1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#401 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 5:02 am

Sorry John Cope, Liebestraum just got nudged out of my top 50 by a couple of other films this time around.
thirtyframesasecond wrote:Regarding the also rans, I know Funny Games gets a mixed reaction from the board and critics. Haneke should have an excellent 00s though. I was glad to see someone else vote for Cabaret Balkan, whose pessimistic look at mid 90s Serbia running high on machismo and aggression contrasts nicely with Underground.
I know I had a debate then left it off my list in favour of a few different things, and unfortunately while I've got the DVDs I haven't gotten to any of Haneke's pre-Funny Games work yet. But be assured that my 2000s list is going to be full of his films!

I'm very much in favour of keeping the lists project in constant rotation. I like seeing this as a snapshot of the forum's tastes (and perhaps the wider rise and fall of films, though there are of course lots of different factors at play, all the way down to simply forgetting a film, or wanting to champion a different one!). This shouldn't supercede the previous 90s lists but add to them (maybe one day we can even do a big compliation of all the films that made the top 100 on all the various polls of each decade!) and I agree with zedz that this is much more about discussion, bringing films to the thread and looking at them through a different decade based context of the other releases that were coming out around the same time. I think some of that would be lost if we stopped the cycle going for a while, and on the participation element despite not being public I like that the voting is completely open to any member to add their list to, so there doesn't seem to be a major barrier. Maybe publicising it more could help, but then that might lead to the issues zedz describes.

Anyway we definitely shouldn't stop the project, as we are also steadily approaching the very first half-year polling of the 2010s!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Gropius
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#402 Post by Gropius » Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:02 am

I refrained from submitting a list this time, partly because I hadn't watched much new stuff (still haven't had an opportunity to see Hou's The Puppetmaster, and am holding out for a decent version), and partly because much of the stuff I rated highly last time is receding in the memory (e.g. I voted for 3 Fred Kelemen films, having seen them in a burst at a one-off retro, but could no longer confidently place them).

The Yang I would rate very nearly as highly as Zedz - doesn't quite feel like the number 1 to me, but I can't think of anything obviously superior (last time I put Tsai's Vive l'amour in the top spot, but wouldn't now). Of the MIA stuff, more of the early Sokurov needs to be made available - in addition to Whispering Pages, The Second Circle and Stone are amongst his best work.

oh yeah
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#403 Post by oh yeah » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:32 am

zedz wrote:Having compiled the lists for one cycle, I'm pleased to report that just about every list submitted is endearingly eccentric.* The more lists are submitted, the more the final list ends up reflecting The Movies Everybody Has Seen rather than The Movies We're Really Passionate About. That's the nature of these kinds of exercises, but it also makes the aggregate list in a way peculiarly unrepresentative of the individual lists and passions that generated it, so I'm happy that the finished lists don't take on any kind of monolithic 'representative' presence and continue to be bare stages for discussions of what has been left out this time around.
I completely agree; I love looking at lists of different people's favorite films, as although there are people whose taste is apparently in lock-step with the Sight & Sound canon or whatever, most of them are quite eccentric and deeply personal, with at least a few films in there that are either obscure or critically-maligned but which the list-maker holds dearly. I dislike the tendency to try to be "objective," to be more in lock-step with that canon, and thus to not rank some of one's favorite films as highly just because no one else seems to hold the same passion for them. What's the point -- and the fun -- of that?

I didn't submit a list this time, and I have been far too busy to watch many movies as of late, as well, but the following would be my most cherished twelve films of the 90s, the cream of the crop, the ones which speak to me on some level that goes past enjoyment and into passion and importance:

1. Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Kubrick): The most haunting and, well, greatest film I have ever seen. If I were to elaborate, I'd just never stop typing, so deep is my love for this one.
2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, Lynch): Incomparably visceral and emotionally devastating. After a long period of indifference, I have recently realized this is Lynch's masterpiece. It is one of the most fearless works of art I know, an intentionally "messy" and excessive trek through some of the darkest path one could ever imagine. This kind of film needed some sort of redemptive conclusion, but it still amazes me just how incredibly well-earned and tear-inducing the one Lynch dreamed up is.
3. Bad Lieutenant (1992, Ferrara): An astonishing combination of highly controlled formalism and raw NYC neo-realism, this epitomizes all that is great and affecting about Ferrara. Keitel's howls of anguish and guilt and pain will always stay with me, as will many other things from this film, namely the miraculous final shot (a kind of lo-fi remake of Antonioni's The Passenger, perhaps).
4. Heat (1995, Mann): Mann at his most unabashedly Romantic conjures poetry out of prose in transforming this ostensibly old-hat tale into a movingly elegaic fugue that looks and moves and feels like no other comparable film of recent years. Because Mann truly is one of the most Romanticist filmmakers of his generation; even when his films appear pessimistic or cynical, there is always the shimmering beauty of the skyline or the saintly clean surfaces of modernist architecture, or the creased, pock-marked landscape of the human face, all equally mysterious and glorious, to look at in awe and enchantment. His cinema offers a way of seeing, not a way of storytelling, and Heat is always most compelling on a purely sensory level.
5. New Rose Hotel (1998, Ferrara): More a world unto itself than a story, this fascinatingly hermetic chamber-piece has the poignancy of a long-lost memory that's too painful to fully confront -- more comfortable, instead, to retreat into an opiated world of red neon and cheap pleasures, fantasizing and despairing for what could have been. A formally seductive and totally one-of-a-kind film, not quite like anything else I know.
6. Three Colors: Red (1994, Kieslowski): Besides the sense of humanism that makes me want to embrace life to the fullest every time it ends, the film has a certain mystery to it, a wonder at the endless possibilities of the world, which is beautiful. A very rich and complex film pretending to be a small and simple one.
7. Carlito's Way (1993, De Palma): Cahiers were correct; this is not just an outstanding genre film but an outstanding film of any kind. Never before or after was De Palma so nakedly moving, and never before or after has Pacino produced such an eminently likeable, passionate and fascinating character and performance (yes, I stand by that). Carlito has soul, and this is what makes the fatalistic gangster-noir aspect of the film so very affecting. And of course on a formal level the film is astonishing, matching its protagonist's personality with an incredibly lush and human camera-eye that helps make this easily De Palma's greatest work.
8. Short Cuts (1993, Altman): It says a lot about how much I love and am absorbed by this film that the first time I watched it, I watched it two or three more times in the following week. There's something so effortless about what Altman does here, how easily he keeps my eyes glued to the screen, how vividly these people come to life. It's a cliche, but it really feels like watching "real life," at least far more than any film of its kind. In contrast to the bombastic show-off Magnolia, Altman bathes his film in lifelike ambiguity, and it becomes all the more haunting because of it. I wish there were three more hours of this, these characters, these lives. It's addictive and almost interactive in the way it asks the viewer to participate more than passively view.
9. Homicide (1991, Mamet): Mamet's delirious, staccato dialogue rhythms and an initial surface of cop-movie familiars mask the mournful dirge of a film that lies underneath; an emotionally charged, pitch-black masterpiece about the con that is the longing to belong to a group. One of the great films about identity, with an incomparably devastating ending.
10. The Addiction (1995, Ferrara): Ferrara and St. John's cinema truly is one of ideas, in the purest sense, one of dialectical protest and spiritual searching. This film is perhaps the apotheosis of their unique, cerebral-yet-visceral sensibility. Restlessly probing, aesthetically anxious, it melds high and low culture, ecstasy and exploitation (because all art is exploitation anyway), and the result is twice as profound as all of Bela Tarr's films combined. This incredibly rich work is many things, one of them being a bracingly stark statement about evil and our complicity in it. It's also just as powerful a depiction of heroin addiction as was Bad Lieutenant; few other filmmakers "get" this subject the way Ferrara does -- the all-consuming, excessive, self-destructive gore of it.
11. The Thin Red Line (1998, Malick): An amazing experience seen on 35mm in a large theater, the sound exploding all around you. And experience is the key word, as I always leave this film feeling like I've lived a thousand different lifetimes in the preceding three hours. Yes, the use of voiceover is flawed and the first crack in the Malick facade, but nowhere else has Malick's man vs. nature dichotomy been more effectively deployed. And there has simply never been another war film as graceful and enchanting as this one.
12. Lost Highway (1997, Lynch): I prefer to see this as pure dreaming, a modernist nightmare that calms itself into a teenage wish-fulfillment fantasy which then implodes into extra-dimensional noir. In other words, it's unclassifiable. It's also proof that Lynch is capable of some of the most gorgeous filmmaking of all -- Getty and Arquette's final love scene in the sand, lit by blindingly white light and scored to the hymn-like gossamer of Liz Fraser's voice, easily rivals Don't Look Now in the transcendent-sex-scene pantheon.
Last edited by oh yeah on Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

