1991 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Saturday, July 16, 2022

1991 Leaman Awards


 *Last Updated 8/27//2022  


1991 Films Seen: 58
Number of Films with 'A' or 'A+': 3
Key Films Still to See: Flight of the Intruder, For the Boys, Rambling Rose

Brief Summary: 1991 continued a trend of high quality genre entries dominating the best film list. In 1990 we saw a gangster film, revisionist western, and a bloody science fiction actioner top my list and 1991 The Silence of the Lambs the the crime genre, Terminator 2 in science fiction, and City Slickers in western comedy. There's other strong films worth seeking out here but be prepared for a list that drops off fairly steeply in overall quality pretty quickly.

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. 

Honorable Mentions: Cape Fear, Father of the Bride

25. Doc Hollywood (B-)
24. Regarding Henry (B-)
23. Fired Green Tomatoes (B-)
22. Toy Soldiers (B-)
21. Sleeping with the Enemy (B-)
20. New Jack City (B-)
19. Grand Canyon (B-)
18. Point Break (B-)
17. Once Upon a Time in China (B-)
16. Barton Fink (B-)
15. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (B-)
14. Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (B)
13. Backdraft (B)
12. Raise the Red Lantern (B)
11. The Fisher King (B)

THE TOP TEN
10. Out for Justice (B)
9. Beauty and the Beast (B)
8. Soapdish (B)
7. Thelma & Louise (B+)
6. JFK (B+)

5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (B+): While Wrath of Khan might be the most popular pick for "Best Star Trek Film", my vote is for entry that plays out like a cold war morality tale. Playing the role of Russia as a falling empire are the Klingons and the Federation play the role of the United States (or maybe NATO). To help ease into a peaceful transition the Federation sends Captain Kirk's team on a diplomatic mission with the Klingon leadership. After an awkward state dinner, Kirk's ship mysteriously fires upon the Klingon's and two assassins slip on board and kill the Klingon leader. Captain Kirk and Dr. Bones are then tried for the murder and sent to a Klingon prison. The rest of the movie is Kirk (getting out of prison) and Spock unraveling the mysterious murders and keeping the peace. The film feels like a high quality sci-fi production (the best the original crew ever looked and sounded) and thanks to Nicholas Meyer's strong direction keeps an engaging pace without ever flagging. As a history fan I enjoyed the parallels and reflections on the conclusion of the cold war. As a Star Trek fan, I enjoyed seeing the old crew back together, solving another mystery, and giving us another dose of their great chemistry. A nice two for one film.

4. Boyz in the Hood (A-): John Singleton's filmmaking debut was the iconic and insightful south central L.A. set Boyz in the Hood. It's one of the first inside looks in to the complicated circumstances and relationships that pervade those who grow up in those homes and streets. It largely plays out as a drama tracking the lives of several young boys and their families over several decades. It's surprisingly empathetic without sacrificing its ability to make judgements on the characters.  A powerful story that continues to resonate today.

3. City Slickers (B+): I consider this one of the ten essential Westerns you should watch.. Near the beginning of the film, on his 39th birthday Billy Crystal tells his station manager, “Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I'm ever gonna do, this is the best I'm ever gonna feel... and it ain't that great?” He’s in midlife crisis mode. His friends, played by Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern, are also broken men in different ways. Together they decide to go on a two week vacation to the New Mexico where they can be cowboys and drive a herd – they think it will help them “find their smile” and figure things out. Figuring out the secret of life, dealing with death, these are pretty deep things to deal with for a comedy right? The film is surprisingly able to juggle these hefty themes along with a lot of great comedy. The men arrive at the ranch, meet their tripmates, and trail bosses – the head of which is manly man Curly. Jack Palance’s Curly is an iconic performance as the grizzled cowboy boss who loves the life and doesn’t suffer fools; he has great chemistry with Crystal. In fact, the whole cast really has great chemistry – especially the three leads. City Slickers is one of those movies that is able to wring a lot of comedy out of a genre picture while simultaneously embracing many of the things that make Westerns great. In other words, it doesn’t need to cut the genre down to get most of its laughs. This isn’t the East coast looking down its nose at flyover country – everyone is fair game here. By the time our three leads are guiding a herd across a river to the swelling of the outstanding film score – it’s hard not feel the awe and wonder that would be normal in a movie like Red River. City Slickers isn’t perfect, I’m find the “find what matters most in your life and center yourself around it” secular philosophy to be a dud, but it surprisingly hits powerfully in many other areas – the biggest being genuine and hearty laughs. It's my favorite "Western" comedy.

