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MORIARTY'S '90s List - 1993 (Part 1)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Moriarty and I, Robogeek, have been toiling for the last twelve hours over this voluminous piece, making every effort to deliver it to you in a presentable format. However, because of it's size, we've finally been forced to post it in "chunks," which will unfortunately take up four headline slots on the front page. We apologize for both the inconvenience and the delay. - Robogeek]




Enough intro. Here you go.

As I've been working on these articles, I can't help but remember where I was, what I was doing, when I saw every one of these films for the first time. Every job I've ever had has had something to do with movies. As I look at my 10 Best list for each of these years, I find myself nearly drunk on the memories. I suppose that's the appeal of lists like these, that chance to amble through the highlights of ten whole years, both for the author and the audience.

1993

Although the film did not make my top 15, there's no doubt that this was the year of JURASSIC PARK. Not only was it the biggest money-maker of the year, but it was the film I was most immersed in. You see, that was the year I worked as a Universal Studios Tour Guide.

Oh, sure... go ahead and laugh. That job gave me the free run of the lot. Harry Lime and I used to find empty copier rooms to use for our own nefarious Xeroxing needs. We wandered all over every set, closed or not. We met dozens of fascinating people, saw everything early... it was a great fun time to learn the spying skills I still use today.

One thing that amazes me is how many people think of 1993 as some sort of high watermark for the decade. Allow me to disabuse you of that notion right now. Reviewing my rough data for the year, I thought the pickings were painfully slim. Yes, there were some remarkable highs, but there were just as many unspeakable lows.

1. SCHINDLER'S LIST

Ever since that Oscar night in March of 1994, ever since that moment when Spielberg was finally called to the stage, I have listened to people attack this film's flaws, nitpicking it, knocking it, trying desperately to deny its place in film history. I've heard every possible reason to not like the film, but none of them matter to me. I have been raised on the films of Steven Spielberg, and his sensibilities as a filmmaker are hopelessly intertwined with mine. This film hit me in a profound, almost physical way. Sitting in the dark that first time, I was transported. When people attack one moment in the film, they somehow dismiss the ferocious performance by Ralph Fiennes, the intense charisma of Neeson's Schindler, or the luminous work by Janusz Kaminski and John Williams. They dismiss Spielberg's brilliant work as a director, crushing emotional but also alive, with an improvised documentary feeling. It's like the kid who made DUEL and SUGARLAND EXPRESS was suddenly somehow merged with the technical perfectionist who made EMPIRE OF THE SUN and JURASSIC PARK. I refuse to become so cynical a filmgoer that there isn't room for me to be genuinely affected by a film as humane and decent and heartfelt as this.

2. THE WRONG TROUSERS

Aardman Animation is one of several small studios, like Pixar, Ghibli, or Spumco, that consistently turns out smart, satisfying entertainment. This, the second Wallace and Gromit adventure, is the masterwork by Aardman so far, a brilliant riff on film noir and hysterically funny throughout. There's a chance that many of you haven't seen the film, so I'll tread lightly and try not to give too much away. Let me just say that the film's pleasures are plentiful and diverse. The gags run the full range from subtle to silly, and it's one of those rare cases where there are no false notes struck. The ending chase sequence is such an astonishing piece of virtuoso artistry that it makes me want to build statues of director Nick Park. It's this sort of perfect, magical entertainment taht explains my lifelong love affair with film.

3. DAZED & CONFUSED

Rick Linklater's aggressively charming comedy is every bit as good a film about adolescence as AMERICAN GRAFITTI. The cast is overflowing with raw talent, the soundtrack kills consistently, and the period detail is so perfect that it becomes invisible. The film is split, balanced between two leads: Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) and Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), both of whom are pitch perfect for their roles. It's through their very different eyes that we make our way through one long, hazy day at the end of the school year circa 1976. This allows us to weave in and out of all the various cliques, meeting freshmen and seniors alike, and it does so without ever once giving in to stereotype. Linklater seems to have pulled these people directly out of his memory, real and live and three-dimensional. Yes, it would be easy to tell you that one of the main reasons I love the film is because I remember those exact nights, but no, I won't tell you which character I was. Let's just say the film speaks to me. There are few things I savor more than that anticipation when I've put the DVD on and the credits are just beginning and Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" hasn't quite kicked in yet. The fact that I still love that moment just as much now as I did six years ago, even after dozens of viewings, speaks to the film's durable appeal.

4. GROUNDHOG DAY

Harold Ramis and Bill Murray worked together several times before collaborating on this poignant, lyrical comedy fable, a film that stands as a career high for both men. Danny Rubin's script is the best comedy/fantasy since BACK TO THE FUTURE, but this film has one weapon that film didn't: Murray. This film does what Michael O'Donoghue's SCROOGED couldn't; it starts with cynical Murray at his very best, his most acidic and withering, and then it turns him, changes him, betters him without ever getting preachy, without forgetting to make us laugh. Ramis also manages to make Andie McDowall interesting enough to justify Murray's attention, no mean feat. One of the film's real strengths is the simplicity of its premise. We get it as soon as it's set up, and that allows Rubin and Ramis plenty of room to explore it in real depth. Murray's journey in this film may be absurd, but it's also profound. The idea of being trapped in a repeating life until we better ourselves in some significant way is at the heart of some of the world's major religions. Finding it at the heart of what is ostensibly a mainstream Hollywood comedy is the best kind of shock, and it makes this a classic.

