Today! Because I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze –
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Directed by Bryan Singer (x2)
Starring Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, Benicio Del Toro, Pete Postlethwaite, Giancarlo Esposito, Suzy Amis (x2), Dan Hedaya (x2), Clark Gregg, Louis Lombardi
A cast and crew simply bursting with purported monsters, The Usual Suspects is nonetheless an amazing movie, if you can get past its baggage. Dazzling, Oscar winning screenplay by apparent Tom Cruise captive Christopher McQuarrie (seriously, his resume over the last 15 years is almost exclusively writing and/or directing Cruise pictures), breakout movie for director Singer (accused of much, the most mild of which being on-set difficulty), and Oscar winning role from subsequent huge movie star Kevin Spacey (who did his level best to top Harvey Weinstein as Biggest Scumbag of 2017 – verdict still out, as of this writing! Who won? None of us, right?).
So with all that – not to mention fervent Trump supporter Stephen Baldwin – can you still wrap your arms around The Usual Suspects and praise it to the heavens like this was 1995? Again, in putting together this list, I’ve tried to be honest with myself. How much does actor/director off-screen drama affect my enjoyment of their films? And the answer is – probably some? Probably less than it should? I mean, I’m not going to run out and see a new Kevin Spacey film, but ones previously existing and beloved? Movies cement themselves for me basically when I first see them – my estimation might rise or fall over time, but that’s still based on film criteria almost exclusively. I might not agree with Clint Eastwood’s politics, but that doesn’t change how much I like In the Line of Fire, get me? I can stay out of my own way in that regard. Pretty much.
Which is nice, because again, Usual Suspects totally holds up. Had Bryan Singer not gotten sidetracked (and terrifically so, I might add) with the X-Men films, who knows how he’d be regarded as a director now. This was a hell of a start to a career, with only one minor feature to his credit prior. The acting is solid across the board – with especially good turns from Byrne and Palminteri, navigating their way through the twisty script. Game planning how to act in a movie like this – where the entire story is wall-to-wall unreliable – seems like a logistical nightmare, so the fact that it remains sturdy is impressive in itself.
And yes, Spacey is great. Spacey would continue to be great in a lot of things for a long time. But, like, as much as it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie, I do feel a little gross praising Kevin Spacey for anything at this point. What’s happening with this guy by the time this is published? Is it cool to still be like “Fuck that guy?” It’s gotta be, right? If not, I’m sorry, I guess.
While I’d like to think this movie was correctly praised in its day, it only has those two Oscar nominations and wins, in what really wasn’t a terribly strong year for movies, by my estimation. Considering again that 1992 has 18 movies on this list, 1995 only has four, none of which were nominated for more than three Oscars, or for Best Picture. And ’95 was squarely in my wheelhouse of film watching! Cripes, 1940 has four movies here! What the hell happened? I’ve always thought of ’96 as a real black hole of movies, but shit, ’96 has 12 movies on this list! Terrible job, ’95! It is quite a while until the next ’95 film too – see you next Presidents’ Day!
Pretty random pair of actors entering the Two-Timers club, alongside director Singer, previously appearing for #277 X-Men. #296 Titanic alum Suzy Amis and #281 Buckaroo Banzai/Cheers great Dan Hedaya crash the proceedings today, with their minor roles! Sharing no scenes, here they are with Byrne and Palmenteri, respectively.
Coming tomorrow! How am I supposed to write for a guy who doesn’t have a head?