Monday, 11 February 2013

My Movie Year: The 90's

As part of YAM Magazine’s first “Time Machine Blogathon” which this time takes us back to the 90’s. So what better excuse to look at my favourite movies of the decade, if only to help highlight some of the great and frequently overlooked films which came out during this era, which would also see with 1999one of the most exciting years of film making in years, as I looked at previously.

Essential Film: La Femme Nikita
Luc Besson’s  tale of teenage junkie Nikita (Anne Parillaud) who after killing a cop during a bungled pharmacy robbery, finds herself convicted of murder and sentenced to a life in prison, only to soon find herself recruited by a shadowy government agent known as the Centre to be trained as an assassin under the watchful eye of her handler Bob (Tcheky Karyo). 
Besson here brings to what would be the usual action / adventure yarn with fist fights and explosions and instead gives us something quite special as while there is certainly an element of action here, what he also gives us is an actual insight into the psychology of this character as she is slowly broken down and rebuilt into the perfect assassin by the Company, with scenes of her being taught to apply lipstick by Amande (Jeanne Moreau) being just as gripping as any of the action scenes which include a pulse pounding restaurant escape.

Although it was remade for an American audience as “Assassin” with Bridget Fonda, this is the definitive version

Further Viewing: King of New York, Darkman

Essential Film: Delicatessen


One of the first films by the highly original French directing duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet this surreal Post-apocalyptic black comedy about the residents of an apartment block, owned by the butcher Clapet (Jean-Caude Dreyfus) above whose shop the residents live and who has taken to killing the handymen he employs to keep the residents supplied in meat, which is bad news really for Ex clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) who has just been employed as the new handyman, unaware of what happened to his predecessors.
A strange film to say the least, but not so out there that it leaves the audience wondering what the hell is going on, as it constantly maintains a playful tone as it switches between genres, to give the sort of original film that only Caro and Jeunet are capable of doing, as this is once again very much in their fairytales for grown ups style.

Further Viewing: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Rikki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

Essential Film: Hard Boiled

One of if not the best of John Woo’s movies and if you ever needed an example of why he is seen as the king of action movies, this would be a great start, as we are barely minutes into the film before he throws us head first into the first of the films many jaw dropping action sequences, as Insp Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) unleashes his own dual pistol welding brand of justice.
Featuring a cast of Hong Kong greats which includes Tony Leung and Anthony Wong, John Woo here sets a benchmark for Heroic Gunplay movies, while featuring a hospital shootout, which clocks in at over thirty minutes without reputation. This is one infectious mix of gunplay, explosions and jazz!

Further Viewing: Braindead, Man Bites Dog, Porco Rosso

Essential Film: Cronos

The debut film by Guillermo del Toro, here sees him reworking the vampire mythos, with this tale of an mechanical scarab-shaped device which grants the wearer the gift of eternal life aswell as a thirst for blood. This in many ways marking the start of things to come, while establishing del Toro as a the visionary director he is recognised as today, while for one reason of another this film has outside of genre fans been left largely unseen.
Here he shows a clear love for the genre, while as with the films which followed it also showed that he was not afriad to break the rules and breathe new life into a much over worked horror sub-genre with this truly unique film which is as visually stunning as it as it times horrifying.

Further Viewing: Army of Darkness, Falling Down, Iron Monkey, Ninja Scroll, True Romance


Essential Film: The Crow

It would be a sad case of history repeating itself that Brandon Lee’s breakout film would sadly be his last, as he died during filming and much like his father Bruce Lee, who also never got to enjoy the success of his own breakout film “Enter The Dragon”. The first of two films to be directed by Alex Proyas on this list, with this certainly the better known of the two no doubt thanks to the cult following it has built up since it’s release, aswell as the controversy of Lee’s death during the last eight days of filming.
This classic tale of revenge  based on the graphic novel by James O’Barr, about rock musician Eric Draven (Lee) rising from the grave to avenge his own murder aswell as that of his fiancée via the mystical powers of the crow, which now makes him immune from physical harm. The film is drenched in gothic styling while also containing many nods in its style to both “Blade Runner” and Tim Burtons “Batman”. Needless to say this film looks stunning and would make for a design test run for the lesser seen “Dark City. Lee meanwhile embodies the character of Draven, while equally showing himself to be just as capable as both a dramatic actor as he is as an actor star, while this film just leaves us to wonder what could have been,

