Emma Thompson is so talented she could take a book I find unreadable and write a script I would call the best of the year.

My Top 20:

  1. Sense and Sensibility
  2. The Usual Suspects
  3. Richard III
  4. 12 Monkeys
  5. To Die For
  6. Les Miserables
  7. Toy Story
  8. Leaving Las Vegas
  9. Clockers
  10. Mina Tannenbaum
  11. Shanghai Triad
  12. Il Postino
  13. Heat
  14. Smoke
  15. Hyenas
  16. Kids
  17. An Awfully Big Adventure
  18. Jeffrey
  19. Burnt by the Sun
  20. Apollo 13

It is not a great year for film.  It is the weakest Top 5 since 1982 and the weakest Top 20 of the last 20 years.  Mina Tannenbaum, the #10 film of the year would have trouble making the Top 20 in a lot of other years.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Director:  Ang Lee  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage  (Leaving Las Vegas)
  • Best Actress:  Elizabeth Shue  (Leaving Las Vegas)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (The Usual Suspects  /  Se7en)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mira Sorvino  (Mighty Aphrodite)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Usual Suspects
  • Best Cinematography:  Braveheart
  • Best Animated Film:  Toy Story
  • Best Foreign Film:  Wild Reeds

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Braveheart
  • Best Director:  Mel Gibson  (Braveheart)
  • Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage  (Leaving Las Vegas)
  • Best Actress:  Susan Sarandon  (Dead Man Walking)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (The Usual Suspects)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mira Sorvino  (Mighty Aphrodite)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Usual Suspects
  • Best Cinematography:  Braveheart
  • Best Foreign Film:  Antonia’s Line

I had to go see Heat twice because I kept throwing up the first time. I don't miss being 21.

Top 10 Films (Top 1000):

  1. Heat  –  #381
  2. Toy Story  –  #483
  3. The Usual Suspects  –  #644
  4. Safe  –  #669
  5. Casino  –  #698

Top 5 Films  (1995 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Sense and Sensibility
  2. Leaving Las Vegas
  3. Apollo 13
  4. Babe
  5. Braveheart

note:  Leaving Las Vegas sets a record for highest point total without an Oscar nomination.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Sense and Sensibility  –  2052
  2. Leaving Las Vegas  –  1628
  3. Apollo 13  –  1143
  4. Braveheart  –  1129
  5. The Usual Suspects  –  774
  6. Il Postino  –  656
  7. Nixon  –  641
  8. Babe  –  627
  9. Mighty Aphrodite  –  391
  10. Dead Man Walking  –  388

note:  Braveheart‘s fourth place finish is the worst for an Oscar winner since 1981.  It also has the highest point total since 1969 for a film with no points from the critics awards.  It has the lowest point total for an Oscar winner since 1989 and no winner since has been lower.

Pixar hits the jackpot with their first feature film: Toy Story

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Toy Story  –  $191.79 mil
  2. Batman Forever  –  $184.03 mil
  3. Apollo 13  –  $172.07 mil
  4. Pocahontas  –  $141.57 mil
  5. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls  –  $108.38 mil
  6. GoldenEye  –  $106.42 mil
  7. Jumanji  –  $100.47 mil
  8. Casper  –  $100.32 mil
  9. Se7en  –  $100.12 mil
  10. Die Hard: With a Vengeance  –  $100.01 mil

note:  GoldenEye becomes the first James Bond film to gross $100 million in the U.S., tripling the gross for the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill.  This is also the last year when no film broke $200 million.

