Two hardboiled Aussie L.A. detectives: Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential (1997)

My Top 20:

  1. L.A. Confidential
  2. The Sweet Hereafter
  3. The Ice Storm
  4. Boogie Nights
  5. Jackie Brown
  6. Amistad
  7. Oscar and Lucinda
  8. Good Will Hunting
  9. Grosse Pointe Blank
  10. The Full Monty
  11. Chasing Amy
  12. Insomnia
  13. The Fifth Element
  14. The Wings of the Dove
  15. Deconstructing Harry
  16. Absolute Power
  17. Donnie Brasco
  18. Waiting for Guffman
  19. Ponette
  20. Kundun

A similar line-up to the year before: five great films, followed by six lower **** films, then the rest of the list is filled out with high ***.5 films.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Director:  Curtis Hanson  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (As Good as It Gets)
  • Best Actress:  Helena Bonham-Carter  (Wings of the Dove)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Burt Reynolds  (Boogie Nights)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Basinger  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Good Will Hunting
  • Best Cinematography:  Kundun
  • Best Animated Film:  Hercules
  • Best Foreign Film:  La Promesse

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Titanic
  • Best Director:  James Cameron  (Titanic)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (As Good as It Gets)
  • Best Actress:  Helen Hunt  (As Good as It Gets)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robin Williams  (Good Will Hunting)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Basinger  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Good Will Hunting
  • Best Cinematography:  Titanic
  • Best Foreign Film:  Character

True, Boogie Nights finished a distant second in the Top 1000 for the year. But I can't put L.A. Confidential pictures everywhere.

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. L.A. Confidential  –  #431
  2. Boogie Nights  –  #552
  3. A Taste of Cherry  –  #702
  4. Crash  –  #770
  5. Lost Highway  –  #778

note:  Until this post, I have been using Top 1000 listings from a couple of years ago.  From here on out, they are brand new listings.

Top 5 Films  (1997 Best Picture Awards):

  1. L.A. Confidential
  2. Titanic
  3. The Full Monty
  4. As Good as It Gets
  5. Good Will Hunting

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. L.A. Confidential  –  2977
  2. Titanic  –  2050
  3. As Good as It Gets  –  1145
  4. Good Will Hunting  –  940
  5. The Full Monty  –  922
  6. Boogie Nights  –  759
  7. Wings of the Dove  –  701
  8. Mrs. Brown  –  546
  9. Amistad  –  464
  10. Wag the Dog  –  371

note:  L.A. Confidential has the second highest point total in history, behind Schindler’s List, and earns 59 total nominations, the most ever.  While only once from 1984 to 1995 did the five Oscar nominees end up with the top 5 spots on the points list, it happens here for the second straight year.  In spite of earning over 2000 points and winning the Oscar and being the second-highest #2 ever (behind The Piano), Titanic has the biggest distance between it and the #1 film in eight years and the fifth-highest gap ever (927 points).  Good Will Hunting becomes the only film to ever earn over 800 points without any point from critics or the BAFTAs.

Titanic becomes the all-time box office champ by a long way - as teenage girls make up most of the audience, this picture is not why, but it's the one I'm putting in here.

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Titanic  –  $600.78 mil
  2. Men in Black  –  $250.69 mil
  3. Jurassic Park: The Lost World  –  $229.08 mil
  4. Liar Liar  –  $181.41 mil
  5. Air Force One  –  $172.95 mil
  6. As Good as It Gets  –  $148.47 mil
  7. Good Will Hunting  –  $138.43 mil
  8. Star Wars  (Special Edition)  –  $138.25 mil
  9. My Best Friend’s Wedding  –  $127.12 mil
  10. Tomorrow Never Dies  –  $125.30 mil

note:  I saw these 10 films in the theater a combined 14 times.  But 7 of those were Star Wars and 2 of them were Titanic.  I didn’t see Lost World, Liar Liar or My Best Friend’s Wedding until they were out on video.  On the other hand, of the next 10, there are four films I have still never seen (George of the Jungle, Flubber, Conspiracy Theory, I Know What You Did Last Summer).

