Unforgiven won Best Picture of 1992, and garnered director Clint Eastwood his first Oscar for Best Director. The other films up that year included A Few Good Men, The Crying Game, Scent of a Woman, and Howard's End. Each and every one a classic in its own right that can now, at the age of 20, officially be called as such.
As I have previously stated elsewhere in this site, a classic is described in the dictionary as something that is at least twenty years old. Therefore, it irks me to no end when I read in reviews that some critic has anointed a new release as “an instant classic”. By definition that phrase is an oxymoron. So, please, I am begging people everywhere to stop doing that. It just sounds dumb.
Of course, as every year passes more films reach that wonderful benchmark of distinction. But just because a film actually reaches the age of maturity, does not automatically make it a classic. Not by a long shot. But I do think that there are some films that are so good that technically they’ve just been waiting for that magical birthday to come along. And for some of the films of 1992 that day has finally arrived. I offer here some suggestions for those productions that deserve that title of respect starting here and now.
Obviously, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven makes the grade. As do, I believe, the other Best Picture Academy Award nominated films of 1992, which include A Few Good Men, The Crying Game, Scent of a Woman, and Howard's End. This is an impressive achievement, because I don’t think this can be said of every year. Heck, sometimes the Best Picture winners don’t qualify in my book (Cavalcade, The Greatest Show on Earth, Tom Jones, really?). And let’s not forget a few other films of 1992 that may not have been nominated as Best Picture, but undoubtedly fit the qualifications of a classic. There’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Malcolm X, Husbands and Wives, The Player, Enchanted April, A River Runs Through It, Aladdin, and in my opinion even My Cousin Vinny. It is absolutely a classic comedy. To me all of these films posses a timeless quality that will appeal to generations of viewers for decades to come.
Now I’m gonna have to take exception with a few other films of ’92 that I’m sure will make someone’s classic list, just not mine. Basic Instinct? Dracula? I just don’t see it. To me Basic Instinct was merely a sensational film that garnered a lot of public interest at the time of its initial release, much like Tom Jones. But given time, and distance it won’t have the legs to compare to the other fine films of the year. Likewise with Dracula. It seems almost sacrilegious to speak ill of a Coppola film, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say this was a misfire on the fine director’s resume. But remember, with as many great films under his belt, Coppola’s bound to have his share of clinkers.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, and have likely left off a personal favorite of yours. Maybe we share the same opinion. Either way I encourage you to respond to this posting and let me know what you consider a classic from 1992, and whether you agree with my choices, good and bad. No doubt, as 2012 progresses we will hear a lot about many of the films produced from this same year. There will be celebrations, special anniversary DVD releases, and event screenings all to celebrate the passing of two decades. Some of the twenty-year-old films deserve the accolades, but most will not, only serving as hyperbola in order to make money. And then we’ll see it all over again in another five years, and then ten, and so on. But the real test of time will be to see what still holds up in another thirty years. Films like To Kill a Mocking Bird and Lawrence of Arabia are celebrating their fiftieth anniversaries this year. Now these films are what I call classics. How many films from 1992 will hold up the same? Only time will tell.