Friday, June 29, 2012

Top 100 Films of the 1990's: Part III

80. The Matrix (1999) - In 2009, Avatar revolutionized visual effects in film. Ten years earlier as new digital technology was growing exponentially, The Matrix became a predecessor for those that would follow it, including Avatar. It had mind-blowing visuals, as well as a complex story that questions the vary nature of our universe. It was a vision, and not just because it was groundbreaking in terms of its visual complex. It was a vision from the visionary Wachowski brothers who put into the universe a haunting tale, combined it with eastern action pieces, and created a modern science fiction masterpiece that survives till this very day as a classic.

79. Leon: The Professional (1994) - With a stylistic, European sensibility, Luc Besson was never better than in 1994's visceral, yet somehow romantic action adventure, Leon: The Professional. The story of an assassin rescuing a teenage girl, manages to combine two far-reaching elements: violence and romance into a perfectly balanced movie that is stylish, haunting, and unforgettable. Of particular greatness are the excellent performances that populate the screen, particularly Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman. Reno manages to balance his assassin life with his new found love, Portman is beautiful and vulnerable, and Oldman was pure badass, plain and simple. This is one definitely not to be missed, and has remained a popular among film addicts since its release. My suggestion is that you rent it, and see what all the hype is about.

78. Trainspotting (1996) - Before Danny Boyle was a popular, Oscar-winning director, he was an arthouse legend, and none of his older films were more compelling, nor more free-flowing than 1996's brilliant Trainspotting. The story of heroine addicts battling drug addiction doesn't sound like it would be entertaining, and despite its pro-drug stance, and the fact that it can be downright depressing, it also manages to have some refreshingly funny moments, and never loses its British and grungy sense of style. Couple Boyle's style and vision with some great performances, particularly a young Ewan McGregor, who remains one of the most underrated and underawarded actors of this generation. Trainspotting is not for the weak-hearted, but it your willing to dive into this psychadelic world, I promise the trip will be rewarding.

77. Jerry Maguire (1996) - I have always liked Cameron Crowe's work, enough to overlook his sometimes cheesy outlook on life, and to look to his level of brilliance of creating bold and interesting characters that are so easy to fall in love with its hard to not become completely engaged with their stories. That fact was never more true than in Crowe's 1996 hit Jerry Maguire. Starring the once charming Tom Cruise, an emotional Renee Zellweger, and an enthusiastic Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire is chocked full of likeable actors playing likeable characters. It has some incredible one-liners, thanks to the warm and infectious script by Crowe, and overall it remains one of the most romantic, cheerful, and entertaining films of the 1990's.

76. Ed Wood (1994) - Tim Burton, in the last couple of years, seems to have either lost some of his spark, or simply needs to take a break from Johnny Depp. But in the 1990's, and through the last decade, Burton and Depp were simply on a roll. And one of their most fascinating, weird, and creative endeavors was 1994's Ed Wood. Featuring a young Depp, along with an Oscar winning performance from the legendary Martin Landau, Ed Wood is the story of a director who makes really bad movies (maybe after Dark Shadows, Burton needs to rewatch his own work). Shot in black and white, with splashes of color, it is actually a bit of a change for Burton, not featuring fantasy, the supernatural as much, as a colorful and strange cast of characters. It is a brilliant look at film making, wonderfully weird, and one of the most clever and original pieces of a great decade for film.

75. Waiting for Guffman (1996) - Christopher Guest films are not for everyone, but for those who are willing to embrace his wackiness, and continually fall in love with his usual suspects including Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Don Lake, and others, then Waiting for Guffman is a treat, and one of our first introductions to this truly original filmmaker. Like Ed Wood before it, and many other films, this is about the art and craziness of making art. However, it is featured in a small rural town, and its wackiness is a lot more ridiculous, and a lot more hilarious than most films about Broadway or film or television. Just when you think it can't get any funnier, it does. Waiting for Guffman is sort of a cult-classic among film-goers who appreciate Guest's originality and wit, and after seeing it, you'll understand why.

74. Breaking the Waves (1996) - Lars von Trier is a misogynistic, crazy man, but as a film director, few people, maybe Terrence Malick being the exception, have such an incredible vision or philosophical take on life, and few make such brilliant dreary and emotional films. The story of a guilty wife who is urged to have sex with other men when her husband becomes paralyzed is not exactly for the weak-at-heart.  But with a stunning film debut from the now unstoppable Emily Watson, any viewer can become completely encompassed in her story. You can see her pain, her guilt, her vulnerability. It is actually a lot different than Trier's other works, as it focuses on love and goodness and faithfulness, and that fact never diminishes the power and pain that exudes from its frames. If that's not greatness, I don't know what is.

73. Short Cuts (1993) - So many directors have tried to create large ensemble films that interweave its various characters into one concept or around one specific event, person, or idea. On occasions those directors have succeeded, but more often than not, they turn into big messes. The godfather and master auteur of ensemble-oriented films was the great Robert Altman, the inspiration that tried to be replicated. But if his body of work is any proof, I doubt anyone in the near future will be able to accomplish what Altman did. One of his best works was 1993's Short Cuts. Featuring the intersecting lives of unsuspecting suburbanites might seem like a far-flung concept, but with Altman's superior direction and screenplay, along with an incredible cast including Jack Lemmon, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr., and others, makes Short Cuts feel less like a collection of intertwining short stories, and more like complete and funny vision.

72. Good Will Hunting (1997) - It is still hard to believe just how young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were when they wrote this incredible little film about a brilliant janitor, who discovers his own place in this would with the help of a psychiatrist. Now we see two men who are both blossoming in their respective careers, and after a film like this I expected nothing less (although both had to get through some rough spots to get to their current point). Good Will Hunting is a warm and infectious film, aptly directed by Gus Van Sant, featured  truly authentic and wam screenplay, and some incredible performances. Particularly Robin Williams, who proves himself to be more than just a funny guy. It manages to avoid some of the cliches that populate so many inspirational films, and I thought its ending was a perfect cap to great film.

71. Miller's Crossing (1990) - The Coen Brothers have dark moments amidst their comedies, and in 1990, they dove into the depths of warring mob families with the dark and exciting thriller, Miller's Crossing. The premise of mob families during Prohibition is not a new one at all. But combine a familiar element with a bloody film noir style, and some signature Coen Bros. elements, and what you have is a truly original and wonderful entry into a well-treat genre. Featuring some searing performances from both Gabriel Byrne, and the always incredible Albert Finney, Miller's Crossing is a film that doesn't leave you. It is violent and dark, quiet at moments, then shockingly loud at others. A true treat.

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