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Dear Valued Subscribers,

I know what you must be thinking. "Hey, does the word 'overdue' ring a bell, sizzlechest?" Well Frank Rizzo, I can tell you the word means nothing to me. While all the other film critics were scrambling and sweating to get their Top 10s out in December, your humble narrator was enjoying the fruits of his labor in Zooropa. And now that the Oscar nods are due to come out, I thought I would do the Hollywood community a favor and remind them what the best movies of 1997 truly were. The hype machine is cranking out full blast (c'mon Warner, Mel Gibson for best actor in "Conspiracy Theory"? That's like saying Keanu should've won a Tony for his work in "Hamlet"). This hedonistic self-flattery isn't limited solely to the pages of industry rags like Variety or The Hollywood Reporter. Everyone hears the same thing. "The Full Monty" and "Good Will Hunting" are prime examples of studio hype run amok (although I probably would've enjoyed "Good Will" more if I wasn't drunk and passed out for most of it). Before you run out and waste your hard earned bank on crap, take a few minutes and follow me down the primrose path to film enlightenment. So without further ado, I present the winners (and losers) of the 1998 Grahammy Film Awards...

Top Ten Films of 1997
Honorable Mention: "
Chasing Amy" (directed by Kevin Smith), "Donnie Brasco" (Mike Newell), "Gattaca" (Andrew Niccol), "Crash" (David Cronenburg)

10) "Lost Highway" (David Lynch) - Frankly, I still can't decide if I even like this movie. But the fact is that an incomprehensible Lynch movie is better than 95% of what else is out there to see. Plus this movie features Gary Busey's teeth and gums, best ever. AND David Lynch made all the furniture that appears in the film.

9) "
The Game" (David Fincher) - A labyrinthian (spell check thinks I made that word up. Did I?) tribute to Hitchcock. Contrary to popular belief, this movie does not star Michael Douglas; it stars Fincher's (Seven) soon-to-be-trademarked visual style and camera wizardry. Audaciously cool and the first movie ever to pull an anti-"anti-sellout" finish.

8) "
In The Company of Men" (Neil LaBute) - Aaron Eckhart's impossibly evil portrayal of the white-collar businessman Chad rivals great screen villians such as Hannibal Lecter and Frank Booth. Set in faceless cubes and airport lounges, this movie takes an aggressive stance on 90s corporate culture and the PC backlash. Great fodder for the watercooler, but I don't think they (watercoolers) even exist.

7) "
The Daytrippers" (Greg Mottola) - Starring the now ubiquitous Parker Posey and Liev Schrieber, this ode to the Big Apple is touchingly sweet and knee slappingly funny. A great surprise for you Blockbuster shelf combers out there.

6) "
Boogie Nights" (Paul Thomas Anderson) - Even though he lifted the opening shot of this film from Scorsese's Steadicam masterpiece in "Goodfellas", this is the year's second best shot. This movie is way too ambitious for its own good, but nonetheless a remarkable achievement for a director of any caliber. Go Rollergirl, go!

5) "
Ulee's Gold" (Victor Nunez) - Peter Fonda's best performance since he played the surfing arms dealer in "Escape From L.A." Actually, it's his only performance since then. Actually, it's his best performance ever. Actually, this movie is way better than this review.

4) "
The Sweet Hereafter" (Atom Egoyan) - If this film ever opens in Michigan, do yourself and your brain a favor and go see this film. The superb narrative is revealed in a radically unconventional method. The strength of human relationships is played against the fragility of human relationships with no clear victor. Linking the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamlin to a lawyer exploiting (or is he saving?) a town in which most of the children have died in a school bus crash is nothing short of genius.

3) "
Titanic" (James Cameron) - By now, everyone and their great grandpappy have seen this twice. I don't need to tell you how great this movie is.

2) "
L.A. Confidential" (Curtis Hanson) - Who would've thought the director of "The River Wild" was capable of this? Certainly not I. My brother and I woke up at 7 in the morning to see this film in Toronto, and it did not disappoint. Every critic I have read has said "Not quite equal to 'Chinatown'." Well, they're partially right. It's better.

1) "
The Ice Storm" (Ang Lee) - You've got to love metaphors. I always thought that similes were overrated. Using "like" or "as" is cake compared to building a successful metaphor, especially when the metaphor is both literal AND metaphorical. Uh, what? I'm confused. Wait a minute. What I'm trying to say is this: mixing a real, physical ice storm with the metaphorical ice storm of 1970s Northeastern suburban ennui, confusion and hedonism is, in a word, stunning. Everything in this film has a purpose. The acting is remarkable, the cinematography majestic, and the wonderful direction of Ang Lee drives the film into perfection.