Top 10 Films  (International Box Office Gross):

  1. Die Hard: With a Vengeance  –  $366.1 mil
  2. Toy Story  –  $362.0 mil
  3. Apollo 13  –  $353.5 mil
  4. GoldenEye  –  $352.2 mil
  5. Pocahontas  –  $346.1 mil
  6. Batman Forever  –  $336.5 mil
  7. Se7en  –  $327.3 mil
  8. Casper  –  $287.9 mil
  9. Waterworld  –  $264.2 mil
  10. Jumanji  –  $262.8 mil

note:  Does it a say a good or bad thing that the worldwide list has Waterworld on it instead of Ace VenturaDie Hard got the biggest boost internationally (72.7%), with Babe ending up #11 on the list, with 75% of its box office coming internationally.  Batman does the least percentage internationally (45%), but superhero films never have traveled as well.  This is also the only year since 1990 where no film broke $500 million.

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Toy Story  –  #99  (2007)

Ebert Great Films:

  • Leaving Las Vegas

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Director:  Ang Lee  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage  (Leaving Las Vegas)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (The Usual Suspects)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kate Winslet  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Usual Suspects


  • Best Picture:  To Die For
  • Best Director:  Gus Van Sant  (To Die For)
  • Best Actor:  Hugh Grant  (An Awfully Big Adventure)
  • Best Actress:  Nicole Kidman  (To Die For)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Patrick Stewart  (Jeffrey)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mira Sorvino  (Mighty Aphrodite)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  To Die For
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Toy Story

Two award worthy performances to fall in love with: Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as sisters in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Director:  Ang Lee  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage  (Leaving Las Vegas)
  • Best Actress:  Emma Thompson  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (The Usual Suspects)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kate Winslet  (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Usual Suspects
  • Best Editing:  The Usual Suspects
  • Best Cinematography:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Original Score:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Sound:  Apollo 13
  • Best Art Direction:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Visual Effects:  Babe
  • Best Sound Editing:  Apollo 13
  • Best Costume Design:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Best Makeup:  An Awfully Big Adventure
  • Best Original Song:  “Cancion del Mariachi” from Desperado
  • Best Animated Film:  Toy Story
  • Best Foreign Film:  Les Miserables

The sexy but deadly Nicole Kidman in To Die For (1995)

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Toy Story
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “Yoko Ono.”  Patrick Stewart in Jeffrey
  • Best Opening:  Richard III
  • Best Ending:  The Usual Suspects
  • Best Scene:  the end of The Usual Suspects
  • Best Use of a Song  (dramatic):  “Sweet Home Alabama” in To Die For
  • Best Use of a Song  (comedic):  “All By Myself” in To Die For
  • Best Ensemble:  The Usual Suspects
  • Funniest Film:  Jeffrey
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Se7en
  • Worst Film:  Showgirls
  • Worst Sequel:  Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh
  • Sexiest Performance:  Nicole Kidman in To Die For
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Julia Ormond in Sabrina
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Mallrats
  • Best Soundtrack:  Dead Man Walking
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” from Batman Forever
  • Watch the Film SKIP the Book:  Sense and Sensibility
  • Coolest Performance:  John Travolta in Get Shorty
  • Star of the Year:  Kevin Spacey
  • Best Cameo (male):  Nathan Lane in Jeffrey
  • Best Cameo (female):  Sigourney Weaver in Jeffrey
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  John Ratzenberger in Toy Story

Film History:  Toy Story, the first Pixar feature film and first computer-animated feature length film, is released and becomes the biggest box office hit of the year.  Michael Ovitz leaves CAA to head Disney.  Showtime, in partnership with Robert Redford, creates the Sundance Channel.  Studio accounting comes under fire when Winston Groom, author of the novel Forrest Gump, challenges Paramount’s claim that they lost $62 million on the film.  Waterworld sets a new record with a budget of $175 million.  Underground wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  Rupert Murdoch announces plans to open Fox Studios Australia.  Greer Garson and Ginger Rogers die in April and Lana Turner dies in June.  Louis Malle dies on 23 November.  Controversy arises when Nicole Kidman and John Travolta, both well-known Scientologists, win lead Comedy acting awards at the Golden Globes but neither earns an Oscar nomination.  The Brothers McMullen and Crumb win the Grand Jury Prizes at Sundance.  Leaving Las Vegas wins Best Picture, Director and Actress at the Indie Spirits, but Nicholas Cage fails to win Best Actor, just about the only award he doesn’t win.  Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg launch the Dogme 95 movement.  Pierce Brosnan becomes the new James Bond and his debut, GoldenEye becomes the highest grossing James Bond film.

