1997 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Friday, April 2, 2021

1997 Leaman Awards

*Last Updated 6/23/2022  

In favor of waiting until I've seen absolutely everything (a bottomless task), I've decided to take a "running list" mentality to the awards. I've got many projects and only so much time so I've just decided to post the awards once I hit a critical mass, mention what I haven't seen and then update them as I (re)watch more 1997 films over time. You can see the last time I've updated it at the top. To help get the projects done, commentary might be light as well - mostly graphics and winners. Enjoy!

1997 Films Seen: 83
Number of Films with A or A+ Grade: 4
Key Films Still to See: n/a

Brief Summary: The cultural memory of this year is dominated by the phenomenon of Titanic. As a teenage boy when it came out, I think I instinctually hated the film simply because it was seen as a "teen girl's romance film" - though I did acknowledge the disaster scenes were done well. Over the years, I've grown to see Titanic as a masterpiece and that's kind of the story with the best films of this year (Contact, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Gattaca); didn't quite get them as a teenager, but slowly came to love them. The year's best is quite top heavy, with three of the top ten finding their way into my top ten of all time at different points of my life. Still, beyond that there are some solid offerings beyond the usual dramas: action entries (Tomorrow Never Dies, Face/Off), comedies (Men in Black, Austin Powers, Wag the Dog), and science fiction (Gattaca, Contact, Fifth Element). 

Not a "best of" list or a "favorite" list - but a list of the films and sequences (action, drama, comedy, & musical) that I think represent the best the year had to offer. So think of it as a strange mixture of favorite, best, and defining. Once you get to the top ten films, it definitely becomes more defined as a Top Ten list of the year. The number one film is my favorite of the year. 

25. The Man Who Knew Too Little (B-)
24. Breakdown (B-)
23. Air Force One (B-)
22. Police Story 4: First Strike (B-)
21. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (B-)
20. Scream 2 (B-)
19. The Sweet Hereafter (B)
18. Wag the Dog (B)
17. Mrs. Brown (B)
16. As Good As It Gets (B)
15. Donnie Brasco (B)
14. Princess Mononoke (B)
13. Face/Off (B)
12. Tomorrow Never Dies (B)
11. Jackie Brown (B)
THE TOP TEN
10. The Game (B)
9. The Rainmaker (B+)
8. The Apostle (B+)
7. Men in Black (B+)
6. Amistad (A-)
5. Gattaca (A-)
4. L.A. Confidential (A)
3. Titanic (A)
2. Good Will Hunting (A+)

1. Contact (A+)
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Mall Chase: Down Escalators & On Carriages" -Mr. Nice Guy
  • "Parking Garage Chase: Bond Remote Controls a BMW" -Tomorrow Never Dies
  • "Trailer Trouble: T-Rex Tips It Over a Cliff" -The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Great:
  • "Finale: Victory Motel Shootout" -L.A. Confidential
  • "Outpost Whiskey: Bug Ambush" -Starship Troopers 
  • "Escape from Carver: Handcuffed Bike Chase in Vietnam" -Tomorrow Never Dies
The Best: "Construction Site Mayhem" -Mr. Nice Guy 
Commentary: I often feel like this sequence (and the movie itself) doesn't quite get the hype it deserves. It's another one of those major set pieces that Jackie does so well where he takes a unique environment (in this case a building under construction) and creatively uses everything in it to his advantage against the bad guys. The premise here is that Jackie sneaks onto this site in order to get his girlfriend back. She is being held by a gangster looking to ensure his deal with another gang goes through okay. Starting off this sequence is a doorway sequence that would make 'Looney Tunes' writers proud. The unfinished building has multiple hallways and the newly installed doors are a bright blue so it becomes this kind of labyrinth where people come and go through doors never knowing what they will find. This kind of live action comedy just isn't done by anyone else, certainly not this well. Kudos to Jackie and Sammo on this sequence alone. Immediately following it is a masterpiece of prop fighting in a construction site. I remember walking through a Home Depot as a kid and imagining what a fight sequence would look like in a store like it and I think this sequence tops anything I could've dreamed. Some of the highlights here include Jackie coming close to a table saw twice, ducks under a grinder, slides down some rollers with style, causing mayhem with firehose and a cement mixer. There's some unfortunate cutting to a separate plotline with some annoying female characters (just how they are written) that brings this sequence down, but it thankfully is short and only barely detracts from run of great gag after gag.  This sequence never fails to put a smile on my face.


FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Give Us, Us Free" –Amistad
  • “Talking to the Members of a Car Wreck, Giving a Chance of Hope” –The Apostle
  • “Partying in the 80s with a Murder-Suicide” – Boogie Nights
  • “A Saboteur Brings Down the Machine” -Contact
  • “Ellie Must Explain her Experience to the Court” -Contact
  • “Soaring into Space/Meeting his End” –Gattaca
  • “Interrogation of the Night Owl Suspects” –L.A. Confidential
  • “Shotgun Chase of the Escaped Night Owl Suspects” -L.A. Confidential
  • "Opening Stab Premiere" –Scream 2
  • "Climbing Over a Knocked Out Killer" –Scream 2
  • “Mitchell learns of his daughter being HIV positive over the phone” –The Sweet Hereafter
  • “Rose is Drawn by Jack” –Titanic
  • “Mr. Murdock shoots a passenger and then takes his own life” –Titanic 
The Great:
  • "Recounting the Middle Passage" –Amistad
  • “Drug Deal Gone Bad to An 80’s Mix Tape” -Boogie Nights
  • “Preparing to Enter the Pod/Traveling/Meeting the Aliens” -Contact
  • “It’s Not Your Fault” -Good Will Hunting
  • “Regret and Meeting his Wife in a Bar” -Good Will Hunting
  • “Rose Passes Away and is Greeted by the Others on the Ship and Jack on the Stairway” –Titanic
  • “Nearer My God To Thee: The Band plays as Several Characters Meet a Watery Death” –Titanic
  • “The Titanic Cracks, Bobs and Goes Under as Passengers Fall Off and Hang On” -Titanic 
The Best:  “Taster’s Choice Moment for Men at the Pond” -Good Will Hunting
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
Not a category I kept good track of - One of the toughest TBH
The Very Good:
  • n/a 
The Great:
  • n/a
The Best: n/a


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • “The Whole Family Sings a Love Song Out to Dinner” -My Best Friend’s Wedding 
The Great:
  • n/a 
The Best: n/a 

BEST DIRECTOR
Nominees:
  • James Cameron Titanic
  • Curtis Hanson L.A. Confidential
  • Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting
  • Steven Spielberg Amistad
  • Robert Zemeckis Contact

FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLE
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • Boogie Nights
  • Good Will Hunting
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Titanic

FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Matt Damon Good Will Hunting
  • Robert Duvall The Apostle
  • Ethan Hawke Gattaca
  • Ian Holm The Sweet Hereafter
  • Djimon Hounsou Amistad
  • Tommy Lee Jones Men in Black
  • Jude Law Gattaca
  • Jack Nicholson As Good As It Gets
  • Kevin Spacey L.A. Confidential
  • Robin Williams Good Will Hunting

FAVORITE FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Joan Allen The Ice Storm
  • Kim Basinger L.A. Confidential
  • Judi Dench Mrs. Brown
  • Minnie Driver Good Will Hunting
  • Jodie Foster Contact
  • Pam Grier Jackie Brown
  • Helen Hunt As Good As It Gets
  • Julianne Moore Boogie Nights
  • Uma Thurman Gattaca
  • Kate Winslet Titanic

FAVORITE SCREENPLAY
(original or adapted)
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • The Apostle
  • Contact
  • Donnie Brasco
  • Gattaca
  • Good Will Hunting
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Men in Black
  • Titanic
  • Wag the Dog

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees: n/a


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees:
  • Anastasia
  • Hercules
  • Princess Mononoke

BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees:
  • Contact
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Jackie Brown
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Titanic

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • Boogie Nights
  • Contact
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Titanic

BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • Kundun
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Men in Black
  • Titanic

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees:
  • Contact
  • The Fifth Element
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  • Starship Troopers
  • Titanic

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees:
  • Contact
  • Kundun
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Men in Black
  • Titanic

BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Con Air
  • Contact
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  • Men in Black
  • Titanic
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • Boogie Nights
  • Kundun
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Titanic

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Amistad
  • Boogie Nights
  • Men in Black
  • Mrs. Brown
  • Titanic

BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees:
  • Air Force One
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  • The Man Who Knew Too Little
  • Vegas Vacation

MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees:
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Titanic

MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM
Nominees:
  • Batman & Robin
  • Chasing Amy
  • The Ice Storm

MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Contact
  • Double Team
  • The Man Who Knew Too Little 

MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Boogie Nights
  • Chasing Amy
  • The Ice Storm

WORST FILM
Nominees:
  • Chasing Amy
  • Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
  • The Postman

BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Nominees:
  • Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Grosse Point Blank, & Princess Mononoke)

ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Michael Ironside in Starship Troopers

THE END!

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