1997: The Year In Films
Written by Jason Whyte
1997 was a strange year. Halfway through, there were no great movies out there, except for Chasing Amy, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Private Parts that were even worth remembering. Then May rolled around, and a surprising masterpiece showed up, in the name of Breakdown. After a few months of summer movies, some great (Face/Off, Air Force One), some good (George of the Jungle, Con Air) and some bad (Men In Black, The Lost World), along came the fall and winter films; 8 of which reign as the Top 10 of 1997. Below are the 15 films I believe were better than all of the many 250+ movies (I have seen about 80 of them) released this year. After which are the ten worst films of the year. Send your list to Bigscreen or me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jackie Brown
I havenít posted my full review yet on Bigscreen, I am too afraid I will say the wrong thing about a movie this amazing. Quentin Tarantinoís best filmÖsince his last one, "Pulp Fiction". A far different film than "Pulp" and "Reservoir Dogs", Jackie Brown is a thinking personís movie, starring the great Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Sammy L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda in a 156 minute tale of the hunt for a half million dollars. I have seen the film twice now, and I am as convinced as ever that Tarantino has struck gold again.
- In The Company of Men
I am not a woman hater, not like the characters dominating the screen in the gut wrenchingly realistic setting of "In The Company of Men", Neil Labuteís shocking debut about two men who seek revenge on the women who have dumped them. This is a Stanley Kubrick style drama that has many quiet turns and twists. It is a lot like "Jackie Brown": these people also think as well.
- Boogie Nights
The biggest and most spectacular film this year directed by the next Martin Scorcese, Paul Thomas Anderson. At only 27 years old, Anderson gives you a wonderful examination of a young man searching to become a movie star, set against the porn industry of the late 70ís (shot on film in a garage) to the early 80ís (where, sadly, video dominated the market). The young man is Mark Walhberg, in an amazing performance as Dirk Diggler. Also watch for Burt Reynolds, captivating as Jack Horner, his boss. Norm MacDonald of Saturday Night Live canít imitate this one.
Easily, the best major studio film of the decade, a $280 million, three hour love story of the Titanic sink, which finally manages to get all the elements right. The best film from James Cameron, he finally manages to give the audience a heartbreaking story of two destined lovers, while at the same time give such a realistic breakdown of the so-called "Unsinkable Ship". All of which came from TWO major studios (Fox and Paramount), which is even bigger of a surprise.
- Chasing Amy
The end of Kevin Smithís Jersey trilogy, and certainly an eye opener: "Chasing Amy" is a brutally honest story of a comic book artist who falls in love with a lesbian. It is great to see a story finally take a realistic turn. "Chasing" is also peppered with Smithís usual, hilarious antics, including talk about sex (and everything to do with it) and profanity. All of which I love.
The biggest shot of adrenaline since "Speed". Kurt Russell stars as a man whose wife has been kidnapped, and what follows is a Hitchock-like dream of a movie: we think something is happening, or we think something is happening. It is one great guessing movie. It is also completely thrilling, a movie that leaved me breathless, gasping for air as the end credits rolled. Very few movies have been capable of that. "Breakdown" gives you that rare feeling.
- The Sweet Hereafter
As directed by Atom Egoyan, "The Sweet Hereafter" is a deeply moving film of an accident in Northern BC. The filmís main character is a lawyer (Ian Holm), who is investigating the terror, a school bus accident which kills almost every child on board. Egoyan handles the subject matter perfectly; under any other filmmaker, this wouldnít have worked. But it has, and gloriously.
- L.A. Confidential
This movie is fun, detailed, thrilling and beautifully acted. All in one film. "Confidential", directed by Curtis Hanson, is the story of greed and corruption amongst cops in the 1950ís. Never since Chinatown has a cop drama effected you so wonderfully. Forget "Cop Land". Here are the real goods.
- The Game
Another Hitchcock dream, one hell of a movie with no way of knowing where the end lies. Michael Douglas plays Nick Van Orton, a rich-ass who gets "The Game", a real-life sport that puts Nick in one hell of a conflict. Or is it something else? "The Game" is so multi-layered, so unpredictable that it is almost impossible to explain the story. Thatís how good it is.
- Devil's Advocate
One HELL of a great time. Al Pacino plays the devil, aka John Milton, who lures the hot shot lawyer Kevin Lomax, played by Keanu Reeves, into the hot shot law firm in New York. That is where the hell really starts brewing, as Milton becomes more personally involved with Lomax. This movie is spectacular fun, directed and acted well and featuring one hell of a Pacino, in a great bad performance.
