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MORIARTY's Latest '90s List!! Snowstorms In Hell!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

What's wrong with me? Why would I do this to myself? When I started working on my '90s Lists, I was confident that it would be something I just knocked out in a few weeks, maybe two months if things got busy. Now it's almost freakin' DECEMBER!! I can't believe the mail I've gotten from you guys about this, both encouraging and openly hostile, and I agree with you all. It is a lot of fun, and it's also absolutely unfathomable that I haven't finished. It's demented. All I can say in my own defense is that it's been a busy year, the busiest of my life, and hopefully all the other fun stuff we've been up to makes up for my almost pathological tardiness in some way. Enough excuses and stammered promises of the future, though. Let's get to it.

But first... if you want to take a look back at the first '90s list, which covered 1990, 1991, and 1992, the 1993 lists, the 1994 lists, and the 1995 list, please feel free to do so. This should make them all easy to find.

1996

Remember the Oscars for 1996? Everyone pitched it as the year of the Indie, when the best stuff was all released by small companies and the studios were suffering a sort of commercial stagnation. Looking at my final list, it certainly does appear to be a year dominated by the offbeat, the quirky. There was a great deal of quality on display. I mean, here's some of the films that I left off my list: SHINE, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, SHALL WE DANCE?, RIDICULE, THE PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNT, HARD EIGHT, GRACE OF MY HEART, BASQUIAT, FLY AWAY HOME, MICROCOSMOS, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, I SHOT ANDY WARHOL, MOTHER NIGHT, KINGPIN, and MANNY & LO. That's a damn fine list of solid films with strong voices, movies I'm glad I saw. For whatever reason, a number of artists connected on some profound level in 1996, and the result was one of the strangest, richest years of the decade. However, it's also the kind of year that hotly divided viewers, so I expect many of you will be enraged by the choices listed below. I can hardly wait to get started...

THE TEN BEST

1. BREAKING THE WAVES

What was Lars Von Trier thinking? He took the two subjects that are simply not dealt with in intelligent, mature films -- sexuality and religious faith -- and made a film that deals intelligently and maturely with both. This was one of those rare film experiences for me, where I sat down in the theater knowing nothing whatsoever. As the film unfolded, I had no idea where we were going until very late in the game. And when the last five minutes of the film arrived, I knew in my heart what moment was coming, but I didn't dare believe that Von Trier would actually go for it. The final image of the bells ringing is, appropriately enough, a leap of faith, and it jackhammered me back into my theater seat the same way the destruction of the Death Star or the sight of Sam Lowry still in his interrogation chair did upon first viewing. All the performance work in the film is top notch, and the visual work by Von Trier is searing, both experimental and invisible, a perfect template for the Dogme 95 movement. I was fascinated by the portrait of a culture closed off to the outside world, and the terrible price paid by Emily Watson in the face of their disapproval left its mark on me. I'm amazed by how few people have seen this film, even now, and I find myself recommending it to friends frequently. There's nothing I enjoy more than that phone call after they've seen it and the conversation that follows. Love it or hate it, it's a film that you'll never forget.

2. BIG NIGHT

A miracle, a poem, a dream. Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, working with a fine and gifted ensemble of actors including Isabella Rossellini, Ian Holm, Allison Janney, Minnie Driver, and the immeasurable Tony Shaloub, created something perfect and pure here. I hardly know how to describe it to someone who has yet to enjoy the film. I normally start by telling them to make sure that they have a great meal planned for that evening. The sensual pleasure of a great meal hadn't been caught on film to such impressive effect since LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, but I prefer this film by far. Cooking is art to the character played by Shaloub, and his dedication to his craft is played for both laughs and pathos. His open hostility towards customers who eat his food "wrong" is born from the same pain felt by any artist who feels misunderstood, unappreciated. There's not a scene, not a moment in this film that doesn't make me smile, and it all builds to a climax between Shaloub and Tucci that's handled wordlessly. It's the finest scene about the ties of family, the way we forgive those we must, that I've ever seen. This is one of those films you don't just watch. You imbibe it, and the effect is pure intoxication.

3. JERRY MAGUIRE

It's a great indicator of just how special and unique the mind of Cameron Crowe is that he would make a romantic fable about an agent who discovers he has a heart. There's something audacious about the concept, and Tom Cruise grabs hold of this role of a lifetime and delivers amazing work, controlled and confident and adult. The screenplay for this film should be studied by anyone who's learning about writing character. Rod Tidwell, his wife, his family, Dorothy Boyd, her sister, her sitter, her son Ray... these characters are all etched with the same sophistication and depth as Jerry himself, and the entire cast seems charmed. Jonathan Lipnicki may have been painfully overexposed since then, but it's a funny performance, and his chemistry with Cruise is undeniable. Bonnie Hunt, a national treasure on par with Joan Cusack, steals scenes every time she opens her mouth. Everything comes down to two performances, though, and the work between Renee Zellweger and Cruise is fantastic. We invest in these two, in the success of their relationship, and Crowe makes us believe there's a good chance it won't work out. I almost wrote that this is a shining example of its genre, but I'd be hard-pressed to say exactly what genre this film fits into, and that's part of what makes it so dear to me.

4. TRAINSPOTTING

Danny Boyle, come back to us. The filmmaker who attacked Irvine Welsh's book, hot on the heels of his sensational debut thriller, has been missing in action ever since. A LIFE LESS ORDINARY? THE BEACH? How am I supposed to settle for this shit when I've seen TRAINSPOTTING? Ewan McGregor became a movie star with this film's first delirious freeze-frame. From that HARD DAYS NIGHT-inspired opening to those last shots of McGregor walking away into an uncertain future, this film is nothing but raw unbridled energy. It's a case of someone taking a book and turning it into something new and unique that could only exist on film. Boyle's use of music here is damn near genius. Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" was an old fave of mine, but seeing these images married to the music changed the way I felt about the song. That's powerful work. Robert Carlyle would blow most normal actors off the screen, but Ewan McGregor is no normal actor. He's so good as Renton that I've actually had trouble watching him in other roles since then. Renton never feels like a character in a movie, despite the exaggerated stylistic flourishes that Boyle adorns the film with. Instead, McGregor makes him real and surprisingly sympathetic. There's also great supporting work from Johnny Lee Miller, the criminally cute Kelly McDonald, and Spud (who shall forever be known only as Spud). John Hodge did a superb job in distilling the rage and the joy that's so disturbingly mixed in Welsh's work, adding further fuel to my confusion about this team's floundering ever since. I'm sure they'll get back on track soon. Nobody who could make a film this good can ever be counted totally out.

5. PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS

I wouldn't call this a horror film, but I would say it's the scariest movie I saw all decade. I had to turn the film off halfway through my first viewing of the movie and walk away from it. It got that far under my skin. There's nothing that can transport a viewer the way a great documentary does. I think that's why the mockumentary form is so popular. All filmmakers aspire to creating something that feels real, and when you are able to actually capture reality and make us feel what we're watching, it's magic. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky captured one of the most amazing, unfortunate, distressing stories imaginable here, and I have to wonder if the filmmakers had any idea what they were onto here. As these people open up and spill their lives onto the screen, you can't help but get emotionally caught up in the injustice and the insanity of the proceedings. More than any fiction film from this year, these characters stuck with me long after the last frame of film sputtered through the Nuart's projector. Jessie Miskelly, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols are the three kids accused of killing three little boys named Christopher Byers, Stephen Branch, and Michael Moore. I'm pulling these names from memory after... maybe a year since I last saw this film? Berlinger and Sinofsky did such an amazing job of making all of these innocent kids... and make no mistake, all six of those kids named are innocent of anything... into such vivid, living presences that I can remember them even now. Same with John Mark Byers and his wife Melissa. I will remember them forever. In Mark's case, it's because I think he may well be the Devil. The film is constructed like an accidental mystery. As Berlinger and Sinofsky interview the families of the dead children, they seem to stumble across the real murderer. Byers starts out expressing rage at the killers, and then he starts talking about what he would do to them if given the chance. You can almost write off his detailed fantasies and his creepy violent ranting because of the death of a child, something that must be terrible to live through. But then Byers goes to the crime scene, the place where the children's bodies were discovered, and there's a moment that's practically Shakespearean. Haunted by the ghosts of those boys, Byers has what can only be called a total meltdown. To my eye and ear, he confesses. What he says, what he does... it's a cry of guilt. Out, out, damn spot, indeed. This guy seems to want to tell the camera. He actually produces the murder weapon and hands it over to Sinofsky and Berlinger at one point. He's obviously insane, and the way that mental illness asserts itself over and over in the film becomes terrifying. Even worse, Damien Echols is demonized by Byers, by the court, by some of the local media, by the prosecutor, and there's never a sane voice that steps up to assert itself. The testimony of Jessie, a chickenhead in the most explicit sense of the word, is the only piece of evidence that ties the boys to the scene, an admission that was coerced under questionable conditions. The miscarriage of justice will make you ache as you watch it unfold, and there's no answers in the film, nothing that lets us off the hook. This is one of those moviegoing experiences that certainly doesn't make you feel good, but it's required viewing for anyone who is interested in just how powerful nonfiction cinema can be, or anyone who wants to understand just how devastating the intersection of murder, hate, fear, lies, and predjudice can be.

6. BOTTLE ROCKET

Wes Anderson's debut film was one of those quiet little time bombs that made me dizzy after I saw it that first time. I remember that sense of creeping pleasure that crept up on me as the story unfolded and I was introduced to Dignan, Bob, Anthony, and James Caan, as well as the various other comic inventions that populate the peculiar world that Anderson and his co-writer Owen Wilson seem to be staking out as their very own. What other film has ever mixed a crime story, a romantic comedy, and a road movie to such ethereal effect? I love how personal and eccentric the film is. Hell, both of Anderson's film so far have been that way. There's a "Robert Dignan" in the cast credits for the film, and there's also a "Tenenbaum," suggesting they love to mix elements of their real lives into these lovely fairy tale worlds they create. I've tried to describe this film to people before they see it, and I find that it confounds simple explanation. Its charms are subtle, slippery. We've already seen Owen Wilson do riffs on the Dignan character in other films like SHANGHAI NOON, and it's no surprise. He's a force of nature, alternately confident and confused, and it's his drive to succeed at his unlikely new criminal lifestyle that gives the film its comic motor. Anthony, Luke Wilson's much more subdued lead character, is what grounds the film. Add in the sort of beaten, bruised desire to be liked of the hilariously named Bob Maplethorpe, and you get a wonderful set of dynamics that never get worn out. Anderson and Wilson wring every single potential emotion out of these characters. So often, it's damning a film with faint praise to call it "a great debut," but this is one of those films that would be a gem no matter where it fell on someone's filmography. Another thing I love is how different this Texas, so specific and so distinct, manages to be from the state portrayed in the next film on this list.

