Monday, October 17, 2016

Top 25 Favorite Movies of 1990

I originally intended to make this list into a video, but every time I sat in front of that camera, I started to get all phlegmy and my ears were all congested. It was just a mess. I sounded like Burgess Meredith from the Rocky series...after he died. So, instead of sitting in front of a camera for an hour trying to think of what words to say about 25 different movies while also attempting to be at least slightly charming and/or funny (which is a painfully difficult process for unfunny, uncharming people like me) and trying not to hack and cough and ooze all over the place, I'll just sit here like a lazy cow and pound on a keyboard until it makes the words happen. In other words, I beat the system. Take that.

So, why 1990, specifically? Because it was the BEST YEAR EVER. I know this because it's the year I was born. So, starting with 1990 (and probably going backwards from there, because I can't wait to dig deeper into some awesome '80s nonsense), I'll be checking out movies from specific years and throwing together awesome top 25 lists. Now, you're probably gonna notice I won't have a lot of movies most people would consider "great" by conventional standards, and this is because it's a list of my favorite movies from each of these years. Favorite. And I have an admittedly silly taste in movies, so you might scoff, roll your eyes, or wind up assuming I haven't seen anything that's actually good from each of these years. And maybe that's right, I don't know. I don't have any intention of making any of these lists until I've seen every movie on my watchlist for that year. And having just finished a few movies that actually didn't even wind up making this list, I now feel I've seen as much as I want from 1990 to go ahead on with this list. So you may think my opinion is wrong, but I am being pretty thorough here, so at least I'll be thoroughly wrong.

Alright, so are you ready for that list now? Okay, let's see what I've got here. Because frankly, I've already forgotten. Whoops. Time to consult the notebook...

Ahh, there we go. Let's do this.

25. The Godfather Part III

A slightly unnecessary follow-up to one of the greatest one-two punches in cinematic history, GIII is an unfortunate near-masterpiece hampered by the horrendous casting/performance of Joe Mantegna. What is he even doing in this movie? Shouldn't he be off trying to find Bobby Fischer or something?...yeah, he isn't too good, but obviously he's not the reason this movie fails. Poor Sofia Coppola has been berated so much for this performance, so I won't go any further into it. But this movie is still very good in almost every other way, regardless of this handicap. I want to put this movie higher, but I just can't. It's too frustrating.

24. Stephen King's It

This movie is almost the opposite of The Godfather Part III, since it's a pretty mediocre movie completely saved by one fantastic performance. And no, it's not John Ritter, although I could've done that joke...nah, I made a bad joke last time. Tim Curry is one of my favorite actors and this is one of his most iconic performances. The dude is a total blast here, showcasing a perfect blend of horror and comedy that even Robert Englund would be envious of. He singlehandedly dominates this movie and makes it into the classic it's often seen as today. Is it a classic, though? Not really. But I enjoy it every time I watch it, corniness and all.

23. Arachnophobia

Though I'm not a huge fan of spiders, I don't find them as inherently horrifying as some people I know know who you are. That being said, this movie still does work as a horror movie that doesn't horrify you as much as just gives you the heebie jeebies. But it isn't just that, this movie is also a pretty fun comedy. You can mostly blame John Goodman for that part, giving one of the most entertaining performances of his entire career in this small supporting role. All-in-all, this movie is just fun to watch, though I definitely wouldn't be able to recommend it to people who are petrified by the sight of those furry 8-legged demons.

22. Captain America

One of the earliest Marvel movies, and still one of the most entertaining, I'll take this low budget Menahem Golan-produced cheese fest over Captain America: The First Avenger any day. To those who don't know, Menahem Golan (most known as half of Golan-Globus) was one of the men behind those amazing Cannon films, which was a production company most known for making low-budget, exploitative action movies (as well as plenty of other genres) throughout the '80s. And while this movie was done without the help of his longtime partner in crime, this superhero attempt still has the look and feel of their "classic" efforts. And I can't help but to love how corny it is.

21. Hardware

After watching the documentary about the making of the disastrous 1996 flop The Island Of Dr. Moreau, I had a newfound appreciation for Richard Stanley and the effort he poured into his films. Granted, that movie blew up in his face and he was fired from the project, but considering how poorly the final product turned out, I can only guess he wouldn't have been able to totally save it, regardless of his intentions. All that aside, this movie is an excellent demonstration of his visual sensibilities, and manages to take the somewhat redundant post-apocalyptic setup and put a little life into it. Not a sci-fi masterpiece, but still an underrated movie that I feel deserves a much bigger following.

