Clint Eastwood gives the best performance of his career in Unforgiven (1992)

My Top 20:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. The Crying Game
  3. Last of the Mohicans
  4. The Player
  5. Howards End
  6. Reservoir Dogs
  7. Raise the Red Lantern
  8. Singles
  9. Flirting
  10. Aladdin
  11. Bob Roberts
  12. A Few Good Men
  13. Malcolm X
  14. Hard Boiled
  15. Husbands and Wives
  16. A River Runs Through It
  17. Enchanted April
  18. Proof
  19. The Match Factory Girl
  20. Glengarry Glenn Ross

note:  This is almost a tie at the top.  Unforgiven and The Crying Game come in 1-2 and there are days when I consider flipping them.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Unforgiven
  • Best Director:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actor:  Denzel Washington  (Malcolm X)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Howards End)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Gene Hackman  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Judy Davis  (Husbands and Wives)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Player
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Unforgiven
  • Best Cinematography:  Raise the Red Lantern
  • Best Foreign Film:  Raise the Red Lantern
  • Best Animated Film:  Aladdin

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Unforgiven
  • Best Director:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actor:  Al Pacino  (Scent of a Woman)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Howards End)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Gene Hackman  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Howards End
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Crying Game
  • Best Cinematography:  A River Runs Through It
  • Best Foreign Film:  Indochine

note:  The Academy and Consensus agree on the big 4 except Actor, but after that, only agree on Supporting Actor.

Raise the Red Lantern - the best foreign film for 1992 according to TSPDT

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Unforgiven  –  #209
  2. Reservoir Dogs  –  #398
  3. Raise the Red Lantern  –  #410
  4. Nostalghia  –  #425
  5. And Life Goes On  –  #500
  6. Van Gogh  –  #560
  7. The Player  –  #679
  8. Leolo  –  #809
  9. Lessons of Darkness  –  #923
  10. The Last of the Mohicans  –  #937

Top 5 Films  (1992 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Howards End
  3. The Player
  4. The Crying Game
  5. Scent of a Woman

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Unforgiven  –  2025
  2. Howards End  –  1635
  3. The Crying Game  –  1189
  4. The Player  –  1122
  5. Scent of a Woman  –  573
  6. A Few Good Men  –  518
  7. Husbands and Wives  –  515
  8. Malcolm X  –  445
  9. Aladdin  –  389
  10. Enchanted April  –  325

The genie rules the box office - domestic and international

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Aladdin  –  $217.35 mil
  2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York  –  $173.58 mil
  3. Batman Returns  –  $162.83 mil
  4. Lethal Weapon 3  –  $144.73 mil
  5. A Few Good Men  –  $141.34 mil
  6. Sister Act  –  $139.60 mil
  7. The Bodyguard  –  $121.94 mil
  8. Wayne’s World  –  $121.69 mil
  9. Basic Instinct  –  $117.72 mil
  10. A League of Their Own  –  $107.53 mil

note:  Unforgiven becomes the first film to gross over $100 million and not make the Top 10 at the box office for the year.  And that, on the whole, really is a bad list of films.

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. Aladdin  –  $504.1 mil
  2. The Bodyguard  –  $410.9 mil
  3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York  –  $359.0 mil
  4. Basic Instinct  –  $352.9 mil
  5. Lethal Weapon 3  –  $321.7 mil
  6. Batman Returns  –  $266.8 mil
  7. A Few Good Men  –  $243.2 mil
  8. Sister Act  –  $231.6 mil
  9. Bram Stoker’s Dracula  –  $215.9 mil
  10. Wayne’s World  –  $183.1 mil

note:  A League of Their Own doesn’t make it because it earned a whopping 81% of its money domestically.  Sports must not travel – White Men Can’t Jump earned 84% of its money domestically.  Dracula leaps into the worldwide list, but its 61% international take is considerably lower than Basic Instinct‘s 66% and The Bodyguard‘s 70%.

