1997: The Cutting Room Floor

So Where Were Things In 1997?

There was too much personal stuff to really go over much else, so pardon me if this gets heavy and without a lot of political, pop culture, or technological history. But, I promise, there’s an upswing.

So many things changed this year. It was a truly amazing, yet utterly gut-wrenchingly introspective kind of year. It felt like it almost destroyed me. I was facing new challenges weekly if not daily. The year front loaded me with the worst.

One of the people most important to me passed away in January. My grandmother and I were close. When I was born, she butted my grandparents from mom’s side out of the way, proclaiming: this one is mine. This is not hyperbole. She actually did this. By her reckoning, my mom’s parents received the lion’s share of my sister’s allotted grandparent time, and she was due hers. We’d visit frequently, and vice versa. When mom and dad went away on trips, she would be the one who watched me. When she came to pick me up from elementary school one afternoon, she found me cornered by a bully. Seeing the aggressor had his arm in a cast, she screeched her yellow Pontial right along side of us and screamed: Get away from my grandson or I’ll break your other goddamned arm!

Nana was a pistol.

It was hard watching her in the last four months of her life. She almost burned her mobile home to the ground one afternoon. When people got there she was confused and disoriented. They thought maybe it was from the smoke. And, in a way, it was. It just wasn’t the smoke from kitchen fire. It was Emphysema. It was sixty years of cigarettes. It was her brain starving of oxygen until she couldn’t remember who the people visiting her were. I don’t remember any signs of her going soft before the fire, though dad remembers having to keep her away from losing money to scams. To me, she was Nana one day, then the next day she mistook me for my father and had no idea what year it was. It happened so fast, yet the four months she spent in a godawful nursing home (where the attending orderlies robbed her blind) seemed to drag on like Napoleon’s march through Russia. She begged us to get her out of there. Begged me. And there was nothing to be done for it. She couldn’t live on her own, and we couldn’t keep an eye on her twenty-four hours a day. When the place got shut down for negligence and fraud a few years later, I was not surprised.

It was 1:00 AM when dad came down into the basement – my room while I was home – and told me that nana passed away in her sleep. Part of me completely came undone as I went upstairs and just sat in the family room of our house and watched snow come down over our quiet street. The next couple of days were a blur. So was the funeral. I could not collect myself. I cried through the whole thing. My family was there for each other, including my other grandparents. And, in my pain, in my inexperienced youth… I distanced myself from my surviving grandparents with a determined and conscious effort for the next ten years. I didn’t ever want to hurt like that ever again. Ever. And I wasted that long span of years, thinking that if I could just stay away from my other grandparents… it might not hurt as bad when they died.

Anyone with a brain and any kind of actual life experience can tell you that’s bullshit. But tell a nineteen year old that. They already know everything. I was no exception.

God, I was stupid. It took me a long time to figure out just how stupid.

I got dealt another blow a few weeks later. As foretold in last week’s post, I had my first serious relationship go catastrophically sideways. When a girlfriend stands you up on Valentine’s Day to go hang out with a bunch of other guys, it pretty much signals the end of the relationship. It was over within a week after that. Between the break up and my grandmother’s death, I was sullen and broken for the better part of that year.

Then came the moment where the city of Philadelphia itself came after me. It’s a theory between my friends from college and I that a trial of sorts happens whenever someone comes to live in Philadelphia from elsewhere. After six months in the city, it will make an attempt on your life. This could be physical, like a mugging (this happened to more than one of my friends). It could be social, in the form of isolation or alienation from a new and often unforgiving city. Or, as it was in my case, it could be emotional.

The guy didn’t look like he’d eaten for a long time. His clothes were threadbare, his feet barely wrapped in several pairs of hole-ridden socks. He had no blanket, no coat. His skin was ashy and lifeless, his lips chapped and cracked, bleeding and scabbed in places. He laid on a stinking grate just a block away from the Franklin Institute. And, for the life of me, I could not tell if he was alive. I had possibly just seen my first corpse. It made me pause and wonder about exactly the kind of place I was living in; not just the city, but our whole damn planet.

I don’t know what was more telling: That we, as people, could let things like this happen, or that I simply looked away and walked on.

God and I had already been on the outs. I haven’t spoken to it again save for once in the winter of 2014. Maybe I feel guilty that I did nothing to help that guy. It could be that I felt that if god wasn’t going to look after either me or maybe-dead-guy on Arch Street, that keeping up prayers to it was just shoveling so much shit against the tide. It’s possible I was just angry; at myself, at god, at everything. Perhaps, I just had too much emotional shit on my plate and my heart hardened against the world. I don’t know. I broke down in the car while dad drove me home that weekend. I thought about just… quitting. Told him that I didn’t know if I could hack the city. That, maybe, I should just go back home. Conceding defeat to a superior enemy seemed like a real option. Dad didn’t say anything. I don’t know if there was anything to be said.

If I am anything though, I am a stubborn bastard. Once I got through to the other side of February, things did get better after six months of shit sandwiches. Improvements were not instant. I had to double down to get what I needed. I got a job at the Institute’s Print Bureau to aid in my studies and quit Blockbuster Video. I spent weekends in the city to continue my studies. I spent time with my growing group of friends who are now like family. John, Joe, April, Corrine, Kate, Greg, Melissa, West, Marc, Mike. I started to work out who I was. I started learning things not because some state imposed education system demanded me to – I learned things because I wanted to. And, it was about this time that I realized something inside of me. I wouldn’t really get serious about it for years later, but this was the year I learned I had stories in me.

I sat down and wrote several stories on my black and white Macintosh Plus or in the computer labs. I ran my own adventures for Shadowrun when I’d come home for the weekend. Sometimes, I finished them. Sometimes, I did not. I didn’t share my work all of the time. But, out the emotionally disturbed soil of my life in 1997, something grew.

Life got better once I pushed through.

In the months of 1997, I had a lot of time in Philly to watch some films in my studio apartment while I got my shit together and started turning into an adult. Let’s take some time to put all of my personal baggage behind me for now and make with what you came here for. Here’s what didn’t make the A-List.

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent.

1997 first strike

Jackie Chan’s First Strike (Good) – Jackie Chan saves China. Or something? It was fun if for nothing else than the fight scene with the ladder (3:20 mark).

Private Parts (Good) – I was a fan of Stern back then. This covers his life and career up until 1997. After 1997… eh. His star waned for me.

Liar Liar (Good) – Carrey does good as a sleazy Lawyer who finds himself unable to lie after making a promise to his son to only tell the truth for just one day. Short, shriveled, and always to the left. That’s how it’s hanging.

The Devil’s Own (Good) – Brad Pitt is an IRA agent taken in by a family… I think? I remember it being fairly good, though it was watched rather late with my family if I remember. I’m hazy on the details, but I remember liking it.

The Saint (Indifferent) – Val Kilmer plays a kind of super spy with a guilty conscience? It was largely forgettable, despite the presence of Elizabeth Shue.

Anaconda (Bad) – A big snake picks off unmemorable cast members one by one. Like Alien, but not nearly as entertaining. Also, the only time a snake that size moves that fast is when it falls out of a fucking tree.

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (Indifferent) – Mira Sorvino and Phoebe from friends are stuck in the eighties while everyone else from their high school years have moved on. Like, oh my god. It’s… a movie you can watch. Not my speed, exactly. But not terrible.

Volcano (Bad) – Los Angeles has a volcano under it. Things catch fire and people burn up. You can skip this unless you really have a mad on to watch parts of L.A. go up in lava.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Indifferent) – Jeff Goldblum and his daughter must survive dinosaurs. Again. Or at least Ian does. His daughter never saw dinosaurs until this movie. Effects were good sure, but… it wasn’t particularly a great film. 

Batman and Robin (Bad) – Booo! Now George Clooney is Batman, fighting Poison Ivy, Bane, and Doctor Freeze. Stop, Joel Schumacher. Just… stop.

Hercules (Indifferent) – Another Disney tale ripped from the pages of the public domain! It was well animated as is Disney’s way, but I can take this one or leave it. It does have Danny DeVito and James Woods though.

Spawn (Bad) – A bad man comes back from the dead because the Devil wants him leading his army. He doesn’t do it, because even though he’s a bad man, he’s not that bad. Ugh. Don’t give Todd McFarlane money if you can help it.

Conspiracy Theory (Indifferent) – Mel Gibson thinks he’s being tracked by the government and he’s actually right. Patrick Stewart is okay in this. You can do much worse.

Masterminds (Indifferent) – Kids in a private school are taken hostage and must outsmart their captors. Criminal misuse of Patrick Stewart commences. Ho hum.

Mimic (Indifferent) – There are giant roaches that can mimic people living in the sewers. Mira Sorvino and Josh Brolin try to kill them all before they can sufficiently breed. I think. Guillermo Del Toro directs, but fails to make an impression as impactful as his later works.

In & Out (Indifferent) – Kevin Kline is gay and ends up telling everyone in town, including his finacee. He also kisses Tom Selleck. Hilarity ensues. Or that’s what it said on the box. Probably.

The Man Who Knew Too Little (Indifferent) – Bill Murray is a witless bystander in this comedy about a guy who thinks he’s going to a mystery dinner party and is mistaken instead for a hitman by a group of unsavory spy types. He thinks it’s all fun and games, but the other ‘guests’ are playing for keeps. It’s not his best work.

Alien: Resurrection (Bad) – Weyland-Yutani still hasn’t figured out that Xenomorphs will never be adequately controlled for profit. So they mix Ripley’s DNA with aliens a bunch of times  because… why? It’s not like Ripley was the most controllable asset they ever had, so it seems… foolhardy. The movie is just dumb. Ron Perlman fails to make it better.

Flubber (Indifferent) – Robin Williams is a wacky scientist who performs a wacky experiment to make a wacky state of matter. Meh. I don’t even remember what he meant Flubber to actually be used for or what the film’s antagonist(s) wanted to do with it.

Scream 2 (Good) – The franchise continues, only now they’re talking about how they’re all in a horror movie sequel where the rules change slightly. It was good, but it doesn’t quite re-capture the greatness of the original film.

Titanic (Indifferent) – Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio win every award at the oscars when they portray star crossed lovers on an even more star crossed ship. Points granted for when that one guy bongs off the propeller and impressive visual effects. For all that I love great computer animation, the film bored me. It’s too long, Billy Zane is annoying in everything, and the romance wasn’t really interesting to me. If you want a better long movie about a boat and relationships, I recommend Pirate Radio (2009) instead. Plus, you don’t know if this boat sinks or not going in.

MouseHunt (Bad) – Nathan Lane hates mice and hires Christopher Walken to get rid of a mouse troubling he and his brother. Failed to really crack any smiles – not a good sign for a comedy. Turns out, this was also William Hickey’s last film. Godspeed you, Uncle Louis.

Tomorrow Never Dies (Indifferent) – More formulaic James Bond stuff. Still haven’t found a great Bond movie yet, though I’m told Daniel Craig’s films are more than adequate.

Cinematic Sins

1997 boogie nights

Of course there’s some oversights from 1997 – pretty glaringly obvious ones too. Here’s the next installment of my ever growing to-do list:

Absolute Power – When the president murders someone, Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman apparently butt heads. I love Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood is fair enough as an (albeit crotchety) actor. I’ll put this on the watch list.

Donnie Brasco – I definitely feel I missed something here. I remember people loving this film, but at the time, crime films didn’t generally appeal for me. I have a growing affection for them now, so it makes sense to finally put this one to bed.

8 Heads In a Duffelbag – This was a popular one at the video store, at least among the staff who would rent it out all the time. Come to think of it, it’s probably why I never actually got a chance to watch it.

Murder At 1600 – More murder in proximity to the White House! Plus Wesley Snipes. So why not?

Con Air – I think by this time I had wised up to Michael Bay. But, so many people tell me that this is a must-see film. Plus the cast lineup is like cinematic catnip for me. John Cusack, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, and Colm Meaney all star.

Air Force One – It’s Harrison Ford telling people to get off his plane. I can probably dig it.

One Eight Seven – This is a serious hole in my Samuel L. Jackson repertoire. Again, this was a film that was big at the video store, so it was hard to get it on an employee rental. Perhaps it is streaming somewhere.

L.A. Confidential – Noir seemed to have a big comeback in the mid nineties, and I like noir generally speaking. Also stars Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger Russel Crowe, and (goddamn!) Danny DeVito.

Kiss the Girls – Looks like a psychological thriller. They had me at Morgan Freeman really.

