The year’s true World War II masterpiece, The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick’s comeback film (after a twenty-year hiatus from filmmaking) takes place during and around the battle of Guadalcanal, but is in reality far more concentrated on the emotional experience of battle and the impact, poetically invoked here, of human warfare upon individuals and upon nature. Essentially a three-hour, nonnarrative experiment, there are no main characters—just an ensemble of thirty or more figures—and there’s no story—just impressions, experiences, feelings (the complex weft of narrative voices often do not synch up with on-screen personas), and astonishing images. Oh, yeah—it’s based on James Jones’s 1962 novel, though you’d never know it. Lots of stars packed in: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, Jim Caviezel, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Jared Leto, and Miranda Otto.
Amy Heckerling’s overrated and rosily remembered high school farce, based on the book Cameron Crowe wrote after he went undercover in an American high school for Rolling Stone, Fast Times at Ridgemont High does etch out various familiar social species (geeks, freaks, hotties, jocks, and the semiforgotten loser among them), and the performances (particularly those of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Phoebe Cates) are genuinely felt.