Further Viewing: Fist of Legend, Hoop Dreams, The Hudsucker Proxy, Wing Chun

Essential Film: Empire Records

Back when this film was released it considered to be pretty cool job to work in a record shop, though I’m not sure that this still stands with nearly every record store having long since closed down and kids today more keen to work for I dunno Amazon or something, but still this film still has a lot of charm, especially for those of us who belonged to the MTV generation, which essentially this film is the embodiment of.
Following the employees of a Empire Records over the course of one truly exceptional day, when one of the employees Lucas (Rory Cochrane) discovers that the store is to be turned into a franchise store called music town, leading the employees to band together to save the store.
Staring many future stars including Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Anthony LaPaglia as the long suffering store owner and father figure Joe, this coming of age comedy never seems to get the attention it really deserves, especially when it combines teenage angst with shameless AC/DC worship and even a pot brownie trip which sees Mark (Ethan Embry) rocking out with GWAR before being eaten by their giant worm thing, which honestly for that one scene alone makes it a must see.

Also Noteworthy: The Basketball Diaries, The City of Lost Children, The DoomGeneration , La Haine, Ghost In The Shell, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Living In Oblivion. Mortal Kombat, Welcome To The Dollhouse

Essential Film: Joe’s Apartment

When picking this year’s selection, I went back and forth so much between this one and “From Dusk Till Dawn”, both of which could be considered essential, but eventually it would be this film which won out on the grounds of “Dusk Till Dawn” already being pretty well known and secondly because this is a film about a man who lives with talking cockroaches and who wouldn’t want to see that movie?

An expansion on the original 1992 short film, while also inspired by “Twilight of the Cockroaches” and the 1987 short “Those Damn Roaches” this tale of penniless Joe (Jerry O’Connell), who having moved to New York soon finds himself sharing his apartment with around 20 to 30 thousand roommates, in the form of a bunch of all singing and dancing cockroaches, who having recognised Joe as being one of their own, soon set out to lend him a helping hand.
Using a mixture of stop motion animation and the slightly cheaper effect of just making parts of the apartment rattle, this is a random film to say the least and while it might not work in places, when the roaches are in screen, it usually guarantees fun times, with the standout moment being their attempts to help Joe on a date, which unsurprisingly ends in chaos. A strange curiosity from the MTV generation and a reminder of the kind of projects that MTV used to be involved with before they changed their focus to the likes of “The Hills” and “Jersey Shore”.

Further Viewing: From Dusk Till Dawn, Trees Lounge, Swingers
Essential Film: Princess Mononoke

One of my all time favourite Studio Ghibli movies, this epic tale of industry versus nature as Ashitaka finds himself caught in the battle lines drawn by Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people's own good and the guardians of the forest.

Visually stunning with highly intelligent scripting, this is another perfect example of the genius of Hayao Miyazaki, while also being commisioned by Disney who clearly did not know what they were getting with this film, which not only has burst of violence, bloodshed and gore but also is far from thier usual fluffy plotting and styling, as Miyazaki combines fantasy and mythology in his gripping and fast paced tale.

Further Viewing: Breakdown, Boogie Nights, Cube, Chasing Amy, Funny Games, The Game, Junk Mail, Life Is Beautiful, Mimic, Nowhere, Orgazmo, Rainy Dog, Starship Troopers

Essential Film: Dark City

The second Alex Proyas on this list and sadly the most overlooked, as this Kafka esq tale opens with John (Refus Sewell) waking up naked in a hotel bathtub, his memories erased and a mutilated prostitute on the bed. Soon John finds himself framed for a string of brutal and bizarre murders and on the run from not only the police, but also the strange trench coat clad men known only as “The Strangers” as he tries to piece together his missing memories.

Sharing the same gothic styling as his previous film "The Crow" this film only built upon those designs as here Proyas gives us a city of perminant midnight,with definite shades of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”while skillfully combining elements of sci-fi and noir to create a potent mix, while drip feeding the audience infomation as to the truth about Dark City.