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Unforgiven  –  #98  (1998)  /  #68  (2007)

Ebert Great Films:

  • Unforgiven
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • Howards End

Emma Thompson wins the Nighthawk Award for Best Actress for Howards End. Oh yeah, she also won every other award that year.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture:  Unforgiven
  • Best Director:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actor:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Howards End)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Gene Hackman  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Miranda Richardson  (The Crying Game)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Howards End
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Crying Game


  • Best Picture:  The Player
  • Best Director:  Robert Altman  (The Player)
  • Best Actor:  Tim Robbins  (The Player)
  • Best Actress:  Michelle Pfeiffer  (Batman Returns)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Tom Hanks  (A League of Their Own)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Judy Davis  (Husbands and Wives)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Player
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Singles

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Unforgiven
  • Best Director:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actor:  Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Howards End)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Gene Hackman  (Unforgiven)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Miranda Richardson  (The Crying Game)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Howards End
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Crying Game
  • Best Editing:  Unforgiven
  • Best Cinematography:  The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Original Score:  The Last of the Mohicans*
  • Best Sound:  The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Art Direction:  Howards End
  • Best Visual Effects:  Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Best Sound Editing:  The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Costume Design:  Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Best Makeup:  Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Best Original Song:  “Breath”  (Singles)
  • Best Foreign Film:  Hyenas
  • Best Animated Film:  Aladdin

* – It is a shame that of the three soundtracks not composed by John Williams that I have spent the last 20 years listening to, two of them are from 1992: The Last of the Mohicans, composed by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman and The Power of One by Hans Zimmer (the third is Glory by James Horner).  Mohicans wins with probably my favorite film piece of all-time (see Best Scene, below), but Power of One is close behind.

Hyenas - the best Foreign Film of 1992 and one you probably haven't seen - see it

My Top 5 Foreign Films released in their home country in 1992:

  1. Hyenas
  2. Like Water for Chocolate
  3. Hard Boiled
  4. Pushing Hands
  5. Porco Rosso

Anne Hathaway has some big boots to fill.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “Steve, don’t cum yet.”  (Xavier McDaniel in Singles)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I don’t deserve this, to die like this.  I was building a house.”  “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”  (Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)
  • Best Opening:  The Player
  • Best Ending:  The Crying Game
  • Best Scene:  the climactic scenes with no dialogue in The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Stuck in the Middle with You” from Reservoir Dogs
  • Best Ensemble:  The Player
  • Funniest Film:  Noises Off
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Scent of a Woman
  • Worst Film:  Straight Talk
  • Worst Film I Saw in the Theater:  Cool World
  • Worst Sequel:  Lethal Weapon 3
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Kyra Sedgwick in Singles
  • Best Reason to Remember Being 17:  Fay Masterson in The Power of One
  • Sexiest Performance:  Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Wayne’s World
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Performance Ratio:  Winona Ryder in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Best Soundtrack:  Singles
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “Book of Dreams” from Far and Away
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  The Last of the Mohicans
  • Star of the Year:  Miranda Richardson
  • Coolest Performance:  Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans
  • Best Cameo:  Eddie Vedder in Singles
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  Robin Williams in Aladdin

Film History:  Americans spend twice as much on renting and buying videos as they do on movie tickets.  The Best Intentions wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  In the Soup wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  The Player wins Best Picture at the Independent Spirit Awards, but receives no other nominations.  The release of Basic Instinct earns a lot of press and protests from lesbian groups and makes Sharon Stone an instant star.  Spike Lee is criticized for suggesting that African-American kids should skip school to see Malcolm X.  Satyajit Ray dies in April and Marlene Dietrich in May.  Anthony Perkins and Denholm Elliott both die of AIDS-related illnesses within weeks of each other.  Batman Returns, opening the day after I graduate from high school, sets a new opening weekend record with $45.68 million.

Academy Awards:  For the sixth time in seven years, no film reaches double-digits in nominations.  It will only happen once in the next 12 years.  Miramax earns its second Best Picture nomination (The Crying Game) and the first of 13 consecutive years with a BP nom.  For the first time in 6 years, John Williams does not receive an Oscar nomination.  For the third time, Rob Reiner fails to earn an Oscar nomination after earning a DGA nomination – a record for someone who has never received an Oscar nomination.  France wins its first Foreign Film award in 14 years and its last to date.  Russia (as opposed to the Soviet Union) earns its first Foreign Film nomination.  Uruguay earns its only Foreign Film nomination to date.  Unforgiven becomes the first film to lose the PGA and still go on to win Best Picture.  Al Pacino becomes the first male nominated for lead and supporting in the same year.

