Some years are better than others: “Carlito’s Way,” “Short Cuts,” “True Romance,” and more from 1993

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Looking at Entertainment Weekly’s recent fall movie preview got me thinking.

By the time autumn 1993 came around, I was a full-fledged movie fanatic. But most of what I knew came from a few books, like Roger Ebert’s latest “movie companion,” the occasional newspaper or magazine articles I would come upon, and whatever I could find on TV that related to cinema.

Around that time, I started subscribing to Premiere and Movieline, as well as Entertainment Weekly, and to this day, I still recall the joy I felt when paging through EW’s fall 1993 movie preview.

That was 20 years ago now (!), but I still consider that one of the best cinematic seasons ever. Okay, so that was also the year of “The Good Son,” “Striking Distance,” “Warlock: The Armageddon,” and “Mr. Nanny.” They can’t all be gems.

Take a look at some of what was released that fall:

 

September 3:

“Kalifornia”

 

September 10:

“True Romance”

 

September 15:

“Household Saints”

 

September 24:

“Dazed and Confused”

 

October 1:

“The Age of Innocence”

“A Bronx Tale”

“M. Butterfly”

 

October 3:

“Short Cuts”

 

October 8:

“Gettysburg”

“Ruby in Paradise”

 

October 15:

“Fearless”

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

“Farewell My Concubine”

 

November 5:

“The Remains of the Day”

 

November 12:

“Carlito’s Way”

“The Piano”

 

November 24:

“A Perfect World”

 

December 15:

“Schindler’s List”

 

December 17:

“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”

 

December 25

“Tombstone”

“Heaven and Earth”

“Philadelphia”

 

Also opening around that time was “Three Colors: Blue,” “The Scent of Green Papaya,” “In the Name of the Father,” “Naked,” and “Cronos.” And earlier that year came “Groundhog Day,” “Jurassic Park,” “In the Line of Fire,” “The Fugitive,” “The Firm,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “King of the Hill,” “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” “The Sandlot,” “Menace II Society,” and “The Wedding Banquet.” And I’m probably missing some greats here.

Just think, in a matter of months came new films from Martin Scorsese, David Cronenberg, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Jane Campion, Peter Weir, Robert Altman, Oliver Stone, Jonathan Demme, Mike Leigh, Ang Lee, Steven Soderbergh, and Tim Burton. Wow.

So … what does this all mean? Nothing, really. Just that — to paraphrase the Smiths — some seasons, and some years, are better than others. I happen to think 2013 has not been bad, thanks to some memorable small releases.

Perhaps, if TIFF13 has some biggies, 2013 will carry on 1993’s legacy. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Photo from “Carlito’s Way”

Wednesday Round-Up: The Dissolve Kicks Off by Demonstrating Why “Innocence” is “Unmistakably Scorsese”

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I’m not sure why it took Pitchfork so longer to enter the film criticism realm, but taking its time may have been wise. Last week, The Dissolve finally launched, and it features a murderer’s row of cinema heavyweights: Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Matt Singer. These are some of my favorites, and the site that has brought them together, Avengers-style, is—so far, at least—a treat.

For example, check out the “Departures” column, explained thusly: “Departures looks at films by talents who defied expectations and tried something different. Are these films true anomalies, or not quite the left turns they appear to be?”

That’s a great idea, and Tobias’s first pick, Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence,” is an ideal selection:

“It’s hard to compare the New York of ‘The Age of Innocence’ to the savage criminal underworlds of Scorseseland a century later, but only because the kills here don’t stain the hardwood. But Newland is rubbed out just as surely as the pileup of gangsters in ‘Goodfellas’—to a point, he’s responsible for pulling the trigger—and for the same reason: With the world outside threatening change, the mobs in both films have to close rank to survive.”

“Innocence” is, I think one of Scorsese’s least best films, and is deserving of such a close analysis. If this is where The Dissolve is going, I applaud it.

Or consider the column “Performance Review,” in which “each entry focuses on a specific category in a given year, in several different awards ceremonies, in an effort to determine the year’s most criminally overlooked performances. First stop: Bes Supporting Actor, 1991.

I love Mike D’Angelo’s appreciation of Samuel L. Jackson’s un-nominated—by Oscar—role as Gator in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever”; he was honored by the New York Film Critics Circle:

“[I]n his final confrontation with his father, his act of defiance takes the form of a silent, murderous hate-shimmy that conveys far more contempt than words ever could. It’s chilling to behold. One year earlier, Jackson was still playing roles like ‘Taxi Dispatcher’ in films like ‘Betsy’s Wedding’; Gator changed that, and it’s no surprise it was the New York critics who acknowledged it.”

The Dissolve seems a worthy entry in the crowded field of online movie criticism, and it will be interesting to watch it develop.

And the rest:

  • “Eyes Wide Shut” opened on July 16, 1999. To commemorate, The Film Stage offers a doc on symbolism in Kubrick’s swan song.
  • “Only God Forgives finally opens this Friday, and I am having an internal debate: theater, or home? Chances are I’ll opt for VOD. I’m very much looking forward to it, although it’s difficult not to go in expecting a major letdown. Here is one of the more interesting reviews I’ve come across so far.
  • A Tweet about the ending of Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” led me to this nice analysis of that film’s mysterious and controversial ending.
  • Two must-see trailers: The latest American preview for Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” and the first look at Spike Lee’s “Oldboy.” I did not spot a squid.
  • The great Indiewire is 15. Take a look at its “first issue.” Author Irvine Welsh made an appearance: “According to a story in this week’s issue of _New Yorker Magazine_ (July 15, 1996) the novelist who wrote TRAINSPOTTING spent a night in jail following ‘a recent four-day binge’ which featured ‘everything—everything you can imagine.’”
  • David Cronenberg’s latest has begun filming. “Map to the Stars” John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, and Sarah Gadon.
  • The unrealized projects of Alan Resnais.
  • Guess what? Only 50 days until TIFF.

“The Age of Innocence” still is from a TIFF retrospective of the film