The Year in Film

In 1997, independence was not a status so much as a state of mind.

9. The Sweet Hereafter. The year's other Canadian crash epic, director Atom Egoyan's exotic tapestry of grief strikes all sorts of balances: between the heart and the head, the universal and the peculiar, the auteur's oeuvre and the novel by Russell Banks (plus the Tragically Hip and The Pied Piper of Hamlin thrown in for good measure). It starts Friday at the Uptown Theatre.

10. L.A. Confidential. An award for Best Picture might convince industry execs that a complicated, modestly produced "action movie" without stars has its rewards. Otherwise, L.A.'s underwhelming grosses will tip the studio scale even further toward the titanic.

Runners-up (in order of preference). Not even this list of 20 covers all the year's greats, but it's a start: Starship Troopers; Childhood's End; Soul in the Hole; Gummo; My Best Friend's Wedding; The Apostle; Ponette; Titanic; Nenette et Boni; Pretty Village, Pretty Flame; subUrbia; Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist; 4 Little Girls; Star Maps; Jackie Brown; Shall We Dance?; The Pillow Book; Nowhere; Good Will Hunting; and Lost Highway.

Better Than You Heard (alphabetically). To varying degrees, these 10 got a bum rap, critically and/or commercially: Alien Resurrection; Anaconda; Blood and Wine; Booty Call; Career Girls; Contact; The Devil's Advocate; Hoodlum; Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation; and U-Turn.

Musts to Avoid (alphabetically). Not counting the other 10 awful movies I endured this year (or The Postman, which I didn't), these 10 were the toughest: Chasing Amy; Deconstructing Harry; Kicked in the Head; Kissed; Kiss or Kill; The Myth of Fingerprints; Night Falls on Manhattan; 187; Smilla's Sense of Snow; and 'Til There Was You.

You Must Remember These. In another strong year for local indie and rep-house programming, the standouts included: the Mpls./St. Paul, Jewish, and LGBT festivals at U Film Society; the Twin Cities Black Film Festival at the Parkway and Grandview theaters, and at Oak Street Cinema; the Mizoguchi, Greenaway, and Fassbinder retros at Walker Art Center; the John Wayne, Jacques Tati, and Fritz Lang retros at Oak Street; National Projects/Red Eye Cinema's "Citybeat '97" series (Crooklyn, City Girl, etc.) in Stevens Square Park; the Red Eye's preview of Sonic Outlaws and "indoor drive-in" screening of Death Race 2000 at Yesterday's Auto; the Uptown's midnight screenings of auteur classics (Scorsese, Kubrick, Cronenberg); Subdue the Universe and IFC Presents IFP/North at Bryant-Lake Bowl; Homo Heights at the State Theatre; and, best of all, the "Multiplex" meeting of indie reelers at the Soap Factory on July 4.

Ten Great Ones to Watch For (or Hope For) Next Year: Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels; Abel Ferrara's The Blackout; Michael Moore's The Big One; Vin Diesel's Strays; Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinema (parts 3A and 4A); Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry; Aleksandr Sokurov's Mother and Son; Philippe Harel's Une Femme Defendue; Takeshi Kitano's Hana-Bi; and, for a great joke, Johnny Depp's The Brave.

Best As-Yet Unreleased Movie of the Year (tie): Naked Acts and Lena's Dreams. The former played twice at the Twin Cities Black Film Festival, the latter just once at the Mpls./St. Paul Film Festival; each follows a young woman's attempts to make it as an actress (and keep her clothes on in the process), and each meditates on the struggle of what to do when following your dream and not following your dream both feel like selling out. If there were more movies directed by or about women of color, maybe it wouldn't be relevant to mention that either of these would have deserved the praise reaped upon the curiously overrated Eve's Bayou.

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