Further Viewing: American History X, BASEketball, The Big Lebowski, Ringu, Run Lola Run, Rushmore

Essential Film: Cruel Intentions

An MTV style reworking of the classic novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which has over the years has been adapted no less than thirteen times, with certainly the most well known being the 1988 version released as “Dangerous Liaisons” while this version would be by far the most original as the story is relocated to modern day New York, as step siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) play games of seduction, with their latest target being the virginal Annette (Reese Witherspoon) with the challenge being set by Kathryn that Sebastian cannot bed her before the start of the school year, while Kathryn sets about also corrupting the naïve Cecile (Selma Blair) as part of a plan of revenge against her ex boyfriend who left her for Cecile.
While it may have been released in the same year as “American Pie” this film proved to be a much smarter drama and with a sharper sense of humour, but none the less sex crazed which came as something of a surprise to Geller’s fans who were more used to her playing Buffy on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so for her to be reeling off such lines as “In English? I'll fuck your brains out” all of course greeted with whoops of joy from most of the male audience, much like the much talked about experimental kissing scene between Geller and Blair, all from a film bizarrely marketed in some places as a chick flick, when it contains plenty to appeal to most audiences.
The cast at the time were largely B-list or unknowns, yet all embody their various characters, while for some the film marking a rare high point in their careers, still even years after it’s initial shocking dialogue has since been beaten in terms of filth, it still remains a solid drama and a nice twist on a classic novel.
Further Viewing: eXistenz, Dogma


  1. I never took to Joe's Apartment, but... I adore Cruel Intentions- more so than the 1988 version one. It's just SO FUN. I don't think I have time to re-watch this for the blogathon, but really thrilled to see you mention it. xD

    1. 1999 is such a hard year to choose just one film for much like 1995 and even more so when you look at the films being released, which makes it a great year to study ( like I did with the previous edition of My Movie year - but I'd stand by "Cruel Intentions" as being the best film of that year, especially when it is the film I constantly find myself returning to.

    2. Interestingly enough, I also include Cruel Intention in my list of A Life in Movies xD

  2. Love your choices. Empire Records is a particular favourite. It's not the best film ever made but it's very enjoyable - particularly Rory Cochrane's performance as Lucas. And, ah man, what a soundtrack!

    1. Thanks. Empire Records is a strange film in that the DVD release added a whole bunch of new footage which changes the tone of the film in noticeably in places, with Gina coming off especially slutty with what has been added, meaning that this is one of the strange situations were I would recommend you hunt down the VHS version, to get the best cut of the film.

      The soundtrack aswell is a real time capsule of this period of the MTV generation aswell as a reminder of how good the bands of the 90's and is worth picking up, even though it doesn't have GWAR, AC/DC or even Rex Manning on it.

  3. I need to re-watch Joes Apartment, haven't seen that one in a long time! I remember it was MTV's first feature film, but it tanked horribly at the box office, possibly because it was about roaches? Ha ha...movies about rats and roaches never make it big...just look at Willard, same story.

    The only one I haven't watched on that list is La Femme Nikita...I will get down to it no doubt!

    Funny thing: I am conducting a "Back to the 80's" thing on my blog! Ha!

    1. Nikita is a must see if your a Besson fan and a nice companion piece to "Leon" aka "The Profesional", as the two films share alot of similarities in thier style, even though "Leon" contains more action than "Nikita" does but both do feature Jean Reno which is never a bad thing.

  4. I know, why the hell did they tamper with it for the DVD? What were they thinking? I mean I know there was a fair bit cut from the film's original released (not least a subplot with Tobey Maguire) but why not just release the deleted scenes on their own. Or just stick the two versions on a flipper disc.

    I must try and track down the VHS and add it to my small 'Uncorrputed Movies Collection' along with the original Star Wars Trilogy.

    1. Like yourself I refuse to give up my VHS collection, especially for things like the original Star Wars Trilogy as you highlighted aswell as random horror / obscure films I find at car boot sales. The original cut of "Empire Records" is just another justification for keeping it.

      I did not know about the Toby Maguire subplot, though looking at what was included on the DVD cut, I'm not sure I would want to see further tampering with the film. It's only more ironic that they call this version the fan edition when none of the actual fans like it.

      I've also heard that the "Mallrats" DVD also was released with additional footage which also detracted from the film, so I've very much in agreeance with your idea of flipper disc's!


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