Sunday, August 19, 2012
Top 100 Films of the 1990's: Part VI
45. Titanic (1997) - Ill have to admit, after being forced to see Titanic like 10 times in theaters, I was not a huge fan of this film. But a recent viewing helped me realize something very important. While it is still not my personal favorite film, it is a bold and stunning piece of cinema that despite my personal misgivings, deserves a spot on this list. I don't really need to spend a lot of time explaining why people loved Titanic so much, considering every human being on the planet has seen this movie multiple times. It was a visual feat, and winning love story, and really paid tribute to one of the most horrific and infamous events of the Twentieth Century. It also had some knockout performances, especially Kate Winslet, Gloria Stuart, and Kathy Bates. It is one of those films that was critically acclaimed, while managing to be a successfully blockbuster, the most successful of all time. Futhermore, it cemented the power if James Cameron directing abilities. No working director has been able to accomplish what Cameron has, and he has done so in so few films. A feat indeed.
44. Pleasantville (1998) - This one is definitely a personal favorite of mine, and remains one of those films that always gets watched all the way through any time I stumble across in on TV. It is the of a young boy and his snobby, preppy sister who get sucked into the fictional world of a perfect 1950's small-town, similar to Leave it to Beaver. The set up makes you think of a lesser-known Disney flop, but as they enter this seemingly perfect world, they began to have an amazing impact on it, throwing the place into a tailspin, and bringing in sexual and social change to a quiet world. Pleasantville is one of those pitch-perfect satirical films that brilliantly comments on our changing world, and on the upheavel of the social revolutions that changed American society in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Its performances, perky and bitchy Witherspoon, wide-eyed Maguire, stubborn Macy, sad and tortured Daniels, and confused Allen, all fit into the American story, of those that faced these changes in different ways. It is also incredibly funny, and sweet, and leaves you pondering the changes in your own life. An surprisingly deep concept and execution, of an otherwise surface-level 90's comedy.
43. Malcolm X (1992) - Spike Lee is one of the most prolific and interesting filmmakers working today. And apparently, after some editing changes, his latest Red Hook Summer will make up for some of his more recent flops. And in the aftermath of its almost prequel Do the Right Thing, many were wondering what controversial and brilliant move Lee was going to make next. 1991's Jungle Fever was an interesting film to say the least, but it was 1992's Malcolm X that proved that Lee was the real deal. The biopic of one of the most controversial and boldest figures of the Civil Rights Movement, was incredibly authentic, impeccably shot, and wonderfully acted, particularly by Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett. More importantly, it was a film that needed to be made, and important entry into the American film canon that gives us a look at one of the most tumultous decades in American history. Lee also proved that sometimes being uncompromising and honest is so much better than sugar coating, because instead of mediocre, the film resulted in unflinching brilliance, and made an incredible impression on American film.
42. The Big Lebowski (1998) - The more you dive into the Coen Bro's film collection, the more you realize that it is their comedies that tend to be the standouts. And 1998's The Big Lebowski is probably the most prolifically funny, and legendary of their repertoire. Like most of their comedies, it features strange characters put into odd situations, that can't help but be funny. But what make The Big Lebowski become such a cult-classic were the stunning performances of its three leads, Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi. They were perfectly cast in their odd-ball roles, and added so much depth and chemistry to the film that you can't help but keep watching just to see what kind of mess they are going to get into. Of course at the center is Jeff Bridge's infamous dude (which was lovingly referenced by Sandra Bullock when Jeff was nominated for True Grit). His ridiculousness is layered with humanity, as are all the characters in a wonderfully written and acted 90's classic.
41. When We Were Kings (1996) - Most documentaries are not given a second thought by the general American population. But every once in a while, one of these nonfiction spectacles becomes so popular and is so well-made that people really remember it, and it becomes a classic in its own right. Two such documentaries in the 1990's really made an impact on me. One will be mentioned much later, but the first one was 1996's boxing classic about the 1974 match between George Foreman and his challenger Muhammad Ali. It is documentary film making at its finest. It is incredibly insightful, impeccably edited to really showcase the fight and the fighters, and also does what so many documentaries forget to do: it entertains. It is a wonderful movie-going experience that is as rousing and engaging as any fictional sports drama out there. It also brings character and humanity to two of sports' most endearing legends. It helps us remember that they are also humans, and that their struggles and triumphs in the ring, were only half the story. A winning film indeed.