Mike’s Top Ten of 1991

One of the stronger years of the decade. This one’s got some heavy hitters. The second tier stuff isn’t as strong as some other 90s years, but at the top, it’s hard to do better than the stuff that’s here.

I guess the thing to note about this year is that it marks the rise of home video. This is when VHS started to happen and movies started being readily available for people to purchase at affordable prices.

Otherwise, not a whole lot to add except some of my all time favorite movies came out this year, including one top ten movie that I’m certain almost no one has heard of.

Mike’s Top Ten of 1991

Barton Fink

Beauty and the Beast

Boyz n the Hood

Bugsy

Cape Fear

Hook

JFK

Necessary Roughness

The Silence of the Lambs

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

11-20: Backdraft, City Slickers, Dead Again, Defending Your Life, The Doors, The Fisher King, Point Break, Soapdish, Thelma & Louise, What About Bob?

Tier two: An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, The Commitments, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, For the Boys, Fried Green Tomatoes, Grand Canyon, Hot Shots!, Hudson Hawk, Jungle Fever, The Last Boy Scout, Life Stinks, My Girl, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, The Prince of Tides, Rambling Rose, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Rocketeer, Rush, Shadows and Fog, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

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1. The Silence of the Lambs

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

I don’t often throw out the term “perfect movie.” Or rather, I don’t throw it around lightly. I consider what I’m saying before I say it. And this — this is a perfect movie. Top to bottom, it is a perfect movie. There is an alchemy to this movie that just works on all the right levels. And I think everyone saw it at the time, because it’s one of only three movies to win the “Big Five” at the Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay). The other two are It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I think everyone knows this movie. Between this, Manhunter, Hannibal, Red Dragon and the Hannibal TV show, I think we all know about Hannibal Lecter and generally what the deal is. But man, the things in this movie that still hold up, it’s crazy. How fucking good is Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill? Also, Anthony Hopkins gives one of the most iconic performances of all time, and is only on screen for like, 20 minutes, I think? Also, Jodie Foster… how great is she? The things she conveys simply by just being on the screen is incredible. And Jonathan Demme directs the absolute shit out of this movie. Those scenes with Clarice and Lecter, where it’s like they’re both on screen at the same time because of how he shoots reflections in the glass, and how he uses them looking into camera at just the right moments…

You could write a book on how perfect this movie is, and I’m sure people have. I almost considered not having this be #1 this year, simply because it’s almost boring to me how perfect this is. I don’t get that visceral feeling of “Oh, I love that movie” because it’s… of course it’s great, of course it’s at the top of the list. But honestly, perfect is perfect. I will never forget the first time I saw this movie. It left such a mark on my brain, and I remain in awe of everything about this movie.

Also, this movie gave us the greatest tribute song ever written to a serial killer:

2. Barton Fink

“Look upon me! I’ll show you the life of the mind!”

This is my favorite Coen brothers movie. Not even gonna second guess that one, either. Full stop, this is my favorite.

The great thing about this movie is that they wrote it while writing Miller’s Crossing. They had writer’s block (or I guess, more accurately, writers’ block) and it turned itself into this movie. Which goes to show you how good they are. And also I think somehow subconsciously (or maybe even consciously) influenced how I’d go about working on stuff, which is to always have two things going at once, so that when I get stuck on one, I can just start working on the other and leave the other one alone to work itself out.

Anyway, the idea that they took writer’s block and turned it into a movie about a guy with writer’s block, who may or may not be in purgatory, or hell, or whatever the metaphor is, while also being in 30s Hollywood… it’s so genius. You can dissect this movie on any level you want. The whole thing about him being an artsy playwright who is brought in to write a B-movie, and how he doesn’t get that it’s meant to be some throwaway thing and instead is pouring his soul into it… the whole thing about the studio executive utterly kissing his ass for the entire movie just to get what he wants out of him… him meeting the other author who has sold out and now is writing movie scripts and is an alcoholic… it’s amazing. And then there’s the hotel itself, where it’s always hot, the wallpaper is peeling, time seems to stand still, his neighbor John Goodman may be the devil… that part is perfect too. (Also, how John Goodman was not also nominated alongside Michael Lerner for this movie is insane to me.)