7. LONE STAR

Along a stretch of Texas highway, somewhere between nowhere and not much else, there's a small town with secrets, secrets that have just resurfaced after decades of being supressed. What happens when a human skull is unearthed throws the very meaning of the word "family" into question. John Sayles has long been a national treasure as a writer and director of fiercely independent human dramas like RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, LIANNA, EIGHT MEN OUT, and CITY OF HOPE, but this film marks the absolute pinnacle of his remarkable gifts. It combines the cultural specificity as well as the textural density of his novel LOS GUSANOS with the nimble wit and directorial grace that we've seen him develop over the course of his remarkable career. This is a film that exists in the echo between two times, and it deals with the way things are passed down from one generation to another: love, hate, fear, or even hope. Chris Cooper plays the son of legendary local lawman Buddy Deeds. He's grown up his whole life in the shadow of his father, a man who ran the town for decades. When a body is uncovered, it's identified as belonging to Charlie Wade, the sheriff that Buddy Deeds once worked under. As beloved as Deeds was, Wade was feared and hated until he vanished one night. It was always whispered that Deeds ran him out of town, but Cooper comes to suspect that his father actually murdered Wade. In his desire to prove it, he stumbles across an even bigger secret, one that binds him to Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena), a woman he's been involved with off and on for years. Matthew McConaughey and Kris Kristofferson are both very good in the flashbacks as Charlie and Buddy, but it's Cooper who makes the thing work. He's a man who can't stop picking at the past, and he comes to understand the difference between the truth and what's right. There's also a subplot involving Joe Morton, an Army colonel who moved away from town years ago, and who has been transferred back. He and his father haven't spoken in decades, and the two of them struggle to figure out if there's a way they'll ever be able to speak again. This storyline just serves to illuminate some of the truths about the main plot of the film, and it's to Sayles' credit that it all seems organic, natural, without artifice. Not only does the end of the film pack a tremendous emotional kick as the final bombshell (and it's a doozy) is dropped, it's also got the best last line of dialogue since BIRDY: "Forget the Alamo."

8. ROMEO + JULIET

When I use my Time Machine to travel back and meet Shakespeare at the Globe Theater, this is one of the few DVDs I am taking to play for him on my Powerbook. Given the choice between this and something like Kenny B's HAMLET, I'd show him Baz Luhrmann's film in a heartbeat. Maybe throw in ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD for a really crazed double-feature. I'm a firm believer that the enduring power of Shakespeare and his work comes from the ability of the work to survive reinterpretation. In fact, it demands it. Nothing is more deadly dull than watching a museum piece, something that's overly reverent. Luhrmann has created a ROMEO + JULIET that is alive and full of the delirious, overheated passion the story requires. I know it's vogue to beat up on Leonardo DiCaprio now in a post-TITANIC world, but there's a reason he struck such a chord in viewers with his early work. He has a rare ability to let an audience see what he's thinking, to open himself up enough for them to project themselves into his place. Casting Claire Danes opposite him was inspired. Like Di Caprio, she is almost emotionally translucent. You can see right into Claire. The two of them project such immediate, intense longing from the moment they meet that the rest of the story makes sense. That first sequence, the moment they make eye contact, is a perfect example of using music and image and editing to build an emotion. "Kissing You" is the song that Des'ree is singing as they first glimpse each other through a fishtank filled with almost hallucinatorily vivid tropical fish. By song's end, they've shared their first kiss, and they've already been pulled apart by family, by Paris (the barely-there Paul Rudd), by reality rearing its ugly head. That taste is enough to drive them to the emotional extreme that famously ends the story. Yes, I know purists had fits about some of the adjustments Luhrmann made in telling this story, but they're purists. They're detail freaks, and they miss the bigger picture in a case like this. Just as THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was the first film to show me a screen Jesus that I could realistically accept as both human and divine, R+J is the first treatment of this story that convincingly portrays a passion great enough, young enough, and frenzied enough to lead to the tragic end that's always felt like a dramatic convenience before this. It helps that Dash Mihok, Brian Dennehey, Diane Verona, Miriam Margulyes, Pete Postlethwaite and Paul Sorvino all do exceptional supporting work. There are two supporting players that actually threaten to steal the movie and run off with it each time they're onscreen, and it shouldn't be a surprise. Both Harold Perrineau and John Leguizamo have been great in fits and starts over their careers thus far, and they're both big energy actors, guys who chew up scenes when given the room to play. When Mercutio and Tibalt square off with Romeo caught in the middle, it's electric, and even if you know where the film's headed, you find yourself dreading it, wishing things could change. Instead of just waiting for the inevitable to occur in the story, you invest and give yourself up to it. Nellee Hooper deserves at least some of the credit, since he was the score composer and music supervisor, and he managed to create just the right aural landscape for this story to play out against. Radiohead's "Exit Music (For A Film)," the track that plays out over the closing credits, is one of the great pieces of film music last decade, the icing on a magnificent cake of a movie.

9. WHEN WE WERE KINGS

One of the truly great thrills of my life was meeting Muhhammad Ali one afternoon at the Universal Citywalk Theaters. He was there to see METEOR MAN (hey... he's the Greatest, so shut up), and I heard a bunch of kids come running around a corner yelling, "Ali! Ali!" Keep in mind, these were children under ten, in the mid ?0s. And they still knew exactly who he was, and they were excited to see him. That's the kind of looming cultural shadow that he's cast over the past four decades, that he continues to cast even now. When Taylor Hackford stepped in to finish this documentary based on footage originally shot in conjunction with the legendary "Rumble In The Jungle," I don't know if he realized just how remarkable the material was. This is more than just a time capsule of one fight. It's a magnificent portrait of why Ali was more than just a fighter. I've said it before: his is one of the greatest human stories of the 20th Century. He's more than a sports hero, although he's definitely that. He's led a life that's become political, that's been defined by spirituality, that's been an inspiration to millions, transcending the boundries of race. When Michael Mann and Will Smith release their biopic to theaters next year, they have a lot to live up to thanks to this documentary, this living tapestry of what makes him now and forever The Greatest.

10. IRMA VEP

Talk about a late entry in the race. I didn't see this film until this past Tuesday. It was something I was aware of, but I'd actually sort of avoided up up till now. It had all sorts of strikes stacked up against it in my mind. For one thing, I don't typically like films about filmmaking. I hate the way they portray the process, and I hate the constant portrayal of everyone who works in film as venal assholes. I'd say it's not higher than 85% venal asshole, based on my personal experience. This film always sounded to me like a lecture of sorts, a ponderous French essay on remakes and Hollywood and acting. Allow to me say that I was completely wrong, and that I feel like a total idiot for skipping it until now. I love this movie. Love, love, love it. It's easily the best movie about making movies since DAY FOR NIGHT and 8 1/2. Maggie Cheung plays... well, she plays Maggie Cheung, a Hong Kong actress who's been invited to Paris to play the lead in a remake of LES VAMPIRES, a serial from the silent days. In that serial, a mysterious singer named Irma Vep leads a gang of cat burglars. She dresses all in black, in a form fitting suit, and in the clips that are shown from that original film, it's obvious that the images from the B&W silent were influential on Tim Burton's vision of Catwoman, among others. Everything comes full circle when we see the costume department referring to stills of Michelle Pfeiffer in costume as inspiration for the rubber outfit they pour Cheung into. If this were just a clever film about filmmaking, though, it wouldn't make this list. Instead, IRMA VEP reaches deeper and speaks to the sense of community that arises from a common goal. The way Maggie is set adrift amidst the French crew to fend for herself is perfectly etched, and there's one scene in this movie that I can't shake. Zoe, one of the costumers, develops a bit of a crush on Maggie as they work together, and one night Maggie finds herself abandoned after a disastrous screening of dailies. Zoe happens by on her scooter and offers to take Maggie to a dinner party. Along the way, there's a long lyrical moment between them, a shared closeness that lingers. At the party, Zoe opens up to a friend about her feelings for Maggie. It's endearing, tentative, more a voiced wish than any sort of serious desire. When that woman turns around and tells Maggie the truth only moments later, we see Zoe's face. We see it hit her, see the disappointment set in. We see her perfect moment simply evaporate, and the mood is broken. It's as human and perfect a moment as in any film on this list, and this is a gem I would recommend to any adventurous film fan.

RUNNERS-UP

1. THAT THING YOU DO!

Sometimes, your love of a film boils down to one moment. In the case of this film, there's one scene that's so true, that is so personal to me, that I find myself powerless to switch the channel if I stumble across the film on cable. It's that amazing first moment when the Oneders ("O-neeeders," as Steve Zahn calls them) hear "That Thing You Do!" on the radio for the first time. They're not all together in one place, but the way that song cuts through everything around them and suddenly makes them feel like the entire world is theirs, like they can do anything, and the excitement that draws them together, that makes them a band, one perfect unit, at that moment... it's exactly right. When Harry Lime and I had our first play produced at the Met Theater back in 1994, it was the most intense experience of my life up to that point. The rehearsal process was complicated by the fact that we had to replace our original cast 14 days before we opened. The play was one of five in a one-act festival, and it was placed last in the lineup. On the night we held our first preview with an audience, both Lime and I were out of our minds with tension. Sitting through the four plays before ours was like a blur. The tension got worse and worse, until the lights finally came up for our play. I remember every laugh, every gasp, every single audible reaction from the crowd that night. I remember the way each line was delivered. I remember the incredible rush of energy when the play ended, the feeling that we'd done it, that it had worked better than we'd ever imagined. The only feeling that compared was a week later when Harry Lime and I went to the newsstand at Ventura and Van Nuys at 3:00 in the morning to pick up VARIETY, DRAMALOGUE, and THE LOS ANGELES TIMES to see the reviews for the festival. As we drove down Ventura Blvd., reading each new positive review, we couldn't contain the energy. We were screaming and hooting, no noise seemingly enough to express how good it felt. That's what that scene in THAT THING YOU DO! brings rushing back to me every time I see it. The rest of the movie shows a smart, confident visual style from Tom Hanks, and the performances are all solid, especially Tom Everett Scott (who appears to be chanelling the young Hanks) and Steve Zahn, who emerged here as a unique and special comic voice worth paying attention to. Zahn's lived up to his promise so far, but Hanks hasn't returned to the chair as a feature director, something I consider a shame. Here's hoping he finds another story to tell that moves him the same way this special little story did, and that it happens soon.

