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CrankyCritic®com Best of '97

141 flicks later it's New Years and the Editor is demanding Cranky's "Best of" lists . . .

. . . which I'd love to deliver but, as always, the end of the year (and the first couple of weeks' of January) are when I catch up on the "independent" films that are getting a buzz. The truth of the matter is that I work a real job, just like many of you, and can't see everything that is. Frankly, there are five or more indie flicks for every "major" studio release, and Cranky ain't Superman.

So, knowing that major buzz indies like The Boxer, Wings of the Dove, The Apostle and Oscar and Lucinda, are yet to be seen, please make do with the following, which may have a couple additions come mid-January.

drumroll please . . .

(in alphabetical order)

Amistad - Specifically for the outstanding performances of Anthony Hopkins, as former President John Quincy Adams and Djimon Hounsou as Cinque, leader of a rebellions of Africans on board a Spanish slave ship. Steven Spielberg recreates a world where politics are grey, where the "right thing to do" is not as clear as it is with hindsight. Amistad is a tale of suffering, true, but it is also a clash of economics and criminal motive. And, yes, I do like Spielberg's history tales, all the way back to Empire of the Sun.  Cranky's Original Review

Donnie Brasco - This story of the FBI infiltration of the lowest levels of the mob feels a little long on second viewing. Even so, across the board, Johnnie Depp, Al Pacino and supporting actress Anne Heche create full blooded characters, with Depp playing it "straight" for the very first time (ie. no quirks to this character). Pacino, who set a standard for mobsters in The Godfather trilogy, turns it on its ear here. Donnie Brasco got buried in the early months of this year, and there was nothing (as far as dramatic flicks go) that came close to it for months.  Cranky's Original Review

Face|Off - a ludicrous concept that pushes the very concept of plastic surgery past the point of ridiculousness. C'mon -- a full face swap? Cranky don't think so. Once you get past that bump, director John Woo coordinates the best action flick of the year. Nicolas Cage is good but John Travolta steals the show.  Cranky's Original Review

The Ice Storm - upset Cranky so much that I didn't write it up. The Ice Storm is a story of surburbanites in Connecticut who started raising babies in the Sixties and saw all those hippie kids having all the sex they wanted to and got insanely depressed about it. Parents whose lives are miserable and empty and the kids who are raised by television and comic books. Then the storm hits and, in its aftermath, everything the parents believed to be important is rendered petty. Audiences didn't like the characters but that wasn't the point. These grownups are pitiful. They're just as small as the kids who are in the process of growing up. Cranky could babble like a film student about this one, so let's move on...

LA Confidential - Another flick the crowds stayed away from, despite the unanimous praise of Cranky and most reviewers. Some say this story of cop corruption and the seedy side of 1950s LA was confusing, but Cranky didn't have that problem. LA Confidential is a compelling story with twists that you never see coming. It features outstanding performances across the board by Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger.   Cranky's Original Review

love jones - probably sold more soundtracks than ticket but here it is on my list. The only "romance" genre this year (and I hate these things with a passion) that got to me. Cranky found love jones to bye funny and sultry and sexy and thankfully lacking in a pat ending.   Cranky's Original Review

Men in Black - There were perhaps half a dozen SF tinged big budget movies this year, but none came close to MiB, in which we discover that the alien INS has classic fashion sense and tongue planted firmly in cheek. Great entertainment and perhaps the best reason for owning a VCR. Cranky saw lots of movies that should have opened on video but very few that he liked so much on the big screen that he couldn't wait to see it again and again on the small. Almost nothing this year was funnier than the talking dog. Period.  Cranky's Original Review

Titanic - A flat out wow. A love story that's been done to death in this year's Henry James adaptations (poor boy + rich girl) is used to set up a grand retelling of the legendary (which is what it is) sinking of the RMS Titanic. The attention to detail, from the A deck to the boiler rooms really does make you feel for this grand lady of ocean liners. While you may care about the characters, you cannot come away from Titanic without mourning the loss of the ship.  Cranky's Original Review

Wag The Dog - this satire of politics and media manipulation is insanely funny, if you don't think about what the flick is saying under the surface. It rolls out in most markets in January, so you are forewarned. A terrific showing by Robert DeNiro as a political advisor and media manipulator, and by Dustin Hoffman as the Hollywood producer who helps him out.  Cranky's Original Review

That's nine. In the tenth slot, I'm slotting two flicks which have the same basic story base and then go off in two different directions. The setting is a steel town in England and the stories are of the men who find themselves out of work with nowhere to go. The Full Monty is the flick you've probably heard the most about, putting out of work (and out of shape) men on stage as strippers. One of the funniest movies of the year. It's counterpart, Brassed Off, leans a bit more to the romantic (with stars of the moment Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald) and political. And it features a kick ass brass band.
  Cranky's Original Full Monty Review
  Cranky's Original Brassed Off Review

Boogie Nights - which was on my best of list right up 'til the end. And in the end, the fact that it was just too long pushed it down to the runner ups.  Cranky's Original Review

Good Will Hunting - is among the best of the indie flicks I've seen this year. Cranky liked it, but not to the point where the film student inside is pounding at my guts raving to let him out.  Cranky's Original Review

Truth or Consequences NM - Kiefer Sutherland's first outing as a director. A tale of hostage taking and victim empathy (aka Stockholm Syndrome), most dismissed it as a Bonnie and Clyde ripoff, but it held far more interest to me. The ending is obvious so early you can pay attention to the acting and Sutherland's directorial work.  Cranky's Original Review

The Wind in the Willows by Monty Python's Terry Jones. This delightful flick probably got trashcanned because Jones couldn't use the "Monty Python" trademark in the title (just my guess). Great for adults who grew up with the book or for those out there with single digit kidlets to entertain.  Cranky's Original Review

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