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. Titanic  –  $1843.2 mil
  2. Jurassic Park: The Lost World  –  $618.6 mil
  3. Men in Black  –  $589.4 mil
  4. Tomorrow Never Dies  –  $333.0 mil
  5. Air Force One  –  $315.2 mil
  6. As Good as It Gets  –  $314.2 mil
  7. Liar Liar  –  $302.7 mil
  8. My Best Friend’s Wedding  –  $299.3 mil
  9. The Fifth Element  –  $263.9 mil
  10. The Full Monty  –  $257.9 mil

note:  In a bit of irony, the two films I think are the best on the domestic list are replaced by two films that I still think end up the best on the worldwide list.  Of the 41 films to make $100 million worldwide, Good Will Hunting has the lowest percentage of its gross coming internationally (38.7%) and ends up 16th on the worldwide list.  But The Fifth Element makes 75% of its money internationally and The Full Monty makes a whopping 82% worldwide (as does Bean, which misses the list by only $6 million.  For any film after 1989 (when Box Office Mojo begins their Worldwide Box Office list), The Full Monty has the lowest domestic gross ($46.0 million) of any film in the Top 10 and it is the only film since 1989 to make the Top 10 Worldwide list while earning less than 20% of its gross in the States.

AFI Top 100:

  • Titanic  –  #83  (2007)

note:  For its list of 400 initial candidates, AFI included Titanic, As Good as It Gets, Boogie Nights, Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential.  For a sixth choice, rather than go with The Ice Storm or Jackie Brown or Amistad, AFI decided to go with Austin Powers.  Go figure.

Ebert Great Films:

  • L.A. Confidential

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Director:  Curtis Hanson  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Actor:  Ian Holm  (The Sweet Hereafter)
  • Best Actress:  Cate Blanchett  (Oscar and Lucinda)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Julianne Moore  (Boogie Nights)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Boogie Nights

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:  Jackie Brown
  • Best Director:  Quentin Tarantino  (Jackie Brown)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (As Good as It Gets)
  • Best Actress:  Helen Hunt  (As Good as It Gets)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robert Forster  (Jackie Brown)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Joan Cusack  (In and Out)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Jackie Brown
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Grosse Pointe Blank

I actually had passes to see Oscar and Lucinda and I couldn't keep my eyes off Cate Blanchett. It's the first of several Nighthawk Awards for her.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Director:  Curtis Hanson  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Actor:  Ian Holm  (The Sweet Hereafter)
  • Best Actress:  Cate Blanchett  (Oscar and Lucinda)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Spacey  (L.A. Confidential)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Julianne Moore  (Boogie Nights)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Boogie Nights
  • Best Editing:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Cinematography:  L.A. Confidential
  • Best Original Score:  Amistad
  • Best Sound:  Titanic
  • Best Art Direction:  Titanic
  • Best Visual Effects:  The Fifth Element
  • Best Sound Editing:  The Fifth Element
  • Best Costume Design:  Titanic
  • Best Makeup:  The Fifth Element
  • Best Original Song:  “The Sweet Hereafter” from The Sweet Hereafter
  • Best Animated Film:  Perfect Blue
  • Best Foreign Film:  Princess Mononoke

Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke - submitted but not nominated, yet clearly the best Foreign Film of 1997

Top 10 Foreign Films:

  1. Princess Mononoke
  2. Insomnia
  3. Men With Guns
  4. Abre Los Ojos
  5. Character
  6. Live Flesh
  7. Ma Vie en Rose
  8. The Thief
  9. Winter Sleepers
  10. Beyond Silence

