CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (DIRECTOR: WOODY ALLEN)
Nominees: When Harry Met Sally, sex, lies and videotape, Glory, The Little Mermaid, Kiki's Delivery Service, Monsieur Hire, Drugstore Cowboy
OSCARS PICK: DRIVING MISS DAISY
Nominees: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
Ah yes, this is the year the critics whined incessantly about DO THE RIGHT THING'S failure to garner a 'Best Picture' nomination, and many film fans fell in line with that thinking (and Kim Bassinger gave an embarrassing scolding speech at the Oscars). While the camerawork and Ossie Davis were bright spots - personally, I didn't care for the movie. I felt the noisy, meandering picture was all smoke and mirrors - a paper tiger - riddled with contradiction and rambling narrative and cartoonish one-dimensional characters. For me, the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes.
I also wont go down the route of dumping on DRIVING MISS DAISY. It's not the 'best' movie, but it is a good one, with some top-notch performances. If anyone was expecting me to blast the Academy, I'm sorry to disappoint. But in truth I grew so weary of the bitching and moaning from the DTRT crowd that I took perverse delight in the fact that Daisy's winning royally ticked 'em off. Tee hee, it's funny when people have movie related aneurysms.
Anyway, the cause c l bre be damned, I was impressed by better efforts. This was a heck of a wonderful year and I had a difficult time naming only one, and in truth, it's a 3 way tie for my favorite...
The sparkling WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... comes from director Rob Reiner and writer Norah Ephron... whose quick-witted script is spot on -- tapping into many relationship truths and foibles. The characters are so well developed, I believed in this friendship, this love story, which didn't get soapy and always rang true. Meg Ryan is adorable, even with her irritating quirks. And while Billy Crystal isn't your traditional suave leading man, he's comedy gold and he delivers one of the sweetest declarations of love in the annals of the rom-com, when he tells Sally -- "I came here tonight because when you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!" Hell, I almost fell in for the guy after hearing that.
Next: This was the year I was introduced to an eclectic talent named Steven Soderbergh. His film SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE -a perceptive, witty tale about the nature of relationships, and the politics of sex- kick started a new Independent film movement.The picture took the Palme d'Or at Cannes and despite the provocative title; it's not explicitly erotic. it's a well acted ensemble piece that spends more time talking about sex than showing it.
The story concerns 4 people, each with their own sexual hang-ups. John (Peter Gallager) is a self involved philanderer who is married to the frigid Ann (Andie MacDowell). John is having an affair with his wife's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo) who feels she's always been under the shadow of her 'too perfect' sibling. Into this mix arrives John's old college friend Graham (James Spader), a guy who suffers from impotence and videotapes women talking about private matters in order to get sexual gratification.
Soderbergh brings out the best in his cast. Spader in particular -- he plays an "Apostle of truth" with a Zen-like reserve that masks the cracks in his psyche. In general the fledgling filmmaker shows a sure handed grasp of the medium. Despite limited resources (and that the movie is mostly people conversing) the composition and pacing is assured and held my attention throughout.
And last but not least: The brilliantly scripted and structured CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is a darkly funny, thought provoking examination on God, integrity and ethics. Woody's work here is masterful, as Vincent Canby put it, "The wonder of ''Crimes and Misdemeanors'' is the facility with which Mr. Allen deals with so many interlocking stories of so many differing tones and voices. The film cuts back and forth between parallel incidents and between present and past with the effortlessness of a hip, contemporary Aesop."
The story is split in two. The serous half is about a prominent ophthalmologist named Judah (brilliantly played by Martin Landau) whose life is about to go to pieces because his mistress is threatening to expose his infidelities (among other transgressions). Judah turns to his gangster brother, who offers to settle the problem... permanently. The second story has the laughs and is about a documentary filmmaker (Woody Allen) who has his artistic integrity called into question when he takes a job filming a piece on an insipid, blowhard TV comedian. This sets up the moral debate. And in the end - the bad have it good, while the good suffer. And God either doesn't care or is non-existent.
The final monologue sums up the themes in a nutshell. Beyond the question of God and morality, there's the question of choice, of man's search to find meaning and love and identity, etc. Perhaps we are all deluding ourselves one way or the other, but it's how we cope, how we live with our foibles and get through each day. The character development in this film is particularly rich and the ideas absorbing. And it's the one I decided to award the Felix to.
But In addition to those titans there was...
THE LITTLE MERMAID sparked Disney's animation renaissance and is my favorite film from the studio.I loved Ariel, who is a delightful, spunky dreamer. Roger Ebert wrote... "Ariel is a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny. Because she's smart and thinks for herself, we have sympathy for her scheming."Her supporting cast is a kick as well, especially Sebastian the crab -- and Ursula, who is one great monstrous villain.
The music is exceptional and captures every emotional pitch to perfection - from longing to humor to romance. The look is bright and colorful, and it acted was a bridge between two artistic eras. It would be the last Disney film to use cells and Xerox and the first to dabble in CGI (Ariel running down the stairs in the Palace) and CAP (the end scene with the rainbow). While I like the computer graphics in today's movies, I often miss the old hand drawn look found here.
As for Oscar? With the exception of BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY -which I couldn't get into- I felt the Academy's choices were top drawer. In addition, I also liked SANTA SANGRE, MYSTERY TRAIN, CASUALTIES OF WAR AND PARENTHOOD - as well as my nominees GLORY, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, MONSIEUR HIRE AND DRUGSTORE COWBOY If there ever was a year where Oscar needed to open it up and include additional nominees, this was it.
Of Note: THE DECALOGUE doesn't make this list because it first aired on Polish TV as a 10 part mini-series