Seven Years In Tibet – I don’t think I cared very much about most of the larger world (apart from Japan) at this point (once you see Scotland, you’re tempted to stop at perfection). So movies set outside the US weren’t personally focused on when this came out. Now that I’m older and not stupid, I think it’s time to watch this period piece about Germans stuck in India and Tibet during the second World War.

Boogie Nights – Yes, yes! I know! Bad writer, no biscuit! I guess I’ll have to watch this movie about making porn and shattering lives, starring Heather Graham. Oh, what shall I do?

A Life Less Ordinary – Well, it’s a Danny Boyle movie so I’m inclined to give this one a try. It has Ewan McGregor, plus I get bonus appearances by Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, and Tony Shalhoub! I don’t really even care what it’s about at this point!

The Jackal – I remember having a couple friends who were really into this movie. Bruce Willis is a sniper I believe, and if I remember right he does some very, very bad things. Looking over the basics for it, it also has Sidney Poitier which is an extra added bonus.

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil – This was another standard sounding crime flick I think, which is why I probably avoided it at the time. If it wasn’t Tarantino, I wasn’t really paying attention to crime. But, it has Kevin Spacey and John Cusack, so I’m struggling to see how it could be bad.

Jackie Brown – Another cinematic failure on my part. It’s one of the few early Tarantino gaps I have in my viewing history. It’s based on an Elmore Leonard book and is stocked with a decent cast. Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, and Bridget Fonda all star.

1996: The Cutting Room Floor

So Where Were Things In 1996?

1996 started with Philadelphia and its greater metropolitan area (including my hometown) seeing one of the worst blizzards in the history of the East Coast. It closed down New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. for several days – to say nothing about the canceled week of school I got as a result (this came to be called ‘Martin Luther King Week’). That May, my high school career ended, and I transitioned into the working world before going to college. I spent two-and-a-half months working as a busboy at a country club, then later as an employee at Blockbuster Video until late spring of 1997. I attended my first quarter of college in my adoptive city of Philadelphia starting in late-August. Everything was new. I found out who I was when I was truly allowed to be on my own. I spent a lot of time in Chinatown. I spent too much money from my summer job at Tower Records and Showcase Comics on South Street. I found the food carts that wouldn’t give me food poisoning in the shadows of Liberty Place. My friends and I also frequently exploited an establishment that delivered pizza and beer without even the pretense of checking an ID. I had my first nights with booze aplenty, both home and away, and experienced my first all-night parties (with subsequent sobering at the local Denny’s). I learned to like Chinese food because it was amazingly cheap and delivery was free. I met lifelong friends whose input I value, not only pertaining the courses we took, but the decisions I made (and continue to make). Things got real in my art training, fast. I had a few good instructors growing up, but I really met some great talent in college both among my classmates and among my instructors. I also had what I consider to be my first real (though unhealthy) relationship starting that Summer. It would completely fall apart the next year after about eight and a half months – though truth be told it was probably falling apart way before then. I learned much of what I did and did not want out of a relationship after that one  – enough that I didn’t seriously date again for another six years (though I’d occasionally fumble through a first date that went nowhere or get shot down about every year or so).

As far as general culture went that year, Alanis Morrisette won Album of the year at only twenty-one years old. The album, Jagged Little Pill, was regularly played in my parents’ home; not just by me, but also by my sister. It is the first album that both of us owned, and one of the few things in those years that we could both appreciate musically (or at all). The Ramones (who I’d only discovered two summers before) played their last show that year. An iconic punk band was scattered – not that it stopped several of the individual members from doing their own things and riding the ailing cash cow until it was dead. By year’s end, people finally turned their attention from the OJ trial to the JonBenet Ramsey murder. America’s appetite for tragedy has always been infinite.

On the larger horizon, Whitewater put Hillary Clinton in the hot seat as she gave defense testimony. The Fox News channel was launched to compete with CNN, lowering the bar of journalism so low that Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes might deign to crawl out their swamps to step over it comfortably. Yugoslavia was formally recognized by the EU after years of conflict and prolonged violence in the region (that would not stop then). Northern and Southern Ireland came to the table for peace talks, though both decided to cut out Sinn Fein and put them at the kids’ table while they did it. The Troubles would continue through the next few years. Iraq continued to be a total clusterfuck as UNSCOM was routinely denied access to assess their military capabilities and a suspected stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. And, after a decades long hunt, the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was finally captured in a Montana cabin. He did not look nearly as pimp as his wanted posters made him out to be.

Technology continued its march as well. Deep Blue – an early AI created by IBM – defeated Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a game of chess. He requested a rematch about a month later in Philadelphia in which he defeated the machine, presumably pushing back Skynet’s plan to exterminate the human race from August 1997 to sometime further back. The Nintendo 64 (or N64) arrived in Japan, paving the way for its eventual release in the US. America lost its shit and the console took off to rave reviews. Nintendo took a bullish stance on its game format as well, opting to continue with cartridge based games as opposed to embracing optical media. Somehow, it managed to hold its own against Sony’s booming PlayStation platform.

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

If 1996 seemed thin in terms of movies that affected me, perhaps it’s because there were a lot that didn’t. Let’s visit those films now.

1996 escape from la

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice In the Hood (Indifferent) – The Wayans Brothers produce yet another of their endless parade of spoof movies, this time taking a shot at Menace II Society (1993), Friday (1995), and a handful of other African-American films. I laughed, I think.

Broken Arrow (Bad) – John Travolta steals a nuke, Christian Slater has to get it back while engaging in a forced romance. Fresh off his ascension back into the Hollywood scene, Travolta makes as bad a movie as Pulp Fiction was good. It at least has one memorable line.

Muppet Treasure Island (Indifferent) – The Muppets latch on to another classic story and people it with scruffy puppets. To be fair to the Muppet franchise, I can’t honestly tell you if this was good or bad. I was in a darkened theater while the film played. That I can claim with certainty. The problem was that I was also watching the imminent implosion of one of my best friend’s relationships in progress just two seats down from me. I hope to some day see this film without a fight in progress to gauge if this or Muppets From Space (1999) marks the decline of my devotion to this franchise.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs (Indifferent) – Another rom-com love triangle in which people lie about who they are in the belief that people will magically fall in love with them. My wife and I watched this about two years ago. It’s okay.

The Craft (Bad) – Four girls do magic to become powerful and popular. This is another film so many of my friends love that just didn’t grasp me. Neve Campbell should have been enough to sell it for me, but her appearance in Scream was much better.

Twister (Indifferent) – Bill Paxton chases tornados in a special effects showcase film. It’s a standard disaster movie, though it was impressive on the technical side of things. It got a few awards to that effect as well (Best Sound, Best Special Effects). It also took home a fair chunk of box office money for the year, coming in at the number two slot for money earned behind Independence Day (1996).

Mission Impossible (Good) – A reboot of the classic television show of espionage and spycraft. The MI movies are generally fun – at least for a few films. They pulled off a lot in this one in terms of great effects and action sequences. Mostly, I love the updated theme song, a derivation of the original theme with an electronic edge. It was good fun, but nothing groundbreaking or impactful for me.

The Phantom (Indifferent) – A D-list (super?) hero film. Billy Zane rides a horse in a costume can best be described as the prototype design for the purple Teletubby. Superhero movies wouldn’t get good until we got X-Men (2000).

The Rock (Indifferent) – Ed Harris threatens to gas San Francisco after taking over Alcatraz. Only Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery can stop him. I watched this the first time and hated it. I then watched it a second time and felt I was too hard on it. It’s not terrible, but… it’s still just another action film by Michael Bay. As far as Bay films go, there are many, many more that are terrible in comparison. Like every single one of the Transformers films.

The Cable Guy (Good) – Still not a big Carrey fan, but he does a great job in this incredibly dark comedy about a lonely (and deranged) cable repairman who increasingly stalks Matthew Broderick. It’s worth a viewing for the Medieval Times scene all by itself.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Indifferent) – See also, Pocohontas. Only this time, they milk a public domain story lots of people know already, and, again, take incredible liberties with it to make it friendly for the kids. I did have a hilarious moment though watching this film with one of my close friends. He noted, with my mother in the room, that Esmerelda was pole dancing in one of her musical numbers. My mother immediately fired back with “And what would you know about pole dancing, young man?” He immediately blushed and said, “Uh… nothing, Mrs. Hop.”

The Nutty Professor (Indifferent) – This wasn’t exactly the start of Eddie Murphy’s slide into irrelevance. But, after this, the tenor and tone of his films started to get less edgier than he was known for. Haunted Mansion (2003), in my opinion, is when the slide truly cemented itself.

Phenomenon (Good) – A sad but interesting tale of a man whose tumor makes him super smart, and eventually psychic. I consider this Travolta’s counterweight to Broken Arrow (1996) for the year.

Courage Under Fire (Good) – A military drama starring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan. I almost forgot that I watched this. I remember it as being pretty good, though admittedly my memories of it are hazy. I watched it with mom and dad on one of the weekends I’d returned from my apartment in Philadelphia. Probably another Blockbuster rental.

Bordello of Blood (Indifferent) – Vampires versus Dennis Miller. Meh. This was kind of a let down. This is what happens when your leading role is played by a conservative gasbag who left his best work behind in Saturday Night Live. I don’t remember much of Demon Knight (1995), but I do remember it was better than this.

Escape From L.A. (Bad) – Snake Plisken is back. He’s more or less doing the same thing he did in Escape From New York (1984)… only worse. Don’t do this to yourself. Save yourself from the ninety minutes of crap-fest you’d otherwise have to wade through.

The Crow: City of Angels (Bad) – Another guy who isn’t Eric Draven comes back from the dead with the same deal from The Crow (1994), but doesn’t make it nearly as interesting. It’s not great, and Iggy Pop and the rest of its forgettable cast fails to save it.

Bulletproof (Bad) – Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans form an unlikely pair in this action comedy about witness protection and personal betrayal. Thus began the crap movies of Adam Sandler’s career. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Adam Sandler comedy – from the CDs. But, after Happy Gilmore, it just wasn’t hitting the right buttons.

Bound (Indifferent) – Two women steal a lot of money from the mob and try to pin it on one of their shady boyfirends. Every Y-Chromosome (and a not inconsiderable amount of XX Chromosomes, too) in the world rented this one to watch Jennifer Tilly get it on with Gina Gershon in this crime thriller. Despite that concept, this movie failed to deliver much that was memorable for me.

The Ghost and the Darkness (Good) – Lions eat people in Africa. Which sounds unsurprising, despite that they don’t usually develop a taste for long pork. But, when they do… Jesus. Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas pull of good performances in this film. Scarily enough, it’s based on true events.

Michael Collins (Good) – Again, I wouldn’t go about buying my history from Hollywood, but this was still a pretty good film covering the life of Irish Patriot, Michael Collins. Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, and Julia Roberts all star.

Sleepers (Good) – Molested and tormented kids get back at the the people who abused them while in juvie. I didn’t catch this one in the year it was released. When I finally got around to it, I thought it was a pretty solid drama.

Ransom (Indifferent) – Mel Gibson wants his son back and acts like Mel Gibson to do it. This was another date movie where I didn’t so much care about what was going on as I did being in a darkened place with a girl.

Space Jam (Bad) – A ‘basketball’ movie where there’s only one human player (Michael Jordan). The rest of the players are animated aliens and Looney Tunes characters. It was a technical experiment, as well as an attempt to sell a lot of Nike products. It was also trying to keep Looney Tunes relevant. Not really sure it did any of those things too well. Just remember: Larry Bird isn’t white, per Bill Murray.

Jingle All the Way (Indifferent) – Arnold Schwarzenegger goes to great lengths to make sure his kid gets the big toy of the season for Christmas. This holiday film has a cult following and… I guess I’m just not a member of that particular cult. It’s okay to watch, but I don’t really seek it out.

Star Trek: First Contact (Indifferent) – The Enterprise crew from Star Trek the Next Generation follow the Borg back in time to prevent them from assimilating the human race. Another longer episode of Star Trek, again. It’s okay. I like the Borg enough I guess. But it wasn’t particularly memorable for me.

Sling Blade (Indifferent) – Billy Bob Thornton plays a mentally disabled man who does stuff he shouldn’t, both in his past and in the main narrative. Then he calls for a hearse.

Jerry Maguire (Indifferent) – Tom Cruise romances Renee Zellweger and also yells into a phone at Cuba Gooding Jr. This movie haunted me for months. Not because of any stirring drama, but because I had to ask every customer at Blockbuster if they wanted to pre-order it when they reached my counter. I got the most pre-orders for the film though, and as a prize got fifty dollars. This pissed of a shitty manager who earlier in the year accused me of stealing from the till (an error on my part let a customer off the hook for a twenty dollar late fee, not dipping my hand in the cookie jar). The fact that he had to put up this money from his own pocket – more than double the amount he accused me of stealing – made it that much sweeter.

