Sunday, July 29, 2012

Top 100 Films of the 1990's: Part IV

70. Being John Malkovich (1999) - Spike Jonze combined with Charlie Kaufman may have been just quite possibly the perfect combination, especially with their outcome, 1999's Being John Malkovich. In the great year of movies that was 1999, it says a lot that this film is one of those that really stood out from the pack. It takes the basic idea of transporting through a portal to a new place, like say in Alice in Wonderland, to a whole new level, but making its characters go into the incredibly fascinating mind of actor John Malkovich. If it sounds ridiculous, it really is. But with the vision of Jonze, the brilliant screenplay by Kaufman, and a set of great performances, particularly from the always incredible Catherine Keener, make the ridiculousness of its set up melt away, as you are sucked into one of the most original, unique, and fascinating movie experiences of the 1990's.

69. A Few Good Men (1992) - There have been many cases since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars involving the misdeeds of soldiers. Some have been baseless accusations, some atrocities. It is a controversial subject, with a gray line of justice, which makes Rob Reiner and Aaron Sorkins, still a potent and relevant movie even two decades after its release. What really makes the film rise above standard law or military fare is two key pieces. First is Aaron Sorkin's magnificent and taut screenplay, probably his first memorable one. The other piece is the acting. Featuring stunning performances, particularly from Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, A Few Good Men becomes almost Shakespearean as the courtroom heats up, and remains one of the most entertaining and smart films of the decade.

68. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) - Most of the animated features that were popular in the 1990's before Pixar began to take over starting in 1995, were a part of the late 1980's rejuvenation of Disney with titles like Aladdin and The Lion King, both of which are amazing films in their own rights. But, as it does on television weekly, South Park does not try to be a meaningful family animated film. Instead, South Park's 1999 feature, Bigger, Longer & Uncut, attempts instead to be the crudest, most politically-incorrect film of the 1990's, crossing barriers others wouldn't dare to even get close to. It does so with vulgar humor, fun musical numbers, and the wonderful characters we have grown attached to over the years. While some may say it is so vulgar that it loses meaning, I think that it is one of the boldest, and most clever films of a great decade of film.

67. Thelma & Louise (1991) - Thelma & Louise is one of those definitive films that everyone seems to know and love. It is a bold and wonderful tale about female liberation, adventure, and about the importance of friendship. Thelma & Louise are two women who have become fed up with the male-dominated society in which they live. They begin to take their lives into their own hands. Two great performances from Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are full of spunk, humor, and the chemistry between these two actresses is not something that can be manufactured. But not only was Thelma & Louise a fun adventure tale that also launched the career of Brad Pitt, but also is a film whose relevance is still pertinent. As we continue to battle over issues like birth control, maybe the women of this country need to sit down and take a trip into the Grand Canyon, to learn how to take their destiny into their own hands. A  winning film indeed.

66. Three Kings (1999) - In 2010, the Oscars discovered David O. Russell with his winning sports drama, The Fighter. But they, in my opinion, missed the mark by a decade, as they, and most awarding institutions, completely ignored this underrated action gem. The story of three soldiers going after gold in post-war Iraq might sound a lot like Kelly's Heroes remake, but Russell goes to depths within the journey that elevate it beyond anything that has come before it. Beyond the three great performances from George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, yes Ice Cube, Three Kings is a true triumph because of its continued relevance, and the fact that it is not afraid at all to show its viewers the reality and hell of war. The underpaid soldiers who use tactics that would make even the hardest individual squeamish just to get a paycheck, the pain they feel from being away from home, and the elements they must face simply to survive. While, it's a wonderfully underrated movie, I think will be one that has surprising staying power for generations to come.

65. The Crying Game (1992) - During WWI, supposed enemies on both sides spent a Christmas dinner together, as all of them shared a similar experienced. They realized that they were pawns in a larger world conflict, and for one brief moment they shared each others triumph and pain. While that may seem odd to many people, apparently it is not as uncommon as we think. In 1992's The Crying Game, we see a similar friendship develop between a British solider captured by IRA terrorists. But the film is not as simple as it seems. It is heavy on dialogue like a Quentin Tarantino film, and even from the first 15 minutes or so, almost all of which is a conversation, you are instantly drawn into this incredibly well-made and well-acted film, particularly by Stephen Rea and Miranda Richardson. It is also a highly entertaining film, and has just enough twists and turns to keep you fully engaged in its story. But even if you were to take those elements out, it would still be one of the best movies of the 1990's, because of its power, depth, and presentation.

64. Clueless (1995) - Clueless, on its surface, is one of the most vapid, ridiculous, and incestous films that has ever graced the silver screen, and features some of the most moronic characters ever put on a script page. But, if you play close enough attention, you will understand that most of the people who see this film are as clueless as this film's lovable characters. Clueless is a sneaky film because it is really, underneath its surface is brilliantly funny, and a perfect satire of the exact ridiculousness of high school movies that it seemingly emulates. It's kind of funny that Scream and Clueless were released about the same time, because both are campy classics, perfect representation of the satrical cheesiness of the 1990's. Plus, whether you like it or not, you will laugh your ass off the entire time you are watching it.

63. Days of Being Wild (1990) - I have recently discovered the subtle brilliance of Wong Kar-Wai, as well as the brilliant career he is now had, stretching over four decades, with a new film coming out this year, eagerly awaited on this end. Of all of his films, 1990's brilliant Days of Being Wild remains one of his best, and a personal favorite. In an almost Altman-esque manner, Wong Kar-Wai, blends together three different stories in a beautiful style, with a noir sensibility that paints a beautiful portrait of love and loss, and the struggles of human relationships. Featuring some stunning performances, Days of Being Wild is so much more than a beautifully shot film. It is also a film that explores the depths of humanity, and teases the audience with the notion of really examining your life, and questioning the relationship choices that they have made. It is brilliantly subtle, and beautifully shot, and one of the best films of the decade.

62. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Tim Burton has slipped recently, and it seems that his unique vision, and quest for mixing genres has hit a bit of a snag. But in the 1990's Burton created some genre-bending masterpieces, none more horrific, funny, and entertaining than his 1993, animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was actually directed by Henry Selick, although it has Burton written all over it. It is a great mix of horror, fantasy, music, and wicked humor, and while younger audiences may not get all of the references, adult will enjoy its dark sense of humor, and its twisty tale of holiday classics. The animation style, while rudimentary in some ways, also brilliant enhances the already quirky story and characters of Tim Burton's mind. A perfect 90's classic that should be watched every Halloween and Christmas for safe measure.

61. There's Something About Mary (1998) - Every once in a while, the nerds get the chance to live out their fantasies, at least the ones that are on this planet. For every guy out there who was a nerd growing up, There's Something About Mary is there film, the chance for the nerd to finally have a date with his highschool dream girl. Of course, when the Farrelly brothers get involved, it is never as sweet and simple as the nerds dreamed it would be. This film is not one that will make the AFI Top 100 list, or will please the snobby members of AMPAS, but it is brilliant in its own right for its balls to the wall approach, insulting everyone in its path, and playing up the slapstick humor of dating so perfectly you can't help but laugh your ass off. One of the funniest movies you will ever see, and one that will stick with you for a long time.

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