This is the kind of movie I watch when I want to be both entertained and inspired. I will always get something out of watching this movie, and it will always be something different every time I watch it. I think, if I were telling people what the five most important Coen brothers movies were, I feel like you have to start with this, Fargo and No Country. The other two are up for discussion (and it’ll be a really interesting one, given the amount of masterpieces they’ve made and limited amount of spots), but I don’t think you can argue that this remains one of their most singular pieces of work. It’s rare to have a movie that can be interpreted in so many different ways, have so many different meanings while also meaning exactly what you want it to mean at the same time.

3. Beauty and the Beast

“Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly

Just a little change

Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared

Beauty and the beast”

So to me, the three greatest movies Disney has ever made — Lion King, Fantasia, Beauty and the Beast. Make your case for anything else (and I get that some people might make one for The Little Mermaid, which is fair, but I don’t think it compares to those other three), but I think those three are the best of the best.

There’s not a false note in this movie. All the songs are perfect, the animation is perfect, the characters are all beautifully drawn and memorable, and, on a selfish note… it’s hand-drawn. I don’t think there’s a single person who has seen enough movies to legitimately make a top ten list for this year who wouldn’t put this movie in their top ten. And I’m also pretty sure most of those people would have this in the top five. It’s just that great a movie. There’s a reason this was the first animated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture.

4. JFK

“Telling the truth can be a scary thing sometimes.”

There’s a case to be made that this is Oliver Stone’s masterpiece. It remains a divisive film in terms of the theories and assertions that it puts forth, but on a pure filmmaking level, this is a masterpiece. It’s three-and-a-half hours long, and every time I’ve seen it, not once have I felt that length.

It’s about an investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and it looks into all different facets of the assassination and the events and characters leading up to it, ultimately leading to the conclusion that the assassination was perpetrated in part as a conspiracy by the United States government. I feel like that was a far more revolutionary assertion in 1991 than it is today. At this point, I feel like we all know that it wasn’t just a lone gunman and that clearly there was some sort of cover up. To what end and just how much the CIA was involved is up for discussion, but that’s all beside the point. Still, the fact that it’s still a topic of discussion shows you what a lightning rod of a film it was at the time.

There is an insane cast on this movie: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Donald Sutherland, John Candy, Brian Doyle Murray, Michael Rooker, Laurie Metcalf, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ed Asner, Sally Kirkland, Jay O. Sanders… and a bunch of people you recognize who were cut out of it and show up on the Director’s Cut. It’s so good. And it’s one of the most riveting movies I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the best edited films I’ve ever seen, and rightly won an Oscar for its editing.

Putting politics aside and putting aside what you think about the point of view this movie is putting across… this is such a captivating watch, and I just think that it’s the pinnacle of Oliver Stone’s career as a filmmaker.

5. Necessary Roughness

“I don’t wanna put any undue pressure on you guys, but Coach Gennero’s last words were, win or I’ll die.”

I’ve been watching this movie since I was five-years-old and I’m pretty sure almost no one knows this exists. And I’m pretty sure if you do, it might have something to do with me.

This is one of my all time favorite sports movies, and frankly one of my all time favorite movies. I love this movie so much.

It starts Hector Elizondo (I love that he’s the lead in this) as a college coach who comes in to fix a program embroiled in all sorts of scandals and violations. The school had to forfeit almost all its players and has no scholarships, which means absolutely no recruits want to come there. Meaning they have to have tryouts, and build a team totally from scratch. So there’s the Major League feel, where they get all these ragtag people and personalities and throw them on the field together.

Scott Bakula plays the quarterback, who is in his 30s but technically still has a year of college eligibility let. Sinbad is in it as a professor who ends up playing. They’ve got the big Samoan tackle, the wide receiver who can’t catch, the female kicker and Jason Bateman.

Larry Miller plays the dean, who, in Major League style, wants the team to fail so he can get rid of football altogether and make it an academic school. There’s also Rob Schneider as the play by play announcer, and most notably, Robert Loggia as the defensive coordinator who — and I am not embellishing on this one — gives one of the greatest motivational speeches in the history of sports movies.

I cannot tell you how much I love this movie. And while it may feel derivative to movies like Major League (and even Back to School, in the sense that Bakula starts dating one of his teachers), it’s still so enjoyable. Honestly give me this over Hoosiers, Bull Durham, The Natural… I’ll take it over those any day.

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

“Hasta la vista, baby.”

I still say this is James Cameron’s best movie. Bigger achievements, more important movie… sure, you can go elsewhere. But for the total package of, “I like this one the best,” this is the one for me.

