best film: Naked from Mike Leigh
There is very little separating Mike Leigh’s masterpiece from Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence or Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue. All three films could conceivably land in the top 10 of the decade.
most underrated: There is really not much here for 1993 either way. The TSPDT consensus should be applauded for putting the right films on their list. Both Naked (TSPDT slot #453) and The Age of Innocence (TSPDT slot #586) should indeed be higher but these are respectable positions for semi-contemporary films. Surely, the consensus should carve out a slot for Demme’s Philadelphia somewhere on the top 1000 list—even if it is near the bottom.
most overrated: As previously mentioned in the underrated section there is just not much here in 1993 which is refreshing. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Puppetmaster is at the lofty spot of #333 on the TSPDT consensus list. That is in the masterpiece territory and though this is a fine film, a masterpiece it is not…
- Three-pronged film: an innovative biopic, a work from a clear auteur, and a political/historical film marking the end of the 19th century and a 50-year occupation of Japan in Taiwan
- Tien-Lu Li plays himself in both voice-over and talking directly to the camera updating us on his history. The film alternates between that (which I’d rather read in a book honestly), his puppet and stage work, and the recreation of his life events with actors – HHH weaves them together.
- Breaking down the three sections the direct to screen dialogue by Tien-Lu Li is really of no interest artistically. If you are a documentary enthusiast and interested in the influence of Kiarostami (specifically Close-Up) on HHH or this film- I can see it. But this is flat filmmaking. Still, it is an interesting genre blend. The puppet/stage work is more interesting—particularly the fact that HHH uses his normal long takes, medium-long distance shots, static camera on these- you can see audience members in many of them (people walking in front, standing)- great. The most remarkable aspect is the recreation of the history through actors. Here is where HHH users his trademark aesthetic most often though the best compositions are back-loaded and really don’t show up until the end of the film and the beauty of them (and sheer number of them) simply cannot compare to A Time to Live and a Time to Die – some nice Ozu shoji-door compositions
- The historical/political aspect—Japan military cutting pigtails, not being able to perform puppetry outdoors
- The implication of family member deaths and the effect on the family—from A Time to Live and a Time to Die– the family breaks up, misbehaving, abuse.
- The formal weaving of the puppets is great- death ceremony
- Long speeches giving us the background on family
- The scene where Tien-Lu Li has his faithfulness (to his mistress) tested is great
- Like I said above the best sections and most ambitious and beautiful mise-en-scene compositions are towards the end. One at 108 minutes—J & B scotch, depth of field, drunk Japanese soldier – stunning— another one 120 minutes in. An incredible composition. Sitting eating at night. Seven people in the frame for extended time with bars framing the family to the left, right and in the background with laundry hanging. Then the light goes out—really well done. We stay there for another strong composition the morning after.
gems I want to spotlight: Val Kilmer chews up the scenery as Doc Holliday in Tombstone. The Fugitive features an enthralling cat and house game between Tommy Lee Jones (Oscar winner in 1993 for supporting) and Harrison Ford. And though it is not terribly close to the top ten of the year, every cinephile should see the past, present and future Scorsese male muses Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio go at it in This Boy’s Life.
trends and notables:
- 1993 is Spielberg’s year in many ways. Spielberg had already been a major director and figure for nearly twenty years but in 1993 he pulled off the impossible and gave us the dramatic film masterpiece Schindler’s List (winning seven Oscars including Best Picture) and the 1993 box office champion Jurassic Park. They are the fourth and seventh best films of the year- what a year indeed.
- With Three Colours: Blue, Kieslowski is starting his all-important trilogy.
- Mike Leigh has been around for a decade (Meantime is 1983 is his first in the archives) and was a fine director—but Naked is a revelation—a veteran director (he is 50-years old in 1993) breaking into another echelon.
- Ensemble films from Linklater and Altman land in the back half of the top ten of 1993 proving that Slacker was no fluke for Linklater (33-years old in 1993) and for Altman, this gives him back to back top ten of the year films.