A
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#404 Post by A » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:14 pm

Top 10 + orphans


01. Dead Man
Jim Jarmusch, USA/Germany/Japan 1995
02. Chung Hing sam lam "Chungking Express"
Kar-wai Wong, Hong Kong 1994
03. Kokaku kidotai "Ghost in the Shell"
Mamoru Oshii, Japan 1995
04. Der Skorpion "The Scorpion"
Dominik Graf, Germany 1997
05. Bad Film
Sion Sono, Japan 1995
06. Sudden Death
Peter Hyams, USA 1995
07. Narrow Margin
Peter Hyams, USA 1990
08. Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven, USA/France 1992
09. Jingle All the Way
Brian Levant, USA 1996
10. Tikhiye stranitsy "Whispering Pages"
Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia/Germany 1994

11. L'amant "The Lover"
Jean-Jacques Annaud, France/UK/Vietnam 1991
12. Xia dao Gao Fei "Full Contact"
Ringo Lam, Hong Kong 1992
13. Flesh and Bone
Steve Kloves, USA 1993
16. Maverick
Richard Donner, USA 1994
17. Cliffhanger
Renny Harlin, USA/France/Italy 1993
20. Cutthroat Island
Renny Harlin, USA/France/Italy/Germany 1995
21. First Knight
Jerry Zucker, USA 1995
22. Sommersby
Jon Amiel, USA/France 1993
23. Le petit criminel "The Little Gangster"
Jacques Doillon, France 1990
24. Umetni raj "Artificial Paradise"
Karpo Godina, Yugoslavia 1990
25. Sale comme un ange "Dirty Like an Angel"
Catherine Breillat, France 1991
28. Unsichtbare Tage
Eva Hiller, Germany 1992
29. Jin-Ro "Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade"
Hiroyuki Okiura, Japan 1999
30. Topazu "Tokyo Decadence"
Ryu Murakami, Japan 1992
31. Go-hime "Basara - The Princess Goh"
Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan 1992
35. Drop Zone
John Badham, USA 1994
37. Nihon eiga no hyaku nen "100 Years of Japanese Cinema"
Nagisa Oshima, Japan/UK 1995
38. Achterbahn der Gefühle
Josef Kluger, Germany 1995
39. Koridorius "The Corridor"
Sharunas Bartas, Lithuania/Germany 1995
40. The Shooter
Ted Kotcheff, USA/Czech Republic/Spain/France/UK 1995
41. Le jeune Werther “Young Werther“
Jacques Doillon, France 1993
42. Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha "Dead or Alive"
Takashi Miike, Japan 1999
43. I Married a Strange Person!
Bill Plympton, USA 1997
44. Mad Dog and Glory
John McNaughton, USA 1993
50. Balkan baroque
Pierre Coulibeuf, France/Netherlands/Austria 1999


Many also-rans and orphans (not to mention the higher ranked films) on the final ballot are personal favorites of mine but didn't make it into my Top 50 (or Top 100, or whatever). Well, I guess we can't list all the greats if we are merely allowed to list 50 masterpieces out of ten years of filmmaking. :wink:
Otherwise the following would have also been included in an indefinitely expanded list of favorites: Eyes Wide Shut, Heat, Rushmore, Close-Up, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, L.A. Confidential, The Celebration, Magnolia, Before Sunrise, A Moment of Innocence, The Wind Will Carry Us, Hana-bi, Naked, Lost Highway, etc, etc.
You get the picture. :lol: Not listing many of those doesn't mean I don't love them and wouldn't rate many 10/10 (I would). It's just that I don't love them quite as much as the ones that were left when the painful pairing-down to 50 was finished. :(