Mars Attacks! (Bad) – Aliens from Mars attack with weapons that have no connection to conventional Physics. It’s… pretty bad. Another case of a little Tim Burton going a long way, but slathering it on anyhow.

The House of Hooded Eyes (and Near Infinite Loopholes)

I’ve talked a little bit about my parents and their guidance of my film intake as a child in the previous posts, but I wanted to really break it down how they affected me in terms of of my cinematic upbringing. If it seems like my parents dropped the ball of were highly inconsistent in what got by them… that’s because your suspicions are correct. Balls were dropped, subversive content got through, and, sometimes, we all got surprised.

We’ll start with my mom.

She meant well.

Mom’s overall opinion was that everything should be strictly monitored. While nudity didn’t really bother her so long as it wasn’t explicit, she was not a fan of violence. In particular, she was averse to military violence. The cause was two-fold.

First, she objected to military violence after years of watching footage come back from Vietnam. She, and most of the country I think, had a belly full of war. Year after year of dead kids coming home in flag covered boxes and the most explicit war footage seen by civilians on TV will do that. A lot of folks in her generation were exhausted by it. She didn’t want to see anymore (let alone show it to her young kids), thank you very much.

Secondly, she wanted to keep either of her kids away from any glorification of the military. I assure you my mother appreciates the military because she was raised right next to it. It was about what life in the military had done to her and her family. She was a Navy brat. While she loved my Grandfather and she appreciated everything that his naval career brought, she also knew a life of moving from base to base every couple of months, never getting opportunity to be a kid. She wasn’t averse to the career itself (though she feared for my safety until I was too old to be drafted). She just hated being rootless as a kid. With all of the constant moves from base to base, my mother didn’t have any childhood friends save for my aunt. Almost her entire circle of friends come from her college and professional life. She didn’t want that for my sis, myself, or our kids.

As for dad, he was… generally lax. He took stands on things at odd angles. Violence was nothing he particularly worried about. When he would shield me from violence, it was usually from the most explicit kind involving gore or frightening images. I’ll admit that as a kid I was easily frightened, so this made perfect sense. Dad was sensitive to that more than the idea of violence or brutality. He’s a fan of Ancient Rome, so war and up-close violence is something he’s well acquainted with from reading the histories. And hey, if it’s cultural (or if dad just liked a thing) he’d let my sis and I settle down and watch what we wanted (lots of Clash of the Titans (1981) on TV, where they cut out all of the nudity). Sex he was likely to censor because he probably didn’t want to have that talk with his kid any sooner than he had to. After I was wise to what sex was, I’d gather that he continued to censor explicit images so that I wouldn’t try to go out and try anything that I saw on screen (as a dateless wonder for many years, he had zero reason to worry).

Both parents took their stances on things they felt were negative, either usually as a team or individually. Generally, stuff that got deep into racism, gang violence, exploitation, fell by the wayside unless there was something in there to instruct or had a historical bent. Mom had particular prohibitions on things she felt were blasphemous, where dad was perfectly fine with letting me watch The Life of Brian (1979). Once I’d completed my Confirmation classes, of course.

Their prohibitions left much room for either relaxed interpretations or total blindspots, though.

One of the blindspots was when I was let out to any friends’ homes. I had a lot of friends whose parents were much more liberal with their childrens’ watching habits. A lifelong friend of mine had a television in his basement with full cable hook-up right next to his bedroom (I wouldn’t get a cable ready room until 1997). We’d have weekend nights where I’d crash there for a sleepover and we’d watch all of the late night HBO we could get our hands on. A particularly memorable yet wholly glazed over memory was getting to watch Robot Jox (1989) there, as well as Demon Knight (1995), The Class of 1999 (1990), and Dream On (1990) and Tales From the Crypt (1989-96) episodes. Other friends had similar arrangements, and this got me on board with either racy content, over-the-top graphic violence, or military action films.

In other cases, there were deceptions. Kids are the best negotiators. They are relentless, they know what they want, and they know all of their parents’ buttons and weakneses. My sister and I were both skilled at this. Sometimes it was a game of wearing them down. Other times it was simply downplaying the violence, swearing, or sexy bits. There were a million ploys. Any parent can tell you these tactics work. Not all the time, mind you. Just enough times to get certain things past the gate. Especially with cable television available.

There were also accidents. My parents were often times exhausted from their jobs. Both of them worked as public school teachers. Despite what right-wing pundits may tell you, teaching is not a luxurious gig. When teachers leave their classrooms, they usually have papers to grade and papers to read – sometimes until very late. In the summer, they have to come up with the next year’s plans to justify their existence to administrators that probably don’t have the same goals in mind. Given their workaholic natures, mom and dad sometimes had errors in judgment, like the hilarious twelfth birthday party where they decided Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991) might be a great film to keep my friends and I entertained for ninety minutes. It did, but not in the fashion they had hoped for. The film probably lasted more like fifteen minutes after boobs showed up on screen.

The greatest loophole though was the one right under their nose – my Aunt’s house. Which boggles my mind. Tove and my mother speak constantly. Practically inseparable, they should have been able to wholly monitor or course correct everything my cousin Michael and I watched. It never happened though, and here’s a few reasons why:

The first reason was that Aunt Tove was a lot more lenient with Mike’s viewing habits. He got to watch a lot of stuff I didn’t, so by proximity I caught a lot of stuff mom wouldn’t have approved of. I was there having sleepovers with their family every week during the summers (and a lot of school year weekends, too). This got me a lot of military themed cartoons like G.I. Joe (1985), Robotech (1985), or Starblazers (1979). It also got me my first horror movie, George Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985) when I was maybe thirteen years old. I was horrified for weeks.

Second, Michael was a certifiable evil genius. If he couldn’t get his parents on board with certain films, he had a seemingly inexhaustible network to obtain that which he was looking for in terms of films. He was not shy about discretely sharing these finds with his friends and family.

And then there was my uncle.

Uncle Jim is awesome, and he didn’t actively contribute to this loophole. He was just great at late night channel surfing, then falling asleep in his recliner with Mike and I still in the room. This led to Mike and I getting unhealthy doses of Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear on the USA network. Up All Night would show some of the absolute crappiest films ever made, many of which were cult or sexploitation joints. It’s this show, some ill-advised cable selections, and my gently snoring uncle that led to Mike and/or I watching stuff like CHUD (1984), Night of the Lepus (1972) or Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988).

The floodgates really opened though in 1997. But, we’ll talk about that in it’s appropriate year’s entry. Promise.

Cinematic Sins1996 a time to kill

The list of missed opportunities is short for 1996. But, unwatched films from this year not non-existent. Let’s add the following onto my ‘to watch’ list:

Beautiful Girls – I had this film recommended to me by a few friends as they observed that at one point in my life it seemed like something that would resonate with me. My life always feels like it’s at a crossroad, but this looks to have a good cast. I’m adding it to my to do list.

Mulholland Falls – A noir, period piece? Jennifer Connelly? Yes, please.

Eraser – After a few tentative steps into other types of roles, Arnie goes back to starring in what he’s great at: films where he gets to shoot as many extras as humanly possible. Plus, he does it with cool guns by the look of it. I know this probably won’t be great, but I’ll probably watch it anyway.

A Time To Kill – Samuel L. Jackson yells some more in a courtroom thriller. I’m game, I guess. This film got a lot of play that year, and as a result, I know a lot of the stuff that happens. But, it’s another film like Silence of the Lambs (1991) that I feel I should watch.

The Island of Dr. Moreau – Again, I know this probably won’t be good. But, it’s a H.G. Wells adaptation. It feels wrong not to have watched it.

Last Man Standing – Bruce willis shoots people in a period piece about gang war. That’s enough for me. I’m a simple creature.

Get On the Bus – A film about the Million Man March by Spike Lee. As noted from the history segment in a previous post, the March was a relevant part of the African American experience of the nineties. Even though I remember seeing news coverage for the March, I was a white kid looking in on an experience I don’t think I was equipped to understand at the time.

The People Versus Larry Flint – Porno magnate and professional pot stirrer, Larry Flint, stands up for the First Amendment using pornography. I’m a fan of the First Amendment. This seems like a shoe in.

1996: The Dream of the Nineties In Film


For as busy as 1995 was, 1996 was a noted cooldown. There’s fewer movies that made impressions at this point. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I graduated high school, got into a longer-than-usual relationship, started working a regular job, or some other influence. Regardless of cause, this year had fewer entries than I thought it would. What the year does have a bit more of are movies that got watched that year. Timely watching seemed scattershot on previous years. There were films that didn’t get watched until late, but mostly in the next year as I got a job at the local Blockbuster Video with my own membership card.

But enough of that, let’s start with…

The Schlock

From Dusk Till Dawn

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Inappropriate Movie Behavior

Two hardened criminals on the lam take Harvey Keitel and his family hostage in an attempt to smuggle them over the US-Mexico border in order to lose the Texas Rangers and Feds tailing them. Once in Mexico, they decide to lay low in a place their contact suggests – a seedy bar called the Titty Twister. Once they get there, they find out that the bar is home to a lair of vampires with a hearty appetite for carnage. The only way for the robbers to get to their payday and the hostages their release is to try to survive until sun up.

The best thing about this film was seeing it with my friend, Jimmy. We settled in for a matinee showing at the local-ish theater, waiting for all of the crazy vampire shit to happen. We get to the scene where Selma Hayek is doing her big striptease. When she morphed into her vampiric visage… Jimmy flipped his shit.

He didn’t know!

As it turns out, Jimmy went into this film blind, expecting stock Quentin Tarantino stuff. He hadn’t a clue that vampires were even a factor. After that moment, we all went a little nuts in excitement because Jimmy was now super into the film.

The bonus part of the film experience was when Harvey Keitel blesses a bunch of condoms filled with water. As noted above, we were all really wound up by this point, and I shouted “Start throwing those rubbers!” which in turn caused the rest of the gang to act up even more and probably pissed off some other viewers. It was mostly our group in the theater though (who sees a horror movie at a matinee?) so I suppose it was all in good fun.

I’d have been pissed at me now.

Happy Gilmore

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Absurdity

A washed up hockey player with a penchant for mayhem faces financial difficulty after his grandmother is put in a nursing home. It’s the shittiest kind, with abusive and apathetic staff because he can’t afford something better for her. In an attempt to make enough scratch to get her moved someplace nicer, he looks to transfer his hockey skills to a high-class, money fueled game: golf. Eventually, he finds himself with a coach, a lady, and a shot at winning one of the most prestigious payouts in the sport. This is provided that he can overcome his anger issues and the smug current champ, Shooter McGavin.

For me, golf is its own joke. Have you looked at it? The pants in specific? It’s basically an excuse for men to go out into a field, drink, and avoid life for four hours while trying to put a small ball in a small hole in a large field. It’s all kind of absurd.

I know – come down off your high horse, you say. I know golf requires skill, I know it requires finesse. I know you have to be strong and smart. It just… doesn’t transfer to the screen for me (and there’s no way in hell I’m watching golf live). I’ve gone over this before. I don’t see all of that nuance. I see old, rich men in stupid pants. Usually drunk. I worked in a country club grill as a busboy that year, so I would know.

Now, add peak Adam Sandler to subvert it, thereby making it even more surreal. Hilarity ensues. This was probably my most watched comedy behind Clerks at the time. I’ve not watched it for many years at this point, but now I feel like I owe it to myself.

Somewhere In the Middle

The Birdcage

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Living La Vida Drag Queen

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are two gay men living in Miami above their nightclub, the Birdcage. Before Robin Williams came out, he was married, and he fathered a son who thinks the world of him. When his son shows up to announce he’s getting married, things get complicated. His fiancee is the daughter of a conservative Republican congressman, and a fierce defender of ‘family values.’ Together, father and son try to hide Williams’s and Lane’s sexual orientation just long enough to get to the altar. Things… go sideways in a manner only Lane and Williams can pull off.

By this point, I was familiar with the concept of homosexuality, though I had few direct interactions with actual homosexuals. We had a single girl who came out publicly in my high school class, but… I didn’t really meet anymore gay people (that were open about it) until I went to college. My folks had taught me there wasn’t anything wrong with non-heterosexual people, that there was nothing to be freaked out about. They’re right. But, there’s also a culture there that I think they still might have been a little hesitant to watch with their son in the room (ah, Protestant anxiety). Regardless, we watched this on video that year and it’s pretty good. It has a lot of range. Some would categorize this film as a comedy. There’s a lot to back that claim up given the two leading men. But there’s a lot of good drama in here too, which is the category I’d place this film in.