2. FARGO

If I have a complaint about this film, it's that I find it distinctly overpraised in terms of the total filmography of the Coen Brothers. The characters are great here. William Macy and Frances McDormand are wonderful, and the way the rest of the cast spins out around them is delightful, even at its darkest moments. I think it's a minor meditation about the need for simple good in this complex, unfathomable world. In the Coen pantheon, I place it behind THE BIG LEBOWSKI, MILLERS CROSSING, and even RAISING ARIZONA. Having said that, there's a lot to like about the movie. McDormand's just amazing, and I particularly love her in a scene that confused many viewers when it came out involving Mike, a Japanese guy she went to high school with. They have an awkward dinner together in a hotel restaurant that is, I feel, the lynchpin scene in the movie. Margie Gunderson is so open, so trusting, that she never questions the motives of this old acquaintance. It's only later that she is given a piece of information that throws everything Mike said into doubt, leading her to go back and take a closer look at Macy's spectacularly jumpy Jerry, the man who may or may not be connected to his kidnapped wife. I think the accent stuff is entertaining, but in the end, it's a gag, and the film was strong enough to survive without it. It's a film I'm glad I saw, that I fully absorbed, but that I doubt I need to see again any time soon.

3. FLIRTING WITH DISASTER

If I had to, I think I'd name this the “quintessential ‘90’s comedy.” When people look back at this decade, this is one of the films that they will use to define who we were, HOW we were. That’s not to say that writer/director David O. Russell (SPANKING THE MONKEY) tried to encapsulate all sorts of fads and trends with the movie, because I don’t for a second believe that was his goal. I think he just accidentally managed to sum up the insanity that marks the state of the art of interpersonal relationships at this time and place with a razor wit. The basic story here concerns Mel Copeland, played to neurotic perfection by Ben Stiller in the best performance he’s ever given. Mel and his wife (Patricia Arquette) have just had their first baby, and Mel can’t name the child until he resolves the one major issue in his life: he wants to meet his natural parents in an effort to make sense of who he is and why he was given up for adoption. Tea Leoni is the adoption agency worker who helps Mel locate his parents, and then tags along to document their reunion as part of her doctorate in psychology. From the moment this film begins, we are in high comic gear, and every single performer we see gives it 150%. Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal play the Copelands, Mel’s adoptive parents, and it’s a piece of cake figuring out where all of Mel’s neuroses come from when we see these two at work. Segal has a recurrent phobia of cheese, and Moore (in the scene that has already become the film’s signature moment) harangues Arquette about getting a support bra to keep her husband interested. These two manage to pack a lifetime’s worth of whining, needling, and badgering into their first ten minutes onscreen. With that, Mel is off and running. He makes several false stops and starts en route to finally meeting his real parents, played superbly by Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda, and somehow manages to end up travelling with a “posse,” as he puts it, made up of his wife, the baby, the adoption worker, and two gay FBI agents. This movie works as subtle character study, as broad comedy, as pointed satire, and as cultural cross-section. Russell’s directorial style almost makes this feel like a documentary, with rough hand-held camera work adding to the immediacy. Many filmmakers end up suffering through the dreaded sophomore slump, but Russell has managed to actually get better with film number two and film number three. He’s proven himself as a writer and a director now, and his touch with this cast is masterful. A quick sampling of some destined-to-be classic lines from the film: “Mel... I’m sorry I put windowpane in your food... and I’m sorry you ate it, Paul.”; “You were LICKING my wife’s ARMPIT! Now, I’m gonna have that image in my head for the rest of my life!”; “I expect you to pay for that damage.” “But you said I was a gift from God.” “That was when you were my son.”; “Is this the rooster’s tail?” “No, that’s the dog’s pillow.”; “They gave you a very hebe look, kid.”; “You can’t catch the wind!!”; “We’re talking about a stupid traffic mistake, not an act of intentional terrorism...” “I’ll be the judge of that.”; and my personal favorite, “I had an experience. At first, I fought it, but then I accepted it, and now... it continues to expand.” See this film with someone you love... it’s the strangest, quirkiest, most eccentric version of a love story I can imagine, and it’s bound to cause serious discussion afterwards, as well as uncontrollable laughter at inopportune moments.

4. EVITA

Alan Parker is, without question, the finest working director of musicals. He's got a fairly unique resume among modern filmmakers. PINK FLOYD -- THE WALL, BUGSY MALONE, THE COMMITMENTS, and FAME all pulse with a distinct energy and an instantly recognizable visual approach. Add to that the perfectly appropriate casting of Madonna, an icon, playing Eva Peron, another icon. The first time I saw it was opening weekend at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Alan Parker worked with a team of THX technicians for a week before the film opened to install a special bank of speakers designed to simulate the placement of an orchestra. The presentation of the film was just tremendous. This score is one of the Andrew Lloyd Weber pieces I actually like, from the days of his collaboration with Tim Rice, a creative high watermark for both men. This and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR were both filled with a dark trenchant wit and a clever sense of style that still packs a punch. It's a really bitter film overall, something that people seem to miss. This movie doesn't canonize Evita, and seeing Madonna play such a shrewd, manipulative, calculated woman on a meteoric rise to fame creates all sorts of strange echoes. It's knowing work, and you have to give her respect for being this naked on film, finally revealing more soul than skin. I've never been convinced by her in other films because I've never been able to get past the image of her as a celebrity. But here, that's the point. She's a woman who always wears a mask, playing a role for so long that she becomes the role. The way she finally turns her fame to something good, something decent, is transforming both for the actress and the character. Antonio Banderas is rarely allowed to be as charismatic as he is here as Che, the film's narrator, and Jonathan Pryce is wonderful as Juan Peron. The scene where he and Eva meet is a marvelous duet, "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You," a dance of seduction and attraction that's shared by two people who recognize truth in one another. Eva knows what Juan is and what he can be, and Juan knows what she is, and what she's been. His reaction to her death at the end of the film is powerful, unforgettable. The way Darius Khondji burnishes the whole film with the gentle golden tones of a faded photograph should serve as an example for anyone who studies cinematography. It's a masterful film that was maligned unjustly upon release, and it deserves to be revisited.

5. THE FRIGHTENERS

Any time someone starts talking to me about Peter Jackson and LORD OF THE RINGS and questioning the wisdom of handing such a huge project to a "low-budget" filmmaker, I have to stop them and direct the conversation to this wicked little confection, as good a classical ghost story as I've seen in recent memory. I'm a big fan of the screenplay that Jackson co-wrote with his wife Fran Walsh, and the oh-so-clever structure of the thing could well be the reason the film failed in the theaters. The film mixes horror, humor, and mystery with an able hand, a feat that seems to be beyond most genre directors these days. At first, the film feels like it's going to be a riff on GHOSTBUSTERS, a film about a psychic investigator in a small town overrun with ghosts. Michael J Fox is Frank Bannister, the ostensible hero of the film, and if this turns out to be the last great comic performance that Fox turns in, then at least he goes out on a high note. Watching his work here is a reminder of just how particular a physical performer Fox can be, and he brings real depth to the role. There's a great sadness to him, and even the sharpest of the wisecracks he makes comes out bitter, tinged with the weight of lost time and missed opportunities. Frank's not just assisted by the dead; he's one of them in all but the literal sense. Everyone in this film is haunted, though. Trini Alvarado and Peter Dobson meet Frank as "customers" when he sends his trio of ghostly assistants (the wildly funny trio of John Astin, Chi McBride, and Jim Fyfe) into their house to shake things up. But it's Dobson's death that brings Alvarado and Frank together. Dobson can't let go of life, and she's got unresolved questions that she uses Frank to ask. There's Special Agent Milton Dammers, a man driven by any numberof demons, played to freaky perfection by Jeffrey Combs in a performance that ably walks the line between funny and disturbing. He's been studying cults and the occult for so long that he's become unhinged, cursed by what he's seen. His theories are deranged, and they lead him to pursue Frank as the bad guy. In reality, there's something far worse going on in their small town, something that started 30 years ago with a murder spree. Jake Busey and Dee Wallace Stone are both great in the film as the couple united beyond life, beyond death by their love of murder. The Reaper figure that whips across rooftops in the film is one of the most convincing movie monsters I've seen recently, and one of the most menacing CGI creations realized yet onscreen. I want to take this space to beg Universal Home Video to remaster their outstanding laserdisc box set edition of this film for DVD, and to do it soon.

TWENTY HOURS I WANT BACK

1. SPACE JAM

This is the film equivalent of someone dragging their beloved grandmother out to a street corner in Hollywood and flashing her pussy at passing cars. "Come on! I know it's my grandmother, the source of my family, a woman that is loved and revered by everyone, but I really need a little cash!" The crazy thing is that someone -- a whole lot of someones, actually -- stopped and fucked the old lady, so they're going to keep whoring her out. Warner Bros. has no respect whatsoever for the importance of their iconic animated characters, seeing them instead as licensing opportunities, as ATM machines drawn in ink. It's disgraceful to the memory of the artists of Termite Terrace, the talented writers and performers and composers and animators and directors who created such astonishing pop art for decades. It's also a piss poor use of such rich and interesting characters. More than that, it's a complete failure as a Michael Jordan vehicle. I don't think Jordan was ever going to be a great actor, but he's undeniably charismatic and charming. Warner Bros. indulged in some serious mythmaking here with the first scene of the movie portraying young Michael Jordan. The scene's as unabashedly cornball as the first third of SUPERMAN - THE MOVIE, and I mean that in a good way. Once the animated characters start showing up, though, the film begins to just aggressively suck. Not one of the characterizations in the film seems anything close to right. How hard is it to screw up Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny? These relationships are simple, clear, defined by decades of great writing. And there's nothing here that indicates that anyone involved has ever seen those classic cartoons. It's like they saw drawings and had someone explain the cartoons to them. The music is generic radio wallpaper, and the look of the wildly expensive movie is garish and ugly. In the end, it's a loathsome experience that just tarnishes the WB shield and all the classics it's ever been attached to.