Academy Awards:  Braveheart wins Best Picture without having won any other Best Picture awards – the only film other than The Godfather Part II to do that since 1943.  Only one film released after Labor Day is nominated for Best Picture (Sense and Sensibility), the only time since the seventies there have been less than two and the only time since 1985 there have been less than three.  Sense and Sensibility becomes the last Columbia film nominated for Best Picture until 2010.  Leaving Las Vegas becomes the fourth film ever nominated for Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress but not Picture, joining My Man Godfrey, Hud and Sunday Bloody Sunday.  For the third year in a row, France fails to get a Best Foreign Film nomination – the longest streak in the history of the category.  Brazil, on the other hand, gets its first nomination in 33 years with O Quatrilho.  For the first time since 1988 all five Best Picture nominees win at least one Oscar; 12 films altogether win an Oscar – the most since 1988.  Braveheart is nominated for Original Screenplay but loses to The Usual Suspects – the first Best Picture winner to ever lose the Screenplay award to a film not nominated for Best Picture.  Braveheart is the first Best Picture winner to ever win an Oscar for Sound Effects Editing; it is also the first Best Picture winner to not earn any acting nominations since 1987.  It is also the lowest grossing Best Picture winner since 1987.

It’s the worst year for Best Picture nominees since 1970 and Braveheart is the worst winner since The Greatest Show on Earth.  And let’s get this straight.  To Die For, Les Miserables, 12 Monkeys and Richard III combined for four nominations – or one fewer nominations than Braveheart won Oscars.  It’s true, the Academy had no idea at the time that Mel Gibson would turn out to be completely batshit nuts.  But they could have passed him over because his film was complete crap.  At least the writers had some sense – giving the Oscar to The Usual Suspects, which should have been in the Best Picture race.  And clearly Leaving Las Vegas was too much of a bummer, given its four major nominations but nothing for Best Picture (or even Cinematography).  And the Editing of Braveheart and Crimson Tide was better than the way The Usual Suspects was constructed through its brilliant editing?  And going with Richard Dreyfuss and Sharon Stone over Ian McKellen and Nicole Kidman?  But the most inexplicable thing might be the nomination of Nixon as an Original Screenplay, when it the published script is full of all the notes and sources.  It is clearly adapted and even Stone himself was confused.  Oh, and apparently the sound in Waterworld and the Sound Effects Editing in Batman Forever were worthy of Oscar nominations but not Heat in either category.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Picture for Braveheart
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for Braveheart
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Restoration
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Les Miserables
  • Best Eligible English Language Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Clockers
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  Underground  (Yugoslavia)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Editing
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Actor, Supporting Actor, Sound, Visual Effects

Golden Globes:  Babe becomes the first film since 1954 to win a Best Picture award without any other nominations.  The American President becomes the first film since 1989, the second since 1977 and only the third film since 1962 to get nominated for Best Picture – Comedy and Best Director but lose Picture to a film without a Director nomination (1962 – Chapman Report loses to That Touch of Mink, 1977 – Annie Hall loses to The Goodbye Girl, 1989 – When Harry Met Sally loses to Driving Miss Daisy).  The American President is nominated for all big five awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress) and becomes the only comedy other than When Harry Met Sally to lose them all.  It is also the first film since Glory in 1989 to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Globes, but none of them at the Oscars.  Sense and Sensibility is the biggest film, getting winning Picture – Drama and Screenplay and getting 6 nominations, including Director, Actress and Supporting Actress.  Braveheart and Leaving Las Vegas each get 4 nominations, including Picture – Drama, and each win one with Braveheart winning Director and Vegas winning Actor – Drama.  Apollo 13 also earns 4 nominations, including Picture – Drama and Director but wins nothing.  Scandal erupts when the two Comedy winners, John Travolta for Get Shorty and Nicole Kidman for To Die For, both fail to earn Oscar nominations, with speculation being that it is backlash because they are both prominent Scientologists.