When I Saw It: Circa 1997
What It Taught Me: Not a Comedy

A lot can go on in relatively small, out of the way towns. Fargo, North Dakota is not an exception, and a lot of things go terribly wrong there in the runtime of this film. It centers around a husband (William H. Macy) who looks to kidnap his wife so he can fleece his father-in-law out of a lot of money. This ends up going fantastically off track when he hires two less-than-stunning career criminals to help him with the heavy lifting. It’s up to the town’s pregnant sheriff to find out what’s going on. Bodies end up on the side of the road, and, eventually, Steve Buscemi ends up going into a wood chipper.

The film made its way to my attention during my time working at the video store. My friends had focused on the comedic aspects of it. They furthermore told me that it was must see, so when the video came off the new releases shelf, I rented it… and presented it to my parents as a comedy.

This, uh… this is not a comedy. It’s the Coen Brothers. If i had known anything about them, I would have known better. I wouldn’t really become cognizant of them or their reputation until 2000 when I saw a film archetypical of their standard modus operandi in an art history class (Blood Simple, 1984).

A fun, family afternoon was thus kind of ruined on account of my not setting the right expectations. It is memorable if nothing else for that.

So… Sorry, mom.

The Arrival

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Crazy and Implausible Technology

Two people discover that the Earth has been visited by an alien species. The visitors however are angling to become natives by upping the overall climate and altering the mixture of gasses in our atmosphere until it feels like home – and will kill all human life. The pair of heroes are targeted by being disgraced, blacklisted, divested of equipment, and ultimately by becoming the focus of an all out manhunt by the aliens in a cover-up effort.

This was before we all got to find out that Charlie Sheen is batshit crazy. He’s surprisingly reserved in this little-acclaimed film. I really remember being taken with it, but I don’t think it had a very good legacy. This is partially on account of alien saturation in film and television (see last article), but also by its direct-to-video sequel which failed to get the budget, stars, or writers to do anything else other than go for a par-for-the-course cash grab by Artisan Entertainment.

The thing I absolutely loved from this was the idea of the singularity bomb. The aliens had this gizmo that they could throw into a room in order to create a timed, minuscule black hole. It could swallow equipment, evidence, people, you name it, within a localized space, leaving no trace behind. Sure, there’s some problems with this conceptual device (like the whole of physics) but it was still pretty boss at the time.


When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Dragons Can Be Heroes

After an insurrection topples a tyrant, the ruler’s son is grievously wounded. A knight to the tyrannical King makes a bargain with a dragon to save his lord’s prince whom he is sworn to protect. The boy receives half of the dragon’s heart under the caveat that the kid grows up to not be a dick like his dad. It turns out, the prince is an even bigger douchebag than his father, and he starts really screwing things up in the fief, giving the knight the impression the dragon’s heart was to blame. The knight vows vengeance against all dragons. After several years, the prince has become king, and the knight has gone on to become the best goddamned dragonslayer the world has ever seen. On a hunt for a dragon sighted in the area, he corners the beast only to discover some good news and some bad news. There sure is a dragon around – that is the good news. The bad news is that the dragon reveals to the slayer that he is the last of his kind. No more dragons.… no more dragonslaying. They manage to not kill each other long enough to develop a kind of a con since the knight doesn’t want to be out of work. They team up and begin a hustle in which the dragon shows up, does a little damage, and the knight shows up to ‘kill’ the dragon. This works well until they run afoul of the shithead prince once more and must team up to save the fief.

This film catches a lot of flak. I get the impression from most of my friends that this movie was bad, but… I don’t remember it that way. It’s got Douglas Quaid as Bowen the slayer, and (even better) it has Pete Postlethwaite as a bard following Bowen around (mostly unasked for) to chronicle his deeds. As noted before in 1992, there is nothing Pete Postlethwaite is in that he does not make at least a little better (even Alien 3 (1992).

This film did manage a little something to tweak my expectations. Up to this point, dragons were bad guys. Tolkien, Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons – all of those sources made dragons out to be villains, be it the calculating or simply feral kind. I mean, yeah, there was Puff, but… c’mon, he hardly counts given how dopey (and possibly high) he is. This turned that expectation for me, personally. Humans are, after all, the real monsters most of the time.

Independence Day

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Effects Aren’t Everything

A mysterious signal appears among our satellites as a strange fleet of alien ships descend into our atmosphere. They hover over our largest populations centers as humanity clammers to determine why the visitors have arrived without any kind of warning. A few hours later, the signal stops and the extermination begins. Humanity unites together on the Fourth of July to defend the Planet and scourge the alien armada from our home.

This had too many big names and too much budget to go into the Schlock bucket. But, it’s close. Taking a page from the Michael Bay playbook, this film is mostly about special effects and explosions. I mean, it’s not really a big reach insofar as big summer action movies go. I remember loving it at the time. Because most hormone fueled boys are easily impressed, especially if you put them in a dark place with a girl. I think the girl I was dating at the time went to see this twice with me actually.

The film aged poorly however, and it didn’t take long. I remember being blown away by the visuals in the theater, then watching it in my apartment on VHS a couple months later. What worked on the big screen for some reason does not work on television. The effects were no longer seamless, and the whole thing seemed… cheaper. I don’t know if it was lost in conversion or if I really was just too easily impressed at that age. Maybe it was because at that time I was learning how to do the behind the scenes effect stuff.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

When I Saw It: Circa 1998
What It Taught Me: Samuel L. Jackson Cannot Be Killed; New Jersey Is Hard To Get Out Of

Gena Davis plays a woman living a happy but ordinary life. She has a husband, a child, a decent job as a teacher. She also has amnesia. She was found on a beach a few years back, pregnant, with no memory of how she got there. She’d all but given up on untangling the mystery of her old life when suddenly she begins to do things she can’t explain after a car accident. The publicity from the accident gains the attention of her former life’s acquaintances. They are not nice people. Turns out, Geena Davis wasn’t a nice person either, but now that she has a child and a husband in her life, she decides to get as far from them as possible before they get hurt. She gets tangled up with Samuel L. Jackson along the way. They go on the offensive to take out her former associates. Sam Jack swears a lot.

This was an unusual find for me. This is pretty action trope heavy – not usually a good sign. The hero with amnesia finds out she was a super spy and denounces their life of wickedness. Pretty hackneyed plot. But, it’s really good. I swear. It was really surprising seeing Gena Davis in an action role for me, and Samuel L. Jackson is absolutely great working alongside her (or did she work alongside Samuel L. Jackson – food for thought).

There were two scenes which really endeared the film to me. One reflects on the difficulty of escaping New Jersey, the other is a battle cry.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Absolutely Nothing, But I Still Liked It Quite A Bit

The dim-witted duo from the hit MTV cartoon, Beavis and Butt-Head, come to the big screen! After their idiotic behavior gets them tangled up with a pair of criminals, they go on a series of misadventures through America. Beavis is once again allowed to say the F-word (and by that, I mean Fire) and many immature sexual references are made.

I’m sorry, but there’s something about these two morons that is soothing to the soul. You get the bonus of not having to think very hard to be amused, and additionally you get to see stupid behavior rewarded with the two often times getting exactly what they deserve.

They also take part in the classic fool’s journey. They wander in and out of trouble largely without ultimate consequence, yet failing to really learn anything. You know, like Congress. God bless America. Huh huh huh huh.

Personal Blockbusters

Primal Fear

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Edward Norton Is an Awesome Actor

In this psychological thriller, a hot shot lawyer takes on a murder case. The client is an emotionally damaged altar boy accused of the killing of a publicly beloved Catholic Archbishop. The lawyer discovers the case is very complicated, and things get much more interesting when the kid sprouts multiple personalities and brazenly admits to killing the archbishop. Sensing that this is just what he needs to get the kid off charges, he pursues it, but finds out that things are not exactly right.

This really sounds straight forward. Shouldn’t be anything to write home about. Then, you get the performance that made me sit up and remember Edward Norton, who plays the altar boy. He’s just a kid in this film. But holy hell does he deliver. I remember this film chilling me down to my toes. It made me a life long Norton fan. To this day, I’m willing to give any film he does a fair shake. Even The Italian Job (2003), which I still haven’t got around to yet.

Romeo + Juliet

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Sometimes Updates Can Be Good

Do I need a synopsis for this? Okay, here’s the sum up of the Bard’s classic tale: Boy meets Girl. Girl loves boy, and boy feels likewise. They want to get it on, but their families hate each other. They get married in secret, bad shit happens, and boy gets exiled. Priest meets girl, cooks up desperate scheme in which love might conquer all. Plan goes bad. Boy and girl die. Families grieve and rethink their blood feud. Maybe.

Oh, and the Shakespearean classic is ported to a modern setting. The dialog is chopped up and moved around, but mostly in the intended language style. Kind of.

This was a movie that arrived in an odd and fortuitous moment in which two things intersected. First, I had some Shakespeare under my belt (I didn’t go to public school for nothing), so, like some moody teenagers, I developed a thing for this particular story. Second, I actually had a girlfriend that I’d been seeing for a while by this point. Romance wasn’t a theme I investigated until then because I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be in the cards for me after an earlier dating disaster. But, it felt like I was in love then (I wasn’t), so the movie had a little more charge in it for me.

I also had to toggle my opinion of Leonardo DiCaprio on this film. He does a solid job here as Romeo and is backed up by a great cast between John Leguizamo (Tybalt), Harold Perrineau (Mercutio – favorite role), and Pete Postlethwaite (the Priest) again! It was a good couple years for Pete in the nineties, I guess. The It Girl of the time, Claire Danes, also helped in the leading role of Juliet Capulet. Most of the young men in the nineties probably had a thing for her, and I was no exception.

As a final observation, I am not always hip to updated classics. Sometimes it works better than you’d expect, though. This was an example of when it really works. You see modern ads with antiquated language, guns named after swords, corporate logos for both Montagues and Capulets, and gangs that froth at the mouth with some vengeful sounding cries and taunts. Good stuff if over the top.

Dear God

When I Saw It: Circa 1997
What It Taught Me: It Doesn’t Take a God

Con man Tom Turner (Greg Kinnear) gets sentenced in court to find legit work within one year. If he cannot keep that job for an additional year and cannot keep his nose clean in that time, he will go to jail. Eventually, Tom settles on postal work in the Dead Letter Office (DLO), believing it to be a great way to continue some side hustles. People mail valuable stuff all the time that gets lost, so it’s like a free grab bag. Tom starts opening letters for profit while posing as a model citizen. In the process, he finds a dead letter – addressed to god – in which a man declares he’s going to throw himself into the ocean to end it all. Tom comes clean to his assembled misfits (the DLO is apparently the dumping ground of the post office per his fellows) and they avert the man’s suicide after deducing a couple of clues from the text of the letter and its postal stamp. Feeling a rush off of doing something so good, they all start addressing the issues from more letters to god. Eventually they get caught and charged with mail tampering and the con man turned savior must defend himself in court.

This is not a film I’d expected to love as much as I did. I’m pretty sure this was an impulse rental – nobody at the store vouched for it. It went to the box office and completely tanked, and reviewers aren’t kind to it. I’m not really a big fan of Greg Kinnear either. The film’s pedigree is low. But, it pleasantly surprised me. For as much flak as it gets, critically speaking, anyone I mention the film to typically has a favorable view on it.

There are three scenes in particular that I love. The first is Kinnear’s first time around in court. The judge is played by a character actor we can all identify, but not by name (his name is Larry Miller and you can find his IMDB entry here). And, man does Miller sell it. After Kinnear tries to con the judge on the bench, he’s asked to approach and Miller spout this great bit about how he’s never had anyone with balls big enough to try to con a judge on the bench. I wish I could find a clip of this, but the internet doesn’t seem to care about this film. I recommend watching the whole movie just to see it.

The second is the scene where Dooley (played by Tim Conway) relates the tale of how he got dumped in the DLO by actually biting a dog.

The last was a throwaway line when Vladek (Hector Elizondo) is taking Kinnear through the post office on an orientation and points to a bright purple machine that looks like a kids slide:

Vladek: This is Barney Machine. You know why we call it Barney Machine?
Tom: Um. Because it’s big and purple?
Vladek: You’ve been here before?

And lastly, this mixes a redemption story with a personal outlook. The redemption story is easy – everyone likes those because we’re mostly wired that way as human beings. We like seeing the good rise up from someone who once was not. But the bigger thing is that it shows people doing good deeds on behalf of an unresponsive god. I am on the fence about sky fathers, benevolent creators, and punishers of the wicked on a cosmic scale. I’d like to believe – but, it would be a tremendous relief to just know. I lack faith in the theological arena. It may seem bleak, but it appears to me that if there is a god, it is highly likely that it is indifferent to us at best (in fact, it may even be Durden-esque per Fight Club (1999). So, when people take up the reins of that indifferent watcher in the sky and start assisting the people doing the god-asking… that feels good. People taking responsibility for each other is uplifting. It feels just in a concrete way that ‘giving it up to god’ does not.