2. TWISTER

This isn't a movie. It's a fascinating PBS documentary remade as an ILM FX reel. It's entertainment that never manages to actually entertain, an amusement park ride that's not amusing. Jan De Bont, a sensational action photographer, is a horrific director. His actors are adrift in the film, lost as they react to wind machines and green screens. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt have nothing resembling chemistry in the film. The supporting cast is filled with familiar faces to make up for the absolute lack of character writing. If I were Michael and Anne-Marie Crichton, I'd be embarrassed to actually have a screenplay credit on this thing. There's not a single line of note in the thing. "RUN! GET DOWN! DRIVE! COWS!" It's preposterous stuff. The multitude of documentary footage available on cable about real-life stormchasers is far more entertaining than anything in this movie, so if you were lucky enough to avoid this upon release, don't make the mistake of catching up with it now.

3. THE STUPIDS

I want to apologize to my good friend Bryan "Frankenseuss" Theiss for what I'm about to do. He's a good guy, and he rabidly defends two films that were despised by most filmgoers. CABIN BOY is one that I can admit has its charms, but I'm stumped as to what he could possibly admire about the single worst film that John Landis has ever made. And, yes... I saw BEVERLY HILLS COP 3 and SUSANS PLAN. Tom Arnold really isn't the right guy to put at the center of a film. He's at his best as a supporting character, the way Cameron used him in TRUE LIES. He's just not inventive enough as a comic performer to bring something as simple and silly as this children's book to life. The use of CGI is just plain weird, and the rest of the cast all seem to be acting in different films. Pulling off a project like this requires a feather touch as a director, and Landis simply doesn't seem to have it in him anymore. I actually debated whether or not I was going to put this on the list. It feels wrong to kick Landis when he's this far down, but making movies like this is the reason he's fallen so far. I mean, this is the same guy who gave us KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and ANIMAL HOUSE and THE BLUES BROTHERS, for chrissakes. When the great forget what made them great, there's really nothing sadder.

4. STRIPTEASE

This film should be taught in film writing classes as a textbook example of how an adaptation from novel to screen can collapse completely. Carl Hiaasen is like a souped-up, angry Elmore Leonard, his crime fiction all revolving around a very specific comic Miami that is part creation, part observation during Hiaasen's stint as a newspaperman. Demi Moore took most of the heat for this disaster, but let's be honest... she wasn't driving the ship when it hit the iceberg. No, we have to save our scorn for Andrew Bergman. With John Landis, I think his decline as a filmmaker was the result of a number of unfortunate decisions and circumstances. With Bergman, there's no understanding what happened. THE IN-LAWS is one of the finest American comedies, fresh and funny even now, its influence felt in new films like MEET THE PARENTS. BLAZING SADDLES is a work of scathing wit, still bold in a time when humor is more timid than ever. THE FRESHMAN struck a special, effervescent tone that made it memorable. But crap like HONEYMOON IN VEGAS and IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU and especially STRIPTEASE seems to suggest that Bergman is lost forever. As good as Burt Reynolds was in BOOGIE NIGHTS and BREAKING IN, that's how bad he is here. It's abysmal work, smug and self-satisfied. For all Demi's talk of visiting strip clubs and really getting to know the girls there, she certainly seems clueless on film. Her performance is all buff abs and acrobatic twirls. There's nothing behind her cold, dead eyes here. The worst sin this film is responsible for is killing off other Hiaasen adaptations that were in the works. Trust me... a world without Skink on film is not a world we should be living in.

5. THE ROCK

This is one of those movies that I find separates one type of action fan from another. If you're able to disconnect from things like logic, reality, characterization, and simple story structure and enjoy a movie, then great. More power to you. Me, personally, I can't do it. I can't handle this screenplay and its moron plot. They spend a few perfunctory moments at the start of the film explaining that Nicolas Cage is a chemical weapons expert. CHEMICAL. They state this quite clearly. And he's no good in the field. He's barely ever held a gun. He says so. And then he proceeds to drive like James Bond, shoot like James Bond, and steal microchips from missiles that have nothing to do with chemicals. And the whole oh-so-coy thing about all the secrets Connery knows is just hooey, all the way up through that spectacularly stupid final scene. I hate the nonsense about the Indiana Jones-style mine car chase underneath Alcatraz. I hate the way they take a genuinely interesting performance like Ed Harris and waste it by surrounding him with stock bad guy henchmen. And as for Michael Bay's visual style, well-defined by this point... this movie made me sick. Literally. Sitting in the theater, I thought I was going to barf. There's no geography to his action, no sense of where anyone is in relation to anyone else, no rhythm. I understand that there are those of you who believe in the big+loud+dumb=acceptable fun theory, and I wish you well. I just can't imagine what fun you get out of an experience this muddled and poorly built.

6. MAD DOG TIME

I will say this for MAD DOG TIME. It's one of the few post-Tarantino gangster films that I can say has absolutely nothing in common with his work.

7. KAZAAM

Shaq is a rapping genie. Someone had to greenlight this. There were alleged professionals involved in making this thing. People got paid. Go on... tell me the world is fair.

8. GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI

Rob Reiner is a guy whose work I've enjoyed for the most part, but he can get into Oscar-grubbing mode, and there's nothing less attractive. This film suffers from the same problem as CRY FREEDOM. In choosing to tell the story of a charismatic black figure, the filmmakers have decided to use a white central character. Who cares about the guy who wrote the book about Biko? Who cares about the attorney who chased the killer of Medgar Evars? An important voice in the American Civil Rights struggle is reduced to "some black guy who gets shot next to his car." There's no sense given in this film as to why we should care about this man's death. Sure... it's wrong to shoot anyone. And, sure, James Woods is a rabid racist who's so transparently evil they should have given him horns and a tail. But what did we lose when Evars died? What weight did his life carry? Reiner not only seems incapable of answering the question, he forgets to even raise it. This is pandering courtroom drama crap in its third act, a pale attempt to Xerox the fireworks that fueled Reiner's A FEW GOOD MEN. Overall, this is one of those Teflon films that you watch and forget, never sticking to you in any way.

9. INDEPENDENCE DAY

I know, I know. The original background for this site was the image of the White House blowing up. Many of you first started coming to this page to get news about ID4, as the ubiquitous marketing campaign dubbed the movie. Hell, I'll go so far as to name this as the best marketed film of 1996. Maybe one of the best ever. And the credit for that belongs squarely to Demmerich, the two-headed monster at the heart of Centropolis. I had opportunity to speak to the Dean-head, who's a really decent guy, recently, and he told me about how the marketing campaign was actually part of the spec package that they sold to Fox. When Fox got skittish about the idea of blowing up the White House in a trailer, especially considering the still-recent Oklahoma City incident, Demmerich held firm, insisting that it would be a galvanizing image. They were right. There was no avoiding this movie the summer it opened, and crowds were whipped into a frenzy for it. I saw it the first day, first show at Westwood's Mann Village, a great screen. The best thing I saw that day was the trailer for the STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITIONS, something which set an unfortunate bar in my mind for the film that followed. In a way, ID4 can be taken as harmless B-movie junk, and on that level, it's not offensive. But when the tools are this great, and there's this much money and energy behind something, I demand more. I need more. I've seen all the B-movies that they're referencing, and the stories and acting were already terrible once. I need the updates to be smarter, to raise the level of the material the way RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK took the old serials and made something better, bigger, and bolder out of them. Thankfully, the Demmerich tradition of putting the campaign before the film ran into a dead end with GODZILLA, paving the way for them to make a pretty damn good film with THE PATRIOT, a good sign that the days of empty flash may be behind this team, welcome news indeed.

10. MULTIPLICITY

One Michael Keaton isn't even funny anymore. What are we supposed to do with five of them? The saddest thing about this film is just how good a premise they squandered. After seeing Ramis spin such potent comic gold out of a fantasy premise with GROUNDHOG DAY, it certainly wasn't unreasonable to expect him to do the same here. The difference is, he didn't have Danny Rubin's wonderful screenplay or the comic dynamite of Bill Murray to back him up. Instead, we've got Michael Keaton playing variations on a personality. Look, one of them's retarded! One of them's sarcastic! Another one is... well... he's different! It's forced, it's shrill, and it's overlong, and it's not worth one more minute of my life, not one more word.

THE PERFORMANCES

Jeffrey Wright, BASQUIAT

This is one of those performances where an actor just seems to go transparent, letting you see straight into their soul. Wright is extraordinarily expressive in the role. There’s a dreamy quality to the film, and most of that is a result of the way Wright drifts through the world, powerless before his gift, held in thrall by the specific vision that drives his art. There’s a smart, knowing sense of vision in the way the art scene at one specific moment in New York history is recreated. In particular, I love the appearances by David Bowie and Dennis Hopper in a funny scene between them and Basquiat in a restaurant. With the career that Wright is sure to have in the decades to come, this movie’s going to eventually be remembered as an announcement of a very special talent, appropriate given its subject.

Natalie Portman, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS

The movie itself is forgettable small town midlife guy crisis crap, marred by overly-clever dialogue by Scott Rosenberg, but there’s something really special in the interplay between Tim Hutton and Natalie Portman, and it’s all her. Many people were uncomfortable with her in THE PROFESSIONAL, and with how she made them feel as they watched that film, and it’s almost as if Rosenberg is making Hutton a stand-in for the audience. The film bought Portman an extra four years of childhood, something that Britney and Christina and all their imitators could have used. Portman’s charming, bright, funny, and beautiful here, but she’s also very apparently a girl, young, still figuring herself out. She’s the very essence of what we chase in women, that spark that makes us feel young, that makes us feel like anything’s possible. In every moment she’s onscreen, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS lurches to life, a testament to the potent charisma of this performer even then.