note:  Character actually wins the Oscar while The Thief and Beyond Silence are both nominated.  Princess Mononoke and Ma Vie en Rose are both submitted to the Academy but fail to earn nominations (I have Princess Mononoke as the best film submitted but not nominated between 1966 (Persona) and 2002 (City of God)).  Live Flesh and Abre Los Ojos are both passed over by Spain for Secrets of the Heart which is weaker than either, but earns an Oscar nomination.  Winter Sleepers, the first film from Tom Tykwer, is passed over for Beyond Silence while Insomnia isn’t submitted by Sweden.  Men with Guns is actually a Spanish language film made by an American director, John Sayles.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Best Line (comedic):  “What’s a nubian?”  Jason Lee in Chasing Amy
  • Best Line (dramatic):  “I didn’t know you liked the Del-fonics.”  Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown
  • Best Opening:  Boogie Nights
  • Best Ending:  The Full Monty
  • Best Scene:  the “shared moment” between Banky and Holden in Chasing Amy
  • Best Use of a Song (comedic):  “Hot Stuff” in The Full Monty
  • Best Use of a Song (dramatic):  “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind (This Time)” in Jackie Brown
  • Best Soundtrack:  Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Best Ensemble:  Boogie Nights
  • Funniest Film:  Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Crash
  • Worst Film:  The Saint
  • Worst Sequel:  Batman and Robin
  • Worst Line:  “It’s OK because I got to have you.”  Dina Meyer’s dying words in Starship Troopers
  • Worst Ensemble:  Starship Troopers
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Laura Linney in Absolute Power
  • Sexiest Performance:  Cate Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  Wings of the Dove  /  The Ice Storm
  • Coolest Performance:  Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential
  • Best Trailer:  Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “The End is the Beginning is the End”  from Batman and Robin
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  James Woods in Hercules

Film History:  Titanic, the most expensive film ever made, also becomes the biggest box office champion of all-time, shattering the domestic mark ($600 million) and becoming the first film to earn over $1 billion worldwide.  Sunday wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance while In the Company of Men wins the Filmmaker’s Trophy.  The Apostle wins Best Picture, Director and Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards.  The Cannes Film Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary and the Palme d’Or is shared by The Eel and A Taste of Cherry.  Fred Zinnemann dies in March, Robert Mitchum and Jimmy Stewart on back-to-back days in July and Toshiro Mifune in December.  Star Wars is re-released in its Special Edition, followed by The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; the three films together gross $250 million.  Steven Spielberg tries to repeat his 1993 double-whammy of box office and Oscars, but Lost World doesn’t do nearly as well as Jurassic Park and Amistad only manages 4 Oscar nominations and none for Spielberg himself.

Academy Awards:  Titanic ties the all-time record for nominations (14) and Oscars (11) and ties for sixth place all-time in points (625) – the most since 1959.  It is the second film in a row and sixth overall to win all five major technical Oscars.  It is the first Best Picture to get nominated for Best Song since 1976 and the first to win since 1958.  But it is also the first Best Picture winner without a Screenplay nomination since 1965.  Because of that, for the third year in a row the Best Picture winner fails to win Best Screenplay – the only time other than 1947-49 that happened three years in a row.  All five Best Picture nominees win an Oscar and every feature film Oscar except Makeup and Foreign Film goes to a Best Picture nominee.  The five nominees combine for 43 nominations (the most since 1977) and 18 Oscars (the most ever – still unbroken).  The Netherlands wins its third Foreign Film Oscar – making it the only country with less than 14 nominations to have won 3 Oscars (at this point they have 5, they will later go up to 7).  As Good as It Gets becomes the 7th film (and last to date) to win Best Actor and Actress.  After a stretch of 7 years where only 1 film released in December wins Best Picture, Titanic becomes the first of 6 December releases in the next eight years to win Best Picture.  Titanic is the first 20th Century-Fox film to earn a Best Picture nomination since 1988 and the first to win Best Picture since 1971.  Woody Allen earns his record 13th writing nomination.  With the dominance by Titanic, only 7 films win feature film Oscars – the lowest total since 1981.  And of the 37 nominated films, only 18.92% win an Oscar – the lowest percentage since 1944.