Even if it is super illegal how they go about it.


When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: Horror Tropes and Lots of Them; Kill the Headliner

A small town is plagued by a series of brutal murders. The victims are mostly young high school kids, and the police are baffled. This all has one teenage girl, Sidney (Neve Campbell), particularly freaked out. Her mother was murdered a year ago; the new killings seem to have some similarities. Rumors fly, and the kids get to making suppositions about how it all feels like it’s a horror movie. Horror movies have rules, right? And if you follow them, you won’t get killed by some serial slasher, right? Well… maybe, maybe not. The film gets increasingly meta the further it goes, and ramps up to a conclusion that is predictable, yet wholly engaging.

Horror was starting to get a more steady repertoire in my viewing diet by this point. While I went in (and still do) for less-is-more style films like The Haunting (1963), or Stir of Echoes (1999), I had (and still do) a general lack of one of the more popular horror sub-genres: slasher films. This is a lampoon of that sub-genre, and it more or less gave me the template for the it without really having to hit any other works. I still have seen zero Jason or Freddy movies, and have seen only a single Halloween film (the original Halloween (1978), which… left me with a flat impression. Slasher flicks aren’t my thing, but this was different and very tongue-in-cheek.

This really got a second sub-genre going: Meta-horror. In this film type, the characters are just short of realizing they are actually in a horror film. They recognize horror tropes and either try to follow them to survival, or subvert them enough to make things interesting. It’s kind of fascinating – but it can wear off quickly.

It’s arguable that the film’s biggest shocker was the decision to kill off Drew Barrymore – one of the headlining performers – within the first ten minutes of the film. She’s a big name who’d you’d expect to get plenty of screen time given how much it costs to hire her. But if there’s one thing we know about Wes Craven, it is that he does not give a good goddamn about what you expect.

The Frighteners

When I Saw It: 1996
What It Taught Me: How to Build an Underworld; You Can’t Keep a Good Canadian Down

Frank Banister is a con man with a unique hustle. He styles himself as a paranormal investigator, which is half true. He’s not much of an investigator, but he can see and interact with the spirits of the departed after experiencing a near-death encounter in a car accident that he – but not his wife – survived. He has four ghosts that he uses to stage hauntings which he then conveniently shows up to solve. Together with his band of ghosts, he manages to hustle successfully until a particularly nasty spirit, the Soul Collector, begins to kill with great frequency, laying suspicion on Frank for his spectral crimes. Beyond that, the malevolent spirit’s activities reopen Frank’s old wounds and personal secrets as the story advances toward grim and shadowed paths.

This is a film I feel is vastly underrated. Of course, I love ghost stories. It’s not a stretch that this was my best film for 1996. I really liked the internal logic of the way spirits worked. Some were weak, some were strong. There was an implied social structure enforced by cemetery guardians. It meshed well, it was consistent, and more importantly it was entertaining.

The truly amazing thing though was the change of tone as the film progresses. It starts slow and light-hearted. Sure there’s dead people involved, but they provide comedic relief and everything sets up as wacky and a little off color. By the time you reach the end, the film is now stark and ominous. There is evil in the region that is manifest. That evil is determined, ruthless, and calculating. The Frightners starts out comedy, but ends up horror.

As a point of interest, Michael J. Fox plays the lead (Frank Banister) and did so just after announcing that he had Parkinson’s Disease the year prior. Turns out he’d known since Doc Hollywood and it wrecked him for a while. It was a big thing during the filming, as it showed that Fox wasn’t about to let the disease keep him down.

1994: The Cutting Room Floor

A Change In Format

Forgive me for the brief interruption, but I’m feeling like The Cutting Room Floor is shaping up more like a series of lists and one-liners than something more insightful. I’ll still be giving you the content you remember: the good, the bad and the indifferent won’t be going anywhere, nor will my cinematic sins that fell by the wayside. I’ll be trying to expand content in the lists a bit more, but mainly I want to include a couple articles about my experiences and realizations with cinema generally during the nineties and beyond. We’ll get to my topic for this post just after we get through…

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent.

1994 True Lies


Cabin Boy (Bad) – Chris Elliott is Chris Elliott in this largely forgettable movie about a man-child brought onto a ship as – you guessed it – a cabin boy. At least his pipes are cleaned.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (Bad) – Sorry, this was too much of Jim Carrey in a ninety-minute period for me. A Wacky guy with a knack for working with and retrieving lost animals goes after yet another animal quarry. Courtney Cox falls in love with this idiot along the way. Points given for the bit where Carrey’s butt asks for Binaca.

Blank Check (Indifferent) – This film has something to do with Miguel Ferrer trying to get a lot of dirty money back from a kid who he has paid hush money to in the dumbest way possible. Smart criminals don’t write blank checks, dumbass.

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (Indifferent) – No O.J. this time given the Trial of the Century. It’s probably not the only reason the movie is forgettable though. After a while, all of this franchise’s films feel like they’re just the same movie on repeat. Leslie Nielsen does variously dirty and humorous things while fighting crime.

Clean Slate (Indifferent) – Dana Carvey is not Garth in this ho-hum comedy about an amnesiac detective. I think. It’s hard to remember. And I paid theater ticket price too. Lesson learned.

The Flintstones (Bad) – It’s okay to leave some properties alone, Hollywood. We can just watch the old cartoons. They’re better. Put your money into something more innovative next time. I honestly can’t remember anything about this movie other than wanting to escape despite the presence of John Goodman and Rick Moranis in the film.

City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (Indifferent) – I can only tell you that this involves Jack Palance not being around anymore and something about his supposed hidden gold which Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern look to find. I don’t think they went for a City Slickers III after this one. Yet. Give the studio time though.

Speed (Bad) – Whoa. The bus can’t stop. Whew, I stopped the bus. Kiss me, leading lady person. Where is my paycheck? This must be what it was like to be Keanu Reeves in the nineties. Sandra Bullock also features as leading lady person.

Wolf (Good) – This wasn’t a bad film really. Had a good cast between Jack Nicholson, James Spader, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Nicholson gets bit my a werewolf. Spader gets bit by Nicholson. Then, they fight over sexual access to Pfeiffer. But… that’s really kind of it.

The Lion King (Good) – You can crib worse plots than Hamlet (you can also rip off worse series than Kimba the White Lion). The technical work was good between the rotoscoping and the shading technologies emerging at the time, but this film doesn’t get me back to watch it too often. It’s a definite highmark in terms of technique. Hakuna Matata will always be better than YOLO.  Oh, and Disney, you might pay for the songs you use in your soundtrack too.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Indifferent) – Where it’s cousin, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) had a conversion that moved the dial for me in my inexperienced youth, this just… didn’t. I may also have finally seen this after actually reading Frankenstein… which kinda ruined it for me since adaptations don’t frequently scratch the itch the same way a novel can.

The Santa Clause (Indifferent) – By the time I saw this, most kid movies had lost their charm. Tim Allen plays a guy who gets roped into becoming the real Santa Claus. Tim Allen’s not bad as a comedian or an actor – I loved Home Improvement (1991 – 1999) – but… eh.

Leon: the Professional (Good) – I saw this one late. Like, last year late (2016). So a lot of the stuff that was over the top for its day didn’t have the punch I suppose to make it one of my higher rated films. It is however definitely worth a watch, not only for Gary Oldman’s performance, but also that of a very young Natalie Portman. Additionally, anything with Jean Reno is worth watching. It’s about a little girl who loses her family to some very crooked people and wants her neighbor – an assassin – to train her for a path to vengeance.

Star Trek: Generations (Bad) – Another Star Trek plot that bring the original series and the Next Generation cast together. I’m assuming that what left a bad taste in my mouth was the thing that kind of gets me with all television-to-big-screen adaptations: it’s just another episode and Trek isn’t really my go to sci-fi franchise. This is just a longer episode with better special effects, a couple tacked on big names, and a mild crossover from the original series. Features William Shatner, Malcolm McDowell, and the Star Trek: the Next Generation(1987-1994)  crew, including Whoopi Goldberg.

Junior (Indifferent) – Another foray into comedy for Schwarzenegger. This time, he’s carrying a baby inside of him! Not as funny as it sounds.

Dumb and Dumber (Bad) – Is there something wrong with me? Maybe I just don’t like comedy?Two idiots embark on wacky adventures in their dog grooming van. While I don’t really like Carrey all that much (as you can probably tell by now), Jeff Bridges is kind of awesome. He at least should have moved the dial up to indifferent but… no.

Maverick (Good) – This western, focusing on gambling and riverboat casinos, didn’t quite move the dial as much as Tombstone did. You do, however, get great performances by Mel Gibson, James Garner, and Graham Greene.

True Lies (Good) – I remember this film clearly. My cousin and I took my dad to go see this as a surprise for his birthday I think. He’d helped my cousin and I a lot that year, and Dad loved it – especially the bits with the Harrier Jet. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an undercover agent. His line of work gets in the way of his marriage with Jaime Lee Curtis though. She feels alone and wants some excitement in their romance again. Unfortunately, this gets her tied in with his work, which both she and he are totally unprepared for. Good supporting cast in the form of Bill Paxton and Tom Arnold.

Music To Outshine the Movie

Let’s take a moment before we get to my cinematic viewing failures to discuss something that’s been on my mind for the past couple of nineties posts: music.

You’ve no doubt seen music come up in the notes for a lot of my favorite films already. It goes to say that most movies that grip you in your very soul have some musical accoutrements going on, even if you may not be consciously aware of it. Graeme Revell is one of the best guys at doing this, though I’d also credit Trevor Jones and James Newton Howard. You also get the household names who ubiquitously stand out for their significant melodic contributions, such as John Williams or Danny Elfman.

But, there’s another kind of soundtrack that comes up again and again: the ensemble soundtrack. These are performed by the famed and justly popular ‘Various Artists.’ This leads to a weird phenomenon that I’ve noted when it comes to the ensemble soundcast. Their collected artists blend to form exactly what the movies need, above and beyond a score (soundtracks and scores being very different).

But, sometimes. Just sometimes… you get a lackluster or even terrible film that has a great soundtrack.

I have a couple of these in mind, but the one I’m going to use as an example is the movie Mortal Kombat (1995). This movie is pretty awful. While some video game franchise adaptations have gotten big (Tomb Raider 2001, Resident Evil, 2002) this was not the era for that kind of outcome (though Mortal Kombat did spawn several, equally awful sequels – so they must have done something right). Video game adaptations were more likely to come out like the much maligned film, Super Mario Brothers (1993). Mortal Kombat wasn’t quite that bad, but when you cast Christopher Lambert as the Japanese God of Lightning, you have failed spectacularly. Even with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, they still had a lot of explaining to do.

The soundtrack, on the other hand, is amazingly good. If I’m sitting down to write or to get work done, I am very likely to have Mortal Kombat’s soundtrack on hand. It’s high energy and features a lot of great acts like KMFDM, Juno Reactor, Gravity Kills, Orbital, Fear Factory, and Type O Negative. These are not mainstream acts either. Most of these guys are hailing from the school of electronic and industrial music. But good goddamn do they put on a hell of a show.

1994 MK Soundtrack

Not only bombs get stunning soundtracks, though . There are other good films whose soundtracks really outshine or perfectly compliment the film. Empire Records (1995) comes to mind as a good example of this. While it was a great film at the time I watched it, it’s impact has lessened over time – but the soundtrack has not. It’s not a bad movie per se, but the music definitely outshines it, at least for me.

There are also great movies that get even better soundtracks. Stuff that gets watched again and again, but you listen to the soundtracks way more frequently. A great example of this is Grosse Pointe Blank (1996). It’s soundtrack is like a love song to New Wave and the eighties in general.