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TMDaines
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#405 Post by TMDaines » Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:04 am


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jindianajonz
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#406 Post by jindianajonz » Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:29 pm

Top 10 and orphans:
1 Flowers of Shanghai
2 Chungking Express
3 The Puppet Master
4 The Silence of the Lambs
5 Rushmore
6 Rosetta
7 Jurassic Park
8 Three Colors: Blue
9 Taste of Cherry
10 Pulp Fiction

30 The Game
36 American History X
39 Total Recall
47 Ride with the Devil
48 Ossos
49 True Romance


I was VERY shocked to see Puppetmaster orphaned- I thought it was generally regarded as one of Hou's best, and I'm hoping it's the difficulty in seeing it that led to people leaving it off their lists. The others aren't too surprising- this was a crowded decade for Hollywood films, so I was expected some vote splitting on them. Though if I could do this again, I'd probably switch out Total Recall with Showgirls for my Verhoeven representation; the latter slipped my mind as I hurriedly compiled my list.

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John Cope
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#407 Post by John Cope » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:15 pm

Still kind of amazed by the high ranking for Tsai's The Hole. Is this really considered his best from the 90's? I didn't place any of his films though I probably would have had the list extended to 100 but if so I would place Vive L'Amour and The River far above this. Is The Hole just considered more essentially representative given how distilled it is or is it genuinely considered better?

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zedz
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#408 Post by zedz » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:03 am

Gropius wrote:Of the MIA stuff, more of the early Sokurov needs to be made available - in addition to Whispering Pages, The Second Circle and Stone are amongst his best work.
These are, fortunately, available. The Second Circle was released on DVD by Kino a long time ago and is still in print, and Stone is on the recent BluRay / DVD 'Early Masterworks' set. I think Sokurov is actually the best-served major post-Soviet filmmaker of the decade. Looking at IMDB, out of the 18 films he directed in the 90s, only six haven't been released in English-friendly editions. They're all documentaries, and four of them are shorts / TV films (To the Events of the Transcausasus, A Simple Elegy - which I think might have even been released, it's so hard to keep all these elegies apart - Soldier's Dream and Diary of St. Petersburg: Inauguration of the Monument to Dostoevsky). The other two are Elegy from Russia and A Retrospection of Leningrad, Sokurov's eleven-hour compilation of old newsreels, which is only barely a Sokurov film (he doesn't even warrant a 'director' credit).

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#409 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:31 am

John Cope wrote:Still kind of amazed by the high ranking for Tsai's The Hole. Is this really considered his best from the 90's? I didn't place any of his films though I probably would have had the list extended to 100 but if so I would place Vive L'Amour and The River far above this. Is The Hole just considered more essentially representative given how distilled it is or is it genuinely considered better?
Well, I've only seen The Hole and The River, and I placed The Hole in my top ten. I've not seen any of the 2000s Tsai films besides The Wayward Cloud, so I've a lot to look forward to. For me, The Hole encompasses the themes of urban alienation and the need for connection, but with some kitschy Grace Chang interludes :D

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Lighthouse
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#410 Post by Lighthouse » Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:44 am

My complete list:

1 Tierra (Medem)
2 Twin Peaks (pilot) (Lynch) (actually the whole series)
3 Pulp Fiction (Tarantino)
4 Run Lola Run (Tykwer)
5 Arizona Dream (Kusturica)
6 Burnt by the Sun (Michalkow)
7 The Thin Red Line (Malick)
8 Die Sieger (Graf)
9 La Belle Noiseuse (Rivette)
10 Seven (Fincher)

11 Winterschläfer (Tykwer)
12 Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Medem)
13 The Celebration (Vinterberg)
14 Der Skorpion (Graf)
15 Bure Baruta (Paskaljevic)
16 Urga (Michalkow)
17 Fight Club (Fincher)
18 Natural Born Killers
19 The Kingdom (von Trier)
20 Bittere Unschuld (Graf)