So, on the one hand, they got most of the winners right.  In fact, it’s the first year since 1953 where I think they got Picture, Director and both Screenplay categories correct.  On the other hand, they wasted nominations and even an Oscar on that horrible piece of crap called Scent of a Woman.  It earned as many nominations and Oscars as Last of the Mohicans, The Player, Raise the Red Lantern and Reservoir Dogs combined.  Last of the Mohicans is actually my biggest nominee of the year (12), but they only deigned to nominate it for its Sound (though they at least gave it the Oscar).  They also missed the boat in two of the categories that they often do miss the boat on: Foreign Film and Original Song.  Not a single one of the Foreign Film nominees was worthy of a nomination, which wasn’t entirely their fault, since of my top 5, only one was submitted.  But with Original Song, they ignored all the wonderful songs from Singles and Toys, instead nominating the awful songs from The Bodyguard.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Actor for Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for Scent of a Woman
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Cinematography for The Last of the Mohicans
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  The Bodyguard
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Reservoir Dogs
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  Like Water for Chocolate  (Mexico)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Foreign Film
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actor
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Picture, Director, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup

Golden Globes:  Scent of a Woman becomes the only film in history to win Best Picture – Drama without a Best Director nomination over a film with a Best Director nomination.  The Player becomes the only film in Globe history to win Best Picture and earn Director and Screenplay nominations but not go on to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, and the first Best Picture winner with a Director nomination not to get nominated at the Oscars since 1983.  Scent of a Woman is the big winner (Picture, Actor, Screenplay), but the revelation after the ceremony that members of the HFPA went on a junket to see the film turns into a scandal.  A Few Good Men and Aladdin tie for the most nominations (5), but Men‘s are all the big categories (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor) while three of Aladdin‘s nominations are for Song.  But, Aladdin wins Score and Song while Men goes home winless.  The other big nominees are The Player (4 noms, wins Picture – Comedy and Actor – Comedy), Unforgiven (4 noms, including Picture, Director and Screenplay, wins Director and Supporting Actor) and Howards End (4 noms, wins Actress – Drama).

Awards:  Like Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven wins big across the board at the critics awards.  It ties for first all-time at the LA Film Critics, taking home Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Supporting Actor.  It repeats in all of those categories except Best Actor at the National Society of Film Critics and it wins Picture, Supporting Actor and Cinematography at the Boston Society of Film Critics.  Howards End is next in line, but aside from taking home Best Picture and Director at the National Board of Review, all of its awards are for Emma Thompson; she sweeps all six groups for Best Actress.  The Player takes home Picture, Director and Cinematography in New York while Malcolm X wins Picture, Actor and Director in Chicago.  The Crying Game wins an array of awards from the various groups: Screenplay (NY, Boston), Actor (NSFC), Supporting Actress (NY) and Foreign Film (LA, Chicago).  Meanwhile, Husbands and Wives wins five awards, but they are all Best Supporting Actress for Judy Davis (everywhere but New York).

Woody Allen receives his 16th WGA nomination and ties Billy Wilder for points all-time (800).  Meanwhile, the winner of Best Adapted Screenplay at the WGA, The Player, marks the sixth year in a row that a WGA winner fails to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, though the first time for an Adapted winner since 1987.  Unforgiven is the big winner at the guilds, taking home the DGA and ACE, but also becomes the first film to lose the PGA and still win Best Picture at the Oscars (it also loses at the WGA).  Beating it at both is The Crying Game which also earns a DGA nom.  Joining it at the DGA are Howards End and A Few Good Men, both of which earn 4 guild noms and win nothing (PGA, DGA, ASC for both, ACE for A Few Good Men, WGA for Howards End).  The Player is the fifth DGA nominee and also earns an ACE nomination.  Scent of a Woman earns PGA, WGA and ACE noms.  Last of the Mohicans earns more guild noms than Oscar noms (2), but loses at ACE and ASC (to Hoffa).  Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast, because of weird Annie dates, wins the Annie over Ferngully and Bebe’s Kids.