This was the third time in eight years where there was a clear divide between the critics and the awards groups, and the Oscars went with the awards groups.  In 1990, there was GoodFellas vs. Dances with Wolves, in 94 it was Pulp Fiction vs. Forrest Gump and here it was L.A. Confidential vs. Titanic.  Not much of a surprise, but I’m totally with the critics on all three occasions.  In a sense, Titanic was a triumph of Hollywood and therefore earned Hollywood’s awards, while L.A. Confidential was a triumph of art and therefore was admired by those who love film as art.  So, the biggest film in history wins 11 Oscars (tying a record) out of its 14 nominations (also tying a record) – though, because it didn’t win acting or writing awards, falls short of the biggest points by quite a bit.  And I understand (though massively disagree) with its Best Picture win.  And the Academy at least did itself credit by not nominating the wretched screenplay and by giving L.A. Confidential the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.  And there were other areas where the Academy screwed up in this year.  Only 1 nomination for Jackie Brown?  Only one for Oscar and Lucinda?  None for The Ice Storm?  Those three brilliant films combined for as many Oscar nominations as Con Air.  And three of my acting winners (Holm, Blanchett, Spacey) fail to earn nominations.  But they got some things right as well.  They nominated Deconstructing Harry for Best Original Screenplay after the WGA passed it over.  They recognized the brilliance in The Sweet Hereafter and rewarded it with two major nominations – Director and Adapted Screenplay.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Editing for Titanic
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Original Song for “Go the Distance” from Hercules
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey from L.A. Confidential
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Starship Troopers
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  The Ice Storm *
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  Princess Mononoke
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Editing
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Costume Design
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • * footnote:  If you go here, you’ll see I list The Ice Storm as the eighth best film not to earn any Oscar nominations and the best since the sixties.

Golden Globes:  Titanic earns the most wins (4) since 1989, the most nominations (8) since 1991 and the most points (400) since 1985.  With Picture, Actor and Actress wins and six total nominations, As Good as It Gets has the most points for a Comedy (355) since 1985.  As Good as It Gets and Titanic are both nominated for the big 5 awards – the first time since 1979 that a film is nominated for the big 5 in both Comedy and Drama.  The Actor – Comedy winner (Jack Nicholson) goes on to win the Oscar (the first time since 1977) and the Actress – Comedy winner (Helen Hunt) goes on to win the Oscar (the first time since 1989) – the only time other than 1964 and 1977 when both would go on to win the Oscar.  L.A. Confidential also earns Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations but only wins Supporting Actress.  Good Will Hunting is nominated for Picture and wins Screenplay while Amistad and The Boxer are both nominated for Picture and Director.  In a year with Jackie Brown (Actor, Actress nominations), Chasing Amy (Actress nomination), Grosse Pointe Blank and Deconstructing Harry (no nominations for either), the Globes nominate My Best Friend’s Wedding for Best Picture – Comedy.

Awards:  L.A. Confidential crushes everything in the critics awards.  It beat GoodFellas record by amassing 1525 points.  It won all six Best Picture awards, all six Best Director awards, all five Best Screenplay awards (the NBR didn’t have one) and even added Best Cinematography from LA and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey from Boston.  In a very distant second was Boogie Nights, winning Supporting Actor in New York and Chicago and both supporting awards from the LA and National Society of Film Critics.  Titanic would have to make do with the Art Direction awards in LA and the Cinematography and Score awards in Chicago.  Meanwhile, Good Will Hunting and The Full Monty become two of the highest films in terms of total points to not win any critics awards.

Titanic sets new guild records for nominations (13), wins (10) and points (675).  Within five years, all of those records will have been broken.  Titanic loses the SAG Ensemble, Actress and the WGA, while winning the PGA, DGA, Supporting Actress at SAG, ACE (Editing), ASC (Cinematography), CAS (Sound), ADG (Art Direction) and three awards at the MPSE (Sound Editing).  L.A. Confidential is nominated for all the same awards (even all three MPSE) except Actress but only wins Supporting Actress (a tie) and Adapted Screenplay at the WGA.  All five eventual Oscar nominees are nominated for the WGA (with As Good as It Gets winning Original).  Four of the five get the PGA and DGA (with Full Mounty bounced in each for Amistad) and SAG Ensemble (As Good as It Gets bounced for Boogie Nights).  As Good as It Gets gets three SAG nominations and wins Actor and Actress while Good Will Hunting gets 4 SAG noms and wins Supporting Actor.  The Full Monty only gets the Ensemble nomination but is the winner.  Amistad does the best of the non-Best Picture nominees, earning PGA, DGA, Supporting Actor, ASC and ADG nominations, though it doesn’t win any of them.

