John's Top 10 of 1997

1997 Top 10

Now that we're a month into the New Year, it's time to close the books on the last one, alphabetically:

The Apostle :
Robert Duvall caps a great career as an actor. As a director, he doesn't constantly resort to master shots like his Slingblade buddy Billy Bob.

Austin Powers:
Witty, stupidly funny, and educational (on the impact of inflation). Also high on my 7- year-old's list, just below Double Team.

Blue City: David Birdsell's perfect 10-minute short.

Chasing Amy: One for the home team.

Deconstructing Harry: Philip Roth must be fuming.

Fast, Cheap, And Out of Control: See Split Screen #7

Hands on a Hardbody: The best documentary that Sundance totally missed still awaits release. See Split Screen #10.

In The Company of Men: A reason to keep the grainy faith.

LA Confidential: Detractors say it's no Chinatown . I watched Chinatown recently for the first time in years. Curtis Hanson's film holds its own.

Pocket Cinema: Gustav Deutsch's 100 film loops for 100 audience members with 100 viewers celebrates the 100th anniversary of cinema.

I want to explain two omissions.

Atom Egoyan's adaption of Russell Banks Sweet Hereafter is wonderful. Read the book, then read Banks' other novels, especially Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift (both future films) . And no matter how good the movie adaptations turn out to be, Angela's Ashes and A Civil Action will always be better in prose.

In fact for every four movies you see, read at least one book. A few other books I savored in '97:

Fred Goodman's Mansion on the Hill (music)
Todd McCarthy's Howard Hawks & Jane Hamsher's Killer Instinct (film: serious & scandalous)
H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights (Sports)
Lars Eigner's Travels with Lizbeth (life on the street)

And finally, why no Titanic ? For a few weeks, I thought I had an answer in the form of a question for anyone who called it great: When do you want to see it again? For me, that's a genuine test of lasting value. Then one day Rick Linklater, who I greatly respect, told me he's already seen the film twice. So all I can say is if Titanic is analogous to a David Lean epic, it resembles Dr. Zhivago far more than Lawrence of Arabia .

Oh, and 1998's best film will be Chris Smith's Northwestern .

Please also see John's Top 10 for 1998

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© 1997 Grainy Pictures, Inc.