Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1990s WITD Poll Votes

At Wonders in the Dark, the yearly polls are currently on summer vacation, as Sam Juliano and family are in England, visiting Allan Fish - they are up to 2003... and here are my votes for the 90s.

The 1990s is when I stepped up my movie watching - from almost night at the beginning of the year to over 400 films a year the last 4-5 years... obviously, a lot of that was catching up on the past - taking advantage of the Brattle and the Harvard Film Archive to see everything I could... But I finally saw enough contemporary films to make these kinds of lists... I remember it fondly - and looking back, it was an underrated decade. Great decade to be a fan of Chinese films, great decade for Iran, etc. - good stuff. Anyway - my votes, and my favorites for the decade are below...


PICTURE: Rushmore
DIRECTOR (single): Wes Anderson, Rushmore
(decade): Wong Kar-wei
LEAD ACTOR (single): David Thewlis, Naked
(decade): Leslie Cheung
LEAD ACTRESS (single): Brigitte Lin, Swordsman II
(decade): Maggie Cheung
SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Goodman, Big Lebowski
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
SHORT: David Lynch in Lumiere and Company
SCORE: Neil Young, Dead Man [wait - I didn't vote for it in the year it was released? I may be confused here, though I don't know where.]
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Christopher Doyle, Fallen Angels

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Groundhog Day - best to miss the cut below...
1. Groundhog Day
2. Rushmore
3. Pulp Fiction
4. The Big Lebowski
5. Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould
Music: Rushmore - one of the most perfect uses of pre-recorded music ever
Sound: Viva L'Amour
Musical: Beijing Bastards
Martial Arts: Once upon a Time in China
Documentary: Close Up, Kiarostami
Animated: Nightmare Before Christmas
Musical: there are a surprising number of films that might qualify - more than one of which (Beijing Bastards, 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould, Nightmare BEfore Christmas) have already turned up here... Well - the top five?
1. Beijing Bastards
2. 32 Short Films...
3. Haut/Bas/Fragile
4. Nightmare Before Christmas
5. Topsy Turvy

Top 20:

1. Rushmore
2. Brighter Summer Day
3. Satantango
4. Fallen Angels
5. Breaking the Waves
6. Goodbye South, Goodbye
7. Happy Together
8. White
9. Through the Olive Trees
10. Beijing Bastards
11. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
12. Once Upon a Time in China
13. Flowers of Shanghai
14. The Sweet Hereafter
15. Pulp Fiction
16. A Moment of Innocence
17. The River
18. Naked
19. Dead Man
20. To Sleep With Anger

And now by years:


PICTURE: Charisma
DIRECTOR: Dardennes Brothers, Rosetta
LEAD ACTOR: Russell Crowe, The Insider
LEAD ACTRESS: Emilie Dequenne, Rosetta
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tom Cruise, Magnolia
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
SCORE: Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Freddie Francis, The Straight Story

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Office Space
Music/Sound: Ghost Dog
Documentary: a good year for these - the best is probably American Movie
Action/Martial Arts: Hong Kong is starting to run down, though you still have some decent films, like Bullets Over Summer. In terms of Asian genre pictures, I should start a Best Miike category: that would be Audition, in 1999...

1. Charisma
2. Sons
3. Rosetta
4. L'Humanite
5. The Straight Story
6. Lies
7. American Movie
8. Peppermint Candy
9. The Little Girl WHo SOld the Sun
10. Audition


Another solid year, very strong at the very top, and fairly deep. Lots of great performances, especially by men; three or four films that contend for the best script of the decade; some magnificent looking films. With, in the end, the best film of the decade, in Rushmore.

PICTURE: Rushmore
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
LEAD ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, Big Lebowski
LEAD ACTRESS: Marie Riviere, Conte d’Automne
SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Goodman, Big Lebowski
SCORE: Mark Mothersbaugh, Rushmore
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lee Ping Bin, Flowers of Shanghai

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Rushmore
Music/Sound: Rushmore (one of the best uses of pre-recorded music there is)
Martial Arts: we're past real martial arts films, but still need to mark some Hong Kong films - this year - Expect the Unexpected, which deserves the name.

