I kind of like doing this from time to time… going back and reminding myself (and making it glaringly obvious the films that I’m lacking in having seen) of the films I love from years gone by. I’ve done the entire 2000s, as well as 1999 and 1998… so it’s only fitting it take a moment to remember 1997.
As it pertains to this year a few films of note that I haven’t seen that may have been in contention for this list are: Amistad, The Full Monty, Open Your Eyes and Wag the Dog.
Some films that I considered but just didn’t make the final cut were: Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank, Perfect Blue, Chasing Amy, As Good As It Gets and Contact.
So onto the list:
10. L.A. Confidential (dir. Curtis Hanson)
This is a film that possibly deserves a higher spot, it definitely played deep into my wheelhouse. However, I want to temper it’s spot with the fact that I just saw it about three hours ago for the first time. Regardless, I’ve fallen deeply in love with this movie. I love the style and the way that it builds to this crazed crime story that the movie refuses to even let it’s characters figure out before the sudden third act twist. Pearce, Crowe and Spacey all bring their A-game to a film that deserved every minute of it.
9. G.I. Jane (dir. Ridley Scott)
Is this my War Horse pick? Possibly. This is probably the most underrated film of the year of it’s release and more importantly one of the most forgotten films of that year. I’ve always had a soft spot for military films (I still watch Patton every so often just because) and something about this film just clicked. It’s a movie that I enjoy from start to finish everytime it’s on TV and I just associate the 90s with.
8. Lost Highway (dir. David Lynch)
Here’s a film that I saw once near three years ago when I decided it was a good idea to go through David Lynch‘s filmography (it isn’t), but if there’s one thing I definitively say about this film is that it stays with you. The movie is strange and inexplicably so, half way through there is a shift into almost a completely separate story from the one we began with and somehow I was able to still be engaged by the movie. Lynch is able to make cool his currency of choice here and I bought every minute of it. Including a great monologue from Robert Loggia on driving safely which helps the movie make me a happier person.
7. Titanic (dir. James Cameron)
I don’t what to say. I like spectacle. I was resistant to this film on original release (mainly because I was young and wanted to hate anything ‘mushy’), however last year when it was re-released (in 3D sadly) I gave it a second chance only to discover that the film was really great. Barring my hatred for that damn Celine Dion song, apologies, this film hit all the notes it needed. There was some great exchanges, charm and I was rooting for these two to make it out of the tragic crash alive together. There’s a lot of broad humour, and some crazy Billy Zane moments to mix into the pot for good measure as well. More importantly I feel James Cameron was able to properly execute the making of an epic worth mentioning next to some of the more established ones (Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, Ben-Hur, Dr. Zhivago) and time will keep this movie in good shape I feel.
6. Princess Mononoke (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
Miayzaki, one of my all-time favourite filmmakers, has consistently made his stories engaging by complete world building. The best kind of films like that are able to do this by making sure to have its audience begin under the assumption that we already know this world and therefore allows us to exist in it seamlessly. This is what he accomplishes with Princess Mononoke as we witness demon boars, cursed arms that give super strength, talking wolves and gods that give and take life. Besides being one of the most gorgeous animated features ever made the film is relentless in bringing the viewer into it’s fantasy without making us ever disbelieve its existence.
5. Jackie Brown (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Here is a film that I didn’t quite warm to upon initial viewing. As head of the Tarantino fan club I was shocked by the linear approach and most un-Tarantino-esque style that the film had (given it’s the only film he’s directed that was based off a pre-existing piece of work; via a book by Elmore Leonard), but over time I’ve come to appreciate that fact more and more. Last year I (as did many critics) praised Tarantino for his work in the blaxsploitation genre with Django Unchained, but it’s even more obvious his love of the genre with this film as we see Pam Grier return to relevance as a woman caught between a rock and hard place and using opportunity to wiggle from underneath that predicament to finally have a notch in her win column. Very heavy on the multiple perspective idea that film never looks away from the opportunity to keep the entire world in focus as he depicts the ineptitude of law enforcement and criminals, “he’s just repeating shit he heard,” in a grading light that leaves it for the audience to see for themselves just the kind of adversaries Jackie is dealing with.
4. Boogie Nights (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
What can I say that hasn’t been said about Paul Thomas Anderson and his films, more specifically Boogie Nights. The film is a chronicling of the rise and fall of stardom through the character of Eddie/Dirk in the porn business.
3. The Game (dir. David Fincher)
I can’t think of a better thriller made in the last twenty years than The Game. Fincher has been documented saying that his intentions of the film was the make the audience leave the movie asking themselves what their game would look like and that frightening thought is what the film does every time I watch it.
2. The Ice Storm (dir. Ang Lee)
The family is a sacred thing but in reality it isn’t so sacred, it’s broken and constantly unmended usually. Here we see a family which theorizes and intellectualizes everything to the point of no longer being able to relate or comprehend each other’s decisions in life and this creates a web of entangled lives that never meshes but rather manages to just be stuck together awaiting for someone to come and undo it all.
1. Life is Beautiful (dir. Roberto Benigni)
This is one of those movies that if you’ve seen it and don’t like it, you don’t have a heart. It’s hard to understand how masterfully Benigni is able to mix light humour and the holocaust and make it work so well on these two separate levels. On one look you see the child’s perspective who sees a game he plays with his father and on another viewing we see his father suffering so that his son doesn’t notice the horrors his life has become and able to survive this time of tragedy. As we watch Benigni make funny walks that are worthy of a Monty Python sketch I can’t recall a movie that made me laugh and cry as much as this all at the same time.