Film Honors: 1996

My own personal choices for the year. They reflect not just necessarily what I think is the best or essential cinema, but perhaps resonate with me or inspire, both at the time, and still today. Other published Film Honors posts can be found at the menu at the top of the page.

Actress Support

*** Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) ***
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies)
Courtney Love (The People Vs. Larry Flynt)
Claire Rushbrook (Secrets & Lies)
Kate Winslet (Hamlet)

We can debate which acting category Juliette Binoche belongs in on a day when I’m too busy to do so, screen time wise, sure, but the fact is Hana’s story has the biggest heart and soul of The English Patient – and seemingly much more chemistry with bomb disposal, and genuinely likable chap, Kip than the supposed central love story. We invest in Binoche from second one, a nurse who wears her woes on her chest for all to see, right next to her great, big heart of gold. This is the performance I remembered most fondly, sensitively, passionately embodied by the ever-embracing French actress.

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Cinematography

Roger Deakins (Fargo)
Bill Pope (Bound)
*** John Seale (The English Patient) ***
Alex Thomson (Hamlet)
Brian Tufano (Trainspotting)

Picture Editing

Bound
Fargo
Hamlet
The People Vs. Larry Flynt
*** Trainspotting ***

Actor Support

Steve Buscemi (Fargo)
*** Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) ***
Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire)
Samuel L. Jackson (A Time to Kill)
Edward Norton (Primal Fear)

While the Trainspotting gang choose drugs as their extra-curricular pastimes, the one and only Francis “Franco” Begbie is fueling his overly-aggressive nature at all that stand in his path – including being more vocal than anyone about the disgusting heroin habit. An all-guns blazing performance from the Scot, with his fuck-this-fuck-that, chain smoking, while starting fights in pubs or acting out his cautionary hostility to his “friends”. Had Carlyle received an Oscar nod for this, finding a nomination clip were he was not cursing or pulling a knife on some c#nt would have been a challenge.

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Screenwriting Original

*** Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Fargo) ***
Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire)
Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies)
Jan Sardi (Shine)
John Sayles (Lone Star)

Screenwriting Adapted

Hossein Amini (Jude)
Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet)
Akiva Goldsman (A Time to Kill)
John Hodge (Trainspotting)
*** Elaine May (The Birdcage) ***

Score Composing

Curter Burwell (Fargo)
Peter Chase (L’Appartement)
Patrick Doyle (Hamlet)
Rachel Portman (Emma)
*** Gabriel Yared (The English Patient) ***

Actress Lead

*** Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) ***
Romane Bohringer (L’Appartement)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Victoire Thivisol (Ponette)
Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)

In the center of a working class family almost broken by the secrets and the lies of the film’s title, Brenda Blethyn plays Cynthia, an emotional, quivering wreck of a woman, but a good woman who is suffering the shame and turmoil of her current, and now, past life. Blethyn is head-shakingly immense here, Cynthia’s heart-breaking reactions, and resulting behavior, to astonishing news couldn’t seem so authentic if it were real-life. One of the finest acting displays of this, and many a year.

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Directing

*** Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) ***
Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet)
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Fargo)
Milos Forman (The People Vs. Larry Flynt)
Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies)

Following Shallow Grave, a rightful success in its own right, director Danny Boyle and team (producer Andrew MacDonald, screenwriter John Hodge, actor Ewan McGregor) joined forces again to really let their hair down with Trainspotting. So ferociously energetic, bold in style and pace, and depicting such underworld social depravity by forcing your eyes wide open, Trainspotting is a lurid, addictive journey. Boyle is not interested in curbing the material for sensitive viewer, his role as a film-maker here is outstanding, going full throttle for the cinematic throat in us all.

Actor Lead

Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet)
Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire)
*** Woody Harrelson (The People Vs. Larry Flynt) ***
Nathan Lane (The Birdcage)
Geoffrey Rush (Shine)

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Encapsulating the suffering amidst the flamboyance, Woody Harrelson’s powerhouse performance as adult publishing guru (porn editor) Larry Flynt still stands out today as a marvel – likely his finest. Dabbling fearlessly with religion and the law and his own troublesome industry, Harrelson brings about a uniquely humorous, determined turn, a perfect foil for the directorial style of Milos Forman, mixing up the adult issues with the funnier side of Flynt’s personality with audacious flair.

Motion Picture

A Summer’s Tale (Éric Rohmer)
Bound (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski – then The Wachowski Brothers)
*** Fargo (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen) ***
Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh)
Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe)
L’Appartement (Gilles Mimouni)
Lone Star (John Sayles)
The People Vs. Larry Flynt (Milos Forman)
Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh)
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)

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Fargo seems to somehow encapsulate all that is exceptional about Joel and Ethan Coen and their repertoire of outstanding film-making. And that there is nobody else quite like them.So infiltrating, so impressive is their 1996 ground-breaker (even for Oscar voters, finally) that even today it remains their best according to many. The acting is first-rate, the Coens write and direct with such gritty fervor, Carter Burwell’s stimulating music, not to mention Roger Deakins never putting a foot wrong with his visual scope. Taking their trademark fumbled crime kidnapping scenario to new heights, with the added mix of violence, quirky dialect, and a bold diversity of characters, Fargo also offers a genuine scope of humanity, be it the unethical way a car salesman would treat his family for money, or the homely, grounded attitude of an efficient, jovial pregnant police trooper. Full to the brim with set-pieces sequences of all natures, Fargo‘s layers and invigoration will never wilt.

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2 responses to “Film Honors: 1996

  1. This just reminds me I really need to see The English Patient one of these days. Glad to see all the love for Fargo and Trainspotting. Magnificent movies, both. If I have a gripe it would be that I would have went with Steve Buscemi in Supporting Actor and Courtney Love in Supporting Actress. Then again, I haven’t seen The English Patient.

    Liked by 1 person

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