1. Rushmore
2. Flowers of Shanghai
3. The Big Lebowski
4. Babe: Pig in the City
5. After Life
6. Forty-two Up
7. The Silence (Makhmalbaf)
8. Secret Defense
9. Book of Life
10. Expect the Unexpected


This is a very good year, but also maybe the most unbalanced year - there are some great European films, and some very good American films, but the top of the list is completely dominated by Asian films. 6 of the top 7, by my lights.

PICTURE: Happy Together
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-wei
LEAD ACTOR: Thomas Jay Ryan, Henry Fool
LEAD ACTRESS: Pam Grier, Jackie Brown
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Robert Forster, Jackie Brown
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights
SHORT: Alone, Erick Zonca
SCORE: Angelo Badalamenti, Lost Highway
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Christopher Doyle

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Henry Fool
Music: Happy Together - the music selections, which are perfect
Sound: Taste of Cherry - but this is one of the best sounding films ever; Kiarostami films are so detailed, so rich, you want to watch them with your eyes closed, at least once.
Documentary: a fight to the finish between Little Dieter Needs to Fly and Fast Cheap and Out of COntrol, though I think the Herzog wins.
Martial Arts: nothing quite fits, but as Hong Kong goes over to China, you get quite a burst of creativity - Happy Together, running off to Argentina - and at home, Too Many Ways to be No. 1 has to get a mention of some kinds. For the upside down fight, if nothing else. (And the fact that those two films share a significant, extended upside down camera sequence - seems very likely to be related to the politics of the day. Both films, of course, being quite plainly about the handover, and what you are supposed to do now.)

1. Happy Together
2. The Sweet Hereafter
3. The River
4. Xiao Wu
5. Cure
6. Taste of Cherry
7. Too Many Ways to be No. 1
8. Henry Fool
9. Kingdom II
10. Funny Games


Beyond the top ten, beyond the top 20 - this year has a lot of films I find that I just really like, or remember fondly, all these years along. The Frighteners or Beavis and Butthead Do America or what have you...

PICTURE: Breaking the Waves
DIRECTOR: Lars Von Trier
LEAD ACTOR: Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket
LEAD ACTRESS: Emily Watson (This is a very difficult choice: Kidman and McFarland, are hard to pass over, or Maggie Cheung for that matter.)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: William H. Macy, Fargo
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Nathalie Richard, Irma Vep
SCORE: Goodbye, South, Goodbye, Lim Giong
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Breaking the Waves, Robby Muller

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Fargo
Music/Sound: I think
Martial Arts: things are running out around here - this might be God of Cookery, typically entertaining Stephen Chiao nonsense. There are some nice action films in the next few years from Hong Kong, but fewer and fewer martial arts films.

1. Breaking the Waves
2. Goodbye. South, Goodbye
3. A Moment of Innocence
4. Portrait of a Lady
5. My Sex Life, or How I Got in an Argument
6. Fargo
7. The Delta
8. Without Memory
9. Drifting Clouds
10. Mahjong


Not a bad year at all, really. Looks a bit thin compared to some of the years around it, since that seems to have been a pretty nice stretch in the mid-90s, but still. Having a few certifiably great films helps... Anyway:

PICTURE: Fallen Angels
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-wei
LEAD ACTOR: Takashi Kinoshiro, Fallen Angels
LEAD ACTRESS: Julianne Moore, Safe
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jackie Cheung, High Risk (or Meltdown, or whatever it's called in English - Die Hard ripoff, with Cheung sending up Jackie Chan)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Charley Young, Fallen Angels
SHORT: David Lynch's bit in Lumiere and Company, which I see is called "Premonition Following an Evil Deed"
SCORE: Eleni Karaindrou, Ulysses Gaze
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Christopher Doyle, Fallen Angels

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Dead Man
Music/Sound: Fallen Angels
Martial Arts: The Blade
Documentary: Gate of Heavenly Peace - though I wish I could say Forgotten Silver - the best fake documentary at any rate.
Best English Title for a Foreign Film: Tough Beauty and the Sloppy Slop - silly Supercop ripoff with Yuen Biao and Cynthia Khan, but the title - man, you want to see that, right?

