best film: Michael Mann’s heat is an epic crime saga masterpiece. It’s told in an operatic go-for-broke style that, in lesser hands, could’ve been one of the worst movies of any given year—instead of one of the best of the entire decade. If you meet someone that doesn’t like heat it’s a pretty good divider for those that don’t like/appreciate visual/aural style in cinema. I’d be the first to admit that I’m not sure the screenplay is one of the best of 1995 let alone of the 90’s. Standouts include the opening set piece robbery, the elongated street shootout sequence (one of the best action sequences the genre has ever seen) and the grand coffee-shop meeting between two of the great screen actors of all-time.
most underrated: Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys is not as inferior to his masterpiece, Brazil, as the consensus ranking would have you believe. Brazil is #176 (‘m higher actually) and 12 monkeys can’t be found at all in the top 1000. There’s no way there are 1000 films with a more unique world (it is truly a Gilliam film with that wild décor—check out that insane asylum) and a narrative this brilliant. It’s a tricky narrative to piece together but it rewards return visits to yield, in fact, the best pure narrative film of the year. If you throw in very strong work from Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeleine Stowe, you quite easily have one of the best 500 films of all-time.
most overrated: Emir Kusturica’s underground is #283 on the all-time TSPDT list which makes it #1 for 1995. I have it in the 12-16 range so I’m worlds apart from the critics here. Obviously I have my films here below in my top 10 ahead of it but aside from that I think I’d have to include films like Oliver Stone’s Nixon for the sheer editing genius, Apollo 13 for the narrative work, dead man walking for the performances of Sarandon and Penn, and leaving las vegas for that Cage (oscar winning) performance and wonderfully seedy score by composer and director Mike Figgis.
gem I want to spotlight: I’m picking seven for my gem to spotlight here. I think when it first came out there were too many things it had in common with 1991’s silence of the lambs on the surface to fully appreciate. But Fincher’s aesthetic is much different than Demme’s. This is the announcement of a major talent and voice in cinema. No film looks like a Fincher film and though there are some other films from 1995 that are better, they come from more established voices (Scorsese, Michael Mann and Jim Jarmusch) who had hit this level or approached it before so getting it from Fincher was truly exciting. I think in 1995 many thought the true young talent from 1995 was Bryan Singer for the usual suspects but if you look the visual storytelling of the two films there’s no argument which director had the brighter future.
trends and notables: Casino, Heat, Safe, Seven… is 1995 the year of the one word titles? Haha. Plus how awful for us as cinephiles to have to distinguish both dead man and dead man walking which came out in the same year. Ok, but seriously 1995 is notable because I think it’s both peak Michael Mann and peak Jim Jarmusch. These are two top 100 auteurs with such a distinct (and different voice). We have Scorsese playing his greatest hits here with casino but the vibrancy in the visual and stylistic filmmaking isn’t stale in the slightest. Yes, it’s derivative goodfellas and it’s clearly inferior to that masterpiece, but still an important work from an important auteur. Todd Haynes may not be Linklater or Tarantino but with safe he announces himself as a worthy part of that 1990’s indie new wave class. Their archiveable debuts may not be as strong as Haynes but clearly the most important auteur to debut in 1995 is Alfonso Cuaron with a little princess and somewhere between him and Haynes on the all-time auteur list is noah baumbach with his archiveable debut: kicking and screaming. Toy Story might actually be the closest thing we have to a technological landmark in 1995. It’s the beginning of Pixar and the first film to make the switch from drawing animation (around since essentially the 1930’s) to digital computer animation. For actors we have firsts for Gwyneth Paltrow (daughter of archiveable actress Bythe Danner) in seven where she is very impressive. We also have a first for a young Casey Affleck in Gus Van Sant’s to die for. Van Sant has such a penchant for working with talented young male actors (Matt Dillion, Matt Damon later, River Phoenix). It isn’t a first but Tom hanks is on some kind of impressive streak since debuting in the archives with big in 1988. He’s had 6 archiveable films in 8 years and of course, 3 oscar noms (and two wins) from 1993-1995 with philadelphia, forrest gump and apollo 13. Parker Posey wasn’t the household name Hanks was in the multiplexes by any means but on the indie scene her run from 1993-1995 includes dazed and confused, amateur and kicking and screaming which means “queen of the indies” had worked with Linklater, Hal Hartley, and Noah Baumbach.
best performance male: Robert De Niro is lights out in the first and third best movies of the year. I don’t even really want to pick one—I think he clearly had the edge on Pacino if you’re ranking performances in this film and he’s in virtually every scene of Scorsese’s three hour gangster opus (and virtual remake of goodfellas—not a complaint, a compliment). The answer to this category in 1995 is De Niro. He has strong contenders behind him. Johnny Depp gives the best performance of his career in dead man. His comedic blank stare is perfect for the jarmuscian style. I wish they’d worked more together…maybe they still will. Brad Pitt gets a joint nominee here for his work in both seven and twelve monkeys. Kevin Spacey very much deserved the best supporting oscar for his work in usual suspects. Sean Penn gives his pest performance to date in 1995 in dead man walking and Vincent Cassel arrives like a bat out of hell in la haine. All of these actors are mesmerizing in their work here in 1995—as I said- a very strong year for this category.
best performance female: I have a virtual five-way tie here for my #1 slot in 1995. It’s a very strong year. If forced to choose I’ll go with Julianne Moore’s work in safe as my overall best for the slot. It’s a great physical performance. Julie Deply as Céline in before sunrise is certainly worthy of a spot. This is far from the last we’d see from Deply as Celine. Susan Sarandon won the oscar for her work in dead man walking and her performance is devastating—she’s very worthy. Sharon Stone holds her own with Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci in casino. Stone is intoxicatingly beautiful and just about equally bat-shit crazy and truly excels at both sides of that coin here. My last nom or mention here goes to Nicole Kidman in to die for. Many believe that this performance is still kidman’s best to date in 2017—which is debatable. But, there’s no debating it’s her best here to date in 1995.
- Dead Man
- Twelve Monkeys
- The Usual Suspects
- La Haine
- Toy Story
- Before Sunrise
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Little Princess- Cuaron||R|
|Apollo 13- Howard||HR|
|Before Sunrise- Linklater||HR|
|Clockers- S. Lee||R|
|Dead Man- Jarmusch||MP|
|Dead Man Walking||HR|
|Devil in a Blue Dress||R|
|Dolores Claiborne- Hackford||R|
|Fallen Angels- WKW||R|
|Ghost in the Shell||R|
|Kicking and Screaming- Baumbach||R|
|La Ceremonie- Charbol||R/HR|
|Leaving Las Vegas||HR|
|Mighty Aphrodite- Allen||R|
|Nixon- O. Stone||HR|
|Sense and Sensibility- A. Lee||R|
|Shanghai Triad- Yimou Zhang||R|
|The Bridges of Madison County- Eastwood||R|
|The City of Lost Children- Jeunet||R|
|The Flower of My Secret- Almodovar||R|
|The Usual Suspects||MS|
|To Die For- Van Sant||R|
|Twelve Monkeys- Gilliam||MS|
|Welcome to the Dollhouse||R|
|White Balloon- Panahi|
*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