Here’s a couple more examples (from both good and bad films) of nineties soundtracks that get listened to more than the movie gets watched. I think you can figure out the good from the bad:

  • Batman Forever (1995) featuring Seal, U2, Massive Attack, and the Flaming Lips.
  • The Crow (1994) featuring The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.
  • Judgement Night (1993) featuring mashups such as Biohazard with Onyx, Cypress Hill with Pearl Jam, Sir Mix-a-lot with Mudhoney, and Run D.M.C. and De La Soul.
  • Demon Knight (1995) featuring Pantera, Ministry, the Gravediggaz, Rollins Band, Megadeth, and Filter.
  • Dangerous Minds (1996) featuring Coolio… and surprisingly little else, but I listen to that song way more than I watch that film (I don’t think I’ve revisited it since the first watching).
  • Romeo + Juliet (1996) featuring The Cranberries, Garbage, Everclear, Radiohead, Butthole Surfers, and the Cardigans
  • The Matrix (1999) featuring Rammstein, Rob Zombie, Rage Against the Machine, Rob Dougan, Spybreak, Ministry, the Deftones, Marilyn Manson, and the Propellerheads.
  • Space Jam (1996) featuring R. Kelly, Seal (by way of Steve Miller), Tommy Chong with Cheech Marin, and Salt-n-Pepa
  • Clerks (1994) featuring Bad Religion, Stabbing Westward, Soul Asylum, and Alice in Chains.

I am positive that I haven’t even hit a fraction of the soundtracks that are going to push peoples buttons. These are just mine. But the fact that the byproduct of the film can be just as engaging or even better than their films boggles my mind sometimes given the difference between the cost of making a film and finding suitable music.

Cinematic Sins

1994 Natural Born Killers

As always, there were some films that were explicitly blocked by parents, others that came and went too quickly, or that I was too limited in personal growth to see the potential value of. I’d like to think that by the age of seventeen that I’d have something resembling sense, but… nope. No such luck.

Blink – I vaguely remember this title pinging the radar at some point, mostly because it was about a person who through medical advances gets their sight back. Further research showed it features Madeleine Stowe, which is a plus given how much I like 12 Monkeys (1995).

The Getaway – Mostly this would be good to watch just for the basis of its cast. It didn’t have robots, zombies, aliens, or anything ‘weird,’ so it failed to draw my attention. With Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Tilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and James Woods, it probably wouldn’t be a waste of my time.

Reality Bites – Sullen and single me wouldn’t have been down to see this at the time. I’m glad I’m not such a moody shit anymore. This was Winona Ryder in her prime. Plus Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, and Janeane Garafalo before she really got famous.

Sugar Hill – Another gritty portrayal of people involved with the drug trade. So you can imagine this one didn’t pass muster for parental funds. Also at that time I hadn’t really got into the genre of crime movies yet. That’d change in the next year with The Usual Suspects (1995). It’s got Wesley Snipes before he went batshit crazy too.

The Hudsucker Proxy  – I like Tim Robbins. Let’s give it a go. I’ve heard you either love this film or you hate it. Not a lot of middle ground.

Threesome – See Reality Bites above for the reason and replace the actresses and actors with Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin, and Josh Charles.

Surviving the Game – I don’t remember this one coming around but it came up in my research for this year. It’s Rutger Hauer and Ice-T. I’m down for that.

Brainscan – I can hear my friend Nick tutting at me for not having seen this. I shall have to reach out to him for a viewing. I would not be surprised at all if he has this on DVD somewhere.

PCU – This film is another example of what I call ‘The Shawshank Factor’. It is a movie that I have seen bits and pieces of, multiple times, but have never watched in total. I am unsure as to whether or not I have seen all of this film. It’s got some great work by Jeremy Piven and David Spade, so I’ll need to get back to this from start to finish.

Crooklyn – Another Spike Lee Joint. He was a voice for both my generation and the one before it. And, arguably for today’s as well. I really need to catch up on his work. Plus one of my favorite actors. Delroy Lindo, is in the cast.

Renaissance Man – I like Danny DeVito. Sure, why not?

Wyatt Earp – I like the lore of the men and women involved in Tombstone’s history, but I never had the three hours and ten minutes to sit down and watch this film on one of the most famous of those people, the titular Wyatt Earp.

The Client – Maybe if I like The Firm (1993) I’ll watch this one too. Lord knows I can’t seem to sink my teeth into Grisham’s novels, so movies are probably the better way to go.

Clear and Present Danger – There are so many Tom Clancy adaptations that this one just became another in the mix. I don’t typically go out of my way for Republican ideology in my fiction either. But this is Harrison Ford. I can trust him, right?

Natural Born Killers – This is where my parents drew the line in 1994. I may have gotten away with Pulp Fiction. I may have snuck in Clerks on VHS. But they were not putting money into my hands to go see a movie that they felt glorified serial killers. It didn’t matter how cool Oliver Stone might have seemed after JFK. I just never got back to this one, not even with its great lineup: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Tommy Lee Jones, and Tom Sizemore.

Quiz Show – So many people have talked this one up and at the time I couldn’t have cared less. Now that I know a little bit more about its background, I think I’d probably enjoy it.

Ed Wood – Given my leanings, I have no idea why I wouldn’t have gone immediately to the theater to watch Tim Burton’s biopic on Ed Wood, starring  Johnny Depp.

1994: The Dream of the Nineties In Film

So, Where Was I In 1994?

This was a year where I started to come together as a human being. I’d been in my high school music program for two years. Along with my visual arts training, this was where I’d finally started to feel like I had a place of refuge. I’d risen to a section leader in the marching band, was swapping in and out of first chair positions between me and a friend of mine who, no shit, was named Tom Jones. This marked a two year period where sometimes, just sometimes, high school could be fun. The bullies got a new target somewhere (I didn’t care where), I wasn’t an underclassman any longer, and I felt strangely in control of where things were headed for once.

This was also the year where the movie theaters couldn’t keep me out. I turned seventeen this year – old enough to show an ID to someone in the ticket booth and validate my presence there. This didn’t mean my folks were always pleased with my viewing habits. It was a push to get in to see Pulp Fiction that year (a film my mother would later see in her sixties and love).

While the internet had been something I’d used for a while, this was the year it really started to gel for me personally. We were still on dial up, using the much maligned AOL service. Squelches and beeps were a part of every day life, as was the vocal shouting of “MOM! I’M ONLINE! DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE!”

The world continued to move along. NAFTA got barreled through congress and was signed by Slick Willie. Congress flipped to Republican control, which set the stage for an impending impeachment. The PowerPC was released by Apple, and the blurring of platforms started a short time later as the internet brought rival operating systems a bit closer together in terms of compatibility. Rodney King got a shit ton of money in reparations for the violation of his civil rights, further blackening the eye of the LAPD’s public image. To add to the mix of crazy in Los Angeles, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are found dead at Brown’s home, resulting in the ‘Trial of the Century.’ The nation plastered itself to the television as Brown’s and Goldman’s suspected killer – football hero, OJ Simpson – took off in a low speed chase with one of his former teammates, Al Cowling.

As always the films of the year continued to mold and shape me. This was a great year for film. This year still informs a lot of my writing and creative sensibilities. Some excellent storytelling came to me, and no doubt 1994’s films will continue to shape me in years to come as my fiction continues to grow.

The Schlock

The Shadow

1994 The Shadow

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Pulp Tropes, A Furthered Love For Art Deco
Rating: ★★★

My music courses were not limited to school hours – practices were both before and after the standard six-and-a-half hour school day. Dad would drive me to practices while we listened to audio dramas. One of the dramas was, of course, The Shadow. Sometimes the titular character was voiced by Orson Welles, other times by William Johnstone and Bret Morrison. This time, we’d get to hear Alec Baldwin perform not just the voice, but the man’s visage – provided alter ego Lamont Cranston would let us see him. I remember being really worked up to see this film.

The movie was okay. It lacked the punch of the other year’s films, mostly because of it’s moderately campy leanings. They overdid it a little, particularly with Tim Curry who plays a patsy for the main villain. It’s hard to overuse Tim Curry – but he put in a little too much extra it might have been better to tuck it back.

What remains with me from the film though was the presentation of Manhattan in the forties. Much like with The Rocketeer (1991), there was a heavy deco leaning to the set that lingers with me, informing me (for better or worse) of the motifs of the times. It also gave me more lead in the pencil for describing and setting the stage for that particular era. It also helped to cement a lot of the tropes and plots of that time: two fisted goons working under shady manipulators versus the one man with special abilities that can stop them.

The Mask

1994 The Mask

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: 2D to 3D Effect Transition, A Little Carrey Goes Too Far
Rating: ★★★

I am not particularly a Carrey fan (we’ll get into this a bit more in 1994’s Cutting Room Floor). His signature ability in the 1990’s was to be completely and totally off-the-wall. I’m not certain how he got more energy than Robin Williams had (though one might suspect illicit substances which were also Williams’s forte), but he put it to good use in the Mask.

I liked the concept of this piece, though I’m told it did veer from the canon according to fans of the original Dark Horse Comic from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s the story of an everyman guy, Stanley Ipkiss (played by Jim Carrey), who finds a mask that basically turns him into a nigh-invulnerable, green-skinned trickster so long as he wears it. The Mask comes with some unfortunate complications though, and soon Stanley can’t really keep up with all of the things the Mask gets up to when it’s in control – and it manages to get Stanley into binds ever more frequently the longer he wears it. When Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz’s first appearance), hits up Stanley’s bank to open an account. She’s really there get info on banks to rob for the mob. Stanley falls in love with her, and soon The Maskis all over her, and the mob doesn’t like this one bit. Slapstick violence and Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey ensue.

This wasn’t a particularly great film, though for its time its effects were remarkable. Additionally, it was the goal of the team to bring the manic energy of not only Carrey, but the well-respected and talented animator, Tex Avery. Tex is regarded as one of my gods in my pantheon of art, so it was no big surprise that I liked at least that part. They more or less got it down in these clips.

Somewhere In the Middle

No Escape

1994 No Escape

When I Saw It: Circa 1996
What It Taught Me: Complex Dystopia, Better Than Lord of the Flies
Rating: ★★★★

I’ll admit that my recollections of this film are somewhat hazy, but I remember really liking it. As far as I am concerned, the plot is easily explained thus: Escape From New York (1984) on an island. Ray Liotta is Snake Plisken, but there’s no President to be rescued. Liotta just wants off the island to clear his name and expose the corruption that landed him on a remote prison island in the pacific.

I mean, really, framing any movie as ‘Escape From New York, But…’ will pretty much get me to watch it (Escape From New York has been a favorite since I watched it in 1993). I love movies like that portray fantastical societies bred by human nature left to its own devices in strange places. I shouldn’t like movies like this based on my reception of Lord of the Flies (see my Disastrous freshman year in an earlier post). All William Golding really needed to say was ‘the fat kid with glasses dies first when society’s rules go away.’ I knew that because I was a fat kid with glasses. Social dynamics weren’t lost on me. But, what Escape From New York and No Escape had was the set dressing and cool toys on occasion. That and a bad ass guy at the center who had the right antihero tropes.

I really want to revisit this now to see if it still holds up well. It had a pretty good cast with Liotta at the center, and a good array of B-listers surrounding him: Lance Henriksen, Ernie Hudson, and Kevin Dillon.


1994 Airheads

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Soundtrack Love
Rating: ★★★★

So, you have a floundering band that can’t seem to get a break. No one is listening because you’re not on the radio. All doors are shut. How do you open one?

Take a radio station hostage.

Of course the guns are fake – these guys don’t have the stomach for real violence. They figure they’ll use plastic (but real looking) uzi-styled water guns, a little bravado, and get the station playing their new single. What could go wrong?

This is a pretty stupid plan so things go wrong almost immediately. From there on it’s a heartwarming tale of rock and roll revolution, the magic of music, and obligatory Stockholm Syndrome.

What I remember though were two things: Harold Ramis’s appearance, and the Soundtrack. In particular the song ‘I’ll Talk My Way Out of It‘ by Stuttering John. Yes, that Stuttering John.  Yes, you may question my good taste.

Additionally, this was around the time that the three lead rockers were all getting big. I knew Adam Sandler from Saturday Night Live and his comedy CD ‘They’re All Gonna Laugh At You’, Steve Buscemi was becoming a favorite after seeing Reservoir Dogs (1992),  and Brendan Fraser had a string of successes. All three were on their way to big things during this movie’s filming and release.


1994 Stargate

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Diaspora
Rating: ★★★★

A fringe Egyptian Linguist (James Spader) is brought into a top secret project initiated by the Unites States Government by an aging scientist who believes his work will unlock a great mystery. He accepts and finds himself under the command of a high ranking military man with a haunted past (Kurt Russel). Russel’s project is related to an ancient artifact found in Egypt and taken by the US military. They have no idea what it does, but they have a couple ideas. Once Spader joins the team, they realize the artifact is a portal – but to where they have no idea. So, they get volunteers led by Spader and Russel to go through the portal and into a world that seems very much like Egypt. The locals at the other end of the portal are shockingly human, they have their own language derived from Egyptian… and they are brutally oppressed by alien masters who appear to have been the architects of the entire ancient Egyptian societal structure. The aliens were, in fact, their gods. Spader and Russel then go on to liberate the oppressed world and to presumably exploit the hell out of the gate system they’ve discovered after the credits roll (the film even got a set of spin off shows on The SciFi Channel).