- Guillermo del Toro was just 29-years young at the time of the release of his debut film Cronos. Only two years earlier Cuaron made his debut with Sólo con tu pareja (1991)—the two of them forming the groundwork for the Mexican New Wave, New Mexican Cinema- or Nuevo Cine Mexicano. Iñárritu got a later start with his debut in 2000.
- It is a great year for acting firsts. We have Leonardo DiCaprio with both This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio is a very worthy co-star to both De Niro and Johnny Depp. We have Julianne Moore in both Short Cuts (where she is, famously, bottomless for a scene) and a role 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. Linklater’s film is just filled with young acting talent (another reason to compare it to American Graffiti) including a pre-Good Will Hunting Ben Affleck. Michael Shannon makes a quick appearance in Groundhog Day but it will be another ten to fifteen years before he really makes a name for himself. More about him directly below in the best performance male category, but it is worth noting certainly that Ralph Fiennes lands in the archives for the first time in 1993 with both The Baby of Macon and, of course, Schindler’s List.
best performance male: Chalk one up for Cannes getting it right with David Thewlis’ otherworldly performance in Naked. Thewlis’ Johnny is one of cinema’s great characters of the decade. He is cerebral, nasty, angry and mocking. Johnny is unrelenting, droll, pained and often spitting fire, talking in riddles, insults and philosophy. He refers to himself often as a primate and spouts theories on evolution, God and whatever else is in his sphere—very verbal. It is worth pausing to acknowledge the year Daniel Day-Lewis had in 1993 with two great performances in two top ten/fifteen films with The Age of Innocence and In the Name of the Father. Nobody can question the results, but it a little sad we didn’t get more of DDL like this in 1993. Still, he was never that prolific- he actually only acted in five films in the 1990s. Surely, Liam Neeson (not a star yet in 1993) gets a mention here as the titular character in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. It is still the actor’s best work. Ralph Fiennes deserves a spot right next to Neeson for his work as the horrifying Amon Goeth in the same film. Bill Murray has never been better (he may tie it in Lost in Translation but never better) than he is in Groundhog Day. The final mention for this category in 1993 goes to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Hanks is given the best two sequences in the film (the long pause in the street after his initial rejection by a lawyer about his case– and the opera scene). Hanks knocks those two scenes out of the park.
best performance female: Juliette Binoche (Three Colours: Blue) and Holly Hunter (The Piano) are at the top here. Juliette Binoche plays Julie- and like Kieslowski’s Véronique, this is a one-woman show as far as the acting. This is Binoche’s finest performance and that is high praise. Binoche’s understated genius is on display throughout the running time. In a key scene, she devours her late child’s blue candy—gut-wrenching. The film ends with an elliptically edited montage of close-ups of the characters in the film—and then finally with a prolonged close-up on Binoche’s canvas of a face and blue lighting reflected off it. Holly Hunter won the Oscar in The Piano as did her co-star Anna Paquin (for support). Paquin is the third mention for this category in 1993. Hunter’s silent performance is still so emotive. She’ is mute but sets the tone with the almost mystic-like voiceover at the beginning (with a quick coda bookend). Needless to say, for the length of the film she gives us a mesmerizing pantomime performance. Almost every other film of hers in the archives features her lovely southern voice but her work here clearly shows that she could have been a silent screen star. Paquin’s work may be the greatest ever from a child—quite a marvel. Hunter’s character speaks through her piano and her daughter (played by Paquin). And Paquin is a riot– loud, moody, telling tall tales and throwing fits. During the climax Hunter has a pained, wide-eyed stare as the score from Michael Nyman pounds away. Michelle Pfeiffer (almost always swathed in red) deserves some love here for her work in Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence as does Andie MacDowell opposite Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
