MORIARTY PRESENTS: THE NINETIES (90,91,92)
Heh... Well folks, Harry here, and you are in for quite a treat. I've been getting emails from folks wondering what the hell our dear Professor has been up to. Well... About 2 months ago, via the pnuematic tubes connecting his Lab with my Headquarters, I recieved a parchment with the request, "Harry, I will write the most exhaustive and thrilling accounting of the decade we are ending... Moriarty" Using my interocitor I contacted Moriarty and began a discussion that said, "OK" and ever since... he's been whipping Henchman Mongo and working on this. By the time he's done (this is only 90,91,92) we will have the best look at the 90's World of Film you'll see anywhere. Without further ado, here is my dear friend, James G Moriarty....
MORIARTY’S RUMBLINGS FROM THE LAB #24
The Big Damn ‘90s List: Part One
Hey, Head Geek...
Well, here it is. That time of the year when I write enough words to make Webster himself sick. This time, though, I have more than just a single year to write about. No, this time I have the opportunity to go completely and utterly insane, unleashing articles of unparalleled evil upon you all. Let it never be said I’m a man to squander such an opportunity, especially when I have such spectacular pain planned.
I'm not going to get involved in that whole ridiculous semantics debate over the millennium for one main reason; they haven’t been making films for that long, so why make a list that runs that long? No, thanks; I’ll stick with a best of the decade list, and as far as I'm concerned, the film era known as "The Nineties" runs from January 1, 1990 to Dec. 31, 1999 -- 10 years. That means it’s been over for two whole days, which means it's time for a retrospective of this, my first decade on the front lines of filmmaking, a decade that has seen incredible highs and startling lows.
Over the next four special articles, I'm going to take a look at each of the years, talking my way through the decade overall, both good and bad. For each year, I’ve listed my ten favorite films, five runners-up, and the twenty hours I most want back. Some of this is stuff I wrote at the time in question, and some of it is new material, me looking back from the perspective of right now. In the final article, I'm going to crown the 25 best films of the decade, towering works that I believe point up the finest that we as an industry and an art form are able to offer at this moment. I'm also going to name the 10 artists who have most shaped the experience I've had as a filmgoer, whether they're directors, writers, actors, or any other member of the crew.
This is all from a highly subjective point of view, of course. I don't even remotely pretend to be taking anyone else's tastes into account. There are choices I'm making here that I fully expect to be hammered for, and I don't care. I've really spent some time on this, and I feel strongly about these choices. These are films and moments and performances that I come back to, films that have stuck with me, both for good and for bad. Here's hoping many of them have stuck with you as well.
For me, this will always be known as the year I moved to Los Angeles. If you're interested in what I was doing before, you can always dig up some of Arthur Conan Doyle's scribblings. There was just an endless succession of evil plans, narrow escapes, and brilliant crime sprees. I had managed to elude authorities with ease, and to be quite honest, I was getting bored. It all felt like just a nowhere job, a life without much future. Then, on May 16th, 1990, something happened that jolted me in a profound way and forced me to examine what it was that I was doing with my life.
Jim Henson died.
I remember feeling gutpunched when I heard about it. As much as any pop culture figure, Jim Henson was a part of my life. He taught me to read. More than that, the view of the world espoused on SESAME STREET was truly radical, a view that included blacks, whites, Hispanics, monsters, giant birds, grouches, frogs, and anyone else who happened to stop by. It was a world much like the one endorsed by John Lennon, whose death a decade earlier had also rattled me, although I was too young to feel the full loss at the time.
With Henson, I felt it. I resolved to pursue something in my life that would make me happy. I may tease about being evil, but that’s because you all know that when I do finally rule the world, it will be with an even hand and a merciful heart. Mostly. Sometimes. Point being, I talked my fellow bad seed Harry Lime into loading up a car and relocating. Because of that, I’ve been sitting front and center for this entire decade of film, and I’ve got plenty to say about what I’ve seen.
Looking back at the films that came out that year, there's still a real heavy '80s vibe going on. DICK TRACY and ANOTHER 48 HRS. and DIE HARD 2 and BACK TO THE FUTURE III... they all seemed to be more of the same to some degree. There were signs of life, though, films that seemed to be determined to shrug off the gloss and the high concept, determined to be something deeper, smarter, more ambitious.
1. MILLER'S CROSSING
Until I met The Dude, this was my favorite overall film by the Coen Brothers. In a year where THE GODFATHER PART III was supposed to be the first and last word on gangsters on film, this bold, brilliant tribute to Dashiell Hammett snuck in under the radar and blew my mind completely, managing to transcend its genre with ease. From the time I saw the first trailer and heard that beautiful, haunting Carter Burwell score, all I remember is being anxious to see it, dying to see it, rabid, ready. I thought it could be fun like the Coens previous film, the comic masterwork RAISING ARIZONA. I thought it might be nasty sort of noir like their first film BLOOD SIMPLE. What I didn't expect was to be so overwhelmed by both the mastery of the medium and the lushness of the language. The Coens seemed to have taken all their earlier gifts up a notch, and the result entertains me with every single frame. I’ve heard people complain that the script is too complicated, but I think that’s a shame. I love the elaborate nature of Tom’s master plan and the way it unfolds to his satisfaction and our constant amazement. This is the film that led the Coens to the legendary writer’s block that gave birth to the script for BARTON FINK. In the end, the result of their efforts is a film that grows for me with each viewing. "Look in your heart... look in your heart!"
Martin Scorsese has always had the eye of a poet, the soul of a natural filmmaker, but there was a time when he also had a hunger, a powerful desire to prove something, to make films that leapt off the screen and throttled the viewer. More than RAGING BULL or even TAXI DRIVER, this is the film where Scorsese managed to somehow make it all so irresistible that even the mainstream had to embrace it. This bizarre tale of Henry Hill, rat, in his climb to power and fall from grace, should be as distasteful as anything ever committed to film, but somehow it isn't. There are moments of violence in this film that still make me flinch to think about, but I've heard kids quoting Joe Pesci's great moment: "How am I funny?" Anyone who wants to know how to use film to create a visceral impact need look no further than this audacious, overpowering assault. If MILLER’S CROSSING managed to transcend its genre, then GOODFELLAS set the standard for the genre for all future contenders.
3. MEN DON'T LEAVE
Paul Brickman is a mystery to me. I've looked him up on the IMDb (my best friend while assembling the research behind this article, BTW), and he just barely exists. He contributed as a writer to a few films like HANDLE WITH CARE (or CITIZEN'S BAND, depending on when you saw it) and DEAL OF THE CENTURY. He wrote and directed RISKY BUSINESS, a film that I think has aged wonderfully, and then he directed this little gem before falling off the face of the earth. This is one of those films that I thought I wouldn't really like when I saw the initial trailers. It looked like a weepy story about a woman's plucky struggle to make it on her own. Instead, it's a really strange, eccentric little piece about the relationships we create in order to make it in life. It's about looking for affection anywhere we can when we lose someone. It's a shattering picture, moment after moment, and it's some of my favorite work by Jessica Lange. Chris O'Donnell actually makes a pretty darn effective debut here, with one particularly wrenching scene opposite Arliss Howard late in the film. I still stop on this film anytime it's on cable, and I am able to immediately plug back in to the moment. To me, that’s a good sign of the film’s lasting power.
4. HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
John McNaughton pretty much put an end to me ever taking crap like THE BONE COLLECTOR seriously with this film, a nightmare that etched some truly horrible images on my mind forever. Michael Rooker is chilling in the film, the perfect face to the barely contained bile of the script, the naked contempt for everything "normal" that just permeates the whole film. Tom Towles is perfect as Otis, and I am still haunted by Tracy Arnold as Otis' poor cow sister Becky. Her efforts to please Henry, to repay him for imagined kindness, are just heartbreaking. There are any number of classically horrific moments in the film, but there's one that has become legend, the infamous "video camera" sequence. I'll be honest... I've seen a lot of horror films in my life, and I've read practically everything ever written in the genre. I've encountered some strong stuff, and I've been shaken by some of it. The "video" scene in HENRY towers among the most horrible of them all, and that's without the benefit of any real gore. The reason? It's such a violation, such a dark, bleak, evil moment, and someone had to think it up. Just knowing the capacity for such events even exists -- whether it's in the heart of a filmmaker or the heart of a killer doesn't matter -- is enough to send me cowering.
5. DANCES WITH WOLVES
Yes, I liked it this much. Still do, as a matter of fact. I love epic films when they’re well-made, and with this film, Costner nailed it on every front. Dean Semler’s stunning photography and John Barry’s majestic score both provide perfect support to a story that draws real power from simplicity. Kevin Costner is a solid anchor for the film, but it’s his supporting cast and their memorable smaller roles that really make the film great. Yes, Michael Blake’s script borrows liberally from THE SEARCHERS and other classic westerns; yes, it’s got a fair amount of goofball humor; and, yes, it’s got a PC streak a mile wide. Still, it manages to be touching, sad, empowering, a piece of pop entertainment with something real and honest at its core.
6. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
When Tim Burton connects with a piece of material, he has a powerful, original voice that I’m particularly fond of. This fairy tale initially sprung from a sketch of Tim’s, and screenwriter Caroline Thompson seems to have reached right into Burton’s strange, cobwebby brain and pulled out something familiar, yet wholly unique. Using the nonsensical image of an unfinished boy with scissors for hands to weave a moving allegory about not being able to connect with others, not touching for fear of doing damage, is a stroke of lyrical genius. There’s one powerful moment in particular that brings tears to my eyes any time I see it, as the improbably blonde Winona Ryder dances under snowflakes, the airborne shavings from ice sculptures that Edward fashions. It’s pure Tim.
7. LA FEMME NIKITA
I’ve gotten a lot of mail in the time I’ve been a contributor to AICN that has accused me of not liking action movies. That’s simply not the case. I love films like THE ROAD WARRIOR or RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or ALIENS, where action is more than just mindless visceral thrill, where it can be story, character, even theme. This Besson picture is a classic of the genre, the terrible tale of a wild child who is captured and given a choice: life in jail or life as a government hit woman. She is programmed, made over, recreated, and set loose upon the world. When their weapon develops feelings, a life, things become complicated, even deadly. It’s a love letter to an actress, Besson’s then-flame Anne Parillaud. All the lead performances in the film are great, real, natural, and there’s moments that are profoundly human, piercing. When Besson finally does decide to turn up the heat, he plays for keeps. My only major gripe is how badly the various letterboxed versions of the film have been mishandled. There’s one brilliant moment of Parillaud’s that is always cropped, even though it’s central to her character. Grrrrrrr...
8. MIAMI BLUES
I cannot emphasize this too strongly: George Armitage does not work nearly enough. Between this and 1997’s GROSSE POINTE BLANK, he’s proven that he has a particular knack for blending brutal action and dark, dark comedy. Of the two, I prefer this poisoned little piece of cotton candy. Alec Baldwin’s never seemed this alive again, this dangerous, this close to losing control. The way he pinballs off both dumb bunny Jennifer Jason Leigh and suspicious cop Fred Ward is a constant delight. It’s the little details that really make this one special: the Hare Krishna’s bizarre method of execution, Junior on a rampage with a stolen badge, Fred Ward’s stolen teeth, the t-shirts Leigh buys... this whole film is a treat that too many people missed.
9. THE WITCHES
I was an enormous fan of Roald Dahl’s grim, sarcastic children’s books while growing up, and this Nicholas Roeg film captures the flavor of those books with almost frightening precision. The magic of the film is provided by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and it stands next to DREAMCHILD as their finest work ever. Even the very end of the film, which smacks of studio tampering, has a tart kick, refusing to be overly sentimental. In a world where “family film” is often code for “gooey phony sentimental crap,” a film like this can feel like a miracle.
10. QUICK CHANGE
I have used this column to wax rhapsodic about Bill Murray before, and you can be sure I’ll do it again. Put simply, he’s the greatest screen clown working today. This film, co-directed by Murray and Howard Franklin, is one of my favorite comic confections, an inspired little bit of nastiness adapted from a Jay Cronley novel about a man who truly hates a city. Who can blame him? The New York in this film seems to have a focused, almost hallucinatory sense of life, a will to kill. Tony Shaloub makes one of his first great comic appearances here -- the word “Bluftoni” still makes me cry laughing -- and he’s matched by a great comic supporting cast including Ray Elliott, Randy Quaid, Philip Bosco, Phil Hartman, and Kurtwood Smith.
1. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
Or, as we like to call it here at the Labs, “the only good Jack Ryan movie.” This film seemed like the herald of a shift in the direction of action cinema, coming as it did on the heels of DIE HARD, a shift to something smarter, with richer character. Instead, it proved to be an anomaly. John McTiernan has never been this good since, and that might just be because of how high he set the bar. The cast is uniformly excellent, but it’s Sean Connery whose presence towers over the film. He and his amazing toup are center stage and Ryan’s never faced anyone this interesting again. This is no simple tale of good guys and bad guys. Instead, we are given a complex moral situation, something for the political analyst to actually analyze. In a genre where Jerry Bruckheimer rules supreme, this sort of cerebral rush is something cherish.
2. JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO
Hats off to John Patrick Shanley for coming this close to great with such a crazed, delirious fable. It’s hard to get whimsy right on film, and some of our best filmmakers have failed at it... but we’ll get to TOYS a little later. Shanley manages to makes some remarkable points about love and fate and choice here, and the film’s got a rich and quirky visual style. It’s not perfect; in particular, the last ten minutes fall apart. What it does beautifully, though, can be summed up by a James Bond quote that was included at the start of the original screenplay for JOE, even though it didn’t make it into the final film: "You only live twice. Once when you're born, and once when you look death in the face."
This is one of those solidly-crafted films that seem to pop up from time to time, not pushing any envelopes or breaking any new ground. Instead, it does its job with confidence and poise, with quiet class. Rob Reiner’s got a surprisingly keen sense of how to wring suspense out of each of the film’s key scenes, and some of that can be attributed to William Goldman’s lean, mean adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. By the way, Rob, if you happen to read this, I hope it amuses you to learn that I’ve never been able to watch the hobbling scene a second time. It remains one of the most effective acts of screen violence I’ve ever seen.
4. THE GRIFTERS
I’m a big fan of Jim Thompson. He’s my favorite noir writer, so hard boiled it hurts. 1990 was a banner year for Thompson fans with this adaptation narrowly edging AFTER DARK, MY SWEET off the list. Stephen Frears and Donald Westlake have turned this into one of the most demented mother/son relationship films since PSYCHO. When I recently met and interviewed Annette Bening, I confess that I flashed on this film and her raw sexuality in it. It made that strong an impression on me. So did Bobo’s use of the oranges. I’ve never looked at one the same way again.