The idea of extraterrestrial human societies as the norm appealed to me. That humans were not unique to earth or might even be the ‘typical’ species found in space due to a forgotten diasporas in the ancient past really took seed and sprouted story ideas for years to come. The film’s visual effects also served as reference for me  years later in college – a lot of FX heavy films did, though this one sticks out due to the rippling water effect of the gate.

The Ref

1994 The Ref

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Stretching the Concept of a Christmas Movie, Escalation
Rating: ★★★★

Denis Leary hit me like a lightning bolt with his comedy disc ‘No Cure For Cancer’ in 1993. It got listened to a lot, so when he had top billing in this dysfunctional family comedy, I leaped.

Leary plays a career thief. He decides to pull a job on a millionaire’s house on Christmas Eve. He’s caught up by a trap in the house that identifies him.  This sends him on the lam, looking for a place to go to ground and wait out the dragnet. To accomplish this he kidnaps a couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) who have been at each other’s throats for years. He coerces them into keeping him hidden under the threat of violence against their juvenile delinquent son. This gets Leary embedded in Spacey and Davis’s own family problems when he realizes the best story he can use as a cover for the arrival of their relatives is to pretend that he’s their marriage counselor. When the extended family arrives, things get much, much worse for everyone and things escalate to a spectacular breaking point.

This is not only a great comedy, but it’s a movie I watch around Christmas every year, along with Die Hard and Gremlins. Much to my mother’s disappointment.

Personal Blockbusters

Forrest Gump

1994 Forrest Gump

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: A Deeper Sense of a World Before Me, What Special Effects Could Really Do
Rating: ★★★★

This was easily the hit of the year for most audiences (though not my personal favorite if the title banner of the article didn’t give it away). Tom Hanks really showed his chops with this one, and sent his career down a notably different path from most of his past performances.

Hanks portrays Forrest Gump, a good natured man of lower-than-average intelligence. He has a storied and exceptional life despite his many challenges. He starts from humble origins, the illegitimate son of a hard-working mother who does anything she can to raise him right. The story goes from his early years, through adolescence, through his time in the military and Vietnam, and then an improbable celebrity that comes after. Throughout the film, he traverses several high mark moments of history that have been emblazoned into the Baby Boomer experience. It’s an amazing work that encompasses so many themes and emotions that it’s difficult to catalog all of them. It really did deserve its critical acclaim.

One of the (many) things that it won awards for though was its special effects. Up to this point, effects from the computers of hard-working FX staff was on the purely fantastical. We’d seen Jurassic Park, which gave us some of the most realistic looking dinosaurs that have ever been set to film. Space battles were looking cooler. Lava was flowing without causing a hazard to people on sets. No one had yet though to start using computer generated effects to replace what might feel like mundane practical shots. Things like say… a wandering feather. This film showed that you could do the impossible, and make it look practical. The feather wasn’t the only thing though. The film manages to place Hanks in existing and modified footage with known celebrities and politicians; to set an olympic class ping pong game up without having to do take after endless take to get it right; and to get the weather to cooperate on command. It really opened up the boundaries of what was possible.

Additionally, it started to put a lot of what I’d only read about in my history classes into context. I knew that there was a world before I came into it, but no one had really sat me down to show how it affected everyone else – or at least no one had for many of the film’s moments (I actually had wonderful US and World History teachers in my public school, plus my Dad to fill in some blanks). This opened up my understanding on things like the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Era, and the Fifties and Sixties in general.

The Shawshank Redemption

1994 The Shawshank Redemption

When I Saw It: 2017
What It Taught Me: Layers On Layers
Rating: ★★★★★

You read that right – I just watched this movie this year. It’s hard for me to believe I never saw it sooner. Truth be told, I’d seen the back third of the film many times. The movie airs on cable on the regular. It’s one of those movies I have a theory about: you can watch twenty-four hours of television a day and have it all be either The Shawshank Redemption or Law and Order just by flipping through multiple channels. There’s no period of time when those titles are not playing. They’re that popular.

Having had the ending blown for me, I just never really got around to the beginning, which is a shame because the movie is that fucking good. My girlfriend and I sat down to watch it about a month ago after she properly chastised me for not having watched it earlier in life. I am quite pleased with it. The movie deftly performs acts of cinematic magic.

The story opens with the trial of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who very well may have killed his wife. He is sentenced to life imprisonment in Shawshank Prison where he has a great struggle adapting to life inside of the prison walls. He does however make friends, notably another lifer named Red (Morgan Freeman), and begins to ease into the life of a convict as much as one can. He suffers a great many indignities. He is beaten and raped; brutalized in mind, body, and spirit. He is often at odds with both his jailers and his fellow inmates. He not only perseveres – he retains his humanity while working toward his elaborate liberation.

The drama is amazing – but I expect that from most Morgan Freeman films. What really got me with this was the depth of the plots. Most good films have subplots – stories that weave in and around the main one. Usually there’s one or two. This one has many. They’re layered in so that the subplots seem to have subplots. It adds to the length of the movie, but in such a gripping way that you won’t mind sitting through 142 minutes of film. Time just melts away. You simply take in all of the layers as easily as breathing. It just takes your breath away.

Interview With the Vampire

1994 Interview With the Vampire

When I Saw It: 2017
What It Taught Me: How To Build a Relatable Monster
Rating: ★★★★★

When I look back at it, this was what started the trend of vampires starting in my youth until my second bout of college. We’ve had zombies in the mind for the last eight years (barring a sudden outbreak of vampirism in the form of Twilight (2008) but we can expect vampires to come back due to a weird kind of political phenomenon. Let’s hope they can get more Anne Rice and less sparkling.

The film opens with a man who has nothing left to live for. Louis (Brad Pitt) has lost both wife and child to a tragic pregnancy. Lost and without purpose, he puts himself in harm’s way, begging for something to put him out of his misery. The vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) takes this as an open invitation and preys on him, eventually taking him on as his child of darkness, transforming Louis into a vampire. This begins the extended life of Louis the vampire. The two quickly find themselves at odds: Louis will not kill with the glee of his father of darkness, but must lest he waste away and molder in some forgotten crypt.

The film essentially is about Louis coming to terms with his nature, learning to walk the fine balance between man and beast. He suffers great trials of emotional fortitude, navigates moral quandaries, and ultimately suffers terrible consequences for his actions (such as the making of his own child of darkness, an actual child turned vampire named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst). The film is an emotional rollercoaster punctuated with horror and despair. I am a fan of morality pieces and situations where there is no wrong and right. It creates an environment where you’re never really sure what’s going to happen, and this had that effect.

This is also one of the rare cases in which the movie outshone the original book in my opinion. I’ve tried three times to read the book and never finished – yet I’ve seen the film dozens of times.

Pulp Fiction

1994 Pulp Fiction

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Non-Linear Storytelling, Making The Horrific Hilarious
Rating: ★★★★★

It was a fight to see this movie. I mean, I tried like hell to get in. This film was released just a short time before I turned seventeen. The movie’s reputation and outrage of parent groups had ticket sellers checking for IDs. I’d gone to see R-Rated films at the theater before. Even a couple without parents present. But this film. Oh man.

On my fourth try, I finally got the money, the available time, and a license I could slap on the counter that no one would deny. My cousin and I chose one of the oldest, seediest theaters in the area. The last time I’d been there was to see The Jungle Book (1967) when I was a kid. And, oh boy, did we not see anything family friendly when that curtain opened.

This movie was transformative in terms of not just content, but also in terms of storytelling. It covers a couple of different stories: one about two robbers deciding to rob a diner on impulse; another about a pair of hitmen trying to get a suitcase back to their boss; another about a boxer who refuses to through a fight for a crime boss; and another about a crime boss’s goon who’s given the task of taking his lady out on the town so she doesn’t get bored. Each is broken up into its own vignette, and each story ties into each other story in ways either trivial or of great consequence. They’re not told in any order either. In fact, they’re totally shuffled. It’s the kind of film where the end is the beginning is the end. Everyone has read the story where you start in media res and you jump between now and then. But this took that idea to a higher plane of existence. It was masterfully done. Tarantino outdid himself with this film, and it’s the one that made me follow his career for good or ill over the next decade.

It also transformed careers. John Travolta had been in a slump, as had Bruce Willis, but this film got them rising from the ashes anew. Samuel L. Jackson had been working steadily, but this was the film that I feel opened bigger doors for him. Uma Thurman definitely took off, and Tim Roth graduated from quirky roles in unexpected gems to helming films as a lead role. You also got Eric Stolze as a scummy LA drug dealer, Christopher Walken as a family friend I think no one would want, and then you got Ving Rhames, who definitely took off after this film cemented itself into cinema history.

The thing that stuck with me most though was the Car Scene. I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about, but I’ll spell it out for you. After Travolta and Jackson finish up a job in which they should have died in a hail of unexpected gunfire, they are taking a man to their boss in the car. Jackson claims epiphany, that god had directly intervened on their behalf, resulting in Jackson’s belief that this is his last day working for crime boss Marcellus Wallace. Travolta isn’t having it and an argument starts. Eventually, Travolta, looking for support for his side of the debate, turns to their passenger in the backseat, gestures his gun at him to emphasize his point… and the pistol goes off accidentally, resulting in a spectacular spray of gore and blood as the passenger’s head disintegrates.

That’s a pretty shocking thing to have happen. It’s the kind of thing that if it happened in front of you in real life, you’d be absolutely horrified. There’d be years of therapy. Lots of neuroses. Total breakdown.

I could not stop laughing.

Neither could the rest of the people in the theater. But, me especially. I was laughing four minutes later, out of breath. People were staring at me. They must have thought I was a psychopath (I wondered this too driving home from the film).

There was just something about it. The suddenness and the fact that after it happens, Travolta and Jackson just continue to bicker with almost no pause. And while they are both upset, they never stop to deal with the morality of killing a dude by accident. Travolta doesn’t hardly even raise his voice. To him it’s like discussing the price of weed. They just argue about how they’re going to finish the job and what to do about having a car filled with blood and brains in the freeway. It was such a shock, followed by an incredibly inappropriate response that the absurdity of it lit up every humor circuit in my head.

I guess that makes me a pretty bad person.


1994 Clerks

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Irreverence, Timing, An Appreciation of Black-and-White Medium In a World of Color
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve noted before that my parents were extremely restrictive on what I could watch. They might lose in the battle of films on the big screen, but they could police what came into the house. They weren’t always consistent though, and they couldn’t watch me all the time. Public school teachers pretty much work all day, so sometimes I could sneak in a little something.

I missed Clerks in its entirety for it’s film run. This was no big surprise – it was an indie film from Miramax that didn’t get a huge run. I finally saw it on video later in the year when a student of my dad’s brought it over during our weekly comic book run.

Denis Leary had paved the way for comedy that would get me in trouble for listening to it at anything louder than a whisper’s volume, but it still didn’t quite prep me for Clerks level of brutal honesty and total vulgarity. This punched up my obscenity meter by leaps and bounds. Considering I grew up in a school district where the word ‘fuck’ almost could replace birdsong, this was no mean feat. I could swear like a sailor before I was nine and this opened up whole new vistas of foul mouthedness and wholly inappropriate behaviors.

Along with that, it also gave me another great foundation on how to execute timing. Timing is everything, but especially so with comedy. Smith has a great sense for it, and would go on to use it to great effect in further endeavors in the Askewniverse such as Mallrats (1995) and Dogma (1999). It’s timing is almost Sorkin-esque, but with a little more room to breathe.

The thing that really gets me though was that this film was so low-budget that it had to be filmed in black-and-white. I kind of held black-and-white television and film in low regard back in 1994. Mostly, it was because I was stupid – I had this idiotic belief as a kid that newer is always better. Kevin Smith wasn’t from the fifties or sixties, and there was no excuse for outdated film options when you could get ‘better.’ This was a film which set me on a path of being older and wiser.

I don’t think Clerks would have been as powerful if it had been shot in color. As someone who’s had the experience of working in a crap retail job, it kind of robs the color out of your life. Sure, it’s there, but you’re not feeling it. The only thing you feel is the click of the keys at the register, the crying of someone’s baby, throwing a chronic masturbator out of the store, or the complaining of someone who feels ill used (rightly or not) by capitalism. It takes the film’s nature and starkly puts it in front of you. It’s not the only film to have made this deliberate choice in a world of color (The Mist, which showed in color ultimately, had a special cut of the intended black-and-white version in the BluRay edition), but it’s one of the better ones.