Mike Judge, BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA

Patrick Stewart once said, "Beavis and Butt-head make me laugh like a drain." Yes, that Patrick Stewart. Captain Picard. Professor X. A symbol of maturity and cultured sophistication, so get over yourself and admit it. Judge nailed it with his first iconic creation, and this film is a wonderful record of the insanity he was capable of with them. Personally, very few things make me squeal with pleasure the way the appearance of The Great Cornholio does. Every time Beavis gets all hopped up and starts muttering about "TP for my bunghole," I fall apart. I’m equally fond of Butt-head when he puts on his mack. Intoning "Come to Butt-head" to Chelsea Clinton is definitely one of his greatest moments. Toss in THE MOST AMAZING OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE IN HISTORY and some groovy Rob Zombie animation, and who can resist?

Hank Azaria, THE BIRDCAGE

This was the first time I really noticed Azaria in anything, and the way he stole this movie out from under both Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, both of whom had the ham cranked up to high, is truly special to behold. It’s not a simple swishy gay stereotype the way so many people might have played the role. Instead, "Hecador Spartacus" is something original and bizarre and unique, and Azaria simply kills every time he’s on. With his work here and on THE SIMPSONS, Azaria’s certainly proven himself worthy of a vehicle of his own, something equal to his gift for genuine quirk.

Owen Wilson, BOTTLE ROCKET

And speaking of quirk, here’s the poster boy. Owen Wilson isn’t like anyone else in film right now. He looks like ‘50s era Dennis Hopper, but he’s possessed of the same easy grace and humor as the young Paul Newman. This guy’s a giant movie star just waiting for the right vehicle, which is strange since he also happens to be one-half of one of the most interesting writing teams in film today. Until he’s got the role that breaks him huge in the hearts of the general public, the Cult of Dignan will have to do. This guy is so in love with his own dreams, so determined that he’s going to be something, that he’s going to be dangerous and exciting and interesting that he will blind himself to reality. He’s very real, but Wilson doesn’t play him as a loser. Instead, he shows us what makes Dignan great. It’s that belief in himself, that spark, that desire to be great. He is great, and just meeting him makes us greater for it.

Emily Watson, BREAKING THE WAVES

Simply put, this is the bravest work any actor did in any film this year. Emily Watson’s Bess is too good for this stinking world, and it’s wrenching to watch the toll it takes on her as the film unfolds. She’s a beacon of love, simple and pure, a child in an adult’s body. When she speaks to God, switching between her own breathless voice and a gruff, manly response, it’s amusing at first. As the film progresses, though, one has to be touched by the conviction Bess brings to each discussion, by the intensity with which she believes God’s answers. She lays her fragile heart bare in each scene, in each moment, and I broke down when circumstance finally crushed her. The greatest thing about a format like DVD is knowing that a performance like this will be preserved for future generations to marvel at. I eagerly await whatever Watson has to show us in the future.

Jim Carrey, THE CABLE GUY

This is one of the most unjustly despised films of Carrey’s career. To me, it’s the moment where he finally became really interesting as a movie star. ACE VENTURA is undeniably funny, as is DUMB & DUMBER, but toss THE MASK into the mix, and a portrait begins to emerge of a one-trick pony in training. When this was released, it was sold as just another Jim Carrey comedy, but Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, and Carrey were after something else, something more pointed and poison. This is a wicked little portrait of what dangers lie in allowing our country to grow up with television as more than a medium for entertainment, but instead as wallpaper for everything, as our shared experience, culture in a box. When Jim howls, "Kill the babysitter!" at the end of the film, it’s not a joke. It’s real rage behind that statement, and it informs every single "joke" in this film. This isn’t a guy who’s playing around. This is a dangerous, warped man who doesn’t seem capable of any degree of control or moderation, and Carrey finds every grace note. The darkness that’s hinted at here still hasn’t been unleashed to full effect, and my bet is that whenever some director finally finds the key to doing so, we’ll finally see Carrey collecting that Oscar everyone seems so determined to give him. Until then, this remains a tantalizing hint of what might be.

Matt Damon, COURAGE UNDER FIRE

Weight loss is one of those tricks that actors use to make a performance seem more interesting than it really is. That’s not the case here, though. Damon plays one member of a squadron of soldiers from the Gulf War who have a shared secret, a secret that’s destroying all of them. In Damon’s case, it’s heroin use that’s literally eating him from the inside, and the intercutting of the robust youth we meet in flashback and the ghost of a man we meet in the present is shocking. Damon shows us what’s behind those haunted eyes, though, and in his brief screen time, he etches something honest, work that still marks a career high.

Michael J. Fox, THE FRIGHTENERS

Fox really does have it all as a performer, or at least he did. The cruellest thing about the disease that’s struck him is that it affects the very thing that made him such a spectacular comic performer, his subtle physical work. Fox knows the camera like very few actors ever do, and he plays to it with flair. He doesn’t waste anything, and his timing is impeccable. He sells any line, no matter how improbable, and the weight of age finally lends him a quality in this film that we hadn’t seen in him before. There’s the sense of a life lived, pain written into the lines that are starting to mark that youthful visage. Frank Bannister is not Marty McFly. He’s not just playing the same thing over and over. I certainly hope that people continue to use Fox and his gifts as long as he is comfortable working, whether it be as a voice actor or as a director or in whatever capacity. Anything less would be tragic.

George Clooney, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

In the future, when people trace back to find the moment where George Clooney became a movie star, this is the film they must look at. Seth Gekko is like a cinematic injection of pure testosterone, all attitude and danger. I’m not a fan of the film overall, mainly because I don’t think the second half lives up to the first half, but you can’t fault Clooney and Quentin Tarantino, who plays his brother Richie. They have a great rapport in the film, and the way Clooney negotiates each situation they find themselves in is magnetic. He approaches Steve McQueen levels of cool in the film, and I keep waiting for him to find another role this exceedingly badass. I’m all for sensitive guy Clooney like in THREE KINGS or OUT OF SIGHT, or even goofball Clooney like in the upcoming O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, but there’s very few actors right now who can convincingly play seriously hardcore characters and make us believe them completely. Clooney’s one of them, and for now, this will have to do as our unequivocal proof.

Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU

Madness. Pure madness. The horror stories about this set and this production are legendary in the business, and no doubt many of them were exaggerated and amplified in the retelling. What happened behind the camera ultimately doesn’t matter. What we’re lucky enough to have is a film about an island where all sanity has been left behind, peopled entirely by actors for whom sanity seems to be a distant memory. Brando drags his considerable bulk through the film with one freaky choice after another, whether it’s his little midget buddy with the toy piano or the ice bucket on his head or the kabuki makeup, there’s nothing he does here that is expected. Kilmer’s performance comes to full and flaky life after Brando dies, when Kilmer seems to become Brando, delivering a vicious impression of the older actor. It’s impossible to look away from the sheer spectacle these two create, and for that reason alone, this is a train crash worth watching.

Tom Cruise, JERRY MAGUIRE

Here’s a case where you can actually see the actor in Tom Cruise wrestling with the movie star in Tom Cruise for superiority. In the end, he strikes a balance between the two that suggests something new, a movie star with a soul. It’s just as outrageous as the idea of an agent with a soul, and that’s what makes the audacious move pay off. Cruise isn’t afraid to look foolish, he’s not too cool to look vulnerable or even weak, and he’s not too tough to let us see him cry. In the end, he seems to have found some new depth in himself as a performer. Even in his best previous work like RAIN MAN and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, there was the feeling that Cruise was reaching. In JERRY MAGUIRE, it’s all effortless, as if he’s finally become the performer he’s always wanted to be. It’s exhilarating to behold.

Bill Murray, KINGPIN

I’ve made no secret on this site of my deep and long-lasting affection for the work of Bill Murray, and it’s precisely because of performances like this one as "Big Ern," an incredibly scummy pro bowler who screws Woody Harrelson in the film’s prologue, costing him his bowling hand, only to show up and face Harrelson down in the film’s climax. He’s filthy. He’s cruel. He’s without any redeeming characteristics at all. And still, he’s the most magnetic character in the movie. You can’t help but root for this guy. I’m particularly impressed by his comb-over, a character in its own right, huge and unruly. The fact that Murray continues to give us new laughs, fresh attitude, this far into his career truly makes him my nominee for the finest graduate of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, the model to which all others should aspire. He’s never given up, never sold out, and he’s never stopped making it look like fun.

Julia Roberts and John Malkovich, MARY REILLY

This isn’t a perfect film, but it’s certainly not the bad film that everyone said it was pre-release. In fact, there’s a lot to like about it. In particular, I like the work that Roberts does as a simple housemaid, a broken girl from a rough background who’s trying to fit into the household of Dr. Henry Jekyll. Her curiousity and her attraction to the strange master of the house draw her into a horrifying and effective retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, told from a fresh perspective. It’s reimagined with a cold intellect and a willingness to shock, and Roberts makes a perfect foil for all this. With her short red hair and her complete lack of glamour, Roberts calls to mind Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY’S BABY. Her accent is subtle and consistent, and the mounting sense that something’s wrong is communicated beautifully in the work she does. It’s Malkovich with the flashy role, the dual appearance as both Jekyll and Hyde, and it’s some of my favorite work of his on film, the best since DANGEROUS LIASONS. It’s an actor’s dream, and it would be easy to play the monster in Hyde over the top. Malkovich doesn’t do that, though. It’s not an external change that’s important. It’s what lies behind the words, the divided heart of the doctor, that Malkovich brings to such vivid life.

Embeth Davidtz, MATILDA

There was a period of time in the early to mid ‘90s when I was dealing with a lot of actors working out of New York, and almost every one of them I knew picked Embeth Davidtz as the best working actor no one knew. She did powerful, intuitive work opposite Ralph Fiennes in SCHINDLER’S LIST, but for my money, the best thing she’s had opportunity to do on film so far is this adaptation of one of Roald Dahl’s wicked little children’s classics. The Danny De Vito film, written by Nick Kazan, does a pretty darn good job of bringing the book to life, and the best moments exist between Davidtz’s Miss Honey and Mara Wilson in the title role. Miss Honey is the perfect teacher and friend and even mother for Matilda, and watching them inspire each other to courage is touching and sweet. She plays the role without any cyni

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 12, 2000, 8:55 p.m. CST

    I have to admit, Moriarty...

    by gryphon

    I haven't heard of 6 out of your top ten there.......

