|The Year of Spielberg...|
Alright, so the 1993 Fisti Awards have been completed (in my head at least) and are being put to computer as we speak so within the next few weeks expect them to get dropped here. YAY! In all honesty, I started this blog with the sole purpose of posting my personal awards and so whenever I get the chance to complete a film year and post my personal ballots I get extra excited. In all the excitement, I wanted to take a few minutes to actually talk about the film year because this was the hardest time I had narrowing any of the categories down. I mean, there is so much variety in this year and so much to gravitate towards that narrowing down to twelve, let alone five, was a nightmare.
I’m just going to breakdown Best Picture at the moment, since it’ll be the first award I actually post here on the blog.
1993 saw Oscar chose some pretty diverse films themselves, which is always nice to see. They went with the obvious Holocaust biopic, adapted from an acclaimed book and directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, but the rest of their ballot showed a surprising range from taunt, thrilling Blockbuster to provoking period piece to an erotic indie from Australia and an Irish biopic. Despite the fact that I personally would only consider two of these films in my top ten (another was very close to making it) you can’t argue the strength of this lineup. Only one of the films, for me anyways, was a poor one (‘In the Name of the Father’ was just messy) but even that one had redeeming factors.
Still, this top five only scratches the surface of how awesome this year was as a whole.
So, I figured I’d use my personal top twelve to showcase the diversity of the year in question. My top twelve contains everything from cult classics, prestige Oscar fare, foreign films, animated films, musicals, comedies, auteur films and indie gems. In each category you can see the range in the year’s offerings.
First, three foreign films make my top twelve. One is an operatic film from Hong Kong (‘Farewell My Concubine’), one is a lighter family drama from France (‘My Favorite Season’) and one is the start of a very intriguing and powerful trilogy from Poland (‘Blue’). All three films are extremely different, which is something I love. ‘Blue’ is a very progressive character study that touches upon some themes like isolation and depression and does so with an air of liberation. ‘Farewell My Concubine’ combs similar themes with a more impassioned stance, dramatizing the drama with rousing effect. ‘My Favorite Season’ takes a look at the bonds that form between siblings and the life they can take on through the course of time. It is lighter in tone than the other two films, but it still manages to dissect some pretty complex themes (emotional incest) and leaves a lasting impression.
‘Blue’ could also count as auteur work, considering that Kieslowski is considered by many (including myself) to be a true auteur. The term itself is widely debated and completely subjected, so for the sake of my personal opinion, I’m going to say that Woody Allen, Jane Campion and Robert Altman are (were) also auteurs. I know I’m excluding some others that have huge fan bases and could be considered auteurs (we’ll get to them in a minute) but for this breakdown we’re going with my opinion as law.
Of these four auteurs, we have vastly different offerings. We already considered ‘Blue’, but ‘The Piano’, ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ and ‘Short Cuts’ have absolutely nothing in common. ‘The Piano’ is a richly textured story about one woman’s emotional and sexual awakening. ‘Short Cuts’ is a tapestry piece that has biblical context as well as a diverse array of character development (thanks in large part to the source material) and ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ is one of Woody Allen’s more hilarious romps, a truly inspired spoof on the world of Alfred Hitchcock with an impressive cast and some truly memorable dialog.
‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ could also be considered more commercial content. It is one of those films that anyone can and would enjoy. You couldn’t really label is a Blockbuster in the same sense of ‘The Fugitive’, but it is more mainstream and accessible than something like ‘Short Cuts’ or ‘The Piano’. In that vein, we have a few other films that peaked audience interest back in 1993 and continue to do so today. Those two films would be ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’; two polar opposites that made a lot of money and continue to be lauded by critics and audiences alike. 1993 was certainly Steven Spielberg’s year. He swept the Oscars with not one but two films. ‘Schindler’s List’, his big winner, was nominated for 12 Oscars and won 7 of them. His Blockbuster that year, ‘Jurassic Park’, was only nominated for 3 Oscars, but it won all 3 of them. That is a total of 10 Oscar wins for Steven’s films. Well, only one of those films lands in my top twelve of the year (the other was very close though) and that film is ‘Jurassic Park’. Sure, it is a tad cheesy and over the top and campy in places, but it is a TON of fun and one of those rewarding summer Blockbusters that still looks and feels fresh and exciting even today. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is one of those holiday tentpoles that is so richly rewarding thanks to the fact that it speaks to the spirit of the holidays without ever feeling like a holiday film. It has so much style and spirit and yet that lingering substance that just gels so naturally with everything around it. Not to mention that it is a musical, and that is an instant plus with me.
‘The Phantom of Christmas’ is more like it, and I completely adore that fact.
An interesting thing about ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is that it is one of those films that is usually linked to a certain director who actually DIDN’T direct it. Everyone thinks of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and Tim Burton in the same breath, and while Burton did pen the source material he did not direct the film; Henry Selick did. Another film this year, that also lands in my top twelve, has that same stigma. ‘True Romance’ is a film that has Quentin Tarantino’s fingerprints all over it, and many would wrongfully assume that he did direct it. He didn’t. Tony Scott did. It is easily Scott’s finest film and his shining moment as a director, honing all of his stylistic trademarks with a script that is fresh, flirty, fun and exciting. It is a clear cult classic (much like ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’) and one that drips with originality.
So far we’ve discussed nine of the twelve films up for Fisti consideration.
That leaves us with three very diverse films, yet all intricate character studies. First, the Oscar nominated ‘The Remains of the Day’. A Merchant Ivory production, this is a period piece, a moody and thought provoking character study that moves at a slow pace and yet completely engulfs the audience in the moody atmosphere. ‘Fearless’ takes on the themes of guilt, loss and faith and gives it a very subtle touch, allowing us to sink into the reality of the situation without the unnecessary dramatics. And then there is ‘Menace II Society’, a film by the Hughes Brothers that really should have been John Singleton’s follow-up to ‘Boyz N the Hood’ (and not that dreadful ‘Poetic Justice’). Brash, abrasive, violent and unflinching, ‘Menace II Society’ is a brilliant look at how life in the hood can corrupt even the most progressive mind.
So there you have it, my complete top twelve films of 1993:
Farewell My Concubine
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Menace II Society
My Favorite Season
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Remains of the Day
Which five do you think will make my final ballot? Which film do you think is going to win? I’ll be honest, there is a clear winner for me, but this year is so strong that I nearly contemplated splitting Picture and Director, but with three films at the tip top of my list I couldn’t decide which Director to award and so I wound up giving both awards to the same film. Be on the lookout for these awards to pop up on the Fisti Awards page for the 90’s soon. They should start being posted by the month’s end. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these twelve films. Which have you seen? Would any of these picks be your favorite of the year? What does your ballot look like? What films would you like to see make my top five? What films did I exclude that you think I should have included?