- Three Colours: Blue
- The Age of Innocence
- Schindler’s List
- Groundhog Day
- The Piano
- Jurassic Park
- Dazed and Confused
- Short Cuts
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Bronx Tale- De Niro||R|
|Abraham’s Valley – de Oliveira||R|
|Arizona Dream – Kusturica||R|
|Calendar – Egoyan||HR|
|Carlito’s Way- De Palma||R/HR|
|Cronos – del Toro||R|
|Dave – I. Reitman||R|
|Dazed and Confused – Linklater||HR/MS|
|Farewell My Concubine – Kaige Chen||HR|
|Gettysburg – Maxwell||R|
|Groundhog Day – Ramis||MS/MP|
|In the Line of Fire- Peterson||R|
|In the Name of the Father- Sheridan||R/HR|
|Iron Monkey – Woo-Ping Yuen||R|
|Jurassic Park – Spielberg||HR/MS|
|King of the Hill- Soderbergh||R|
|Mâdadayo – Kurosawa||R|
|Manhattan Murder Mystery – Allen||R|
|Much Ado About Nothing- Branagh||R|
|Naked – Leigh||MP|
|Perfect World- Eastwood||R|
|Philadelphia – Demme||HR|
|Schindler’s List- Spielberg||MP|
|Searching for Bobby Fischer- Zaillian||R|
|Short Cuts- Altman||HR|
|Six Degrees of Separation -Schepisi||R|
|Sleepless in Seattle – Ephron||R|
|The Age of Innocence – Scorsese||MP|
|The Baby of Macon – Greenaway||R|
|The Blue Kite – Zhuangzhuang Tian|
|The Firm – Pollack||R|
|The Fugitive – A. Davis||HR|
|The Nightmare Before Christmas – Selick||R|
|The Piano – Campion||MS|
|The Puppetmaster – Hsiao-Hsien Hou||R/HR|
|The Remains of the Day – Ivory||R/HR|
|The Secret Garden- Holland||R|
|This Boy’s Life- Caton-Jones||R|
|Three Colours: Blue – Kieslowski||MP|
|Todos a la cárcel – Berlanga||R|
|Tombstone – G. Cosmatos||R|
|True Romance- T. Scott||R|
|What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – Hallström||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
I like a lot of the performances and movies mentioned, but de Palma’s Carlito’s Way surely deserves a position in the Top 10 – in my opinion, it’s a MP and de Palma’s best work. I’d probably have to put it in my all-time Top 20. The use of music in it is spectacular and the way it is shot is spectacular, stylish and tense. The concluding set-piece is up there with the more well-known Union Station scene from The Untouchables. Most of all, though, Sean Penn gives a performance like none other he’s given as a pathetically sleazy man, who Pacino blindly supports out of blind loyalty. Sean Penn is more known for his intense (Mystic River) or likeable performances (Milk), but here he plays a character so different and so dislikeable that it’s almost hard to stop watching him. He’s undoubtedly better than Tom Hanks overrated performance in Philadelphia (it is a good performance that is different from what Hanks had been doing up to this point, but I don’t think it’s by any means as great as reputation would suggest – I might actually prefer Denzel in it, who is, probably, the better actor of the two anyway). Sean Penn is, in my eyes, a quite underrated actor by many – he has a similar problem to Jeff Bridges. They both star in a lot of great movies and have given many great performances, but their greatest hits are not as widely known as, say, Al Pacino. Personally, I’d say their acting is of a higher standard than Pacino – however, they are not as widely recognised. Back to the point, though, whilst many of the other actors in this list here have performances that are the actors playing to their commonly known strengths – especially Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (granted, I do love the movie and his performance) – Penn plays a different role and one that many actors of his fame at the time would be reluctant to take. He is definitely not playing a charismatic, handsome, leading man in it – very much the opposite and to greater effect than I think any other actor can lay claim to in 1993.
All the same, though, I respect your opinion here – a lot of good picks – but I do LOVE Penn’s portrayal in Carlito’s Way.