21 La ardilla roja (Medem)
22 The Oak (Pintilie)
23 Live Flesh
24 Diary for My Mother and Father
25 Three Colours: Blue
26 Kids
27 Husbands and Wives
28 All About my Mother (Almodovar)
29 Barton Fink
30 Being John Malkovich

31 Il ladro di bambini (Amelio)
32 My Own Private Idaho (van Sant)
33 Wild at Heart
34 Conte d'été (Rohmer)
35 Funny Games
36 Lost Highway
37 Reservoir Dogs
38 Les roseaux sauvages (Téchiné)
39 The English Patient (Minghella)
40 Howards End (Ivory)

41 Raise the Red Lantern
42 The Age of Innocence
43 The Big Lebowski
44 Hana-bi
45 The Matrix
46 LA Story
47 The Pillow Book
48 Out of Sight
49 Braindead
50 Eyes Wide Shut

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Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#411 Post by Gregory » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:56 pm

John Cope wrote:Still kind of amazed by the high ranking for Tsai's The Hole. Is this really considered his best from the 90's? I didn't place any of his films though I probably would have had the list extended to 100 but if so I would place Vive L'Amour and The River far above this. Is The Hole just considered more essentially representative given how distilled it is or is it genuinely considered better?
Only by the set of members who voted, or perhaps more had seen it than Vive L'Amour or The River. I voted for Vive L'Amour and, at a lower rank, The Hole. It's been so long since I've seen The River that I don't remember it well, and I really need to get that new Blu-ray set. According to the ballots compiled by TSPDT, Vive L'Amour and The River tend to be valued more highly than The Hole. I suppose that the choreographed Grace Chang digressions in The Hole make it a unique film of its time that perhaps add an element of fantasy and nostalgia that plays interestingly against the rest of the film. I've seen these sequences described as "cheesy," "tacky" and the like, but I think they do just what they're meant to do, creating a wonderful juxtaposition of doing that kind of performance inside a ruined building, and it never pulls the film as a whole into camp, at least not for me.

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jindianajonz
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#412 Post by jindianajonz » Thu Jun 04, 2015 1:43 pm

Apologies if it's been discussed elsewhere, but is there any decent legal way to view The Hole with English subs? All I've been able to find is the old Kino DVD, which appears to have pretty shoddy picture quality.

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swo17
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#413 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 1:55 pm

There are cheap Korean bootleg ports of the Kino DVD available on eBay. It's never had a better DVD release.

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zedz
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#414 Post by zedz » Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:21 pm

thirtyframesasecond wrote:
John Cope wrote:Still kind of amazed by the high ranking for Tsai's The Hole. Is this really considered his best from the 90's? I didn't place any of his films though I probably would have had the list extended to 100 but if so I would place Vive L'Amour and The River far above this. Is The Hole just considered more essentially representative given how distilled it is or is it genuinely considered better?
Well, I've only seen The Hole and The River, and I placed The Hole in my top ten. I've not seen any of the 2000s Tsai films besides The Wayward Cloud, so I've a lot to look forward to. For me, The Hole encompasses the themes of urban alienation and the need for connection, but with some kitschy Grace Chang interludes :D
I think The Hole was his most focussed and funniest film before What Time Is It Anyway?, which is why it got the highest ranking from me, but all of those films are great.

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Gropius
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#415 Post by Gropius » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:33 am

zedz wrote:These are, fortunately, available. The Second Circle was released on DVD by Kino a long time ago and is still in print, and Stone is on the recent BluRay / DVD 'Early Masterworks' set.
Ah, I'd somehow overlooked that, good to know. As you point out, there are many other post-Soviet filmmakers who could really do with more exposure than Sokurov, although even he still seems to be known chiefly for Russian Ark and Mother and Son.

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swo17
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#416 Post by swo17 » Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:14 pm

I finally got around to finishing the write-ups for my '90s list.