For the first time since 1991 and the last time to date, two Oscar Best Picture nominees fail to earn any BAFTA nominations: Good Will Hunting and As Good as It GetsRomeo + Juliet becomes the first film since 1992 to win Director and Screenplay but not Picture and the only film to ever win Director and Screenplay without a Picture nomination.  Both Screenplay winners (Nil by Mouth wins Original) fail to earn Picture nominations – the first time this has happened since 1988 (though Nil by Mouth does win British Picture).  Titanic goes 0 for 10 – the first Oscar winner to go winless at the BAFTAs since Dances with Wolves and ties the record set by Women in Love, Ryan’s Daughter and All the President’s Men for most nominations without a win.  L.A. Confidential leads the way with 12 nominations, including Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor and Actress, but only wins Editing and Sound.  The Full Monty is second with 11 nominations, including Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Actor and wins Picture, Actor and Supporting Actor (though loses British Picture to a film not nominated for Picture).  Mrs. Brown is the final Picture nominee and wins Best Actress but fails to earn a Director nomination among its 8 noms.

The Broadcast Film Critics continued with 10 Best Picture nominees, but just winners in all other major categories.  The 10 nominees included all five eventual Oscar nominees as well as Wings of the Dove, Amistad, Boogie Nights, Donnie Brasco and Wag the DogL.A. Confidential won Picture and Adapted Screenplay but no other film won more than one award, with the awards spread out across Titanic (Director), Good Will Hunting (Original Screenplay), As Good as It Gets (Actor), Wings of the Dove (Actress), Amistad (Supporting Actor), In and Out (Supporting Actress) and Shall We Dance (Foreign Film).

Best Director:  Like Tarantino in 1994, Curtis Hanson wins all six critics awards, but loses the DGA, Oscar, BAFTA and Globe.  Still, it is enough for a dominant consensus win (and he easily wins the Nighthawk Award).  James Cameron comes in second, winning the DGA, Oscar, Globe, BFCA and Satellite (and earns a BAFTA nom).  Finishing a distant third is Gun Van Sant for Good Will Hunting (Oscar, DGA, Satellite noms), followed by Spielberg for Amistad (DGA, Globe, Satellite noms) and Peter Catteneo for The Full Monty (Oscar and BAFTA noms).  My own top 5 are Hanson, Paul Thomas Anderson for Boogie Nights (Satellite nom), Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter (Oscar nom), Ang Lee for The Ice Storm and Quentin Tarantino for Jackie Brown.  My 6 through 10 are Spielberg, Gillian Armstrong for Oscar and Lucinda, Martin Scorsese for Kundun, Van Sant, and then Cameron.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  L.A. Confidential, one of the best ever adaptations (read the novel and the script and see what a marvelous job they did) runs away with the consensus.  It takes all five existing critics awards (the NBR wouldn’t start giving it out until the next year), the Oscar and the WGA.  It loses the Globe to Good Will Hunting and, rather stunningly, the BAFTA to Romeo + Juliet.  It is followed in the consensus list by Wag the Dog (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA, Globe noms), Wings of the Dove (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms), Donnie Brasco (Oscar, WGA noms) and The Ice Storm (WGA, BAFTA noms).  My own list is L.A. Confidential, The Sweet Hereafter (Oscar nom), The Ice Storm, Jackie Brown and Oscar and Lucinda (which is an interesting list, in that not only are they all adapted from novels, but I have read all five novels and all five films are greatly superior to the source novels – the same of which is true for my #6 on the list).  My 6 through 10 are Wings of the Dove, Wag the Dog, The Winter Guest, Donnie Brasco and Absolute Power.

