Sunday, October 2, 2011

Paul's Cinema Chronology, 1997-1998

What I’ve Seen

Air Bud
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Boogie Nights
Cats Don’t Dance
Dante’s Peak
George of the Jungle
Good Will Hunting
Home Alone 3
Jackie Brown
Life is Beautiful
Liar Liar
Men in Black
Princess Mononoke
Starship Troopers
The Big One
The Boxer
The Game
The Rainmaker
The Sweet Hereafter
The Tango Lesson
Wag the Dog
A Night at the Roxbury
Almost Heroes
American History X
Dark City
Jack Frost
Meet Joe Black
My Date with the President’s Daughter
Perfect Blue
Quest for Camelot
Rush Hour
Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love
Smoke Signals
The Big Lebowski
The Opposite of Sex
The Parent Trap
The Prince of Egypt
The Truman Show
48 Total

The Best of What I’ve Seen
5. Good Will Hunting (top 100)—This Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-penned screenplay won an Oscar, and for good reason; this is one of the best examples of a movie the excellence of which comes mainly from its script (another that immediately springs to mind is Chinatown). It isn’t a particularly cinematic movie, but the incredibly sharp writing and great performances (especially by Damon and Robin Williams) make it memorable all the same.

4. Contact (top 100)—Contact is a movie that suffers from what I like to call Avatar syndrome, wherein a movie is widely praised and enjoyed upon release but for one reason or other switches reputation over time to become widely ridiculed/derided/criticized (Forrest Gump is another prominent one). But although I see where the criticism comes from here, the movie’s extremely contemplative and—dare I say—touching examination of humanity’s place in the universe continues to stick with me. It also has one of the all-time great emotional opening scenes, right there with Up. Damn I hate being forced to defend Matthew McConaughey though.

3. American History X (top 100)—Is it a little unsubtle? Sure. But a pantheon-level performance from Edward Norton as one of cinema’s most compelling neo-Nazis push this over the top for me. The film is impressively bold and takes big (and successful) risks that make for a truly fascinating, engaging, and deeply disquieting little movie. It's very difficult for a movie to both successfully humanize someone like Derek Vinyard--and have him sound disquietingly reasonable during some of his racist tirades--as well as show the inherent ugliness of his approach to life. But this one somehow does it, and with aplomb.
2. Princess Mononoke (top 100)—My pick for the best serious animated movie of all time, Mononoke is acclaimed director Hiyao Miyazaki’s magnum opus which, considering his resume, is no small praise. It’s gorgeously animated and has a complex and downright riveting story, but what really makes Princess Mononoke stand out is it’s ability to examine the clash between man and nature without making man (or nature, for that matter) the villain. The level of nuance that Miyazaki can see in the conflict makes you realize how truly simplistic something like Avatar really is. And I like Avatar, a lot.

1. Saving Private Ryan (top 100)—When it comes to modern war movies, you might as well divide them into two categories: pre-Saving Private Ryan and post-Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg introduced so many now-ubiquitous innovations to the genre (like desaturated color and hand-held cameras, not to mention gruesome but understated and realistic violence) that war films from as recent as 1996 are very odd to watch now. But like Citizen Kane before it, Saving Private Ryan is notable not only for how innovative it was, but also for being a damn good movie. Starting with the famous tour-de-force that is the Omaha Beach scene and never letting up, it’s a powerful, gripping, and all-around extraordinary production.

What I Haven’t Seen

As Good As It Gets
Chasing Amy
Donnie Brasco
The Fifth Element
The Full Monty
The Ice Storm
L.A. Confidential
The Lost World
Seven Years in Tibet
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Gods and Monsters
He Got Game
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Run Lola Run
There’s Something About Mary
The Thin Red Line
The Wedding Singer

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