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A SCHOOLING AT THE MOVIES

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 18, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a backward glance at what movies were saying to us 25 years ago, according to my end-of-year Deseret News story published on Dec. 26, 1993, under the headline: ‘Looking back on ’93: Winners and Losers.’ As always, draw your own conclusions.

Things I learned while watching movies during 1993:

— Good American roles for actresses are still far and few between. Even two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field has little to do in the current blockbuster "Mrs. Doubtfire," which is clearly a Robin Williams vehicle. With a few exceptions -—"Manhattan Murder Mystery," "The Age of Innocence," "The Joy Luck Club," "Untamed Heart," "Passion Fish," "Benny & Joon," "Lost In Yonkers" and "Sleepless In Seattle" (and only the latter an unequivocal box office hit) — the best female lead characters continued to show up in foreign films like "The Remains of the Day," "Much Ado About Nothing," "The Story of Qiu Ju," "The Ox," "Like Water for Chocolate," "Sofie," "The Piano," "Strictly Ballroom" and "Farewell My Concubine."

— Even little girls got the short shrift this year, as the plethora of movies with child players allowed male roles to dominate. With the exception of "The Secret Garden," it was boys night out in a the wide array of movies featuring leading roles for children: "Searching for Bobby Fischer," "Jack the Bear," "The Adventures of Huck Finn," "Cop & ½," "The Sandlot," "This Boy's Life," "Last Action Hero," "Dennis the Menace," "Rookie of the Year," "Free Willy," "The Man Without a Face," "Into the West," "The Good Son," "A Home of Our Own" and "A Perfect World."

— Steven Spielberg gets no respect. "Schindler's List" has garnered rave reviews across the board, and "Jurassic Park" has made more money than any movie in history, but when the national critics awards were recently handed out, all three groups passed over Spielberg as best director — despite giving "Schindler's List" awards as best picture! (The big question now, of course, is whether the Oscars will do the same thing.)

— Kenneth Branagh gets enormous respect. Even Shakespeare purists seemed to enjoy his "accessible" adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing." And critics singled him out for his unbilled supporting performance as a two-faced Nazi in "Swing Kids."

— Though he fared well on Broadway this year, Neil Simon's latest foray into movies, an adaptation of his hit play "Lost In Yonkers," quickly faded from movie screens, despite Mercedes Ruehl's terrific lead performance.

 

— Jason Scott Lee, no relation to Bruce, scored in two summer hits, "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" and "Map of the Human Heart." It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

— Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson didn't fare any better on-screen than off when they co-starred in "Made In America."

— Michael J. Fox's return to light comedy failed to bring back the fans he had forsaken for recent dramatic roles. Both "Life With Mikey" and "For Love or Money" quickly fell off the charts.

— The resurgence in westerns has begun but disappointing box-office earnings could cause them to go under again. "Geronimo" is not performing as expected and the early predictions for "Tombstone" do not bode well. There are plenty more on the way but if a couple don't hit, it may be awhile before Hollywood gambles on the Old West again.

-— Long movies are in — and not just the obvious "art films" like "Schindler's List" (3 hours, 15 minutes), "Short Cuts" (3 hours, 15 minutes), "Age of Innocence" (2½ hours) and "Gettysburg" (4½ hours). Also way too long are less obvious efforts, films that don't deserve or need to be more than 2 hours, like "Carlito's Way," "The Pelican Brief," "Tombstone" and even "Mrs. Doubtfire"!

— Despite the enormous success of "Basic Instinct" last year, idiotic clones like "Sliver" and "Body of Evidence" did not attract the same audience. Though bartering for women did in "Indecent Proposal," "Honeymoon In Vegas," "Mad Dog and Glory" and "The Piano."

— On a more positive note, there were some interesting, innovative and wonderfully eccentric things worth noticing, including the poetry of Maya Angelou in "Poetic Justice"; Wesley Snipes holding his own against Sean Connery and Sylvester Stallone, respectively, in "Rising Sun" and "Demolition Man"; Rosie Perez's fearless supporting performance in "Fearless"; Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks in deathbed dramatic roles in, respectively, "My Life" and the upcoming "Philadelphia"; and a stunning piece of stunt work, the train crash in "The Fugitive."

     

  An action scene filmed in southern Utah for 'Geronimo.'

— Critics across the country seemed to be more impressed with the southern Utah scenery in "Geronimo" than the film itself:

In truth, "Geronimo: An American Legend" is more like a nice bourgeoisie big-budget ’50s western than anything else. It lacks the savagery and bitterness of Ford's great "The Searchers," but it's beautifully made — in Ford's old stomping grounds, Monument Valley, Utah — and always feels authentic. Stephen Hunter (Baltimore Sun)

Out in John Ford territory, among the buttes and mesas of southern Utah, (director Walter) Hill films some of the best horsebound battles ever. Bob Strauss (Los Angeles Daily News)

Photographed by Lloyd Ahern and filled with gorgeous panoramas that both recall and amplify the Westerns of John Ford (who also shot around Moab, Utah), the film never lets you forget its story's spectacular scale. Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

Shooting evocatively amid Utah landscapes that summon John Ford's westerns. Janet Maslin (New York Times)