Awards:  Braveheart becomes the first film since 1988 to win the Oscar without winning a critics award for Best Picture.  But that doesn’t mean there is one particular favorite.  While Leaving Las Vegas is by far the biggest winner, it only wins two Best Picture awards (New York and LA).  For the first time since 1989, no film wins more than two Best Picture awards and also, for the first time since 1989, the film with the most points doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (in 1989 it was Do the Right Thing).  Vegas does sweep all six Best Actor awards and wins Actress and Director from the National Society of Film Critics and in LA.  Next up is Sense and Sensibility, which wins Picture from the NBR and Boston, Director from NBR, LA and Boston, Screenplay in New York, LA and Boston and actress in LA.  The final two Best Picture awards go to Babe (NSFC) and Apollo 13 (Chicago), but neither film wins any other awards from any of the critics groups.  Kevin Spacey and Joan Allen win four critics awards each for supporting while Oliver Stone takes the last Director award (Chicago) for NixonWild Reeds is the big Foreign Film winner, taking home NY, LA and NSFC.

Braveheart becomes the only film to win the Oscar without a PGA nomination.  Leaving Las Vegas becomes the third film (after When Harry Met Sally and Avalon) to earn PGA, DGA and WGA noms but not an Oscar nom for Best Picture.  Apollo 13 becomes the first film (and until 2006 the only film) to win the PGA and SAG Cast Award but fail to win Best Picture at the Oscars.  It also becomes only the second film (after The Color Purple) and last to date to win the DGA but fail to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Director and the first film since Born on the Fourth of July in 1989 to have the most guild points but not go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.  Apollo 13 wins 5 guild awards (PGA, SAG Ensemble, SAG Supporting Actor, DGA, Cinema Audio Society) and earns 3 other noms (WGA, American Cinema Editors, American Society of Cinematographers).  Braveheart is next, winning the WGA, ACE, ASC and a Motion Picture Sound Editors award and also earning DGA and CAS noms.  Sense and Sensibility earns SAG ensemble, Actress and DGA noms and wins Supporting Actress and the WGA.  The PGA has the lowest crossover with Oscar in its history – only two (Apollo 13, Il Postino) of its six nominees earn Oscar noms (Bridges of Madison County, Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas and American President are the others).  SAG agrees with Oscar on both leads but neither supporting and only 5 of the eventual supporting Oscar nominees earn SAG nominations.

Braveheart becomes the first film since 1988 to win the Oscar without getting a Best Picture nomination at the BAFTAs.  The Usual Suspects and Sense and Sensibility tie for Best Picture.  The Usual Suspects becomes the first American film to win Best Picture at the BAFTAs without getting an Oscar nomination for Best Picture since Manhattan in 1979.  The Usual Suspects becomes the first film to win Best Picture without a Director nomination since Educating Rita in 1983 while Sense and Sensibility joins Howards End as the second Emma Thompson film in four years to win Best Picture but not Director or Screenplay.  The Madness of King George ties A Room with a View with the second most nominations all-time (14) but only wins British Film, Actor and Makeup.  Sense and Sensibility is second with 12 nominations, but only wins Picture, Actress and Supporting Actress.  Five films tie for the most wins with 3: The Madness of King George, Sense and Sensibility, The Usual Suspects (winning all 3 of its nominations – Picture, Original Screenplay and Editing), Il Postino (the first film in six years to win Best Director without a Best Picture nomination) and Braveheart.

