Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1996

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

Narrowly missed out: Beautiful Girls. Bound. Sleepers. Fargo. Hamlet. Kingpin. The Rock. Romeo + Juliet.

10: Crash (UK/Canada) David Cronenberg

9: Fly Away Home (Canada/US/NZ) Carroll Ballard

8: Trainspotting (UK) Danny Boyle

7: Breaking The Waves (Denmark) Lars Von Trier

6: The Long Kiss Goodnight (US) Renny Harlin

5: The Craft (US) Andrew Fleming

4: Beavis And Butthead Do America (US) Mike Judge

3: Broken Arrow (US) John Woo

2: From Dusk Till Dawn (US) Robert Rodriguez

1: Scream (US) Wes Craven

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Zero

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Zero

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Best Picture – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. The Conversation. Lenny. The Towering Inferno.

One the most renowned and brilliant years for the Best Picture, you would think that any year any of those nominated could be winner. The Godfather Part 2 got the official win, and how can you possibly argue against it? Coppola, Pacino, De Niro, the survivors from the first film, ‘you broke my heart’, ‘just enough to wet my beak’ etc. It’s glorious.

Chinatown is glorious too, just slightly less so. Polanski, Nicholson, Dunaway, Robert Towne – all doing career best work. It doesn’t even sound remotely interesting on the surface – a private investigator is hired to look into a man who is an engineer for some LA water company. As the plot unravels more and more mysteries emerge, leading to threat, violence, sex… it’s Chinatown. The Conversation is interesting primarily because Coppola made and released it in the same year as he did The Godfather II – how is that even possible? To be honest I’m not a huge fan of The Conversation – Hackman is good, his character is interesting, but the plot and repetition leave me mostly cold. I’m in the minority.

Lenny is Bob Fosse’s least regarded major work, but my favourite of his, probably to do with the lack of singing and dancing. It still deals with a lot of dark subject matter like his other movies do – the price of fame, addiction, relationships – and it features a terrific Dustin Hoffman performance as the great comedian. We finish with one of the finest disaster movies ever, and arguably the most tense and action packed. As was the case with these, the cast is packed with stars – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, Robert Vaughn etc are among those trapped or involved with the world’s tallest building going up in flames. As difficulty as the category is, there’s still a clear winner.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

My Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. Blazing Saddles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

The Mid-Seventies choices are difficult to argue with, but nevertheless there are a few films I feel deserved a nomination too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is primary among those, but it’s a films which stood zero chance of garnering a single nomination – the film was simply too brutal, too shocking for its time, going beyond even what The Exorcist achieved. It is a film which retains that quality even today, in a world where more extreme, more bloody, more disgusting films are released yearly, yet few if any of those match the sheer force which surrounds The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. From the all too real performances, the grainy , gritty look, the crawling, uncomfortable soundtrack, it’s a film which doesn’t beg to be recognised – it kicks down your door, lashes you to a hook, and forces you to watch. Blazing Saddles is an altogether lighter affair, yet it’s equally groundbreaking, a satirical affair which is both whip smart and blazingly funny, while Mel Brooks somehow achieves a double nomination with Young Frankenstein – a film which drops the satire and heightens the farce.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

Let us know in the comments what you pick as the Best Film of 1974!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 5

INT. A SLAUGHTERHOUSE. DAY

A group of cannibals have tied up our heroes and are about to cut their throats.

GARETH: Any last words before, heh heh, dinner?

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Our father, who art in heaven…

GARETH: Oh please, ‘your God’ can’t help you now. Anyone else?

RED SHIRT: Please, I don’t want to die!

GARETH: How uninspiring – slice this guy’s throat already.

In a twelve minute scene, the Red Shirt is skinned alive, has his throat cut, is chopped into pieces, then Gareth dances the Macarena wearing Red Shirt’s skin.

RICK GRIMES: I promise I’m going to kill you.

GARETH: Oh really? If this guy’s God can’t kill me, how do you expect to?

A sudden THUNDERBOLT shoots from the SKY and torches GARETH and the other baddies. They are now dead.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: For ever and ever. Amen.

RICK GRIMES: Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me!

