Though Michael Mann’s buckskin-sex, tomahawk-to-the-head take on James Fenimore Cooper isn’t about the Revolutionary War or national independence, it evokes, as few films do, the real wilderness of the time, a place at once homestead, battlefield, and frontier. Log cabins, cannon-stocked forts, gun smoke and mud, eating venison by candlelight—this may be the closest an American film will ever come to capturing the period. Plus it has Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe; as star-crossed lovers amid the warfare, they’re the most convincingly hot movie pair of the 1990s.
Blow Up, Chappaquiddick, Watergate, JFK, sound engineering, and Philadelphia, all rolled into a crazy plot involving a political assassination that the hero (John Travolta, engagingly relaxed) may have accidentally recorded on audiotape. The background of a berserk City of Brotherly Love during the July Fourth fete is as central to the film, visually and ironically, as the national monuments used by Hitchcock in his works. All in all, a smashing, thoughtful, stirring piece of pulp, and probably the best movie for the holiday.
Easily the most thoroughgoing War of Independence film ever made in Hollywood—there aren’t many competitors, which says something about how interested Americans truly have been about their own history—this silly anachronism is also an eager-to-please Broadway musical put on film. Still, it has its devotees, and besides, the facts are there, a good deal of the dialogue consists of historically accurate attributed quotes, the cast is game, and the anticonservative number “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” is included on video versions of the film, after having been initially cut by studio chief Jack Warner at the behest of President Richard Nixon.