When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1996, it gave its Best Picture award to The English Patient, a film that wraps some surprisingly subversive politics in about 10 layers of Oscar bait. I appreciated the antiwar message, but I like these movies more:
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
"I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there, Lou."
2. Flirting with Disaster
Written and directed by David O. Russell
This screwball road movie is by far the funniest film to star Ben Stiller. While Stiller of course gets part of the credit for that, there's a great supporting cast here too, from Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin as a pair of aging desert hippies to Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins as some gay feds in love.
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge, from a novel by Irvine Welsh
A sad, funny, disgusting, and inspiring film about drug abuse. Refreshingly, it never condescends to its characters: There's no question that these are individuals making choices, not zombies possessed by a disease.
4. The Delta
Written and directed by Ira Sachs
A coming-of-age story in which no one really comes of age.
5. Chris Rock: Bring the Pain
Directed by Keith Truesdell
Written by Chris Rock
The most essential hour of stand-up to be recorded in the 1990s.
Written and directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou
No angels, just insects.
7. Conspirators of Pleasure
Written and directed by Jan Svankmajer
A romantic comedy on bad acid.
8. I Shot Andy Warhol
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Harron, Daniel Minahan, and Jeremiah Newton
"You've got to go through a lot of sex to get to anti-sex."
Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Written by Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan
It's a classic American tall tale, or at any rate it feels like one. I've got a pet theory that Bill Murray's character is the Devil.
10. Three Lives and Only One Death
Directed by Raúl Ruiz
Written by Ruiz and Pascal Bonitzer
Some of Ruiz's surrealist experiments bore me, but this one is riveting and hilarious.
11. Personal Belongings (Steven Bognar)
12. Schizopolis (Steven Soderbergh)
13. Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier)
14. Gabbeh (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
15. Paradise Lost (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky)
16. Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne)
17. When We Were Kings (Leon Gast)
18. Capitaine Conan (Bertrand Tavernier)
19. Big Night (Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci)
20. Private Confessions (Liv Ullmann)
Of the films of 1996 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Ridicule and The Stendhal Syndrome.