best film: Schindler’s List edged out The Piano for 1993’s best film. Over the years I’ve changed my mind a few times between these two masterpieces and I have it as a virtual tie. In fact, I agree so much with the TSPDT consensus here and they do the same thing flipping the two every couple of years (currently they have the piano in front ranking it at #211 and Spielberg’s film at #214). Of course the film is important, and should be seen by every person regardless of their interest in cinema, that’s almost a different story. Schindler’s List is a perfect film as film art as well. Spielberg has perhaps played to his strengths more (raiders, jaws) but he’s never been such a perfectionist in the details. Janusz Kaminski (aside from Spielberg’s work as DP is probably best in the diving bell and the butterfly) is a fine DP but I think you’d be short-changing Spielberg if you weren’t giving him credit for the gorgeous black and white photography of the film. The acting is superb, the writing and narrative is as strong as it gets. And it would take a film this special to beat out Jane Campion’s singular masterwork.
most underrated: 1993 is Spielberg’s year and the most underrated film of the year is Jurassic Park. It feels weird to pick the biggest box office smash of the year as “underrated” but I’m using the TSPDT consensus list as my guide here. The film is adored by children of the 80’s and I’m very confident that the film will find a spot on this list over time but for now it can’t be found anywhere on the TSPDT top 1000. I don’t know if the film is overlooked in comparison with jaws or perhaps just his 1993 Spielberg-counterpart- schindler’s list but regardless, the film isn’t given it’s due here as I think it’s a top 500-600 all-time film. The score by John Williams ranks amongst his greatest and the writing and acting are enough to make it a top 10 of the year film alone. But, when you factor in Spielberg’s own voice (there are some serious statements here on god-making, Spielberg’s absentee father, and the reflexive nature on the blockbuster/escapism) you have a top 5 of the year quality film. And all of this doesn’t even really touch on the sheer thrill-ride of a film this is from beginning to end. Certainly it is endlessly rewatchable.
most overrated: There’s really nothing here again. TSPDT and the consensus are spot on for the most part. If I really was forced to choose and nitpick I’d go with the nightmare before christmas. It shows up on TSPDT at #980 but I don’t have a big problem with this at all. The film is a marvel of stop-motion photography animation and mise-en-scene in general. I’m probably 200-300 slots below what the critics have it as here but I enjoy and admire the film every time I watch it.
gem I want to spotlight: There is so much to choose from in 1993. They aren’t my choices but how about watching Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks together in film directed by Jonathan Demme. Two of the best of a generation and they are both magnificent here and I can’t find a spot for it in my top 10. It’s right outside- what shame. Another fine choice, though it’s a lesser film, would be to watch present and future Scorsese male-muses (and perhaps two of the better actors of all-time) go at it in this boy’s life with Robert De Niro and a young Leonard DiCaprio. Still, my ultimate choice has to be Harold Ramis’ groundhog’s day. It’s pure narrative bliss (more than that—it is ingenious) and Bill Murray has never been better (he may tie it in lost in translation but never better).
trends and notables: 1993 as I said above is Spielberg’s year in many ways. He’d already been a major director and figure for nearly 20 years but in 1993 he pulled off the impossible and gave us the serious film oscar winner schindler’s list (won 7 oscars) and the box office champion Jurassic park. For my purposes here he gave us the best and fifth best film. That’s amazing. It’s another strong top 10. We have really good films from all-time brilliant auteurs at the #8 and #9 slot (Linklater and Altman). For Linklater it is proof that slacker was no fluke and for Altman it’s back to back years in the top 10 after 15 years missing between three women to the player. With blue, kieslowski is starting the colors trilogy and with naked I think we officially have the announcement of Mike Leigh as a major auteur (as he’d remain for at least the rest of the 1990’s with secrets and lies and topsy-turvy). It’s no first, but it’s worth pausing to acknowledge the year Daniel Day Lewis had in 1993 with two great performances in two top 10 films (in the name of the father and the age of innocence). For the last 20 years we’re more used to two great DDL films a decade instead of two great films a year. It’s a little sad we didn’t get more of him. For directors it’s the coming out party for Guillermo del Toro with cronos. It is a very big year for acting firsts. We have DiCaprio with both this boy’s life and what’s eating gilbert grape?. We have Julianne Moore in both shot cuts (famously bottomless) and a small but key scene in the fugitive. Matthew McConaughey would get an archiveable debut worthy of legendary status in dazed and confused– clearly the announcement of a future star. That film is just filled with young talent and another chief amongst them is a young Ben Affleck. More about him directly below in the best performance male category but it’s worth noting certainly that it’s the archiveable debut for Ralph Fiennes.
