Friday, 10 August 2007
THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF 1997 - PART II
For Part I, Click HERE
For me, the Fall season of 1997 was kicked off by David Fincher’s intense follow up to “Seven”, “The Game” – a dizzying point of view of a cold and depressed businessman’s rebirth through a devious and dangerous interactive game. It’s one of Fincher's coldest and detached films. It didn’t quite connect with as large an audience as “Seven”, but it still was an engrossing cinematic experience that had me guessing all the way to the end.
The Oscar race got kicked off by the epic crime film – “L.A. Confidential”. The buzz started at Cannes earlier in the year and when it opened wide, it did not disappoint. "L.A. Confidential" launched the Hollywood careers of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce and was the breakout film for director Curtis Hanson – a late bloomer who only mildly impressed people with grade-B thrillers like “The River Wild” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” He’s been an A-List director ever since. I'll always remember the exhilaration of my first viewing. Kevin Spacey’s death was shocking, but it was his chilling final words, “Rolo Tomasi” which gave him his revenge in death that sealed the deal for me. For the longest while “L.A. Confidential” was the clear frontrunner for the Oscars. But that movie with the boat hadn’t been released yet. More on that later.
The highlight of the year came the weekend of Oct 24th when P.T. Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” was released wide. The trailer looked good, and I remembered the buzz around the director when “Hard Eight” was released. When the lights went down and Michael Penn’s somber opening chords played over the New Line logo and an extended black frame, I knew this was going to be something special. The grandest scene of the film is the Rahad Jackson/firecracker scene set to Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”. There wasn’t a finer moment in cinema that year.
Back to Matt and Ben...on November 21, Francis Coppola’s adaptation of John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker” premiered. Heads turned when we found out the legendary director was turning to paperback material. But was “The Godfather” novel any more credible? It will forever be significant as Matt Damon’s first starring role though – a major coup for him, considering the a-list supporting cast he had around him. In fact, the film was one of the better Grisham adaptations thanks to Matt.
A few weeks later that feel good Gus Van Sant film with the bad title premiered – “Good Will Hunting”. You may remember the film started off very quiet. The reviews were average at best, and I heard some people saying it was a chick flick for dudes. Huh? I delayed seeing it until way into the New Year, when I just about had to. It surpassed my expectations. The film still stands up as powerful and personal film about male friendship. With an Oscar win for Best Screenplay, Matt and Ben were officially stars.
And then “Titanic” came out. You may remember the film was supposed to come out in the summer – multiplexes were already postered when the release was delayed. Cost overruns, LSD tainted catering, and Cameron’s freakishly mad directing was all we heard about the film. All of this spelled disaster. Remember “Waterworld”? Needless to say, it defied all expectations and became the highest grossing film of all time - by a large margin. “Titanic” has since gone into the doldrums from overexposure. Ironically, a testament to its popularity is the fact that it’s been monumentally uncool to like the film for almost 10 years now.
The biggest surprise late in the year was the Barry Levinson-directed, David Mamet-scripted “Wag the Dog” – one of the best-ever satires of politics or Hollywood. Levinson shot the film in just 29 days, with a budget of $15 million – considering the star power attached (Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman), not to mention the filmmaking team behind the camera, it was a miracle achievement by today’s standards. It came out of nowhere, but what a brilliant film. It’s one of Mamet’s best scripts – fast, clever dialogue as usual but with a razor sharp satirical wit we hadn’t heard before from Mamet. My favourite character - Dennis Leary’s spin doctor character, Fad King – who brilliantly dissected the crisis and spitballed the manufactured War on Albania.
So that was the 1997, in a nutshell – for me, one of the best years of the 1990’s. There are a few other good films that I haven't mentioned, including Quentin Taratino's "Jackie Brown", a low-key sombre follow up to "Pulp Fiction", Andrew Niccol brilliant neo-Sci-Fi brain-film, "Gattaca", James L. Brooks' slightly overrated "As Good As It Gets" and Martin Scorsese's Dalai Lama flick, "Kundun."
Here’s a list of the films I mentioned to check out, rediscover, or program your own 1997 Annus Mirabilis Film Festival:
In the Company of Men
Star Wars (Sp Ed)
Empire Strikes Back (Sp Ed)
Return of the Jedi (Sp Ed)
The Sweet Hereafter
A Taste of Cherry
The Ice Storm
Good Will Hunting
Wag the Dog
As Good As It Gets