1997 in Review

One Notable Film from 1997

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1997 saw the release of three extraordinary anime films: the first was Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, the Studio Ghibli classic that was the all-time highest grossing film in the history of Japan at the time and the studio’s breakthrough film in the west. The second was Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, a brilliant psychological thriller about female identity and gender roles in Japanese society. The third is the film I’ll talk about in depth, and is one of my all-time favorites, one who’s scenes I remember more vividly than probably any other film: Hideaki Anno’s End of Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion was an anime series that aired for 26 episodes from 1995-96 and really changed the game for what was then a very stagnant industry in terms of content. What started as an enjoyable action-mecha series (i.e. Mobile Suit Gundam, Voltron) with strong characters eventually became a densely layered, bleak and introspective look into depression, self-hatred and the understanding others through its deeply flawed but extraordinarily memorable and well-developed characters. It became a surprise smash hit, but most fans at the time were (extremely) unhappy with the way the series ended. On one hand, the TV finale does provide a great thematic conclusion; on the other hand, it’s clear they had totally run out of time and money, it provided almost no resolution to most of the plot elements of the series or to the personal arcs of everyone besides the main character and was too abstract for most of the audience. So, fans demanded an ending that was more straight-forward and concrete and in 1997 they got End of Evangelion.

End of Evangelion is like if David Lynch directed Bojack Horseman; if you didn’t know it coming in, the opening scenes make it VERY clear that this is going to be an experience. It’s one of the best directed, most visually stunning and powerful pieces of animation I’ve ever seen and it puts you through a wringer like few others will-the kind of film that after the final scene plays, you just kind of sit there silently for a while trying to process what you just watched, feeling empty and drained, but in the best way possible. It’s a movie and series that people still discuss and interpret and find new things to talk about some 20 years after its release, which is a testament to the depth of its characters and themes as well as the fantastic direction from Anno. It also is immensely rewarding on rewatches like few others. I would highly recommend End of Evangelion (which you should not watch before seeing the show) to anyone who’s either an anime fan or a fan of character studies or stories with psychological themes.

Other Notable Films from 1997

Nil By Mouth

The Sweet Hereafter

Men in Black

Boogie Nights

Jackie Brown

Face/Off

Starship Troopers

Waiting for Guffman

Amistad

Wag the Dog

Air Force One

The Fifth Element

Chasing Amy

1997 in Review

L.A. Confidential: A-

Good Will Hunting: B+

Titanic: B (Won Best Picture)

As Good As It Gets: C+

The Full Monty: C+

Titanic won Best Picture because it was a cultural phenomenon-it was released in December and was still #1 at the Box Office by the time the Oscars were awarded at the end of March. For that reason, I can’t really argue with its choice, even if I thought there were better movies among the nominees, especially L.A. Confidential which is the modern classic of the film noir genre.

For 1998: Two movies that both have Queen Elizabeth as a character (both depictions getting Oscar nominations) and have Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes in them; Roberto Benigni became only the fourth person to be nominated for Director, Actor and Screenplay for the same film (Orson Welles, Woody Allen and Warren Beatty being the others); and the first two WWII combat movies nominated for Best Picture since The Longest Day in 1962, which probably split each’s vote at the Oscars and prevented either from winning Best Picture. But first, the best of list covering the last decade.

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