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 8:59 p.m. CST

    Nice list, only a year late

    by GravyAkira

    I will post again I just had to say that.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:03 p.m. CST

    Romeo + Juliet?

    by endo

    While I don't completely agree with all the choices on this list I think most of them are acceptable choices for a ten best list...except "Romeo + Juliet". Moriarty, this was an embarrassing and spectacularly awful choice for your ten best list. I see every Shakespeare adaptation that comes down the pipe and "R + J" is easily the worst. Christ, with the notable exception of Pete P. most of the actors weren't even able to convey the intent of their dialogue. It sounded like a bunch of high-schoolers rotely delivering the text without any concept of what they were actually saying. Considering the movies you left off your list in order to accomodate "R + J", I think you owe it to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to commit suicide immediately! Please kill yourself and save your honor!

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:04 p.m. CST

    R + J?

    by kernelm

    While the 1996 R&J does have it's good points, I really don't see how it even begins to compare to Zeffirelli's sublime 1968 version. The music, the setting, the cinematography, and most importantly the actors were all perfect. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting will forever embody for me the young innocent characters that Shakespeare wrote. Death in Zeffirelli's idyllic world is truely a tragedy, leaving the hellish world of Verona Beach is an escape.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:08 p.m. CST

    Multiplicity is one of the most under rated films of all time!

    by GravyAkira

    Man I love this film!

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:10 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, you ROCK!

    by Twig

    Mentioning Marty, Natalie Portman's Beautiful Girls character proves you are at least kind of smart. Its too bad that film was, and still is, so overlooked. As a film I think is one of the few good romantic comedies of the 90's, but it didn't star Meg Ryan, so it flopped. Well, every single person I've recommended, or outright loaned this film too has loved it. As for my 96 top 10, this is just a rough guess: Beautiful Girls, Scream, ID4, From Dusk Til Dawn, The Rock, Fear, A Time To Kill, Ransom, Set It Off and Brain Candy

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:14 p.m. CST

    The 20 hours I want back....

    by Dirty_Bird

    Are your top 10, i hated nearly ALL those movies, but your bottom 10, I like those. The Rock? How can the Rock be there? But Space Jam DOES deserve to be numero uno.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:33 p.m. CST

    No More Respect

    by Colonel Kilgore

    Well, I was impressed to see Breaking the Waves and Bottle Rocket on the list, but Romeo and Juliet and Jerry McGuire...what the hell? Where are the true groundbreakers like Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Goodfellas and others like that? I'm not sure if I will ever be able to take another Moriarty review seriously.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Lucio Fulci does not deserve a minute of silence!

    by Jarek

    Did anyone see ZEDER? enough said.....

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Free The West Memphis Three!

    by Nocturnaloner

    http://www.aces-eights.com/wm3.html http://www.salonmag.com/people/feature/2000/08/10/echols/index.html

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:51 p.m. CST

    Hey! The Rock was good...

    by Cassius the Evil

    I seriously like that movie. Great villain, slightly-less-great heroes, a kick-ass Hans Zimmer score, and oddly cool action direction. The only thing it *doesn't* have is realism. And Mort, I'm gonna support you on R&J. Aside from the seriously wierd camera work at some points, and the wink-wink-nudge-nudge updates of Shakespeare (Mercutio being the most obvious, though not anywhere near the best), it's a great flick. And Claire Danes really can act! It's just that damn voice of hers... arrgh. Nauseating.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 9:51 p.m. CST

    Pulp Fiction

    by BathTub

    I think your calender is off

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:09 p.m. CST

    Romeo + Juliet...

    by Mr. Sartre

    Admirable list, Moriarty, but I have to totally disagree about "R+J" being any good. I detested the film save for the guy who played Mercutio. Why did I not like this modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic? Because the actors (for the most part) did not understand what they were saying. Sure, these young actors are not a batch of Oliviers or even Branaghs, but it seemed to me that when these young actors did not understand a line they would either stroll over the line emotionlessly or yell it out at the top of their lungs. It was an admirable attempt by all, but by no means a good one. The one good thng that came from "R+J" was it breathed new life into Shakespeare for teenagers who dismissed the bard's work as boring. I actually found Troma's "Tromeo and Juliet" ten thousand times more satisfying than "R+J." "R+J" was self-important and pretentious and was poorly acted. "Tromeo..." was just plain insane and inventive as hell. As a friend of mine once said, "If you're going to f&ck up Shakespeare, you might as well do it with a three foot penis monster." And on that note, goodnight unto you all...

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Of course you read the whole thing, you illiterate dick.

    by Phreeform

    It's called an "attention span". Some of us have it, some of us don't.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:42 p.m. CST

    Evita?????

    by Grimfarrow

    Evita is the worst movie of the 90s. And you didn't include Chungking Express? How could you??? My list for 1996 goes like this: 1. Chungking Express 2. Breaking the Waves 3. Trainspotting 4. Secrets & Lies 5. Shine 6. Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet 7. Welcome to the Dollhouse 8. The People vs. Larry Flynt 9. Fargo 10. Lone Star

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:46 p.m. CST

    Hell yes "Romeo + Juliet" deserves the spot, and "Jerry MacGuire

    by Herbert Kornfeld

    First of all, Colonel Kilgore, "Goodfellas" came out in 1990, and "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, so check the previous 90's lists for them, because they're on it. Second, why was "Romeo + Juliet" so good? Becasue it had the real fucking passion to it. I've seen Zefferelli's hippy 1968 version more than once, and they fall into the trap that most people associate with this material: it becomes ploddingly slow, and unmercifully heavy no matter how many times we see Juliet's tits. R+J had the energy that such passionate dialogue and powerful emotions really needed. When Romeo, Mercutio and his buds are walking along the beach, the dialogue is supposed to *snap*, to whip back and forth like real people would talk. When someone you love is separated from you, your supposed to go stark loony. That's real human emotion. And Leguizamo was an absolutely perfect Tybalt. Lawrence Olivier knew what I mean. His Shakespeare performances were grand, and emotions ran wild. He wasn't afraid to make Shakespeare LOUD, and neither was Luhrmann. More later...

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:49 p.m. CST

    CABLE GUY

    by X-Girls

    I totally agree with you about this film, it wasn't a drama or a comedy, it was a brilliant mix of the two. Comedy and tragedy are tied at the hip and this was the first time it was ever really addressed. Think of how pathetic and sad and real it was that the Cable guy was so lonely, but we laughed at him. Television raised him and we found that funny too. These are really serious subjects, and we laugh about it, so this film can be appreciated in two big ways, watch it first as a comedy and re-watch it as a drama, you'll notice a lot of things you may have missed, ask yourself why you laughed. The Waterboy had a scene or two that just made you feel for the waterboy too, maybe I'm up too late... Ben Stiller is great.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:52 p.m. CST

    Mori's 90's lists, sometimes on the money, sometimes dead wrong,

    by Tall_Boy

    (this one was more on the money the some of the other ones, though. . .but I would have put Trainspotting at #1, personally. Keep up the good work, personally, I can't wait till you reach 99 {a GREAT movie year}) PS- Radiohead's O.K. COMPUTER makes great listening music to these articles.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:53 p.m. CST

    AND...last but not least

    by X-Girls

    Jim Carrey needs a motherfuckin' Oscar!

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:57 p.m. CST

    And as for "Jerry MacGuire"...

    by Herbert Kornfeld

    So many "modern" movie fans immidiately bristle at the sign of a movie with real emotional resonance. As though, just because a movie involves (relatively) normal folks falling in and out of love, it must automatically suck. Well that's just not true. Is Jerry MacGuire melodramatic? Abso-damn-lutely. And that's the whole point: how the love between two people is strong enough to change lives, make us look at ourselves and change what we don't like. I normally hate Tom Cruise, but even he couldn't screw up this script. And Cuba Gooding's character was written so well that he rode it into the Oscar's. Cameron Crowe is today's master of films that are heart-warming in the non-smirking, non-sarcastic, actually genuine human emotions, kind of way.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 10:57 p.m. CST

    Ed Norton

    by Ghibli-San

    Ed Norton is the fucking man.......the DeNiro of our times for sure......

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:04 p.m. CST

    Jeffery Wright!!!

    by Alec Cawthorne

    When I saw Basquiat, I was AMAZED by Wright's performance. This man needs to be in more films. Period. Despite the camp performance in Shaft 2000 (which I went to see, ONLY because he was in it), he was excellent in 'Ride with the Devil' too (no, Jewel did not completely ruin that movie - see it). And Emily Watson's performance in 'Breaking the Waves' was by far the best of the year (I love the Coens, and Marge was a really good character, but she had nowhere near the depth of Bess McNeil). Breaking the Waves hit me hard, and that's the way great movies ought to be... Possible notable exceptions from the 1996 list: Welcome to the Dollhouse and Get On The Bus.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:05 p.m. CST

    Moriartry, why bother limiting yourself to ten picks?

    by Darkwing Duck

    I mean, you say you had a lot more films in mind, so why stop at an arbitrary number? It's not like you have an editor cutting you down. Forget the honorable mention category and just list them all. In fact, don't even bother ranking them, because most of these films are just too different and too good in different ways to be stacked up against each other. Well, there go two cents I'll never see again...

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:18 p.m. CST

    Re: Hunchback, are you kidding? It wins a prize for "raping a cl

    by Reverend Dave

    First of all, this was entirely the wrong material with which to make a happy Disney musical. In the real story's ending, Pheobos is an arrogant ass who spurns Esmerelda (who never once felt love for Quasimodo),the carnival folk refuse to help, the girl dies, Quasimodo's corpse is found next to her, and Frodo has the last laugh. (I will give them a single point, however, for making Frodo the first Disney character to feel lust.) Secondly, it was even bad for a Disney musical. Lousy songs, lazy animators, just plain bad. I remember that a good friend of mine, who'd read Hunchback in the original French, had to be physically dragged to that movie. Considering he was a black belt, it was quite an accomplishment. Peace.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:23 p.m. CST

    *THE SET-UP* "...somehow it manages to be the absolute finest fe

    by Roger U. Roundly

    You Sah, are Funny Sah!

