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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 1993


 

#10: The Bride with White Hair

If you thought Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was hot stuff, check out this Ronny Yu opus made seven years before. Part horror, part fantasy, part martial-arts, part romance, all jaw-dropping.


#9: Remains of the Day

Sure, Merchant-Ivory make tasteful teacup films, but this is arguably the best, carried on the strong backs of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, who turn it into a mournful poem of repression.

 

#8: The Fugitive

So many big-budget thrillers get it wrong that you sort of have to applaud the rare one that gets it so propulsively right. Yeah, it's another TV-show remake, but it's got Tommy Lee Jones with his justifiably Oscar-winning jaded drawl, snappishly telling one of his men to "think me up one of those donuts with the little sprinkles."

 

#7: Menace II Society

The Hughes brothers blasted out of nowhere with this indelible thug-life portrait that had the highs and lows of great opera.


#6: Fun

While Peter Jackson was working on his masterpiece Heavenly Creatures, Rafal Zielinski was shooting this harsher American variation on the same theme. Unstable and occasionally pretentious, but unforgettable, with performances by Renee Humphrey and especially Alicia Witt that stand shoulder to shoulder with those in Jackson's film.

 

#5: Army of Darkness

Whether you see the hacked theatrical version or the longer (and, I think, far better) director's cut with the preferred ending, Sam Raimi's third Evil Dead outing (it really should have been called Medieval Dead) offers enough goofiness for a month of Saturday nights.

 

#4: Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

Anyone who's read Gould's essays (or read anything about him) knows the depth of his mystery and eccentricity, and director Francois Girard honors both. In its stylistically cluttered way, it celebrates the potential of movies much the same way Gould sought to expand the possibilities of his medium. This one's for anyone who cares about music...

 

#3: Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography

...and this one's for anyone who cares about movies. Not remotely the dry lecture-hall piece you'd expect, it's a lavishly illustrated tour of the greatest-looking great films, with interviews with first-rank cinematographers past and present. It'll drastically reduce your tolerance for boring-looking movies -- one viewing of this and you've seen countless examples of what movie art can be.

 

#2: Clean, Shaven

Why is this obscure art-house oddity at #2? Because it rocks. Lodge Kerrigan's obsessive portrait of a schizophrenic man (Peter Greene of Pulp Fiction, in one of the more amazing unseen performances) downloads into your brain like a trance, pulling you into its shattered world.

 

#1: Schindler's List

What was I gonna do, not pick this? In many ways the ideal marriage of director and material -- Spielberg never lets this over-three-hour epic bog down, speeding it along without resorting to his usual dollies and crane shots. The acting and screenwriting are about as good as it gets -- Ralph Fiennes should've gotten one of those Oscars they were handing out. Spielberg at his most committed and vital.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Peter Jackson's giggling piece of mayhem Dead Alive ... Steven Spielberg's other film that year, Jurassic Park, lame script and all (hey, tell me that first T. rex appearance didn't ruin your pants) ... Bill Murray in the charming Groundhog Day and the quirky Mad Dog and Glory ... Timothy Hutton handing in two fine performances in George Romero's The Dark Half ... the light-as-air date movies Benny & Joon and Much Ado About Nothing ... Ray Muller's long, fascinating documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl ... Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne tearing up the screen in the otherwise nothing-special What's Love Got to Do With It ... Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock making an amusing team in Demolition Man ... Barry Sonnenfeld and Paul Rudnick serving up more subversive Grand Guignol in Addams Family Values ... David Cronenberg's atypical M. Butterfly ... Tim Burton's eyeball-feast The Nightmare Before Christmas ... Mike Myers in the naggingly funny So I Married an Axe Murderer ... Great performances in okay films: Debra Winger in Shadowlands, Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, and Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.


SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION

 
Before Tarantino was really Tarantino, True Romance introduced his garrulous style of violent comedy to multiplexes (his Reservoir Dogs had only played in art houses). Tony Scott directs with his usual hollow glitz, but he can't dilute the pleasure of watching veteran bad-asses like Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken (who have a justifiably famous scene together), and the cast all around boasts the kind of talent that isn't usually attracted to shoot-'em-ups.


Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 1993

 

#10: Jason Goes to Hell

The overdue death of Jason Voorhees. Offers a new wrinkle in slasher-film morality; the "fuck-and-die" motif becomes "fuck-without-a-condom-and-die."

 

#9: Short Cuts

Robert Altman's embittered epic ramble is no Nashville, nor does it approach the finely calibrated characterization of the Raymond Carver stories it's based on. Like the later Magnolia, it has a killer cast, some genuinely fine moments ... it just doesn't add up to anything.

 

#8: Boxing Helena

Jennifer Chambers Lynch (daughter of David) stumbled badly with her monotonous and annoying debut. I don't hold it up to the standards of her father's work, but of her own previous work -- she did a fine and painful job ghostwriting The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. The movie is obviously meant to be a metaphor for something or other, and if you can get past Julian Sands' peerlessly irritating performance, knock yourself out looking for the deeper meaning.

 

#7: A Perfect World

A year after Clint Eastwood places high on my Best list, he lands on my Worst. Easy come, easy go. It's nothing he does wrong, really -- the script might've been enough for an hour's worth of TV drama, but it's padded out to 137 minutes, and it gets awfully manipulative towards the home stretch.

 

#6: Guilty as Sin

High-gloss sleaze with Don Johnson as an accused lady-killer defended by uncertain attorney Rebecca De Mornay. Directed by Sidney Lumet, of all people, who couldn't possibly have had his heart in it.

 

#5: The Good Son

Joseph Ruben wasting his talent on a Bad Seed retread. The novelty of Macaulay Culkin as a stone-faced nutcase was supposed to pack 'em in, but it didn't. The young Elijah Wood, giving a sincerely felt performance as if the movie deserved one, is the only reason to bother with it.

 

#4: Falling Down

Likewise, Michael Douglas is the only reason to bother with this recklessly stupid, audience-pandering hunk of hollow catharsis, in which incipient psycho Douglas is mad as hell and isn't gonna take it any more.

 

#3: Last Action Hero

A deconstructionist blockbuster! Interesting idea, but an expensive stupid explosion that comments on the stupidity of expensive stupid explosions is still an expensive stupid explosion.

 

#2: National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1

What's the point of parodying something (the Lethal Weapon series) that was already a self-parody? Fortunately it wasn't long before Samuel L. Jackson finally moved beyond crap like this.

 

#1: The Crush

Alicia Silverstone making a less-than-auspicious debut as a teen psycho-bitch who makes life difficult for Cary Elwes and intelligent moviegoers. Ridiculous from top to bottom.


SPECIAL DISHONORABLE MENTION

 
Jane Campion's The Piano gets points for being visually textured -- not to mention so defiantly odd -- but in outline this isn't much different from the usual Harlequin Romance in which Our Heroine suffers with a Stick in the Mud before finding true love and passion with a Burly Man of Nature. "This movie," growled Pauline Kael, "congratulates its heroine for every damn thing she does."


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