Howards End is the biggest nominee at the BAFTA’s (11 noms), including Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress and wins Best Picture and Actress, but nothing else.  Meanwhile, The Player beats it for Best Director and Adapted Screenplay but wins no other of its 5 noms (including Picture) – the first film since Hannah and Her Sisters to win Director and Screenplay but lose Picture.  Meanwhile, Unforgiven, like the previous three Oscar winners, is nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay, but loses them all, winning only Supporting Actor of its 6 noms.  There are five Best Picture nominees and include Strictly Ballroom, which earns 8 noms and 3 wins (Music, Art Direction, Costume Design), but wouldn’t be Oscar eligible for another year.  The Crying Game earns 7 nominations, including Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, but only wins the re-established Best British Film award.  This would establish a precedent, as no winner of Best British Film would win the Best Picture award until The King’s Speech in 2010.  Last of the Mohicans gets its only strong award showing here, with 7 nominations and winning Cinematography and Makeup.

Best Director:  The Consensus is easy.  Clint Eastwood is the Consensus winner for Unforgiven (LAFC, NSFC, DGA, Oscar, Globe and a BAFTA nominee).  Robert Altman is second for The Player (NYFC, BSFC, BAFTA, plus nominee at DGA, Oscars, Globes).  James Ivory is third for Howards End (NBR winner, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe nominee).  Neil Jordan is fourth for The Crying Game (DGA, Oscar, BAFTA nominee).  Rob Reiner is fifth for A Few Good Men (DGA and Globe nominee).  All of those make my Top 10 – Eastwood at #1, Jordan at #2, Altman at #4, Ivory at #6 and Reiner at #10.  My other two nominees are Michael Mann for The Last of the Mohicans and Zhang Yimou for Raise the Red Lantern.  My 7 through 10 are Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs, Robert Redford for A River Runs Through It (Globe nominee) and John Woo for Hard Boiled.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Player does two different things, both of which hadn’t been done since Roxanne in 1987.  First, it wins the WGA, but loses the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.  Second, it wins the WGA for Adapted Screenplay, but fails to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  The former would not happen again until 1998 and the latter until 1996.  It also wins the Consensus Award by virtue of winning the BAFTA and earning a Globe nomination.  It is followed by Howards End, which wins the Oscar and loses the other three.  Scent of a Woman wins the Globe, but also loses the other three.  Enchanted April is fourth, earning Oscar and WGA noms.  It is followed by a tie between A River Runs Through It (Oscar nom) and Glengarry Glenn Ross (WGA nom) with A Few Good Men (Globe nom) just out of the running.  My own list goes like this: (1-5): Howards End, The Player, The Last of the Mohicans, A Few Good Men, Raise the Red Lantern, (6-10): Enchanted April, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Proof, Aladdin, Gas Food Lodging.

Best Original Screenplay:  Unforgiven loses the Oscar, WGA, Globe and BAFTA, but wins the Consensus Award by winning the LA Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics Awards.  The Crying Game beats Unforgiven at the Oscars and WGA and wins the New York Film Critics, but comes in second here.  Husbands and Wives is third by virtue of Oscar and WGA nominations and the BAFTA win.  The other two Consensus nominees are Oscar and WGA nominees Lorenzo’s Oil and Passion Fish.  I think these groups missed out on most of the best scripts of the year.  I do have The Crying Game and Unforgiven as 1 and 2, but I have Husbands and Wives at #7 and the other two aren’t even on my list.  My other nominees are Reservoir Dogs, Singles and Flirting.  My #6 is Bob Roberts and my 8 through 10 are Hard Boiled, Honeymoon in Vegas and Sneakers.  It just stuns me that the writers could like the very Hollywood boring story-telling of Lorenzo’s Oil given the other options out there and Passion Fish has always been my least favorite John Sayles film.