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:25 p.m. CST

    to Ghibli-San

    by Alec Cawthorne

    I've always thought of Edward Norton as the Dustin Hoffman of our times, not the DeNiro. There are moments in Fight Club where he seems to be channeling Benjamin Braddock from 'The Graduate'. It is no coincidence that he chose to imitate Hoffman's 'Rain Man' character in 'Keeping the Faith' (although I'm sure he'll be able to imitate DeNiro pretty well, after 'The Score' is finished). I know that's completely of the topic of 1996, but I had to say something.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:27 p.m. CST

    ...Done to death"

    by Roger U. Roundly

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:27 p.m. CST

    Moriarty's High School Book Report 15 Years Too Late.

    by John Bigbooty

    I weep for your past teachers...they must have given you an automatic grade on sheer volumn. That is if you handed your homework in on time. BTW You can stop trashing Fargo. It brought William H. Macy finally to film going public's attention. And yes, people in rural America can have goofy accents but still be intelligent. I guess Sling Blade (which I also liked) was more over the top for you in the accent department.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:42 p.m. CST

    Still no love for Scream

    by AshFett

    So few of the AICN guys like Scream. And you talkback guys love to tear it apart. Oh well. Still my fave movie of 96. Scary, funny, genuine murder mystery...

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:55 p.m. CST

    The funniest thing about 1996, in retrospect...

    by Toby O Notoby

    ...is how Danny Boyle was hailed as this modern master of cinema who was going to destroy Hollywood and usher in a new era of English cinema. Remember how he said he'd never sell out to the corporate system? A few years later, he's changed the main charecter of The Beach to an American so that Leo Di could be in it. Christ, what a whore.

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:56 p.m. CST

    What about BLOOD AND WINE?

    by AUSTINDAZE1

    That movie is such a find. I sa it last night for the first time. It is another in the list of Bob Rafelson/Jack Nicholson feats. The film that stands in my top 5 of all time is also a collaberation of these two- Five easy pieces--- I don't know why I never heard of Blood and wine. It has good performances by Jennifer Lopez! Michael Cain Stephan Dorff. Has anyone else seen this flick?

  • Nov. 12, 2000, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Note from one of the Great Unwashed...

    by tbrosz

    As I feared, all of your Great Movies were ones I never saw, or in many cases never heard of. I guess I'm just not as sophisticated as I ought to be. I thought "Independence Day" was a hoot, and worth the bucks. Kudos for pointing out the underrated "Frighteners," which I thought was great.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 1:39 a.m. CST

    My comments

    by 4-LOM/Zuckuss

    Moriarty, I really enjoy that you do these lists. But I will say that you have quite a few things on this particular one that irritate me. First of all you mentioned "Grace of my Heart" and "The English Patient" as deserving entries that didn't make your list. You must be the only person I've ever seen that said they liked "Grace of my Heart." "The English Patient" is the least deserving Best Picture winner of the 90s. It very unjustly robbed "Fargo." "Fargo" was the movie of 1996 by far. The Coen's work far outmastered "The English Patient" by far. "Jerry Maguire" is not a movie that gets better with repeated viewings either. The more I've seen that movie, the more irritating almost everything within the movie gets, particularly the performances by Cuba Gooding Jr. (robbed William H. Macy) and Bonnie Hunt. The only performance that holds up to me are those of Tom Cruise and Jay Mohr, very good as an understated villain. I agree with your assessment of bad films like "Space Jam" and "Ghosts of Mississippi" and like your recognition of "Lone Star" and "That Thing You Do!" I also like your mentioning of Nick Nolte in "Mother Night," but I think he gave a more chilling performance in "Affliction," which I hope to see you mention in your 1998 list (James Coburn's as well). And responding to people in the talkback's, yes "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is a great movie, it doesn't matter if they've altered the story, of course they're going to do that. When compared with other recent Disney movies, I think it's the best of the 90s. And somebody mentioned "Blood and Wine" as another good Rafelson/Nicholson collaboration. I'm just here to remind everyone that the best collaboration between those two, was, of course, The Monkees' "HEAD." Truly amazing, totally weird, but strangely outstanding piece of cinema. I recommend all to see that movie.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:23 a.m. CST

    The English Patient

    by Mitzi

    Kristen Scott Thomas' performance in this film was incredible. Considering the drama-queen potential of both her love scenes and her death scene, she distilled the essential strength of her character and came up with a subtle, perfectly mesmerizing woman. Juliette Lewis was also wonderful in this film; she and Thomas managed to offset Ralph Finnes arrogant self-absorption most admirably. These women are by turns sexy, tough, and unbelievably delicate...I think that both deserve at least a mention. I tell you what, though,Moriarty...you hit nearly all the high points, and with aplomb! Thanks especially for publicly loving up on Emily Watson's Bess...I hope your review intrigues some people enough to get them to see Breaking the Waves. As you wrote - love it or hate it, you can't help but be moved by it...

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:31 a.m. CST

    The English Patient

    by Mitzi

    Oops...Juliette BINOCHE, not Lewis...

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:48 a.m. CST

    1996 almost isn't worth doing a "best of" list. What an overall

    by spenworks

    Jerry Maguire? Good movie. Trainspotting? exhilerating & funny, but depressing, still a good movie. Bottle Rocket? with the exception of Owen Wilson's wonderful performance, it was a mediocre heist flick (when will people cease to be taken in by one or two clever performances, and then turn around and espouse the greatness of what is basically a shitty movie?). Lone Star? Great movie, but not as great as Men With Guns, Matewan, Lianna or Brother From Another Planet. Romeo + Juliet? Clever, but... what the fuck?... When We Were Kings? Now you're talking, possibly the best movie of the year. That Thing You Do? Are you high, dude? That movie was relentlessly stupid. Fargo? Now you're talking, possibly the best movie of the year also. Flirting With Disaster? See "Bottle Rocket". Evita? Aside from the guy who sings, "It's a night of a thousand stars...", there's not much in this movie that stands out. Sure A. L. Webber's music is fine, and, as usual, Alan Parker has made a very pretty movie, but it doesn't add up to much worth recommending. The music goes on and on, ad nauseum. I should point out that Evita is worth watching for that one lounge singer in the beginning, and a few other songs. And Madonna was better that anyone had any reasonable right to expect. The Frighteners? Just ridiculous. Didn't even pass the "snooze" test. The English Patient? Most overrated movie in years. Didn't pass the "snooze" test... twice. I really tried to appreciate it, but... damn it was boring. To conclude, the movies you discounted as second tier in quality, all seem to be the movies that are worth a shit. By the way, for anyone who's counting, Welcome to the Dollhouse was 1995, as was 12 Monkeys, and Se7en. And Blood & Wine was 1997, so was Breakdown. I was going to include a list of great movies from 1996 you neglected to mention, and the best I could come up with was Bound, Heavy, The Phantom, Executive Decision, MST3K:The Movie, The Substitute and Get On The Bus. What a mediocre fucking year (with a few shining moments)

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 3:14 a.m. CST

    Um....Nellee Hooper is a guy

    by Maul99

    Sorry Moriarty....just had to be a stickler for the facts. And you left out Juliette Binoche on the performances list. You included Emily Watson, so I'm not going to rip you a new one...but, dammit, Binoche just does not get enough credit as an actress.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 3:34 a.m. CST

    secrets & lies!!!!!!

    by sjmaatta

    It's incredible. See it. And finally somebody who agrees that The Rock is too idiotic and "serious" to enjoy. For stupid fun action I recommend Con Air. BTW saw Pearl Harbor teaser and I don't care if it's directed by Bay, I'll go see it because it has then ultracool WW2 planes!

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 4:50 a.m. CST

    rebuttal to a rebuttal

    by spenworks

    I honestly believe you are mistaken. I have a big problem with "Flirting With Disater", which started off good, but just became ponderous. I do agree with you that Fargo and Kingpin are two wonderful movies due, in large part, to their characters. Specifically, I found Big Night to be cute, but not particularly moving, Shine I liked a lot, but it will not be remembered as a classic for the most part. Mother was impossible to get through, which I find particularly disturbing because I idolize Albert Brooks first 3 movies. Swingers was moderately funny, but will not stand the test of time. Secrets and Lies? Mike Leigh movies are not my kind of movies. Tree's Lounge was good, but barely a blip on the screen in the larger picture. Birdcage was funny, but nothing compared to La Cage Au Folles (which SHOULD be remembered). And that leaves Jerry Maguire. I liked it a lot, and I might even rent it again someday, but it's not a movie I would consider a classic. A filmmakers love for their character isn't enough. If you were to ask, I'm sure most filmmakers would say that any character they would spend the time to put on screen is a character they love. What about Men With Guns, Shakespeare in Love, Blood & Wine, Magnolia, Rushmore, Election, Buffalo 66, Bulworth, In The Company of Men, The Limey, A Simple Plan, Chasing Amy, As Good As It Gets, Sweet Hereafter, Zero Effect, Welcome To The Dollhouse, Iron Giant. I'm sure their are a lot more I could name. All these films came out in the 90's, none in 1996, and, to my way of thinking, they are all better than a whole lot of the movies mentioned in this talkback (Buffalo 66 is the only questionable one on the list), and in each one, character is the defining element that makes them memorable. So there. Awaiting a comeback.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 6:24 a.m. CST

    Finally!

    by Hotspur

    Great to see the story continue after what? 5-6 months. I was kinda delighted to see Breaking the Waves at no. 1. But I would have thought Fargo was higher on the evil professor's list. And was I the only one who saw Michael Winterbottom's Jude? I thought it was a great movie. Let's just hope now that it won't take another 5 months before we see 97.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 6:55 a.m. CST

    Where the fuck is SECRETS AND LIES??????

    by Stephen Dedalus

    Third-best film of the decade, IMHO, behind SCHINDLER'S LIST and GOODFELLAS.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 8:42 a.m. CST

    Byers is too stupid to be the Devil...

    by Randall Flagg

    So he must be some other form of evil incarnate. What about Paradise Lost 2, what'd ya think of that? WWW.WM3.ORG FREE THE WEST MEMPHIS 3

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 8:54 a.m. CST

    You Jackass

    by Dino_Gonzo

    Hey dickshit, what about the People vs. Larry Flynt?