20. Awakenings

One of the few straight up dramas from this year that I really do enjoy, this is the kind of movie that relies so heavily on its lead actors it could easily have been a total pile of crap if it weren't for two of the most nuanced performances of Robin Williams and Robert De Niro's careers. Sadly, this is possibly the last strong performance of De Niro's career. Seriously, the dude couldn't even memorize his lines for that anti-Trump video he made. He kept looking off-screen, clearly reading his lines. I mean it, watch that video and look at his eyes. What the hell happened to him? Why does he refuse to even try anymore? But anyway, here is one of the finest efforts of his career, being given the much flashier role than Williams, who handles his subdued role with ease and compassion. This is an emotional acting vehicle that just really works.

19. The Rescuers Down Under

Even titans like Disney can release movies that slip through the cracks somewhat. And this movie, for whatever reason, has gone by almost totally ignored for as long as I can remember. Why? As the sequel to a very, very forgettable movie (oh, I guess I just answered my own question there), this film took everything that worked from the first movie and added to it in the best possible ways. Set in Australia, filled with action scenes and fun characters, the biggest upgrade to be found here comes from the incredible casting and voice acting provided by George C. Scott as the villain. Man is he good. Funny, intimidating, and just about everything you could hope for from a movie like this. I would put this on a par with things like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Good stuff.

18. Frankenhooker

I basically just wrote a short review of this movie, and it would kind of be cheating to just copy/paste it, but I have way too much stuff to write on this thing without repeating myself, so that's what I'm going to do: As a fan of over-the-top cheese, this movie was more than satisfactory. Though Frankenhooker doesn't make her appearance until the last 20-30 minutes, the time leading up to this is well-spent developing the lead character and offering plenty of laughs in the process. This is a surprisingly well-written movie that doesn't just rely solely on its gimmick to be entertaining. The effects, though thoroughly cheesy, work well considering the subject matter. This isn't the best, but it's certainly one of the more fun Frankenstein derived films I've seen.

17. Reversal Of Fortune

When I first watched this movie several years back, I didn't fully understand what made this movie work so well. But now, after watching it again not very long ago, I can pinpoint what made it so good -- and no, it's not just for Jeremy Irons' incredible performance. In most legal dramas the answers are made clear. There's never any question as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. This movie skillfully makes implications without ever expressly telling you what to think as an audience. The writing, direction, and editing work in perfect unison to create a mysterious, ever-present air of suspicion. As the story unfolds we're given enough pieces to the puzzle to form our own opinions, but never enough to know the full truth. It's pretty great.

16. The Exorcist III

The underrated third entry in the inconsistent (and rather forced) Exorcist franchise, and one of my favorite horror movies of the '90s. Much like The Rescuers Down Under, this movie features a great George C. Scott performance (that somehow found its way into the Golden Raspberries. What kind of crack do you think those people were smoking?), who is as intense and entertaining here as ever. Dourif also delivers a great performance in a smaller, sinister role. This movie obviously doesn't stand up to the original, but still features several bone-chilling scenes. It's a moody, atmospheric horror/thriller and while it collapses somewhat in the third act, is still creepy as hell for a majority of its running time.

15. Home Alone

When I think of great Christmas movies, this one is right near the top of the list. Maybe it's just nostalgia talking, but there's something about this movie that just puts me in a great mood. Christmas movies are always hard for me to place on these kinds of lists, but the overwhelming holiday atmosphere found in this movie is so infectious, I can't help but to love it. Not to mention the amount of influence the third act of this movie has had, even in more serious movies. Not that this is a cornier pick than most of the other stuff I have on here, but it is definitely not a movie I would expect most people to put on a list like this. Doesn't make it any less wonderful, though.

14. Wild At Heart

Not among Lynch's greatest efforts, but that's not an insult at all. Not every movie he makes can be among the greatest ever, but that doesn't mean these other ones aren't amazing. Nic Cage lip-syncing to Elvis songs, Diane Ladd basically playing the Wicked Witch of the West, Willem Dafoe giving one of the most unsettling performances of his career, and plenty of other great things are on display here -- and that was just the acting. This movie feels like what would happen if Lynch directed True Romance. By which I mean it's way better than True Romance. Weirdly funny, hypnotic, and bizarre in all the right ways.

13. Truly, Madly, Deeply

Supernatural romantic dramas are tricky to handle. Ghost mostly did it alright, but if I were to pick one of the two, this would easily be my preferred choice. And yes, I can blame this almost entirely on Alan Rickman. In the wake of his passing, I found myself trying to dig a little deeper into his filmography, and of the new films to me (which there weren't very many of) this was probably my favorite. This is one that isn't easy to enjoy too much up until the end approaches, which sheds some new light on the events leading up to that point, and the effect is heartwrenching. This was already an emotional movie, but the ending hit me surprisingly hard. Definitely worth checking out.

