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Jan 11, 2010

Fletch's Favored Five: 1997 in Film

Now, the third in a continuing series in which I count down my favorites from a particular year in film.

I'm going to use my friend Wikipedia to kickstart my brain, year by year, and I'll throw out a Favored Five here and there. If you want to refresh your memory in a similar fashion, just go to Wiki and type "[four-character year] in film." Here's the one for 1997. I won't pretend that Wiki is the end-all, be-all of filmic knowledge or that these yearly lists are 100% accurate, but they're an excellent place to start and a great resource.

I was 20 for most of 1997. Not coincidentally, the thing I noticed most while scanning the list of films that came out that year was, "Damn, I think I've seen them all...and multiple times!" I guess something about being in college yet not being the legal drinking age just yet leads to increased movie viewing amongst film geeks. It's also possible that I was living in a house with a coughillegalcough cable box at the time and I watched the same films time and again just because they were there and free. But I could be mistaken about that.

Potentially also tied in with that whole "I watched a ton of these, and multiple times" thing is my thinking that 1997 was a pretty damn good one for movies - not a ton of great prestige flicks, but loads of very good-great ones. In other words, time has been good to 1997.

Notable movies not yet seen:
The Apostle
The Full Monty
Princess Mononoke
The Sweet Hereafter
Wag the Dog

Honorable Mentions
Anaconda (the guiltiest of pleasures)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Chasing Amy
Grosse Point Blank
Starship Troopers (guilty, but an awesome satire as well)

5. Good Will Hunting - Here's how you know I have problems: I spent a good five minutes debating what would place in this position. I couldn't make up my mind between this, Grosse Point Blank, and Chasing Amy. In the end, the inclusion of some terrific songs by Elliott Smith, the knowledge that this is the film that truly launched Matt Damon and the fact that Gus Van Sant's film is the most complete were enough to overcome the others.

4. Men in Black - I haven't done a comparison, but this has got to be my favorite of all of the tent pole, mega-budget blockbusters that have been released over the last 15 years. Director Barry Sonnenfeld was just off of Sunday's SGC flick (Get Shorty) with the Addams Family flicks not far behind in his rear-view mirror as well. So what does he do? Gets Will Smith, blazing hot after ID4 and Tommy Lee Jones, not far removed from his Oscar win from The Fugitive. That trio, combined with a crackerjack script, some great CGI (for the day) and a deep supporting cast (Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio) were enough to win critical kudos all-around and box office success to the tune of #2 for 1997, trailing only overall leader Titanic.

3. Gattaca - Writer/director Andrew Niccol was supposed to be the Next Big Thing. This sci-fi murder mystery/drama about DNA was a cricital hit and his next project was The Truman Show. Then the wheels came off, in the form of the bomb S1m0ne and the almost-universally panned The Terminal. Lord of War made for a slight comeback, but he hasn't been seen since...until this year, when his The Cross, with Orlando Bloom, will be released. One can only hope he eventually finds the potential that Gattaca hinted at.

2. Jackie Brown - Right away, I knew that this and the eventual number one were my top two for 1997. The only question was in what order. Ultimately, for all of my love for Jackie, from the resurrections of Pam Grier and Robert Forster (and even Michael Keaton, to some extent) to the soundtrack to the slow burn pace that Tarantino used to maximum effect, I had to give the top spot to...

1. Boogie Nights - ...Paul Thomas Anderson's crowning achievement (or is that spot reserved for There Will Be Blood?). Boogie is a pop culture behemoth. An epic tale that really doesn't tell all that much of a story, but rather lets you be a fly on the wall of Jack Horner's living room, getting to know a carnival of characters and letting you watch one of the tracking shots this side of Children of Men that no one seems to talk about anymore (the pool party). This is Altman-esque filmmaking at its finest, perhaps even finer than the player himself.

9 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: 1997 in Film"

Marcy said...

I love Men in Black. It's a very fun, all-around awesome blockbuster.

I've never cared for Good Will Hunting. I've seen it at least three times, but I still can't get over why a guy as brilliant as Matt Damon's character will ever do janitorial work.

Heather said...

You MUST see Princess Mononoke. The Full Monty and Wag The Dog were pretty noteworthy films as well.

HATED Anaconda, probably one of my least favorite flicks of all time.

But Austin Powers is classic in comedy.

I love that you gave Gattaca scuh a high rating. Brilliantly created, almost too often underrated. And who's going to argue with Boogie Nights in the one spot.

I love Good Will Hunting for the performances though.

filmgeek said...

I saw Good Will Hunting for the first time a couple of months ago and I was so amazed by it that it immediately became one of my favourite films.

The Full Monty is awesome. Definitely check it out.

My top 5 from 1997:
5. Liar Liar
4. Titanic
3. My Best Friend's Wedding
2. As Good As Tt Gets
1. Good Will Hunting

Daniel Getahun said...

Wow, outstanding top 5 from that year - with the exception of MiB. Of course, were I to replace it, it would be with something like Titanic or Anaconda, it probably evens out.

Fletch said...

Marcy - agreed 100% on MIB.

As for GWH, I think that's exactly the point. This guy grew up his whole life having it pounded into his skull that guys that come from this place and have this background MUST do this with their lives; to do otherwise would make them a sellout, and that knowledge was more powerful than all of the book smarts in the world.

filmgeek - Wow - what had taken you so long?

Daniel - no love at all for MIB? It may be a popcorn flick, but it's an exceptionally well-done one, so I'm surprised you're not a fan.

Ah, Anaconda. It'll never get old, will it?

Daniel Getahun said...

No, Anaconda will never get old.

The thing about MiB was that I never particularly liked either Smith or Jones in those roles. Yeah, they were an odd couple, but almost too odd for me. Or something. Regardless I think we could have left it at just the first movie...

The Film Cynics said...

A year with Boogie Nights AND Jackie Brown? Man was that a great year to not be doing anything important.

The Apostle was the movie that turned me around on organized religion. Duvall stopped me from looking down my nose at all the Charlie Churches out there, no small feat.

Princess Mononoke remains one of the best animated DVDs in my collection. It was the one thing my girlfriend at the time and I had in common (which was enough for a few
months of casual sex - God bless the 90s!)

Great concept, Fletch! The fogeys like me feed off nostalgia like this.

Anonymous said...

Titanic is incredible. Its okay to like Romance men of the world! But one which has not been mentioned is ... Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park - The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Anyone? Vince Vaughan pre-looking-fat? Richard Schiff before West Wing? Boogie NIghts' Julianne Moore? Shakespeares Pete Posthelwaite? Even Tim and Lex make an appearance! Albeit briefly.

I need to watch it again.

Fletch said...

Daniel - we can certainly agree that MIB2 was unnecessary. That said, there have been much worse sequels over the years. The whole crying/rain thing was an eye-roller, though.

Steve - considering my thoughts on organized religion, perhaps I should seek out The Apostle, after all. Changing my mind would be a gargantuan feat.

Simon - you know, I've never seen (all of) either of the Jurassic Park sequels. Though I wasn't under the impression that I was missing anything terribly great, good cast or no.

I'm not a hater of Titanic by any means, but beyond the spectacle, I can't say that the rest of it ever did all that much for me (hmmm, sounds like another Cameron flick...).