Acting Awards
Best Actor - Peter Fonda, "
Ulee's Gold"
Best Actress - Christina Ricci, "
The Ice Storm"
Best Supporting Actor - Kevin Spacey, "
L.A. Confidential"
Best Supporting Actress - (tie) Minnie Driver, "
Good Will Hunting" and Chris O'Donnell, "Batman & Robin"

Various Other Grahammy's Previously Awarded in Other Ceremonies
Best Score - James Horner, "
Best Use of Music in a Film - Gregg Araki, "
Best Comedy - "
Orgazmo" (Trey Parker)
Best Unintentional Comedy - "
Speed 2: Cruise Control" (Jan DeBont)
Worst Use of Film Stock - "
The Big One"
Best Trailer - "
Titanic". As Ann Arbor friends will attest, I watched this trailer every single day this summer. Best ever.
Biggest Disappointment - (tie) "
The Fifth Element" (Luc Besson), "Private Parts" (Bette Thomas). I had to hear Stern gloat and pompously promote this piece of crap for months before it's release only to find that it was bloated and self-indulgent and NOT THAT FUNNY. Eat crow Stern, and you too Ba-Ba-Booey.
Best Character - Ulee from "
Ulee's Gold." Short for Ulysses, his determination in his own Odyssey to lead his daughter back from drug addiction and debt was expertly conceived and exquisitely acted by Peter Fonda.
Best Reasons Never to Fall Asleep and/or Go To California - The Mystery Man from "
Lost Highway" and Vaughn from "Crash." Death is preferable to running into either one of these jokers in a dark alley.
Best Visual Feast - "
Gattaca" (Andrew Niccol)
Best Surprise Film - "
Orgazmo." When it's 1:45 in the morning and you're at the Toronto Film Festival, you begin to wonder about a film that begins at 2 AM starring Ron Jeremy. You think that sleep might be better, but change your mind. Comic bliss ensues, everyone leaves the theater happy, including the drunk Irish guy sitting next to you. The director would go on to co-create "South Park," easily this year's funniest TV show. Destined NOT to appear at a local movie theater near you.
The Robert Downey Jr. Award for Best Performance While Strung Out on Horse and Coke - Jean Claude Van Damme, "
Double Team". This dude's eyes are so beady and twitchy, he makes co-star Dennis Rodman look as normal as Morgan Freeman. Regardless, he still kicks ass with the best of them.
The David Caruso Award for What Happened To My Career? - Martin Sheen, "
The Scene Most Desperately In Need of a Script Doctor - In "
Alien Resurrection", Sigourney Weaver's Lt. Ripley schools Ron Perlman in basketball Kenny Anderson style. Uh, this is supposed to be a sci-fi movie fellas? Mr. Screenwriter, are you still there? Hello? Anyone home? Echo?
Worst Movie Debut - Dirk Diggler's "thing" in "
Boogie Nights"
Worst Recycling of Your Own Old Movies and Passing Them Off As New, Fresh and Exciting - John Woo, "
Face/Off." How postmodern is it to rip off your own ideas? Pastiche has been redefined by Mr. Woo.

Best Shots of the Year
3) "
Titanic" (James Cameron) - When Kate Winslet peers up from a lifeboat at Leo DiCaprio as flares explode in the background. If you didn't cry during this shot, I question the existence of your soul.
2) "
Boogie Nights" (Paul Thomas Anderson) - The aforementioned Scorsese homage that opens the film.
1) "
Titanic" (James Cameron) - Up there with the opening shot of "The Player" and "Touch of Evil" is the crane shot as the boat is turned 90 degrees and is plummeting into the ocean. This shot, even though I've seen it 100 times, still gives me chills. Power.

Worst Film of the Year - (tie) "
Fierce Creatures" and "Beverly Hills Ninja." I won't embarrass the directors by placing their names in print. Interesting note: Kevin Kline appears in both the Best and Worst films of the Year. Coincidence? Or Communist plot? You decide.
Most Ridiculous Plot Twists - "
Suicide Kings" (Peter O'Fallon). This Tarantino rip-off is just plain ridiculous. Any movie that stars Johnny Galecki (Roseanne) deserves to suck, even if Christopher Walken is the star.

and last but not least...
Best Moment of 1997 - Seeing Kim Basinger and Elle MacPherson within five minutes of each other in Toronto at the World Premiere of "
The Edge." I don't mean to be sexist, but that was just about Babe Heaven. Booya.

Thanks for sticking with me. I bet at least half of you never made it this far, but if you did, my hat's off to you. And until next year, the balcony is closed...

Mark Graham
February 2, 1998

comments? criticisms? death threats? email me and i'll see if i can cure your ills.