12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Nostalgia!!! Except not really, because I don't remember watching this movie up until a couple years ago. And, since I love me some cheesy action movies, I think it's pretty apparent that I enjoyed the hell out of it. The animatronics (?) are cool, and do a better job at bringing the turtles to the big screen than any other adaptation I've seen. This is admittedly a silly movie, but it was never meant to be anything but just that. Fans of TMNT couldn't really ask for a better movie adaptation, which perfectly matches the style and tone of the cartoon. Can't really think of anything negative to say about this movie, other than that it's a shame the sequels weren't any better.

11. Everybody's Fine

Marcello Mastroianni is possibly the greatest Italian actor who's ever lived. And no, I don't count American Italians like Pacino or De *glances at cue card* Niro. With multiple Oscar nominations under his belt for strictly non-English roles (which are rarely rewarded by the Academy), it comes as something of a shock to me that he didn't receive one for this performance. They gave Costner an acting nomination this year, for goodness sake. I'm sure they wouldn't regret that later... Most people would recognise this as the De Niro movie from 2010, and it should come as no shock that it's not a remake worth watching. But this original was a lovely little movie that packs an emotional punch as well as telling a charming story.

10. Misery

So, you might think by the inclusion of this and 'It' that I am a fan of Stephen King. Seeing as how I've never once read a single book of his and think a majority of the film and TV adaptations that I've seen are basically crap, that would be an untrue thought. Hear that? You're so wrong that even the thoughts you haven't turned into words yet are wrong. Way to go, dummy. U need 2 go back 2 brayn skool. That being said, this movie is a definite gem hiding among the many turds in his cinematic toilet bowl. Caan and Farnsworth are solid, the setting and mood is very atmospheric and intense, but most of all this movie works because of Kathy Bates. Surprise, surprise, my favorite thing about this movie is the same thing that everyone says is great about it. But that's because she is *that* good.

9. Cat In The Brain

Lucia Fulci is one of the biggest directors of Italian horror films ever and from what I've seen, this is the most cleverly-written and easily most personal movie he ever made. A statement which is being pulled directly from my ass considering I've only watched a few of his movies. Oh well, I seriously have no intention of impressing anyone here. Clearly. But this movie deserves more credit. A very self-reflective and hyper aware movie in the best kind of way (super meta movies can become very tiring), Fulci allows himself the opportunity to be scrutinized more here than ever before. It's kind of like if you blended Wes Craven's New Nightmare with Nightbreed. Weirdly personal, gory, reflective, and totally unexpected and creative.

8. Miller's Crossing

The Coen Brothers are some of the greatest filmmakers who have ever lived. And as far as American filmmakers go, pretty much unanimously somewhere in the top 5. So, being one of their lesser-known films doesn't necessarily make this less than fantastic. Because it really is. Gabriel Byrne is smooth and cool (as he pretty much always is) and Jon Polito has never been better, but it's John Turturro and Albert Finney who steal the show. One of the best gangster movies of the past 30 years, it may not have been noticed too much upon release (I read that once, so now it's fact), but now it seems to have gained more noteriety and is seen as the excellent movie that it really is.

7. Total Recall

One of the few Arnold movies that is actually "good" in the kind of ways that would allow you to recommend it to people without any sense of shame or guilt in doing so. Total Recall is somewhat derivative of other sci-fi movies (like Blade Runner...then again, what sci-fi movies didn't borrow from Blade Runner?), but still manages to stand on its own as a strong movie. Some of the effects are awesome and others are awesomely terrible, Arnold gets to deliver a handful of great one-liners, Michael Ironside does a great job playing Michael Ironside, and Sharon Stone...well, looks like Sharon Stone, so she does a great job in that special kind of way. It's all still insanely watchable and rewatchable.

6. Close-Up

Of the 10 or so Kiarostami movies I've seen, this appears to be the first truly great film he ever made, beginning a streak of amazing movies throughout the '90s that I will sadly not be able to touch upon on these lists for quite some time. Blurring the lines between reality and fiction (as Kiarostami did many times), Close-Up is one of the great films about film. It's sad for me to watch his movies now, knowing that I won't get to see him make any more, but I am very grateful for the amazing movies he already gave us. Though I would probably call Taste Of Cherry his best film overall, this one, The Wind Will Carry Us, and Certified Copy all stand as incredible movies that I couldn't recommend enough.