5. THE FRESHMAN
I used to list Andrew Bergman among my favorite comic filmmakers, but aside from this dizzy spin on THE GODFATHER, I’ve been indifferent to his output this decade. Thank god we’ve got this wonderful last gasp, at least. By the time Bert Parks sings, “Here she comes... Miss Komodo Dragon!” it should be obvious that Bergman and his entire cast are all completely insane. Penelope Anne Miller’s never seemed more natural onscreen, Frank Whaley is a remarkable crank, Bruno Kirby tweaks his GODFATHER II persona with aplomb, and Matthew Broderick is at his exasperated best. In the end, of course, it is Marlon Brando’s show. Just try watching him on ice skates without smiling. Go on; I dare you.
TWENTY HOURS I WANT BACK
1. BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES
As wrongheaded an adaptation of a novel as I’ve ever seen, this film manages the difficult task of making Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Morgan Freeman all seem completely talentless. How Brian De Palma got this far offtrack made for one of the best books about corporate filmmaking (THE DEVIL’S CANDY by Julie Solomon) that I’ve read, but I’m still not sure I can wrap my head around this. The film manages to be casually racist, sexist, and classist in equal measure, completely perverting the point of Tom Wolfe’s genius original novel, and my main reaction to seeing it was the desire to shower afterward. It’s not just a bad film; in many ways, it’s a filthy one.
2. PRETTY WOMAN
This is one of the most morally reprehensible major studio releases to ever find mainstream acceptance, and it baffles me. I mean, I understand star charisma and its power, but this film is dangerous, potentially damaging, and no one says a world. We’ve got senators debating the merits of FIGHT CLUB and THE MATRIX, but this fairy tale that sells the idea of prostitution to little girls as a way of finding Prince Charming is sanctioned by Disney, so it must be okay. It’s not, though; it’s disgusting, especially in a package as slick and soulless as this one. Throw in a near-rape that’s played mainly for laughs and you’ve got a stomach-churning mess.
3. MEN AT WORK
Emilio Estevez’s first film as a director, WISDOM, made me so mad with its ending that I threw something at the screen. Still, that was just a warm-up for the exquisite agony of this thuddingly stupid film about wacky garbagemen. There’s not a single good idea or clever line in the entire script, and there’s not a hint of technical accomplishment in the direction. All I can figure is this was an inside joke that somehow found its way onscreen.
4. ROCKY 5
Watch John G. Avildsen’s original ROCKY, then watch this film and weep for what is lost. This is one of the best arguments against sequels that I’ve ever seen. Tommy Morrison is cast as himself, a cretinous, disgusting thug, and Stallone just slinks through, rightfully embarrassed by the whole mess.
5. THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE
Renny Harlin has no idea how to stage an action scene or a dramatic moment, so I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me to learn he’s without any comic abilities, either. This film is primarily fascinating as a record of just how out of control Andrew Dice Clay’s ego was at the start of the decade. This film is a “vehicle” in the worst sense of the word, and it doesn’t just crash and burn; it flips, rolls, and explodes as well. I’ll give the film a few grudging points for Lauren Holly and her gravity-defying dresses as well as Ed O’Neill and “booty time,” but that’s not nearly enough to justify anyone else ever burning their corneas with this trash.
Shut up. Don’t even start whining at me. This movie is astonishingly slick, but it’s phony to the core. Bruce Joel Rubin was a prime mover of New Age pap at the start of the decade, and this film just edges out JACOB’S LADDER and its huge cheat of an ending to make the list. I hate fantasy that makes up rules as it goes, that offers easy sentiment instead of genuine thought. This movie also features the worst romantic dialogue of the decade, with “ditto” being enough to send me into rabid fits. Demi Moore deserves credit for almost making Swayze seem interesting, and I’ll give Jerry Zucker his due for selling this mess to America. But I still have to ask... Best Supporting Actress... ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?
Joel Schumacher kicked off the decade in low style with this hysterical bit of neon-lit nonsense, a harbinger of worse things to come. There’s a kernel of a good idea here, but the sheer intensity of the silliness keeps overwhelming all intentions. The cast is terrible without exception, lurching about like they can barely take it seriously. With such a provocative premise, some powerful points could have been made about life and death. More than anything, this stings as an opportunity missed.
8. YOUNG GUNS II
If DANCES WITH WOLVES was trying to shake up genre clichÃ©s, this film embraced them with both fists and then choked whatever life was left out of them. The cast never overcomes the whole “kids playing dress-up” vibe, and their attempts to look rough and tough are laughable more often than not. As far as the plot goes, there’s not one. I’d be surprised if anyone can tell me what events this film covers. On the whole, it’s a markedly downbeat film that never quite gets its tone right. It’s films like this that killed off the careers of many of the Brat Packers.
9. THE ROOKIE
There’s only one time in my life that I’ve ever lied to someone’s face about my reaction to their film. The morning I saw this, I was at an exhibitor’s screening, and I ended up seated next to Clint Eastwood himself during the film. I was excited until the lights went down and the film started. I was horrified. It was unfunny, way too violent, mysogynistic... a dreadful experience on every front. When the lights came up, he gave me that narrow-eyed, clench-jawed stare and asked, “What did you think?” I put on my best fake smile and lied, “It was great.” He just studied my face for a moment, said, “Riiiiiight,” and moved on. I’m sorry I didn’t lie better, Clint. Your film just hurt so damn much.
10. DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER
Hey, it’s just like the first one, but horrible! Actually, my distaste for this film stems from my belief that it’s nothing more than a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie in disguise. The whole film exists to give Bruce Willis an excuse to kill goons in creative ways and great number. The film’s a visual nightmare, built by an editor, devoid of style. Harlin doesn’t even seem to have seen McTiernan’s original. The worst part of it all is how coincidental the whole plot is. McLane just stumbles into things, the way his wife just stumbles into her subplot. Once again, this is almost bad enough to turn me against any sequels... ever.
Jason Patric, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET
This is a great, focused, incendiary performance, volcanic emotion locked inside the body of a boxer and the brain of a child. It’s hard to be both pathetic and menacing, but Patric pulls it off.
Robin Williams, AWAKENINGS
Williams does a great job of bringing Oliver Sacks to the screen with all of his fascinating eccentricity intact. This guy can barely talk to other people, yet he’s expected to somehow heal them. If PATCH ADAMS is a disease, this role is the cure.
Christopher Lloyd and Mary Steenburgen, BACK TO THE FUTURE III
In his entire career, Lloyd’s never had a romantic lead in a film. God bless Zemeckis and Gale for tapping Lloyd’s sweet side for this very touching courtship, a lovely grace note at the close of a great trilogy.
Rob Lowe, BAD INFLUENCE
If he hadn’t played this role at the exact moment that he did, chances are scandal would have driven Lowe out of film. This is such a great charismatic role, though, that it kept him in the game. Good thing, too. This is one promise that was fulfilled consistently over the course of the decade.
Graham Greene, DANCES WITH WOLVES
If there’s a soul to this film, Graham Greene’s the reason. He plays Kicking Bird, the first of the Indians to reach out to Costner’s John Dunbar. It’s Greene who focuses the film’s human and moral messages, and it’s that great face of his that does all the work. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime role, and he makes the most of every second.
Johnny Depp, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
When they write about Depp’s career in the future this will be the moment where it officially got interesting. It’s no wonder he paid tribute to Buster Keaton in a later film. This is a silent star performance. His face, his posture, his eyes... everything is just a tool, part of this remarkable creation.
Marlon Brando, THE FRESHMAN
I don’t understand people who believe Brando’s done as an actor. He’s just bored by most things he’s offered, and he doesn’t have to work if he doesn’t want to. When he does decide to show up onscreen, though, it’s usually because he’s engaged by the material, as was the case here. The idea of deflating his own performance as Don Corleone was to ripe to pass up, and there’s a twinkle in his eye as he goes about it. I love how befuddled and crazy he seems, especially when he reveals how sly he really is.
Joe Pesci, GOODFELLAS
Yes, I know it’s been parodied a million times now. Yes, I’ve seen “the clip” a million times now. In the end, none of that matters. Pesci is electric in this film, deadly and unpredictable. In particular, I will never forget his scenes with Michael Imperioli as the ill-fated Spider.
John Cusack and Anjelica Huston, THE GRIFTERS
This is an evil duet, two great actors behaving their very worst. It’s also as twisted a familial relationship as anything in CHINATOWN or LONE STAR. It’s one of the few times Cusack has been truly despicable, and it’s some of his best work.
Michael Rooker, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
He scares the hell out of me, and there’s nothing human behind his eyes. What more needs to be said?
Kevin Kline, I LOVE YOU TO DEATH
Too broad? Impossible. The sheer lunacy of this story gives Kline carte blanche to play Joey as an oily maniac, all insincere charm and oddball accent. My favorite part of the film is the way he just won’t die, no matter what anyone does to him. His Wile E. Coyote resilience makes a potentially ugly story painfully funny.
Richard Gere, INTERNAL AFFAIRS
I’ve never really trusted “nice guy Gere” onscreen. There’s something hungry in his eyes, something lethal, and he harnesses that energy to beautiful effect here. The film is ultimately forgettable, but not Gere.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO
America seems to love these two together, but for some reason, they keep rewarding the wrong movies. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE? YOU’VE GOT MAIL? These films are empty calories, cheap. This movie is the one where they shine, individually and as a real team. Hanks is exceptional as Joe Banks, the ex-fireman dying of a rare “brain cloud.” Watching him progress from zombie to dead man to fully embracing life is both hilarious and affecting. Watch him tell off Dan Hedaya when he quits his job. It’s better than the similar scenes in both FIGHT CLUB and AMERICAN BEAUTY this year, stranger, funnier, and sadder. It’s even more fun to watch Ryan play the three difference faces of Karma Girl. She’s rarely given this much room to be funny, and she makes the most of it. “Daddy says I’m a flibbertigibbet,” indeed.
Christopher Walken, KING OF NEW YORK
Walken’s never been more menacing. He storms through this movie, a force of nature. Abel Ferrara may be completely insane -- and I’m not exaggerating when I say that -- but he sure does know how to get out of an actor’s way.
Jessica Lange, Arliss Howard, and Joan Cusack, MEN DON’T LEAVE
It’s very hard to walk that fine line between tears and laughter, but here’s a trio of actors who pull off this tightrope act with grace. Each of them gives off enough star wattage to fuel an entire lesser movie. Together, they are bliss.
Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Fred Ward, MIAMI BLUES
What happened to this Alec Baldwin? He entered the decade swinging. Junior is great, charismatic but mercurial, with a hair trigger that we, the audience, come to fear. Fred Ward’s Hoke Moseley is the supposed hero of the film, but I don’t know where my sympathy lies. Most probably, it’s with Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose Susie is the innocent between these two men. Leigh has rarely been so appealing. She’s that girl who helps any animals, takes in lost children, who just can’t help but love. In many ways, she’s all that grounds this crazy cartoon.
Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, and John Turturro, MILLER’S CROSSING
Watching these three circle each other in an intricate dance of deception is like watching ballet. Each move is precise, pointed, perfect, and these actors all savor their dialogue like the fine wine it is.
Kathy Bates, MISERY
King’s original story only works if we believe in Annie. We have to believe her passion, her obsession, and we have to fear that her grasp on reality is slowly slipping. Kathy Bates makes us believe, and she even gives us permission to feel sorry for Annie in the midst of her madness.
Anne Parillaud, LA FEMME NIKITA
Beautiful and savage, Parillaud is utterly convincing in both the emotional and the action scenes. This script was written for her, and if anyone has any doubts about how important she was to the film’s success, all they need to do is check out POINT OF NO RETURN, John Badham’s virtual shot-by-shot remake, where Bridget Fonda fails utterly in the role. It’s not her fault, though; anyone would suffer by comparison.
Harrison Ford, PRESUMED INNOCENT
Mark it on your calendars: this was the last time Harrison Ford really mattered as a performer. Like his earlier misunderstood masterpiece THE MOSQUITO COAST, this is a film about a complicated character, someone we’re never sure we like. It’s not until his final shattering scene with Bonnie Bedelia that we truly glimpse the heart of Rusty Sabitch. It’s his single finest moment as an actor. The movie was a box-office misfire, though, and he’s phoned it in ever since, playing it safe. I’m not sure if I blame him or the audience more.
Julia Roberts, PRETTY WOMAN
I’m sure many of you just scrolled back up to double-check my “worst of” list. No mistake. I do indeed hate this movie, but I’m not going to pretend Julia Roberts was anything less than incandescent here. She was so possessed of whatever it is that makes up a movie star that she was able to generate enough goodwill to coast through SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, HOOK, DYING YOUNG, I LOVE TROUBLE, and MARY REILLY with the audience’s love for her intact.
Bill Murray, QUICK CHANGE
“What the hell kind of clown are you?” asks Ray Elliot. Bill takes a beat, shrugs, and offers a deadpan, “The crying on the inside kind, I guess.” He’s at his sardonic best here as Grimm, and he makes no apologies for it. In many ways, this is his most angry performance. He has real fire in him, and generates heat with each person he encounters in the film. It’s great that he gets to play as silly as he’s ever been (“He said, ‘Up your butt with a coconut’... but he had no coconut. There was no coconut to my knowledge.”) and also move towards playing genuinely tender in scenes with Geena. It’s a lovely piece of nuanced work.
Jeremy Irons, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
His Klaus Von Bulow is one of the most convincing monsters of the decade, a stunning portrait of the way money can insulate someone from their morals. I still say he won his Oscar here because the Academy owed it to him for the far superior DEAD RINGERS, but this is great work, nonetheless. The movie around him may succumb to formula, but Irons elevates it all.
Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
Tom Stoppard’s play isn’t just a challenge for actors; it’s a dare. Oldman and Roth make it all seem easy here, a natural comedy team that keeps getting funnier and more fearless as the film unfolds.
Anjelica Huston, THE WITCHES
Both in makeup and out, Huston is terrifying here. Most actors would take a film like this as an opportunity to camp it up, but she plays it straight. As a result, even the moments where she’s smiling and it’s broad daylight manage to be creepy.
Sandra Bernhard, WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING
I was working at a theater when this came out, and I have a very special love for the film. It’s the exact opposite of a love letter to the audience. It’s more like an all-out assault. It’s a canny piece of performance art about the relationship an audience has with an entertainer, and every single time it played, the most remarkable thing would happen: every single audience member would walk out. Not all at once, mind you, but one at a time, maybe in small groups. Eventually, though, the whole place would be empty. Almost no one ever made it to her nearly-nude performance of “Little Red Corvette,” the single craziest closing number I have ever laid eyes one.
This was the year I started breaking through, meeting people, and getting to watch the process from beginning to end. I learned a lot of respect for the simple act of will it takes to get a film onscreen in any form, much less as a great work of art, and I started to become more demanding as a result. It’s not something anyone can do, even if there is a giant crew supporting you. It still comes down to a core group of artists making choices that affect that emotional experience we have seated in the dark. There were several films this year that ably rewarded me making the choice to spend that time with them.