Best Original Screenplay:  Good Will Hunting wins the Oscar, Globe, BFCA and consensus.  But As Good as It Gets wins the WGA over Good Will Hunting, while earning Oscar and Globe noms.  The BAFTA’s ignore both films.  Their award goes to Nil by Mouth which finishes fifth in the consensus because it gets nothing else.  Tied for third are WGA, Oscar and BAFTA losers The Full Monty and Boogie NightsBoogie Nights, though, does win the Nighthawk, followed by Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank, Oscar nominee Deconstructing Harry and The Full MontyTitanic, in spite of it ridiculous script, earns WGA and Globe nominations, but thankfully doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination and misses out on the consensus top 5.  Don’t even think about asking if it got a Nighthawk mention.  My 6 through 10 are Chasing Amy, As Good as It Gets, Waiting for Guffman, Ponette and In and Out.

Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson wins his third consensus award for Best Actor and a third Oscar (though one was for supporting where he also has two consensus awards) for As Good as It Gets.  He also wins the NBR, SAG, BFCA and Globe – Comedy.  He’s followed on the list by Robert Duvall (LAFC, NSFC, CFC wins, SAG and Oscar noms) for The Apostle, Peter Fonda for Ulee’s Gold (NYFC, Globe – Drama wins, SAG and Oscar noms), Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting (SAG, Oscar, Globe noms), and Dustin Hoffman for Wag the Dog (SAG, Oscar, Globe – Comedy noms), making Damon the youngest of the five by over thirty years.  My own list is headed by Ian Holm, for his magnificent, yet unrewarded performance in The Sweet Hereafter.  He’s followed by Nicholson, Hoffman, the also unrewarded Ralph Fiennes for Oscar and Lucinda and Damon.  My 6 through 10 are Kevin Kline for The Ice Storm, Globe nominee Daniel Day-Lewis for The Boxer, Stellan Skarsgaard for Insomnia, Clint Eastwood as the burglar on the run in Absolute Power and Djimon Honsou for his Golden Globe nominated performance in Amistad.  I was very underwhelmed by The Apostle on every level and thought that Fonda earned his plaudits mainly for making a nice comeback rather than a great performance.

Helena Bonham-Carter finally starts winning awards for her performance in Wings of the Dove (1997)

Best Actress:  Helena Bonham-Carter easily wins the consensus, taking home three critics awards (LA, Boston, NBR) and the BFCA, while earning SAG, Oscar, BAFTA and Globe noms.  Judi Dench comes in a distant second for Mrs. Brown, winning the Globe, BAFTA and Chicago and earning SAG and Oscar noms.  Helen Hunt wins the Oscar, SAG and Globe – Comedy for As Good as It Gets and comes in third.  The remaining two spots are taken by Julie Christie for Afterglow (NYFC and NSFC wins, Oscar nom) and Kate Winslet for Titanic (SAG, Oscar, Globe noms).  My own list is bookended by performances that got no nominations whatsoever: the luminous Cate Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda and the wonderful Joan Allen as the suffering wife in The Ice Storm.  In between, I have Bonham-Carter, Hunt and Dench.  My 6 through 10 are SAG and Globe – Comedy nominee Pamela Grier for Jackie Brown, Christie, Emma Thompson in The Winter Guest, Winslet and Emily Watson in The Boxer.

Best Supporting Actor:  Burt Reynolds cruises to the consensus award for Boogie Nights, winning four critics awards (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, CFC) and the Globe and earning SAG, Oscar and BAFTA nominations.  He’s followed by SAG and Oscar winner (and Globe nominee) Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting, NBR winner (and SAG, Oscar and Globe nominee) Greg Kinnear for As Good as It Gets, BFCA winner (and SAG, Oscar and Globe nominee) Anthony Hopkins for Amistad and BSFC winner (and BAFTA nominee in the lead) Kevin Spacey for L.A. Confidential.  Spacey, a huge Oscar omission, is my own winner, followed by Reynolds, Williams, Oscar nominee Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Hopkins.  My 6 through 10 are the subtle performance from Ed Harris as the shy cop in Absolute Power, Kinnear, BAFTA winner Tom Wilkinson for The Full Monty, the wonderfully evil James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential and SAG and BAFTA nominee Billy Connolly for Mrs. Brown.

Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Basinger wins the consensus by winning the Oscar, SAG and Globe and earning a BAFTA nomination (for lead).  It still boggles my mind as I still see her as the weak link in the film.  Julianne Moore finishes just behind, winning the LAFC and NSFC while earning Oscar, SAG and Globe noms.  She also, by a long way, wins the Nighthawk (I think it’s one of the best supporting performances ever).  Joan Cusack finishes third, winning the BFCA and NYFC for In and Out, as well as earning Oscar and Globe noms.  The consensus list is finished with Gloria Stuart (Titanic – SAG win, Oscar and Globe noms) and Sigourney Weaver (The Ice Storm – BAFTA win, Globe nom).  My own list, after Moore, is Weaver, Cusack, Sarah Polley for The Sweet Hereafter (BSFC win) and Christina Ricci for The Ice Storm.  My 6 through 10 are Anne Heche (Wag the Dog), Heche again (Donnie Brasco – she won the NBR for both roles), Judy Davis (Absolute Power), Phyllida Law (The Winter Guest) and Minnie Driver (SAG and Oscar nominee for Good Will Hunting).  I still have Basinger several slots down, below Judy Davis for Deconstructing Harry, Joan Cusack for Grosse Pointe Blank and Allison Elliot for Wings of the Dove.

John Cusack proves he's not just a good actor, but also a rather funny writer with Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Under-appreciated Film of 1997:

Grosse Pointe Blank  (dir. George Armitage)

I can understand how the Academy passed it up.  First of all, it was released in April.  Secondly, it was not exactly an Oscar type of cast – only Dan Aykroyd had ever been nominated and that was for a Best Picture role that swept him in (although, ironically, both Minnie Driver and Joan Cusack would be nominated this same year for other films).  Third, it was a comedy; not just a comedy, but a very dark comedy.  But the Golden Globes have an entire section for comedies.  And even though this earns Nighthawk Golden Globe nominations in all seven categories (and wins Best Original Screenplay – Comedy), it was passed over by the actual Globes in favor of such films as Liar Liar and My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Grosse Pointe Blank is one of the funniest films around – certainly the funniest of 1997.  It also has one of the best soundtracks in film history.  These two things work together from the opening scenes – Martin Blank staring down the gunsight at his target, his secretary reading to him from his high school reunion letter and Johnny Nash singing “I Can See Clearly Now” in the background.  Things go well at first, then go very badly and that is how things will go for the course of the film.

We get most of what we need to know in those opening scenes – the calm, collected Martin just trying to do his job, the crazed Grocer, played with zeal by Dan Aykroyd and the very offbeat Joan Cusack as the very amusing secretary (the way she bounces back and forth later in the film between one phone call where she cusses out the arms dealer and the other one where she explains to her sister how to make soup is great).  What we don’t have yet is the romance.

The romance comes once Martin gets to Grosse Pointe, Michigan and is forced to deal with the images and people of his past.  When Martin explains to them all that he is a professional killer, the reactions are priceless, ranging from “Good for you.  It’s a growth industry.” to “Do you have to do post-graduate work for that?”  He’s come back for his 10th high school reunion (“I find it interesting to think that you came from somewhere,” his assistant says to him), but really it’s to see Debbie, the girl he abandoned on prom night, the one true love of his life.

The chemistry comes alive as soon as Martin sees Debbie.  They are alive in each other and it shows in both Cusack and Driver’s performances.  They are able to play off each other with surprising ease, not surprising as Debbie is in radio, but Martin is surprisingly quick-witted for a lone assassin (we do see him with wonderful chemistry with his secretary, but that’s to be expected since he interacts so much with her and because she’s played by his sister Joan).

In a sense, Grosse Pointe Blank is loved by so many people my age because it actually has the same kind of formula of success that Clerks and Trainspotting had.  It is incredibly funny, it is dark, smart, witty, hip and it has one hell of a soundtrack.  That the members of the Globes go for stale Hollywood formula laughs rather than something genuinely funny and enjoyable is their loss.  Don’t let it be yours as well.

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