best performance male: 1993 is so loaded with great male performances that I almost have to start at the top and work my way down and cut it off at some point. My first mention surely goes to Liam Neeson as the title character in Spielberg’s schindler’s list. The character has true narrative arc laced with neeson’s charm. It begins and ends with his character’s introduction and a final speech that are tough to top in film history. Right behind Neeson is Neeson’s co-star Ralph Fiennes in schindler’s list. Third and fourth are nearly as good as Neeson. Bill Murray is absolutely genius in groundhog’s day and Daniel Day Lewis could be in here for both of his performances. I may give the edge to in the name of the father for him but there aren’t too many better quiet performances than his work in age of innocence. My last mention does go to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Clearly I think 2-3 others at least should have won the oscar but I have no major beef here. Philadelphia is a top 10 of the year quality film (despite barely missing it for 1993 below) and the two best sequences (the long silent pause after his initial meeting and rejection by a lawyer) and the opera scene feature brilliant virtuoso work by Hanks.
best performance female: Holly Hunter rightly wins the oscar for her work in the piano and her co-star, Anna Paquin, is the closest completion (and she, justly, won the academy award for supporting).. Hunter’s silent performance is still so emotive. Almost every other film of hers in the archives features her lovely southern voice but her work here clearly shows that she could’ve been a silent screen star. Paquin’s work may be the greatest ever from a child—quite a marvel. Behind those two Emma Thompson continues her streak. She’s in three archiveable films in 1993 (in the name of the father, much ado about nothing and the remains of the day). It’s in the latter that she earns her spot amongst the year’s most elite performers. Juliette Binoche has rarely, if ever, been better than her work in Kiewslowski’s blue and Michelle Pfeiffer holds her own with Daniel Day Lewis in Scorsese’s the age of innocence.
- Schindler’s List
- The Piano
- Groundhog’s Day
- Jurassic Park
- The Age of Innocence
- Dazed and Confused
- Short Cuts
- In the Name of the Father
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Bronx Tale||R|
|Cabeza de Vaca|
|Carletto’s Way- De Palma||R/HR|
|Cronos- del Toro||R|
|Dazed and Confused- Linklater||MS|
|Farewell My Concubine- Chen Kaige||HR|
|In the Line of Fire||R|
|In the Name of the Father- Sheridan||HR|
|Jurassic Park- Spielberg||MS|
|King of the Hill- Soderbergh||R|
|Like Water For Chocolate|
|Manhattan Murder Mystery- Allen||R|
|Much Ado About Nothing- Branagh||R|
|Naked- M. Leigh, Thewlis, Cartlidge||MS|
|Perfect World- Eastwood||R|
|Schindler’s List- Spielberg||MP|
|Searching for Bobby Fisher||R|
|Short Cuts- Altman||HR|
|Six Degrees of Separation- Schepisi,||R|
|Sleepless in Seattle||R|
|The Age of Innocence- Scorsese||MS|
|The Blue Kite- Tian|
|The Nightmare Before Christmas||R|
|The Piano- Campion||MP|
|The Remains of the Day- Ivory||HR|
|The Secret Garden||R|
|This Boy’s Life||R|
|True Romance- T. Scott||R|
|What’s Eating Gilbert Grape||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives