Guest Post: Oscar Treasures 1990, The Grifters

Let us not kid ourselves – 1990 was the year the academy got it wrong, very wrong. This was the year that an instant classic by one our greatest living directors got stripped of the big prize by a fairly well made western directed by a well respected 80′s actor. Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” with its ambitious tracking shots, -now constantly ripped off- narrative structure and incredible performances lost to Kevin Costner’s earnest, well meaning, sincerely decent “Dances With Wolves”. We all know which film stood the test of time, in fact Scorsese’s classic is still consistently revisited in film schools and is one of the most ripped-off films of the 1990′s and Aughts. Whereas it turns out that Costner’s film -which does have its fair share of fans- is nothing more than a well made western that seemed to come out in the right place and at the right time. To make matters worse, just look at some of the other best picture nominees; “Ghost”?, “The Godfather, Part III”? And as much as I liked Penny Marshall’s “Awakenings” I’d substitute it all 4 of the above mentioned films -including “Dances With Wolves”- to give a Best Picture Nomination to Stephen Frears’ “The Grifters”. In fact “The Grifters” is the one 1990 film that comes closest to achieving the greatness of “Goodfellas”. Honorable mentions would include Barbet Schroder’s “Reversal Of Fortune”, Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands”, Joel Coen’s “Miller’s Crossing”, Charles Burnett’s underrated “To Sleep With Anger” and even David Lynch’s kinky, twisted “Wild At Heart”. ALL of these films were better and more lasting than 4 of the 5 nominated films.

Frears’ film -which includes the best performances of Anjelica Huston and Annette Benning’s careers- is a neo-noir served black. Lots of references to film noirs of the 40′s and plenty of shadows cast from venetian blinds (a noir staple). In Frears’ Los Angeles we look at three tortured, miserable souls that would do anything for the green. It’s money that makes the world go round in Frears’ film. He shows us greed and a pitch black portrayal of the human heart. This kind of subject matter was rather well dissected by the Coen Brothers in “No Country For Old Men” yet “The Grifters” feels just as dark and complicated a movie with Oliver Stapleton’s stark cinematography and source material based on author Jim Thompson’s novel (which he gets a screenplay credit for). The movie provides an unflinching and relentless window into a dark world most of us would rather pretend doesn’t exist – but it does. The characters are subtle and believable; wicked little souls that carry no redeeming value or morals- no conscience. Most of it is so beautifully photographed that it looks like a series of postcards at times YET the feeling you get when watching the film isn’t a pleasant one, this is a movie that means to brutally shake you and that it does.

As much as I loved how Annette Benning brought a sexy, dangerous vibe to the film, the artistic success of “The Grifters” would not come close to the high art it achieves without Anjelica Huston’s career capping performance as Lilly Dillon. Dressed up in blood-red or plain white tight dresses, and with a white perm that looks hair sprayed to a tee, Lilly is a small time crook that fears she has passed over her grifting gift to her son – brilliantly played by John Cusack. I wouldn’t reccomend being caught up in Lilly’s toxic world, but watching it unfurl from afar is a cinematic thrill. Huston’s brilliant performance makes sure were there with her every step of the way. Her goal is to cash in as much as possible, that is more important to her than anything else, including her own son’s life. In fact when things get rough Lilly tries to seduce him in a scene that cannot be described in words and brings a whole new layer to the film’s already constantly peeling onion-like structure. It’s there and then that “The Grifters” turns into an unlikely original. The film’s constant twists and turns cannot prepare you for the seduction or the backstabbingly delicious climax that caps off a truly great film, in fact repeat viewings are a must for the black world Frears’ shapes and molds. After every viewing you come out learning something new about these con artists; their motivations seem more real and their actions even more repugnant. “The Grifters” pulls out a rabbit from the hat and plays with its audiences heads, what more can you ask for in a movie?

Killing Them Softly, theatrical poster

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45 Comments

  1. Jon
    August 27, 2012

    Great article buddy. THE GRIFTERS is a fine film but – as you stated – does not come even remotely close to the league and stature of GOODFELLAS.

    I believe this has been discussed before, but even though mostly everyone and their mother agree that GOODFELLAS should have won Best Picture that year, wasn’t DANCES WITH WOLVES still the heavy favorite going into that night? I seem to remember it was.

    Also what a year for De Niro with both AWAKENINGS and GOODFELLAS. AWAKENINGS has aged beautifully and really still packs a powerful, powerful punch.