Terminator was a game changer for the sci fi genre and it’s still one of the most influential movies ever made. The sequel allowed him to have more money and do more things, which really worked out. He did it right. He does the cool thing of flipping the Terminator from bad to good, allowing Schwarzenegger to be more prominently featured in the movie, while also making a villain that actually is as good as the original Terminator. Robert Patrick is awesome as the T-1000.

This is everything you’d want out of an action movie, and if you’ve never seen this (and even if you have), nothing compares to seeing this on the big screen, especially with an audience that has largely seen it before. There’s nothing better than the roar of the crowd when certain lines happen. This is the epitome of a prime popcorn movie experience.

7. Boyz n the Hood

“Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.”

This is one of the ten most important films of the 90s. This changed cinema the way Pulp Fiction changed cinema. The success (both critical and commercial) of this movie ushered in a whole era of black cinema to the screen, the likes of which I’m not sure we’d have seen the way we did if that hadn’t have happened. There were so many knockoffs and similar movies to this (Menace II Society, etc), to the point where, within five years of this, there was a spoof movie of the genre, because it had become an actual genre. Do not underestimate the importance of this movie in film history.

That said — it’s amazing. I remember seeing this for the first time — and that’s after I knew all the tropes and moments from this, having seen them parodied and referenced in other things — and I was blown away. It’s incredible. Everything about this feels real, and even looking back now, all I can think is how robbed Laurence Fishburne was of an Oscar nomination for his performance in this.

This also gave us Ice Cube the actor. I don’t know offhand, but he might have been the first rapper-turned actor, right? New Jack City was the same year as this, so Ice-T is alongside him. Even LL Cool J started this year too. It all started in 1991 for rappers acting. Even Vanilla Ice, if you wanna go there. I was gonna make a joke because I thought his movie was before this… but no, they’re all 1991. If there’s not already a book about all of this, there should be.

I’m going on tangents because there’s so much to talk about with this movie. But know, it is one of the best movies of the 90s and a fantastic piece of work. Don’t dismiss this as… whatever you want to dismiss it as. It’s both a good movie and and important movie (and it’s one of the more important movies of this decade). Not many movies have that going for them.

8. Hook

“So… your adventures are over.”
“Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.”

My generation is going to save this movie. Arguably for better or for worse, but I would argue it’s only for the better.

This was a movie that was (or seems to have been) pretty savaged upon release. Or at the very least, it was mixed and people went, “What’s this about, Steven?” I guess because he was coming off The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun and Last Crusade, and then he made Always, which is a whimsical, overstuffed kind of movie, and then this, which feels hugely indulgent in a lot of ways. But then he’d make Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List right after this, and no one really cared.

Though this movie, while very indulgent, is also quite wonderful. Based on a very simple premise: What if Peter Pan grew up? And that’s it. Peter Pan grew up, is an adult with kids and has forgotten all about his time in Neverland. That is, until Captain Hook comes and kidnaps his children and he has to go back.

It’s weird how adult this movie is for its time. But I guess that was the Amblin model. Those movies are almost too adult/too scary for children and yet were completely marketed almost exclusively for children and families. But yeah, it’s awesome. The production design is fantastical and it’s just a fun movie.

I’m not gonna say it’s a masterpiece, but it’s a huge part of my childhood and I love this movie. And it’s got Rufio. Bangarang, kids. Bangarang.

9. Cape Fear

“Every man has to go through hell to reach paradise.”

So fun story: Martin Scorsese was originally going to direct Schindler’s List and Spielberg was going to make this, and then they decided to swap projects. You think that’s a joke, but it’s really not. That actually happened.

Most of the time, when they remake a classic, you wonder why they would ever do it. But in this case, when it’s Martin Scorsese, you go, “Okay, sure, what’ve you got?” In this case… both versions of Cape Fear are really good. And also, at this point, after that Simpsons episode (“Cape Feare” with Sideshow Bob in the Max Cady role, coming after Bart), you almost forget what parts debuted in what movie.

But it’s really quite good. It goes into the more subtle relationship aspects the other one didn’t (it has creepy scenes with Cady and Bowden’s wife and daughter… because of course that would have been there if it weren’t 1962), and the violence. It has some really violent moments, but again, makes sense. So really it’s a perfect remake in the sense that it can cover stuff the original couldn’t.

De Niro is fantastic as Cady, and Nick Nolte is perfectly cast as Bowden (given more of a complex character than in the original). Juliette Lewis was nominated for an Oscar for her performance here too. It’s really strong and is one of the few times the remake stands alongside the original as being just as good, but different depending on what you’re going for.