1. Fallen Angels
2. Dead Man
3. Good Men, Good Women
4. Gate of Heavenly Peace
5. Hau/Bas/Fragile
6. Forgotten Silver
7. Safe
8. Red Cherry
9. Sharaku
10. Gonin


93 rivals this year at the very top, but for the volume of great films, this is a truly magnificent year. They just keep on going... doing any sort of justice to the range of great films this year is impossible.

PICTURE: Satantango
DIRECTOR: Abbas Kiarostami, Through the Olive Trees
LEAD ACTOR: Johnny Depp, Ed Wood
LEAD ACTRESS: Sandrine Bonnaire, Jeanne la Pucelle: Parts I & II
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Samuel L.Jackson, Pulp Fiction (I suppose this is a supporting role, though it's a big one; if he were up for the lead I could vote for Paul Newman in the Hudsucker Proxy...)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Faye Wong, Chungking Express
SHORT: I think this will be The Smell of Burning Ants, from Jay Rosenblatt.
SCORE: Zbigniew Preisner, Three Colours: Red
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gábor Medvigy, Sátántángó

Plus bonus picks:
Script: who can deny Pulp Fiction?
Music: I have to split this from sound this year - the competition is for the best use of pre-recorded music is very steep - Chungking Express, Cold Water, Pulp Fiction - I have to give it to Chungking Express, though.
Sound: It's also a year full of magnificent sounding films, films making dense, brilliant use of sound - Satantango and Through the Olive Trees and Jeanne le Poucelle - but the one that stands out is Viva L'Amour.
Martial Arts: we're getting toward the end of Hong Kong's awe-inspiring run, but there are still some nice films coming out - so, though it has a strange reputation I guess - Ashes of Time is a pretty good action film. That might not be it's main appeal, in the end - but it's still remarkable, and well done. The way the fight scenes are atomized - blurs of motion & whooshing sound effects, sudden closeups, changing speeds - but still maintaining a kind of heft - not much flying, a kind of grounded physicality, which is, after all, a trademark of Samo's choreography. It has a relentless earthiness (along with recurring images of the four elements) that makes it memorable.

1. Satantango
2. White
3. Through the Olive Trees
4. Pulp Fiction
5. Viva L'Amour
6. Jeanne La Poucelle
7. Cold Water
8. A Borrowed Life
9. The Kingdom
10. A COnfucian Confusion


This is a tough year, as good a top 5 as we've seen in a while...

PICTURE: Beijing Bastards
DIRECTOR: Hou Hsiao Hsien, The Puppetmaster
LEAD ACTOR: David Thewlis, Naked
LEAD ACTRESS: Brigitte Lin, East is Red
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Katrin Cartlidge, Naked
SHORT: The Wrong Trousers
SCORE: Zbigniew Preisner, Three Colours: Blue
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gu Changwei, Farewell, My Concubine

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Groundhog Day
Music/Sound: Thirty-Two Short Films about Glen Gould - which is a close second for best film and script... Beijing Bastards is a strong contender here, Cui Jian is quite good, but this is Glen Gould - and it's a magnificent piece of sound work as well as music.
Martial Arts: Fong Sai Yuk - Jet Li and Josephine Siao putting on a great comic action show.

1. Beijing Bastards
2. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glen Gould
3. Naked
4. Groundhog Day
5. The Puppetmaster
6. The Blue Kite
7. Short Cuts
8. The East is Red
9. Nightmare Before Christmas
10. Sonatine


I'll take Brigitte Lin's eyes and Jet Li's drunken swordfighting and Rosamund Kwan with a whip over more or less anything you can offer more or less any time. Though putting it like that isn't quite right - because as entertaining a bit of pop film-making as it is, it's also packed tot he eyeballs with the Strange, and rather more clever in its apocalyptic gender-bending politics (sort of a Tsui Hark trademark, usually given an extra level of insanity when Ching Siu-tung gets involved) than most anything else on offer.