2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (A): A science fiction icon that deserves every bit of its praise. I was around eight years old when the film came out and I remember the cultural impact the film made and how its violence became a controversial flashpoint. Not allowed to watch it at a young age, I think I eventually first saw it in 1992 when on a trip with my father. I've seen it numerous times since, it's an incredibly re-watchable film. Cameron's great idea here is to bring back Arnold's Schwarzenegger's menacing Terminator and instead of a bad guy, he has been captured, re-wired, and sent back in time to become a guardian protector of John Connor - a kid who is vital to the future resistance. The threat facing John Connor is an upgraded Terminator, the T-1000 that is made of liquid metal and can morph into anything it touches, sent back in time to take John out. Cameron takes this simple science fiction premise and uses it as a vehicle for all-time great action sequences (the final act is one legendary set piece after another) and a chance to explore the implications of fate and, in an unexpected surprise, a surprisingly touching reflection on fatherhood. Everyone is on their A-game here: Cameron's never produced better set pieces, Arnold is at his most charismatic while he is trashing people in action scenes and whipping out funny lines, John Connor is perfect as a punk kid with limits, and Linda Hamilton is fully transformed into the butt-kicking conspiracy theorist. A great science fiction film and an even greater action film. 

1. The Silence of the Lambs (A+): Is it a strange thing to say that this is my favorite serial killer movie of all-time? I guess I could put it more politely and say that it's my favorite "crime" film of all-time...that's better right? For whatever reason, especially as a young adult, I had a fascination with crime stories - especially serial killer stories. There's just something inherently fascinating to me about a human who has crossed a sacred line of humanity into great evil. What can we do in the face of it? I know I'm not alone here; the history of cinema and television being filled with crime and murder stories demonstrates many of you are fascinated by it too. So what is it about The Silence of the Lambs that makes it stand out from so many of the other crime stories? For my tastes, the film features one of the best fictional crime stories ever told, layered that story with just the right thematic strands, and executed it all with the unmatched craft. In other words, it's everything I think a great crime story should be. For a deeper explanation how this crime genre masterpiece and member of my Film Bible combines story, characters, and craft to present the question "What do you see when you look at people?" as a key to solving the issue of evil (big or small) click HERE