Those who would damn this film for not being “true” miss the point. No film is true, especially not a film about an event as clouded in obfuscation as this one. Instead, this is an American RASHOMON, a film about the search for truth and the elusive nature of it. Oliver Stone illuminates every theory in the film visually, shows us possibility after possibility for how things might have happened. It’s the finest work he’s ever done as a filmmaker, and it should be taught in film schools for mise en scene, if nothing else. The giant, unruly supporting cast gives us glimmers of life in the strangest moments, and the overall effect of the picture is dizzying. I left the theater after my first viewing drunk on the potential of cinema. Any film that can still do that to me after all the movies I’ve seen is a classic.
2. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY
This is one of my very favorite pure action films. As much as I loved the original TERMINATOR when it came out, the low budget always nagged at me. I didn’t hold it against the film, but other people would when I brought it up. One viewing of this amazing piece of eye candy would have to shut up even the most embittered critic, though. Groundbreaking upon release, the film still retains its power to amaze because of its energy. It never stops for the entire two hours-plus that it runs. Both Arnold as the original Terminator and Robert Patrick as the T-1000 are excellent, and Linda Hamilton’s body sculpting for the film just might be the most amazing special effect on display.
3. THE FISHER KING
I have written thousands and thousands of words about my love of this film, and I think time will only continue to prove what a powerful piece it is. True, it’s got about five endings too many, and true, it’s overlong, but this film has life to it... real, messy life spilling over the edges of the frame. I didn’t realize Terry Gilliam was such a humanist, but the way he gave life to Richard LaGravanese’s script is wrenching. He managed to find every grace note, draw out every drop of emotion, and it all comes across as honest and raw. Even the laughs in the film are the kind that get caught before you can let them out, the kind that are tinged with hurt. It’s a beautiful fable about responsibility and healing, and it manages to tower over all the gooey New Age hokum that was popular near the same time because it never once talks down to its audience. If nothing else, it is remarkable for the extended date sequence in which all four of the leads are given ample room to shine. There’s a sense of the romantic here that is about real connection, and it’s a miracle to see Williams turn “Lydia, The Tattooed Lady” into a moving love song. Then again, it’s a film that’s filled with miracles.
Most people only know this film exists because Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” was written for it, and that’s a shame. The film easily matches the melancholy power of that song, and director Lili Fini Zanuck deserves credit for turning in an astonishing debut. Of all the Jennifer Jason Leigh performances in the ‘90s, this is still my favorite. I am torn apart by the relationship she and Jason Patric share in the film. The two of them seem to be having a contest to see who can deteriorate the furthest over the course of the film, and it’s easy to get a sense of the real relationship that existed between these people. They destroyed one another, and they destroyed themselves. They both got so far into their jobs that they lost track of who they were and became the roles they were playing. In some ways, this is a cautionary tale for method actors, and I wonder what long-term effect it had on the leads. The rest of the cast, many of whom aren’t normally actors, are memorable and achingly real. Another reason I love the film is that it has the balls to be honest about the drug scene. They paint a seductive picture at first. These people don’t make the decision to destroy their lives... they are seduced into it. Like TRAINSPOTTING later in the decade, this film managed to play fair, never coming on like propaganda. It’s a human story, one that anyone should be able to relate to, even if they’ve never come close to being burned themselves. Oh... and that Clapton song? Just one part of a phenomenal score, one that will break your heart.
This was my introduction to the particular delights of Jeunet and Caro, a team of French filmmakers who have turned out two confident masterpieces this decade, with this being the first of them. This film is a very slight affair, a black little cannibalism joke, but what lifts it into high comic art is the details of the whole piece. Every single thing we see and hear is choreographed. The whole world dances around the characters, with everything coming together in a symphony of daily sounds. There’s one sequence in particular in which an entire apartment building falls into synch, everything cueing everything else, that is such a superb self-contained moment that it actually served as the film’s trailer in America. As much as I enjoy this film, it’s the team’s later effort that really knocked me out. Still, I celebrate anytime I glimpse a vision this original.
6. CITY OF HOPE
Speaking of original visions, this is another of John Sayles’ perfect little films, a huge ensemble-driven portrait of the life of a modern American city. Photographed to breathtaking effect by Robert Richardson (between this and his two Stone collaborations this year, easily the best D.P. working at this particular moment), it’s a searing story that covers many bases using members of Sayles’ regular repertory group of actors. David Strathairn, Vincent Spano, Chris Cooper, Joe Morton, and even Sayles himself are all familiar faces, and he makes excellent use of other actors, like Tony Lo Bianco, Frankie Faison, Angela Bassett, Todd Graff, and Gina Gershon. The film weaves a number of storylines, some of them less political than others, but all of them commenting in some way on community and the sense that the larger cities get, the less together people are. The ending of the film has stuck with me all decade long: Asteroid, the homeless and possibly insane character played by Strathairn, hanging on a chain-link fence, shaking it, crying out with a ruined, desperate voice, the same one word over and over. “Help! Help! Help!” Having lived in Los Angeles this decade and having watched all its social turmoil firsthand, no image better cements the way I feel.
7. BARTON FINK
I don’t think this is anywhere near the best film the Coen Bros. have made, but it’s a great little art-house game, a winning, snarky look inside the mind of artists who are wrestling with their own creative gifts. As the Coens worked on their labyrinthine MILLER’S CROSSING script, they got stuck. This film was written as a way of breaking down that writer’s block. In writing about the very subject of writer’s block, they also got to explore the great writers of the jazz age who sold out their considerable gifts to Hollywood. Some got in and got back out, while others died slowly, like the grand old coot that John Mahoney gives such ripe and ribald life to. There’s a lot of very good character work here, with Michael Lerner and Jon Polito making a very good comedy team, and with Judy Davis giving such great attitude, but the film never really engages. Instead, its surreal edge is something I can admire and enjoy greatly without feeling anything at all.
As I was in the midst of working on this article, HBO happened to show this film in the middle of the night. I own it on laserdisc, and planned to take it out to watch it again before deciding where to place it, but there it was, out of the blue, and I watched it. It was after 3:00 in the morning, but I wasn’t tired, and as I watched this film, I was hit by such a sense of loss, over and over, like waves. River Phoenix was such a tremendous presence, and he was just starting to really become a man onscreen, leaving behind that boyish awkwardness. It’s in this film that we get the best picture of who he was about to become, and it’s fitting that he plays the role he does. In the film, he’s a boy playing at manhood, trying to prove something to himself, and we see him wrestling with this undeniable streak of decency that runs right through him. All around him, his friends are soldiers, roughnecks, master shittalkers. He isn’t that, though, no matter how much he puts it on, and that’s what makes the film work. The title and the set-up of the picture don’t have much to do with where it eventually goes and what it eventually does, and I think a lot of people stayed away because Warner Bros. didn’t quite know how to sell it. To my mind, the film makes a perfect double feature with BEFORE SUNRISE, the delicate Linklater film from a few years later. Both films manage to capture that moment we’ve all had where you meet someone and you connect and you have that one perfect conversation that lasts all night, the one where you talk about your past and your dreams and you make each other laugh and you just connect. Nancy Savoca orchestrates the whole thing with a feather touch, and the ending -- two simple words exchanged amid an embrace -- is like a sledgehammer wrapped in velvet, devastatingly gentle.
9. BEAUTY & THE BEAST
Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, along with Linda Woolverton, deserve credit for honing the Disney formula to a razor’s edge with this picture, one of the last before the studio gave up every last bit of soul. This may be one of the finest fairy tales ever committed to film. I adore the hallucinatory power of Cocteau’s version, and there’s no denying that Disney has used that film to help guide many of their style choices, but this is one case where one can’t fault the team artistically. The score is one of the finest that Disney has recorded, with several showstoppers. Gaston is a remarkable bad guy, entertaining and understandable. All the voice work in the film is solid, even if no one really stands out. In fact, there’s no one part that makes this film work... it’s just a case of everything working the way it should.
10. THE COMMITMENTS
I love Alan Parker when he’s working with music. I think he’s the absolute hands-down best living director of musicals. He’s the only guy I can think of who knows how to handle them for film, no matter what the musical style or subject. I used to try and defend John Landis in the same way but he had to go and make that damn BB2000 and prove me wrong. So I’m left with Parker, and maybe that’s enough. Here, he’s taken Roddy Doyle’s great little comic novel about an unlikely band of Irish youths who somehow, improbably, make great music together for one shining moment, and he’s turned it into one of the most impassioned concert films I’ve ever seen. Of course, the fact that The Commitments aren’t really a band doesn’t matter a bit. They are when Parker shoots them. This movie makes you want to get up and move, and the choice of songs is always invigorating. The material away from the music is all handled well, and the cast is wonderful, but there’s no doubt where the real magic in the film is.
Of all the films David Mamet has directed, this is far and away my favorite. I find it deeply disturbing, deeply sad, and I think it’s got more on its mind than his other films. It’s not content to the simple game-playing of HOUSE OF GAMES or THE SPANISH PRISONER. It’s not bogged down by pretension like OLEANNA. It’s nowhere near as cute as THINGS CHANGE. Instead, it cuts with incisive writing and simple, uncluttered direction. Each performance is simple, true. The ending of the film is one of those that seems to come up on you out of nowhere, but as you think about it, it’s the only logical place for the film to end up. Just a crushing experience.
2. THE INDIAN RUNNER
This film is the reason I was willing to accept Sean Penn’s retirement from acting. As long as he was still involved in filmmaking and turning out wrenching character dramas like this, I would be happy. Instead, it’s directing he seems to flirt with, only making one other film this decade. A debut like this would be hard to live up to. He used a Bruce Springsteen song as his original inspiration for the script, but this is an original, and it’s a clear indicator that Penn’s is a vital, important voice.
3. GRAND CANYON
I’d been in Los Angeles for about a year and a half when this film came out, and it perfectly summed up my feelings about the city. Kasdan made a movie that seems prescient on this side of the riots, but which many people dismissed as overly negative at the time. It’s a risky film, and it tries to say quite a bit. While I don’t think it’s entirely successful, I can’t deny the power it had for me as a viewer. Walking out of the theater, with a helicopter buzzing by overhead, it was almost too much to take.
4. THE DOORS
It’s no secret to anyone that has seen any of Oliver Stone’s films that the man is absolutely 100% stuck in the ‘60s. There’s a part of him that has never left the era behind, particularly the excesses of the times. With this film, Oliver was able to embrace that madness of that moment, wrap himself up in it, and get lost. He was able to put ILM to use capturing an acid trip. He was able to raise Jim Morrison from the dead for a few more massive Bacchanalian orgies, great golden copulations of sound and color. Are all the facts right? Is this the absolute truth about The Doors? No and no again. Doesn’t matter, though... it feels right, and it sounds amazing. For a massive Morrison fan like me, that was more than enough.
5. DEFENDING YOUR LIFE
There’s something truly profound about the idea of taking any single incident from your life and being judged based on that moment. In each thing we do, we have a choice to try and be our best, and frequently, we let the little moments go. Albert Brooks makes the case here that it’s the sum total of those little moments, and not just the few big flashy moments where we did what we were supposed to, that make up the real character of someone’s existence. Of course, he does it with razor-sharp sarcasm, a great sense of self-deprecation, and a surprisingly nimble romantic spirit in this great, great comedy. This is one of my favorite representations of the afterlife onscreen, right up there with Michael Powell’s. Brooks has really thought about this, and for every comic point he scores, he also makes one that is poignant and honest. The film carries a real punch, and I’m surprised how involved I got in the unlikely relationship between he and Meryl Streep. This is one of the few Brooks films I would recommend to anyone, whether you’re a fan of his work or not. Its appeal is that universal.
TWENTY HOURS I WANT BACK
1. NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
What the hell happened to Dan Aykroyd? Has he just gotten so strange as he’s gotten older that he has left the mainstream behind forever? I mean, there’s no getting around it... he’s always been a web-toed mutant, but at least when Belushi was alive, Aykroyd was able to somehow communicate his bizarre comic ideas in a language that was genuinely funny and approachable. GHOSTBUSTERS is a great, great script by he and Ramis, and when I first heard about this film (back when it was called VALKENVANIA), it sounded like it was going to be another demented alternate reality that Aykroyd was summoning up. In a way, I guess it is. It’s just that he forgot to make it even remotely funny. Instead, it’s disgusting. I don’t know what filthy image was less funny... the syphilitic judge’s rotten nose socket, the penis shaped prosthetic nose he occasionally wears, the disgusting mutated twin brothers in diapers, or any of a dozen other “gags” in the film. Aykroyd plays several roles, but there’s plenty of humiliation left over for the truly awful Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, John Candy, and Taylor Negron. It’s this kind of film that gives SNL alumni a bad name.
2. REGARDING HENRY
Absolutely shameless. This film couldn’t try any harder to make me cry if it reached out and poked me in the eye. Painfully manipulative, contrived, poorly-written, this is one of those films that makes you wonder if anyone actually reads scripts before they commit to things. Harrison Ford must have deeply regretted passing on BIG when he and Spielberg were considering doing it, because he digs into playing a child here. Once Henry’s been shot in the head, Ford develops a blank stare and a sort of tight-mouthed way of talking that are supposed to signify that he’s a little boy trapped in this man’s body. Instead, they just point up how limited his range as an actor can be. Annette Bening is stranded as his wife here.
3. LIFE STINKS
Especially when you’re Mel Brooks and you’re suddenly just not funny anymore.
4. COOL AS ICE
This was director David Kellogg’s first film. His second film was this year’s INSPECTOR GADGET. Do we sense a trend here?
This one’s hard to be glib about. It was an important film for Steven Spielberg in many ways, and he blew it. Look at the film’s central conceit: Peter Pan grew up and forgot how to be Peter Pan. For an aging wunderkind, especially one coming off a string of commercial failures, it must have struck close to home. Thanks to circumstance, I had a chance to be a fly on the wall for some of the filming of HOOK at the Sony lot, and it was a strange, tense, fascinating environment. There was a lot of pressure on Spielberg. He was spending a rumored $100 million on the film, one of his stars (Julia Roberts) was melting down under a tabloid microscope, and if he couldn’t make this particular film work, then how could he be expected to make anything work? He was born to make this film. It’s really no wonder he folded under the pressure. The script by Jim V. Hart, Nick Castle, and Malia Scotch Marmo is mawkish, obvious, and overly cute, and it never really gets to the heart of such a potent idea. It’s a shame, too, since it’s an inspired John Williams score, and the actual look of the film is at times almost breathtakingly pretty. This may have been the beginning of the end for Robin Williams, the first of his truly unbearable screen appearances.
6. POINT BREAK
I don’t know what Kathryn Bigelow’s beef is, but she’s got this giant chip on her shoulder as a filmmaker, like she’s got to prove that she’s got more testosterone than any male action filmmaker alive, so she’s going to make her films twice as loud, twice as ugly, and twice as stupid, just to prove she can. This is the hands-down funniest performance Keanu Reeves has ever given in the history of bad Keanu Reeves performances. “You’re going down, Bodhi!” Hysterical. Swayze is his typically stiff self, Lori Petty is from Mars (as always), and one of the major action set pieces is ripped off almost shot for shot from RAISING ARIZONA. Absolutely numbing.
7. ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
Bad... so, so very bad. I sat through this film, having heard the supposed test screening buzz about it being “better than RAIDERS,” and I kept waiting for something interesting or exciting to happen. Instead, images of every other Robin Hood from the history of film kept flashing by, each of them more interesting than anything onscreen. This is one of those nonmovies that leaves no impression upon passing by the rods and cones. It just scans and disappears. Kevin Reynolds is one of those guys who has been given chance after chance after chance on big studio action films, and he just hasn’t proven any knack at all. Yes, WATERWORLD eventually turned a profit. Yes, this film was a monetary hit. But can anyone actually watch this dreck now from start to finish? Even Alan Rickman is adrift playing a preposterous villain. Without any redeeming qualities.
8. DEAD AGAIN
I can respect what Scott Frank’s screenplay was trying to do here, and I’m sure that in another filmmaker’s hands, it might have worked. Kenneth Branagh manages to strangle the subtlety from the piece, though, ladling on his overheated visual style until the film suffocates and dies. Emma Thompson is okay here, although I really think her best work was done away from Branagh as a director. As far as his acting goes, there’s not enough scenery in the film for all the chewing he does. I know he fancies himself the modern Olivier, but Branagh has always come across more as the modern Shatner to me, Shakespearean in the worst sense. Andy Garcia’s big gross-out moment with the hole in his trachea is almost worth giving the film a look, but only if you’re a really, really big fan of bad old-age makeup.
9. CURLEY SUE
And as we make our way through the Museum of Ruined Careers, you’ll notice on your left the movie that stopped John Hughes’ directorial career in its tracks. Faced with a choice between making this film or HOME ALONE, he handed one script over to his protÃ©gÃ© Chris Columbus and kept this one for himself. Ten years later, he’s still feeling the sting. The film is your typical treacly retread of PAPER MOON with a con artist father/daughter team, but it’s so overtly slick and hollow that even the people who made MRS. DOUBTFIRE a hit couldn’t throw Hughes a bone. It’s because of choices like this that Jim Belushi is making direct-to-video sequels to K-9 these days.
10. THE PRINCE OF TIDES
Even when a vanity project turns out well -- DANCES WITH WOLVES comes to mind -- there’s something vaguely distasteful about it. When it goes spectacularly wrong, as in the case of Streisand’s “masterpiece” here, there is a snuff film sort of appeal to the whole thing. Pat Conroy’s novel may have been a southern gothic soap opera, but it was a rippingly told one, with some real meat to it. Streisand is completely out of her depth here as a director, and the attention she pays to herself is mind-boggling. On about the 200th close-up of her legs or her fingernails, I wanted to run screaming up the aisle and dive through the screen, just to make the voices in my head stop. That’s the kind of endurance test this film is unless you’re just completely in love with Barbra. If so, then have at it; better you than me.
John Turturro and John Goodman, BARTON FINK
Goodman’s performance in this film only works if Turturro’s does. Much like FIGHT CLUB this year, this film deals with a fractured psyche, with each actor giving voice to one part of a complex whole. These two spend the whole film wrestling, both verbally and physically, and the disparity between them in size as well as volume and intensity pays off with some rich, surreal imagery.
Robert De Niro, CAPE FEAR
I may not be nuts about this remake -- way too overheated for my tastes -- but there’s no denying that De Niro is a wickedly funny Big Bad Wolf in the film. He is the reason Juliette Lewis looks so good in her one big moment, and he literally blows Nick Nolte off the screen in every single moment they have together. His attack on Illeana Douglas is still one of the most horrific acts of the decade, and Max Cady deserves to loom large in nightmares for years to come.
Andrew Strong, THE COMMITMENTS
I remember when this film came out; all the buzz was about this amazing fat Joe Cocker-looking dude who could just sing his ass off. I remember hearing mumblings about him getting a recording contract. Mainly, I remember having to pick my jaw up off the floor when I finally saw the film and got a load of what should have been just as big a star-making performance as Julia Roberts’ turn in PRETTY WOMAN. This guy was amazing. He was Belushi in some ways, but his Cocker wasn’t just an impression. He had pipes. He summons thunder in this film as Deco. If time has muted the quality of this performance for you, do yourself the favor... go back and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Albert Brooks and Rip Torn, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE
Albert Brooks is one of the funniest wielders of sarcasm ever, but he meets his match here in Rip Torn, who seems to have been reborn with this role. Torn grounds the movie’s most absurd moments with his solid, no-bullshit sensibility, and he manages to exasperate Brooks in ways that no one has ever accomplished. Their give and take elevates this film from very funny to comic perfection.
Dominique Pinon, DELICATESSEN
Roberto Benigni wishes he was this guy, and he wishes he’d given this performance. This is the single best piece of silent film comedy captured onscreen this decade, with Lee Evans in FUNNY BONES coming in a close second. Pinon manages grace and pathos amidst the belly laughs, and makes the distasteful seem charming.
River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, DOGFIGHT
Anytime I’ve included more than one actor from a film on the performances list, it’s because of the way they worked together. In this case, these two had the difficult job of starting as far apart as possible and convincing us that they somehow forge a real and lasting bond over the course of one night. Phoenix may have been coming into his own in this film, but for Taylor, it was a coming out, an introduction, and she’s wonderful here. She has to endure the least flattering costuming I can imagine, but she is so real, so centered, and so passionate that she shines through. There’s one lovely moment in a coffee house when she sings for Phoenix that is just piercing. In that moment, you can imagine him suddenly seeing past her outside, straight into her soul, and falling in love.
Val Kilmer, THE DOORS
What actor wouldn’t want to immerse themselves in the decadence of a Jim Morrison? Kilmer took the opportunity and ran with it, transforming so completely that I’ve never been able to look at him the same since. He’s alternately childish, profound, riotously funny, and cruel, and he somehow remains charismatic throughout. By the time he shows up in that tub in Paris, it feels like a genuine loss to say goodbye to this Morrison.
Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Reuhl, Amanda Plummer, and Michael Jeter, THE FISHER KING
I don’t have any idea how Terry Gilliam and Richard LaGravanese did it, but they somehow inspired all five of these actors to the best work of their careers. Robin Williams finally finds the perfect dramatic context for his rapid-style free association: schizophrenia. His mania
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Jan. 3, 2000, 12:35 a.m. CST
I'm sure someone did. I'd hate to think he offered up this platter of opinion all on his own.
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:45 a.m. CST
What is Moriarty's day job? Does he have some kind of authority in Hollywood? Just curious.
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:48 a.m. CST
Yeah Yeah....etc. Nice List Evil One. Can't wait for more.
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:04 a.m. CST
I can't believe I read that whole thing. Kudos big M. It certainly was exhaustive. I had an opinion to share, but I forgot it about half way through.
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:25 a.m. CST
Moriarty's hyperbolistic, pretentious writing style is starting to annoy me, particularly when he puts together pieces like this one. What is the point of it all? Do I need this guy to tell what is good and what is not, from the last ten years of film? Of course not. Initially, I was excited by the prospect of Moriarty's "Rumblings" could offer. As the column evolved, however, it felt as though the tone and attitude slowly shifted. Having begun as another excited "geek" (as people call themselves around here) with insider info, Moriarty became increasingly distant, stating his opinion as though it was somehow THE definitive approach to a given topic. This might be tolerated if it weren't for such a obnoxious writing-style, in which everything is overwritten to the point of being trite. You know what I mean? There's never just a nice moment in a movie, it's always a tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks wallop of a scene. Moriarty's appreciation for such scenes are occasionally expressed to the filmmakers themselves, and we get to hear about it via his pleasant anecdotes. (Are those anything but a blatant exercise in name-dropping?) Anyway, if Moriarty is reading this, "No offense, guy." What I had meant to say, before I started criticizing Moriarty, was that he really missed it with "The Silence of the Lambs", and that I thought his remarks on "Batman Returns" were exceptional. On the latter matter, I entirely agree with the man, and have been saying such for years. Wouldn't you all agree?
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:33 a.m. CST
by Big Old Banh
And this is only the first of four! I must say i'm impressed that you're even trying to cover all of the 1990s, but to do it so not to leave out the wild shifts in cinema on the way. I've always been an unabashed Tim Burton fan, and even when he's not accepted by audiences (like the dark and often shockingly mean spirit of Mars Attacks) but to work out Batman Returns for what he'd done better (and sadly, to point out just what Shumacher ruined all over the place with his campy, tacky comic book sequels) is to say the least daunting. Speaking of which, when has Schumacher done anything right? I'll admit, i enjoy Falling Down, mostly thanks to Michael Douglas, and the Lost Boys was fun but always left me wanting more (but NOT a sequel, NO SEQUELS!!!) I disliked Batman Forever and was shocked by just how vile Batman and Robin was, but ugh! Neither of them prepared me for the disgusting and lame 8mm. Not only does it shamelessy rip off Hardcore, but it does it in such a piss poor job that i could care less about anyone in the film at halfway point. Cage's blank stare, trying to be tortured, Catherine Keener, totally wasted. Jaoquin Phoenix and Peter Stormare had fun chewing up scenery, but i totally lost interest when they both died within five minutes of each other.... oh well, enough of my anti-schumacher tirade (no, i'm not even going into Flawless) Thanks to Moriarty for bringing up lost comic gems like Quick Change, The Freshman, Death Becomes Her, and my al time soft spot favorite, R&G are Dead. How dare you leave out a brilliant performance from Richard Dreyfuss though?! hmmm, what else... (as i scroll through, apologise if this is so long, but really, there is a lot to comment on...) Ahhh, Delicatessen, along with City of Lost Children and even the problematice Alien Ressurrection (which works better if you watch all 3 of these films together) Thank you for acknowledging the very bizarre Naked Lunch. Weller and Cronenberg (along with Ian Holm) help make the unfilmable novel filmable... Sorry Moriarty, I hate Manhunter, i will take Silence over it any day. Both the book and the film suffer from bad pacing, which Silence keeps to a minimum while maximizing the tension between Foster and Hopkins (which is why, Hannibal simply isn't going to work without her) .... I disagree with you about Swimming With Sharks. Whaley works, Spacey works, Michelle Forbes works (much like in Kalifornia) even when the script doesn't. Sure the "twist" blew, but the actors didn't. ...Ohhhh, Cool World. a film that simply doesn't need to exist. And what a cast to waste too. it makes me wonder if there are 2 Brad Pitt's in hollywood along with the 2 Bruce Willis's. Ones that make good choices (Se7en, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction and the Sixth Sense) and ones that well, make things like Cool World and Color of Night... Sorry again Moriarty, but i have a soft spot for the VERY troubled Alien3. It's abrupt and mean to tear Hicks and Newt away from us so flippantly, and the movie has some big problems, but Fincher almost saves it with the final chase sequences ("here kitty kitty kitty") all right, but at least it didn't betray the Alien stories as much as 4, which is a nice French Expressionist film in the same way the aforementioned Delicatessen and City of Lost Children are, but nonetheless cares nothing about anything from the first three films... i like Glengarry Glen Ross but watching it reminds me just why American Buffalo doesn't work as an adaptation. I hope that the Dude makes his way onto your list later on, the Big Lebowski is very much like Raising Arizona and Barton Fink in terms of silly existential films (something Being John Malkovich makes me so happy about) here's to the rest of the ninties, which i'm looking forward to recapping.
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:43 a.m. CST
by Muph Daddy
Why the hell does everyone rag on the first Batman movie. Dammit, if Batman shown in a gritty, noir'ish, Gotham ain't cool, then the Joker at least is the saving point. My only complaint is they killed off the Joker, but what the hell, thats just my shitty opinion. At least we had two more "good" movies until the fagfest that was Batman & Robin.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:12 a.m. CST
by Darth Siskel
I will forever be pissed when someone mentions Alien3. They had the chance to make it all a bad dream with Alien4, but they instead chose to clone Ripley. FUCK YOU FOREVER FOX!!! But Moriarty, what's up with not liking Silence of the Lambs that much? I think it deserved Best Picture that year. It was a stunning cinematic event that I will never forget.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:14 a.m. CST
Although I liked Batman Returns, I actually prefer the original. I hadn't ever really thought about the various villians as facets of Wayne's personality, that's a really interesting point. I suppose now I will have to watch it again. Also, in response to a comment in talkback about the killing off of the Joker, two things- One, I hate how they feel the need to destroy every villian they introduce in a movie, from first to POS last. Two- I don't think the Joker is actually dead. On top of the church, he makes several comments that indicate something odd is going on- "Sometimes I just kill myself" and "Time for me to retire". I always thought his death was somehow stage dressing to allow the shock of his return later on, had Jack been willing to reprise the character.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:32 a.m. CST
For the life of me, I don't understand why he can enjoy The Last Boy Scout for being a wonderful, senseless cartoon of a movie but not see Robin Hood in the same light. I enjoyed both movies. To his credit though, Moriarty has officially changed my mind about Alien3. The movie itself is better than Moriarty makes it out, but ultimately, it wouldn't matter if had been better than the original, because the entire premise is a betrayal of our emotional journey through Aliens. So, just like Beastmaster 2 & 3 and Highlander 2 & 3, Alien 3 & 4 no longer exist. I look forward to the next installment, doctor.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:37 a.m. CST
For the life of me, I don't understand why he can enjoy The Last Boy Scout for being a wonderful, senseless cartoon of a movie but not see Robin Hood in the same light. I enjoyed both movies. To his credit though, Moriarty has officially changed my mind about Alien3. The movie itself is better than Moriarty makes it out, but ultimately, it wouldn't matter if had been better than the original, because the entire premise is a betrayal of our emotional journey through Aliens. So, just like Beastmaster 2 & 3 and Highlander 2 & 3, Alien 3 & 4 no longer exist. I look forward to the next installment, doctor.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:59 a.m. CST
by Lazarus Long
thanks for giving some long overdue credit to Rush (which might have won acting oscars if released now), A River Runs Through It (where Pitt is sent down from heaven), Glengarry Glen Ross (an all-you-can-eat buffet of acting), The Last Boy Scout (cooler and funnier than all the Lethal Weapon & Beverly Hills Cop films combined--"My girl's dead, and the guys that did it are up at Spago eatin' Chicken Marsala."), and The Freshman (although if you really want proof of his still-existent acting chops, watch him effortlessly steal every scene from an almost equally-amazing Johnny Depp in Don Juan DeMarco). Which reminds me, wasn't Brando supposed to be in Sean Penn's film of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Autumn of the Patriarch? Is this project still alive. I'll also thank Moriarty for taking some air out of Silence of the Lambs (a great thriller, but not as good as Michael Mann's Manhunter and definitely not deserving of a BP oscar). Dances With Wolves I find to be a travelogue about as heavy-handed in its "apology" to Native Americans as Brando's 1972 Oscar refusal, but not as ballsy. I can stomach this winning best picture, but if ever the best director award should have gone to a different film's helmer, Scorsese should have had it for GoodFellas. Next to Citizen Kane's dissing, the worst oscar crime in the award's history. I'll stop here. Hoo-haa!