My orphans:

Conspirators of Pleasure (Jan Švankmajer)
Happiness (Todd Solondz)
Food (Jan Švankmajer)
The Comb (Stephen & Timothy Quay)
Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (David Lynch)
Your Friends & Neighbors (Neil LaBute)
World of Glory (Roy Andersson)
Bouquets 1-10 (Rose Lowder)
Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest)
Brigands, Chapter VII (Otar Iosseliani)
Archangel (Guy Maddin)
Side/Walk/Shuttle (Ernie Gehr)
Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted (David Lynch)
Visions in Meditation #3: Plato's Cave (Stan Brakhage)
Palms (Artur Aristakisyan)
Train of Shadows (José Luis Guerin)

New films on my list since the last iteration of the project: 25
New films on my list discovered during the project: 14

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zedz
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#417 Post by zedz » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:59 pm

swo17 wrote: Happiness (Todd Solondz)
Now there's a film that's gone from being a critical darling (and frequent 'when will this be released on Criterion?' request) to yesterday's child molester.

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swo17
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#418 Post by swo17 » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:04 pm

Not to me! But yeah, last time it only barely missed the top 100. That's quite a fall.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#419 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:07 pm

I think of it often but it's definitely a film missing from a wider cultural consciousness anymore. Probably just as well, because would you want to endure the indignant think pieces that would greet the film's release on Blu-ray?

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Tommaso
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#420 Post by Tommaso » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:18 pm

Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted (David Lynch)

I think I even wrote about this, but in the end it didn't end up on my list, and basically for all the reasons you point out in your write-up. It's great and mesmerising, but felt a little bit too much like a 'Lynch digest' in the end. If the 1990s didn't turn out a much stronger decade than I initially suspected, it would have had a good chance to be on my list, though.

And if you briefly allow me to mention one of my orphans (number 8 on my list, if I remember correctly):

Lisbon Story (Wim Wenders): I consider this one of Wenders' loveliest films from the 1990s. Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I love the music of Madredeus so much, and so I find the moment when the protagonist 'discovers' the band in the house most magical, and totally in tune with what their music could transport emotionally. But regardless of this it's a very fine and extremely beautiful small film about filmmaking itself (and in the end, a sort of hymn to it), with very likeable characters - wonderful how Rüdiger Vogler demonstrates the art of creating sounds for films, for instance -, great vistas of Lisbon, and not least a guest appearance by Manoel de Oliveira as himself. I can understand that it didn't make the final list, but an orphan? Come on...

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#421 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri May 19, 2017 9:39 pm

These urges come over you, who knows why. You just really want to watch a bunch of 80's and 90's action films, none of which you expect to be especially good, and yet you'd groan inwardly if someone suggested something genuinely amazing instead like Tarkovsky or Lynch. So you all can share in my poor decision making, here are the 90's viewings:

Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal is one of the most strangely-handled action star of the 90's. Despite what his current reputation would suggest, his first five movies were always trying to hit beats and give its hero lines and character bits that you never saw in Hollywood action vehicles. Some of his movies seem positively to want to be dramas, to the point where the studios were forever cutting the movies down to make them more action-oriented. You can see this tendency from the start. Above the Law, perhaps not entirely sold on Seagal's capacity to carry a movie, tho' more likely because it's an Andrew Davis film, surrounds the Seagal character with a whole community--not just cop buddies, but a wife and baby, a large Italian family, a neighbourhood priest and parish, etc. How many action heroes, on learning that his wounded partner isn't dead after all but recovering in a hospital, hugs his friend and shares a moment of relief and vulnerability. It's moments like this, plus the crunching brutality of the fights, that make Seagal's first movie more interesting than the action movies it otherwise resembles.

Hard to Kill (Bruce Malmuth, 1990): this one drops everything interesting from Seagal's debut to become a boring, by-the-numbers action film only remembered for its inexplicable one-liner: "I'm going to take you the bank senator...the blood bank.

Marked For Death (Dwight H. Little, 1990): For a film whose villains are exclusively minorities, Marked For Death tries harder than any action film I can think of not to be racist. Police officers commenting on the socio-political origins of the Jamaican gang influx, shoe-horned-in scenes of reporters explaining how the Jamaican gang members are a minority who do not represent the larger Jamaican community, even a trip to Jamaica itself where a Jamaican officer can show how Jamaicans are primarily average people who live hard lives and themselves suffer from the small gang population. Still, it would've been a lot easier to just not make all the villains cackling, voodoo-practising, human-sacrificing, dope-pushing monsters who are nevertheless as credulous as children. Seagal's already bone-crunching violence starts to get pushed to the limit here: one unfortunate villain doesn't merely have his eyes gouged out and his back broken over Seagal's knee, no, he’s also thrown down an elevator shaft and impaled on a spike for good measure. The movie is kind of bad, but odd enough to be worth watching, or at least more worth watching than Hard to Kill.