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Lost Boys and Peter Pan Take on Captain Hook and His Pirates" -Hook
  • "Ambushed by Chateau Villains Leads to a Car Chase & Shootout at the Port" -Once a Thief
  • "Spain Motorcycle Stunt Fest" -Operation Condor (Commentary)
  • "Wind Tunnel Fight" -Operation Condor (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Stopping a Hanging...and a Wedding" -Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • "Escape from the Mental Ward...and the T-1000" -Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Great:
  • "Ladder Fight Finale: Wong Fei-Hung vs. Iron Vest Yim" -Once Upon a Time in China (Commentary)
  • "From the Mall to the Aquaduct: The Termiantors First Encounter" -Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Best: "Finale: Destroying Cyberdyne to Steel Mill Fight with T-1000" -Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Commentary: A finale for the ages. It covers the entire third act of the film and takes place in three distinct phases. It begins when Sarah, John, the T101, and Miles Dyson break into Cyberdyne to destroy his work and save the human race. A silent alarm gets tripped and the police begin to surround the building. A showdown is inevitable and this is the first major phase – the shootout. Arnold kicks it off by pushing a desk through the second story window and then strafing the cops with a mini-gun followed by taking out cop cares with a grenade launcher. It’s an awesome sight with lots of destruction and the comedic payoff of zero casualties. The police respond with a SWAT team infiltration and a shootout occurs in the Cyberdyne offices – taking down Miles Dyson and causing a huge explosion in the process (reminded me a lot of the great explosion in Die Hard) – with a great wide shot of it and a helicopter as well. The heroes make it to the lobby where tear gas is used, but T-101 takes out the SWAT team with crippling shots to the knees and then using the tear gas gun for the rest outside. He gets a SWAT truck, drives it into the building, and gets the Connors out. A highway chase then occurs between the heroes in the SWAT truck and the T-1000 in a helicopter. This is the second phase of the finale and it’s an amazing “car chase” sequence in its own right. I love the shots of T-1000 flying with multiple arms and shooting an assault rifle with additional ones. Eventually T-101 slams the breaks causing the helicopter to slam into the back of the SWAT truck. T-1000 gets a semi-truck hauling liquid nitrogen and the heroes get into a smaller truck. They get rammed several times and Arnold decides to shoot grenades at it, but it doesn’t work so he jumps up onto the semi’s hood and fire an assault weapon directly at T-1000. It’s an awesome stunt shot wide for clarity. I LOVE IT. It causes the semi to flip crash and bust all the liquid nitrogen open. We get an amazing visual effect of the T-1000 freezing and breaking. What luck that he landed in a steel mill, because the high temperatures heat him back up and we enter the third phase of this sequence, the “killer hunt” in the steel mill. This one plays out more like the first Terminator film with the T-1000 slowly stalking the heroes who are hobbled and scared. I love how after the liquid nitrogen sequence we keep getting shots of the T-1000 as kind of dysfunctional and shapeshifting when he doesn’t want to. Eventually the two terminators face off one on one and it’s not much a fight. They go back and forth, but T-1000 is stronger and Arnold’s left arm gets crushed in a gear and he is trapped and forced to amputate it. They fight again later and Arnold is crushed by an I-beam and stabbed with a steel pole. We hit the end phase when the T-1000 impersonates Sarah to draw John out. Thankfully, those morphing dysfunctions give him away, but Sarah uses repeated shotgun blasts to knock him back, needing just ONE MORE to put him into the steel furnace. At the last second, Arnold arrives and fires a grenade into him, exploding him apart and dropping him into the steel furnace where he dies morphing into his many forms from the film. It’s a classic finale and death sequence for an all-time great action sequence that tries to do it all. Bravo James Cameron and everyone who worked on it.


FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Barton Meets Studio Chief Lipnick for the First Time" -Barton Fink
  • "Tre is Pulled Over, Intimidated, and then Rages at the World" -Boyz in the Hood
  • “Ricky is Shot and Brought Home” –Boyz in the Hood
  • "Driving the Herd Across the River & Saving Norman" -City Slickers
  • "Jack Realizes His Radio Show has Led to Murder” –The Fisher King
  • "Parry Tells the Story of the Fisher King” –The Fisher King
  • "Glover's Tow Truck Breaks Up a Car Robbery" -Grand Canyon
  • "Peter's Return to Flight & Rufio's Acceptance" -Hook
  • “Thoughts are Revealed Fireside in the Desert” -My Own Private Idaho
  • “Skydiving for a Rush” -Point Break
  • “Opening: Then I Shall be a Concubine” –Raise the Red Lantern
  • "Pep Talk with Bradley - I Don't Like Who I Was" -Regarding Henry
  • “Lecter and Starling First Meet” –The Silence of the Lambs
  • "Quid Pro Quo Discussion" -The Silence of the Lambs
  • "Sarah Finds the Strength to Take Down Martin" -Sleeping with the Enemy
  • "Dinner for the First Time with the Klingons" –Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • “T-100 Must Self-Terminate” –Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • "Thelma Convinces Louise to Keep Driving" –Thelma & Louise
  • "Out & Back: Getting Info on Terrorists to Authorities" -Toy Soldiers
The Great:
  • "The Magic Bullet - Shooting on Trial" -JFK
  • “Basement Nightmare: Starling vs Buffalo Bill” -The Silence of the Lambs
  • “Lecter Escapes from his Hotel Prison” -The Silence of the Lambs
The Best: “Lecter and Starling Discuss the Screaming Lambs and Share a Touch” –The Silence of the Lambs
Commentary: There are only a handful of meetings between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, but they are a core of the film. Lecter knows who Buffalo Bill is and Clarice's task is to try and get it out of him. Their meetings feel like sparring matches with the intelligent and manipulative Lecter often analyzing and putting his finger on soft spots in Starling's psyche. In this particular meeting, Starling is under pressure to discover Bill before he murders a Senator's daughter but Lecter forces Starling to tell the story of her deepest fear. We learn that a young Starling witnessed the slaughtering of lambs at a relatives farm and couldn't forget their screaming. It was a traumatic experience for her. The connection here is that Starling's distaste for the screaming hurting lambs is a source of drive for her F.B.I work; she wants to silence the lambs (roll credits) by taking down those who slaughter them. There's other layers here to this scene, but it's one of the great character exchanges in cinema and it ends with Lecter handing back a case file to Clarice and in doing so slowly grazing his finger across her hand. It's an unexpected moment, played like a shocking violation, and just emphasizes their unorthodox and chilling relationship.