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:11 a.m. CST
Moriarty: Good God, it took me two hours to read your exhaustive essay. It is now three a.m., I will be dead tired all day at work tomorrow, and I don't care. My favorite part about reading your tour of the decade was remembering my own first viewings of each of the films you mentioned: where I saw them, who I saw them with, the state of mind I was in, the influence the various films had on me. Thank you for the obvious time and work you put in. I, of course agree with some of your choices and disagree with others, but the list is so long and so well thought out, at this time, I will simply applaud your efforts and say that I look forward to reading your thoughts about the rest of the decade. Cooper Out...
a moment of silence for my nigga BIGGIE SMALLS! a moment of consilence foe my nigga EDWARD O. WILSON! Goddamn if this fucking web thing won't be over in five years! Right now ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND IDIOTS LIVING IN EFFICIENCY APARTMENTS are sending stop animation to ron howard's idiotic web site when they should be working on a GRAND UNIFIED THEORY! the web is done! invest in biotech because it'll all be CRONENBERG in 10 years.
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:43 a.m. CST
by The Kid
Between this and masturbating, it took me until 4:31 A.M. (the current time) to finish this article and the subsequent TalkBacks. Now it's 4:32. I think I started around 1:something, signing on yet again for a fix (I really need these updates) and finding this by accident (though I've found new things by clicking on "More" before). 4:33. 4:34. Good job, Mr. Moriarty. This list makes for intriguing reading. Try not to kill yourself making three more of these (it's three, right? Not four, because this would count as one out of the four you said you were writing at the beginning of this first one...4:36...I think I need to finish this). Looking forward to the next one (on a weekend, hopefully, now that it's the last day of Christmas Break, oh how I hate high school).
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:47 a.m. CST
Well, M, you mentioned that every film out there has a defender. The truth, as I see it, is that every single film out there hits us each differently, making us each see what we want to see in them. You wrote extensively about "Batman Returns," documenting each moment that made the film for you, giving your overall take, and telling us why it's such a great piece of filmmaking. Personally though, I cannot enjoy BR. I really think that it, like the original, is an example of Burton taking the Batman concept and strangling it to death with that quirky dark humor of his. He is a filmmaker that leaves too much of his own fingerprints on a idea for my tastes, and when that idea doesn't jive with his conventions perfectly, the results can be ugly. But we all see films and pick the messages we want to see out of them, and that leads me to Alien3. For me, the Alien series has always been about Ripley. She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it. Alien3 is the ultimate character study of a woman who has been broken, who has suffered beyond imagination at the hands of the universe. She's had every loved one cruelly taken from her, been deposited in one hellish situation after another. But she still manages to go on, to keep fighting. It's a deeply sad film. The look on Ripley's face when she's told about Newt's fate, and later when she examines her in the morgue, never fail to touch me deeply inside. Her suicide at the end is the ultimate act of a woman who won't surrender, won't take comfort over her own sense of duty, ever. That has always been Ripley to me. Yes, it hurts that Newt, Hicks and Bishop die. But it's those cutting, unconventional moments that give this film its power, that let us examine Ripley and her motivations and her inner workings. Maybe that's where I go wrong; maybe the focus shouldn't be Ripley. Maybe it's beyond simply her for most people, and Hicks' and Newt's deaths are not justified. However, I hope that people hate Alien3 on its own terms, and not simply because it wasn't what they were expecting following Aliens. M, your statement that Alien3 could have been better than Alien and Aliens and still been unforgiveable for the first five minutes saddens me, in this regard. Maybe there is a negation of Aliens' emotional peak. But I don't think that sequels should ape their predecessors in tone. Alien3 has own emotional base, just as Aliens distinguished itself from Alien in that regard. It was a bold move, in my opinion, to try to let the movie stand on its own terms, especially given the success of Aliens. In case I haven't been heretical enough, I also think the acting and script are just fine, certainly better than Alien: Resurrection, and on par with its predecessors. Weaver in particular is great, and Charles Dance does a great job as well. The sets and effects are breathtakingly desolate, very involving. So there it is. I know a lot of people hate this movie, and I know it's angering when you think someone else has totally missed the merit or worthlessness of something. I, for one, seem to be the only person who saw Star Trek: First Contact to hate it with a vengence, and can't understand what people see in it. But our taste in film is as unique as ourselves, and this is what allows for differing opinions such as these. BTW, looking forward to the rest of the retrospective, M.
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:55 a.m. CST
chiefy has given us all a very special sentance. read it aloud four times and then watch the ending of Naked Lunch four times and you will feel like when you drink airplane gas: "She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it. She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it. She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it. She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it.She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it. She and her island of rational thinking amidst the chaos perpetrated by the Alien creature and the reactions of the humans around her to it."
Jan. 3, 2000, 6:13 a.m. CST
it didn't come near the book, took its own path and was the worse for it
Jan. 3, 2000, 6:42 a.m. CST
That is quite some work. I'm tired just from reading it. And you have another three more coming? I'm looking forward to it. Some comments (and I warn you, this may take a while). ** Edward Scissorhands - Man, do I love that film. Ed Wood may be Burton's best, but it's not your typical Burton. Scissorhands, on the other hand, is why I love Burton. ** La Femme Nikita - Wonderful movie. I only saw it this year, although I saw the terrible remake a while ago. But I really want to see a letterboxed subtitled version. ** Quick Change - Why do people not know about this movie. Please, watch it. One of Bill Murray's most perfect performances. Didn't he write and direct, as well? ** The Freshman - I had forgotten about this film. Thank you, Moriarty, for reminding me. I saw this film years ago, before I had seen The Godfather films. Must see it again. ** The Bonfire Of The Vanities - Well, at least we did get The Devil's Candy from the film. I learned a lot from reading that book. ** Rozencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead - Yes, Oldman and Roth are perfect here, their timing incredible - witness the verbal tennis match. If only people would leave Shakespeare In Love and seek out more Tom Stoppard. Hilarious. ** The Fisher King - Beautiful, terrifying, brilliant. Favourite part? Where Perry runs through the streets, re-living his wife's death, and being chased by the knight. ** Delicatessen - Lost Children is brilliant, but only Deli has the bedsprings scene. ** Glengarry Glenn Ross - So theatrical, and yet it never once felt theatrical. Alec Baldwin was brilliant, and as always I am impressed by Mamet's writing. How does he turn profanity into poetry? ** A Grand Day Out - Very good, but they showed it on TV recently sandwiched between The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, and it felt weaker as a result - more directionless. So always watch AGDO by itself, and TWT and ACS as a double feature, and they are much more enjoyable. But it is an impressive job. Check out the Aardman Animations site if you can - www.aardman.co.uk ** Batman Returns
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:19 a.m. CST
Roald Dahl's work (along with Pinkwater and Seuss) has been a major influence on me, so I'm a bit opinionated when it comes to film adaptations of his books. Roeg's The Witches was faithful and brilliant all the way through, with amazing puppetry by Henson, but the altered ending RUINED it. The book's ending was so perfectly poignant...why did it have to be tinkered with...sterilized...Hollywoodized. I personally think that DeVito's Matilda is the best adaptation of a Dahl book yet, but perhaps I'm alone in that.
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:42 a.m. CST
I could not agree with you more on the problem with Alien 3. It was a complete betrayal of Aliens, one of my favorite films. I concur completely regarding Unforgiven and Glengarry Glen Ross. Nothing revolutionary about those opinions. The surprise of all this was that you might have convinced me that Batman Returns is a quality film. I only saw it once at the theater and remember being unimpressed. Perhaps I should give it a second chance.
Jan. 3, 2000, 9:29 a.m. CST
That this film was some sort of a misfire is a common misconception. WB's "Presumed Innocent" grossed $221.3 Million Dollars at the Worldwide Box Office. The film had a budget of $27 Million Dollars, so not only was it a hit at the Worldwide Box Office, but it was a very profitable film as well. ----- The Domestic Gross for "Presumed Innocent" was $86.3 Million Dollars; the International Gross for the drama was $135 Million Dollars: It's Worldwide total was $221.3 Million Dollars. This film was one of 1990s biggest hits, especially Worldwide.------ Great film, by the way. If anyone hasn't seen this gem of a film, make sure and check it out, it's a real winner. A real nail-biter, and a lot of surprises. Very tense.
Jan. 3, 2000, 9:44 a.m. CST
He hates DEAD AGAIN, but likes BATMAN RETURNS?!?!? I didn't think anyone on the planet enjoyed BATMAN RETURNS, which was clearly the worst by far (and this is saying a lot) Batman film. Come on, missile armed penguins? By comparison DEAD AGAIN had perhaps the best script of the year. Its a powerful, effective movie, although it does go way over the top in its conclusion. Maybe Moriarty just could stand the use of Reincarnation as part of the plot. That said, I agree with most of what he said. But I hope that his opinions for these two movies somehow got switched.
Jan. 3, 2000, 9:54 a.m. CST
....another fucking list to ring in the new millennium. Between this and Harry's Top 30 I'll have enough paper with which to wipe my ass for the next 100 years...
Jan. 3, 2000, 10:42 a.m. CST
Goddamn, Moriarity, it took me forever to read your list, but as you are Moriarity, I did just that, the whole damn thing. Of course, I didn't agree with you on everything, but did on others, foremost of which is Crispin Glover. Somewhere, somehow, this man is one of the greatest comic geniuses of our time and is going virtually under the radar. His music (especially the sobbing performance of "Man on the Flying Trapeze") and his epic retarded midget films that are coming out make him a wacked out genius. As for the Wood-ster and "Husbands and Wives," while that is one of his best movies, I would disagree with you on saying that it was his last great drama. I am an unabashed Woody Allen fanatic and am always, always, always interested to see what's coming next, including "Sweet and Lowdown" which I enjoyed on a certain plane. Regardless, congratulations Moriarity on releasing this insane document. Can't wait to read the next ones.
Jan. 3, 2000, 10:56 a.m. CST
by Marvin Martian
Hey, Moriarty I noticed in your brief write up of The Last Boy Scout that you referred to AICN's Joe Hallenbeck as our "fallen" comrade. I was out of the country for a few months this year with highly limited internet access, so I missed a fair bit of news on the site. I had wondered why Hallenbeck hadn't posted anything recently...What happened to him? Is it as severe as I think it is?
Jan. 3, 2000, 10:56 a.m. CST
...piece o' sheeite's ever made! You called it on that one, Moriarty. I'm just suprised you can still remember it...it's been blocked from my memory for years.
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:02 a.m. CST
Stallone might be my favorite actor, but even I can admit that he made one of the worst pieces of SHIT when he did "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot". On a different note, I also LOVED "BATMAN RETURNS" and am glad you did a long piece on it.
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:10 a.m. CST
A few weeks ago I saw Die Hard 2 on DVD and realized that it still holds up very well today. This is probably my favorite non sci-fi action movie (mostly because I feel that movies such as Superman 2 are better). Of course, Moriarty is the same person who didn't put Naked Lunch, a movie that made no sense whatsoever, on the worst of '92 list...
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:26 a.m. CST
***Quick Change***was indeed hilarious, but the fact that it flopped caused Bill not to direct again. See this film if you haven't yet. It deserves an audience. ***Alien3***just rotten. They betrayed us in the first five minutes and never recovered. I read an article in Premiere magazine shortly before the film was released wherein Fincher was quoted as saying that he did not make this film for fans of the first two, he made this film for the three or four of his friends who knew things about camera angles and lenses. I hope they enjoyed it. I was so surprised that Seven was as good as it was. Fincher has recovered nicely, as we all know, but his current work doesn't make up for this stinky little cinematic enema.***Toys***was a bad film filled with good moments. It's too bad Levinson couldn't make it work. HOWEVER, Toys has one of the best songs ever written for a movie as its theme. The song is called "The Closing of the Year," written by Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn. It is a beautiful song which has become a holiday favorite at my house. If the movie had been better, I'm sure the song would be on the radio every holiday season. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out for this song. I'm not kidding. It's that good.***Bonfire of the Vanities***I am the only person in the United States that bought this film on Laserdisc. I actually enjoyed it when I saw it in the theatre. Looking back, I think that this was because I saw it with good friends and it capped off a great evening. Also, I had not read the book before I saw the movie. Ultimately, the film is severely flawed, but I still watch it every once in a while and remember the great time in my life when I first saw it. That is the power of the movies-to transcend what is actually onscreen and open the floodgates of memory and emotion.***Hook***Before its release, I fully expected this to be the greatest film ever made. For its first half hour, it was, then Julia Roberts makes her first appearance, then we go to the Backlot called Neverland, the script falls apart, Dustin Hoffman chews scenery for an hour, and we have three or four endings. I don't think the film is as bad as Moriarty makes it out to be, but it was quite disappointing at the time. Anyway, just some thoughts.
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:40 a.m. CST
Thanks for a nice retrospect; I'll look forward to your future installments. As for all you whining little bitches, don't click on it if your inept little browsers can't handle it; disconnect your Atari 2600 programming unit and go and buy a real computer.
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:08 p.m. CST
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:39 p.m. CST
by Darth Brian
Kudos on your examination of Batman Returns. It kicked major ass. Every time I see this movie and the part where Selina and Bruce realize who each other are, I can't help but cry my freaking eyes out. They both know at this point how impossible their love for each other is and now what are they gonna do about it? Fight? One of the most poignant moments ever captured on film. Schumacher and Goldsman totally fucked up the next two films. Goldsman keeps going on record as saying that the scripts were great, that we should read the script before judging him, but how could the script be any better? They made Batgirl Alfred's niece for crying out loud. What a total disregard for the original source material. I can forgive them making Joker the one who killed Batman's parents because of the duality expressed between the two characters. i.e. Joker: "You made me". Batman: "You made me first!" Great bit of dialogue. Anyway, on to Alien3. What a total piece of garbage this was. Nothing made any sense whatsoever. First of all, how the hell did any Alien eggs get onto the Sulaco? Ripley blasted all the eggs to bits. The queen detached herself from her eggsac to chase after Ripley, and no, she wasn't carrying any eggs with her. Second of all, even if there was a way for eggs to get on the Sulaco, the eggs wouldn't have hatched until it detected some kind of life around them. Hello?! Everyone's in hypersleep! No life signs! The eggs wouldn't have hatched until the Sulaco got where she was going. Then when she finds out that Newt is dead and they want to find out if she's been impregnated, they perform an autospy on her. But, when Ripley suspects she's carrying an Alien fetus, she uses the fucking medical scanner on the escape pod! WHAT??!! Why didn't they just use that on Newt instead of cutting her open???!!! Fucking morons!!! I hated that movie. Hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated it! Oh well, that's all I've got. Great job, M. Can't wait the read the next installment. l8r
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:43 p.m. CST
by Kentucky Colonel
Thanks for mentioning one of the great gangster flicks of all time, King of New York. The scene where Frank White is getting it on with his lawyer in the subway, when the young guys try to stick him up but instead end up working for him ("Meet me at the Plaza...I have work for you") well is just amazing. And the ending? Did he or didn't he? Wow! And what about all the folks in that movie that "went on" like Snipes, Fishburne, and that NYPD guy? Wadda movie!