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1995

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

While 1994 had more absolute top favourites than any other year, 1995 actually had even more films I enjoyed – but not loved to the same extent. You know what that means – it’s another Top Twenty! First, here’s a few that missed out: The Addiction, The Basketball Diaries, Billy Madison, Dolores Claiborne, Leaving Las Vegas, Money Train

20: Braveheart (US) Mel Gibson

19: Casino (US) Martin Scorsese

18: Casper (US) Brad Silberling

17: Jumanji (US) Joe Johnston

16: Dangerous Minds (US) John N Smith

15: Strange Days (US) Kathryn Bigelow

14: In The Mouth Of Madness (US) John Carpenter

13: The Last Supper (US) Stacy Title

12: Kids (US) Larry Clark

11: Pocahontas (US) Disney

10: Mortal Kombat (US) Paul W S Anderson

9: Now And Then (US) Lesli Linka Glatter

8: The Doom Generation (US/France) Gregg Araki

7: La Haine (France) Mathieu Kassovitz

6: Die Hard With A Vengeance (US) John McTiernan

5: Heat (US) Michael Mann

4: Mallrats (US) Kevin Smith

3: Desperado (US) Robert Rodriguez

2: Goldeneye (UK) Martin Campbell

1: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (US) Gary Fleder

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Five

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One (The Winner)

Leatherface

We’ve been slicing up this story for a while now haven’t we? Even through all the sequels, remakes, and copies, few films touch the raw, visceral power of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original – a film which still gets under the skin after multiple decades and viewings. What can we possibly add to the story, and do we need to? My feelings have always been that (and the same goes for most horror films and icons) we don’t need an origin story – all we need to know is that this creature or person exists, and that it’s trying to kill the protagonists. Most origin stories try to reason with the murderer and inevitably make us sympathize to a certain degree, yet end up not making the character any more interesting. If your original story contains the origin – fine, but can a prequel coming much later be anything other than a cash grab?

Cash grabs can be entertaining, no matter how cynical they may be. Thankfully, as many flaws as this one his – almost entirely due to the plot and premise – it still does the job of entertaining me. For horror fans, there is plenty of gore and violence (though not as explicit as most others in the series) and for everyone else it is peppered with good performers giving good performances. Viewed as a standalone film separate from the mythology of the franchise it works a little better. It tells a story of revenge echoing through the years – a policeman’s daughter is senselessly murdered by a brutal isolationist family and as retribution the cop abducts a baby from the family. The baby grows up in an institute but eventually escapes with a group of Bonnie and Clyde wannabees and they embark on a collision course of mayhem which leads baby, family, and cop back to where it all began.

Sam Strike takes up the unenviable task of playing the young Leatherface – UK viewers will know him from Eastenders – and I have no issues with his performance. He has the script, he’s been told how to play it, and he follows through. Similarly, the always reliable Dorff and Tyler are engaging and Vanessa Grasse is good as the sympathetic final girl. French directing duo Maury and Bustillo became instant horror legends after their incredible debut Inside, but they don’t get to expand upon their penchant for threat and terror here, hindered by an idea and a screenplay which is entirely by the numbers and unnecessary. There’s a point in the movie – I’m not sure if it was ever intentional – that it seems like the filmmakers are going to pull an early Shyamalan and actually have a different character turn out to be Leatherface. Based on what we do get, that twist could have improved matters.

Going back to my point about not needing origin stories – a related point is that I never found Leatherface to be such an interesting character anyway. Here was this hulking man-child who appeared to be severely mentally challenged, and just happened to enjoy killing things and dead things – like the rest of his family. He was essentially a slave and both didn’t and couldn’t know better. That’s all you need to know. The original offers no suggestion of him being a complex character – that’s us projecting onto him. Rather, the film portrays him to be an almost mindless child in the body of a WWE Superstar, likely the result of generations of inbreeding and seclusion. Leatherface does a ridiculous double sell-out, a triple sell out in fact; first, by showing the young Leatherface being abducted and raised by a different family before being placed in a Young Offenders/mental institution where he is presented as a sympathetic, caring, yet conflicted human, secondly by making him become violent for no good reason, and finally by making him lose his mind and regress to…. something? There’s no reasoning behind any of it. We start out the movie not buying into the character being this emotionally involved teenager, and we end the movie not buying in to him becoming the mindless Leatherface. They even make a mess of explaining the origin of the mask – him wearing it out of necessity due to taking a bullet to the face, rather than because he simply likes the feel of human skin on his own. It makes the character much less interesting, and crucially, much less frightening. What is scary about the original is that history has shown us that there are people out there who commit these crimes for no reason other than they enjoy it. Here, in trying to explain evil they instead act like the parent showing that the coat in the closet isn’t the boogeyman.

Still, with all that said it’s better than a lot of movies of its ilk and it’s likely an improvement on many of the franchise entries. I can’t say for sure how I feel as the three other entries between 2003 and 2013 are of similar middling quality. In the end, they all feel like watchable throwaway horror which don’t come close to the madcap disgusting nature of Part 2, and are a world away from the relentless perfection of the original.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 4

INT. AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. NIGHT

GLEN: So that’s the plan – I’ll sneak around the back and make a bit of a ruckus to distract the biters, then you come around from the other side and grab the big box of food, got it?