    I also have recently gone back and rewatched a film not mentioned in this article which won Oscar gold, which is MISERY. That film has also aged beautifully and Bates performance as Annie Wilkes is one of the finest and most worthy of an Oscar win in recent memory. Huston is stunning in THE GRIFTERS, but again, Bates performance is and has become iconic.

    Overall a pretty strong year for film.

  2. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    1990 is a great year to showcase the artistic bankruptcy of the studio system.

    I’d go with

    1) Longtime Companion – I’ve gone over and over again why I love this film. My fave of all time.

    2) Metropolitan – The droll wit of Whit Stillman was never remotely as good as he was in his debut.

    3) Miller’s Crossing – The best pre-Fargo film from the Coens. You might pick another and I couldn’t argue with you, they were all pretty damn good (except Barton Fink, I could never get into that one)

    4) Akira Kurasawa’s Dreams – Not as good as his earlier work, but I loved the lyrical beauty. The only current filmmaker that works at this level is Terrance Malick.

    5) Trust – I didn’t see this film until years later, but, damn if I had seen it before I saw other Hartley film’s I would likely have loved it much more.

    I never got into Goodfellas. The Grifters is good but just not as good as the five films above. If I were an academy member I would have probably voted for Dances with Wolves too. The best high-profile film from this year would have been the best comic-book movie ever made, Dick Tracy. But he’s not a superhero so no one cared. Best song ever written for a movie in my opinion, What Can You Lose? Well at least until Falling Slowly came along.

  3. steve50
    August 27, 2012

    Not a great year – most of what I enjoyed are almost forgotten: Reversal of Fortune, Vincent and Theo, Sheltering Sky. The high point was The Grifters and Goodfellas.

  4. Ryan Adams
    August 27, 2012

    ok, rufussondheim, I can see you’re determined to compel me to watch Longtime Companion again.

  5. Bryce Forestieri
    August 27, 2012

    Longtime Companion? that pity-inducing B movie?

  6. August 27, 2012

    I do like The Grifters, but I disagree about the photography. I found it to be the least impressive aspect of the film.

    Wild at Heart is a hoot! Edward Scissorhands and Dreams are great too. What about Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet or Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up; both excellent films.

  7. ferdi
    August 27, 2012

    The Grifters is undoubtedly one of my favourite movies. It is currently at number seven in my top 100 list. The cast is fearless and superb, with Huston giving one of the best performance of ALL TIME, male or female. She should have won over Bates and Bening (or Close for Reversal of Fortune, who wans’t even nominated…) ahould haven won over Goldberg.

  8. Pierre de Plume
    August 27, 2012

    A great read, Jordan. I agree that this film is a treasure, though it came as no surprise that it didn’t fare better at the Oscars given its subject matter and tone vs the Academy’s tastes. I love the way Huston’s character pronounces “Los An-gull-eez.” It’s one of her greatest performances, even better than in Addams Family Values!

  9. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    Ryan, don’t read this!

    Bryce, I’m well aware of the B-movie aspects of this film, but then it’s hard to do a movie in which half the main characters die over a decade by a communicable disease. But I think the film needs to show you the endless scenes of grief. If I had to choose what the longtime companion the film references in the title I would choose Grief. It’s not really a subject many films look at, and if they do it’s almost always over a single person, like a spouse (Blue) or a child (In the Bedroom), I can’t think of another film that really looks at this aspect of life in such a way. (I’m sure there are some out there.)

    And I never pity any of the characters or the situation. While I lived through the 80′s I was just young enough to by and large miss the scourge that so many men suffered through, so I don’t pity myself either. Ultimately I’m just inspired by these people who lived the daily horror of AIDS for years upon years. I wish I had their strength.

    There are also some extremely smart moments in the film that haunt me every time I watch it. Most specifically, Bruce Davison while he’s watching his lover die. While it never says it in the film, I believe it’s safe to presume he was aware he was ill and while he watched his “husband” die he knew he was going to be experiencing the same thing, but without anyone to help him through it. It’s an unbearably tragic moment in a movie filled with them.

    And then there’s the relationship at the core of the movie that survives. There’s Campbell Scott and the actor who plays Fuzzy (I can’t recall the actor’s name, but it’s the only character’s name I can recall.) Fuzzy comes to the group late and he’s a bit of an outsider when he does join the group. We never really get into the core of that relationship, but what results is a great love story that unfolds sweetly over time. We, the viewers, understand why they love each other so much, why they are so compatible. There are many movies that are considered much greater that don’t have as realistic a love as the two of them have.