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Didn't keep great track of this category initially
The Very Good:
  • "Wednesday and Pugsley Put on a Bloody Performance at the Play" -The Addams Family
  • "All the Participants Meet Each Other" -City Slickers
  • "Helping a Cow Give Birth" -City Slickers
  • "Montage: Doc Spends His First Day Dealing with Various Patients" -Doc Hollywood
  • "Lost Boys Dinner: Peter Wins the Insult Battle & Believes" -Hook
  • "Dead Meat Runs Through All the Curses" -Hot Shots!
  • "Topper and Ramada Make Love" -Hot Shots!
  • "Frank Tries to Escape As Series of Objects Fall on the Dr" -Naked Gun 2 & 1/2: The Smell of Fear
  • "The 'Laughing Bandit' is Forced to Do Many Takes by a Bad Actress" -The Rocketeer
The Great:
  • "Frank Fights Off a Killer in Jane's Bathroom" -Naked Gun 2 & 1/2: The Smell of Fear
The Best: "Wind Tunnel Fight" -Operation Condor 
Commentary: While fighting against some goons looking for gold in an underground Nazi bunker, Jackie stumbles into a giant wind tunnel testing facility. His female companions, dumber thank a box of rocks, start hitting a bunch of buttons in the control room and we are gifted with the best comedy sequence of the entire movie. The gimmick here is that Jackie is trying to fight off two goons while the wind keeps changing direction and force, sometimes pushing them into the back wall and sometimes sucking them into a giant fan. This fight allegedly took weeks to film and it's not hard to see why. Jackie makes great comic use of the fight’s gimmick, especially once he gets used to the system and begins using it to his advantage. There is a great silent comedy aspect to the moment he is fighting against the wind and sticks his hand out straight only to have it wack back on one of his opponents. As an action sequence, it’s pretty good, but as an action comedy one – this is really fun stuff; incredibly playful, creative, and physical, I can think of no real equals to this fight.


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Only one film I saw this year featured musical sequences!
The Very Good:
  • "Gaston" -Beauty and the Beast
  • "Morrison on Drugs Perform a Crude 'The End' & Upsets the Club" -The Doors 
  • "On Stage & Backstage: Hanging Out & Dancing to Oldies" -Sleeping with the Enemy
The Great:
  • "Be Our Guest" -Beauty and the Beast
  • "Beauty and the Beast" -Beauty and the Beast
  • "Something There" -Beauty and the Beast
The Best: "Belle" -Beauty and the Beast
Commentary: My favorite musical sequence of the year comes right at the beginning of Beauty and he Beast. It's one of those awesome introduction sequences that by the time they are finished have told us almost everything we need to know about the story: we learn about Belle, what she is like, what she yearns for, the town she lives in and how they view her, and about Gaston and his quest to claim her. It's not just an efficient sequence setting up the story, it's a genuinely peppy, fun, and memorable song that's fun to sing along with. For my personal tastes, I like that it also isn't hampered by any of the Belle/Beast relationship stuff that I think has some issues.

BEST DIRECTOR
Nominees:
  • James Cameron Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Jonathan Demme The Silence of the Lambs
  • John Singleton Boyz in the Hood
  • Oliver Stone JFK
  • Ron Underwood City Slickers
Commentary: The story and themes of The Silence of the Lambs are all pulled together by Jonathan Demme's direction. He makes all the right craft decisions to pull off a thrilling crime story - the set pieces of Lecter's shocking escape and Starlings horrifying basement encounter with Buffalo Bill are masterful sequences of executions. Demme also brings an insightful eye to see more depth and resonance in the story by highlighting the film's key themes without ever letting them distract. It's quite a balancing act: story first and message/theme driven by it. A lot of directors today flip that around.


FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLE
Nominees:
  • Boyz in the Hood
  • City Slickers
  • The Fisher King
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Grand Canyon
  • JFK
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Soapdish
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Thelma & Louise 
Commentary: The one-two punch of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins is enough of a duo to win the award here, but the rest of the cast is excellent as well. Scott Glenn's portrayal of Jack Crawford, the FBI agent in charge of the case and overseeing Starling, is able to both be a true mentor to Starling and is able to acknowledge his role in using, manipulating, and insulting her at times. Lesser films and performances would have turned him into flat bad guy. Anthony Heald's Dr. Chilton is a memorable greasy weasel. Perhaps the greatest and bravest contribution to the ensemble came from Ted Levine's Buffalo Bill in a difficult and thankless role. His Bill is not Hollywood villain like Lecter (who we are okay enjoying), but is a character inhabited to fully that Levine is indelibly connected with it. It can't have been good for his acting career. 


FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Jeff Bridges The Fisher King
  • Billy Crystal City Slickers
  • Ice Cube Boyz in the Hood
  • Robert DeNiro Cape Fear
  • Laurence Fishburne Boyz in the Hood
  • Anthony Hopkins The Silence of the Lambs
  • Kevin Kline Soapdish
  • Ted Levine The Silence of the Lambs
  • Robert Patrick Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Jack Palance City Slickers
  • River Phoenix My Own Private Idaho
  • Alan Rickman Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Wesley Snipes New Jack City
  • John Turturro Barton Fink
  • Robin Williams The Fisher King
Commentary: Anthony Hopkins, known for being able to play refined characters, turned out to be a perfect choice for the serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter. His performance of Lecter is cold, calculating, and restrained. You get the feeling from his eyes that there is always a different agenda going on in Lecter's mind than just what he is stating. He is direct and talkative yet always difficult to read. He is an iconic villain for good reason. Lecter is a well educated psychologist, an elite of our society who enjoys finer things, who the public must trust with their deepest secrets. Lecter's willingness to cross the line into the evils of murder and cannibalism scares us because we have an unspoken assumption that education and refinement put people beyond that realm. Anthony Hopkins brings that fear to life.


FAVORITE FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Kathy Bates Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Judy Davis Barton Fink
  • Geena Davis Thelma & Louise
  • Sally Field Soapdish
  • Jodie Foster The Silence of the Lambs
  • Linda Hamilton Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Gong Li Raise the Red Lantern
  • Mary-Louise Parker Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Amanda Plummer The Fisher King
  • Mercedes Ruehl The Fisher King
  • Susan Sarandon Thelma & Louise
Commentary: Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling is one of my favorite performances. Foster is able to convey the inexperience, insecurity, and innocence of young Starling thrust into situations that call for a front of bravado and courage. She's a very smart character, but she has to hide it. Her performance, along with the insightful screenplay, demonstrates that she's learned to conceal many of her strengths that can threaten the men in power that so populate her career field. Her interactions with Hannibal Lecter are legendary not just for their playful dialogue, but the sense that two characters who have an instant chemistry and are playing a serious game with each other, cutting deep at each other's weaknesses and insecurities. After her courageous first interview of Lecter, we see Foster weeping by her car, memories of her father flooding her thoughts. The very next shot is her on the firing range. This is Clarice Starling, one of the great underdog characters of all-time struggling against obstacles against the world - hoping that will, intelligence, and goodness will help overcome the obstacles and evils of our world. 