Jan. 3, 2000, 12:55 p.m. CST
Good roundup, Moriarity. A few comments of my own: I agree wtih you completely on Alien3. That movie was a clear case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not only producing a bitter, unhappy movie, but also sullying the memory of its predecessors. Strangely, you are the first reviewer I've ever read who's adressed this feeling of betrayal. Besides that, the movie had one other, basic flaw - scale. Call me simple minded, but after seeing scores of aliens being popped off left and right by guys with machine guns, why am I supposed to be afraid of just one creature? ****** Thanks for the in-depth Batman Returns piece. You've reaffirmed my love of this film, the best of the series. Since I don't read comics, departures from the source material don't bother me - as far as I'm concerned, Batman in entirely Burton's creation. I think that the film's only flaw, outside some plot holes and logical stumbles, is the lack of an action climax. I think that this is one instance where giving in to popular convention would have been the right move. Besides those caveats, a classic film. ***** A last note - you disliked a couple of films which I consider major guilty pleasures - Point Break and Robin Hood. Sure, they're severely flawed pictures, but I think that their good points overcome their bad; The first, due to the off-the-wall, gung-ho, damn-the-torpedoes approach to narrative (not to mention Anthony Kiedis); and the second, due to the last half-hour and the prescence of Morgan Freeman.
Jan. 3, 2000, 1 p.m. CST
Didn't Murray end up hating directing so much that he essentially handed the reins over to Howard Franklin? At least, that's the way I remember it. Still love that film, though. Also, as long as we're discussing the early part of this decade, I'd like to mention a film that is often forgotten: DIGGSTOWN. A great, rowdy film with a wonderful ending and great chemistry between James Woods Oliver Platt, Bruce Dern and Lou Gossett, Jr. If you've never seen this Michael Ritchie classic (his best work since THE CANDIDATE,) I urge you to rent it immediately.
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:03 p.m. CST
Granted, when you're only really doing the best ten of a year, things are going to be left out, but I have to recommend an early Hal Hartley movie by the name of Trust, with Adrienne Shelley and Martin Donavan... Just check it out, it deserves notice (and is very hard to describe. The best I can say is that it perfectly sums up the fact that the generations that came up in the 80s and 90s are between a rock and a hard place: life, and our parents).
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:19 p.m. CST
I agree with you totally about Star Trek: First Contact. It was an insulting abomination. *** Hmmm... The rest of the list looks good to me, but then I haven't seen most of the stuff on it in a few years, so I don't know...
Jan. 3, 2000, 1:35 p.m. CST
by The Cars
and still haven't taken a shower. What De Palma did that was right was not to take Wolfe's novel quite as seriously as you did.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:14 p.m. CST
God bless you, Moriarty, for your indepth piece on Batman Returns! I've been having this argument for years now and it's nice to know that there are people out there who share the same and RIGHT view. Joel Schumacher should ber shot, every copy of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin destroyed and Burton's Bat preserved for all time to take it's rightful place in cinema history. And long live Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman!!!
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:29 p.m. CST
The opening tracking shot is majestic. After that, it's all one very painful folly from a director who still hasn't completely regained his footing.
Jan. 3, 2000, 2:35 p.m. CST
the 12 tribes of the moon were born ten years ago in the cemetary city of Midian by a brilliant genious known as CLIVE BARKER. LOVE IT, HATE IT, I dont really care, I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! I WANT TO OWN IT ON DVD...I WANT the TWO SEQUELS that will never happen!!! --McK
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:24 p.m. CST
Wow - _Dead Again_ among the worst? This was always a little gem I've treasured; a film I always assumed was a critical and cult hit. It's one of those films we always break out among friends, and example of Emma Thompson and Kennith Branaugh *before* they went Hollywood and started making crap. Am I the only one who loved the visual style, the story and the performances? I still remember only seeing this because Robert Ebert said we should, showing the clip of Robin Williams and Branaugh with the laughable idea of reincarnation that works within the film. While not in my top 10 by any means, it's always been one of my favorite films.
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:31 p.m. CST
While _Batman Returns_ was always stylish the one word I'd choose to describe it with is claustrophobic. The plot was too dense for the time a film could give - it was a plot in search of a miniseries. Visually the film always looked closed in, unreal, like it was being filmed in a set. It didn't *look* like a city. This was especially true of the park in front of the shopping mall. Visually that claustrophobia really bothered me. Finally it was claustrophobic in that there were too many characters vying for screen time. Rather than just the Joker, we had three villians. Unfortunately that was the one thing kept from this film for later films, one of the many, many things that made the later ones fail. I should add that while the German "gothic" look was brilliant, it did so by adopting a lot of unsavory images. The Penguin comes from the role Jews took in the style Burton borrowed from. I'm certain no anti-semetic messages were intended, but there was something troubling about the style. It bothered me in the same way that the Nazi-chic of _Starship Troopers_ did. But at least that film could claim to be using it's images in the pursuit of satire and irony. _Batman Returns_ couldn't. While the first film had it's weaknesses, it was much stronger than this one.
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:40 p.m. CST
by Spock Jenkins
I liked the list, but most of all I loved the fact that Miller's Crossing was the first movie you mentioned. I love everything that the Coens have ever made, but I think this Prohibition-era gangster flick is far and away the best thing that they have ever done. Gabriel Byrne exudes coolness in every frame. Albert Finney, "the Dane", even the little fat kid is awesome. The Coens have a magical gift to breathe life into every single character they create. Their use of period-specific (and in movies like Fargo, location-specific) lingo is truly amazing and unmatched by anyone else. "What's the rumpus?" will forever live in legend. This is the kind of movie that no matter how many times you see it, you will get something new every single time. I make every single one of my friends watch it if they haven't seen it yet. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you run, not walk, to the video store and rent it.
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:44 p.m. CST
by Lord Shell
Nice to see someone else appreciates Batman Returns. Usually when I mention that it's my favorite Batman movie, I get either laughter or strange looks. I think the main reason it did so poorly was that everyone was expecting a DIFFERENT movie. Something lighter and 'kiddified' (Remember the Batman Returns Burger King glasses? Hee hee. Every time I think of the BK glasses it makes me remember my favorite line: 'Just the pussy I was looking for.') And this movie was a dark metaphor for a fractured personality rather than a 'slam-bang action movie'.~~~~~As for Aliens3 . . . yeeesh! The entire premise of Aliens was based around Ripley's guilt over the deaths of her original crew. Overcoming her fears and saving the new crew (ESPECIALLY Newt) was the way of coming 360 degrees-to redemption (Has anyone ever seen the cut scenes involving Ripley's mother? Just wondering.) And then in A3 ALL THE FUCKING PEOPLE SHE FOUGHT TO SAVE IN THE PREVIOUS MOVIE ARE DEAD IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES-AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHH! MEN HAVE BEEN KILLED FOR LESSER OFFENCES! Ahem. Pardon me. It would have been far better to have let the movies end with Aliens than have subjected the world to Alien3 and the putrid Alien: Resurrection. I have also been led to understand that many of the most vile script changes have come from Sigourney Weaver herself (I may be wrong-I am simply repeating rumors. If it is true I think Sigourney should see if 'writer' is anywhere on her resume.) If you don't have any respect for the previous source material then DON'T DO THE FUCKING MOVIE! Is that so hard to understand?
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:45 p.m. CST
The climax sucked royally, but I thought the supporting performances/characters of Wayne Knight and Robin Williams alone made the film worth seeing.
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:53 p.m. CST
Lord Shell>> You echo my feelings about the Alien franchise exactly. So this is what it's like when doves cry!..... As for Miller's Crossing, I can appreciate it, but I just did not enjoy it that much. I like my satire delivered with the subtle tap of a single raindrop as opposed to the crushing blow of a sledgehammer. Perhaps it's just the subject matter; I hated Analyze This as well.
Jan. 3, 2000, 3:56 p.m. CST
...in honor of his dead baby son. Did he also write it because he was under contract to do a song for the movie Rush, or am I mistaken?
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:02 p.m. CST
I thought that movie rocked. It wasn't trying to be a brainy action thriller. It was one of those leave your brain at the door flicks, pure brain candy. After seeing this, I just new Keanu Reeves was an awesome action hero. That movie is such an adrenaline rush! I gotta agree with the Glengarry Glen Ross comments. That is probably the best acted film ever. Mesmerizing to watch, you can't take your eyes off the actors and every line is memorable. I thought Barton Fink was better than Miller's Crossing. From the chemistry between Tuturro and Goodman to the scene stealing of Tony Shalhoub and Steve Buscemi , that film is a masterpiece.
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:05 p.m. CST
I love Point Break as one of my guilty pleasures. Good action, good philosophy, and the nihilistic ending (a la Dirty Harry) for which I am a sucker. It is the only time that I remember being impressed by Patrick Swayze, and Keanu doesn't have to go too far to play a surfer. Plus, you have Gary Busey in all his glory! However, I completely agree with you regarding Robin Hood. Maybe Alan Rickman was directed to play the villain in that ridiculously over the top manner, but I thought it was awful. (I do appreciate him as Hans Gruber and even that bad guy in Quigley Down Under, so I'm not biased against him. I am eager to see Galaxy Quest.) The only moment I liked was when Marion blew in Robin's ear to disrupt his supposedly perfect shot.
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:12 p.m. CST
LANE!! It's me!! Quentin2! I just re-registered!!! well.... I've found a GREAT messageboard called THE PANEL, and I have been looking for my old friend, LaneMyers (a passionate flamboyant man) because I want him to come to the board... Lane!!! Lane, if you read this, go to http://maty_k.tripod.com/index.htm It is the best messageboard online...made for people like you and I.
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:23 p.m. CST
by I Love Fox!
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:37 p.m. CST
Jan. 3, 2000, 4:59 p.m. CST
JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU FUCKS STILL DOING HERE???... It's good to see your names, though. Brings back good memories. If you don't know yet, it is indeed me, quentin2. I have returned to this abonimable pit on a quest for the legendary lost LaneMyers. Man...now I'm thinking of those old thimes....makes me misty eyed. I've got to say, and I'm sure Harry and Moriarty will agree, AICN Talk Back was without the a doubt THE BEST FILM FORUM/MESSAGEBOARD ONLINE. Every time Lane and I would argue, I secretly cherished the time spent writing those profanity-filled, novel-length responses.... I'll tell you this, I used to love coming to Talk Back everyday responding and talking to people with various opinions. And you know what? I always read every single post. I always digested everything everyone had to say, and I responded accordingly on an individual basis. And you know what else I loved about those old days? You were 100% FREE to express your opinion...(well, you could say that you were 100% free to express your opinion in the primordial choatic AICN Talk Back that existed years ago, before Harry ever had the balls to ban anyone...man, in those days a typical subject line read: "I WANNA SEE ANAKIN AND OBI-WAN FUCK NATALIE'S CUNT AND ASS!!!! AND QUI-GON BETTER GET SOME OF NATALIE'S ASS TOO!!!"...but I digress...Those were chaos-filled days...)...where was I? Oh yeah. AICN TALK BACK REPRESENTED THE GOLDEN AGE OF MESSAGEBOARD/FORUM INTERACTION ONLINE. I don't know why, I don't know how, but for whatever reason the planets aligned and Talk Back was a PARADISE. Perhaps it was because of the pre-prequel hype, and most of us were prequel-hungry SW fans starving for rumors anyway...that's how the AICN gold rush of pre-1999 happened. But ALL of us were smart, concise, and to the point. These were not just obsessed SW fans, we were movie-buffs, movie-freaks, and movie-critics. Everyone had something intelligent to say and everything was worth reading. Even characters like "Da Phantom Nigga" always brought a smile to my face. The point is that EVERYONE CONTRIBUTED to the discussion! We were like happy hippies living on a commune. We all put in our share of work, and we got back what we put in, and EVERYONE WAS HAPPY. At the end of the day, after tending the Marijuana crops, we'd sit around the fire in a circle and exchange ideas....FREELY!!!!! And Harry.... Fat Harry... Well, the loveable skamp wasn't too directly involved, but it wasn't like it is now! Now we have the Emperor with no clothes strolling through the peasant streets once every year simply to wave and smile to his loyal citizens... BACK IN THE OLD DAYS, Harry was a normal guy, he was ONE OF US, and he's often drop in to say "hi", and to PARTICIPATE in the discussion...... OH GOD, HOW I YEARN FOR THOSE DAYS...... And then of course, there was the one, the only, the great, the amazing, the extraordinary Nietzschean superman, LANEMYERS..... Now he....he was such..SUCH A WORTHY ADVERSARY!!!!!! SUCH AS I HAVE NEVER WNCOUNTERED BEFORE.... I remember, we argued like cats and dogs from the very beginning......... we fought fiercely tooth and nail...... Lane even got me banned over a passionate Dogma fight. But in the end I realized... "Ya know what? This guy is a fucking genius! I like arguing with him!" He was a genius, a linguistic genius, pure and simple....the only online entity I have ever met that even came close to my intelligence. THOSE WERE THE DAYS WHEN EVERY POST WAS A PROFANITY-FILLED, NOVEL LENGTH SPEECH...AND TYPING IN ALL CAPS WAS OKAY!! LANE!!!!! WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!!!!! You know, when Lane (The Talk Back messiah) committed internet suicide, THAT'S when Talk Back's golden pillars came tumbling down. It was like watching glorious ATLANTIS sink into the ocean. Lane was like Atlas holding the Earth...without him, Talk Back fell......... After Lane left, the conversation became SHIT. People started leaving left and right, and in there places, a SHITLOAD of pre-pubescant wannabes showed up in full force ready to make one sentence responses to the AICN articles.... I stayed because I had one speck of naive hope left...hope that Talk Back would reach it's glorious peak once again... I posted and posted, but no one seemed to care, as no one did anything but post to each other like immature toddlers in a Playground trying to make each other cry. THEN CAME THE GREAT EPISODE 1 CATACLYSM. This was the final blow, the thousand-pound weight that broke the already-crippled camel's back. A great CIVIL WAR erupted on Talk Back, peace was torn asunder, and civility burned to a crisp. Talk Back was divided into THOSE WHO LIKED TPM and THOSE WHO HATED TPM. This was bad enough, as many horrors and atrocities were committed, and many good men died, but it got worse and degenerated even further in PURE UNBRIDELED ANARCHY when the two camps were divided even more into THOSE WHO LIKE JAR JAR and THOSE WHO HATE JAR JAR and THOSE WHO WANT TO FUCK NATALIE PORTMAN and THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO FUCK NATALIE PORTMAN and THOSE WHO HATED GEORGE LUCAS and THOSE WHO STILL HAD FAITH IN GEORGE LUCAS and THOSE WHO LOVED THE SPECIAL EFFECTS and THOSE WHO HATED THE SPECIAL EFFECTS and THOSE WHO THOUGHT THE TRADE FEDERATION WAS COOL and THOSE WHO THOUGHT THE TRADE FEDERATION SUCKED ASS...AND SO ON AND SO ON AND SO ON..... I had no choice but to desert... I PACKED MY BAGS AND LEFT TALK BACK. ................................................................................................. God, I took those beautiful golden age times for granted.... How I regret that now... All I can do is search for my old friend, LaneMyers, in the hope that AICN's one true messiah will be resurrected......
