TEN BEST OF 1993

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Dec 31, 1993, 9:13:33 PM12/31/93
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I tried to resist, I really did. When I first began reviewing
earlier this year, I told myself I wouldn't do a year-end Ten Best
list. It seemed self-serving, and wouldn't say much more than my
reviews had said already. But I suppose a dog might as well try to
become a vegetarian. Like some clarion call from the collective
critical unconscious came the need to do the deed. I temper my
self-criticism with the knowledge that I may be unearthing some
neglected gems for other viewers, that at the very least they might
receive some deserved attention on video. And with that, here we
go:

SCOTT RENSHAW'S TEN BEST OF 1993

1. SCHINDLER'S LIST -- And honestly, nothing else is even close.
Ten years from now, people will be talking about SCHINDLER'S LIST
the same way the talk about RAGING BULL, as a modern masterpiece.
Steven Spielberg showed he could transcend extraterrestrials and
dinosaurs to create a gut-wrenching, startlingly brilliant
examination of the Holocaust, and the strange heroism of one
enigmatic man. A truly rare combination of first-rate storytelling,
filmmaking and acting.

2. FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE -- Both epic and intimate, director Chen
Kaige's tale of the fifty year relationship between two Chinese
opera stars boils down to a simple but compelling love triangle.
The visual spectacle of China from the feudal period through the
Cultural Revolution is matched by dynamic performances from the
three principals: Zhang Fengyi, Gong Li, and particularly Leslie
Cheung as the tortured Dieyi.

3. THE REMAINS OF THE DAY -- Anthony Hopkins is an actor working at
the height of his creative powers, and this Merchant/Ivory
adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel provided him with a vehicle for
his best performance yet. As Mr. Stevens, the unflinchingly loyal
butler to a less-than-worthy English gentleman, Hopkins turned in a
haunting portrayal of a man unable to express his feelings for Emma
Thompson's fiery housekeeper. Marvelous from start to finish.

4. KING OF THE HILL -- Steven Soderbergh rebounded from the
disappointing KAFKA to turn out the best and most richly textured of
the year's many "coming of age" films. Jesse Bradford stars as a
youth coping with family trials in Depression-era St. Louis, and
he's wonderful. KING OF THE HILL is filled with delightful
characters, and manages poignancy without melodrama, charm without
sap. Also noteworthy is Cliff Martinez's brisk score.

5. SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER -- Just when you thought the
competition genre could only work with cliches, along comes this
winner from writer-director Steven Zaillian. This true story of a
7-year-old chess prodigy had a tremendous amount to say bout winning
and losing in the American sports ethic, but did it with a light
hand and skillful direction. Joe Mantegna and Ben Kingsley, in fine
performances, were overshadowed by Max Pomeranc's sensational debut
as the reluctant champion.

6. AMERICAN HEART -- Jeff Bridges gave the best performance nobody
saw in the best film nobody saw as an ex-con trying to stay straight
while learning to be a father to his teenage son (Edward Furlong).
Director Martin Bell (the documentary STREETWISE) made his feature
debut with a gritty, fatalistic but intensely real portrait of
street culture and lost souls doing their best just to survive.

7. THE PIANO -- Holly Hunter, everybody's odds-on favorite for this
year's Best Actress, provided the electrifying apex of Jane
Campion's darkly hypnotic triangle. Part fable, part examination of
Edwardian sexual politics and part straight ahead love story, THE
PIANO emerged as one of the year's most original creations. Strong
supporting performances from Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel and Stuart
Dryburgh's vivid cinematography added to the film's power.

8. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING -- Multi-hyphenate Kenneth Branagh made
it 2-for-2 in Shakespearean adaptations, forgoing HENRY V's somber
tone for a beautifully photographed and lavishly staged romp. A few
overwrought moments in the supporting performances were unable to
detract from the high energy and splendid adaptation of the Bard's
crackling dialogue. Branagh and Emma Thompson were a priceless
Benedick and Beatrice, and Michael Keaton, his detractors aside, was
right on target with his broad and crude Dogberry.

9. GROUNDHOG DAY -- It was a film that had no business being as
clever, funny and warm as it was, but it was. Bill Murray broke out
of a long cinematic slump as a weatherman forced to relive the same
day over and over in a story that seemed to find a new twist just
when you thought there was nowhere else it could possibly go. The
year's best comedy was also, surprisingly, one of the best romances.

10. THE FUGITIVE -- Mass market entertainment didn't come any better
than this in 1993. Intelligently scripted, tautly directed and
boasting some of the best action set pieces in the last few years,
THE FUGITIVE provided a heck of a ride. Oh, and a couple of fellows
named Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones did some pretty decent work,
too. JURASSIC PARK may have been more eye-popping, but THE FUGITIVE
was the only literal white knuckler I experienced this year.

HONORABLE MENTION: THE JOY LUCK CLUB; MENACE II SOCIETY; SHORT
CUTS.

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for your support.
Scott.

--
Scott Renshaw
Stanford University
Office of the General Counsel

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