The Best of 1995

Before Sunrise
Richard Linklater's finest film and as sweet and gentle a romance as I've seen in years. Julie Delphy couldn't be more charming and even Ethan Hawke acquitted himself nicely.

New Jersey Drive
Nick Gomez follows up his fine Laws of Gravity and clearly has here a bit more money with which to work. Superior acting throughout this tale of despair peopled with bored, poverty-stricken kids seeking some juice by stealing cars and the mostly asshole cops who are out to foil them. Kinda depressing, as it seems all too real a tale.

What a great documentary and what a depressing family depicted. The seriously flawed Robert Crumb is by far the healthiest member of his clan and when one gets the chance to explore his past, one can almost forgive some of the excesses found in his work. Documentaries don't come much better than this. Insightful and disturbing.

Little Odessa
Not an original tale, this gangland story of a prodigal son, but the setting, the Russian community in Brighton Beach (near Coney Island, for you non-New Yorkers), and the acting, especially on the part of Vanessa Redgrave and Tim Roth, make this a memorable film.

This gentle, shaggy dog story set in and around a Brooklyn cigar stand is wonderfully engaging and moving. And any film that uses the music of Tom Waits to such good effect is okay in my book.

Il Postino
This tale of a world-renowned Chilean poet and the lovably goofy postman to whom he serves as mentor and, eventually, friend was the best foreign film of the year. It's likely already played your town, if it's going to, but don't miss it on video. An ending that will break your heart.

Apollo 13
Good, solid film-making, Hollywood style. A dramatic tale, well told in straightforward fashion. I'm pleased to learn that Tom Hanks, who was fine in this, simply will not be awarded another Oscar.

An unexpected delight. I had no intention whatever of seeing this movie but the buzz surrounding it was too positive for me to resist. I'm glad I didn't, this is one terrific film. Based, as you've likely heard by now, on Jane Austen's Emma, what at first glance seemed a mindless teen comedy is instead a sophisticated comedy of manners, adolescent style. Alicia Silverstone is the stuff crushes are mode of; she brought out my inner awkward, braces-toothed freshman. As big, and pleasant, a surprise as I encountered all year.

After months of razzing unrelentingly a friend who was particularly taken with this film, I allowed myself to be treated to a showing once it reached the bargain theatre here in Manhattan. It is indeed a charming film, the rare children's film that adults can enjoy without embarrassment. However, it seems a bit cloying compared to...

Toy Story
A sheer delight. Full of laughs and a few genuine frights, this would be my choice for children's film of the year. If for no other reason, anyone under the age of forty will enjoy watching for the favorite toys of their youth as they make cameo appearances. My particular favorite spotting was the Operation game sitting on a shelf in one scene.

To Die For
Gus Van Sant is back on track (after the train wreck that was Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) with this incisive look at our fame-obsessed society. Nicole Kidman, for whom I've previously had little use, is perfect as a shallow would-be celebrity who will let nothing or no one stand between her and the fame she seeks. At once funny and sad and stingingly on the mark, this is perhaps the year's finest film.

Devil in a Blue Dress
A good detective yarn well told, Devil in a Blue Dress is well-served by its marvelous cast, led by Denzel Washington who was, it seems, born to play Easy Rawlins. Devil... delves even deeper into the underbelly of 30's/40's Los Angeles that Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe inhabited.

The Usual Suspects
This stylish thriller didn't quite keep me guessing all the way to the end but pretty darned near it and it kept me entertained the entire time.

Unstrung Heroes
This gentle ode to eccentrics boasts wonderful acting (even Andie McDowall is okay) and a sure directorial hand on the part of Diane Keaton. This one deserved a much bigger audience than it garnered.

Sense and Sensibility
A nearly perfect film and I'm surprised to say that, I'll admit. But Emma Thompson has adapted this Jane Austen novel with impeccable wit and style, Ang Lee directs with a deft hand. See it. You will laugh a lot, perhaps cry a little amd enjoy yourself immensely.

Dead Man Walking
A great film. An even-handed exploration of the capital punishment question and terrific acting all around.

An enticing, understated adaption of Jane Austen's novel. While it may not have the star power of Sense and Sensibility, it needn't take a back seat to that film.

Get Shorty
Someone described this as a watered-down Pulp Fiction and that sounds about right. But this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel still manages to deliver more than its share of laughs and hits its target, Hollywood, far more often than it misses.

Leaving Las Vegas
An unblinking look at two losers, an avowed alcoholic and an unrepentent prostitute, who desperately clutch the little time they have to offer each other. I'm not sure I'd call it a love story, more like a need story. A disturbing, challenging film.

Most folks would've liked this better if Goodfellas had never been made but it was and this one couldn't help but come off as Goodfellas Lite. Sharon Stone struts her thespic stuff effectively, though, and Deniro is fine. But Joe Pesci...(shaking head).

Al Pacino hasn't been this laughably over the top since Scent of a Woman, yet somehow the film survives his antics. However, it's time he and Joe Pesci got together and opened a little Italian restaurant in midtown. They'd be like those punchdrunk ex-fighters who serve as hosts at casinos, nothing much expected of them except to greet their fans and endlessly relive old battles.

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