PICTURE: Swordsman II
DIRECTOR: Tsai Ming-liang, Rebels of a Neon God
LEAD ACTOR: Denzel Washington, Malcolm X
LEAD ACTRESS: I wish I could vote for Maggie Cheung in Actress, for she is truly great, but who am I kidding? I can't not vote for Brigitte Lin in Swordsman II - why pretend? She's one of the most marvelous things ever put on screen in that film. (And the next one; you can guess my '93 best actress vote, I assume.)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hey hey! a chance! I can vote for Maggie Cheung in Dragon Inn!
SHORT: Stille Nacht III (Though Frog Baseball is the important one...)
SCORE: Angelo Badalamenti, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Poon Hang-Sang, Actress

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Reservoir Dogs
Music/Sound: And Life Goes On - Kiarostami is always an absolute master of the use of sound. Though one of his strongest competitors had a film out that year too - Tsai Ming-liang...
Martial Arts: Swordsman II, of course. Though it's a loaded year, with the Dragon Inn remake and Supercop and the second Once Upon a Time in China film, covering a neat range of styles...
Documentary: Lessons of Darkness

1. Swordsman II
2. One False Move
3. Rebels of a Neon God
4. Careful
5. Actress
6. Lessons of Darkness
7. Reservoir Dogs
8. And Life Goes On
9. Glengarry Glen Ross
10. Autumn Moon


A good year, though not the best of the decade quite. One of the best films of the decade though...

PICTURE: Brighter Summer Day
DIRECTOR: Edward Yang
LEAD ACTOR: Jet Li, Once Upon a Time in China
LEAD ACTRESS: Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Goodman, Barton Fink
SHORT: Short of Breath?
SCORE: Zbigniew Preisner, The Double Life of Veronique
CINEMATOGRAPHY: William Lubtchansky, La Belle Noiseuse

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Brighter Summer Day
Music/Sound: Brighter Summer Day, named after a song after all...
Martial Arts: Once Upon a Time in China, a contender for the best martial arts film ever made.

1. Brighter Summer Day
2. Once Upon a Time in China
3. La Belle Noiseuse
4. Jacuot de Nantes
5. Rebels of a Neon God
6. Slacker
7. Thirty-Five Up
8. J'Etend Plus le Guitar
9. Life of the Dead
10. Sink or Swim


An okay year for films, but a killer for performances - trying to pick them brings back how many there are, and how indelible they are. Probably come in high on the list of years for memorable moments - Annette Bening jumping on the bed. "I'm funny?" Jane Horrocks' trouble with chocolate. Beat Takeshi and a baseball bat. Etc.

PICTURE: To Sleep With Anger
DIRECTOR: Kiarostami, Close Up
LEAD ACTOR: Leslie Cheung, Days of Being Wild - really? Over Glover?
LEAD ACTRESS: I have too many choices: I'll say - Laura Dern, Wild at Heart - not the best Lynch, but it's not her fault. (Though this is where Kati Outinen belongs for Match Factory Girl, outside this poll)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: this is even tougher, right? it's a good year for over the top - Joe Pesci; Chris Eigeman - is there such a thing as over the top deadpan? or Timothy Spall in Life is Sweet. I want to vote for Eigeman, but I think I have to join the crowd and vote for Pesci.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: this is tough too - but - Annette Bening, The Grifters, gets the vote.
SCORE: Carter Burwell, Miller’s Crossing
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Christopher Doyle, Days of Being Wild

Plus bonus picks:
Script: To Sleep With Anger
Music/Sound: Close Up - this is for the sound, not music.
Martial Arts: it's mild mannered and same compared to the sequels, but Swordsman is first rate Wu Xia in its own right.

1. To Sleep With Anger
2. Days of Being Wild
3. Close Up
4. Goodfellas
5. The Match Factory Girl
6. Life is Sweet
7. Miller's Crossing
8. Europa Europa
9. Swordsman
10. Metropolitan

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