It also has a nice little homage to the original, with a twist, in that both Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck are in this movie, but their sides are flipped. Mitchum plays a good guy while Peck plays a seedy lawyer. Nice touch.

10. Bugsy

“That’s Bugsy Siegel’s house.”
“He doesn’t like that name.”
“Everybody calls him that.”
“Not to his face, they don’t.”

It feels like a Warren Beatty movie, but it’s really a Barry Levinson movie starring Warren Beatty. Levinson is coming off Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man and Avalon, marking this as one of the best stretches in movie history.

It’s a biopic of Bugsy Siegel, a mobster who is sent out to California from New York and, while there, has an idea for a gambling town in the desert, which would ultimately become Las Vegas.

It’s a tremendous film all around, with great performances out of Beatty, Annette Bening (they met on the set of this), Ben Kingsley, Harvey Keitel and Elliott Gould. This movie is class and great filmmaking personified. It’s also wildly entertaining. The scene where he gets his house still is one of the best movie moments I’ve ever seen.

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11-20:

Backdraft — Great movie about firefighters, directed by Ron Howard. Stacked cast: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Glenn, Rebecca De Mornay, J.T. Walsh. It’s very 90s, but also very good.

City Slickers — Really fun comedy with Billy Crystal, Daniel Sterna and Bruno Kirby. They’re three yuppies who go on an authentic cattle drive as a birthday present. Of course, the joke is they’re not cut out for the old west and comedy ensues. Jack Palance stars as the trail-hand Curly in a scene-stealing performance that won him an Oscar. He’s fun, the movie’s fun.

The Commitments — Awesome Irish musical directed by Alan Parker, who has some nice musicals on his resume (Bugsy Malone, The Wall, and Evita after this). It’s basically… guy wants to start a band, holds auditions, and a crew of misfits band together to make music. It’s in the vein of those likable British comedies that came out in the 90s, mixed with the John Carney musicals that are great. Big fan of this movie.

Dead Again — Is Kenneth Branagh’s second (directed) movie, after Henry V. It’s a straight up noir. Emma Thompson plays a woman with total amnesia and Branagh is a detective trying to figure out who she is. Of course, there’s a mysterious, dangerous past there, and some cool stuff ensues. Really strong movie. Also has Andy Garcia, Robin Williams, Wayne Knight and Derek Jacobi. Nice gem not enough people know about.

The Doors — Oliver Stone’s Jim Morrison biopic starring Val Kilmer. Incredible performance by Kilmer. Sort of an overlooked film in Stone’s filmography, as it came out the same year as JFK. But it’s really solid. It’s not often directors have two movies in a year, let alone two really good movies in a year.

The Fisher King — Terry Gilliam. Probably top three for me of his films (and one of them is Monty Python). It’s so good. You gotta give it a minute, because the opening is so 90s. But it settles in really nicely. Jeff Bridges plays essentially a Howard Stern type radio shock jock who has one of his listeners take his ramblings to heart and murder a lot of people. He has a nervous breakdown and leaves the airwaves. Then one day he finds Robin Williams, a seemingly crazy homeless man, who he finds out is crazy and homeless because his wife was killed in that attack. So he decides he’s gonna help him out, and the two embark on an odyssey around New York to find a “Holy Grail” Williams is looking for, mixed with Bridges trying to help Williams romance a woman he has a crush on. It’s really sweet and a really terrific movie. If this year weren’t so strong, this would be in the top ten. This is #11 for this year.

Point Break — Great action movie. Keanu Reeves is a cop going undercover to catch a band of bank-robbing surfers led by Patrick Swayze. Everyone knows this, everyone likes this. It’s impossible not to appreciate this movie, even if you don’t like it. That’s the beauty of the 90s — the movies with the most insane premises came out, and they worked.

Soapdish — Great backstage comedy about a soap opera. Comedic All About Eve. Sally Field plays an actress who has been on the show for years. Cathy Moriarty is the newcomer who wants her spot. She starts sleeping with the producer to get what she wants… and things don’t go as she expects them to. It’s great. Also has Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr, Elisabeth Shue, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, Teri Hatcher and Kathy Najimy. It’s one of those movies everyone enjoys. Because it’s just good.

Thelma & Louise — Great movie. Ridley Scott directs, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star. They’re two housewives who decide to go on vacation together, but pretty soon they end up on the run from police. It’s fantastic. Ahead of its time, and just a really terrific film with an iconic ending. A must-see for all film lovers.

