The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, December 14, 2007
OLD '97: Other media outlets greet the holiday season with a list of the year's 10 best movies. Here at The Perpetual Three-Dot Column, we aren't able to watch all the pictures we'd like to see as they appear in the theater, so instead we give you the top 10 films of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, etc.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1997, it gave its Best Picture award to a bloated soap opera called Titanic. You won't see that one here:

1. Oz
Written by Tom Fontana
Directed by Darnell Martin, Nick Gomez, Jean De Segonzac, Leslie Libman, Larry Williams, and Alan Taylor

It's my list, and if I want to describe the debut season of a TV series as a "movie" that's my prerogative. These eight hours can function as a self-contained miniseries, with a sequence of initially independent vignettes that gradually reveal themselves to form a larger narrative. Power shifts constantly among a penitentiary's players and their tribes, in a social web that never stops evolving; in a perfect climax, that network explodes, inverting, distorting, and dashing the prison's hierarchies.

2. The Apostle
Written and directed by Robert Duvall

A double rarity -- a thoughtful movie about religion and a textured portrait of the South.

3. The Sweet Hereafter
Directed by Atom Egoyan
Written by Egoyan, from a novel by Russell Banks

Death rips a hole in a town. The viewer drifts through the community and through time, as helpless as the grieving parents of the story.

4. fast, cheap & out of control
Directed by Errol Morris

Studies in spontaneous order.

5. Deconstructing Harry
Written and directed by Woody Allen

Allen's last great movie -- a sardonic, self-lacerating remake of Wild Strawberries.

6. Jackie Brown
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Tarantino, from a novel by Elmore Leonard

All the Tarantino trademarks are on display here: the idiosyncratic structure, the brilliantly selected soundtrack, the rich, funny dialogue. But there's something deeper going on as well, a pulp fable about integration that refuses to preach or to give the audience a reassuring conclusion.

7. The Ice Storm
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by James Schamus, from a novel by Rick Moody

Before this movie, Christina Ricci had starred in a series of fluffy kid flicks, with only a quirky supporting role in the Addams Family films betraying more than a hint that she had greatness in her. With this -- released the same year as That Darn Cat! -- she suddenly established herself as the indie queen of the late '90s. Unlike some of the other art-house pictures she would appear in, this one was worthy of her talents.

8. Sunday
Directed by Jonathan Nossiter
Written by Nossiter and James Lasdun, from a story by Lasdun

"I guess I'm too old to play a human being."

9. Face/Off
Directed by John Woo
Written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary

Woo's best American movie.

10. Grosse Pointe Blank
Directed by George Armitage
Written by Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and John Cusack, from a story by Jankiewicz

Armitage, who also made the Charles Willeford adaptation Miami Blues, is one of the most underrated filmmakers in Hollywood. This clever comedy gets every detail about Michigan right except one: There's simply no way a radio station that good could exist anywhere near Grosse Pointe.

Honorable mentions:

11. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol)
12. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
13. Public Housing (Frederick Wiseman)
14. Waco: The Rules of Engagement (William Gazecki)
15. The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 (Sam Green)
16. Gummo (Harmony Korine)
17. The Spanish Prisoner (David Mamet)
18. The Eel (Shohei Imamura)
19. Habit (Larry Fessenden)
20. Absolute Power (Clint Eastwood)


posted by Jesse 12:01 PM
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