5. SHORT CUTS

One of the things I love about Robert Altman is just how resolutely he refuses to compromise his technique, his personal style. From M*A*S*H to last year's COOKIE'S FORTUNE, his films require no signature, no credits to identify them. I would know an Altman film from any random ten minutes I saw; that's how distinctive his work is. Even so, he can be hit or miss to extremes. He definitely has moments where he is inspired, when it all comes together, and this film is one of those moments for him. Using Raymond Carver's short fiction as an inspiration, Altman has crafted a moving look at a cross-section of characters against the backdrop of modern Los Angeles. By building individual stories that only overlap at the periphery, in the smallest of ways, he's also making a comment about the notion of community or connectedness at this point, in this city. This film is also significant as the introduction of Julianne Moore, whose performance makes her stand out even when surrounded by veteran character actors like Tim Robbins and Matthew Modine. Altman uses a disaster to bind his characters to one another at the film's conclusion, but it feels like the one moment of artifice after the almost effortless reality of the rest of the film. Even so, it's a picture that lingers in the memory, that grows in hindsight, and it's a perfect summation of one man's exceptional art.

6. REMAINS OF THE DAY

Simply put, this film contains one of the finest film performances I have ever seen. Even if that was the sum total of its merits, it would place this high on my list. Thankfully, there's so much more to the film that it remains a breathtaking experience each time I treat myself to it. As much as I love the main storyline in the film, it's the subplot about Hopkins and his aging father that I still find particularly piercing. Out of all the films made by the Merchant/Ivory team, this stands out as their finest hour, a work of rare compassion and feeling.

7. FEARLESS

Peter Weir has had numerous moments in his career when his acute visual style has worked well with a script, and he's made a number of very strong films. None of them carry even a fraction of the emotional heft of this wrenching story of survival, though. From the first frame to the last, this feels like a hallucination, a dream of pain remembered, where all the details have blurred and all that's left is an almost suffocating sense of loss and life. The cast is exceptional across the board, and Rafael Yglesias did a brilliant job adapting his own book. When you live through that ungodly plane crash, wrapped in the sound of that magnificent Gorecki symphony, there's no doubt that this is Weir's film, first and foremost, and an accomplished achievement in film art.

8. KING OF THE HILL

It's always amazing to me how time affects people's perceptions of a film. I've heard any number of people at this end of the decade call KING OF THE HILL Soderbergh's best film, but when Gramercy released it in 1993, it was greeted by almost total indifference. To me, this was the film where Soderbergh finally delivered on his promise. SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE has always seemed like a great first film to me -- overly talky, visually static, but loaded with charm and wit. KAFKA was a great visual lark, but the Lem Dobbs script is as frustratingly oblique and chilly as his later DARK CITY. With KING, Soderbergh managed to make a film that is confidently visual, but never at the expense of the truth of a moment. It's one of the best films I've ever seen from a child's point of view, achingly honest, and that alone makes it a classic. I really do believe the film's reputation will continue to grow over time, which means a lot of viewers still have this little gem to look forward to. Lucky, lucky them.

9. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

It's rare to see three artists each make such significant contributions to a film without any one person taking clear control, but Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and Henry Selick managed to walk that tightrope to spectacular effect with this warped window into a stop-motion wonderland. Their Halloween Town is one of the most memorable fantasy settings in film history, peopled with all sorts of great, bizarre characters. Burton's designs are original, but they somehow feel familiar from the first viewing, more like old friends than new creations. Henry Selick breathes such fluid, snarky life into them that it's easy to forget the actual man-hours that went into bringing this to the screen. It really doesn't feel animated. These are performances; these characters are alive. The proof of their souls is the Elfman score, one of his very best. It spills out, giving the exact right emotional support to the film, giving poetic voice to Jack and Sally and the rest. I saw the film in rough cut almost a year before it was released, and even unfinished, with storyboards in place of whole sequences, I knew it was something I'd never forget. Sometimes when you see a film, it feels like something you've been waiting for, the missing piece of puzzle, the proverbial other shoe dropping. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS was like that for me, a need I didn't know I had until it was satisfied.

10. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

Anyone looking at my list for this year might think I was a fan of period corset dramas, what with two of them ending up on my ten best list. As it happens, I can't really stomach the genre. Like REMAINS OF THE DAY, though, this film transcends that genre to be something richer, something far more universal. In many ways, this is the same movie as Scorsese's GOODFELLAS or KUNDUN. It's the director as social anthropologist, providing us with a detailed x-ray of the way a specific culture works. It's in the way he presents those particular sense memories, whether it's the way a car rises on its suspension when a giant mafioso steps out or the way invitations are distributed for a New York society dinner or the workings of a Vegas count room or the Dalai Lama observing the shoes of Mao Tse Tung during a meeting. No one is able to make films that grant us a subjective view of the world in quite the same way. It's one of the reasons his $90 million budget for GANGS OF NEW YORK is so exciting. I'm betting there will be no closer experience to time travel. Scorsese's legendary touch with actors is on full display here, with Michelle Pfeiffer giving one of her truly great performances opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, who makes "tortured" into something so raw we can barely look at it. Above all, this is a film that redefines just how lush an art form cinema can be.

