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The Year in Film – 1997

As some of you have probably noticed, my days of prolific writing about the movies waned this year. With 275 movies in eligibility for the Oscars this year, I managed to see less than 40 of them, and that includes both of the Volcano-themed movies! The sad thing is: I’m not that concerned about it. With the exception of only a few films (Good Will Hunting, The Wings of the Dove, and The Full Monty — all of which are still playing), I’ve seen just about every widely-held worthwhile film of the year. So, in what turns out to be another crappy year in cinema, here’s the best of the crop… in my twisted mind.

1. In the Company of Men – Once again, the best film of the year has been scarcely seen by the masses. Those who have can prove its power and striking validity in today’s dog-eat-dog business world. And it’s funny! More than I could ever hope for. One of the few absolutely must-see films of the year. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t seen anything in 1997.

2. As Good As It Gets – Character drama is always overlooked, but Jack Nicholson’s hilarious work as an ultra-neurotic is worth all your attention. A stellar supporting cast also adds to the movie’s delights. And the best part: As Good As It Gets makes me look normal.

3. The Sweet Hereafter – I’ve been preaching his name for two years (further proof that you should pay attention), and Atom Egoyan hit the mainstream, finally, with The Sweet Hereafter. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s still a powerful film about the worst in all of us, and it’s an excellent companion to his body of work.

4. L.A. Confidential – Needlessly circular and convoluted, this acclaimed noir is still highly entertaining, thanks to its pulpy roots and homage to Chinatown. Also a great cast of screw-ups, plus you get to see Danny DeVito killed. What more can you want?

5. Boogie Nights – Get down with the boogie. Yes, the story of the 70’s porn industry rambles for hours and has too many subplots, but it’s totally hilarious. Any film that can engineer a Burt Reynolds comeback is something indeed.

6. Wag the Dog – The last film to make it on the list, and placing well. Another comedy for the books, and another great leading role (Dustin Hoffman in a pompadour, I love it!). Making fun of your audience (and their taste in having their wars spoon-fed to them on TV) is hard. When it works, it’s great.

7. The Ice Storm – Cold, brooding, disturbing. What an appropriate title for this art-house gem. Sigourney Weaver redeems herself for the ridiculous Alien follow-up, and if you’re looking for a real tearjerker (as opposed to #8 below), look to The Ice Storm.

8. Titanic – It’s funny… last year, The English Patient was about #8 on my list, too. With a transparent story line and wooden performances from its leads, if this had been set on a dinghy, it would have merited one star. But with $200 million to pump into special effects, Titanic is a spectacle that you need to see for its one saving grace: The ship. But don’t believe the hype or you’ll get sucked into the emotional undertow like so many others.

9. Men in Black – Until Titanic beats it, Men In Black is the highest grossing film of 1997, and it’s great. Even though it’s highly entertaining, there’s still a semblance of theme inside this movie. And, best of all, it proves my paranoid conspiracies are all true.

10. Air Force One – Damn straight! Harrison Ford kicked a lot of butt. I loved it, you loved it, we all loved it. To hell with art.

Miscellany:

Best trailer for a bad movie: Alien: Resurrection

Most obscenely overrated: Face/Off

Most overrated and underrated: Deconstructing Harry

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