What About Bob? — A great comedy. Richard Dreyfuss is a psychiatrist and Bill Murray is his patient. Dreyfuss goes on vacation and Murray can’t handle it, so he follows Dreyfuss on vacation, and comedy ensues. It’s hilarious. Dreyfuss and Murray are fantastic and it’s just one of those all-time funny movies.

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Tier two:

  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
  • The Commitments
  • Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
  • For the Boys
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Grand Canyon
  • Hot Shots!
  • Hudson Hawk
  • Jungle Fever
  • The Last Boy Scout
  • Life Stinks
  • My Girl
  • The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear
  • The Prince of Tides
  • Rambling Rose
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • The Rocketeer
  • Rush
  • Shadows and Fog
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

We begin with the sequels. First, the most important film on this list — An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. It’s Fievel, dudes. This is essential viewing for everyone, and is one of those movies that, if you don’t know it, we can’t be friends. I also like that the first movie is about the immigrant plight in America, and for the second one, they all just kinda said, “Uhh… Jew goes west?” Honestly, totally fine with it. Plus it has Jimmy Stewart’s final performance, with him voicing the role of Sheriff Wylie Burp. Which is also pretty cool. Next we have The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. I honestly don’t even know what the plot of this is, but it’s more Naked Gun, and since The Naked Gun is one of my all-time favorite movies, more of it is just fine by me. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is… pretty much just a sequel. This one has Super Shredder, and Vanilla Ice performing “Ninja Rap.” It’s really all anyone needs at the movies.

Jungle Fever is Spike Lee. One of his more iconic films. This is about an interracial relationship, and has sort of become the colloquial phrase for such relationships. Also famous for the Stevie Wonder title song, which I imagine people know (I heard it long before I knew the movie, simply because of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You guys know exactly what I’m talking about, right? That wedding medley Carlton had planned?) But yeah, it’s one of Spike’s better films. Wesley Snipes is a happily married man, and Annabella Sciorra is a temp working for him. They start working long hours together, and pretty soon… things happen. And it’s about both of their friends and family telling them that the relationship is a bad idea, etc etc, especially her working class Italian family. This movie also featured the breakout role for Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Snipes’ crack-addicted brother. He won Best Supporting Actor at Cannes and is still thought of as one of the bigger Oscar snubs of the decade. (The cast also has Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, John Turturro, Halle Berry and Anthony Quinn. So there’s that too.) It’s one of the essential Spike Lee movies. And it’s really good. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is one of those genius 80s/90s film concepts. Right up there with Weekend at Bernie’s. Yuppie mother leaves her kids in care of the babysitter from hell. But when the babysitter dies, the kids have to fend for themselves and pretty much go wild. It’s awesome. The Rocketeer is one of those cult classics. A lot of people my age grew up with this one. I did not. But it’s still fun as hell. A kind of one-off superhero/comics movie, kind of like Dick Tracy. It’s about a pilot who gets a jet pack which allows him to become a hero. There’s fun, there’s adventure, there’s Nazis. Good shit.

My Girl is the film that taught us to fear bees. One of the great coming-of-age 90s movies, like The Sandlot, or Now and Then, which was another one that was played a bunch in my house growing up. It’s great. One of those movies I’d show anyone growing up. This is a movie most people should see before the age of 15. It’s essential to growing up. For the Boys is a Bette Midler movie. She and James Caan go to entertain the troops. And they keep doing it throughout the wars. Mostly an excuse to get her to sing and do drama. It works. Rambling Rose is a movie really only known now for getting Laura Dern her first Oscar nomination. She’s the star of the movie, even though Robert Duvall and Diane Ladd are also in it. This is set up as another one of those coming-of-age films, with a boy remembering his childhood, namely Dern as the housekeeper/nanny on whom he had a crush in his youth. And the film is mostly about her, as a woman who just makes every man attracted to her, turning this household upside down and trying not to give in to her sexual impulses. She’s really good in this movie, and is the highlight of it. It’s one of those ‘decent movie with a really great lead performance that elevates it’ kinda deals. The Last Boy Scout is a Tony Scott-directed, Shane Black-written action movie. What more does one need? Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. Willis is a former Secret Service agent looking for redemption, and Wayans is a former star quarterback. Together, they’re looking into a murder, and it’s pure Shane Black, mixed with Tony Scott’s action set pieces. Fun as hell, even though film purists won’t want to admit it. You can never go wrong with a Shane Black movie.

