The 1990’s boasted some great films. We cannot think of the 90’s cinema without thinking of Titanic, the epic drama where Celine Dion beat her fist on her chest for three hours straight. In all truth, long after Kate Winslet’s heart went on and on we still were having to put up with the Canadian diva’s anthem for those with long lost loves. I saw the movie at a midnight showing with a dozen or so of my friends at the conservative Christian college I was attending at the time. The guys we went with debated a long time before the show on whether or not they would close their eyes when Winslet undressed. In the end two of them peeked at her naked parts and concluded that the scene was artistically shot.
Another big movie was Braveheart. I love Braveheart because Mel Gibson is exactly like my father (minus all the arrests and racial slurs.) It’s also my father’s favorite movie. He has it memorized. He also, and forgive me if I have previously mentioned this, will yell FREEDOOOOM! at random times. In high school it was embarrassing, but I suspect when he is old and senile, it will be a welcome treat for his care givers who I’m sure love a good laugh.
Toy Story was huge and computer animated movies erupted. Family movies like Jurassic Park, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire sold millions of tickets. Men in Black, Armageddon, and Terminator 2 were among the big action flicks. But what I really loved in the 1990’s was the plethora of awful and wonderful teen and Gen-X movies pumping out of Hollywood at record speed. A few films that strove to define generation X were Reality Bites and Clerks and Empire Records.
Reality Bites asked us to take a good long, cynical look at things of pop culture, ie MTV. As four friends moved from college life to real life they were apologetically aiming to define themselves socially. Ethan Hawk was the genius slacker who had a rough life and carried a damn-the-man chip on his shoulder. Jeneane Garofalo worked at The Gap, ironically, while sporting 70’s fashion and a stoner’s lifestyle outside the mall. Steve Zahn was gay, sensitive and understood the girls in the film better than straight Ethan Hawk could. And dear sweet Winona Ryder went from over achieving valedictorian to pajama wearing psychic calling lazy girl and back over the course of ninety minutes. She had an anti-corporate creed as well, but Winona still needed to feel as a productive member of society.
Clerks was golden. Kevin Smith filmed a movie at a convenient store with his friends and it actually made sense and contained real humor. The characters in this film would have looked ridiculous on a regular movie set because they were not glossy. Smith followed the film with several more over the next decade and a half, possibly ending with Clerks II. If there was an awards show for worst sequels, Clerks II should win every category. It did not work. Clerks ended on the day it began. Re-visiting the characters was a pointless mess.
Empire Records was a movie about the job every teen in America wanted to obtain. An indie record store with attractive people and a cool boss where you seemed to be able to do anything you wanted including shaving your head on the clock, eating pot brownies, and gluing coins to the floor. A couple years after watching this movie I was working at a coffee shop in a mall kiosk and I as well glued coins to the floor. The maintenance crew wanted to have a word with me after that prank, but watching mall walkers attempt to pick up securely fastened pennies was enough entertainment to weigh against the stern talking to I received. Warren, the shoplifter was my favorite part of ER. His comedic cluelessness provided relief when we were oh so concerned about Renee Zellweger’s sex addiction and Liv Tyler’s speed problem. Oh, and Ethan Embry starred in the film. He was dreamy.
The last group of movies I need to address when thinking of the 90’s are those high school comedy’s and horror movies that jump started and ended the careers of actors like Freddie Prince Jr, Alicia Silverstone, and nearly everyone in the American Pie cast.
First, there’s Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Both movies had sequels. Both movies had large breasted barely dressed young girls running from bad guys with blood thirsts. I cannot say I hated these movies, but horror flicks aren’t my thing so you can tell me how they add up and I’ll take your word.
Then, the comedies. Bright clothing, pop music soundtracks, and at least one character overcoming the pressures of popularity and make-up. Clueless was my favorite in this category. I remember wondering if I would ever be able to afford a cell phone like the rich kids in the movie. And oh, how I longed to have the plaid skirts and baby tees that Silverstone sported in this Shakespeare remake. I did buy a few similar outfits. Problem was, I’d toss one of my signature flannel shirts over the dainty clothing and somehow I don’t think I got the same reaction.
These were the films I watched in the 90’s. I think I watched every movie in this decade. I know I left out many of the best Oscar winning titles. Thing is, those were timeless movies. Shawshake Redemption could have been made last year and been just as good. These films were good in the 90’s and would have needed to be altered dramatically to have been great in any other era. Now tell me your favorite 90’s movie.