RUNNERS-UP

1. BACKBEAT

I'm a sucker for a good story about The Beatles, whether it comes as an anecdote in liner notes, a book, a documentary, or as an engaging, heartfelt little film like this one. I'm no great fan of Stephen Dorff, but he and Ian Hart are just perfect here, managing to make me forget about the real Stu Sutcliffe or the real John Lennon. For the film's entire running time, they are Stu and John, as real as anyone could ask. Sheryl Lee is great as Astrid in one of the few film roles worthy of her deeply underrated abilities. It's easy to call this a love story; it's just difficult to determine who it's really between. One of the most indelible images of the decade for me is the moment when Stu and John, furious and hurt, grapple for a moment, only to end in something like an embrace. It's a startling, naked moment between them, and director Ian Softley nails it, catching every nuance of longing and confusion and anger. And, uh, oh, yeah... the film rocks really, really hard, with the Backbeat Band doing some great ragged versions of some '50s standards. Fun and profound... how could anyone resist?

2. CARLITO'S WAY

I kick up controversy every time I mention Brian De Palma on this site, and I think that's a testament to his ability as a provocateur. He manages to rile viewers, get under their skin, forcing them to have a reaction. I would hold this, SCARFACE, and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE up as his most original films, despite the fact that they're all adaptations of sorts. There's no Hitchcock vibe to this film, no overt film references. Instead, we get Al Pacino at his absolute most bad-ass, Sean Penn turned up to maximum freak, and a great, lean visual style that propels us through the film. The suspense set-pieces are great, and so are the character moments. Viggo in his wheelchair, pathetic, crying; Leguizamo on the stairs as Benny Blanco... sometimes it's enough for a movie to just be unrelentingly cool, and this one is.

3. SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER

Oddly, this is only my second favorite film about chess this decade. It's an achingly lovely film by writer/director Steve Zallian, intimate and cerebral, and it's one of those films that feels like a secret when you watch it, like something other people couldn't possibly know about. Maybe it's the delicacy of the film, the hushed beauty of it. Joe Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, and Lawrence "Call Me Larry and I'll Kill You" Fishburne provide a powerful triangle of father figures in the movie, wrestling for the heart and soul of Josh (Max Pomeranc). This is the role that seems to have kicked Joan Allen's career into high gear this decade, and that's almost enough reason to recommend it. Anything that advances America's admiration of St. Joan is fine by me. In the end, the thing that makes the film truly special is Zallian's ability to take something as personal as chess and give it such a powerful sense of urgency.

4. WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE

If the '90s are doomed to be remembered as the era of Jerry Springer is a minor annoyance at best, and the film manages to cast a haunting spell that's hard to shake.

5. THE PIANO

This film has an otherworldly quality that I adore, painting its story of lust and anger and miscommunication in broad strokes and big emotions. The New Zealand locations in the film look like another planet, and Michael Nyman's score just wraps itself around you, lush and challenging. The film is about difficult people and dangerous behavior, and all four of the central actor rise to the occasion. Holly Hunter has always had a prickly, defiant quality, even in the comedies she's done, and there isn't anyone else who could have played this role with the same conviction. Like David Lynch, Jane Campion is a skilled film artist whose personal quirks can either enhance a film (SWEETIE, ANGEL AT MY TABLE) or overwhelm it (PORTRAIT OF A LADY, HOLY SMOKE). With THE PIANO, she manages to be deeply personal, but still delivers a film of power and beauty that stands as a testament to her abilities while speaking to us all.

TWENTY HOURS I WANT BACK

1. EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES

When are people going to understand that there are some books, some authors, that simply refuse translation from page to screen? How anyone could read the surreal, poetic, literate ramblings of Tom Robbins and think, "Oh, yeah, that's a movie," is beyond me. I know a number of film geeks who profess outrage over Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO remake, but this is definitely the more heinous crime against cinema. This film is ugly, witless, meandering, and it features some nightmarish performances. As bad as Uma Thurman is in the lead Lorraine Bracco seems determined to set a new standard for how deeply unappealing a person can be onscreen.

2. BOXING HELENA

If you ever needed proof that talent isn't a genetically inherited trait, this film should be exhibit A. Jennifer Lynch seems to be aiming for the dreamlike quality of her father's best work, but she's got no demonstrable narrative sense. Every character in the film is loathsome, and the casting of Julian "Am I Asleep Or Awake?" Sands and Sherilyn "Couldn't Act Like She Was In Pain If I Set Her On Fire" Fenn doesn't help a bit. They seem to detest one another, and by ten minutes in, I detested both of them. It may have cost Kim Basinger millions when she dropped out of the film and was sued, but it was money well-spent.

3. THE PICKLE

It's the strangest thing... when I try to recall any details about this vile little PLAYER wannabe, my nose starts bleeding and I black out. That can't be good.

4. SON OF THE PINK PANTHER

I know people who hated Roberto Benigni's Oscar speech, who felt it was an out-of-control display. These are obviously people who never witnessed the sad spectacle of this misguided sequel. By comparison, he seemed like Stephen Wright on Oscar night. Imagine a film that can make you yearn for the sublime comic genius of Ted Wass. The biggest problem I have with MGM's attempts to extend this franchise is that they don't make sense. Inspector Clouseau was not called "The Pink Panther." Ever. That was the name of the diamond he was trying to recover. When Peter Sellers was alive, at least he provided continuity from film to film, even when the titles didn't make sense. Seeing the once-gifted Blake Edwards whore the franchise out and guide Benigni through shtick that painfully apes some of the grand deranged invention of Sellers is a reminder that sequels sometimes not only fail to live up to the original, but actually tarnish what was once great.