    While many consider the film to be a time capsule film, they completely miss the universal truths that are there throughout the film. And believe me, there are many. Every time I watch this film, I see its flaws, but at the same time I see that it’s a perfect film. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

  10. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    I, too, am a huge fan of The Sheltering Sky.

  11. The Dude
    August 27, 2012

    I’d substitute all FIVE nominees for The Grifters- easily the best American film of that year (the best film period is Close-Up, although it wasn’t released outside Iran until much later).

  12. steve50
    August 27, 2012

    Re: The Sheltering Sky – I think people were put off by Paul Bowles nihilism, but Bertolucci filmed it perfectly and got a great performance from Debra Winger. Outstanding cinematography and score.

    It’s a personal favorite because my partner and I had just returned from crossing the Sahara and watching this always takes me back there – minus the being kidnapped by a Tuareg chieftain, of course.

  13. Bryce Forestieri
    August 27, 2012

    I guess I should see it again. First and only time I was 13 so probably missed the point entirely. Hell I’m a The Boys in the Band apologist that is if such a thing should exist LOL anyways aye on Kurosawa’s Dreams, and whoever said Kiarostami’s Close-up…come to think of it that might be the second best film of that year behind Goodfellas huge gap between those and the rest. Finally, a fanboy special mention to Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall :D

  14. Bryce Forestieri
    August 27, 2012

    ugh Abbas Kiarostami, stop it. Damn, also how about Days of Being Wild? I luv it…

  15. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    Total Recall is a great film until its ridiculously implausible ending.

  16. julian the emperor
    August 27, 2012

    Barton Fink is my all time favorite film by the Coens, so for once I have to strongly disagree with you, rufus…!

    I have actually never seen Longtime Companion. I will have to do that now. Still trust your opinion.

    From one Kelly Reichardt fan (and TDKR detractor) to another….:)

  17. August 27, 2012

    To the Wonder just could win BP and Best Director. Want to know why?
    http://thescreenteen.blogspot.com/2012/08/to-wonder-best-picture-and-director.html

  18. Tom
    August 27, 2012

    At much as the Academy would love to honor Bening – this was the performance that set the gold standard for making your neck hairs stand up. (Though at times, I can appreciate Whoopi winning or Braccio (not the DWW lady or Diane Ladd’s goofball character) – the complete subject matter of this story doomed their chances – but not the film’s longevity. Goodfellas with always be considered the real best film of 1990 – same thing – the subject matter dimmed that film’s chances. (I recently watched The Untouchables and couldn’t even look at Costner’s character onscreen – knowing this is the villian that swiped Scorsese’s ‘real’ prize.
    The Grifters forever!

  19. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    So I decided to put myself through the ringer and watched LC again this afternoon. Oh my fuck it’s hard to get through. I love these people, I love their beauty, their strength, their pain. There’s not a false note in the film.

    On this viewing I really was looking for why this movie worked, what specific details made me love it so.

    An early one is the death of the first character, alone, at night, in a dark hospital. The camera does a ninety degree turn above the bed until it stops. The only motion on the screen after that is his eyes, trying to see beyond the edges of his peripheral vision, engulfed by the solitude of the room, of the experience of dying. And the scene cruelly fades to black, not giving us a chance to work through the grief. The film’s relentlessness is what makes the film work.

    I was also struck by the brilliance of the conversation in the group scenes. Nothing was overwritten and there is a randomness to the direction of the conversations. You can really see how each character’s motivations are markedly different throughout the film. This really is a film that lets the actors inhabit the characters and dictate where the film is going. Nothing is ever forced. I guess it helps that there’s no real plot uniting all of the scenes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of propulsion pushing the movie forward.

    Of the many scenes that I love, there is one early on that’s particularly poignant. Willie comes home from learning about John’s illness and he walks in on Fuzzy doing a bit from Dreamgirls. They are clearly unpacking, indicating that most likely they decided to move in together. But it’s clear they don’t yet have depths to their relationship as Willie doesn’t go to Fuzzy for comfort and it isn’t Fuzzy’s first instinct to console him. It’s just a slice of life out of these people’s lives. They don’t give us any backstory, really, on the year they had since they met. But at the end of the scene we see Fuzzy respond in a way that’s so hearfelt, so genuine. It’s just a gorgeous scene through and through.

