Daily Archives: July 12, 2019

TV Guise [AS GOOD AS IT GETS]

From the Chicago Reader (December 29, 1997). To tell the the truth, over 17 years later, I’m a little embarrassed about having given this movie four stars. For all my affection for James L. Brooks, in spite of everything (and including his most recent picture, the much-reviled How Do You Know), this is far from being his best work. — J.R.

As Good as It Gets **** Masterpiece

Directed by James L. Brooks

Written by Mark Andrus and Brooks

With Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros, Jesse James, and Jill.

As a TV illiterate who probably hasn’t watched a sitcom regularly since The Honeymooners, who’s never seen Taxi, Rhoda, Lou Grant, Room 222, or The Tracey Ullman Show, and caught only the final episode¬† of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I don’t know much about the world James L. Brooks sprang from as an artist. In fact, apart from several episodes of his two cartoon series, The Simpsons and The Critic, I don’t know his TV work at all. And as someone who regards movie test-marketing as one of the sleaziest, most destructive practices in Hollywood, I’m more than a little skeptical about a writer-director-producer who believes in it so religiously that after the previews of his previous feature, the musical I’ll Do Anything, he recut it so extensively he made it a nonmusical.… Read more »

The Decade’s Finest [The Ten Best Movies of the 90s]

From the December 24, 1999 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Ten Best Movies of the 90s

(not including but with notes on Cradle Will Rock)

Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery and one which a novel, even a comic novel, can only be asked to deepen. ¬†– From the preface to Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood

A lot of havoc is wreaked by the usual annual ten-best lists. For starters, there’s the hard-sell behavior of publicists trying to get critics to see every major year-end release before December 31, even though most of these features won’t open in Chicago until at least January. This results in two time frames — one for national releases and another for local releases — which confuses everyone. If you play by the rules of the Chicago Film Critics Association (which should really be called the Chicago Film Publicists Association), you’re encouraged to act like a publicist and promote features on your ten-best list that haven’t opened in Chicago — but you’re strictly forbidden to act like a critic and review any of them.… Read more »