Best Actor:  If not for finally finding the winners for the Boston and Chicago Film Critics for 1992, there would be a three-way and almost four-way tie for Best Actor from the consensus awards.  Instead, Denzel Washington adds both of those to his New York Film Critics Award, Oscar nom and Globe nom for Malcolm X to come out on top.  Next up, tied in second, are Stephen Rea for The Crying Game (NSFC win, Oscar and BAFTA noms) and Robert Downey, Jr. for Chaplin (BAFTA win, Oscar and Globe noms).  Then comes Al Pacino with his Oscar and Globe wins.  Finally, there is Tim Robbins who was BAFTA nominated and the Globe – Comedy winner for The Player, but was also Globe – Comedy nominated for Bob Roberts.  My list is somewhat different.  For one thing, I think Pacino’s performance is ridiculously over the top and one of the worst choices for Best Actor ever.  My own winner is Eastwood, who won in LA and was Oscar nominated.  Then comes Jack Lemmon, who won the NBR for Glengarry Glenn Ross.  My other nominees are Denzel, Daniel Day-Lewis (who was BAFTA nommed for Last of the Mohicans) and Robbins (for The Player).  My 6 through 10 are Rea, Chaplin, Robbins (for Bob Roberts), Hugo Weaving for Proof and Globe nominee Tom Cruise for A Few Good Men.

Best Actress:  Emma Thompson becomes the first complete sweep winner of Best Actress (followed by Holly Hunter the next year and Helen Mirren in 2006) for Howards End.  She takes all six critics awards, the Globe, the BAFTA and the Oscar, and, of course, the Nighthawk.  The second consensus nominee is Miranda Richardson who wins the Globe – Comedy for Enchanted April and whose performance is also mentioned as part of her Best Supporting Actress from the New York Film Critics.  The innocent bystanders swept away are Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field, Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo’s Oil and Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish, all of whom are Oscar and Globe nominated.  My own list is very different.  I have Thompson winning and Richardson as my #5.  But Sarandon is #6, McDonnell is #8 and Pfeiffer doesn’t make my Top 10 – for Love Field that is.  Pfeiffer is actually my #2 for one of the sexiest performances of all-time in Batman Returns.  My other two nominees are Gong Li for Raise the Red Lantern and Helena Bonham-Carter for Howards End (who was BAFTA nominated).  The rest of my top 10 are Catherine Deneuve for Indochine at #7 (Oscar nominee), Thandie Newton in #9 for Flirting and Globe – Drama nominee Sharon Stone for Basic Instinct.  But, really, outside of Thompson, this isn’t that great a year – in fact, I rate this as the weakest group of the last 20 years and Supporting Actress would be as well if not for 1994.

Best Supporting Actor:  On January 28, with three weeks left before the nominations, Ted Mahar of The Oregonian wrote that Jack Nicholson “has to be considered the leading candidate for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.”  This was a curious stand to take since by then Jack had won the NBR and Chicago awards for his showy performance in A Few Good Men, but had lost the Globe to Gene Hackman for Unforgiven.  And Hackman had won the other four critics awards – New York, LA, Boston and the National Society of Film Critics.  The last person to do that had been Nicholson himself in 1983 when he had swept to the Oscar for Terms of Endearment.  Hackman one-upped Nicholson by taking the Oscar and the BAFTA (which Nicholson hadn’t even been nominated for in 83 and wouldn’t be again here).  The other consensus nominees are easy – the three Oscar nominees.  There is Jaye Davidson for The Crying Game (also a BAFTA nominee), Al Pacino for Glengarry Glenn Ross and David Paymer for Mr. Saturday Night (both of them Globe nominees as well).  Interestingly, Knight-Ridder, on the day before the nominations, predicted Nicholson, Hackman and Pacino as nominees, but also Sydney Pollack for Husbands and Wives and Marcello Mastroianni for Used People (even though he had been nominated at the Globes as a lead).  My winner is, of course, Hackman, followed, of course, by Nicholson.  My other nominees are Davidson, Pacino and Anthony Hopkins for Howards End.  My 6 through 10 are Harvey Keitel for Reservoir Dogs, Tom Hanks for A League of Their Own, Richard Harris, in a much smaller but unforgettable role in Unforgiven, Pollack and Paymer.