In the initial Broadcast Film Critics Awards, there are no nominees – only winners.  Many of them are the same as the Oscar winners would be (Braveheart wins Director, Sense and Sensibility wins Screenplay, Mira Sorvino and Kevin Spacey win Supporting, though Spacey gets his for three films).  But Sense and Sensibility wins Best Picture and non-Oscar nominees Kevin Bacon (Murder in the First) and Nicole Kidman (To Die For) win the lead awards.  Between Ed Harris (Apollo 13 and Nixon) and Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects, Se7en, Swimming with Sharks), five films share the Supporting Actor award.  Braveheart sets the trend that every Oscar winner would win at least 1 major BFCA award; the only ones not to win Best Picture either win Screenplay (Shakespeare in Love, Crash, The King’s Speech) or Actress (Million Dollar Baby).

Best Director:  With 3 critics wins, DGA, Globe and BAFTA noms and a Nighthawk and Consensus win there is no directorial effort that makes the Academy look like idiots more than Ang Lee’s work on Sense and Sensibility.  Their idiocy in not nominating him might have cost the film Best Picture and just makes the Academy look like they don’t know great directing.  He’s followed on the consensus list by Mike Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas (LAFC, NSFC, Indie Spirit wins, DGA, Oscar, Globe noms).  Mel Gibson, the actual Oscar winner comes in third, having also won the Globe and the initial BFCA as well as earning DGA and BAFTA noms.  Then comes Michael Radford for Il Postino (BAFTA wins, Oscar and DGA noms) and Ron Howard for Apollo 13 (Globe nom and only the second DGA winner to fail to earn an Oscar nom).  My own list is Lee, Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects), Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys), Richard Loncraine (Richard III) and Figgis.  That’s followed by Claude Lelouch (Les Miserables), Spike Lee (Clockers), Gus Van Sant (To Die For), Zhang Yimou (Shanghai Triad) and Michael Mann (Heat).

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sense and Sensibility breaks all records for Adapted Screenplay awards (though they would all be broken, first by L.A. Confidential, then by Sideways).  It would win 7 different awards and absolutely crush all the competition.  Emma Thompson wins the Oscar, WGA, Globe, the initial Broadcast Film Critics Award and critics awards in New York, L.A. and Boston.  She does lose the BAFTA to Trainspotting, which wouldn’t be Oscar eligible until the next year, and of course, she wins the Nighthawk.  She’s followed in the consensus awards by Leaving Las Vegas and Babe (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms), Apollo 13 (Oscar and WGA noms) and Il Postino (Oscar and BAFTA noms).  My nominees are To Die For, Il Postino, Leaving Las Vegas and An Awfully Big Adventure.  That’s followed by 12 Monkeys, Richard III (BAFTA nominee), Get Shorty (WGA, Globe nominee), Clockers and Jeffrey.

Best Original Screenplay:  For the second year in a row, the Writers Guild becomes irrelevant to the consensus awards as the winner is ineligible.  So, The Usual Suspects, like Pulp Fiction, wins the consensus award without even a WGA nomination by winning the Oscar, BAFTA and Chicago Film Critics Award.  The actual WGA winner, Braveheart (which shows how screwed up the WGA is this year) comes in second, with Oscar and Globe noms.  The other three consensus nominees are Clueless (WGA nom, National Society of Film Critics Award), Mighty Aphrodite (Oscar, WGA noms) and Muriel’s Wedding (WGA, BAFTA noms).  My winner is The Usual Suspects, with the rest of my nominees being Toy Story (Oscar nominee), Les Miserables (I consider it original because it is inspired by but not adapted from the novel, the same way Clueless is inspired by Emma), Smoke and Mina Tannenbaum.  It’s just a weaker year with some rather unorthodox scripts as the best.  My 6 through 10 are Burnt by the Sun, Kids, Don Juan DeMarco, Muriel’s Wedding and Before the Rain.

Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage is only kept from a sweep by losing the BAFTA (to Nigel Hawthorne for the previous year’s Madness of King George), though the BFCA simply skips him rather than nominate him like the BAFTAs.  But he wins all six critics, the SAG, Oscar and Globe, as well as the consensus and the Nighthawk.  In a very, very distant second is Massimo Troisi for Il Postino, with SAG, Oscar and BAFTA noms, followed with a tie between Anthony Hopkins for Nixon and Sean Penn for Dead Man Walking, who both earn SAG, Oscar and Globe noms.  In fifth is Kevin Bacon, who wins the BFCA and earns a SAG nom (though in supporting) for Murder in the First.  My own list, after Cage, are Ian McKellen, who is BAFTA and Globe nominated for Richard III, Hopkins, Troisi and Jean-Paul Belmondo, with the best performance of his career in Les Miserables.  My 6 through 10 are the under-appreciated and barely seen Hugh Grant in An Awfully Big Adventure, the rock solid Clint Eastwood in Bridges of Madison County, Penn, Golden Globe – Comedy winner John Travolta in Get Shorty and Gabriel Byrne leading the gang in The Usual Suspects.

Best Actress:  Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) becomes the first actress to lose the Oscar, Globe, SAG and BAFTA but still wins the consensus thanks to her three critics wins (LA, National Society, Chicago).  Then comes Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility), who also loses at the Globes, SAG and Oscars, but wins at the BAFTA and wins the NBR.  Nicole Kidman (To Die For) wins in Boston, the Globe – Comedy and the new BFCA, but only earns a BAFTA nom, getting shut out at the Oscars and SAG, but it’s good enough for third place, over the actual Oscar winner, Susan Sarandon (who also wins SAG and gets a Globe nom for Dead Man Walking).  Meryl Streep comes in fifth place for The Bridges of Madison County by earning SAG, Oscar and Globe noms.  These are also, amazingly, my five nominees, though in a different order (I go Thompson, Kidman, Shue, Streep, Sarandon).  My 6 through 10 are very different: Romane Bohringer for Mina Tannenbaum, Georgina Cates for An Awfully Big Adventure, Emma Thompson for Carrington, Globe winner and Oscar nominee Sharon Stone for Casino and Globe – Comedy nominee Toni Collette for Muriel’s Wedding.

Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey runs away with the consensus award, winning the Oscar, BFCA, NYFC, BSFC, CFC and NBR, as well as earning SAG and Globe noms.  Most of them just mention his performance in The Usual Suspects, but some also mention Se7en and Swimming with Sharks.  Ed Harris comes next, tying with Spacey at the BFCA, winning the SAG and earning Oscar and Globe noms for Apollo 13.  Don Cheadle wins the other two critics awards and earns a SAG nomination but is ignored by the Oscars for his performance in Devil in a Blue Dress.  The final two consensus nominations go to Tim Roth for Rob Roy (BAFTA win, Oscar and Globe noms) and Brad Pitt for 12 Monkeys (Globe win, Oscar nom).  Spacey also tops my list and Pitt comes in third, but my second place is the magnificent performance by Patrick Stewart in Jeffrey.  My final two spots go to Kenneth Branagh for his devious Iago in Othello (SAG nom) and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility (BAFTA nom).  My 6 through 10 are Harvey Keitel in Clockers, Alan Rickman (this time in An Awfully Big Adventure), Ed Harris, Forest Whitaker in Smoke and Oscar nominee James Cromwell from Babe.

Best Supporting Actress:  Mira Sorvino wins the Oscar, Globe, NBR and NYFC, as well as the consensus award for Mighty Aphrodite (and also earns SAG and BAFTA nominations).  Joan Allen wins the other four critics awards but loses at SAG (where she is nominated as a lead), Oscar and BAFTA for her great performance as Pat Nixon.  Kate Winslet, the big new star in Sense and Sensibility, wins the SAG and BAFTA and earns Oscar and Globe noms to come in third.  Mare Winningham comes in fourth with SAG and Oscar nominations for Georgia while Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13) and Anjelica Huston (The Crossing Guard) tie for fifth with Globe noms and an Oscar nom for Quinlan and SAG for Huston.  My own list is Winslet, Allen, Sorvino, Huston and Ileana Douglas as the vicious sister-in-law in To Die For.  My next five are Sigourney Weaver with her amazing small role in Jeffrey, Quinlan, Chloe Sevigny in her breakthrough role in Kids, Winningham and Cynthia Stevenson as a more beleagured sister-in-law in Home for the Holidays.