@Jeff — Good stuff here- thank you for writing. Penn is superb in Carlito’s Way- I agree. I think our big disconnect here is with the film though and not the performance. If you have Carlito’s Way as as an all-time top 20— well— I disagree. I think you could successfully argue and convince me it should be in the top 10 of 1993 but I don’t think I could go much further. When selecting the best performances I usually look just a few things: 1. How good is the performance (check for Penn). With just about equal measure I look at 2. How good is the film and then 3. How reliant on the performance is the film? Penn is in like 20 minutes of a film that isn’t in the top 10 of 1993. If you’re going to be in 20 minutes of a film and be one of the best 5-8 male performances of the year it better be John Cazale in The Godfather Part II or something… does that make sense?
That Top ten list is pretty Alright, Alright, Alright.
Schindler’s List is at 225 on The Current They Shoot Pictures don’t they update and in all honesty it should be Top 100 easily everything from The Writing, To The Acting, to The Directing are Top Notch and it’s easily up there with 2001 a space odyssey and The Godfather.
Why is Demolition Man not in the archives.
@Chris – The Stallone film with the 34 on metacritic? Do you think it’s really good? I haven’t seen it in ages but didn’t think much of it when I did
It is way better than a 34 on Metacritic.Enjoyed it a lot.The performances of Sandra Bullock,Stallone and also Snipes are good.Had some great imagery and mis-en scenes.one of Stallone’s best films and one of his career defining roles.My pick for best futuristic action film since the two terminators.Definitely should be in the archives I think.
Will you give it another shot?You can’t underestimate a film by looking at their Metacritic score.
@Chris– I’m not sure. Metacritic isn’t perfect but there are a lot of movies out there and only so many movies you can watch. You have to prioritize.
It’s one of a kind and highly entertaining.I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you give it another shot.Great worldbuilding too(Not an average action flick)
@Chris- thanks for the recommendation
Why is The Firm(1993) not in the archives?
De Niro’s directeriol debut A Bronx Tale is way better than a simple reccomend I think.Has over 90 critics and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes 4 stars from Roger Ebert.Should be in the top 10 I think.
Ben Kingsley probably deserve a honourable mention in the best male category for Schindlers List.
Carlito’s Way deserves the top 10 IMO, 7# spot. HR/MS Border I think.
I know it’s not a main component of your ranking system but Dazed and Confused is the best High School movie of all time and the most authentic (I guess that depends upon your High School experience) but I love this hilarious quote from Linklater on his idea for creating an “inverse John Hughes film”
“The drama is so low-key in [Dazed & Confused]. I don’t remember teenage being that dramatic. I remember just trying to go with the flow, socialize, fit in and be cool. The stakes were really low. To get Aerosmith tickets or not? That’s a big thing. It was really rare when the star-crossed lovers from the opposite side of the tracks and the girl gets pregnant and there’s a car crash and somebody dies. That didn’t really happen much. But riding around and trying to look for something to do with the music cranked up, now that happened a lot”
This is a big reason why this movie works so well, it takes a different approach than the over dramatic version of High School movies
I also like the having the entire movie occur in one day (or 24 hour period) similar to Superbad, this would be an example of film form?
@James Trapp- great comment here- so I have two items to share- one is a good list of high school films from Esquire https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/g22880528/best-high-school-movies/ Dazed is on there so you know it is good! I love that quote from Linklater. Thanks for sharing. As far is the 24 hour period being an example of form- in this case I think it is a significant theme for Linklater as an auteur- time is so important to him. I think in terms of film forms there is usually some chapter break, or reoccurring shot or sequence (think of Jarmusch’s reoccurring shot in bed with the day titles in Paterson, or the chapter breaks in Varda’s Cleo)– does that make sense? But as far as a reoccurring theme for Linklater, absolutely– I mean Boyhood is all about time. If you have 8 minutes check out this piece by Kononada (a brilliant upcoming auteur in his own right now)– it doesn’t even feature Dazed and Confused- but is all about Linklater and time http://kogonada.com/portfolio/linklater/on-cinema-time
For True Romance do you think it would be significantly higher if Tarantino directed it? It makes for an interesting screen play, I only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago when my friend told me about it. Watching it for the first time I imagine I would have picked up on the Tarantino connection even had I not know about it ahead of time as it had most of the classic Tarantinoisms particularly the long dialogues leading to violence and pop culture references galore. And the cast! My god, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini (future Tony Soprano), Dennis Hopper, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, and even brief appearances from Brad Pitt, Tom Sizemore, Chris Penn and a few others, I mean just wow.
