My Girl - Insanely sweet nostalgia piece finds a young girl exploring life in the early 1970's. A shinning performance from young Anna Chlumsky drives the film. Macaulay Culkin delivers a surprisingly reserved and winning performance as Chlumsky's best friend, a nerd with ever-so-many allergies. Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis work well as the young girl's parental unit and the family scenes, particularly as the film heads to its climax are grounded and authentic. The film is able to freely navigate many emotions as it weaves from broad comedy to palpable tragedy and delving into interesting family drama. The film may be overly sentimental at times, but it is also a film that earns its emotional beats. Were Chlumsky not up to the task of carrying the full weight of the film, this movie would fall apart in any number of areas, but she was a great find in a child actress and is able to balance whatever the film requires her to.
The People Under the Stairs - Wes Craven wrote and directed this horror/thriller that offers plenty of mayhem and gore but is really a guise for the political condemnation of the Ronald Reagan administration's economic strategy of creating racial disparity by sweeping those citizens of less value under the proverbial stairs. The film follows a young African American boy and he ventures into the mansion of a couple who are living rich by taxing citizens of the slums that surround them. The boy just wants to take back what was taken from his family but along the way discovers that this couple is taking hostage those who try to defy them. Some are killed and eaten and some are kept under the stairs. The film has some incredibly tense scenes but pops with richly drawn characters and a sly gallows humor. It is hard for some to look past Craven's excessive use of screen violence, but he often infuses his films with commentary on societal issues of the era the films were made.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead - Slick and funny spin off of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The film follows Hamlet's bit players of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern played excellently by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. In Hamlet, these two characters are sent off and disappear from the rest of the production. This is the rest of their story. Prepare for a funny ride as the two characters struggle to find relevance. It is a smart screenplay that fans of Shakespeare are sure to love.
Slacker - Richard Linklater debuted with this pseudo-intellectual examination of slacker culture in Austin, Texas. The film has no real plot or story but rather is a series of scenes wherein the camera follows a character as they interact with those around them in real time and flits from person to person, never really allowing the audience to get to know anyone, but in a weird way you feel as if you kind of know everyone. It is an interesting film that shouldn't work, but somehow lingers with you long after viewing. Linklater would progress in his career by examining subjects in unique ways or inventive styles that worked to progress the medium of visual storytelling and those qualities are already glimpsed with this picture.
Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country - The Praxis wave has decimated the Klingon home-world and now the once reviled Klingon's have reached out to the Federation for peace and salvation, but many in the galaxy merely view the Klingons as monsters. The Federation has elected Admiral James T. Kirk as the man who can sway the public opinion to welcoming the Klingon and usher in a time of peace. The problem is that Kirk's own son was murdered at the hands of a Klingon and he can not find it within himself to let prejudices die. Reluctantly, Kirk meets the Klingon emperor, but when the emperor is murdered, all eyes turn to Kirk as the man responsible for doing it. It is up to Spock to deduce the identity of the real assassin in this engrossing mystery/thriller that would be the swan song for the original crew of the Enterprise. The film is intelligently written by Nicholas Meyer, and showcases some powerhouse performances from Christopher Plumber and William Shatner. The final scene of the film is the perfect summation of everything the Kirk era Star Treks had been about and brought me to tears.
Best Picture : The Silence of the Lambs - Disturbing crime/drama finds a young F.B.I. agent in pursuit of a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. Unable to crack the case herself, Agent Starling must turn to a man who was once employed to aid in criminal cases but has been imprisoned for cannibalism. Starling must descend into the mind of a serial killer in order to catch this new offender. The scenes between Starling and Hannibal Lecter are magnetic. It is no wonder that this film took a clean sweep of Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture on Oscar night. It is a film that haunts you and engages you. It is an enthralling masterpiece.
Biggest Box Office : Terminator 2 Judgement Day - James Cameron knocked it out of the park with this white-knuckle sequel to the 1984 action masterpiece that was the first Terminator. This time around, an upgraded model of the Terminator called a T-1000 is sent back to kill future savior John Connor when he is an adolescent boy. Sent back to protect him is a reprogrammed T-800 (the same model that was sent back ten years prior to murder his mother before he was born). Naturally, Sarah Connor has some trust issues, but John uses this opportunity to try and teach a machine the importance of human life in this beautifully written (and, admittedly heavy-handed) morality play. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a surprisingly powerful and nuanced performance of the machine with an emergent conscience. Young Edward Furlong is incredible as John Connor, but it is Linda Hamilton who gives a masterful performance as Sarah Connor. Gone is the meek woman from the first film, here replaced with a woman who is so committed to the cause that she starts becoming not unlike the Terminator herself. This film will forever be remembered for revolutionizing visual effects with the presentation of the liquid metal T-1000 and that, whiled earned, is kind of a shame because what is left forgotten is just how good this screenplay, the execution of action and how powerful Hamilton's performance all are.