Movie Essentials: 1997

In 1997, Princess Di was killed in a car crash in Paris.  Elton John would later compare her to a "Candle in the Wind."  In more England-related news, Tony Blair became Prime Minister, paving the way for Michael Sheen to make a career out of playing him.  Tiger Woods, age 21, became the youngest golfer ever to win the Masters.  Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting, leading Puff Daddy and Faith Evans to craft one of the biggest singles of the year, the Sting-sampling "I'll Be Missing You." Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published - it would hit U.S. bookstores a year later with the name "Sorcerer's Stone."  And who can forget Hanson's "Mmmbop"?  South Park and Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on TV, while Coach and Roseanne called it quits.  Oh, and Ellen came out!

On a personal note, I graduated from high school in Boca Raton, Florida, and moved on to college in Indianapolis.  I also met Julie that year - little did we know then that we would now be man and wife, with a dog, a son, another baby on the way, and this blog.

Though there were plenty of quality flicks in 1997, it seems like the majority of them were released toward the end of the year - the '97 holiday movie season was a special one, made memorable by the gargantuan success of James Cameron's Titanic.  Cameron would later break Titanic's box office record 12 years later with his own Avatar.  Meanwhile, Spielberg tried (and failed) to recapture the one-two punch glory of '93 with the '97 releases of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad.  Special mention goes to Liar Liar, My Best Friend's Wedding, Grosse Pointe Blank, In & Out, Breakdown, The Fifth Element, and Starship Troopers.  Other notable releases that year include: Air Force One, The Full Monty, Con Air, Contact, Donnie Brasco, The Devil's Advocate, The Game, Private Parts, The Rainmaker, Romy & Michele's High School Reunion, Rosewood, Wag the Dog, The Ice Storm, Alien Resurrection, and Open Your Eyes.  And here are your Essentials:

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  • I have to say, I'd take out Jackie Brown (Tarantino's worst by far) and Face Off (really just a high-star-power-blow-stuff-up film) and replace them with Life is Beautiful and The Spanish Prisoner. This is one of the spots where we often differ. I have a soft spot for artsy films that you don't seem to have. Life is Beautiful is a spectacular story done in an extremely emotional way. The movie works in its story-telling and in the way everything is shown on the screen -- i.e. it does everything a movie is supposed to do; draw you in visually and make you care about the story. As for The Spanish Prisoner -- it is one of Mamet's best films and may be Steve Martin's best movie performance since The Jerk. As a note, while I know deep down that Titanic was a good movie and deserved alot of its praise, I remain annoyed by it and would love to leave it off a list. Alas, that would not be an honest list and would be more about my petty disdain for the film.

  • In reply to DSBecker:

    Thanks for the comment Dave. As always, you shine a light on some other worthy films. Life is Beautiful, however, is a candidate for 1998, not 1997 - so it wouldn't have made this list anyway. As for The Spanish Prisoner, a very good film - probably Mamet's best - but kind of small, and nobody really talks about it anymore.

    A quick digression on Steve Martin: love the guy. Think he's great in comedies and dramedies, but get bored with him in his serious roles, including The Spanish Prisoner. There are certainly comedic actors who are great at drama, but Martin tries so hard to be serious that he comes off as wooden and uninteresting. Maybe that's just me though.

    Oh, and one more thing: Jackie Brown may be Tarantino's worst (though I'd have to go with Death Proof), but Tarantino's worst is still better than almost every other director's best - including Mamet.

  • In reply to Hammer:

    I have to mention that any movie featuring Rebecca Pidgeon (i.e. The Spanish Prisoner) equals "automatic fail."

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