Thursday, January 16, 2014
The Favorite Films Of My Lifetime: 1997
Wow, another year that ends in 7 and another really difficult one to make cuts. Big list that was hard to get down to 6. The cuts like Fifth Element and the extremely underrated The Lost World sucked to do. And I cut Gattaca because while I really loved that movie when I first saw it, I've owned it or never gone back to it because I'm afraid it might not hold up. Yeah, I'm weird, but I really want to keep my high from seeing it together. This year I remember most because the Oscar race for Best Picture might have been the best and strongest I had ever seen. Had Titanic not come this year, 3 of the other 4 nominees probably would have won Best Picture in any other year. While I did see Titanic twice and it was deserving, I can't help that I liked 2 other films better, but that's me. 1997 is also notable as it was the year I was first able to see the Star Wars movies on the big screen and it was a fun and incredible 3 months when those 'Special Editions' were released.
Here's the Best Picture rundown
WINNER - Titanic
As Good As It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
And for the first time, the Academy and me agreed on more than one of these
Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery
This film at first felt like a secret many of us shared, and then when it hit video was shared with everybody and you got sick of it, then years after the wave passes you can enjoy it again. As a James Bond fan, I fell for this one instantly. And it was quite hilarious to boot. It also snagged super hot Elizabeth Hurley before the Bond franchise could grab her. It felt like nobody saw this in the theater and then when it hit home video BOOM...pinkies and the word "shag" became typical conversation. While Titanic was the big sensation this year, Austin Powers was pretty impactful int he pop culture pantheon itself. Mike Myers seemed even more godlike and unstoppable after this.
Good Will Hunting
I've never been a hater of Ben Affleck or Matt Damon. I've not agreed with or championed every movie they've been a part of, but I've not hated them for it. Maybe its the age I was and where I was in life when I saw this movie. It was cool to see these two young guys doing what they did and finding Academy acclaim for it. This was kind of inspiring to a young high school guy who had dreams of Hollywoodland. I really dug this movie and performances. In hindsight though, and knowing the company these guys were sharing at the time, I can't help but think Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier had a hand in writing or doctoring this screenplay at one point. Even if, the film is still really good and its good these two were able to sustain their success.
Grosse Point Blank
Another "All-time favorite" from me (likely competing for Top 10). This John Cusack led and crafted movie has connected with me at all different ages. Its a smart, incredibly funny and somewhat personal film that surprised the hell out of me when I first saw it. It came out around the time Return of the Jedi was rereleased so I was hardly caring of it. My parents rented it and I saw it laying around the house, so I decided to curiously pop it in and my jaw dropped in amazement. There was truly nothing like this movie when it came out and not much close to it since. John Cusack gives my favorite performance here and it might be the last good movie Dan Akroyd was a part of. While not original or anything, the score here is highly underrated and its collection of songs has been in my listening rotation since 1997.
Probably Quentin Tarantino's most underappreciated movie in his catalog and it might just be his second best film for me. Adapted from the late Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch", the film takes some liberties from the book and turns it into a modern Blaxploitation crime drama. It almost feels like the perfect final chapter to all of Pam Grier's 70s characters. As a fan of the genre, I was really drawn in the moment the film started as I didn't know it was going that was from the trailers. Also, Bridget Fonda was smoking hot in this movie. She was a pretty notable presence who disappeared when 2000 hit. Robert DeNiro gives one of my favorite performances of his for his career that I think really went under the radar. Give Jackie Brown another spin folks, you'll be mad at yourself for calling it a snoozer back in 1997 (even thought it WAS nominated for Best Picture).
Ah, in a different dimension this film won Best Picture. This tribute to the film noir genre was the best of its type since Roman Polanksi's Chinatown. The film is a terrific crime story and mystery with the backdrop of old Hollywood as its landscape. A thing that really took me and I saw bold back in the day was that the movie gets to a point where we are left with the then pretty much unknown pairing of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. The big name actors had all exited the picture in one form or another and we're left with these two guys. It culminates in an awesome and incredibly suspenseful shootout that still gets me worked up to this day. Wonder Boys was the only film Curtis Hansen has done since that really garnered my interest and that's a shame. But I'm sure he got a good payday for 8 Mile.
I'll spare my big time spiel and spoilers about this movie for whenever we get to this franchise for a retrospective. I'll try and be brief about this whole thing but I want to praise and get some of my big bullet points across, but, aside from the opening sequence, I find this movie to be a superior film to its predecessor. The rare case where the sequel winds up outdoing the original (something that's discussed over the course of this film). I know, its not outright, its debatable, but we'll get there at a later date here on Naptown Nerd. Yes, the movie may bail on a plot point when it happens, but it doesn't bug me and I'm too into the movie to care too much. It's got some incredible big scale action sequences for a slasher movie and it has some fantastic nail biting suspense. I saw this twice opening weekend and it worked both times. The script is smart and knows what it has to do to ramp up and make all of it work. To boot, the film adds the best supporting cast of new characters in a slasher sequel since A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, which is key when doing these. And as always, the comedy is still going strong and very fun in its analysis of sequels.