Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top 100 Films of the 1990's: Part X

10. Hoop Dreams (1994) - More often than not the Documentary branch of the Motion Picture Academy simply screws up. They overlook the documentary with the most impact in favor of campaigning or politics. But in 1994, they really screwed up when they left off the list probably one of the most successful, influential, and simply best documentaries of all time, let alone the 1990's. Its depth and educational status is only heightened by its incredibly emotional and narrative quality. It is one of those films that doesn't just hit the now moment, but instead is one that continues to have impact and heft even today. it shows how high school sports provides some kids who have nothing else the dreams of doing something better (a topic that is still relevant for those who are reading or have read J.K. Rowling's new book you know what I am talking about). It explores not only the dreams on the court, but the hardships, inequalities, and racial implications that make what happens on the court so much more important. In my humble opinion, this film should be shown to ever high school student, and every college student, every mind of the next generation. Because what this film tells us is that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the last generation. It is a documentary which set out to change people's minds, and make people determined to use not just sports, but every tool possible to save urban youth and give them the opportunity to live.

9. Three Colors: Red (1994) - Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy remains one of the most celebrated of the decade, and while all three individual films are well-done, it is its finale (which earned Kieslowski two Oscar nomiantions), that remains the most celebrated, and simply the best of the bunch. The plot is a dense one, and not really worth spending a blog page trying to describe it, but within its narrative lies overencompassing themes that are universal, particularly the age-old battle of fate versus human free will. It features stunning performances, a dense, but navigable script, and finishes off Kieslowski's incredible trio with both style and substance. It is hard to describe why Red is so great, hell why Blue and White were so great for that matter. It is one of those great films that can only be discovered if you take the time to view its beautifully shot frames. It is the story of humans, of encounters, of fate and love and opportunity. It is something that every human no matter where they live can connect to. Maybe that is why it has survived the test of time as one of the 90's best, one of the best of all time, because it connects like so many films fail to do. A modern masterpiece.

8. Fargo (1996) - The Coens won the Oscar for Director/Picture in 2007 for their incredible work on No Country for Old Men, an honor which was well-deserved and long overdue. Because a decade (and a year) earlier, they hit creative heights with the dark and gruesome crime dramedy Fargo. Based in the snowy corners of North Dakota, a gruesome murder is committed by a guys who don't know how to cover their tracks properly and the pregnant and sharp Frances McDormand who handidly and deservedly won an Oscar for this role. At times it is laugh out loud funny in a dark and twisted sense, and then suddenly it is a nail-biting thriller that is downright scary. It is superbly acted, not just by McDormand, but by the whole cast including Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy. But essentially, this film is a success due to the distinctive style and constantly superb direction and script by the Coen Bros. While not all of their efforts have been as successful, they all play on the Coen's wit and their ability to have perfect timing, something several directors need to have a better understanding of. Put it simply, Fargo is the Coen's crowning achievement, and one of the best of all time.

7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Sci-Fi films are underrated species of the craft, and some like Star Wars, Avatar, etc. have been able to break their genre limitations and become film masterpieces. In the 1990's the film that broke those barriers was the sequel to James Camerson's classic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arguably a lot better than its predecessor, Cameron's Terminator 2 is a bad ass film. It is action-packed, utilizes the newer technology of the time to create special effects which are still cool today, and never lets up on its entertainment value. But unlike most action movies, Terminator 2, like its predecessor it has universal themes, but it also manages to move away from its predecessor's darkness to focus on something a lot more connective, humanity. We continue to hate, yet love to watch, the Terminator's brutality, but we also get to see the impact it has on humans. That is what makes great sci-fi films. Those that focus solely on the futuristic elements or the special effects tend to be lacking. Instead, those that also add a dose of humanity, an emotional impact are the ones that last in our conscience. Terminator 2 is one of the best in recent memory to do just that, and it remains one of the most emotionally charged and superbly entertaining films of the 1990's.

6. Fight Club (1999) - Fight Club is the ultimate cult classic. It shows a psych case and a crazy soap maker starting an underground club for men to blow off steam by beating the shit out of each other every night. If it sounds like a ridiculous premise, you're not alone. But when you combine all of its ridiculous elements together Fight Club is absolutely brilliant, and has an almost Tarantino pulpiness that makes it brutally entertaining. The performances from Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter are nice editions, but it is Edward Norton's genius that sucks you in, he is brilliant, psychotic, and only adds to his impressive resume. When you add in Norton's performance with Jim Uhls script, and David Fincher's fearless direction, Fight Club is all around simply a well-made movie. While Fincher has delved more recently into more mainstream fair (although arguably his latest The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has some Fight Club and Se7en qualities), he has never lost his instinct for making great movies. And Fight Club is probably his best, which is saying a lot.  

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