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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Brenda Blethyn's emotionally raw performance dominates Mike Leigh's searing family drama, an absorbing testament to the power of great acting and direction.
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...
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?
This movie sucks. Heh-heh.
"What do you do when justice fails?" Make an overwrought no-brainer revenge fantasy, apparently.
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.
More like Hell's Prisoners. Never did I think a movie featuring a nude Teri Hatcher could be so... boring.
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.
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.
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.
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.