    Sorry to go on and on. But it’s just perfect. It really is.

    ——————————–

    JULIAN THE EMPEROR.

    On watching the closing credits of the movie, I noticed a familiar name. Kelly Reichardt! Her credit was “Assistant Props” It’s one of her earliest credits. Her other early credit was for a Hal Hartley film. Asnd she was also credited in Todd Haynes’s Poison as Property Master. I love that all of her early credits were on films that didn’t adhere to conventional rules of cinema. She clearly learned from some amazing filmmakers.

  20. August 27, 2012

    The first time I saw The Grifters, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed, but that’s because my expectations were so high, particularly when it came to Huston. She gave, in my opinion, two of the greatest performances of the 80′s in Prizzi’s Honor and The Dead, as well as a wonderful comic performance earlier in 1990 in Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches, so the fact she met my expectations rather than exceeded them made me underrate the film somewhat. After rewatching it, of course, I don’t have the same problem. And along with the great performances by the main three, there are great supporting performances in small roles, from Henry Jones as the philosophizing apartment super to Pat Hingle as Huston’s boss (the “oranges” scene is the best scene in the movie), and best of all (for me), J.T. Walsh as Bening’s former partner. It’s such a great movie.

    I do have to say, however, I do find Goodfellas a tad overrated. First of all, it seemed he had worked through this material already in Mean Streets, and this just didn’t have the same passion to it. More importantly, one of the major things about Henry Hill was he was a mechanic; this gave him an inside view of how things worked, but he always was somewhat on the outside. Maybe it was an inevitable byproduct of the film, but I think the film was hurt a little by elevating him a little, even though the film doesn’t make the mistake of glamorizing him. Don’t get me wrong; I still think Goodfellas is a very good movie, I just don’t put it among top tier Scorsese. As far as gangster films – or hell, films – go that year, I think Miller’s Crossing (my favorite movie of that year) was much more complex and captivating.

    My top 10 for that year:

    (1) Miller’s Crossing
    (2) The Killer*
    (3) Presumed Innocent
    (4) Cyrano de Bergerac
    (5) Edward Scissorhands
    (6) The Freshman
    (7) The Grifters
    (8) Longtime Companion
    (9) Goodfellas
    (10) The Russia House

    *- I’m going by U.S. release date here, and as far as I’ve been able to determine, Woo’s movie was first released in the U.S. in 1990.

  21. keifer
    August 27, 2012

    Great article! I recently revisited “The Grifters” one lazy Sunday afternoon and was blown away by it. Angelica Huston was fabulous (never better, really). As were all the supporting cast (noteworthy as well is a terrific, terrifying performance by the late Pat Hingle). Also worth pointing out is the great score done by that great composer: Elmer Bernstein.

    I, too, think it belonged in the top 5. And I also think one of my favorite films of all time “Miler’s Crossing” got the shaft by not receiving even one nomination from AMPAS. Not one! Even Marcia Gay Hardin and John Turturro should have received supporting nods for their work in this great Coen brothers film.

  22. unlikely hood
    August 27, 2012

    There are several reasons the Grifters never rose higher on the Oscar radar.

    1) The Follow Up Better Kick Butt rule – if you look at directors who were nom’d for Best Director and Best Picture (as Frears had with Dangerous Liaisons (1988)) and then look at their *next* movie, you’ll see very, very few films that got any BP or BD noms. You’re fighting your way into a Very Exclusive Club at that point (Spielberg, Coppola, James L. Brooks) and they don’t just let anyone in. Basically, said follow-up had better win boatloads of precursors, and The Grifters didn’t.

    2) Mob/crime fatigue. Dunno if it was hip-hop, Boesky/Milken, Gotti, the end of the Cold War, or what, but a lot of major directors decided to go gangster that year, including Scorsese, Coppola, Beatty, the Coens, Abel Ferrara, a LOT more (look it up)…by its very name, The Grifters sounded more “small-time” than those films.

    3) Rufussondheim gets to a point just by listing those five films, which all played in the same art houses as The Grifters; there wasn’t so much to distinguish it from them. The Grifters wasn’t exactly an indie, but it was more like a James Woods film or something at the time; it needed a lot of word of mouth and legs. The indie circuit was a bit of a jumble then (the studios weren’t organized about it, as they were after Pulp Fiction) and you really needed a breakout popping hit like Do the Right Thing or sex lies and videotape to make the media notice. The Grifters wasn’t that.