Out For Justice (John Flynn, 1991): This is perhaps the strangest of Seagal's first five movies, with a divided nature ultimately pulling it apart. One the one hand, it's an effective extension of Above the Law, with the Seagal character (bearing the unfortunate name Gino Felino) being part of an extensive and fully-characterized community that he must negotiate with (sometimes violently, but often not) in order to get revenge on the man who killed his partner. Where it gets interesting is that the manner of his partner's killing is so ugly that it outrages the largely Italian Brooklyn community, the mob included, all of whom the movie allows developed and even nuanced reactions to the murder that starts the narrative. This leads to quiet scenes of Seagal negotiating with gangsters and mob bosses he grew up with and around for the right to get revenge himself, with the mob preferring to clean up what they feel is their mess. Or scenes where Seagal has to tell the elderly parents of his partner's murderer, people he grew up around and who looked out for him as a child, that he's going to kill their son--a scene Seagal is allowed to recall later in a moment of reflection and self-disgust. So many of the scenes are almost out of another movie entirely, and annoyed the studio enough that they cut much of it, leaving us with a rather awkward mid-point montage of what plainly were fully-developed scenes. This movie is unlike any non-Seagal 90's actioner I can think of. On the other hand, it’s a nasty and mean-spirited movie with a degree of sadistic and unnecessary violence at odds with its more thoughtful character-based moments. Seagal causes a man to slam a meat cleaver into his own thigh, pulls the cleaver out and then uses it to pin another man's hand to the wall so that we can listen to him scream horribly through the rest of the fight scene; he amputates a man's leg with a shotgun, again so we can hear the man howl over his missing limb throughout the rest of the shoot out; the villain is such a doughy, unathletic lump that the final confrontation is less a fight than one long torture session. And this is not to mention the actions of William Forsyth's villain, whose acts of violence include shooting a man dead in front of his own wife and son, pulling a random woman out of her car window and shooting her unceremoniously in the head, and murdering an unarmed man in a wheel chair. Even his own thugs start looking queasy after a while. Seagal's movies have always treated physical violence seriously--when people are punched, it's no small thing: they bleed, lose teeth, break noses. It's harsh, but quick and realistic. Physical harm isn't brushed off or elided. Out for Justice wants a cartoonish level of violence ala some Chuck Norris vehicle, but makes the mistake of simply giving us longer, more painful, more extreme versions of Seagal violence, and it makes the movie unpleasant rather than fun. So, yeah, weird, unsuccessful, really interesting movie. Worth watching.

Under Siege (Andrew Davis, 1992). Andrew Davis is an underrated action director. The Fugitive is maybe the best action movie of the 90's, Code of Silence Chuck Norris' best movie by a long, long way, and Under Siege is, similarly, the best of the Die Hard clones and Seagal's best starring vehicle (I’d put Executive Decision as the best film he’s in, tho’). It's cheerful, effective nonsense full of big, amusing performances and some novel bits of action (Seagal's solution to the knife-fight stalemate at the end is pretty original). But, again, it's the little stuff you don't see in these kinds of movies that makes this one work. Seagal, a former marine, now works as a cook on a battleship after being busted down for insubordination. Locked in a meat locker by Gary Busey's asshole officer and guarded by a rookie just following orders, he does the usual 'come on man, something's wrong, think for yourself, let me outta here' stuff, pauses for a moment, then yells: "And get my pies out of the oven!" How often do you get an action hero worried about his baking? Nowhere else but a Seagal movie.

Seagal may be a well-deserved joke now and a notable example of po-faced non-reaction. Yet of all the action heroes to come out of the late 80's and early 90's, his movies are the most vibrant and filled with life and character. Who would've thought.