Christopher Walken was the real standout as his character was absolutely chilling.
What do you think the potential of this film is if Tarantino directs?
@James Trapp- It has been a minute since I’ve seen True Romance- it was before my site and before I took notes with each viewing so I’d like another look. You’re right- what a cast! He’s not on Tarantino’s level as a director but Tony Scott is no slouch and perhaps has no bigger admirer than Tarantino himself https://www.indiewire.com/2012/08/quentin-tarantino-and-richard-kelly-talk-tony-scott-at-double-feature-of-true-romance-and-domino-240212/
@Drake – thanks for article, good read, I love these kind of articles. Interesting that True Romance was actually written before Reservoir Dogs if I’m reading the article correctly. I guess it kind of makes sense though given how autobiographical True Romance is
Is The Program(1993) worth watching? Has 3 stars from Ebert.
@Anderson- I’m a sucker for a sports movie so I enjoyed my time watching The Program- but it isn’t a great movie.
I find Roger Ebert’s review of Schindler’s list to be one of his finest reviews. I read it for the first time today. I don’t love ebert as he hated 2 of my top 4 favorite movies (Brazil & blue Velvet) but he really was a gifted writer.
To which Ebert review are you referring, his original 1993 piece or his later review commemorating the film’s induction into his Great Movies collection?
I actually was referring to the 2003 one, although the original one is quite good to
I assume this is the most changed top 10 of a yearly archive page so far. The previous top two films have been dropped all the way to #4 and #6. Do you have Schindler’s List on your watchlist? There is no page for it currently, and I’d love to see one. Unfortunately, this and 1981 bring Spielberg down to exactly zero yearly wins. Also, I believe that five of the last seven years have a different #1 than they did previously.
@Graham – yeah, I’m quite surprised myself. Makes me excited to watch the top 2 slots which I have not seen and revisit Age of Innocence which I’ve only seen once (was impressed)
I am curious about The Piano being downgraded as I think it was listed as an MP before but I could be mistaken.
The Piano was lowered to a must-see in this page from 2019:
@Graham- I have not kept track of the sheer number of changes to the top 10s but I would have to guess 1993 would have to be there as far as the most changes. I have seen Schindler’s List many times- but not in recent years. I do not have it on my current watchlist but I do want to get to Lincoln again soon so maybe I’ll pair those two together. I also had not noticed the amount of changes to the #1 slot. Although there is bound to be the inevitable two steps forward, one step back- I’d like to think that every day/week/month/year the lists get a little better.
And now the waiting game… Pulp Fiction or Chungking Express (or even like Satantango which I have yet to see, and I suppose Red could make a comeback victory lap for Kieslowski too).
@Zane – YES. I’m so curious how that’s going to turn out. My bet is on Pulp Fiction, though I’m low key rooting for either Red or Chungking Express.
I’m so glad you changed the order in which you arranged the 1993 films, because quite honestly, I was on my way here to argue that Blue is the best film of 1993. The previous assessment, that Schindler’s List is actually the best, is not entirely inaccurate. I mean, it IS a masterpiece and makes you wish Spielberg had given us something akin to it again. I also agree that Schindler’s List is ever so slightly superior to the Piano (which is somewhat overrated on TSPDT, though itself a masterpiece). I think I’d rank them as (1) Blue, (2) Schindler’s List and (3) the Piano, but I haven’t watched the Age of Innocence in so many years (I generally haven’t touched Scorsese in a long time) and I’ve never seen your number 1, Naked. So there’s still some work to be done on my part.
