Andy Walton’s “Best and Worst” of the ’90s
by Andy Walton
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I’ve never been all that good at following the rules of math, so in an absolutely excruciating effort to fit within the box of 10 and 10 and still cover the ground I must, it’s going to be my top 13 and bottom 7-ish. They sort of add up to 20…
The Best (in no particular order)
1. The Shawshank Redemption: Not only the best film adaptation of a Stephen King story, but also by all means one of the most well done, from above the line to below it, film of the past 100 years, much less the past 10. As Samuel L. Jackson said in an interview with Charlie Rose once, “I’d pay money to watch Morgan Freeman read a phone book…” I share that sentiment, and it’s no more apparent than in this film.
2. Pulp Fiction: Just Really Fucking Good, and we all know why.
3. Hoop Dreams: The only time I’ve ever been able to use the word “riveted,” in any conjugation, as it applies to a 3 hour-plus documentary. And, the life-imitates-art playground/Great Santini scene was surreal.
4. When We Were Kings: Another great long, sports documentary about one of the most significant pinnacles of social change coming to a head through the hearts, minds and bodies of two men in the history of this country. This fight, along with the first of the three Ali-Frazier bouts, ran parallel to all that was going on in the world as told though the western lens.
5. American Beauty: I’m not going to type anything here—you all have your feelings one way or another on this one.
6. Happiness: An absolute masterwork. Fine example of a director?s manipulation of an audience’s emotions. A theater full of people laughing at horrible things one minute, then a collective silence as we all wondered why we were laughing, then louder more self conscious laughter at the fact that we were all thinking the same thing. And this scenario happened over and over… until that climactic scene between father and son where you could hear popcorn containers dropping from aisle to aisle. Great film, great title.
7. Boyz In The Hood: A movie that did an exceptional job of telling like it really was in a particular place, in a particular city at a particular time. It’s unfortunate that it got lost in all the surrounding chest thumping, gang sign flashing exploitations of gangsta negrocity that hit the screen at about the same time (you remember Ice T, don’t you?)…
8. Miller’s Crossing: Ah, well, how the hell am I supposed to pick any one of a few of the Coens work over the rest??? Over Fargo? Over The Big Lebowski? Well, Lebowski’s probably a stretch, but still…
9. Saving Private Ryan: What I think was really the first time that the last war that was necessary was accurately, brutally depicted on screen. In this generation of ours where we forget that there are times when you do have to fight and kill and be killed for something greater than ourselves, this film captured all of the essentials in a way that few can.
10. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut: Jesus, that shit was funny. When was the last time I said that about a musical? Sure as hell not in reference to Everyone Says I Love You.
11. Twelve Monkeys: Terry Gilliam had to make this list, and this was definitely the best thing he did in that decade. Plus, that performance by Brad Pitt didn’t hurt either.
12. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Another musical (I wasn’t in drama club, I swear…), but an absolute marvel of stop action, puppetry, light work and story telling all in one. Danny Elfman didn’t hurt either.
13. Malcolm X: Great film by a director who gets over looked far too often because the NYU film school doesn’t offer a course in how to share your feelings in an interview without needlessly pissing off whitey. But, that said, this was a great film about a revolutionary figure in our lifetimes who changed more for the better than a lot of people realize. And, probably Denzel’s best work too.
The Worst (in no particular order either)
1. Blair Witch: Chris Rock summed it up perfectly… “They made that flick for, what, $50,000? I think someone out there’s runnin’ around with forty-nine grand in his pocket…” Which I’ve heard NOBODY say about Desperado, incidentally.
2. All Of The Scream Movies: Am I old, or do they just suck?
3. Mystery Men: Great opportunity, but goddamn did they blow it.
4. Tank Girl/Barb Wire: And while I’m at bagging on comic book flicks that sucked, roll those two in there, too.
5. The Game: Not a terrible movie until that ridiculous ending. That alone warrants it making this list.
6. The Postman: What was that Spinal Tap review for “Shark Sandwich”… oh, yeah, “Shit Sandwich”. I can’t think of anything better for The Postman, so I’ll defer.
7. Highlander And All Its Sequels: And one of them was made by a guy I know…but, good god, do we have to deal with another one this year too? Yes we do!
Andy Walton lives in Los Angeles, where he works for a publishing firm and laughs loudly at the mania that is the film industry.
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