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Welcome to the Dolhouse???

    by dashboardsaint

    Maybe this film hit too close to home for some of you (especially the writer of this article), but where is the love for this daring original piece of cinema. Come on, best line of dialouge in 1996 was "Do you know what a special person is Dawn? It's a retard. You're running a club for retards." Well, something like that but it rocked...You all probably think 'American Beauty' is a masterpiece when it is just a cheap imitation of 'Happiness'.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 9:45 a.m. CST

    *Sigh*

    by drew mcweeny

    Dashboardsaint, go to the second paragraph of the story. Click on the link for the 1995 list. You will find WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE there, on the list for the year when it was actually released. But thank you for attacking my ability to understand the movie. Once you've worked out a calendar, we'll talk.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 9:57 a.m. CST

    A Challenge To Those Who Feel THE ENGLISH PATIENT Was Overrated

    by mrbeaks

    Could you please offer up a little support for your opinion? Castigating Minghella's work as "boring" will not suffice.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 12:04 p.m. CST

    what about la haine?

    by HeywoodFloyd

    jesus christ, halfway through reading this list i had to scroll back to the top to see if it was indeed a 10 best or 10 worst list. but i won't even get into the unwatchability of such crap as evita and i'll just skip to my one question. where is la haine? matthew hassovitz's flick about three kids, one white, one black, and one arab, in the suburbs of paris is a better film then all but two or three on your list. the remote control helicoptor shot over the dj's flycase and out the window into the courtyard of the housing project, not to mention the ending, both more than qualify it for top ten consideration.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 12:30 p.m. CST

    ACK-ACK!

    by darthflagg

    No mention of Mars Attacks? Most gleefully sadistic aliens ever.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 12:34 p.m. CST

    umm, I'll probably get nailed for this but...

    by holidill

    I really liked The Frighteners, with the exception of Jeffrey Combs' character and parts of John Astin's. I found it a fun horror film with a great Danny Elfman score , filmed in New Zealand with a killer villain in the reaper. Hell R. Lee Ermey has a cameo in the film as well. CHi Mcbride was great, and I cannot say enough about Michael J. Fox. He's a master. He was fantastic in the film. The CGI was cool, and nothing can beat the scene in the bathroom where the Reaper comes out of the mirror, there are other great scenes but I can't mention them or else it will spoil the film. Also I loved Fly Away Home. A charming, heartwarming, beautiful family film that shows that Jeff Daniels is one of the best actors of our time. A real everyman who can shift from bawdy comedy, to straight drama, to horror, to action. Yes it is a family film, but I think everyone must see Fly Away Home. The Frighteners is another good one as well.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 1:30 p.m. CST

    mr breaks

    by spenworks

    I can't really offer up a much more complete appraisal of The English Patient, but I will try. Boring is not enough, eh? How about mind-numbingly boring? Sleep enducing? Honestly, I tried watching it with my wife, twice! In the afternoon! And the movie put us to sleep both times. Maybe it would be different had we seen it in a theater, but we didn't. So really all I can say about it is that it put me to sleep. TWICE!

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:19 p.m. CST

    About freaking time..

    by Lizzybeth

    Next time, write the series FIRST and then start posting it, okay? Thanks for mentioning Evita, it was a fine piece of modern musical and showed that Madonna and Antonio Banderas can actually act (somewhat). I couldn't disagree more with R+J.. in spirit, an energetic update is something I can agree with, but in practice it was dreck. The actors did the best they could, but the movie was too damned hyperactive -- "Shakespeare's Armageddon"? Where yelling = emoting and imagery = deep meaning. The best thing about it was the soundtrack, and that doesn't make for a good movie. Didn't do a thing for me, while KB's Hamlet was gorgeous and alive and engrossing at twice as long. But then, I'm a reader of Shakespeare so I guess I prefer the real thing to the cliff's notes version.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:23 p.m. CST

    My Bad to Moriarty

    by dashboardsaint

    My bad brother, because I am an ass. I saw it in the theaters in 96 and the old web site for it at Sony Pictures Classic had it listed as opening in March of 96, so I assumed...I know never assume and that is why I am an ass for my post. My apologies to you for being a jerk. Keep on keepin' on dady-o.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:36 p.m. CST

    spenworks

    by mrbeaks

    And therein lies the problem; THE ENGLISH PATIENT is a film that rewards careful viewing. It's a slowly paced, painstakingly layered work about fidelity, the consequences of loving, and, at its most ambitious, the age old theme of "true love knows no boundaries," especially those imposed by man. If you're settling in for an afternoon's entertainment, it could very easily send you off to dreamland. Truth be told, I'm more likely to pop in TOY STORY 2 myself, but that certainly doesn't lessen Minghella's achievement, which, I believe, is staggering.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 2:56 p.m. CST

    Looking For Richard

    by Shrevie

    I just wanted to add a truly wonderful film that I'm surprised wasn't mentioned by the as always razor-sharp Mr. Moriarty. Al Pacino's directorial labor of love is at turns a meditation on Shakespeare's place in our culture, an entertaining documentary on the life and working process of an actor, and a sensational dramatic production of Richard III featuring top-notch work by Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Conroy, Estelle Parsons, and Pacino himself, even better than Ian McKellan as the warped king. I loved Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet. I loved Looking For Richard more.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Michael J.

    by Shrevie

    Oh, and Moriarty, thanks for the much-deserved praise for The Frighteners, and especially the truly great Michael J. Fox. One of the most underrated actors of the last twenty years and possibly one of the great comic actors of all time.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Twister/His Girl Friday

    by Garbage

    I don't know if this is mentioned in the credits, but "Twister" seems to be an adaptation of "His Girl Friday" (and, for that matter, "The Front Page")...and personally, I think the best film of 1996 was "Apocalypse Now," even though it was released in 1979.

  • Nov. 13, 2000, 7 p.m. CST

    COUGH

    by Tad Spaceghost

    I've read all your comments for over a year and stored away a certain 'critique' of yours to ponder over. Well, that time has come to open this can up, and this will be brief basically b/c I haven't the strength nor the fortitude to deliver a demer to expel your remarks about this certain film. Which film? Well, it's a film about a particular someone's life, and its eventual destination. It's about a lot of things actually and it's a film that is, undoubtfully, a landmark in story telling. This flim pulled you through the theater screen and allowed you to....well....immerse your self in everything from chocolate and shoes to shrimp and war. I speak of Forrest Gump, as if there was ever any question. This is and will always be a one of a kind, and for you to pull out of your ass the tangent that you did.....well, i challenge you to a duel!

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 11:01 a.m. CST

    Julia Roberts in "Mary Reilly"

    by Gag Halfrunt

    "Her accent is subtle and convincing"??? Have you EVER been to Ireland, or at least heard an Irish accent that wasn't from a hollywood movie? Sorry, but if there's one thing that PISSES ME OFF more than the way the Irish are represented in movies, it's people who actually BELIEVE the representation to be accurate. Don't ruin a pretty good article like this by plopping in a hint of typical american ignorance at the end.

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 1:51 p.m. CST

    TIN CUP is waaayyy better than Jerry Maguire...

    by togmeister

    To paraphrase 'Trainspotting', in terms of Costner's career, 'Tin Cup' is a mere blip on an otherwise uninterrrupted downward spiral'. Moriarty talks about the chemistry between Cruise and Zellweger. Costner and Russo knock 'em into a cocked hat. Their relationship - scabrous, open, fuelled by quick-fire wit, was the most believable i saw on screen that year. Add to this Ron Shelton's unimpeachable gift for supporting characters (and Cheech Marin not getting a supporting actor nod, for work far more subtle than Godding's Jerr Maguire showboating, was shameful) and you have the most relaxed and refreshing movie of the year. As for the rest of the list, well, good to see someone recognising Fargo as overrated and praising Trainspotting. Personally, though, i still wish someone would remove the stick from Moriarty's rectum and allow him to lighten up and praise, say 'Happy Gilmore' or 'Star Trek : First Contact' simply for being so damned entertaining. Oh, and here's 3 that belong on any list: RANSOM. SCREAM. MICHAEL COLLINS. Peace!

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 4:15 p.m. CST

    cheech marin?

    by HeywoodFloyd

    i was gonna lay into the togmeister for praising such crap as tin cup until i read his whine about cheech maring getting passed up for an oscar and realized that he was talking out of his ass to the extent that nothing i could say would ever bring him back, so i decided to just let him go. the real reason i posted: big ups to whoever brought up looking for richard. i must admit i was afraid to mention it and then put up with the onslaught of fanboys criticizing it as pretentious and annoying, but you did it, and i am envious of your bravery. Pacino deserves an oscar for that way before some pot head who's day job is a saturday night network cop show. i think i'm still in the clear since probably no one is reading the talkbacks and just posting on mori's list anyway.

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 5:18 p.m. CST

    Irma Vep? I couldn't sit through the whole film!!

    by Fatal Discharge

    Personally, I also found THE ROCK and ID-4 both trashy fun. And why isn't SCREAM on the best list? You can't blame it for all the crummy copies it generated because the original is still both scary, funny and quite original. My top 5 were BREAKING THE WAVES, FARGO, TRAINSPOTTING, THE ENGLISH PATIENT and MOTHER (hilarious). In addition to those mentioned in the list I also liked in 1996: WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (it was only released in a few theaters in 1995), SWINGERS, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (Eddie Murphy was actually funny after so many crummy films in his past), RIDICULE (another gem from Patrice Leconte), BOUND (proving the Wachowski's had talent before THE MATRIX), GHOST IN THE SHELL and CHUNGKING EXPRESS.

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 5:24 p.m. CST

    I'm Retarded!

    by Colonel Kilgore

    I apologize to those who read my post, and no I didn't think that Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction came out in 1996. I thought the list was a best of the 90's list...my bad.

  • Nov. 14, 2000, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Wait!!!

    by marla singer

    I thought I was supposed to be a favorite film!

  • Nov. 15, 2000, 12:17 a.m. CST

    Spenworks, Tad Spaceghost.

    by Di

    Spenworks -- I'd argue you to the death on the brilliance of Bottle Rocket. I can't even decide which is better, BR or Rushmore (though Rushmore is my favorite of the two) and can't imagine how anyone could like one and dislike the other. Tad Spaceghost -- You know that his name is Tad Ghostal, right?

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