    Having said all that, you’d have to label The Grifters a huge success for its principals. Annette Bening was no one; she became a star. John Cusack had played a succession of high school students up through the previous year (1989); this proved he could do other kinds of roles (only us die hard Sayles fans saw Eight Men Out). And Stephen Frears had done indie Brit films and Dangerous Liaisons. That was it. This proved he could play with the big boys in America. Who knows if we would have been lucky enough to get his later films.

  23. Ruth
    August 27, 2012

    Good to see that this article hasnt become blind hate for Dances With Wolves. It’s still a magical film with some very special moments in cinema, plus it was easily the best score of 1990.

    Close-Up is my favourite from 1990, but I also have a lot of time for Misery, The Grifters and The Godfather Part III. Goodfellas is excellent as well, but it’s only my 5th favourite Scorsese (behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Aviator & The King of Comedy).

  24. Bryce Forestieri
    August 27, 2012

    Soo many good movies ya’ll have reminded me of! Makes you wonder if there really are “bad years”

    1. Goodfellas (Scorsese)
    2. Close-up (Kiarostami)
    3. Total Recall (Verhoeven)
    4. Santa Sangre (Jodorowski)
    5. Days of Being Wild (Kar-wai)
    6. Miller’s Crossing (Coen)
    7. Home Alone (Columbus)
    8. Atame! (Almodovar)
    9. La Femme Nikita (Besson)
    10. Match Factory Girl (Kaurismaki)

    Special mention to the Stephen King’s It TV mini-series. Just for Penny and the part of the children, oh and Tremors is awesome :)

  25. Tero Heikkinen
    August 27, 2012

    1. Goodfellas
    2. Europa Europa
    3. Miller’s Crossing
    4. The Grifters
    5. Jacob’s Ladder
    6. Dances With Wolves
    7. The Match Factory Girl
    8. La Femme Nikita
    9. The Hunt for Red October
    10. Cyrano de Bergerac

  26. Tero Heikkinen
    August 27, 2012

    Except that I – for some weird reason – forgot The Reflecting Skin. So, this is my actual one:

    1. Goodfellas
    2. The Reflecting Skin
    3. Europa Europa
    4. Miller’s Crossing
    5. The Grifters
    6. Jacob’s Ladder
    7. Dances With Wolves
    8. The Match Factory Girl
    9. La Femme Nikita
    10. The Hunt for Red October

  27. rufussondheim
    August 27, 2012

    Now there’s a forgotten gem, The Reflecting Skin.

  28. August 27, 2012
  29. Jerm
    August 27, 2012

    Whoa I didnt realize how weak that year was…I thought the nominations the Grifters got were great, but I dont think it deserved to win any. Although it deserved a best picture nomination for sure! Bates gave one of the best acting performances of all time that year and I have watched that numerous times just for her! I’m happy with Goldberg’s win for supporting actress, but I think Loraine Bracco would have been the other alternative before Bening. I disagree though with saying that it is Bening’s greatest performance, I thought she was BRILLIANT in American Beauty and was robbed….we will get to that later! I agree 100% Goodfellas was ROBBED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Jake G!!!
    August 27, 2012

    Misery should have replaced Awakenings and The Godfather Part III should have taken home Best Picture!

  31. August 27, 2012

    @Ruth:

    I never hated DANCES WITH WOLVES. I think it’s very well directed, the screenplay’s good enough, and I don’t find the Native American characters to be one-dimensional at all (certainly the chief Graham Greene plays is well-rounded) as some charged at the time. My biggest problem with the movie, actually, is with Costner’s performance. He must have been so busy directing the movie that he forgot to direct himself or he was simply too tired, because he’s bland and one-note throughout the film.

    @Jake G and others:

    Unfortunately, I cannot get behind the love for Misery. The novel scared the shit out of me when I read it, and the movie simply didn’t scare me enough.

  32. Patryk
    August 27, 2012

    I have to agree with the others regarding “The Grifters.” Surely one of Stephen Frears best. And both Bening and Huston are great. Joanne Woodward in “Mr and Mrs Bridge,” and Mia Farrow in “Alice,” were both deserving of their accolades. Too bad Mia wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. I feel it is one of her best performances ever.

    “The Grifters” should have been nominated alongside “Goodfellas,” “Mr and Mrs Bridge,” “Reversal of Fortune,” and “Edward Scissorhands.”