5. SUPER MARIO BROTHERS

I like Rocky Morton and Annabel Jenkel; I really do. I see no reason why they should have languished in movie jail for the last decade. Their work on MAX HEADROOM: 20 MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE and the Dennis Quaid/Meg Ryan D.O.A. was stylish and fun, and I really expected them to be major players. This video game adaptation can't possibly be all their fault. Maybe it was the screenwriters, Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, who worked on the original games and had seemingly no idea how to write a film. Maybe it was the horrifically funny miscasting of John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins as Italian (!!!!) brothers. Maybe it was Dennis Hopper, who seems to have thought he was making a sequel to BLUE VELVET. Maybe it was the grimy, dank look that seemed so out of place in a kid's film. Whatever the case, the film makes no sense whatsoever. The tagline for the film upon release was "This Ain't No Game!" Well, it ain't no movie, neither.

6. THE LAST ACTION HERO

Remember when this film was about to come out? Every newspaper and magazine pundit positioned it as the major competition to Spielberg and his dinosaurs. I remember how everyone said not to bet against the team of Schwarzeneggar and McTiernan. I remember all the buzz around the original spec script (called EXTREMELY VIOLENT when it was purchased). As the film got closer and closer to release, though, that buzz got strangely quiet. When the LA TIMES ran a story about a supposedly disastrous test screening, Sony fought back with such rancor, denying the screening ever happened, that the writer of the story (Jeff Wells) actually lost his job. When a studio is that crazed, that defensive, there's blood in the water, and in this case, it was from the bloated corpse of '80s action cinema, served up in the form of this turkey. I'd love to someday read the original script, because I imagine it must have worked on levels that the final film can't even approach. The finished movie substitutes cameo appearances (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick) for wit, explosions for plot, and stunts for any sort of connection we might feel to anything we're seeing. Worst of all, they seem to have completely missed out on the fun of their own concept. If I suddenly found myself in a movie, able to do anything movie character can do, I sure as hell wouldn't run around telling everyone, "Hey, this is only a movie!" Nope. I'd lay down some mad monkey kung fu on the bad guys, I'd bag Heather Graham in a powerful NC-17 sequence that lasts 45 minutes, and see how bullet time actually feels when doing it. Squandered opportunity is one of my pet peeves, and this movie positively reeks of it.

7. INDECENT PROPOSAL

This film is offensive to me in the same way PRETTY WOMAN is. It tries to set up a morally complicated situation with characters being placed into genuinely difficult positions, only to lose the courage of its convictions and chicken out with a series of lame sequences that accomplish nothing. Robert Redford starts the movie as a complete scumbag, but because it's Redford, they have to show you that he's really just a nice guy. Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore make a horrible decision, then shrug it off and run away into a perfume commercial to be happy ever after. Adrian Lyne has a real knack with the camera. Too bad he couldn't tell a coherent story if his life depended on it.

8. CLIFFHANGER

Hey, look, kids! More pointless action death porn! Yes, I'll grant you that first ten minutes, but that seems to have been some sort of hiccup on the road to ruin for Renny Harlin, who proves once again with this film that he has all the visual flair of a convenience store surveillance camera. After that knockout setup, the film degenerates into another moronic DIE HARD clone, complete with John Lithgow overacting mercilessly as the bad guy. He almost makes his "THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN" work look subtle here. I especially detest some of the wild and wacky ways Stallone works out to murder bad guys in this film, like impaling their eye sockets on stalactites. This is entertainment?

9. POINT OF NO RETURN

I love Bridget Fonda, but I love LA FEMME NIKITA more. Shameless.

10. SLIVER

Sharon Stone could have done anything after the acclaim she won in BASIC INSTINCT. She'd been paying her dues for over a decade, and she was finally in a position to make a film she could be proud of. Instead, she sold her soul to Joe Eszterhas and Philip Noyce and made this pandering, filthy little mistake. Maybe there‚s something to the idea of a thriller dealing with high-tech voyeurism; hell, REAR WINDOW still packs a kick after all these years because of the way it deals with the subject. This film has no idea how to tap into that, though. Instead, it tries for cheap titillation and overblown suspense, failing on both fronts. Once again, the studio's ad department contributes a tag line that practically begs to be ragged on in a review. It's like calling a movie PERFECT when it isn't. Don't make it quite so easy for us, okay?

1993 CONTINUES...

...in the next article, available NOW by clicking here.

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 9, 2000, 12:47 p.m. CST

    another thing about last action hero

    by vernfett

    you forgot about the contest the studio had to see who could spot the most mistakes in the film i think it was over one hundred of them

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Hey Moriarty

    by StarBarella

    You'll never win any awards for getting things in on time...but when you deliver, you deliver. It's going to take a while to read it...but it looks wonderful.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, you didn't mention in Super Mario Bros...

    by PipsOrcle

    ...that one of the biggest faults was Luigi not wearing a moustache! What moron ever suggested this? I tell you, sometimes Hollywood can just be so incompitant with what it does, that it pisses us off.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 12:53 p.m. CST

    ...What about Army of Darkness

    by LonelyFox

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:03 p.m. CST

    A Few Observations.....