Other Stuff:

Bad Boys (Michael Bay, 1995): I still don't get why this movie was so popular. It's a bucket of cliches, the action is merely ok (Bay has no sense for the rhythm of gunfights), and the only character interaction is endless, grating, shouty banter from people who have all been funny elsewhere, but somehow not here. It is shot in a nice, hyper-active style, which after so much pedestrian 80's and 90's action directing was actually quite welcome, even if it amounted to a lot of music video cliches and misplaced intense close ups.

Sudden Death (Peter Hyams, 1995): Die hard in a hockey arena. Way better than a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie has any right to be. It lets Powers Boothe play things seriously and generate menace (and he is really, really good here) so Van Damme can play around and have a bit of fun. It's nice, goofy entertainment, consistently well put together in the way so many of the good actions films of the era were.

The Last Boy Scout (Tony Scott, 1991): Tony Scott in the 90's: cue the smoke, large windows, and blue backlighting. Also Bruce Willis looking sore and miserable and a Wayans brother. Sort of neo-norish thing in which Willis and Wayans make overtures at investigating a murder, but mostly just get randomly kidnapped over and over, presumably so the bad guys can tell them whatever plot information they'd neglected to explain the last time. Some of the one-liners were pretty funny. Wayans riding a horse through a football game not so much.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (Renny Harlin, 1996): I saw this on tv when I was a teenager and thought it was alright. I like it much better now, for reasons maybe to do with context or recent viewing habits or maybe because I like the odd comedy and outlandishness more than expertly choreographed gunfights. Frumpy Gina Davis just makes for such a great unusual action hero, especially in this weird split personality/amnesia situation. Craig Bierko in this movie is honest to god the smarmiest, douchiest mother fucker, maybe too much so, I don't know. I really wanted him dead quickly. After Under Siege, the best of this action film kick I've been on.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#422 Post by domino harvey » Fri May 19, 2017 10:14 pm

The Long Kiss Goodnight is pretty handily the best non-Die Hard action film of the 90s for me, for many of the reasons you mention. Harlin is a good match for Shane Black's usual hyperactive scripting and there are some lovely set pieces, especially the finale. I'm less enamored with Under Siege than you, but hopefully you'll be skipping the ludicrous Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which I will forever remember for having the single dumbest villain plan in action film history

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#423 Post by knives » Fri May 19, 2017 10:16 pm

I actually quite like can Damme, at least in the right or so films I've seen him in. He's able to be quite funny and when necessary exploit the sexuality of the genre. I would take him over most other action stars of the era and certainly over the rest of the B and C level ones. As for Segal, all I can think of when I hear about his movies is MadTV's parody which I remember being quite good.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#424 Post by domino harvey » Fri May 19, 2017 10:19 pm

knives wrote: As for Segal, all I can think of when I hear about his movies is MadTV's parody which I remember being quite good.
How could you ever forget how Seagal taught us all about letterboxing?

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#425 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri May 19, 2017 10:26 pm

domino harvey wrote:I'm less enamored with Under Siege than you, but hopefully you'll be skipping the ludicrous Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which I will forever remember for having the single dumbest villain plan in action film history.
I saw Under Siege 2 a bunch of times on tv growing up. It and On Deadly Ground always seemed to be on somewhere. I'm not keen on a revisit. I might watch The Glimmer Man, tho', unless someone (anyone) feels like talking me down.
knives wrote:I actually quite like can Damme, at least in the right or so films I've seen him in. He's able to be quite funny and when necessary exploit the sexuality of the genre. I would take him over most other action stars of the era and certainly over the rest of the B and C level ones. As for Segal, all I can think of when I hear about his movies is MadTV's parody which I remember being quite good.
I like Van Damme, too, actually. Indeed, I like him a lot more than I like Stallone, Snipes, or, I don't know, Lundgren. He showed a gift for comedy in Sudden Death I didn't expect. My crack at him was more a crack about his poor ability to choose movies. Aside from Hard Target, Sudden Death, and maybe Double Impact, I'm hard pressed to think of a Van Damme I actually like. I'll all for some recommendations, tho'.

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