FAVORITE SCREENPLAY
(original or adapted)
Nominees:
  • Boyz in the Hood
  • City Slickers
  • The Fisher King
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • JFK
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Soapdish
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Thelma & Louise
Commentary: Ted Tally's Silence of the Lambs screenplay is a masterful adaptation of Thomas Harris's crime novel. The film works as an engaging great crime story first and foremost. It's a well structured police procedural where we slowly unravel the mystery and get a couple wonderful action/crime set pieces along the way. The screenplay also allows for rounded characters like Clarice Starling to have a satisfying story arc and iconic villains like Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lector. Going further, the screenplay adeptly weaves the themes of justice, suffering, and the female experience of male dominated society without ever letting it distract from the story or turn the characters into an agenda. For my tastes this is a near perfect screenplay.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees:
  • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
  • Madonna: Truth or Dare
Commentary: n/a


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees:
  • An American Tale: Fievel Goes West
  • Beauty and the Beast 
Commentary: 1991 was an odd time for animation as Disney was hitting their stride (in what would become another golden age run for them), Don Bluth's studio wasn't producing much, and Spielberg's follow-up to the 1986 hit An American Tale was pretty underwhelming. It's not a surprise to see Beauty and the Beast top this category as it is a beautiful piece of animation with an incredible musical score and song list. I don't quite think it deserved to be nominated for best picture (I have several problems with the basic story and its central themes), but I understand why people get wrapped up in the film and consider the soundtrack to be a masterpiece. It's really the one standout of the category this year. 
BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees:
  • City Slickers
  • JFK
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Commentary: Oliver Stone's dive into the murky swamps of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy might not be a good piece of history, but it's excellent cinema. While I will always tell people up front that I don't think it stands the test of historical scholarship, I do think the experience of watching JFK conveys perfectly well what it's like to start tugging on loose ends of stories and finding things unwind until you see conspiracy behind every corner. Aside from the production values and acting, the editing is the single biggest reason for the success of the film. There's so much exposition and "talking" in this near three hour movie, yet thanks to the editing, it absolutely zips by and its over before you know it. One of the great achievements in editing in cinematic history.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees:
  • Backdraft
  • JFK
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day 
Commentary: Perhaps the strongest technical aspect in making The Silence of the Lambs such a powerful viewing experience is the cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. The film just looks weary of evil. The color palette is desaturated and any exterior shots of nature, buildings, and landscapes or interior shots of rooms, hallways, and vehicles feel cold, distant, and tired like a permanent season of late fall has settled on the world with winter always threatening to arrive. The single most powerful craft decision is also a Jonathan Demme film staple - the use of first perspective. This proves a powerful way to puts us into the shoes of Clarice Starling's experience by constantly using the camera to give us direct perspective: sometimes hers, sometimes someone elses. This is used to great effect in the basement compound when Bill puts on the night vision goggles and we get his perspective as he hunts and observes a startled Starling. She an object to hunt, something to play with in this scene. How can we begin understanding evil? The film seems to be suggesting that it begins with how we see others. Are they mere objects? 


BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees:
  • The Addams Family
  • Bugsy
  • Hook
  • Once Upon a Time in China
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • The Rocketeer
Commentary: Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China represents a huge shift in kung fu film mentality: a step into the big budget prestige market. Unlike the trend of making historical kung fu films on the cheap with fairly basic sets, silly costumes, and lots of slapstick humor - Once Upon a Time in China opted for large recreations of historical Chinese settings with tons of extras in authentic costumes. Despite that giant step forward, it doesn't quite match the level of immersion and detail in 1930s-40s Los Angeles and Vegas that Bugsy does. I may not have found the story as good as other crime sagas of its era (Goodfellas and the Godfather tower over it) there's no denying the love and care put into getting the time period right.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees:
  • Backdraft
  • Hook
  • The Rocketeer
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Commentary: The opening of Terminator 2 was a game-changer in many ways. While it wasn't the first sci-fi blockbuster to be rated R (Total Recall did that a year earlier, also starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), it was the first to become the highest grossing film of the year and the first to heavily feature and creatively incorporate fancy computer generated graphics. All the cool practical effects from the first film have returned but done better; lots of miniatures for the future warfare scenes and robotics with special make-up for the gory Terminator moments where the skin pulls back. On top of that has been added a liquid metal effect for the new Terminator, the T-1000. The creative integration of this effect (showing impacts of bullets, morphing between different people, walking through metal bars) was ground breaking, still largely holds up today, and is now an iconic aspect of visual effects history.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees:
  • Backdraft
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • City Slickers
  • Hook
  • JFK
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day 
Commentary: This is just one incredible year of scores that could possibly be winners in their own right. Backdraft and JFK are absolute incredible examples of scores that enhance the drive and energy that those thrillers take on, while City Slickers and Beauty and the Beast are iconic entries into their own genres: Western and Broadway Musical respectively. Still, Terminator 2 could easily have won the prize with that iconic war theme that both pumps you up and gives you a sense of impending dread. A very very close second is John William's (nominated twice here) for his iconic work in Hook. It's the best part of that fantasy film and I think that if you were to extract it from the movie and just play it for an audience that's never heard it, they'd identify it as "childhood fantasy adventure" immediately - it's just that archetypal now. With all this competition, my winner is the absolute gem that Michael Kamen turned in for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Kamen's work here feels like "Robin Hood" and from the opening titles screams big budget blockbuster adventure to me. It's the kind of music I'm a sucker for - immediately evoking swashbuckling and dangerous adventures with just a set of instruments.


BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Backdraft
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Commentary: A really tough choice this year with a lot of incredible soundscapes developed in this years round of films, but there were just no other films on the technical level of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Aside from the great score, think back to all the distinct sounds that helped to put you into this world: the sound of a Terminator arriving in that time bubble, the gates/doors of the psych ward, the deep roar of Arnold's motorcycle and the shotgun shells, the shrieks of the T-1000, the metal stabbing sounds when he punctures the elevator, and even the little rattling sound his severed hook makes in the trunk of the getaway car. Great stuff.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees:
  • The Addams Family
  • Bugsy
  • Hook
  • Once Upon a Time in China
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • Soapdish
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Commentary: Bugsy is great here and if I did ties then I would make it a tie. However, I'm going with the more creative take here than the prestige gangster take we've seen many times by 1991. The Addams Family is nominated for (and could've been a worthy winner of each) art direction, costume design, and make-up & hair design. I know this gothic look would become a bit old when Tim Burton and Barry Sonnenfield would ape it again and again, but it is still pretty fresh in this film. One of the keys to the success of the film are the distinctive characters, each with memorable renderings and updating's of their costumes.


BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees:
  • The Addams Family
  • Hook
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Soapdish
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Commentary: We can do a lot with CGI these days, but there's just something about old school make-up and puppetry work that provides that tangible feel no amount of computer photoshopping on someone will do. I can't imagine how incredibly daunting the task of trying to sell the idea that underneath a layer of fake skin Arnold's Schwarzenegger's Terminator is an actual metal robotic body, but they somehow accomplish it. The moments where Arnold removes his skin flaps and reveals his robotic workings underneath are just incredible moments in the film and feel genuine - you just believe it. As he accumulates damage over the course of the film the makeup artists sell all of that perfectly as well. 
BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees:
  • Hot Shots!
  • Naked Gun 2 & 1/2: The Smell of Fear 
  • Operation Condor
  • Point Break
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze
Commentary: I don't think Point Break is really a good "film" - it's fairly outlandish, plays the cop cliches fairly strong, and between Keanu/Swayze gives the viewer an odd spectrum of bad acting to overly serious & cartoonish characterizations. That said, it's a fun film, with enjoyable action, quotable dialogues, and enjoys a high re-watch factor. 


MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees:
  • Boyz in the Hood
  • City Slickers
  • Soapdish
Commentary: John Singleton's filmmaking debut was the iconic and insightful south central L.A. set Boyz in the Hood. It's one of the first inside looks in to the complicated circumstances and relationships that pervade those who grow up in those homes and streets. It largely plays out as a drama tracking the lives of several young boys and their families over several decades. It's surprisingly empathetic without sacrificing its ability to make judgements on the characters.  A powerful story that continues to resonate today.


MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM
Nominees:
  • Cape Fear
  • Career Opportunities
  • Hook
  • The Last Boy Scout
  • Nothing But Trouble
Commentary: The idea that Steven Spielberg, the guy behind Jaws, Indiana Jones, and E.T. was looking to tackle the iconic Peter Pan story by asking the question, "What would happen if Peter Pan ever grew up?" is likely to raise expectations pretty high. That Spielberg had a huge budget, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in lead roles, and John Williams set to score another iconic masterpiece those expectations got even higher. The film received generally poor reviews and somewhat disappointing box office receipts. Looking back on the film now, the critiques are well earned. Despite some great moments and contributions (Williams' score is iconic), the structure, themes, and characters just don't click or congeal like they should; Robin Williams is forced to be an annoying bore for most of the film, Julia Roberts is miscast, and Dustin Hoffman has to spend most of his time trying to brainwash a kid. I remembered liking the lost boys stuff as a kid, but I think this film will be most remembered for its "what might have been" given all the talent involved.


MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Out for Justice
  • Regarding Henry
  • Soapdish
Commentary: For the early part of his career Seagal made straight forward crime films where some kind of heinous action came in the first act and the next two acts were simply Seagal finding and killing those responsible; it's a template that Jason Statham and Liam Neeson have done to death as well. I think that 1991's Out for Justice is the pinnacle of that run of Seagal's crime films beginning with 1988's Above the Law. This is an easy to film to watch with high production values, a straightforward crime story, and several of Seagal's best fight sequences.  


MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Bugsy
  • Cape Fear
  • L.A. Story
  • The Prince of Tides
Commentary: Although Prince of Tides is the kind of insufferable prestige Oscar drama that's based on a popular novel that I normally love nominating for something like this, Bugsy is an even bigger Oscar bait failure. It deserves all the technical praise it has gotten, but how it came to capture best picture and screenwriting nods I will never know. There's a lengthy sequence in the middle of this two hour bore where Bugsy is at his New York home and is trying to be present for his daughter's birthday party, handle a call from California where his underlings are trying to find his side girl, and attend a meeting with major mobsters where he is pitching his Vegas idea. It's played like a Marx Brothers mad cap comedy (or a moment out of this years silly Oscar) with Bugsy going between the three groups trying to please each one while he has on a silly chef's cap and apron. It's an odd sequence that seems tuned to make us empathize with the character or at least find him funny in a way, but we never do. I don't get it. This mob tale can't hold a flame to any of its contemporaries or many of the strong mob films since.


WORST FILM
Nominees:
  • Career Opportunities
  • Child's Play 3
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
  • The Last Boy Scout
  • Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
Commentary: I'm a fan of martial arts films and understand that the genre often needs a lot of grace to enjoy it. Screen violence used appropriately doesn't bother me. None of that applies to this film. Count me as a pearl-clutcher here as Riki-Oh is a martial arts film that goes so far over the top in its violence that it becomes deeply offensive to me. There's no great reason for it, no great story here, no great theme, just extreme violence for the sheer gag of it. Steer clear.


BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Performances/Accomplishments (that I saw anyways):
  • Annette Benning: Bugsy, Regarding Henry
  • Kevin Costner: JFK, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (appearance in Madonna: Truth or Dare, lol)
  • Scott Glenn: Backdraft, The Silence of the Lambs
  • Kevin Kline: Grand Canyon, Soapdish
  • Steve Martin: Father of the Bride, Grand Canyon, L.A. Story 
  • Oliver Stone: The Doors, JFK
  • Robin Williams: Hook, The Fisher King 
Commentary: Robin Williams is a "fine line" actor for me - one where his antics and dramatic broadness can be legendary or they can come off as annoying and schmaltzy. His role in The Fisher King walks the line very finely, but I think it works pretty powerfully by the end and once he's allowed to throw off the lawyer straight jacket, Williams shines as a renewed Peter Pan.


ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Lloyd Bridges Hot Shots!
  • Timothy Dalton The Rocketeer
  • Val Kilmer The Doors
  • Patrick Swayze Point Break
Commentary: Timothy Dalton proves his comedic chops with a great turn in the otherwise too serious Rocketeer and Lloyd Bridges finds ways to make even the silliest of jokes work in Hot Shots!, but Patrick Swayze steals every scene in Point Break as the surfing and bank robbing guru. I wish the film was a bit better overall, but I love that it allows for Swayze's natural film star charisma to shine through - creating a villain we know does wrong, but still would love to possibly hang out with.


THE END!

"Well, I could tell you some stories" -Barton Fink

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