    by mrbeaks

    Well done, old chap. Here's some thoughts..... 1) O'Donoghue didn't kill SCROOGED, Richard "Radio Flyer" Donner did. With a fucking vengence. That it still holds up as entertainment is a tribute to the brilliant Bill Murray. Long live GROUNDHOG'S DAY. 2) Yeah, LAST ACTION HERO is, for the most part, garbage, but there are a few gems hidden in the swill. The HAMLET parody, that ridiculous car chase where cars bounce around like in a video game, and Tom Noonan as the killer. The rest, however, can go curbside. 3) Although you said it was a pretty thin year for film, you still couldn't fit SFBF on your top ten list. Zaillian's film would be a mortal lock for most years this decade. 4) Didn't Winter & Stern's FREAKED come out in '93? So, where is it? Few films have ever made me laugh that hard.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Remains Of The Day is a great book, but only a good film

    by mooch

    I reckon Remains of the Day is my favourite novel of all time actually. Maybe Catcher In The Rye beats it. Anyway, the film focussed far too much on the political side of things.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:13 p.m. CST

    A major thing you forgot about LAST ACTION HERO

    by ABking

    If you watch John McTiernans Hollywood profile for interview for directors on the Uncore channel, you would see where LAH went wrong and why. Basically, John said the studio didn't know if they wanted an action fest like T2 or a comedy like TWINS. They combined the two so they would have a bigger event film than Arnold's own T2 at the box-office and be the number 1 film of the summer. Little did they know that script does matter (even though Arnold was a god at the box-office and he and action = money, money, money). Now when I watch LAH, I like the film better than when I first saw it and hated it to death. You can see what could have been, if McTiernan and Arnold had played it straight like the kick ass PREDATOR. I hope McTiernan and Arnold work together again because he is one of the true masters of the action genre. Too bad ROLLERBALL didn't star Arnold because we would have a THE RUNNING MAN for the year 2000. That film had some classic Arnold one-liners like "you need a light", "that hit the spot", "I'll be back" "he had to split", "hey lighthead, hey christmas tree"... you get the point.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:17 p.m. CST

    ABking on CLIFFHANGER, Harry and Moriarty

    by ABking

    CLIFFHANGER was a DIE HARD clone??? CLIFFHANGER was a movie you wanted 2 hours of your life back from??? WOW. That comes as a surprise. Moriarty, you're in the minority. CLIFFHANGER is it's own movie and NO Die Hard clone. Stallone and Harlin gave audiences something they hadn't seen before in a setting that was never really used for an all out action/adventure movie. The cinematography, the sound effects and the special effects were AMAZING (no wonder it got nominated for 3 Oscars -Best sound effects, best sound effects editing and best special effects). Why else do you thing this movie brought Stallone back and semented Harlin's reputation (after DIE HARD 2, another KICK ASS movie Moriarty hated) as one of the best action directors around. CLIFFHANGER and JURASSIC PARK gave audiences a WILD ride that Summer I'll tell you. I find it funny when Moriarty or Harry tries to put down Renny. You can't. His only movie mistake was CUTTHROAT ISLAND (not including his early work before he made it big). DIE HARD 2, CLIFFHANGER, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and DEEP BLUE SEA are all top notch/over-the-top , out of this world KICK ASS movies. Why can't you and Harry admit that. Audiences seemed to have enjoyed those movies. They all made alot of money with the exception of THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT being a minor hit (counting worldwide). When Renny Harlin reteams with Stallone for INTO THIN AIR and it comes out next summer and ROCKS HARD, I hope you and Harry can at least admit that.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:28 p.m. CST

    cliffhanger

    by mista fong

    ok, i've lurked long enough. cliffhanger is 2 wasted hours huh? maybe you've never noticed this, but some of us(and we aren't all unwashed and/or missing teeth) enjoy movies because they're fun, and aren't necessarily looking for the greatest cinematic/acting event in history. i'd much rather watch stallone waste bad guys and grunt and blow shit up then watch some actor express his feelings or watch spielberg try to make us cry. when sly military pressed that fucker and skewered him on a stalactite i stood up and cheered! can i get a hell yeah?!?!?!

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Right On - "Fearless" and "The Remains of the Day"

    by smilin'jackruby

    Two of my all time favorite films. At least "Son of the Pink Panther" had funny opening animated credits. Other than that - BIG TURKEY!!!

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Where's The Fugitive?

    by knight_of_Ni!

    This was hands down the most satisfying action movie of '93, nominated for best picture, extremely rewatchable, and not even a peep. Kinda surprised. How many other TV show to movie translations have worked this well? It wasn't a Die Hard knockoff, the pace was relentless (think of one moment where someone isn't either being chased or chasing, I dare you), and it had THE killer visual/sound moment with the train wreck. It proved August wasn't necessarily the ass end of summer movies and that Harrison could still open a movie. I'm just saying, THIS was the movie of '93 for me, everything else was just fodder.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:45 p.m. CST

    Jurassic Park

    by Ted Terrific

    For pure action/entertainment, this was an almost perfect film. Not to compare it with Schindler,Age of Innocence, etc. but it should make the top 10 somewhere, at least the top 15. Don't hold the sequel against it. This was exciting and sometimes genuinely scary. The only scarier thing in 1993 was Ricci being forced to smile in AFV.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:51 p.m. CST

    It's about time...

    by agentcooper

    Somebody recognized Dazed and Confused. That movie can be watched over and over, it's so good. And the most of the cast have become major, or at least rising, stars: Matthew Mochonahey (or however you spell that last name) Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason London...even Renee Zelleweger is an extra. By the way, Scrooged is one of my favorite Bill Murray films. Say what you will about it, I love that Bill gets free reign to be the most cynical, meanest, most lowdown person in the world for an hour and a half: "Oh my gosh, did that suck. Now I have to kill all of you..." "I couldn't get the antlers glued on this little guy's head." "Have you tried staples?"..."You can hardly see them nipples." "See, and these guys are really looking..."

