Sunday, August 11, 2013

Weekly Top Ten-My Top Ten of the 1990's

Weekly Top Ten-#17

Celebration of the Decades-#2

My Top Ten of the 1990's
We are finally at the next chapter during my look back at each decade, and what I feel made those decades special. The 1990's were special to me simply because it was the decade that I remember my earliest days creating a cinematic vocabulary. Lots of people may scoff that the 1990's were filled with crap. While that is true, it is true for every decade. It is highly unlikely and highly improbable that EVERY film made by EVERY studio in EVERY country is going to be a world-renown hit. I feel like that is staking the deck against not just Hollywood, but film-making in general. Film-making is an exercise, a art platform, I feel like film-makers go on a very personal journey when a film gets made. Plus a lot of studio ego and greed get pushed through each production as well, that is why not every film works each year. Would I love to see a movie year where I gave every new release I saw an A+? Of course I would, I am sure its every movie geeks dream. But its highly unlikely and I have chosen to accept that.

But like I said, The 1990's were a special time that I will always go back too. And I think the list of my favorite films of that decade best sum up why that was such a good decade.

10. Toy Story (1995)
If there was one movie that came out in the 90's that was just plain good for your soul, it was "Toy Story." The computer generated animation coupled with the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were almost overbearing. I was 6 years old when that film came out, and the animation floored me and continued to floor me as I grew up. This movie is filled with thrills, laughs and magic. Absolute cinematic magic. There is always at least one film that brings out the kid in us all, and for me that is totally "Toy Story." To the story, to the voice talent, to the animation...everything is in full swing to its greatest extent.

9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hell yeah this is still a powerful, disturbing thriller that still holds up today. Anthony Hopkins has never been this good again, even after playing the character another two times. He had a swagger and a commanding presence that I don't feel he had in the other two films he played Hannibal. But there is more greatness here besides Hopkins, Jodi Foster is very good here. Ted Levine gives me the creeps like no other, seriously Buffalo Bill is an impeccable creation. Just thinking of him gives me nightmares, eeek not for this guy. I also love that even today, this never felt like a major studio entry, which I think shows its power. A movie about serial killers should never be easy, and this film certainly wasn't. For that, I give them all the credit in the world.

8. Magnolia (1999)
If you remember from last week, I wrote about "There Will Be Blood," a film by P.T. Anderson. This was one of Anderson's first films, and watching this and TWBB, I think most would not realize they just watch two movies made by the same guy. It features a sprawling cast that includes Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Philip Baker Hall, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. There are several stories that, at first, don't look like they will connect. But one of the film's main themes is coincidence. It's interesting to think about, where certain people would be if we had not met them. This film really makes you think about that, and its breathtaking. The film also explores happiness, forgiveness and meaning and that is all taken at the grand scale. I can only sum this up with the smile I get every time the characters get into their musical ensemble...but that's a different story.

7. Schindler's List (1993)
From the powerful performances, to the stylish color play of the cinematography, there were not too many experiences in the 1990's that quite measured up to Schindler's List. Anything which revolves around the Holocaust is both powerful and tricky. If the right amount of respect isn't paid toward the situation and the story behind the iconography, the film will fall flat, plain and simple. Steven Spielberg vision does quite the opposite, creating a engaging, flattening experience. Liam Neeson has never been in this good before, nor has Ralph Fiennes ever been this notorious. Watching them chew up scenes and imagery is half the greatness of this motion picture. The other half comes from Spielberg's craft, this is easily one of the best films with his name on it.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
In speaking of Spielberg, I think it is safe to say that he had a great decade in the 1990's. Especially when it came to putting WWII-era culture and history onscreen. It has kind of become his forte at this point. As a child, he made his own WWII films with his buddies, something that made me smile every time I watched them on special features for this film's DVD. This is by far the best cast Spielberg has ever conjured, including Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, Dennis Farina and Dale Dye. Each actor completely fits into their characters with ease. There is no doubt also that this movie is the most gritty, realistic war movie ever made. Spielberg didn't hold back on this movie at all, he did not try to make us feel any better about war in general. He was unapologetic when our favorite characters got hurt or died, and those are what the best war movies are made of.

