Film Honors: 1997

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. Subject to alter choices if new viewings are worthy enough. Other published Film Honors posts can be found at the menu at the top of the page.

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Directing

*** Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) ***
Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential)
Gary Oldman (Nil By Mouth)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights)
Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting)

Actor Lead

Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting)
*** Ian Holm (The Sweet Hereafter) ***
Djimon Hounsou (Amistad)
Jack Nicholson (As Good as It Gets)
Ray Winstone (Nil By Mouth)

Exquisitely made, Atom Egoyan hits all the right notes here, a penetrating and beautiful film about the sadness that engulfs a small town. Egoyan pushed aside a project to make this, and his passion and care shows in the poignant, melancholic result. As subtle and brilliant as the movie itself, Ian Holm plays a character with his own family troubles, not finding himself part of the community who have suffered an unimaginable loss.

Actress Lead

Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove)
Kathy Burke (Nil By Mouth)
Judi Dench (Mrs. Brown)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
*** Samantha Morton (Under the Skin) ***

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Formidable in most of the roles she plays, and yet still somehow under-rated, Samantha Morton proves herself a worthy lead in Carine Adler’s under-the-radar British drama Under the Skin. As a young woman struggling to control herself socially and sexually as she grieves for her mother and struggles to make amends with her sister, Morton is breath-taking through all her characters transitional stepping stones.

Cinematography

*** Roger Deakins (Kundun) ***
Robert Elswit (Boogie Nights)
Janusz Kaminski (Amistad)
Eduardo Serra (The Wings of the Dove)
Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential)

Score Composing

Mychael Danna (The Sweet Hereafter)
Danny Elfman (Good Will Hunting)
Philip Glass (Kundun)
Jerry Goldsmith (L.A. Confidential)
*** Michael Nyman (Gattaca) ***

Screenwriting Original

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting)
Alejandro Amenábar, Mateo Gil (Abre los ojos)
*** Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) ***
Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty)
Gary Oldman (Nil By Mouth)

Screenwriting Adapted

Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove)
Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter)
*** Curtis Hanson, Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) ***
James Schamus (The Ice Storm)
Quentin Tarantinoo (Jackie Brown)

Actress Support

Joan Cusack (In & Out)
Alison Elliott (The Wings of the Dove)
*** Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) ***
Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter)
Sigourney Weaver (The Ice Storm)

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Paul Thomas Anderson really let his hair down with Boogie Nights, a bolt of lightening of a motion picture. Anderson was not shy about the adult film subject matter, nor was he afraid to homage great film-makers like Martin Scorsese. And still creating something so original – a breath of fresh air in all it’s frolics and extensive character development. Julianne Moore, another actress who struggles to be anything but brilliant on screen, plays Amber with all the courage and determination required to pull of such a multi-layered woman.

Picture Editing

Boogie Nights
Good Will Hunting
Jackie Brown
*** L.A. Confidential ***
Nil By Mouth

Actor Support

Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding)
Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets)
Al Pacino (The Devil’s Advocate)
Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights)
*** Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting) ***

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Motion Picture

Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
*** Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant) ***
The Ice Storm (Ang Lee)
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
Kolja (Jan Sverák)
Kundun (Martin Scorsese)
L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
Nil By Mouth (Gary Oldman)
Abre los ojos (Alejandro Amenábar)
The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan)

In many ways a perfect motion picture, Good Will Hunting pulls together all the ingredients needed to cook up a smart, refreshing, and moving film-watching experience. Writing a terrific screenplay, and acting in the picture, both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck shine bright, Damon in particular commands the lead role. Robin Williams, of course, is a marvel in support, clearly adding his own spontaneous wit to the dialogue from time to time, while giving a performance so invested and emotive, it was about time he was honored for his dramatic turns. Good Will Hunting owes a debt of gratitude to Gus Van Sant too, directing the film with a true-to-the-story loyalty in his execution, while brushing across it his own unique and innovative style.

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