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Cliffhanger: one of the best action/adventures ever made

    by ABking

    Mist fong, I agree. But CLIFFHANGER is more than fun. It is considered by many (critics as well as movie fans) as one of the GREATEST action movies ever. Moriarty makes it seems like CLIFFHANAGER belongs in the same paragraph as SUPER MARIO BROS. I don't think so. I don't have to say how AMAZING the first 10 minutes are. The rest of the movie plays like on amazing out of this world stunt sequences after another (along with the great cinematography). The air-to-air transfer scene is a WOW!!! It is listed in the Guinesse Book as the hardest and most expensive air stunt ever filmed. The scene where Sly finds the first case filled with 30 million and the action begins is a WOW!!! I love the sound effects of the bullets and the avalanch along with the slow motion shots of Sly. The scene when Sly and one of the bad guys are going down the mountain while fighting is a WOW!!! Just feel the excitment and listen to that score and enjoy the ending to that scene. I could go on and on about the KICK ASS action scenes but let me tell you about the end scequence. It is WILD, WILD WILD!!! The wildest end scene that year aside from JURASSIC PARK. When Sly jumps over the edge of that cliff and grabs on to the ladder and then the helicopter begins to pull the ladder and Sly down...then it crashes into the side of the mountain and breaks apart, then Sly falls at least 60 feet from the top to the helicopter and begins to fight Lithgow...WOW, WOW, WOW!!!. This scene alone was worth my money. Moriarty, and you say Harlin can't film action scenes??? Ya right. Not much directors can film better action scenes than Harlin. John Lithgow was also one of the things that made Cliffhanger so great. His sceneary chewing performance and accent was a joy. No one can say anything bad about Lithgow in this movie. In closing, all I have to say is CLIFFHANGER lived up to it's name. It was a CLIFFHANGER of summer 1993 (aside from JURASSIC PARK that is).

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 1:59 p.m. CST

    "Last Action Hero" and "Cliffhanger."

    by Powerslave

    Moriarty, you might want to hold off on reading "Extremely Violent," aka "Last Action Hero." Apparently, the original draft of the script is absolutely terrible; the only reason it was even purchased in the first place was because Arnold liked the concept. Who cares if the script was lame? I think your referring to "Cliffhanger" as 'action death porn' is a cheap shot. True, the rest of the movie didn't live up to the great opening sequence, but it was a solid action movie nonetheless. I liked "Cliffhanger" enough to buy it. I remember the trailer for this movie vividly: easily one of the best previews of the '90's.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:02 p.m. CST

    Um, Cliffhanger did suck.

    by All Thumbs

    I have so many problems with that movie, I just plain refuse to watch it anymore.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:39 p.m. CST

    You could write movies, Moriarty!

    by bijou27

    Your comments on Last Action Hero kind of make me wonder what else you could put on the screen, given the opportunity...

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Why CLIFFHANGER Was A Disappointment

    by mrbeaks

    Because it came on the heels of the best damn trailer I have ever seen. Making great use of Harlin's visuals (the guy can compose a shot,) and Mozart's Requiem, the coming attraction promised an action phantasmagoria. Instead, we got a vile, overlong piece of trash that rarely delivered (I do like the scene with Michael Rooker getting the crap kicked out of him by that psycho ex-soccer player.) Harlin bounced back with THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT. Unfortunately, nobody noticed.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:45 p.m. CST

    My 2 cents.

    by gilmour

    I thought Carlito's way was just brilliant and the most underrated film of 1993. I know we had seen the story many times before, but the performances were perfect and how about the last 10 minutes in the subway and trainstation? NAILBITING!!! Remains of the day was the best film of 93' bar none! it was f*cking perfect! Cliffhanger was good fun. C'mon Moriarty It was inspired by Die Hard but it was fun indeed.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Something that always bugs me...

    by All Thumbs

    When people criticize "Schindler's List", they often mention the use of color and say it is a manipulation. My first reaction to that is a giant "DUH!", but my brain tells me to remind them that the use of color as a story-telling device has been going on since movies first started. Silent films were often tinted with color to reflect the emotion of the scene. Griffith used a reddish tint during battle scenes and burning scenes to symbolize the hell they were. Another use of color is the colorizing of certain elements to bring attention to them. In "Schindler's List" it is the little girl in the red coat and the gold of the ring at the end. I found it to be a wonderful and touching throw-back to the similar uses in the silent era and not just a manipulation. I just saw the final scenes of the classic silent film "Greed" today and there is a great scene where they flash from a fight between the two main characters and what they are fighting over -- a sack of gold, highlighted in the movie as bright cold with some red blood splashed across it -- true "blood money."

