Driis Music


The Best & Worst of 1996

TOP 10

(in alphabetical order)
  • Bound
    For my money, the best Coen brothers film of '96... except it wasn't made by the Coens. The combination of shrill Jennifer Tilly, Showgirls diva Gina Gershon, and Assassins scribes Larry and Andy Wachowski doesn't exactly set expectations soaring, but this stylish, suspenseful thriller continually confounds them, creating a terrifically tangled web of schemes, lies, and double-crosses. The year's biggest surprise.

  • Chungking Express
    Wong Kar-Wai's atmospheric film almost defies conventional genre categorization; it's a romantic comedy that's also quite serious; it follows two stories that are very much about the same thing. No matter--this was one of the most highly original and entertaining film works of the past year.

  • Courage Under Fire
    While Hollywood was busy touting fall "prestige" projects such as Ghosts of Mississippi and Sleepers during Oscar season, one studio film truly deserving of year-end honors was just about forgotten--this powerful Gulf War drama released in the summer, featuring one of the best performances of the year from Denzel Washington.

  • The Crucible
    Lost in the year-end shuffle was Nicholas Hytner's riveting adaptation of Arthur Miller's classic witch hunt play, brought to stunning life by soaring work from Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Joan Allen.

  • The English Patient
    A sweeping romance, exotic locales, great performances, a story that spans oceans of times and space--what's not to love about Anthony Minghella's epic adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's celebrated novel?

  • Evita
    The long-dead genre of the live action movie musical (and Madonna's long-dead movie career, for that matter) was resurrected most triumphantly by Alan Parker's enthralling adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice "popera."

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    The best musical of the year was not Evita (or, for that matter, Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You) but Disney's largely forgotten--and absolutely splendid--animated adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel. Surprisingly somber and mature-themed, it was easily the most effective film to come from the animated pipeline since 1991's Beauty and the Beast.

  • Lone Star
    It's so rare to see a movie with just one good story and/or character, and in light of that, John Sayles's already-impressive multitextured, multilayered pastiche of stories and characters in a Texas border town is even more remarkable an achievement.

  • Looking for Richard
    Al Pacino's fast, funny, and, yes, educational directorial debut is one of the more interesting genre mixes in recent memory: it's a documentary exploring the meaning of Shakespeare's Richard III, a filmed staging of the play, and a behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary of both. All three "films" are great.

  • The People vs. Larry Flynt
    Milos Forman's portrait of the Hustler publisher may not be as down-and-dirty as some detractors may have wanted it to be, but it still shows him in an admirably less-than-flattering light as he fights the religious right for his freedom of speech.

  • Secrets & Lies
    Brenda Blethyn's emotionally raw performance dominates Mike Leigh's searing family drama, an absorbing testament to the power of great acting and direction.

Honorable Mention:
(in alphabetical order)
Big Night; Breaking the Waves; Get on the Bus; Mission: Impossible; Ransom; Shine; Sling Blade; Swingers; Trainspotting; Welcome to the Dollhouse


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Usually, when I think a movie is bad, I am still able to think of one redeeming feature. But with this ill-conceived Shaquille O'Neal rapping genie vehicle, I am completely unable to come up with one.

And, in alphabetical order...

  • Barb Wire
    Pneumatic Baywatcher Pamela Lee riding a Harley while wearing tight leather and carrying around big machine guns in a futuristic rewrite of Casablanca. Did anyone ever really think that the end result would be anything but high camp?

  • Beavis and Butt-head Do America
    This movie sucks. Heh-heh.

  • Eye for an Eye
    "What do you do when justice fails?" Make an overwrought no-brainer revenge fantasy, apparently.

  • Happy Gilmore
    Adam Sandler can be funny, but not when he plays a character as thoroughly unlikable as a violent hockey-player-turned-golfer in an abysmal laugh-free comedy such as this.

  • Heaven's Prisoners
    More like Hell's Prisoners. Never did I think a movie featuring a nude Teri Hatcher could be so... boring.

  • Mr. Wrong
    Ellen DeGeneres is stalked by psycho boyfriend Bill Pullman. Sounds like wacky, bizarre fun, right? Think again. A dreadful "comedy" that somehow manages to get even worse and worse as it progresses.

  • Mulholland Falls
    An all-star cast is wasted in this slow, dumb, often laughable mystery, which has to be the most brightly lit film "noir" in history.

  • The Quest
    After seeing this film, it's hard to say what's worse: Jean-Claude Van Damme's attempts at acting or his laughably pretentious direction.

  • Striptease
    The ads said, "a comedy where you least expect to find one." I think Columbia's marketing people confused this dull, unfunny mess with Showgirls.

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all movies graded out of four stars (****)

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Images courtesy PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Miramax Films, Empire, The English Patient: The Cave of Swimmers, Hollywood Pictures, DtMM's Disney Collection, Castle Rock Entertainment, October Films, Touchstone Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Request, MGM/UA Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Sony Pictures Entertainment

The Best & Worst of 1996/© Michael Dequina
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