5. Fargo (1996)
Ahh, then there are the Coen Brothers. I know I have written about this film before, but I cannot deny the power it has over me. Frances McDormand has never been this good and I wonder if she'll ever be this good again. The rest of the cast is note-perfect. A cast that includes William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare and John Carroll Lynch. I think the authentic feel of the film will shock any viewer, especially the accent Macy gives his character. As far as who steals the show, its definitely Macy for me. Despite how good McDormand is. When great performances are this competitive in a motion picture, that elevates the material in ways one can't fathom. I love everything about this movie, and I hope more and more of you are trying to get this one.

4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Now, for Number Four to the Number One spot, we are in very hard territory. Placing these last four films was a chore, just because of how transcendent each experience is. I do not think there are many out there that would disagree that "The Shawshank Redemption" could have easily been the best of another decade. That exactly shows just how great the 1990's truly were if you looked in the right places. This was Tim Robbins' Magnum Opus and in some ways, it was also Morgan Freeman's. Whenever I think of these two great actors, all I can think about is Shawshank. This was the most compelling and most fluent drama to be released in all of the 1990's and ranks pretty high still today. I don't know what led Stephen King to write this story, but I am certainly glad he did, because I can't imagine this story not in my life. It's a gut-wrenching experience from the sad opening moments to the tear-jerking final moments. A true masterpiece if I ever saw one.

3. Goodfellas (1990)
What would a decade be if it didn't have any gangsters to admire? Thankfully, Martin Scorsese made something that nearly changed how we view gangsters on film. In a year when "The Godfather Part III" was going to define gangsters on film, Scorsese comes along and makes a blindsiding, crazy-yet-confident tale at its own. A movie that I think beat Godfather at its own game. Yes, there is no denying how great The Godfather movies are, but if I had to chose to watch "Goodfellas" over "Godfather" I would. The Godfather movies have always told a good story, but "Goodfellas" always told the truth. The truth is almost always  more engaging to me. Henry Hill's journey in the mafia underworld is well-crafted, so well-shot and so well-written that its tough to think of other gangster movies to compare it to. I love how even the little things, like matching music to certain scenes, feels so right. This is why we love Scorsese and his gangsters.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
A total and complete phenomenon. Every piece of dialogue, every piece of music, every character, every scene, every camera memorable. Easily, the most quotable movie to come out in all of the 1990's. A movie that also transformed John Travolta back into a movie star. I love the juicy screenplay written by Quentin Tarantino, I love how this film has many A-listers that are so on-top of their game that they almost don't feel like A-Listers, but most of all, I love how if this were made by any other filmmaker, it probably would have flopped. This is why Quentin Tarantino is my favorite, he is able craft stuff that sounds horrid on paper and makes it all unforgettable, not bad for a guy that never went to college. 

1. Fight Club (1999)
Why did "Fight Club" take the top spot over so many titans. I have to say honestly that "Fight Club" changed my life after I viewed it. A filmmaker has to be very sure when they use a movie to send a message and it seemed Director David Fincher understood that completely. I came to this movie in high school, just before my Sophomore year in 2005. It stuck in the back of my mind for many years to come, unflinching in the way it would not let go of me. I started to become more aware of not just the world around me, but the country around me. I read more history, more social issues, I paid attention to the news, I tried to make personal decisions on where I stood on a magnitude of ideas and issues. If a movie holds that much power over a viewer, I think there is something to that film that supersedes emotional reaction. As I read reviews of the film, I knew I wasn't alone, which only made me want to watch the movie more. Not that the message is the only merit, Brad Pitt is a God in this movie. So much to the point that I am not sure if he was ever better again. Edward Norton brought unsuspected charm to this role. Its a movie that's brainy in a demented form, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Honorable Mentions:
-"The Big Lebowski" and "True Romance" definitely tied for 11th place.
-"The Last of the Mohicans"
-"American Beauty"
-"Miller's Crossing"
-"Breaking The Waves"
-"Secrets and Lies"
-"The Four Colors Trilogy"
-"The Lion King"
-"Ed Wood"
-"Edward Scissorhands"
-"Being John Malkovich"
-"Boys N Da Hood"
-"Dazed and Confused"
-"Reservoir Dogs"
-"The Nightmare Before Christmas"
-"Boogie Nights"
-"The Usual Suspects"
-"Hoop Dreams"

all of these and more worth your time and attention.

As always, post your own 1990's lists below.

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