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 2:53 p.m. CST

    Where the hell is Jurassic Park on any of these lists?

    by Niiiice

    Not even a special mention anywhere? Come on, despite the fact that the sequel was terrible and the series is now being milked from maximum cashage, there's no denying the impact that Jurassic Park had. This was THE summer event movie, one of few where the movie made good on the hype. At the very least, it represented an enourmous technical achievenment in bringing realistic looking dinosaurs to life on the big screen...and it made for 2 pretty damned entertaining hours as well

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 3:33 p.m. CST

    I got exactly what I wanted from Cliffhanger -

    by Nordling

    Two hours of shoot-em-up good time. Gotta go with ABKing on this one - Cliffhanger was a fun action film.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 3:35 p.m. CST

    "Good, bad - I'm the one with the gun..."

    by Nordling

    Shame on you, Moriarty - Army of Darkness was the most fun 90 minutes I had in the cinema in 1993. I remember my buds and I leaping from our seats when Ash jumps up to get the chainsaw - ans with a "Snikt!" pops into his hand socket. For shame.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 4:29 p.m. CST

    Jurassic Park killed the Last Action Hero

    by Niiiice

    Arnie and pals didn't stand a chance.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 4:47 p.m. CST

    Moriarty writing...

    by BobBarker

    The old man *does* lurk, and occasionally post, at the screenwriter's newsgroup I frequent...

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 5:18 p.m. CST

    why I have a right to dislike Schindler's

    by Lazarus Long

    Moriarty, it's a little unfair to accuse anyone who didn't like Schindler's List of being too cynical to enjoy anything. Although I consider myself cynical about much in the world, the end of It's a Wonderfu Life where Harry Bailey toasts George: "My brother, the richest man in town" always brings tears to my eyes. In short, I don't turn away every heartsting pull. You say that anyone who criticizes Schindler's is dismissing the great performances, cinematography, etc. How is this so? With every movie we can admire aspects of it and still not be satisfied with the piece as a whole. In my opinion, the ending of a film has the most weight on my final judgment. If you can't bring that sucker home, then something always feels missing. How many films have WE ALL seen that you're enjoying, and rooting for, and then the ending is some sanitized insult to the audience? It happens all the time; it's probably the #1 problem of most movies (besides having a shitty script to begin with). I believe Schindler's sells itself out at the end. I think taking historical license for drama's sake is okay, and I don't even have a problem with making Oskar a nicer guy than he actually was. But to use the audience's POV identification with Schindler and turn him into a weeping breakdown at the film's end, it winds up cheapening everything that has come before. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. It rings utterly false, and if you are going to disregard that you aren't doing your whole part as a viewer. Whether this is Spielberg's idea or Zallian's is irrelevant. Spielberg was in charge of the film as a whole, and it was his decision to once again not let the story speak for itself. The epilogue of the agonizingly long cemetery march drains all the remaining life out of the film, which again at the end is roadkill on the cinematic highway. It had a chance to make it across, but alas, it was caught by Spielberg's "headlights" shot. The fact is, most any film by a competent director about the Holocaust was bound to move people. Especially a famous Jewish one like S.S. (coincidence with those initials?). But watch any documentary about the Holocaust and you will have a much more moving and eye-opening experience. There's more power to me in the final movements of the Age of Innocence, because it's not black & white good vs. bad. There are complicated emotions involved, and our emotional investment in Newland's character is not taken advantage of with a cheap plot device. The ending is painfully sublime, and earns our committment.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 6:31 p.m. CST

    In defense of Mario Bros.

    by crackerfarmboy

    Moriarty let me just say that I don't direct this only at you but at the numerous legions of people that continously take shots at the Super Mario Bros. movie. To me it's very reminiscent of the backlash that Episode 1 received. Did you miss the plot? This film was about evolution. It's as clear as day. Some dinosaurs lived in a seperate dimension and evolved into human like characters. Then Mario and Luigi (simian descendants) meet up with these alternate "men". Then the action starts. The meeting of the two races of men produces a rather witty commentary on the diversity of '90s American lifestyle. I think you need to see this film again. For the record I enjoyed Leguizamo in his role very much. He added an intangiable level of confidence to the character of Luigi.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 6:48 p.m. CST

    sharon stone, you ignorant slut

    by tommy five-tone

    let's face it, sharon stone is a one-trick phony with an inflated sense of self-worth who assumes she's brilliant and expects everyone to follow suit. william baldwin had one or two good roles before descending into banality. joe eszterhas writes like a fucking pig. and philip noyce's stock of good will (accumulated after dead calm) is rapidly diminishing. put 'em all together: sliver! absolute tripe! "i wanna do something exciting! i wanna see pearl jam!" still, the sex scene to massive attack's unfinished sympathy is pretty hot - it's the only good thing in this flaccid, moronic filet o'shite.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 8:24 p.m. CST

    Good list, but...

    by The Starchild

  • the fact that by the time the ending rolled around, they NEEDED to mourn. I for one have absolutely no problems with the ending - Schindler breaking down as the lives he saved surround and embrace him. Sure, it didn't really happen. That's the wonderment of movies. It worked for me, and I'm glad of it. When I saw SL for the first time, I was absolutely devastated. When I came out, I said "That was Spielberg's Citizen Kane." And it still holds up. This is, in my humble opinion, a flawless movie. And the greatest film of the 1990s.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 8:56 p.m. CST

    Good list, but...

    by The Starchild

    Oops. First time poster. :) Anyways, good list, Moriarty, but what about the best action movie of the year, THE FUGITIVE? It was certainly a better movie than JURASSIC PARK, which made alot of money, but was essentially just a glorified special effects showcase. Spielberg could have done so much more with CGI than just make a monster flick. JP should have been more like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. MENACE II SOCIETY and JOY LUCK CLUB should have been somewhere on the list as well, possibly as replacements for BACKBEAT and GROUNDHOG DAY, which I thought were good, but not listworthy.