    Overall a great year for women…Huston, Woodward, Close, Farrow, Streep, Bates, Bening, Ladd & Dern, Wiest, MacLaine and more.

  33. August 27, 2012

    Goodfellas was definitely meant to win Best Picture that year, and out of all the movies released that year, the one I would’ve nominated that missed the shortlist was Miller’s Crossing. Edward Scissorhands and The Grifters would’ve made my list as well. This would’ve been my 5:

    Goodfellas
    Miller’s Crossing
    The Grifters
    Edward Scissorhands
    Dances With Wolves

  34. thomas
    August 28, 2012

    Not really a great year for movies, but some good performances by women …

    1. „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    2. „THE SHELTERING SKY“ (Great Britain)
    3. „GOODFELLAS“ (USA)
    4. „LE PETIT CRIMINEL“ (France)
    5. „THE REFLECTING SKIN“ (Great Britain)
    6. „METROPOLITAN“ (USA)
    7. „TULITIKKUTEHTAAN TYTTÖ“ (Finnland)
    8. „JU DOU“ (China)
    9. „LONGTIME COMPANION“ (USA)
    10. „WILD AT HEART“ (USA)

    1. Richard Harris in „THE FIELD“ (Irland)
    2. Richard Anconina in „LE PETIT CRIMINEL“ (France)
    3. Gian Maria Volontè in „PORTE APERTE“ (Italy)
    4. Gérard Depardieu in „CYRANO DE BERGERAC“ (France)
    5. John Cusack in „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    6. Jean Rochefort in „LE MARI DE LA COIFFEUSE“ (France)
    7. Jean-Hugues Anglade in „NUIT D’ÉTÉ EN VILLE“ (France)
    8. John Malkovich in „THE SHELTERING SKY“ (Great Britain)
    9. Andrés Pajares in „AY, CARMELA!“ (Spain)
    10. Michel Piccoli in „MILOU EN MAI“ (France)

    1. Anjelica Huston in „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    2. Meryl Streep in „POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE“ (USA)
    3. Joanne Woodward in „MR. & MRS. BRIDGE“ (USA)
    4. Anne Parillaud in „NIKITA“ (France)
    5. Clotilde Courau in „LE PETIT CRIMINEL“ (France)
    6. Gong Li in „JU DOU“ (China)
    7. Carmen Maura in „AY, CARMELA!“ (Spain)
    8. Debra Winger in „THE SHELTERING SKY“ (Great Britain)
    9. Kerry Fox in „AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE“ (Australia)
    10. Kati Outinen in „TULITIKKUTEHTAAN TYTTÖ“ (Finnland)

    1. Bruce Davison in „LONGTIME COMPANION“ (USA)
    2. Gérald Thomassin in „LE PETIT CRIMINEL“ (Frankreich)
    3. Joe Pesci in „GOODFELLAS“ (USA)
    4. John Hurt in „THE FIELD“ (Irland)
    5. Graham Greene in „DANCES WITH WOLVES“ (USA)
    6. Ennio Fantastichini in „PORTE APERTE“ (Italien)
    7. Pat Hingle in „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    8. Robert De Niro in „GOODFELLAS“ (USA)
    9. Jacques Weber in „CYRANO DE BERGERAC“ (Frankreich)
    10. Jean-Hugues Anglade in „NIKITA“ (Frankreich)

    1. Annette Bening in „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    2. Lorraine Bracco in „GOODFELLAS“ (USA)
    3. Shirley MacLaine in „POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE“ (USA)
    4. Dominique Blanc in „MILOU EN MAI“ (France)
    5. Jane Horrocks in „LIFE IS SWEET“ (Great Britain)
    6. Elina Salo in „TULITIKKUTEHTAAN TYTTÖ“ (Finnland)
    7. Lindsay Duncan in „THE REFLECTING SKIN“ (Great Britain)
    8. Glenn Close in „REVERSAL OF FORTUNE“ (USA)
    9. Diane Ladd in „WILD AT HEART“ (USA)
    10. Mary McDonnell in „DANCES WITH WOLVES“ (USA)

    1. Stephen Frears für „THE GRIFTERS“ (USA)
    2. Martin Scorsese für „GOODFELLAS“ (USA)
    3. Jacques Doillon für „LE PETIT CRIMINEL“ (France)
    4. Philip Ridley für „THE REFLECTING SKIN“ (Great Britain)
    5. Bernardo Bertolucci für „THE SHELTERING SKY“ (Great Britain)
    6. Luc Besson für „NIKITA“ (France)
    7. Zhang Yimou für „JU DOU“ (China)
    8. Gianni Amelio für „PORTE APERTE“ (Italy)
    9. David Lynch für „WILD AT HEART“ (USA)
    10. Louis Malle für „MILOU EN MAI“ (France)

  35. Mattoc
    August 28, 2012

    I went through this year, and there’s not many I haven’t seen. I’m fairly comfortable with the BP lineup – although not my top 5, it’s respectable.