Jeffrey (1995) succeeds where it's difficult - as a comedy about AIDS.

Under-appreciated Film of 1995:

Jeffrey  (dir. Christopher Ashley)

So what is it that makes Jeffrey a progressive success in the lines of Longtime Companion and Angels in America while Philadelphia can be deemed a retrograde failure?  It is obviously not connected to financial success.  Philadelphia, after all, in one weekened outgrossed the complete theatrical runs of Longtime Companion and Jeffrey combined.  Instead, it lies in the cores of the films themselves, in the way they choose to make their approach to the modern day plague and how their final moments set the stage for what will come next.

I have said this before, here and here, both of them coming from a paper I wrote in grad school, but it’s important enough to repeat it here.  There is a poetry in what these three works do.  Instead of a moment like the ending of Philadelphia where we look back at the young boy who would grow up to die the horrible death and try to fight the bigotry, we get a look forward, a look with hope, a look that would have Harvey Milk proud.  All three of these films end with the idea that there is a shared community here, that this is not something to be suffered in silence, dying in back rooms and failing to make the obituary page with any honesty.

Jeffrey is all about the sense of humor at the heart of the gay community.  They get lambasted and ridiculed and lampooned, but they know that and they can embrace it and even run with it.  They cruise at funerals, they laugh at the thought of the oncoming sense of death, they can enjoy the stereotypes (“We’re here.  We’re queer.  And we’re on tv!”).  But they embrace life, not just their own lives and the community around them (“There are no car alarms.  No potholes.” Jeffrey says at one point when he is thinking of moving back to Wisconsin.  “No parades.” is the response that he gets.), but the very notion of life.  When Jeffrey, torn apart at the thought of trying to love someone who is HIV-positive, who he knows he will have to watch get sick and die, goes to seek help from a priest, he gets some very useful advice (in a bring-the-house down performance from Nathan Lane): “Of course life sucks; it always will – so why not make the most of it?  How dare you not lunge for any shred of happiness?”  Which then allows for the great punchline from an elderly woman in church: “How dare you turn down sex when there are children in Western Europe who can’t get a date.”

Jeffrey is part of a larger community and the film looks at the whole community and modern life itself with a wink and a nod and some of the best scenes and funniest lines of the year.  Sigourney Weaver has a hilarious cameo as Deborah, the nation’s hottest post-modern evangelist.  When they appear on a game-show called “It’s Just Sex,” Sterling, played in a career best performance from Patrick Stewart, when asked for his favorite sexual fantasy, answers “Yoko Ono.”  When the flamboyantly gay Sterling is pressed on it, he replies, rolling his eyes “To see the apartment.” (It’s a brilliant change from the original play when he answered Jackie O, but she had died between the play and the film, so the answer was perfectly changed).

So, with AIDS in the background, Jeffrey chickening out of his life and his friends dying and the film a great example of morbid self-mocking humor, how can this film connect with the serious critically acclaimed films Longtime Companion and Angels in America?  It comes down to those final moments.  Of course, in Longtime, we get that amazing moment when those who are gone come back and Campbell Scott’s sad refrain: “I just want to be there.  When they do find a cure.”  In Angels in America, we get one of the great ending speeches to any film: “We won’t die secret deaths anymore.  The world only spins forward.  We will be citizens.  The time has come.  Bye now.  You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.  And I bless you: More Life.  The Great Work Begins.”  Both of them are following to advice of Harvey, who knew they key: “You’ve got to give them hope.”  So how can Jeffrey measure up?  How is it that two men moving around each other in a ballroom booping a balloon back up into the air anything like that?  Because of something else that Father Dan says, while desperately trying to get some action from Jeffrey: “Have you ever been to a picnic?  And someone blows up a balloon, and everyone starts tossing it around?  And the balloon drifts and it catches the light, and it’s always just about to touch the ground, but someone always gets there just in time to tap it back up.  That balloon – that’s God. The very best in all of us.”  As they say in Les Miserables, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”  And surely Jeffrey, with his love of Broadway musicals, standing there, with love in his eyes, tapping that balloon back to Steve, would understand that it is the very best in all of us.