Hudson Hawk is a crazy, wonderful movie. Complete cult classic, I can only imagine how batshit this must have seemed at the time. It’s basically a live-action cartoon, starring Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello. He’s a master thief, and he gets into all sorts of wacky scenarios. I love it. Once you acknowledge that it’s a Looney Tune, you totally get it. Like The Villain, another movie I love. Just acknowledge it’s a cartoon, and you just go with it and have a good time. Grand Canyon is an ensemble movie. It’s the lesser known version of Short Cuts. Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Mary-Louise Parker, Alfre Woodard, directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It’s in that vein of Short Cuts or Crash or what have you… all the characters are intertwined in some larger, spiritual way. I quite like it. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is the movie that was so lampooned upon release, it gave us Robin Hood: Men in Tights. So we’ll always have that. But yeah, it’s basically a Robin Hood retelling, 90s style, starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater and Alan Rickman. I think it’s a perfectly fun movie. Not high cinema at all. It’s no Adventures of Robin Hood, but what is? Certainly better than the Ridley Scott one, which was way too serious. This at least has that sense of adventure to it. Plus, the score for this movie I guarantee you’ve heard about a hundred times.

Shadows and Fog is Woody Allen. One of the ones I like. This is an ode to German Expressionism. It’s about a killer on the loose, and an imbecile (Allen) who is out trying to find the vigilante mob who is out looking for the killer. Hilarity ensues. Gorgeously shot, and the cast is loaded: Mia Farrow, Jodie Foster, John Cusack, Madonna, Fred Gwynne, Kathy Bates, Kenneth Mars, James Rebhorn, John C. Reilly, John Malkovich, Kate Nelligan, Philip Bosco, Julie Kavner, William H. acy, Donald Pleasance, Wallace Shawn, Lily Tomlin, David Ogden Stiers and Kurtwood Smith. This is top ten Allen for me. I like this one quite a bit. Fried Green Tomatoes is another Steel Magnolias. Southern ensemble film. Kathy Bates meets Jessica Tandy in a nursing home and listens to her tell her stories about her youth, which we flash back to. It’s very watchable, though very much in that vein of “chick flick.” The Prince of Tides is a Barbra Streisand directed movie that I have an instant dislike for when it’s brought up because it managed to get a Best Picture nomination in a year with at least four other, better choices for the fifth spot. You have Silence of the Lambs, JFK, Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy… and this. Could have been Boyz N the Hood, could have been Thelma and Louise, could have been Barton Fink. But it was this, and no one even knows about this movie anymore. HOWEVER… that does not mean it’s a bad movie. Just a bad Best Picture nominee. Those are separate issues. The film stars Nick Nolte as a writer with a fucked up childhood who comes back into town after his sister attempts suicide. He talks to her psychiatrist (Streisand), and in doing so, falls in love with her and manages to overcome his past traumas. Quite nice how that works out sometimes. It’s fine. Not the greatest movie, but it’s solid enough. And it has a cameo from George Carlin in a dramatic role, which is cool.

Life Stinks is probably the least known Mel Brooks movie. It’s either this or The Twelve Chairs. But since the Twelve Chairs came in the heyday period and is hilarious, I suspect this is the lesser known. Basically, this is a slightly different version of Trading Places. Brooks is a millionaire who takes a bet from a rival that he can’t live on the streets without any access to his riches. Naturally, comedy ensues. So like… Trading Places meets Sullivan’s Travels? It’s fun. Not his best work. To me, it’s his weakest film, but I also grew up with Dracula: Dead and Loving It and have an affinity for that movie. Still bottom two no matter how you slice it. Rush is one of those notorious 90s movie. I feel like I grew up with all sorts of people referencing it. It’s got a weird pedigree to it. It’s Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh are two cops going undercover to catch a drug dealer. And… drugs happen. Gregg Allman plays the drug dealer they’re after, and Eric Clapton did the soundtrack, which includes “Tears in Heaven.” Like i said, weird movie. But also very good. Very good drug scenes, and good performances. Hot Shots! is a parody film, like Airplane or Naked Gun. This is primarily a Top Gun parody. It’s fun. They’re all fun, up until 2003, after which the parody died and stopped being funny. The Commitments is an Irish music film. All you young people who loved Sing Street… this is the Sing Street of the 90s. It’s like Sing Street meets The Full Monty (that older, working class charm). Basically… bunch a misfits start a band. That’s all you need to know, and when these movies work, they’re great. And this one works.

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