Jan. 3, 2000, 5:19 p.m. CST
Steve Oderkirk wasn't involved in the Ben Stiller Show, I don't think. The Bob most certainly was.
Jan. 3, 2000, 5:43 p.m. CST
I loved Point Break. It's in my top 25 movies of all time. Not only does it have great action scenes, it has a weird and wonderful philosophy around the whole movie. Watch it again.
Jan. 3, 2000, 5:48 p.m. CST
by Joe Buck
Thank you for bringing so many great movies back to the forefront of my mind and several bad ones as well. Unforgiven is one of my favorite films of all time. It's received a lot of unfair criticism, but I find it just about as perfect as movies get. It takes everything glorified in 80 years of Hollywood Westerns and just flushes it down the toilet. Glengarry is another one I'm completely in love with. As a salesman myself, Lemmon's performance destroys me every time I see it. I had almost forgotten about Rush and Quick Change, but I do remember liking them a great deal. I think you perfectly summarized Chow-Yun Fat and Hard Boiled and Dominique Pinon and Delicatessen. Plus whatever did happen to the guy from The Commitments? I also thought he'd be huge. I look forward to future installments.
Jan. 3, 2000, 6:16 p.m. CST
by Doctor Doom
Why do you need LaneMeyers? Just for someone to spar with? Step up and write the witty prose on talkback if you think it is missing. If you get banned, mail Harry or make a new talkback id. I would contribute more but I personally hate the format of viewing/posting to talkback. It's too much of a pain in the ass to try and follow a thread of discussion (especially when the talkbacks show up out of order). As for Moriarty's decade recap, it's a nice trip down memory lane, remembering when and where I first saw these movies and my impressions of them. Batman Returns... it is my favorite Batman movie, the one I can watch multiple times. Alien3, I remember seeing the trailer and literally jumping up and down excited. I wanted a continuation of the alien storyline, to find out more about the aliens, to see what ripley and hicks and newt and bishop would do. Instead I got alien3. I didn't like it the first time, because it was a disappointment. First of all, facehuggers -react-... they don't crawl around, eat through cryotubes, and impregnate. Then, the acid causes an electrical fire. Fair enough. But then the whole ship BLOWS UP BECAUSE OF IT?!?!? It's the fucking Pinto of spaceships! -THEN- the crash pod os recovered and the facehugger impregnates the dog. FACEHUGGER DIE AFTER 1 IMPREGNATION. goddammit. I like the movie now, but only as a standalone alien movie, not part of the alien series. The only thing that would have saved the movie for me, would be at the end, after hearing Ripley to sign off. Gazing at the pile of garbage and the escape pod, silence falling over the prison facility. Only to be broken by a haunting clicking noise coming from a ghostly, translucent figure, crouching, as it examines the scene and prepares for it's next move in the hunt... sorry, fan-boy wishing there...
Jan. 3, 2000, 6:58 p.m. CST
The nineties I could do without. Especially how shitty the last two years were. Real shitty. As for music, I really miss that cool eighties sound. You gotta admit, that was a great time period.
Jan. 3, 2000, 7:45 p.m. CST
by sth gekko
... we need a ninties "best of" list from you like we need a Toto reunion tour. Shut the hell up you egocentric fop. -- Everybody be cool... YOU be cool.
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:13 p.m. CST
I didn't totally hate 'Alien3;' it was more of a disappointment actually, but it was light years better than 'Alien Ressurection.' Ever notice how the Fincher fanboys never bring that movie up? I was expecting an 'art-house snob' sort of list, but this one was alright, and the 'Evil Genius' schtick was restrained for a change. By the way, I liked 'Die Hard 2,' even though it's not as good as the first one, and 'Ford Fairlane' was really bad. It's only saving graces were the 'Beverly Hillbillies' joke, and the soundtrack was pretty good.
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:18 p.m. CST
Ok..why the hell does everyone dismiss the brilliant and touching Hero (1992) with Dustin Hoffman in one of his best roles. Sure, the plot is somewhat sappy and manipulative, but Hoffman and Garcia deliver amazing, riveting performances. Give respect where respect is due!
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:25 p.m. CST
Moriarty writes.."and as far as I'm concerned, the film era known as "The Nineties" runs from January 1, 1990 to Dec. 31, 1999 -- 10 years" What a friggin genius. He knows that a decade runs 10 years beginning on the first day of the first month and ending on the last day of the last month. Give that guy a cookie.
Jan. 3, 2000, 8:53 p.m. CST
Thank you for mentioning the brilliant, underapreciated Quick Change. Easily one of the best comedies this decade. The plot alone made me want to run out and rob a bank disguised as a clown. I still think Batman Returns is the WORST of the Batman films, yeah you heard me right. What a freaking crapfest, boring as hell! Point Break was a cool, guilty pleasure action film. I think its probably Keannu's best performance. Swayze's too. And thanks one again for mentioning Bruce Willis'great performance in Last Boy-Scout, even though its very flawed, I could watch that film over and over. Willis is just perfect, he looks and acts so cool in it. Die Hard 2 wasn't THat bad, I mean the first is an action classic but it still was entertaining and way better then the crappy 3rd film. Silence of the lambs was WAY overrated. There is nothing scary or thrilling about it yet its one of only 3 films ever to sweep the oscars, wtf???? Seven was WAY better, more thrills, better directed... And Foster's accent comes and goes in the film like Travolta's career!
Jan. 3, 2000, 10:45 p.m. CST
I generally can't agree more with your list, particularly 1990. But where is Avalon? One of the best of that year and maybe Levinson's best period. I also want to thank you for mentioning some other faves like, Defending Your Life, Hard Boiled, and Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper. This guy is Brando revisited. I can't wait to see what happens when everyone else realizes it. Also looking forward to the rest of your list. Thanks for all the hard work!
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:24 p.m. CST
So Eternal is gone. Another [sarcasm]TalkBack Legend[/sarcasm]is no more. Come back, Shane...I mean Lane! Come back! Who the hell cares? Lane, Eternal, Quentin, Hallenbeck, and a few others were somehow revered because they knew a few big words and lots of four-letter ones. Did these guys ever make one post where they didn't use the word "f*ck" fewer than 17 times? They were just a bunch of foul-mouthed windbags who liked to argue, and revel in their so-called "legendary" AICN status. Eternal, you have made a bunch of 16-year olds very happy with your various epic rants. You can die in peace now. Your work here is done...
Jan. 3, 2000, 11:30 p.m. CST
Sure, the movie sucked, but it did give us one good, useful line, that bit about the guy's "11's" being up. When talking about an old dog, that isn't long for this world, my brother and I will say "His 11's are up." When joking about how old our parents are, we'll say "Mom's 11's are up." It was not a completely worthless movie.
Jan. 4, 2000, 1:33 a.m. CST
I like The Medicine Man, Prince of Thieves, and Point Break. Come to think of it, I've never really understood that whole Keanu Reeves is satan's gift to acting thing. I thought he did rather well in PB and it's one of my favorite movies. Not particularly a smart or jaw-dropping film but... I dunno... there's something about it. Must be that whole bank robber/surfer thing. I dig it.
Jan. 4, 2000, 2:14 a.m. CST
by The Thing
I've never laughed harder in my life than when Randy Quaid wigs out and jumps out of the cab after learning that Tony Shalob doesn't speak English. Blufftoni, indeed. Moriarty's analysis of Batman Returns was interesting. I've never looked at the film that way - I'll have to check it out again. I hated it the first time I saw it at the theater, and I've seen it maybe once or twice since then. Batman Forever explored the same territory - the whole spilt personality thing- but did is so heavy-handedly it was almost laughable. Joel Shitmaker wouldn't know subtlety if it bit him in his hack-ass. But if you're reading this, you probably already know that, don't you?
Jan. 4, 2000, 2:27 a.m. CST
I think this is a very good, well written article but I had one problem: your commentary about Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King. What does this have to do with how the movie works? Just because X is a more electric figure doesn't make a movie about him any better than a movie about King. Stick to a review of the movie and don't delve into social or political commentary. This was an excellent movie, however, one of the top 10 of the decade. As a white male, this film gives a complete sense of what it must have been like to have been a black man growing up in the South and in Harlem in the 30s and 40s. It's a flawless portrait of one of our most controversial figures. Also, I was very glad to see Quick Change, which I saw thirty to forty times when I was 13. Who said this line - "How hot does this baby burn?"
Jan. 4, 2000, 4:34 a.m. CST
by Dead Eye
I'm Moriarty, but BATMAN RETURNS was about half as good as the first one. It wasn't the performance it was the screenplay. It was like the start of Batman turning into a comic book again. Come on, penguins with guided missles attached to them. All of a sudden Serina Kyle magically get rivived by cats (okay the coincedential Joker smile, in BATMAN, is kinda pushing it but so what not as bad as the latter). Yes, I know Burton does his sort of surreal world in his films. But he did make the character It took away from the realism, like their could be a Batman. Not totally, but started to. Then came BATMAN FOREVER, oh God don't let me start. I just hope it gets better.
Jan. 4, 2000, 5:15 a.m. CST
I need to catch up on my film watching...
Jan. 4, 2000, 7:06 a.m. CST
***Miller's Crossing is the best Coen Bros. Movie so far, hands down. I love the Coens, and every film of theirs guarantees a first-night seeing, but Miller's was the best. "Where's me hat?" "I suppose you think you've raised hell. - Lady, when I've raised hell you'll know it." "I'm talkin' about friendship. I'm talkin' about character. I'm talkin' about - hell, Leo, I ain't afraid to say it - I'm talkin' about ethics." "Friends is a mental state." "Jeez, I open my mouth and the whole world gets smart." "They took his hair, Tommy. Jesus, that's strange. - Maybe it was Injuns." "...my sister? She's a sick twist, that one. -She speaks highly of you. -Yeah, well, you stick by your family." "Don't smart me. See, I wanna watch you scared. I wanna watch you sweat a little. And when you smart me, it ruins it." Get the picture? This one is one of the best of the decade.*** Glengarry Glen Ross is right under Miller's Crossing for some of the best dialogue. "Coffee is for closers only. Do you think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you." And Jack Lemmon will break your heart, while Kevin Spacey will pour ice on it.*** Hard-Boiled is ballet for tough guys. Fucking great.*** Alien3 isn't my favorite of the series, but I thought it far superior to Alien:Resurrection. This was a film made by committee, but some scenes still work, and it gave Fincher the directing chops to do Seven later on.*** Unforgiven is the best Western ever made. The only other one that comes close is The Searchers. *** No Silence of the Lambs in the top ten? What the hell? *** There are no Batman movies. Read the comics. You'll see what I mean. EVERY ONE OF THEM HAS FAILED. *** Scent Of A Woman is one of the most overrated films of the decade. Al did better work in other movies, and that Oscar was simply because the Academy couldn't go back in time to give him the oscar he so much deserved for Godfather 2...*** Did my eyes deceive me? Where the hell is A Few Good Men? That is still one of the best courtroom dramas in some time...*** JFK is brilliant. Too bad Oliver Stone only had three bullets in his gun (the other two being Platoon and Wall Street)***Okay, I'm done.
Jan. 4, 2000, 10:05 a.m. CST
C'mon! It was a great movie, funny as hell, and it never took itself seriously. And JFK as the #1? You're as insane as Stone himself.
Jan. 4, 2000, 10:41 a.m. CST
The ending is way too stupid to be on Moriarty's list. C'mon, you actually believe Nicholson's character would crack under pressure from Tom Cruise?
Jan. 4, 2000, 10:44 a.m. CST
Wow. Guess I'm the only person on the planet who liked Toys. It's actually very nearly my favorite movie. (No, I'm not being sarcastic in the least, in case anyone's wondering.)
Jan. 4, 2000, 11:21 a.m. CST
by Hudson Hawk
Hey, C'mon, The Last Boy Scout as a vehicle for a great Bruce Willis performance. No way. Especially when placed alongside his Hudson Hawk in the movie of the same name. He was the complete opposite of his Die Hard persona and slightly reminiscent of the good ole Moonlighting days - and that is what made it so great! Last Boy Scout was formula and expected. HH was completely out there and unexpected - hence it didn't do well - but it was awesome in my eyes.
Jan. 4, 2000, 11:49 a.m. CST
...I believe that the essence of Nicholson's character is found in the fact that he *did* crack under pressure from Cruise's character. Nicholson was a bad ass who never thought he'd actually have to face consequences for what he was doing - he believed the ends justified the means. I'm not even so sure his character *did* crack, but rather, his character didn't care - he did not believe he was doing anything wrong, even though he was aware of his "wrong doings". In any case, the arrogance of Jack's character is what makes him "crack". I believe he knew what Cruise was trying to get out of him - he just didn't care, so he sufficed him through freewill. His character loved the fact that his decisions were important.
Jan. 4, 2000, 1:20 p.m. CST
Masterful. The thing i like about Moriarty is that he explains, simply and succinctly, what films were good and what were a waste of time. Beyond that, he is able to call attention to a great performance in a shitty film, Julia Roberts/"Pretty Woman," i.e.) That's criticism folks! A good critic should remind you why a film was good and worth (re)exploring. Moriarty does just that. I've got a large post-it note w/ over 30 films scribbled down that I missed first time around or else forgot about: "Indian Runner," "City of Hope," "Little Man Tate," "Rubin & Ed," "Waterdance."
Jan. 4, 2000, 2 p.m. CST
...should never be forgotten!!!!
Jan. 4, 2000, 9:34 p.m. CST
by Martin Q Blank
Well, I'm obviously going to refute Moriarty's comment that Miami Blues is a better movie than Grosse Pointe Blank.... Are you crazy?
Jan. 4, 2000, 9:46 p.m. CST
by sth gekko
...unlike a previous poster, I think you can handle a debate with Moriarty. For God's sake he included Point Break in his "best of" list. I'm pretty sure you can take him.--- Everybody be cool... YOU be cool.
