The most enduring image at the movies in 1997 sliced through its path like a hot knife through butter. Sheer size was its initial attraction but to those who experienced it, thinking of it only in terms of its girth failed to do the mighty beast justice. In the end it had no mercy on the rich or the poor, bringing people from all walks of life down to their collective knees. Those involved with it had their lives forever changed. It was a streamlined mass of pure steel and it was the center of the movie of year. And so without further adieu let”s look back at five of the most memorable and definitive films of 1997, which will be rated on a scale of 1-4 Digs in honor of our main man Eddie Adams from Torrance.
“Titanic” Considered a colossal risk when it was first released, “Titanic” went on to become the biggest money-making movie of all time and winner of 11 Oscars. Like its central character, “Titanic” has not aged very well. As the years go by, critics and moviegoers alike have cooled on the film. Along with its enormous box-office and many awards, “Titanic” will be remembered for making Leonardo DiCaprio the man of the moment and for director James Cameron”s pompous and ridiculous speeches at the Academy Awards. No Digs.
“Wag the Dog” Few films have ever been quite as timely as “Wag the Dog.” The movie”s plot centers around Washington spin doctors and a Hollywood crew working together to create a fake war with Albania in order to divert the country”s attention from a White House scandal. Which worked out quite well, considering that the film was just gaining wide release when the whole Clinton/Lewinksy affair was coming to light. Timeliness aside, this is a very funny film due to the sharp writing of David Mamet and Hilary Henkin and stellar acting of Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Anne Heche, among others. 2 Digs.
“Good Will Hunting” When “Good Will Hunting” hit theaters, moviegoers across the country fell in love with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for their rags to riches story of going from virtual nobodies to writing and starring in their own movie. When the film was released it had a fresh feel to it and caught on with audiences big time. The movie struck a chord with students at Michigan and held court at the State Theater for the entire 1998 winter semester a record which like DiMaggio”s hitting streak may never be touched. No matter how much you like the film, never say “how do you like them apples” ever again. Trust me. Ben and Matt passed me the word that even they think the phrase has run its course and have taken to murmuring “son of a bitch stole my line” whenever people yell it to them at Red Sox games. 2.5 Digs.
“L.A. Confidential” The biggest film event in Ann Arbor of 1997 was when novelist James Ellroy and writer-director Curtis Hanson blew into town to introduce their film “L.A. Confidential.” In the same vein as “Chinatown,” the film takes an unflinching look at the seedy side of 1950s Los Angeles. “L.A. Confidential” got stoned for Best Picture, won Kim Basinger an Oscar (Julianne was robbed!), introduced us to Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce and marked another notch in the belt of great performances by Kevin Spacey. FYI, it”s still cool to say “off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush” especially if you”re interviewing people for this newspaper. 3.5 Digs.
“Boogie Nights” The entire Arts staff bows in thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson for not only making the most daring film in ages but also for giving us things to riff on for nearly four years. The story of the rise, fall and rebirth of porn-star Dirk Diggler is peerless when it comes to the movies of 1997. This is a legitimate film with so much going on that it gets a little bit better and a little richer each time you watch it. The cast is flawless and Anderson deserves kudos for tapping unknowns like John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham and Philip Seymour Hoffman, all of whom went on to bigger but not necessarily better things. We”re still waiting you to come speak to us P.T.A., but we owe you a big thanks anyways. 4 Digs.