    I have so many favourites from this year, it is a bit hard to rate it at the moment. I will say that there is a lot of very good but not great films, especially comedy.

  36. Patryk
    August 28, 2012

    Anyone else agree that “Mr and Mrs Bridge,” was the best the Newman’s finest moment together? They may have had individual performances in other films that were better, but together they were wonderful here. I’m excluding the Newman directed performances of Woodward (“Rachel, Rachel,” “Effect of Marigolds…” wjere he didn’t also co-star.

  37. Jon
    August 28, 2012

    @Thomas, I am sorry Thomas, your list of performances and direction are fine, but how can you NOT have Bates performance in MISERY in your top 10?!??!?!?!?!? I have seen nearly all of the performances you have listed – and in my opinion, not that that means much – it is superior to nearly all of them.

  38. rufussondheim
    August 28, 2012

    I really thought Metropolitan would be more popular around here. But then, maybe, people don’t like to watch movies that make fun of your teenage years :)

  39. steve50
    August 28, 2012

    It was hard to relate to, or even like, the “urban haute bourgeoisie” in Metropolitan. The film was well made, but it was kind of Merchant-Ivory/Masterpiece Theater in contemporary dress. That said, it may pick up interest in a few decades as a museum piece.

  40. Alboone
    August 28, 2012

    Goodfellas is the movie of the 90′s. Period. It’s pure filmmaking craft at one of its finest. I’ll even dare say that it’s the best thing Marty has ever done.

  41. keifer
    August 28, 2012

    I can’t understand the love for “The Sheltering Sky” and, in particular, Debra Winger’s performance. She was mis-cast. I thought the film was quite boring then, and I still find it boring. Great cinematography, though – that’s the only salvageable thing about it.

    Goodfellas – Miller’s Crossing – The Grifters – Edward Scissorhands – Postcards from the Edge . . . what a great year for film!

    Another one of my favorite movies that year was Barry Levinson’s “Avalon” (heretofore unmentioned on this blog chain).

  42. jtm
    August 28, 2012

    Jordan Ruimy, thanks for giving a shout out to one of my all-time favorites, The Grifters. This is one of the few movies that haunts me- especially the last scene. Anjelica Huston deserved the Best Actress Oscar that year( even though Kathy Bates was wonderful in Misery). I respect Whoopi Goldberg, but her performance didn’t deserve the Oscar nomination. I was rooting for Annette Bening all the way. Annette gave a mindblowing performance, she owned every scene she was in, and she brought so much starpower. It is a travesty, John Cusack wasn’t nominated. It was easily the best male performance that year. And, of course, Angelica Huston proved she is a force to be reckoned with. I can talk about this movie all day. This film is brilliant from beginning to end.

  43. August 28, 2012

    Great replies so far. I was reminded of MISERY, a movie which has a great performance but a fairly sub par script. It’s one of those trashy films that gets elevated by the sheer brilliance of its main actress.

  44. Tero Heikkinen
    August 28, 2012

    Keifer, I thought about Avalon, but then I also thought about what I remember from it. Quite a lot, actually, but mainly music. Elijah Wood being young (watching early TV), the narrator voice (“and then I came to Baltimore”)- not enough.

    The music is awesome, of course. One of the best of the year.

  45. keifer
    August 29, 2012

    Tero, the music score for “Avalon” by Randy Newman was nominated that year for the Oscar (one of Newman’s most deserved nominations, I’d say). I think it is the best music score he ever did.

    I have the CD and the music is beautiful.

    On topic with The Grifters – I agree that Huston should have won the Oscar that year for “The Grifters” for best actress. And I’m not slamming Bates’ performance, but I think Kathy Bates was absolutely robbed in 1995 when she failed to be nominated for “Dolores Claiborne” – clearly the BEST performance of any actress that year (perhaps in the decade).

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