Thursday, October 18, 2012
Top 100 Films of the 1990s: Part IX
18. Forrest Gump (1994) - Oh Forrest Gump. How many people do you know who learned all of their 20th c. history from Forrest Gump? Who can quote almost every line? Some still debate the greatness of this film, calling it overly long, filled with too many cliches, etc. But whether you like it or not, Forrest Gump remains one of the most beloved American films, and has truly become a pop culture icon. It is emotional, humorous, and incredibly entertaining. While the supporting characters are great, especially Gary Sinise, Sally Field and Robin Wright, it is Tom Hanks lovable, deep, and incredibly moving performance that drives this film into greatness. He has created one of the singular most important film icons of all time, and even in the moments where the film seems to drag, it is Hanks that keeps it going, it is Hanks that makes us keep believing, and it is Hanks that we most care to see what happens to. Forrest Gump probably should not have beaten Pulp Fiction for Best Picture in 1994, but it doesn't mean that it isn't a truly wonderful American film.
14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - I am still so surprised that the stingy, old-fashioned Motion Picture Academy ever allowed a film like Silence of the Lambs to win Best Picture, especially since it was sandwiched by an films like Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves. But nonetheless, for at least one year, the Academy really did break the mold, and we are all grateful for that. It is not just any horror movie, it is a deep psychological drama about a cat and mouse game that takes us deep inside the mind of a cannabilisits serial killer, and never lets up on the chills and thrills. It features two stunning performances, although Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter remains one of the greastest character creations in recent memory. What makes Silence of the Lambs such an effective and lasting horror film is not just Jonathan Demme's excellent direction, not Ted Tally's great screenplay, not even Hopkins' Lecter. No, what sets it apart is that it never dumbs itself down like so many standard horror films. Its is intelligent, deep, and well-paced, which makes it truly a scary and wonderful film.
12. Boyz N the Hood (1991) - John Singleton has been recently reduced to a meandering director with a lack of vision. This is truly a shame considering some of his past work, particularly his 1991 case study of urban strife and race, the classic and brilliant Boyz N the Hood. L.A. went through so much turmoil in the late 80's and 90's, from poverty, to drugs, to the riots. Singleton perfectly captures the strife and hard times of the L.A. urban streets. It stands out from other efforts by not trying so hard to be gritty and urban. Instead it simply tells the story, which is at times brutal, and at other times poignantly honest. It features solid performances particularly Cuba Gooding Jr. (another promising artist, whose career has not matched his early efforts), and the always underrated, yet brilliant Laurence Fishburne. Most importantly, Singleton's film tells a story that needs to be told, it tells us of some of the underlying family issues that cause violence and drug use, and hopefully continues to be a reminder that there is still so much left to be done in the area of civil and economic rights in this country.