing commanded discussion amongst film lovers, and the media, all throughout the year, but ended up garnering only two Oscar nominations: one for his incisive original script and another for Danny Aiello's searing performance as a prideful pizzeria owner who watches his neighborhood and family business suffer through a particularly hot and contested Brooklyn day. Critics, too, seemed behind the times, with only the Los Angeles group deeming it Best Picture. But it's now clear there was no movie of the period which had more to say about where we were then and, indeed, where we are now. I bet there's no 1989 movie, outside of Tim Burton's game-changing megahit Batman or maybe the crowd-pleasing Field of Dreams, that's seriously viewed more often these days. Lee commanded a large and dedicated crew working on location in the borough's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, where Lee had partially spent his childhood. As a result, the film--more than any other in this notable year--had a passionate grasp on its place and time, and still stands as a remarkably frank document of the racial divides that still tear at the United States' populace. For my part, the only films that came close to its strength were Gus Van Sant's haunting portrait of heroin addiction Drugstore Cowboy (starring a dynamic Matt Dillon) and Woody Allen's supreme look at misdeeds both major and slight, suitably titled Crimes and Misdemeanors. But Lee had to suffer through a year where a more forgivingly old-fashioned view of the racial divide, called Driving Miss Daisy, sparked the attention of the Academy, winning Best Picture (without even a nomination for its Australian director Bruce Beresford) and Best Actress for its aging star Jessica Tandy (who was superb in the film). Even Do The Right Thing's opening song, the bracing "Fight the Power" by NYC rap group Public Enemy, was ignored by the Academy, who clearly weren't able to process the song's (or the film's) stinging insights. Here, I do what I can to fight that power. I should say here that I left two great TV miniseries out of the running here: the UK's narcotics-chain epic Traffik and the US's western opus Lonesome Dove. If I were more inclusive, they'd be in the conversation here, but I really see them more as TV products rather than as cinema. 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. 

(2nd: Drugstore Cowboy (US, Gus Van Sant)
followed by: Crimes and Misdemeanors (US, Woody Allen)
Mystery Train (US, Jim Jarmusch)
Henry V (UK, Kenneth Branagh)
Sex, Lies and Videotape (US, Steven Soderbergh)
Jesus of Montreal (Canada, Denys Arcand)
The Seventh Continent (Austria, Michael Haneke)
Field of Dreams (US, Phil Alden Robinson)
The Abyss (US, James Cameron)
For All Mankind (US, Al Reinert)
My Left Foot (UK/Ireland, Jim Sheridan)
Born on the Fourth of July (US, Oliver Stone)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (UK, Peter Greenaway)
Black Rain (Japan, Shohei Imamura)
Sidewalk Stories (US, Charles Lane)
Life and Nothing But (France, Bertrand Tavernier)
Glory (US, Edward Zwick)
Let It Ride (US, Joe Pytka)
How to Get in Advertising (US, Bruce Robinson)
Parenthood (US. Ron Howard)
Sweetie (Australia, Jane Campion)
Enemies, a Love Story (US, Paul Mazursky)
The Nasty Girl (West Germany, Michael Verhoeven)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (US, Steven Spielberg)
Say Anything (US, Cameron Crowe)
True Love (US, Nancy Savoca)
Parents (US, Bob Balaban)
The Match Factory Girl (Finland, Aki Kaurismäki)
The Fabulous Baker Boys (US, Steve Kloves)
Roger and Me (US, Michael Moore)
Driving Miss Daisy (US, Bruce Beresford)
The Little Mermaid (US, John Musker and Ron Clements)
The Killer (Hong Kong, John Woo)
The Tall Guy (UK, Mel Smith)
Batman (US, Tim Burton)
Apartment Zero (UK/Argentina, Martin Donovan)
Heathers (US, Michael Lehmann)
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Japan, Shinya Tsukamoto)
My Twentieth Century (Hungary, Ildekó Enyedi)
Last Exit to Brooklyn (West Germany/US, Uli Edel)
Eat a Bowl of Tea (US, Wayne Wang)
Lethal Weapon 2 (US, Richard Donner)
Dead Calm (Australia, Philip Noyce)
Chameleon Street (US, Wendell B. Harris Jr.)
Violent Cop (Japan, Takeshi Kitano)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki)
Longtime Companion (US, Norman Rene)
The Big Picture (US, Christopher Guest)
Santa Sangre (Mexico, Alejandro Jodorowsky)
New York Stories (US, Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Woody Allen)
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (US, Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman)
Blaze (US, Ron Shelton)
When Harry Met Sally… (US, Rob Reiner)
Breaking In (US, Bill Forsyth)
Jacknife (US, David Hugh Jones)
Casualties of War (US, Brian De Palma)
Licence to Kill (UK, John Glen)
Great Balls of Fire (US, Jim McBride)
Sea of Love (US, Harold Becker)
Johnny Handsome (US, Walter Hill)
The Unbelievable Truth (US, Hal Hartley)
Scandal (UK, Michael Caton-Jones)
Valmont (US, Milos Forman)
The 'Burbs (US, Joe Dante)
Meet the Feebles (New Zealand, Peter Jackson)
Dead Poets Society (US, Peter Weir)
UHF (US, Jay Levey)
Shag (US, Zelda Barron)
Lean on Me (US, John G. Avildsen)
Back to the Future Part II (US, Robert Zemeckis)
Weekend at Bernie's (US, Ted Kotcheff)
Road House (US, Rowdy Herrington)

ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis, MY LEFT FOOT (2nd: Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy, followed by: Kenneth Branagh, Henry V; Tom Cruise, Born on the Forth of July; Matt Dillon, Drugstore Cowboy, James Spader, Sex, Lies and Videotape; Charles Lane, Sidewalk Stories; Richard Dreyfuss, Let It Ride)

ACTRESS: Jessica Tandy, DRIVING MISS DAISY (2nd: Michelle Pfieffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys, followed by: Andie McDowell, Sex, Lies and Videotape; Annabella Sciorra, True Love; Meg Ryan, When Harry Met Sally; Lena Stolze, The Nasty Girl; Helen Mirren, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover; Winona Ryder, Heathers)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Danny Aiello, DO THE RIGHT THING (2nd: Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors, followed by: Ossie Davis, Do The Right Thing; Denzel Washington, Glory; John Mahoney, Say Anything; Hugh O’Conor, My Left Foot; James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams; Alan Alda, Crimes and Misdemeanors)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Jason Leigh, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN (2nd: Kelly Lynch, Drugstore Cowboy, followed by: Anjelica Huston, Enemies, a Love Story; Lena Olin, Enemies, a Love Story; Rosie Perez, Do The Right Thing; Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot; Ruby Dee, Do The Right Thing; Laura San Giacomo, Sex, Lies and Videotape)

DIRECTOR: Spike Lee, DO THE RIGHT THING (2nd: Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors, followed by: Gus Van Sant, Drugstore Cowboy; Jim Jarmusch, Mystery Train; Kenneth Branagh, Henry V; Steven Soderburgh, Sex, Lies and Videotape; Peter Greenaway, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover; Denys Arcand, Jesus of Montreal)

NON ENGLISH-LANGUAGE FILM: JESUS OF MONTREAL (Canada, Denys Arcand) (2nd: The Seventh Continent (Austria, Michael Haneke), followed by: Black Rain (Japan, Shohei Imamura); Life and Nothing But (France, Bertrand Tavernier); The Nasty Girl (West Germany, Michael Verhoeven); The Match Factory Girl (Finland, Aki Kaurismäki); The Killer (Hong Kong, John Woo); Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Japan, Shinya Tsukamoto); My Twentieth Century (Hungary, Ildekó Enyedi); Violent Cop (Japan, Takeshi Kitano); Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Santa Sangre (Mexico, Alejandro Jodorowsky))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: FOR ALL MANKIND (US, Al Reinert) (2nd: Roger and Me (US, Michael Moore), followed by: Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (US, Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman))

ANIMATED FEATURE: THE LITTLE MERMAID (US, Ron Clements and Jon Musker) (2nd: Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki))

ANIMATED SHORT: CREATURE COMFORTS (UK, Nick Park) (won in 1991) (2nd: A Grand Day Out (UK, Nick Park), followed by: Balance (West Germany, Christoph Lauenstein and Wolfgang Lauenstein); The Club of the Discarded (Czechoslovakia, Jiri Barta); The Hill Farm (UK, Mark Baker))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: ELEPHANT (UK, Alan Clarke) (2nd: This Note's For You (US, Julien Temple), followed by: The Lunch Date (US, Adam Davidson))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Lee, DO THE RIGHT THING (2nd: Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors, followed by: Steven Soderburgh, Sex, Lies and Videotape; Jim Jarmusch, Mystery Train; Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Parenthood)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gus Van Sant and Daniel Yost, DRUGSTORE COWBOY (2nd: Phil Alden Robinson, Field of Dreams, followed by: Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot; Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic, Born on the Forth of July; Nancy Dowd, Let It Ride)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ernest Dickerson, DO THE RIGHT THING (2nd: Michael Ballhaus, The Fabulous Baker Boys, followed by: Mikael Solomon, The Abyss; Takashi Kawamata, Black Rain; Freddie Francis, Glory)

ART DIRECTION: BATMAN, The Abyss, Do The Right Thing, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Glory

COSTUME DESIGN: HENRY V, Valmont, Driving Miss Daisy, Batman, Great Balls of Fire

EDITING: DO THE RIGHT THING, The Abyss, Born on the Fourth of July, Drugstore Cowboy, Crimes and Misdemeanors

SOUND: THE ABYSS, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Glory, Born on the Forth of July, Field of Dreams

SOUND EFFECTS: THE ABYSS, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Glory

ORIGINAL SCORE: James Horner, FIELD OF DREAMS (2nd: Bill Lee, Do the Right Thing, followed by: Danny Elfman, Batman; Hans Zimmer, Driving Miss Daisy; James Horner, Glory)

ADAPTATION SCORE/SCORING OF A MUSICAL: Alan Menken, THE LITTLE MERMAID (won as Original Score) (2nd: Dave Grusin, The Fabulous Baker Boys)

ORIGINAL SONG: “Fight The Power” from DO THE RIGHT THING (Music and lyrics by Carlton Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee and Eric Sadler) (2nd: “Cheer Down” from Lethal Weapon 2 (Music by George Harrison, lyrics by George Harrison and Tom Petty), followed by: “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman); “I Love to See You Smile” from Parenthood (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman); "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman))

VISUAL EFFECTS: THE ABYSS, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Tetsuo: The Iron Man

MAKEUP: BATMAN, Driving Miss Daisy, Johnny Handsome