Best Supporting Actress:  Judy Davis runs away with the consensus award with her performance in Husbands and Wives by winning five critics awards.  But she stumbled with the awards groups, losing the Oscar, Globe and BAFTA (as lead).  Next up is Miranda Richardson, whose great year is a bit confusing here.  Her New York Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Award was given for The Crying Game, Damage and Enchanted April (though she was the lead in that).  She was nominated at the Oscars and the Globes for Damage and she won at the BAFTA’s for Damage, but was also nominated for The Crying Game.  She is my winner, over Davis for her performance in The Crying Game and my #5 for Damage (which means I nominate six).  My #3, Frances Fisher, isn’t nominated by anybody for her great performance as the madam in Unforgiven.  My other nominees are Vanessa Redgrave for Howards End (Oscar nominee and fifth consensus nominee) and Joan Plowright for Enchanted April (#3 in the consensus for winning the Globe and being Oscar nominated).  The #4 at the consensus is, of course, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny, who is my #8, but only because it’s a weak year.  It was just about the most surprising award in the history of the Oscars.  It was very nice a decade later to see in In the Bedroom, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and The Wrestler that she is actually a hell of an actress and not just a very pretty face.  The others on my list are Cynthia Stevenson in The Player, Helen Hunt in Mr. Saturday Night and Brooke Adams in Gas Food Lodging (who was Indie Spirit nominated).

A poster that used to hang in my living room - the 1992 version of Last of the Mohicans

Under-appreciated Film of 1992:

The Last of the Mohicans  (dir. Michael Mann)

1992 has no shortage of under-appreciated films.  While crap like Sister Act, The Bodyguard and Home Alone 2 were making money hand over foot, there were great films going nowhere.  Cameron Crowe’s Singles barely made the Top 70 of the year and Flirting, a wonderful film from Down Under couldn’t even get to $3 million in the States and neither earned any awards attention.  Neither could the other fascinating Australian film full of future stars, Proof, or the film chock-filled with great American actors, Sneakers.  And Reservoir Dogs, the film that would eventually wow critics and young minds, wasn’t exactly getting big notices.  But the film that really stands out for me as not getting what it deserved is Last of the Mohicans.  Yes, it made money – with $75 million it slipped into the Top 20.  And it got some awards – an Oscar (for Sound – its only nomination) and won 2 BAFTAs among its seven nominations.  But this is a film that deserves so much more than that.

Look towards the end of the film at the scene I have called the best of the year.  It is the single best example I can think of the three key technical elements to making a film – editing, cinematography and score.  For some eight minutes at the climax of the film, we have no dialogue.  What we do have is the sheer beauty, magnificence and power of film.  There are a lot of shots, some of them very quick, some of them slow in developing.  We got long shots of mountains and valleys and very tight shots of anguish and despair.  We are reminded that words can not express those basic raw emotions – a look is more than enough.  We can understand things – I will die for her, I will not live without him.  And there are small little details that make it so amazing – the way Magua turns his head away from the spurting blood or the way that Nathaniel discards one rifle to pick up one already loaded as he races by.  And there is the music, of course, the single most listened to track in my entire music library over the last 20 years – well known to anyone who has spent significant time in a car with me.  These three elements -the editing, cinematography and score, which are all brilliant throughout the film, combine here to great one of the great climactic scenes in all of cinematic history.

So, no, an Oscar for Best Sound, which it richly deserved, is not enough for me.  It earns 4 Nighthawk Awards – Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.  It is the second place finisher for Editing and third place for Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay and also earns Nighthawk Nominations for Actor (a perfect performance by Daniel Day-Lewis), Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup (for 12 nominations total – the highest total of the year).  And to think that at the time Michael Mann was mostly known for being the creator of Miami Vice.  This is where he made people sit up and notice – that he was a director of real talent who could not be pigeon-holed into the urban crime scene, though it would be another seven years before the Academy actually did nominate him (for his excellent The Insider).

Is the film a workable version of the novel that is beloved by so many?  The real answer is who cares?  This is a glib answer, but it has two parts to it.  First, a book need not necessarily show fidelity to the book.  They are different things and what works in one form often doesn’t work in the other and they can be great in very real and separate ways.  The romance is very different than in the book and the same characters don’t die and the girls are switched.  But it works as a film and should be looked at separately.  But there is the other part as well – the book really isn’t very good.  I’ve never been able to get through it and put it on my list of films to watch while skipping the books and I’m considerably kinder to it than Mark Twain was.  It’s a great film – it should be viewed as that.  And hopefully will be appreciated as that.