5. Edward Scissorhands

There was a point in time where every movie Tim Burton made was kind of amazing. I know, it's hard to believe. His visual style hadn't been imitated hundreds of times by less talented directors, the stories he told were fresh and well developed, and it seemed like he could do no wrong. Had he stuck more to smaller scale films like this, he would probably be in my top 10 favorite directors of all time. As one of only 3 full-length movies he wrote, directed, and produced all at once (the other 2 having been done in painstaking stop-motion) it's pretty obvious this was an important project for him, and that passion translates remarkably well onto the screen. This isn't a typical kids movie, blending several unique visual styles together to create a wonderfully immersive fantasy that's still very grounded and deeply human.

4. Goodfellas

Okay, let's get this one out of the way. Let me make mention of the fact that the first time I watched this movie, I didn't enjoy it. Like, at all. I went in expecting The Godfather or Chinatown and by the time it was over, found myself irritated by how generic the mobster types in this movie felt. But then I watched it again, and in doing so realized that those stereotypical characters were essentially spawned from this movie. Yeah, I did a bad. I still don't see this as an all-time great like so many do, but to deny the impact this movie has made and how much life and ingenuity it pumped into the ailing mafia subgenre would be doing it and film history a major disservice. No-brainer alert: it is a great movie.

3. Jacob's Ladder

This movie terrified me. For a not-really-but-also-kind-of horror film, this one got under my skin in the kind of way few movies ever have. I've read that one particular sequence in this movie was a major influence on the Silent Hill video games, and while I could definitely see that, I would argue this movie is creepier. This is a total head trip that taps into the unsettling qualities of a Cronenberg or Lynch film without ever feeling like a knockoff. If it weren't for my personal biases, this would probably be my #1 of this year. And weirdly, I believe this movie was #1 at the box office on the day I was born. Foreshadowing? I think that might be foreshadowing. Either that or I don't know what foreshadowing means. Could you blame me? It is over 10 letters long. Maybe I'm the one who actually needs 2 go 2 brayn skool.

2. Dreams

If I've said this once, I've said it twice. And if I've said it twice, I've probably said it at least twice as many times as that. And if I've said it twice as many times as that, it means I probably wasn't just making it up to try and prove a point...umm, where was I? I think I was about to call Akira Kurosawa the greatest filmmaker ever, and declare this one of his most personal films and an outstanding achievement in visual artistry. Or something like that. This is a beautiful movie that switches back and forth between joyous and terrifying, bringing life to recurring dreams that obviously left quite an impact on Kurosawa over the years. Some of his later films (like this and Madadayo) may not appeal to more casual fans, but to those who want to dig deeper into his filmography than Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo, few films reveal more about the subconscious of a great artist as well as this -- especially not while simultaneously looking this amazing. There isn't a story arc here, just 8 different segments that represent the joys, fears, and often untapped fantastical elements found deep within the mind of Kurosawa. You can watch it all at once, or split them up as if it were 8 totally separate short films. All I can say is I love it and think more people should seek this one out.

1. Troll 2

But as much as I love Kurosawa, could there really be anything else in this spot? When it comes to pure entertainment, few movies have ever been able to come even remotely close to this masterpiece. Now let's be honest here, no one in their right mind could call this a "good movie" and mean it in a general way. Pretty much everything about this movie is done wrong. The acting, dialogue, story, continuity, makeup and costumes are all terrible for an intended horror movie. We don't watch this movie and enjoy it because it's bad, there are a lot of bad movies out there that are basically unwatchable. No, fans of this movie love it for how much it fails at being a horror movie but still succeed so well at being a comedy. This weird reverse-effect has become quite a big deal lately actually. Thanks to the interconnectivity and power of the internet, movies like this have been able to gain second life in a post-video rental world, being turned into memes, and gain mass noteriety through word of mouth. You can almost blame hipsters for the success of movies like this in a modern context, who enjoy watching movies ironically. I guess that makes me one of them. I mean I do have a short beard and enjoy folk music...but I don't like flannel too much, and I only have a beard to cover up my disgusting triple chin. So maybe? Either way, this movie is a total blast to watch, and has become such an underground hit that I doubt I could ever expose anyone new to it who would find anything to love about the movie at all in the first place. In other words, I guess it's not underground at all. And I still love it. I guess I'm not a hipster after all. Congratulations me, I'm so unique.

It will probably be a little while before I make my top 25 favorites of 1989 list, because I still have a dozen or so movies from that year I would like to watch before I can make a more definitive list. Not to say my opinion won't change at any point, but I would like to do this at least fairly thoroughly. I could make a list for all these years, and mostly filled with stuff that I really do enjoy, but I want to give a chance to some lesser-known stuff that I might also like. So stay tuned for that, it probably won't be for another month or so, depending on how fast I'm able to get through these. And then I have to write it...ugh, I hate that part. But I also love it. I'm so conflicted.

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