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Best of the '90s (#9)

I’ll be honest: 1992 is a tough year for me to judge films. It’s almost a toss-up with two other years, but what puts it slightly below in my opinion is that the most loved film, well, I hate. I actually was working on a column about this a few months ago that never got done, but I hate UNFORGIVEN. I really do. I realize many other people love it, and so I’ve tried to watch it again and again to “get” what other people do. I just can’t. I have too many objections to the film. Therefore, I refuse to include it. It did win Best Picture, so if you care about movies you need to see the film, but it’s not making my list. (Neither is SCENT OF A WOMAN, which I feel is way overrated and the worst movie for the incomparable Al Pacino to have won his only Oscar.)

In case you forgot, the whole reason we’re doing this series is to give you movies you need to see if you consider yourself a movie person. So often we go to the video store and we’re assaulted with the latest new releases, and forget all about great films just a few years old. Especially here at the Holidays, if you have intelligent family, pick from a movie on our list; it won’t steer you wrong.

Movies that probably would be included, but I haven’t seen and so I can’t put them on the list: MALCOLM X

Movies that aren’t really all that great from 1992, but are basically fun to watch and if you have a big family with several idiots you know you can’t go wrong: SISTER ACT; THUNDERHEART; WAYNE’S WORLD; MY COUSIN VINNY; A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN; PATRIOT GAMES; SNEAKERS; THE BODYGUARD

Kinda scary movies—if you have teenagers coming over—that they probably haven’t seen and will be kind of impressed with you: SINGLE WHITE FEMALE; RAISING CAIN

Movies that Laureate loves that I may or may not love, but don’t make my list: ALIEN 3; UNFORGIVEN, SCENT OF A WOMAN


The Top Ten Movies of 1992

#10 A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT – My favorite Robert Redford-directed movie. The film is a tale of two brothers, both very different from each other, what ties them together, and what breaks them apart. This is a great family film, and definitely worth watching. (For you ladies: Brad Pitt is super hot)

#9 HUSBANDS AND WIVES – I know not all of you are Woody Allen fans, but here he abandons his usual sense of humor—although there are quite a few laughs—to give us a very mature look at what makes love last, and what makes love fade. Not the feel-good film of the year, but a very well written intelligent funny drama. Probably his best work of the ‘90s.

#8 RESERVOIR DOGS – Before there was PULP FICTION there was DOGS. Tarantino’s first film exploded on the scene, and though few saw it at the time, it made his name in the Movie World. The tale is of a heist gone wrong, and includes all the Tarantino hallmarks: out-of-sequence timing, great witty dialogue that only he can write, and shocking hyper-violence. Not for everyone, but well enjoyed by those who like Quentin.

#7 HOWARDS ENDAjax moaned about this film being considered, but he’s just upset nothing gets blown up in the movies. HOWARDS END came to us at the peak of the Merchant-Ivory phenomenon; two dudes who made beautiful period films filled with great acting and costumes (if not much action). This is a heartbreaking romantic film, and admittedly won’t be for all, but those who can handle it will fall in love. Emma Thompson won an Oscar and Anthony Hopkins easily could have (if they hadn’t just given him one). This was right in the middle of when Hopkins had the best performances three years running; a tough feat.

#6 THE CRYING GAME – It’s been so long that many of you have forgotten (or weren’t even aware) of the total furor that this movie caused. One of the first “secret” movies, in that the film contains a secret they don’t want you to know going in. (Although Gene Siskel, may he roast in hell, gave it away on his show). I saw the film knowing the secret, but the girl I was with didn’t. Her reaction remains one of the highlights of my life. If you don’t know the secret, don’t try to find out; just watch it. If you do, CRYING GAME is still a top-notch thriller and examination of what love really is. (NOT for Children)

#5 BASIC INSTINCT – Another film that caused a lot of furor. This movie doesn’t get enough credit. Along with Madonna, BASIC INSTINCT is responsible for giving us Lesbian Chic. Now, I know the film is famous for its sex scenes, but take out all the steaminess and you’d still have a top-notch crime thriller. (Of course, nobody would have seen it, but hey.) Sharon Stone gives the performance of a lifetime, and Michael Douglas is in top form. Even George Dzundza (Mike Logan’s first partner) is great. This is not a family holiday movie (unless your family is out there), but would be a great flick to watch with that certain someone….

#4 ALADDIN – Right during the middle of that incredible Disney run, and includes the best animated performance of all time. The story is fun, fast-paced, and popping with wonderful little detail. The songs are familiar and singable, the ending sweet, the atmosphere joyous. A great choice for the whole family.

#3 GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS – A magnificent small little gem of a film filled with performances to take your breath away. Look at this cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin Spacey; arguably the best collective cast of the ‘90s (now there’s a top ten list). Basically a filmed play, GLEN ROSS shows us one night in the life of salesmen. But it’s so much more than that. The play (written by Hyperion hero David Mamet) won a Pulitzer itself, so you know you come in with great dialogue. And that acting….This is another quiet film, but with fantastic performances all the way through. Pacino got nominated but Jack Lemmon absolutely steals the show.

#2 A FEW GOOD MEN – This film is beyond corny in its patriotism. So why do I include it? Because it works. Possibly Tom Cruise’s best performance (and that’s saying something), and it is Demi Moore’s. (That’s not saying much, but the fact that I like her at all is.) Throw in great work from Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollack, and the immortal J.T. Walsh, and you have a…am I missing anyone? Oh yeah: Jack freaking Nicholson’s best work of the decade. (That’s right: better than even AS GOOD AS IT GETS.) The story is of two Marines, accused of giving another Marine a “code red,” which led to his death. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of honor, of following a code, of doing what’s right even though it’s not popular. When I was in Mock Trial, I brought over the other lawyers to watch this movie the night before State Competition. Featuring some of—if not the—best courtroom scenes ever. Includes now iconic lines: “You can’t handle the truth!” This is a great film.

#1 THE PLAYER – The best film you probably haven’t heard of, and almost certainly haven’t seen. Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER is a movie within a movie within a movie. I can’t tell you how good it is, other than the more you understand movies, the more you get what Altman is doing. THE PLAYER is about a movie executive Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins), who is pitched ideas all day. Terrible terrible ideas. One writer pitches him the idea of a movie executive who rejects an idea from a writer, only to be blackmailed. Griffin rejects this idea, only to…but I’ll let you figure it out. The movie has one of the best openings ever (a tracking shot talking about tracking shots), and contains more Hollywood inside jokes than any movie I’ve ever seen. But don’t get scared by all that if you’re not a movie buff. If you like movies, and are intelligent, you can glean the brilliance from THE PLAYER.

Next week we’ll have the next year from the ‘90s in our countdown.

Up tomorrow: Christmas Entertainment