RICK GRIMES: Sure thing, skip. Lets – AGH! ARRGGH! Something’s biting me!

GLEN: It’s fine, your shirt just got caught on the sharp edge of a wooden crate

RICK GRIMES: No, I’ve been infected! Quick, hack off my arm before I become a zombie!

GLEN: No, you’re going to be – oh, alright then.

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1994

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

When I first decided to make these Top Ten By Year lists, I knew that 1987 and 1994 would be the two that I would need to expand. While I was only a youngster in 1987 and came to catch all those movies in syndication in later years, I was 11 in 1994 and already well versed in a variety of genres and heading to the Cinema fairly frequently. It was a turning point year for me in many ways – I left Primary School for Big School, Kurt Cobain died, and many of my favourite movies were released. While I didn’t see all of these movies the year they were released, I would say I had seen them all by 1998 – and each multiple times since. 1987 and 1994 remain my favourite years for movies, though I would say 1994 edges it in terms of quality while 1987 has the most personal favourites.

Here are a few which narrowly missed out: Heavenly Creatures,  The Last Seduction, The River Wild.

And now, the Top Twenty:

20: Little Women (US) Gilliam Armstrong

19: Ace Ventura (US) Tom Shadyac

18: The Mask (US) Charles Russell

17: Stargate (US/France) Roland Emmerich

16: Forrest Gump (US) Robert Zemeckis

15: The Lion King (US Disney)

14: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (US/Japan) Kenneth Branagh

13: Timecop (US) Peter Hyams

12: The Shawshank Redemption (US) Frank Darabont

11: Ed Wood (US) Tim Burton

10: Natural Born Killers (US) Oliver Stone

9: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (US) Wes Craven

8: Clerks (US) Kevin Smith

7: True Lies (US) James Cameron

6: Speed (US) Jan de Bont

5: Pulp Fiction (US) Quentin Tarantino

4: Interview With The Vampire (US) Neil Jordan

3: Leon (France) Luc Besson

2: The Crow (US) Alex Proyas

1: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) Peter Farrelly

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Seven (Including the top five)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Three (Including the winner)

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 3

EXT. A FIELD INSIDE A PRISON. DAY

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Now listen up, everyone. The Lord has felt it necessary to wreak this plague upon us to shame us for our iniquities, but while we still live we need to prepare for the fut- Rick, what on Earth are you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Handstands.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Han- why are you doing handstands? We’re having a serious discussion about farming, and irrigation, and such.

RICK GRIMES: Yeah I know but, handstands are much more fun. Look – weeeeee!

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Rick, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever – it does look kinda neat though. Let me try. Weeeeeee!

Best Supporting Actress – 1974

Official Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Valentina Cortese. Madeline Kahn. Diane Ladd. Talie Shire.

Few arguments this time with the nominations, the obvious choice to drop though being Valentina Cortese for the now little known Truffaut classic Day For Night. Diane Ladd follows Burstyn’s lead in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – being essentially a road movie, there are any number of notable supporting performances, but they are all fairly small, yet each stands out in its own way, a testament to the quality of the cast and the director. Madeline Kahn featured in both of the Mel Brooks hits this year, but it’s Blazing Saddles where she got a deserving nomination, while Talia Shire further bolsters the foundations laid out previously as Connie Corleone tries to grow out of the shadow of her family. Finally, Ingrid Bergman picked up her third Oscar for Murder On The Orient Express, a performance which is almost entirely focused on a single scene, but it’s one which will stay in the viewer’s mind.

My Winner: Talia Shire

My Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Madeline Kahn. Diane Ladd. Talie Shire. Valerie Curtin. Margot Kidder.

I only add two further nominations to the four carried over – Valerie Curtin as the shy counterpoint to Diane Ladd in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Margot Kidder for her… well, I don’t want to spoil Black Christmas now, do I?

My Winner: Talia Shire

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 2

EXT. A CREEPY WOOD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Sigh. Another awful day in the zombie apocalypse. I wonder if anything interesting will happen today

MICHONNE: Stop right there, white boy, befo I chop off yo head!

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello. Pleasant day we’re having, isn’t it.

MICHONNE: Da fuq you talkin’ bout? Can’t you see I got this big ass sword and these two jawless biters tied to me?

RICK GRIMES: Yes ma’am, you said it! Another glorious day in the zombie apocalypse. (Singing) ‘Sunshine, lollipops, and – zombies – everything that’s do-bee-do-bee-la-dee-da-dee-bee together!

MICHONNE: Dis bitch be cray…