Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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1998: Final Four

Say what you will for last-minute release dates, all four of these films went to be nominated for Oscars - impressive especially for Affliction, considering it first screened at the 1997 Venice Film Festival the previous September! That's a long time to keep the buzz going, but hey, it made it.

Mighty Joe Young
release: December 25
nominee: Best Visual Effects

Christmas continues, this is the fourth release for the day! Remake of the 1949 film about a large gorilla and the girl who grew up with him; here, to protect him from poachers, he is moved to a Los Angeles animal sanctuary - but of course, a villain from the past returns. The VFX hold up impressively: I truly believe that giant gorilla is there playing hide-and-seek with Charlize Theron. Theron, of course, has great chemistry with the much older Bill Paxton, but they are two of the most charismatic screen presences - as witness the wonderful way they perform against the CGI Joe. Solid big studio entertainment.

Patch Adams
release: December 25
nominee: Best Original Musical or Comedy Score

The true story of a medico who wanted to heal chiefly through personal connection - including, yes, laughter. Didn't think it was so bad, just rote, then they invented a fictional girlfriend that gets murdered and while inventing drama for a "true" story is par for the course, surely inventing trauma and a full murder goes beyond the pale, especially as it relates to people struggling with mental health issues? Gross!

release: December 30
winner: Best Supporting Actor (James Coburn)
nominee: Best Actor (Nick Nolte)

A small-town cop with demons starts to suspect bigger things are afoot in his community as he investigates a hunter's death. The story of a man so terrified of becoming his father that he is determined to try to prove himself a good man, the only man who can stand up for and uncover the truth...even as his obsession drives him deeper into a despair that, of course, draws him closer to his father than he'd like to be. An involving portrait of mental disintegration.

Hilary and Jackie
release: December 30
nominee: Best Actress (Emily Watson), Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Griffiths)

Bio of sister musicians Hilary and Jackie du Pré, with Jackie and her struggle with loneliness, fame, and multiple sclerosis being the central focus. Never heard of them before, movie does a poor job making them interesting, impressive considering they share a husband for a season. Anand Tucker does some whoo-ee things with the camera to keep things interesting, but it's more distracting than anything. The actors are doing their job. Not a good movie.

That just leaves the five films nominated for Best Picture. And we'll get to them, eventually. First, let's take a look at the individual nominees, starting tomorrow with Best Supporting Actor: James Coburn (Affliction), Robert Duvall (A Civil Action), Ed Harris (The Truman Show), Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love), and Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan). 

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