JANUARY 12, 1998: Say it loud and say it proud: In these here parts, we like it Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. Errol Morris' unique documentary essay about the glory and folly of human endeavor (among other subjects) grabbed the number-one spot in the Austin Chronicle's cumulative tally of the Top Ten Films of 1997.
A non-fiction film? As the best movie of the year? No one ever said Austin was like anywhere else. To be fair, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control is earning buckets of best-documentary kudos from various other critics' organizations. The voting at the Chronicle, however, doesn't differentiate between generic categories. Narratives, documentaries, and foreign films are all equally eligible for inclusion in our Top Ten lists. Thus, the runner-up for the Chronicle's top spot is the season's blockbuster epic, Titanic.
A note about the tabulating: A total of five reviewers submitted Top Ten lists. Individual entries on each list were assigned numerical values. Each first choice received 10 points, the second film nine points, and so on. Films classified as "near misses" were not assigned any numerical value. The points were then tallied to find the cumulative Chronicle Top Ten Films of 1997.
A note about what is meant by "the calendar year 1997": Any film that opened in Austin for a theatrical run in the calendar year 1997 was eligible for consideration. That means that such films as Deconstructing Harry, Wag the Dog, and The Sweet Hereafter -- all of which were released during the last few days of 1997 but did not open in Austin until January 1998 -- are out of the running. It also means that numerous 1996 movies that arrived in Austin in 1997 were also eligible for consideration. Four of the films on the cumulative list -- The People vs. Larry Flynt, When We Were Kings, Sling Blade, and Some Mother's Son -- are "technically" 1996 movies. We don't believe it matters though. Clearly, the time lag doesn't diminish their greatness or their freshness. The complete list of titles that opened in Austin in 1997, along with their Chronicle review dates and star assessments, can be viewed in the "Screens" section of our website at http://www.auschron.com. Have fun making your own lists -- of Top Tens, movies to catch on video, and things to watch for on the screen. And resolve to watch even more movies in 1998. -- Marjorie Baumgarten
Most Overrated Films: L.A. Confidential, Crash, Face/Off
Wild Card Category: Best Cinematographer: Robert Richardson shot two of my favorite movies of 1997 -- Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and U-Turn; he also shot what's bound to be one of my favorites of 1998, Wag the Dog.
Most Overrated Films: Crash; Sling Blade; In & Out
Worst Film: Tie: Crash -- A boring, masturbatory fantasy posing as autoerotica; The Lost World -- Hack work of the artist as a middle-aged man
Wild Card Category: Movie that would definitely have made my Top Ten list last year had I seen it in 1996: Scream
Most Overrated Films:Chasing Amy
Most Underrated Films: Hamlet; Waiting for Guffman; Career Girls
Best Director: Errol Morris (Fast Cheap, and Out of Control); James Cameron (Titanic)
Worst Film: Everyone Says I Love You: Nerve-deadening study in narcissism masquerading as an homage to romantic musicals. More accurate title: Everyone Says I Love Me
Wild Card Category: Best Comeback: Debbie Reynolds (Mother, In & Out). Movie That Feels Like It Was Made Just for Me: Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
Acting Kudos: Lady Chablis (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman), Christopher Walken (Mouse Hunt), Al Pacino (Devil's Advocate), Adrienne Shelley (Sudden Manhattan)
Worst Film: Batman and Robin: Not unlike eating too much cotton candy before getting trapped on an endless Tilt-a-Whirl ride.
Wild Card Category: Most Emotionally Rewarding Scene: Keanu Reeves' slow-motion suicide in Devil's Advocate
Most Overrated Films: Face/Off; Boogie Nights; Chasing Amy
Most Underrated Films: U-Turn; Hard Eight; La Cérémonie
Best Director: Victor Nunez (Ulee's Gold); Wong Kar-Wai (Happy Together); Errol Morris (Fast, Cheap & Out of Control)
Worst Film: Gummo: Can't improve upon my colleague Marc Savlov's off-the-cuff assessment -- "It's the kind of movie that, 10 years ago, I'd probably have loved, but at some point you just realize you've gotten over the whole shock-cinema thing."
Best Screenplay: Latest Vegas bettors' line on Seventies personages, film
genres, and cultural phenomena most likely to be resurrected in upcoming Quentin
Tarantino movies: Dobermans (Even odds); Get Christy Love (Even); Michael
J. Pollard (2-1); Angie Dickinson (3-1); Marjoe Gortner (5-1); The Time Tunnel
(10-1); Fred "The Hammer" Williamson (15-1); Franklin Ajaye (25-1)
TEXAS SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS PICKS:
THE SWEET HEREAFTER
The Sweet Hereafter, Atom Egoyan's study of the aftermath of a tragedy on a small town, was voted by the Texas Society of Film Critics (TSFC) as the best film of 1997. Egoyan was also voted by the organization as the year's best director. (The film opens in Austin this week.) The selection of The Sweet Hereafter is a marked contrast from the decisions announced by the country's other major critics' associations, which, across the board, have named L.A. Confidential as the year's best movie.
Best actor awards went to Robert Duvall for The Apostle and Helena Bonham Carter for The Wings of the Dove. Awards for the best supporting actors went to Kevin Spacey for L.A. Confidential and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Joan Cusack for In & Out.
Neil LaBute was honored with the best original screenplay award for In the Company of Men. The best adapted screenplay honors went to Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson for L.A. Confidential. Shall We Dance? was named the best foreign language film and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control was voted best documentary.
STFC president Joe Leydon also announced that runners-up included Titanic for best picture; Peter Fonda (Ulee's Gold) and Judi Dench (Mrs. Brown) for best actors; Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) and Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) for best supporting actors; James Cameron (Titanic) for best director; As Good as It Gets for best original screenplay; The Sweet Hereafter for best adapted screenplay; Waco: The Rules of Engagement for best documentary; and Ponette for best foreign language film. -- M.B.
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