- The Wings of the Dove
A brutal money story that is disguised as a pretty period piece. Starring the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache in their best roles yet, they are two lovebirds who take a dying, wealthy rich girl (Allison Elliot) to Venice, to woo her and have him love her so she will leave him the money in her will.
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
A shocking true story from a best selling novel by John Berendt is the basis of this wonderful film, directed by Clint Eastwood (one of his best), about a murder surrounding the strange world of Savanna, Georgia. With the occasional gap and unwelcome characters (including Allison Eastwood as a seductress), the film has one great moment after another.
Another big studio film that manages to get all the right buttons pushed. Based on Carl Saganís novel, the movie stars Jodie Foster as an S.E.T.I. searcher who stumbles upon an outer-worldly signal. Despite the film having the occasional stupid laugh, the film is thought-provoking and moving.
The only action film of the year, perhaps the last few years, that contains a very good story and mind numbing action, even if it canít happen: Cop Sean Archer (John Travolta) switches faces with caught criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) to help stop a bomb explosion. Then, Troy wakes up and takes Seanís face and gets free, to wreak havoc! The great fun of this movie is watching two great actors impersonating one another. And legendary director John Woo, master of style, has made his best American film yet, very reminiscent of his Chinese work.
- Air Force One
Hereís the best stupid action movie of the year: terrorists take over a jet. Thereís the plot. But it has good character, especially Harrison Fordís president. But also the Russian terrorist (Gary Oldman), and the presidentís daughter, played by the winning Liesel Matthews, a beautiful young actress who is better than 8 out of every ten actresses over 20.
The Worst Ten
- Fire Down Below
Wow, watch Steven Seagal in his second disaster enviro-flick. So what? The usual chops and kicks, to bad guys that donít even fight back. The usual bad guys, who think that they are all the good stuff. This is one terrible movie, directed by unknown Felix Enriquez Alcaca, a horribly shot mess that leaves you wondering: where do people find the money to make trash?
- Men In Black
I pose the same question for "Men In Black", a disaster of nuclear proportions. This is the movie "Mystery Science Theater 3000" is looking for, an overblown, poorly written fiasco about two federal agents out to kick some alien butt. Never funny, never entertaining, never much of anything.
- The Lost World
Arguably the worst sequel of the century, a follower that actually makes the first one better! More dinos on another island that wreak havoc when humans show up. The strangest thing: the movie feels so long it actually feels as long as Kenneth Brannaghís "Hamlet", plus another hour. Itís that boring.
- Dante's Peak
A nightmare. A pure nightmare. To those of you who thought that this volcano erupting filth is better than the joyous "Volcano", wake up! This movie, a plunge to the depths of stupidity, is about as bad as getting run over. I lost it when Pierce Brosnan somehow drove over a lava bed with his truck and the tires were still there, when he actually crossed it!
- The Jackal
A mind number that tells you that you are stupid, that you have paid money for two hours of root canal work. Watch the deal of the century, a hitman paid $70 MILLION DOLLARS to assassinate a target in D.C., and an Irish prisoner set free to help catch him.
- Batman and Robin
The worst of all the Batmans, basically "Batman Forever" all over again. All the characters are very annoying as Dr. Freeze (an overpaid Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gets $25 million, an average $1 million a minute) tries to kill Batman. Just looking at the previews tells you the ending. Batman wins. The movie ends. I paid money to see this?
- Father's Day
Sorry, but I have better things to do than to watch two funny guys get thrown around like confetti in a poorly written comedy/drama, where Billy Crystal and Robin Williams go son-hunting, not knowing which one is theirs. There was so much potential for this to be entertaining, but it gets so bogged down in all of Williamsí boring antics. I guess I have to blame "Jack."
- Inventing the Abbots
A cast of many 20ís adults as teens, again, in the hopes of us believing a run-down familyís kids can get into bed with the rich sluts across town. Nope. Doesnít work. No, I mean the movie!
- The Devil's Own
Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford in a $100 million dollar movie with about $5 million on the screen. Watch the implausabilities unfold when Pitt, an IRA terrorist, finds himself in the USA and in the arms of Ford, who takes him in as a guest. While some of the goings on in this movie is all right (Pitt nails that accent perfectly), the acting is terrible and it hits one sour note after another.
- Cop Land
The disappointment of the year. Instead of getting a tough as nails cop drama, instead we get a really goosed up one where fat sheriff Sly Stallone (why he is fat is anybodyís guess) goes on the hunt for some bad cops. Somehow, probably because of a huge cash settlement, Miramax got the distribution on this one, which is really bad news. To have Miramax go back on its trademark: substance over style. Pick "L.A. Confidential" over this fluff anyday.
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