Jan. 5, 2000, 7:31 a.m. CST
Way to go Moriarty. I always felt Batman Returns was one of those movies that would only truly be appreciated years after its release, much like Carpenter's The Thing or, dare I say it, The Phantom Menace. The trick with BR is not to look at it as a superhero adventure. On that level, it's disappointing. But as a gothic study of tortured characters as only Tim Burton can do it, it's some kind of masterpiece. Who knows how much darker and weirder he could have made the third one if Warner Bros. hadn't chickened out? Am I the only one who thinks Batman Forever would have tanked just like B & R if not for Jim Carrey? The rest of the list is pretty cool, too. I have to say the main reason I didn't like Pretty Woman was because of Julia Roberts, but that's me. Why do people say the last decade sucked. movie-wise? OK, so it wasn't as artistic as the 70s (the all-time great decade) but it was miles better than the 80s.
Jan. 5, 2000, 10:44 a.m. CST
No, Jim Carrey's overacting was the main problem with the ass-rippingly horrid BATMAN FOREVER. What the fuck does that title have to do with anything anyway? BF is probably worse than the misbegotten BATMAN & ROBIN in my book. On the other hand, you are quite correct that 90's movies are far superior to the vapid dreck we suffered through in the 80's, e.g. THE BIG CHILL, a shallow excuse to sell a soundtrack. Did you ever notice how Siskel and Ebert loved all kinds of crap in the 80's only to turn around a couple of years ago and say, "Gee, the 70's were so much better"? I could have told them that.
Jan. 5, 2000, 7:08 p.m. CST
Anyone who hates "Hook" obviously has never read James Barries' original "Peter Pan." The script for "Hook" was incredibly true to the source material, and the performances were true to the original characters. I don't know what all of you were expecting, but many of us who have actually read the book enjoy "Hook" a helluva lot.
Jan. 6, 2000, 6:24 a.m. CST
I really liked Young Guns 2 and Bonfire of the Vanities. Anyone else?
Jan. 6, 2000, 7:07 a.m. CST
Young Guns II is a guilty pleasure. Bonfire had at least one good line "The truth has got to come out and there's only one way to do that . . . lie!" When I say Batman Forever would have bombed without Carrey, I mean that his fanbase probably made it a bigger hit. Anyway, the problem with the last two Alien films, IMO, wasn't that they were terrible. They were just pointless. They didn't add anything to the alien mythology. The only way to save the franchise is Aliens vs Predator. You know it makes sense.
Jan. 6, 2000, 10:59 a.m. CST
I really believe that HOOK was a horrible film. I mean, I think that this film (along with JP2) are perfect illustrations as to why Spielberg is NOT one of the greatest directors of all-time. I mean, the guy's a talentless hack!! Imagine if Stanley Kubrick ever directed films like those! Just imagine it for a second...Ughh!
Jan. 6, 2000, 11:05 a.m. CST
And fuck Spielberg too!!! They suck! My crack will engulf the bunch of 'em! HEY! STOP LOOKING AT MY CRACK!
Jan. 6, 2000, 3:41 p.m. CST
First of all, let me continue by saying that the flaws of "Hook" are entirely Spielberg's. I didn't mean to say it was a perfect film, only that the actors and the screenwriters captured the spirit of "Peter Pan" spot-on perfect. Unfortunately, these strengths are lost sometimes in the wake of Spielberg's over-the-top approach. Still, for true fans of Barrie's book, "Hook" remains an extremely enjoyable experience. On to Spielberg, I haven't seen people comparing him to Kubrick around here. The basic facts are, he's usually very good at what he does, but sometime's he isn't (can't that be said of all of us?). When he's on top of his game, he is unmatchable. What is wrong with you people? "Schindler's List?" "Saving Private Ryan?" "CE3K?" "Raiders?" And you call him a talentless hack? Do better, and I'll listen to you. Geez.
Jan. 6, 2000, 4:06 p.m. CST
...hmmm, the one thing that all of those films have in common is - Germans portrayed as being super-evil!!!
Jan. 6, 2000, 4:22 p.m. CST
Spielberg is an editor; he cannot direct actors. SCHINDLER'S LIST, a highly overrated film which relies largely on its subject matter for effect, is no exception. And neither is EMPIRE OF THE SUN, which some of you keep trotting out as an example of a great Spielberg drama. That kid was goddamn awful.
Jan. 6, 2000, 4:31 p.m. CST
Jan. 6, 2000, 5:03 p.m. CST
...well, I'd have to say Kubrick's resume is infinitely more powerful, and speaks for itself: THE KILLING, PATHS OF GLORY, SPARTACUS, LOLITA, DR STRANGELOVE, 2001, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, BARRY LYNDON, THE SHINING, FULL METAL JACKET, and EYES WIDE SHUT. All much better films than any of Spielberg's films. For that matter David Lynch's career (consisting of ERASERHEAD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, DUNE, BLUE VELVET, WILD AT HEART, FIRE WALK WITH ME, LOST HIGHWAY, and THE STRAIGHT STORY) is also superior. Forget not my friend, that Spielberg directed shitbags like HOOK, JP, JP2, SL, and SPR. Those films are pretty bad.
Jan. 6, 2000, 5:16 p.m. CST
Sorry, Riddley, we're sober enough to recognize that Spielberg is great at editing actions scenes, but weak as far as directing actors. You don't seriously expect me to take RAIDERS as a example of good acting, do you? It's a feel-good action flick with an amiable yet wooden actor in the lead.
Jan. 6, 2000, 5:52 p.m. CST
I specifically differentiated between editing and directing when I made my comments about Spielberg. Maybe you should read posts a little more carefully before you call someone a crackhead.
Jan. 7, 2000, 12:15 a.m. CST
What The Butcher wants to know is why was this movie not mentioned in your list Mr. Moriarty.
Jan. 7, 2000, 1:31 a.m. CST
by Toe Jam
Thanks for including "Hard-Boiled," undoubtedly one of the three best action movies of all time. An funny personal anecdote: A few years ago, while strolling through the theatre section of London, I happened to pick up a lobby card for "Hard-Boiled" in a record shop. For some inexplicable reason, I was enamored with the picture of Chow-Yun Fat holding a shotgun while cradling a baby with his other arm. Instinctively, I pinned this card up on my bedroom wall, as if it were one of my all-time favorites, when in fact I knew nothing about it. Guess it just had that kind of magic, huh? It would be two years before I would actually see the movie, and thankfully it lived up to all my greatest expectations. Anyone who liked "Face/Off" (and I know that are at least a few of you), run to your local video store and rent "The Killer." They have it at the nearby chain store (I won't mention names) here in the nether region that is eastern Nebraska, so they should have it wherever you live. In my opinion, it is superior to "Face/Off" in that it is more characterization-driven, and you don't have to put up with the showboating of Cage and Travolta. Plus the ending is much more satisfying (wouldn't you have liked to see Cage and Travolta's characters iron out their differences and go postal on the "real" bad guys). John Woo uses "The Killer" as a blueprint for "Face/Off" every aspect, but you will not be disappointed. They are not the same movie in any capacity. By the way, does anyone know who will be playing the main villain in Mission: Impossible 2? I can't imagine Woo directing a movie that doesn't have a good guy and a bad guy that are on equal footing (i.e.: Van Damme/Henriksen, Slater/Travolta, Cage/Travolta). I'd be surprised if they didn't have a respectable actor/actress playing opposite Cruise. Last but not least: Harry, I'll see what I can get for you on Alexander Payne's next project (he shot "Election" just 5 miles down the road, and I've heard that he'll be coming back to Omaha to make his next). I've also heard rumblings that the story involves the mid-life crisis of a working-class man. Hopefully, it will stand up next to "Election" (and to think that film was an MTV Production!). Anyone who follows my advice and checks out "The Killer," feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts, complaints, etc. Thanks!
Jan. 7, 2000, 1:40 a.m. CST
by Toe Jam
P.S. I gotta echo the Butcher's sentiments. Just where in the hell is "Boyz N the Hood"? Obviously, Moriarty must have some personal problems with this film, or else it would have been in the Top 3 of that year. Every person that I have met who didn't like "Boyz N the Hood" has either been a closet racist who didn't like this movie because it "sympathized" with the gangsta culture, or a complete idiot. Here's to hoping Moriarty has some other reason for this glaring omission.
Jan. 7, 2000, 3:46 a.m. CST
its the same as it always was. People who bitch about flicks. 'twasn't "glorious" it always was. Get over it. It didn't change, you just grew up a bit. Be happy for that fact. PS- The best Batman movie is "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" then the Burton flicks. . .So I like Cartoons. Sue me.
Jan. 7, 2000, 11:47 a.m. CST
So what if he's populist? He's made at least seven classic movies - Jaws (no one can dis this), CE3K, Raiders, ET, Jurassic Park (if you weren't gobsmacked by the T-Rex escaping its pen, you're a flippin' liar), Schindler and Private Ryan. Hook and Lost World were a bit shit, but nobody's perfect. And yes, Boyz N the Hood is a good film.
Feb. 9, 2000, 2:30 p.m. CST
And it was HE who screwed up Ren and Stimpy. If he'd been professional, and not wasted so much time and money--Nickelodeon might have not seperated him from his show. In this case, don't believe John K. He's spun this into and "artist vs. management" story--and while I won't disagree the show was better when he was in control, Nickelodeon had given him a VERY long leash--and it wasn't enough. He deserves all the failure he's endured since,and it's nice to see that he's gotten what he deserves--especially since he's treated SO MANY ARTISTS so poorly (talk to MOST of them--and you'll see what I mean.). Not the handfull of sycophants with their heads up his VERY large asshole, but the one's who actually DRAW the show.
Feb. 9, 2000, 2:33 p.m. CST
by Sith Lord Byron
...you all don't get it. The first two minutes of Alien3 are in my opinion the most profound of the entire series. You bitch that killing off Newt and Hicks nullifies all that Ripley fought for in ALIENS. That's the fucking point! Ripley's efforts are in vain, and once you people grow up you will realize that shit like this happens in real life ALL THE TIME! Killing Newt and Hicks makes the tragedy that is Ripley's life so much more poignant. The suicide at the end is the best way , the only way the trilogy could have ended. And yes, and should have remained a trilogy. I actually like Resurrection, but I think the ending on Cubed was so much more emotionally devastating than anything I had seen prior (and I mean that as the highest of compliments). Oh, and about the film being ugly? Again...THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT! To paraphrase James O'Barr, we have to look for "the undescribable beauty in absolute ugliness," and Fincher found it. All of the complaints you fanboys level at Alien3 are almost always directed at things that actually make the movie better, that make the movie work. Sometimes there's not supposed to be a happy ending. Tragedy exists. Deal with it.
Feb. 9, 2000, 3:25 p.m. CST
by Ted Terrific
Not only do the makers of Joe vs Volcano owe me two hours, they owe me 20 bucks, and it only cost me $5 to get in. I don't think many people thought the message of Pretty Woman was "Be a hooker - meet Prince Charming". Nevertheless even if the message was amoral, does this make it a bad movie. See my post after 1994.
Feb. 10, 2000, 3:02 p.m. CST
Wow, reverse your feelings on both and you have me. I thought Batman Returns was a joyless mess, more obesessed with weirdness than with any kind of coherent story. Burton's transformation of the Penguin character robs him of any pity or dignity. The tragedy of the character is that he has everything Bruce Wayne has -- the money, the wit, the style, the social graces -- except for the looks. But since he "looks funny," he is shunned. But how could anyone help but shun DeVito's fish-gnashing misanthrope? The Schreck sub-plot just clutters things up, and neither the Penguin story or the Catwoman story let each other have the depth they need to be meaningful. And it's so nice to see that pretty much ANYBODY can hack the security codes of the Batmobile, and that EVERY vehicle Batman comes up with is about as fragile as an ultra-light. By the time the giant penguins come waddling down for the requeim, I had had about enough. As for Aliens 3, okay, so two major characters died in the beginning. Life sucks, get a helmet. So Ripley dies. Way it goes. This film was about Ripley finally gaining control of her own life. For three movies, she has not been in charge of her own decisions, be it because of Weylan/Utani or because of the aliens. They stripped her of her real family (the daughter she left behind in hyper-sleep), her first surrogate family (the crew of the Nostromo) and her second (Hicks and Newt). Sure, you can say "Hey, they survived the second movie, what a horrible thing to do." True, but that's life -- how many soldiers survived Normandy and the Bulge only to get killed miles from Berlin? Life is not fair, life does not guarantee happy endings. And just as Ripley reaches out to the doctor, the aliens take him away as well. She has absolutley nothing left to live or fight for, save for the one thing she finally does fight for -- control of her own life. She dies, yes, but on her own terms, and in that last drop into the flames, she takes back what the aliens and the Company took from her, sending both their plans up, literally, in smoke. If only Batman Returns had HALF the emotion of that climax, I'd have walked out happy.
Feb. 13, 2000, 4:02 p.m. CST
Attenburough may be a bad director, but if so, Shadowlands must be a fluke. The performances in this movie are outstanding. Everything about the movie is beautiful. I have to give at least some credit to the director for this. Other than that, I agree mostly with Moriarty. I'm glad to see someone else speak out about the piece of shit that was Alien 3 and also someone who understands the perfect simplicity of Joe Vs The Volcano.
Feb. 4, 2001, 2:39 p.m. CST
Alien 3 didn't suck, but it came pretty damn close!
Nov. 30, 2007, 8:59 p.m. CST
I know this is really damn old, but the fact you could call the director of a masterpiece like Gandhi a pedestrian hack is mind-boggling. And to think I respect you.
June 30, 2008, 2:25 p.m. CST
Yeah, I don't understand why Russel Crowe isn't a bigger movie star either. What gives? Ha.
June 30, 2008, 4:07 p.m. CST
of everyone from the Dark Knight/ Hellboy 2 talkback coming here and getting this TB back on the top 10 list? Come on folks, if the Lost TB's can do it, so can we!
June 30, 2008, 4:49 p.m. CST
But I must say, I loved Batman Returns. And Alien3 was good. Not amazing. But good. As was Resurrection (even if it was entirely unnecessary). Not every film can match the power of Alien or Aliens and the sequels, while good, are examples of this.
June 30, 2008, 7:23 p.m. CST
20s,30s,40s,50s,60s,70s,80s where we really go through the meat of them.
June 30, 2008, 10:49 p.m. CST
by The InSneider
how do u not like ghost or die hard 2? c'mon mori, get it together! i smell a revisiting or two.
June 30, 2008, 11:37 p.m. CST
Its so weird to weird the TBs from 2000 and see the unrelenting Moriarty bashing. Moriarty went from being apparently hated on here to being possibly the most popular reviewer on the site. He is my fave at least.
July 1, 2008, 5:27 a.m. CST
I liked Bonfire, Men at Work, Ford Fairlane, Die Hard 2, Dead Again, Toys and (gulp!) Cool World. Some of them much more than the films in your Top 10 lists. But I agree with you on Flatliners, and you seem to dig Hudson Hawk, so its all cool.
Nov. 10, 2009, 2:17 p.m. CST
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