Judging from the box office, the fairly full viewing I saw of An Awfully Big Adventure at Cinema 21 was the only U.S. showing of the film

Under-appreciated Film of 1995 #2

An Awfully Big Adventure  (dir. Mike Newell)

My love for Jeffrey, a film that so few people I know have seen meant that I could not help but write about it.  But this film, which grossed less than $300,000 and never played in more than 12 theaters, in spite of re-teaming Mike Newell and Hugh Grant, who the year before had made the huge Oscar-nominated hit Four Weddings and a Funeral, saddens me.  Is it because it isn’t a straight up comedy that people wouldn’t go see it?  It is the dark, twisted, cynical performance by Hugh Grant, the opposite of his romantic, bumbling Charles from the year before, that turned people away, in spite of the fact that it really showed what kind of range Grant had?  Or was it the dark secret at the heart of the film, unknown by any of the characters at the time, and only made clear to a character who divulges it to no one before his untimely death that was too much for people?

Either way, it’s too bad that more people didn’t go to see it.  First of all, it is a reminder of one of the very best things about The Muppet Show.  Part of what made that such a wonderful show, wasn’t just the muppets or their humor, but the very concept itself – behind the scenes at a theater.  It’s always great fun to go to a theater, even if it isn’t done very well (and part of the fun in both The Muppet Show and An Awfully Big Adventure is that what happens on stage isn’t necessarily all that good, though, thankfully for these actors, Waldorf and Statler aren’t there to heckle them).  But it’s much more fun to see what is going on behind the scenes – being part of something like that is always an amazing experience, and this film allows us to see inside this experience, through the eyes of a starstruck young, beautiful girl, hopelessly in love with the caddish, roguish (“You were all the best people we could get,” he tells his actors, then adds “for the money.”), and quite obviously to everyone but her, gay, stage director.

That director, Mr. Potter, of course, is Grant himself.  He has never been better on film, before or since.  When first interviewing the young Stella, he sees right through her desperation, and there is a wonderful moment where he starts to walk away and she complains that he hasn’t seen her act.  He turns back, and with a delightfully roguish smile, replies “Oh, I rather thank I have.”  He brings her aboard, not as an actress, but to work behind the stages.  Her youth and beauty (it really is a wonderful performance by Georgina Cates, really the one bright spot of her career) captivates so many of the older men and they all fall for her in the way that is so common among groups of people that work closely together.  But she has eyes only for her director.

Enter the actor.  He has saved the company before, has worked with Potter before.  He’s played by Alan Rickman and this role, combined with his role in Sense and Sensibility (also opposite Grant), was the first reminder that Rickman is just as suitable in the romantic charming role he played in Truly, Madly Deeply as he his in the villain role that made him a star in Die Hard (which is perhaps why he was so perfect to play Snape – a rather odd combination of the two).  He falls instantly in love with Stella and their affair propels the second half of the film.

The title, of course, comes from Peter Pan, the play that they must perform and that requires a perfect Hook – and we actually get a couple of them.  But we also remember what it refers to – death, that final adventure, that always seems to be hanging around in the background of the film.

It’s a smart, funny, really charming film that absolutely no one saw.  It was absolutely ignored by all the awards groups, but it wins my Best Makeup, gets nominations for Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design, comes in sixth for Best Actor, and in my Golden Globes, wins Best Actor, while earning nominations for Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Director and Adapted Screenplay – a far better film than The American President and Sabrina, the films that the Globes actually gave their accolades to.