I must say, I haven’t seen any of Richard Linklater’s films so far but I’m surprised to see Slacker going up to a MS in 1990 whilst Dazed and Confused is lowered to a HR/MS here? What happened?
@Zane- There is not much separating the two. You should check out some Linklater.
Woah!! I was anticipating a little change but it’s blow after blow (it’s for good though). Leigh’s masterpiece is one of the greatest films ever made indeed. Blue is my personal favorite of the bunch & Scorsese’s masterpiece takes a lot from the leopard at the same time being completely original. The apparent lack of love for the piano worries me. It’s a ‘M’asterpiece & I personally don’t think that groundhog can be better than that. The only thing that stops me from starting a campaign for the piano is it’s ending. It didn’t enchant me. The original ending Campion imagined was better (Ada gets drowned – more powerful of course) but then the ending dialogue is unparalleled achievement in screenwriting.
P. S. Did you attend Telluride? Did you see C’mon C’mon. I saw it’s trailer today and all the gods in the world will give you evidence that I’m in love. It’s looks meticulously crafted. Stunning black & white. Mike Mills is one of the most underrated American independent filmmakers. Looks like this could be his supreme achievement.
Quite a year for the emphasis on color, obviously the use of color is important in many films but it seems especially important in most of the best films for this year, I mean you have an entire film named after a color ha with Kieslowski’s Blue, then with Scorsese’s Age of Innocence has probably the best use of color in any Scorsese film although I would put The Irishman 2019) up there and while I have not seen it yet, it seems you emphasis the use of color in Naked. And of course Schindler’s List with the girl in red being one of the most famous uses of color of all time in any film. Interesting
@James Trapp- I noticed the same thing James!
I agree. What are some other years with similar greatness in terms of color? Certainly 1989 comes to mind; there’s The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover, Dekalog, and Do the the Right Thing at the top of that year and all three utilize colors masterfully. 1939 should probably be mentioned as well, because although many of its top movies are in black and white, both of the two most notable watersheds in terms of color cinema (The Wizard of Oz and GWTW) came from that year and both are great films. Are there any other years worthy of mention?
Was Falling Down always unarchivable? Because it should be at least Recommended . Douglas is a tour de force in his (in my opinion) best performance (2. Wall Street, 3. Fatal Attraction). And Schumacher (although far from phenomenal director) does an exceptional job in crafting this very entertaining and highly stylized thriller, that feels almost like a short Breaking Bad companion.
@RujK- I saw it when it came out but that was probably the last time. I have been meaning to get to it again.
Hi Drake, I’ve heard you say on another page that if a director makes the best film of the year, they are the best director of the year. This makes sense, but what about this year 1993 (or other years with 2 films from an auteur) . Who is the better director of 1993, Mike Leigh or Steven Spielberg, and in general how do you evaluate that situation?
@Harry- Yeah good point- I had not really considered that the few times it would be relevant- -1993 with Spielberg is certainly one
@Harry@Drake – what about 1994 with Kieslowski directing Red and White of the color trilogy. I personally think so highly of Pulp Fiction and Chungking Express that I would go with Tarantino or WKW but I think there’s an argument to be made for Kieslowski none the less.
Hi James. I think like this.
The best director of the decade isn’t who has the best film of the decade it’s whoever is most accomplished throughout the decade.
The best director of all time isn’t who has the best film of all time, it’s whoever is most accomplished throughout all of cinema (these can line-up of course)
So I think it should be consistent with a year. Having the #1 MP of the year is a big achievement no doubt, but I think the bigger accomplishment is having the #3 (MP) and #5 (MS) of the year, being great over the period. I don’t think there’s a general rule to follow but this is how I see it.
