As Good as it Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
1997 is one of those years where there are a lot more good movies than you might think. This is despite the fact that the nomination class is, overall, a pretty good one. That said, there are improvements to make, or at least changes that may be only lateral moves in terms of the overall quality of the films in question. Certainly, my love of films like Event Horizon, The Game, and Cube doesn’t really matter to Oscar, and those films aren’t going to ever get a nomination. Oscar’s general dislike of science fiction will leave out Contact and Gattaca. Oscar also doesn’t nominate a lot of foreign language movies for its top award, which means that films like Taste of Cherry, Happy Together, Open Your Eyes, and Life is Beautiful are longshots for nomination despite the latters nominations and wins in other categories. Wag the Dog was either too sardonic or too real to consider seriously. Boogie Nights may have just had too much sex in it. But I don’t know why I’m including Affliction and The Apostle here rather than in the nominations below.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I remember when As Good as it Gets came out and people lost their shit over it. And, now having seen it, I don’t know why people like it. This is a hateful movie captained by a hateful, misogynist anti-gay bigot who gets to have a happy ending when the credits roll because, over the course of the film he makes a gay friend and decides that maybe there’s a woman (half his age) who just might be worthy of touching his penis and still talking to him afterwards. Based on how good this year was, if Oscar had expanded to 10 nominations for this year, I still wouldn’t put this on the list.
4. This was Titanic’s year, and for a lot of reasons, I can see why people liked it. It’s a bit, sweeping story about a real-world event that has been fictionalized to include some human interest and some romance. I get it. And while I like the story pretty well, I really like it when it ramps up to the ship sinking. So why fourth place? Because it’s 45 or so too long. This movie should start when Rose calls Titanic the ship of dreams and it should end when Rose is sitting on a New York dock. The framing story drags the rest of it down.
3. We can credit Good Will Hunting with a lot of things. It got an Oscar for Robin Williams and made names for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. And really, it’s a hard movie to dislike. It’s one that would rank for me in a lot of years. The truth is that it’s just not as good as the other two nominations. While it’s a fine story and has some interesting characters, it’s also a story that goes exactly as you think it’s going to. Once all the pieces are in place on the board, there’s nowhere for it to go except for exactly where it goes.
2. I absolutely love that The Full Monty was nominated for Best Picture. It’s absolutely the sort of nomination that continues to give me just a little bit of hope that the Oscars and the entire process isn’t entirely irredeemable. I’ll be honest in saying that it has a lot of the same problems as Good Will Hunting. There aren’t a lot of places for this to go once it starts going, and you know what? I don’t care at all. I love these characters and this story, and it’s impossible to watch this and not smile all the way through it. I mean, I’m not giving it the win, but damn if it isn’t worth seeing and loving.
1. I like L.A. Confidential a lot. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it does a hell of a lot of things really, really well. For modern-day filmmakers, noir is a difficult style to really pull off. There’s something primal about noir. You need to be just cynical enough to make it work and just naïve enough to believe in it. Modern filmmakers struggle with that naivety. But L.A. Confidential works because it embraces that style completely. It wants to tell a good story and it wants to be just bad enough to do it. There’s not a moment that doesn’t work in it, and while there’s still a little revulsion touting a film featuring this much Kevin Spacey, I can’t deny that it’s the best of its year.