The Crow

1994 The Crow

When I Saw It: 1994
What It Taught Me: Everything
Rating: ★★★★★

If you ask me what my favorite book is, I’ll tell you Neuromancer without thinking. If you read that book and then read any of my science fiction stories for just a couple of minutes, it’s likely you’ll see how deeply the book informs who I am as a person and an author.

I mention that book not out of an inherent plot connection, but because The Crow is my cinematic counterpart to Neuromancer. When I write horror in an urban hellhole, you might catch Eric Draven wandering in the alleys, watching.

The Crow is about Eric Draven (Brandon Lee): a man returned to life after he and his fiancee are murdered on Devil’s Night by a gang of arsonists and killers. He finds that he has not only cheated death, but that he is granted powers from a great crow that seems to accompany him everywhere he goes. He seems to be invulnerable to any kind of physical punishment. He has the ability to get psychic impressions from the past by holding objects or touching people. He is stronger and faster, and has a newfound capacity for great violence. He can see through the eyes of the crow. He can vanish without trace. But, lastly, he possesses an eerie knack of being in the right place at the right time to set things as right as they can be set.

He instinctively knows that he will never be able to bring his love back to life – but he can make sure that the men who killed his bride-to-be will never kill again. He will make sure that every last one of them get exactly what they have coming to them.

With his supernatural talents, he goes on to avenge the deaths of his fiancee and himself, cutting a murderous swath through a city infested with darkness and depravity. One by one, he takes on his killers, leaving a trail of fire, blood, and crow symbology in his wake.

This movie drips with all of the dark horror conventions I like to work with in my fiction: The merciless world that often seems to actively work against you – not in some abstract way, but rather a city that attacks you like it’s personal; despair in alleys; dark recesses of urban blight that are best avoided; crews of criminals in an organized nightmare court who will do anything, knowing no restraint; supernatural forces that move within light and shadow; uncaring parents and drug abuse; ubiquitous and callous violence; all-encompassing vengeance; doing the right thing the most wrong ways; moral ambivalence; hope, false or otherwise.

This is fear countryThis is the ultimate in revenge.

It’s also visual poetry. The stage is set, and the actors going through it make it sing. The fights are well choreographed (it helps that Eric Draven is played by Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son). The lighting is just so. Fire and darkness mix to create long shadows and a gothic feel. The performances are solid. It feels real despite the supernatural elements. I have watched it over and over again. There’s not a shot shown, not a line of dialog, not an action cue that I do not know like the back of my hand. This is my toolkit, by bible for portraying darkness – and also redemption.

Because, amongst the other things the film embodies, The Crow is also a romance. Draven doesn’t kill out of some kind of personal vengeance. He does this for Shelley. For his lost love. He has returned, but she has not. What he does, he does for her. All of it. Be it guarding over their local street kid, Sarah; be it connecting with Officer Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) to thank him for staying with Shelley in her final hours; be it taking out not just their killers but the man who stood behind them and ordered it- it is all for Shelley Webster. Once the job is done, he fades with her into the afterlife, her personal angel of vengeance come home for his reward.

It chills me to think about it. It thrills me to write something as in vein. It has been an inspiration, and is easily at the top of all of my film loves.

1993: The Cutting Room Floor

Before We Get To 1993’s Cutting Room Floor

So, it’s been a while since I managed to get the retro running again. My life has been undergoing that old ‘interesting times’ bit. But, I think I’m back on track and getting back in a groove so to speak. Big things on the horizon are forcing me back to ye olde blog and getting the creative and analytical juices flowing.

Another reason I went on hiatus was that I needed to actually watch some of the films I’d mentioned missing. So, here you have some real-time, brief reviews of nineties films that fell through  the cracks! There’s one for each prior year, and I’ll be trying to get to Boyz In the Hood later today – so there will be an update on that as well with any luck. I”ll be trying to fill in the gaps as best I can in additional posts.

Pump Up the Volume (1990)

1991 Pump Up the Volume

Rating: ★★★

I liked this one, though I think I’d have benefitted from watching it when I was in high school. Essentially, I’ll watch just about anything about pirate radio, and this was a pretty good example of the times of the nineties. I remember the FCC had started to be put up as an enemy to free speech about the time this film came out (Howard Stern was always going off on them for obvious reasons), and this film used that sentiment to great effect (even if the primary ‘bad guy’ was Michael J Fox’s dad in Teen Wolf (1985). 

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

1990 Silence of the Lambs

Rating: ★★★★

I figured I had no right to continue this project until I had seen this film. There’s a case to be made that this film changed everything about thrillers when it was released, so I needed to see it for myself.

When I finally watched it, my girlfriend looked to me and said, “So? What did you think?”

The answer to that is kind of complicated.

It is a great movie, at least four stars. Great pacing, great cast, and a film legacy that can be seen to this day in current media. But because of all that, I knew all of the film’s cinematic beats. It really took the impact of the film out, knowing all the tropes that it’s bred in parody, pop culture, and the films and television shows that followed in its foot steps. “Hello Clarice.” Lecter using a downed guard’s skin as a mask.”I’d fuck me.” The guy in the cell next to Lecter’s throwing his semen at Clarice. It didn’t have the impact it would have had back then. But good goddamned that had to be positively shocking for the times.

The nineties film that would do that for me would come much later: David Fincher’s Se7en (1995).

My Cousin Vinny (1992)

1992 My Cousin Vinny

Rating: ★★★

This is pretty much by-the-book in terms of comedy, but Joe Pesci sells it. It’s a classic underdog piece about a guy grossly outmatched has to pick a big fight in court. It’s basically The Night Of (2016) but without all of the shady and horrifying shit that goes on in Riker’s Island happening to Ralph Macchio and Joe Pesci isn’t banging hookers while having his day in court.

Okay, so it’s not like that I guess. But still enjoyable.


To the Cutting Room Floor!

As you can see from the earlier entry, 1993 was absolutely huge. If you can believe it though, there’s a TON more stuff that I either didn’t see but want to now, or that just didn’t quite open my heart up. So let’s take a quick look at the other stuff that ended up by the wayside.

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent.

Judgement Night (Good) – This didn’t quite move the dial for me. The soundtrack was sort of better than the movie. It’s about a group of haves taking a wrong turn into a neighborhood of have-nots. They run afoul of hardened criminals and find out what life is like when there’s no cops to save you, nor any way to talk themselves out of a bad situation. It did have one great exchange though for my money’s worth. Denis Leary is chasing down Emelio Estevez and company and he’s trying to pay off a kid for a tip on where they went. Leary hands over a wad of money with actual, real blood on it. The kid points out “That money’s got blood on it.” Leary replies with “Ever seen any money that didn’t?”

Needful Things (Indifferent) – The Book was better. Like it usually is.

Rising Sun (Good) – This was an awkward film to watch with my parents in the theater. I don’t think any of us were expecting death by erotic asphyxiation in the first couple minutes.  It was a technological thriller at heart, featuring things that were impossible to do with the technology of the time. Good cast with solid performances by Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.

TMNT III (Bad) – Turtles in time. The turtles go back to Japan around the time that guns are first brought to bear on the empire. They kick things and somehow Leonardo never cuts a single samurai in half. What does he think those swords are for, anyway?

Cliffhanger (Indifferent) – Stallone jumps between mountain chasms and otherwise does Stallone stuff. Meh.

Coneheads (Indifferent) – Like most comedies, this was a one and done. Saturday Night Live occasionally gets a good film adaptation, but this one was nothing to write home about.

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (Good) – It’s Mel Brooks, but nothing that beats Blazing Saddles (1974). It also has an early performance by Dave Chappelle, who nobody knew at the time.

So I Married An Axe Murderer (Bad) – This movie needed more of Mike Myers portraying his father and less of literally everything else. “Head! Paper! Now!”

The Fugitive (Indifferent) – Tommy Jones is Tommy Jones in ‘Tommy Jones vs Harrison Ford.’ Still better than Ballistic: Echs vs. Sever (2002).

Cool Runnings (Good) – A heartwarming adaptation of a real life team of Jamaican bobsledders. There are worse ways to pass ninety minutes.

Gettysburg (Good) – If you have to get a portrayal that covers the salient points of the battle at Gettysburg, you can do a lot worse than this. It’s largest downfall is that it’s well over three hours long. Solid portrayals by a lot of good actors like Jeff Daniels, Tom Berenger, and Martin Sheen.

Look Who’s Talking Now (Indifferent) – Babies are talking again, yaaaaay.

Robocop 3 (Bad) – Now he can fly! Peter Weller walked away from this one. That should have been the first hint.

The Three Musketeers (Indifferent) – All of my friends loved this but it wasn’t a huge win for me despite the presence of Oliver Platt.

Addams Family Values (Indifferent) – As much as I loved the first one, this just felt unnecessary. I don’t really remember a lot from it, but I don’t think I remembered it as being particularly awful.

Mrs. Doubtfire (Good) – This was the first movie I took a date to. Robin Williams is excellent as ever he was, going back to his deep comedic roots, though it’s not my favorite film he’s done by far (Dead Poets Society (1989) holds that honor).

Wayne’s World 2 (Indifferent) – Much like Addams Family Values, this film tried to catch lightning in a bottle twice and fell short. But, when you make as much money as Wayne’s World (1992) did, the studio saw the lack of sequel as leaving money on the table.

The Dark Half (Good) – I am not sure how I got my father to see this in the theater with me. I have a soft spot for the story since it’s an adaptation of my very first Stephen King novel. Michael Rooker was in it as the Sheriff of Castle Rock, which was a good start. And looking back I realize Amy Madigan and Timothy Hutton are both in it too (I love their work in both Field of Dreams (1989) and Leverage (2008-2012) respectively).

Fire In the Sky (Good) – A somewhat terrifying account of a man who claims he has been abducted by aliens. Based on a true story. It is rarely revisited due to some of the more disturbing aspects of the abduction that squick me out.

Needful Things (Good) – With Max von Sydow and Ed Harris (also portraying the sheriff of Castle Rock) it’s hard to go wrong. But, much as with the Dark Half, the book is way better.

Fortress (Bad) – Prisoners of a maximum security prison have no chance of ever escaping – uinless they’re Christopher Lambert.

1993 The Sandlot

Filling In the Gaps

With all of the stuff I did manage to cram in for 1993, there were still films I missed. I still feel I need to catch up on these films.

Point of No Return – It’s a remake of La Femme Nikita so… I guess I’m down for that.

Indecent Proposal – This is one of those movies that people endlessly talked about when it came out. Again, my parents probably would have vetoed this one, so it didn’t get seen.

The Sandlot – Given how much my family loves baseball, I don’t know how I missed this. I think it’s returned to Netflix again as of the time of writing. I should get on that.

Dave – A lot of my friends talk about this one and no doubt are judging me right now for admitting this gap in my cinema consumption.

Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story – Interest in martial arts films didn’t really hit until my college years so this totally passed me by.  I wouldn’t really come to appreciate kung fu films until seeing Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978) and Legend of the Drunken Master (1994) while working at a Blockbuster Video during my college years.

Sleepless In Seattle -A lot of chatter went on about this film, but I was definitely not in much of a mood for romantic comedies around that time given my general strikeout with dating that year.

The Firm – I’m not entirely sure I’ll care for this film, but it set a kind of precedent for legal thrillers by the impressions I heard. Can’t hurt to see it I suppose.

Hard Target – Jean Claude van Damme and Wilford Brimley? HOW HAVE I NOT SEEN THIS?!

Kalifornia – I seem to recall a lot of my friends who were allowed by their parents to see this liking it. I got the impression is was kind of in the same vein as Natural Born Killers, even though this film technically came first.

A Bronx Tale – This is Al Pacino at his Al Pacino-est by most accounts, so it feels like this should definitely be in there.

Rudy – I just… don’t like American Football. So it’s not a surprise I’ve not seen this. I’ve been told over and over again that it’s a must see because while it is about football, it’s not about football. I reckon I’ll have to get around to this.

Carlito’s Way – As I get older, I find the crime genre to be a little more attractive. I dunno why. Maybe it’s the Dane Cook ‘All men want to do a heist’ thing or not. This film was touted as particularly violent, so there was no way it was gonna make it to my eyes in the nineties.

Schindler’s List – I mean, this is one of the few movies that makes my dad cry every time he sees it (the other is Field of Dreams) and is always going to be socially relevant. It’s a gut churner to be certain so I’m kind of gunshy about seeing it.

Philadelphia – My chosen city’s name adorns this title. If I recall, it’s where Tom Hanks first shone as not just a goofy comedian but a good drama actor.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