Though to clarify, otherwise since a year is such a short period of course I agree with Drake in that the director with the best film of the year is the best director of the year.
@Harry-You are completely wrong. Lol. If the best director makes the best film then why does the academy has 2 seperate categories for best picture and best director?😂
@Malith the academy tends to have in its best picture nominations films with great screenplays and acting but not much on the direction side, unlike Drake who exclusively picks films with the best director for his best of the year. I guess they want to honour the directors with one award while ignoring them with another?
and Yes I understand you are joking but I like to answer anyway.
@Harry-No ask Drake, he doesn’t exclusively pick the best directed film as the best film of the year at all. Although there is a higher chance of that happening than not.
Given Naked’s place at the top of the list I had high expectations going into it. I was surprised to not have heard of it before. It not only met but possibly exceeded the already very high expectations I had and David Thewlis was unbelievable. I know you are not a big TV guy, Thewlis was incredible as the main villain in the 3rd season of Fargo. After watching this I can see why the Fargo producers wanted Thewlis, a lot of similarities with the rapid fire wordplay and quick wits. Both characters are extremely dark although Johnny has a nihilism streak to him while his Fargo character, VM Varga, knew exactly what he wanted from people as he was a masterful con artist. Johnny’s motivations are more mysterious. While I need some time to digest this fascinating film I agree that Thewlis’ Johnny is one of the most captivating movie characters I have seen.
Have you seen Menace II Society? It gets compared to Boyz n the Hood (1991) but I think it is superior. Both films cover similar subject matter, inner city violence, and both have a protagonist who is a High School senior. Menace II Society is even bleaker as its main character has little guidance unlike the Cuba Gooding character from Boyz…. It has a great bookend of casual/meaningless violence. Samuel L Jackson has a great scene early in the film. Like Goodfellas or A Bronx Tale there is one of those scenes that introduces all the neighborhood gangsters and their colorful nicknames and personalities But more than anything else it is the gritty realism and bleak tone that make the film effective. And while it covers intergenerational violence it does not come across as an “issue movie” nor is it primarily plot driven.
@James Trapp- I have seen it- probably overdue for a rewatch. I would agree it should be in the archives. It should be a recommend here.
@Drake – yeah I think R sounds about right, it’s crazy that the directors, twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes were just 20 when they directed it
True Romance (1993)
Directed by Tony Scott
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Somehow, I was not even aware of this movie’s existence until about 4 years ago when my friend told me about it. I purchased Arrow Video’s recent 4K Restoration and decided to do a review
2.39 to 1 aspect ratio
Starts in bar with Clarence (a Tarantino alter ego)
3:20 the score is near identical to the score from Badlands (1973) and speaking of which, the voice over narration from Patricia Arquette during opening credits reminds me of the Sissy Spacek character from Badlands
8:48 nice shot of diner in blue light
11:09 canted angles in comic bookstore
12:18 blue silhouette used throughout the sex scene
Gary Oldman is a national treasure, so hilarious and over the top in this movie as “Drexel” a drug dealer working for Midwest Mob
25:25 min great peep hole shot
Great scene starting near 26 min with back and forth between the Clarence and Drexel (Oldman) that uses many close-up shots on their faces with red lit background and music bumping
38 min Dennis Hooper playing a relatively straight edge character here
47:45 Christopher Walken makes his appearance in arguably the movies best scene
49:03 low angle shot contributes to the menacing nature of the Walken character, throughout the exchanges Hooper’s character is shown in light while Walken’s is shown in dark
dimly lit trailer and close up shots add to the claustrophobic nature of the scene as well
53:40 “could I get one of those Chesterfields now?” Hopper’s knows his fate is sealed regardless of what he says so he decides to insult Walken and his crew with a particularly controversial rant
58 min Clarence and Alabama driving on highway during bright day, this contrast is notable and the scene in dimly lit trailer
1:05:45 roller coaster scene is perfect visual representation for movie as a whole, it’s a crazy ride start to finish
1:14:08 James Gandolfini about 6 years before Sopranos pilot, as mob enforcer
Great editing cutting back and forth between Alabama fighting off Gandolfini’s character and Clarence purchasing fast food
1:24:45 shot of police through car’s side mirror
1:25:28 beautiful shot in police interrogation room following arrest for cocaine possession, exquisite use of lighting
1:31:35 great overhead shot of gangsters in hotel room with guns scattered on bed as they prepare for showdown
1:41:52 The Good the Bad and the Ugly refence, foreshowing the Mexican Standoff concluding in the big shootout
1:48:14 Mexican Standoff starts up, great composition as all the relevant characters end up in the hotel room
1:55:09 beautiful shot of Clarence and Alabama driving in car on a sunny day
Phenomenal screenplay, practically every major player ends up in the hotel room in the last 15 min or so, the screenplay was of course written by Tarantino, and it shows as the Tarantino traits are all over the place:
– Pop culture references (especially to other movies)
– Extended dialogue ending in over the top blood shed
– Excessive swearing (including n word which understandably bothers some people)
– Clarence, a comic loving nerd is a pretty obvious Tarantino alter ego (he works at comic shop while
Tarantino worked at Video Archives which was a video rental store located in Manhattan Beach,
– Perfect mix of comedy and drama
– The ending or I guess technically 2nd last scene is like a Mexican Standoff on steroids
– In “Tarantino Universe” a character named “Alabama” is referenced in Reservoir Dogs and Patricia Arquette plays “Alabama” I am not sure if this is supposed to be the same character
I love the use of close ups throughout the movie, some effective zooms as well
Great performances all the way around but I think Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, and Patricia Arquette and of course Gary Oldman are the standouts. If I ranked the performances, I think those would be the top 4 in some order. Saul Rubinek is great as well
One of my few complaints would be the “Elvis” scene, its random and I don’t really get its purpose, but all things considered it’s a very minor issue
Movies don’t get much more enjoyable; this is a blast start to finish
@James Trapp – great work here all around- especially highlighting some of the memorable performances here.
@Drake – appreciate the kind words, here’s an interesting article about 3 movies that Tarantino wanted to direct but was not able to for varying reasons. Tarantino had to choose between directing True Romance or Reservoir Dogs for reasons the article explains and of course he went with Reservoir Dogs. I can’t really complain too much about that decision given how much I love Reservoir Dogs but it is an interesting “What If” scenario;
What if Tarantino had directed True Romance and Tony Scott directed Reservoir Dogs? Although I am kind of surprised he choose Reservoir Dogs given that True Romance is the more personal of the 2(again not a complaint). Tarantino unsurprisingly wrote True Romance using a non-linear storyline but Scott changed to a more convention narrative. However, that aside Tarantino has said that he felt Scott’s film was mainly faithful to Tarantino’s original screenplay.
@James Trapp- Thanks for sharing. I’ve heard and read Tarantino wax poetic on Tony Scott several times in different spots and about different films. https://theplaylist.net/quentin-tarantino-unstoppable-best-decade-20200110/
Drake, I love the film Tombstone. Kilmer is rightfully singled out by critics, as he’s throwing 100mph the whole time, but the movie as a whole is also terrific. Any chance it moves up to R/HR or even HR upon your next watch? Love the site and keep up the great work!
@Haider- Thanks for the kind words on the site. Hmm- higher than a recommend? I wanted to say I’ve seen Tombstone semi-recently- but it has been at least 6 years. I think R/HR would be the ceiling here and there’s a fair amount of distance from the bottom of the top 10 of 1993 to Tombstone
@Drake, Thanks for the input. I saw it recently and it has far more split diopter shots than I previously recalled. And those shots are carried all the way through.