  • Feb. 9, 2000, 10:08 p.m. CST

    Way to go, Lazarus Long!

    by Dutch_Engstrom

    I couldn't agree more with Lazarus Long and his comments regarding Schindler's List. A real problem with critiquing this movie is the subject matter-because the movie is about the holocaust, and because it was so personal to the much-beloved Spielberg, anybody who criticizes it is viewed by many people to be an insensitive asshole. Or if you're not Jewish, people act like that must be why you can't appreciate the film, as if any human being can't relate to the mass deaths of other humans. There are many different levels on which a film must succeed, and Schindler's List fails on several, especially at the end with that contrived breakdown scne. Also, the film's structure tends to lull many viewers to sleep. Holding an audience captive is the director's most important job, but I've talked to many people about SL, and few can admit to watching the whole film from start to finish without either stopping it for awhile, or dozing from time to time. Yes, the performances were great, yes, the look of the film was great, but give me a well-made holocaust documentary anyday. Hell, give me Saving Private Ryan any day.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 12:03 a.m. CST

    LAH not the train wreck...

    by dominican dandy

    ...it has been made out to be. If you want to say it was disapppointing fine but it had a lot of good elements. A few scenes showed that McTiernan can still knock a good action scene out of the park and the Arnold as Hamlet scene is funny stuff indeed. Also the kid was appealing, not obnoxious like kids often are. And any movie that can skewer the ridiculous '555' phone numbers that populate tv and film can't be all bad.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 12:04 a.m. CST

    Movies about chess

    by Veidt

    Moriarty, I imagine your first favorite '90s movie about chess must be the very underrated film Fresh. I think that's a true classic of sorts and its final image of the tear rolling down the boy's cheek is just terrific.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 3:02 a.m. CST

    To the Chuckle-head who liked The Fugitive

    by Slip Mahoney

    Take Tommy Lee-Jones out and what do you have? A Movie-of-the-Week. Don't get me wrong. I love Harrison Ford whenever he is in a movie by Lucas or Spieberg. Put him in anything else and I'd rather watch ice melt. Much more exciting. And the identity of the actual killer? Any casual movie fan figured it out the moment homeboy from The Punisher and The Living Daylights appeared as Dr. Richard Kimbles best friend. All this guy had ever played was villians! Take one of the coolest 60's semi-anthology dramas and turn it into a run-of-the-mill Hollywood thriller. See if I care. Just don't be backward-ass enough to think that it was actually a good movie.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Let me get this straight

    by Futureboy

    Moriarty-you were working as a studio tour guide in 1993-and that makes you some sort of an expert in what makes a film great?? Give me a break. Better yet, give us all a break and spare us anymore of this bloated drivel you call film critique. I doubt that I'm the only person here who is insulted by your condescending tone-"this movie is great, because I say it is!" If you need to continue to have these wetdreams about you being some sort of influential media critic-just remember one thing-the rest of us don't give a rats ass.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 3:20 p.m. CST

    Does it bother anyone . . .

    by Poetamelie

    . . . that the Times reporter lost his job because Sony threw a hissy fit about a bad test screening? That bothers me a lot that Sony could throw its weight at the Fourth Estate like that--especially over such a vulgar waste of celluloid as THE LAST ACTION HERO. Remember how they actually tried to buy ad space on the side of the Space Shuttle to promote it? Thank goodness Sony's clout didn't sway NASA.

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 4:27 p.m. CST

    an absolutely incredible scene

    by tommy five-tone

    in SFBF, the kid arranges the toys in his room so they're like a three-dimensional chess face-off. zaillian did it so damn subtly that when it finally hit me what was happening i almost burst into tears of joy. i don't play chess (i'm too damn stupid, that's why) and i don't really know a lot about it, but that summed up what the game is all about. this is a freakin' great scene and it makes SFBF one of the best movies of 1993, if not ever. oh, and ABking? i hope to GOD you're not serious when you hope mctiernan's 'rollerball' resembles arnold's 'the running man' in any way. bachman's 'running man' novel is a goddamn pedal-to-the-metal badass classic and ah-nuld and his crew fucked it up big time with all those cheesebag one-liners and low-rent production values. still, with mctiernan looking at chris klein for the 'rollerball 2000' lead, i can't say i've got my hopes up - why not wait a while and get in hugh jackman or something?

  • Feb. 10, 2000, 11:28 p.m. CST

    Stalagmites

    by Juvenal

    He impaled the guys eye on a stalagmite, not a stalagtite. There's a difference.

  • Feb. 11, 2000, 4:58 a.m. CST

    Some Advice

    by Kilowatt

    Hey, great job on the list,but could you please stop using the word "film"? Find a damn thesaurus. This article gave me seizures.

  • Feb. 12, 2000, 9:55 p.m. CST

    Whoopsie...

    by bijou27

    My apologies to Moriarty. So he does, huh? I have to admit, I'm not suprised.

  • Feb. 13, 2000, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Oy

    by Zeb

    Maybe you wouldn't take up so much space if you'd limited the number of runner-up entries. Grow some cojones and drop the last several flicks. This is an example of the epidemic that has overcome this previously ideal site, the symptoms of which include, but are not limited to, intense concentrations of hyperbole. Shut up, I say, and start judging films on merit instead of their ability to kick viewer ass. I'm sick and tired of having angst about the internet. Please, please, redeem your credibility, whoever you (think you) are.