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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swo17
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#151 Post by swo17 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:00 am

domino harvey wrote:I remember when this aired and I was as confused then as I am now at how Horse Thief, a film from 1986 that opened in the US in 1988 is a 90s film, but I guess if you're Scorsese no one's going to tell you no
I suppose it's made up for by the tie at #10? Honestly though, that's the hardest part about being list tabulator--having to tell Martin Scorsese every time that I can't accept his list as stated.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#152 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:51 am

DROP Squad (D Clark Johnson 1994) The answer to the problems plaguing the black community offered up by this film, executive produced (and re-edited by) Spike Lee, is an old one: Good ol' fashioned fascism. Yes, the DROP Squad (Deprogramming and Restoration Of Pride) is a group of concerned black community members who kidnap those who are doing wrong by "The Black Community" (according to the DROP Squad at least) and brainwash them through torture and other intimidation techniques to accept a more desirable outlook (One matching that of the DROP Squad, of course). That may sound compelling (It certainly did to me), but the filmmakers are not interested in challenging the obvious problematic ideas this pic has no real interest in exploring-- such as, oh, black people are not Legion and individual free will and rights outweigh membership to a community you may or may not want to be a part of.

The worst sin here, though, is the shoddy filmmaking-- the film is confusingly shot by people who I don't think know how to make a movie, with a lack of establishing shots and some real confusion as a result of blocking. Look at the scene where a man is surveying the damage looters have done to his business. What is the damage? What is the business? Who is he? Is he a non-profit volunteer? A retailer? No clue, because the entire scene is shot in medium close up with three characters, two of which we'd never seen before, one of whom is cracking jokes that we the audience would be freer to laugh at were we not preoccupied with trying to engage with the film and figure out what's even happening.

The lack of subtlety here, as seen with any sequence involving our nominal protagonist Eriq La Salle's job as the token black guy at a marketing firm, is also highly problematic. I get that plenty of films predominately starring whites have given underwritten and cliched roles to blacks, so the argument could be made that doing the same in reverse here is fair play. Okay, but wouldn't this film be stronger if it humanized everyone and made whites actual characters and not caricatures? Or hell, even failing that, made the satirical barbs aimed at whites at least funny or biting or even kind of accurate? The film's single worst moment features the aforementioned Spike Lee, who appears in the most unlikely phony commercial of all time, shilling for a Bible-verse themed chicken joint alongside two overweight black gospel singers (and served up by an Aunt Jemima behind the counter). La Salle's says his ad's supposed to be satirical, and I suspect the filmmakers think the same, but both share the trait of being absolutely brain-dead and tone def to what satire looks like. Of course, the most troubling aspect of the film is that it doesn't end up being all that satirical (though allegedly the short film it was based on wisely skewed more in that direction) and instead more or less ends up endorsing the needs and methods of the DROP Squad with only the most ineffective and brief chiding. When the only thing wrong with this plan to the filmmakers is the use of physical violence, something's gone horribly astray with the message of unification.

Leon / the Professional (Luc Besson 1994) These write-ups are in alphabetical not chronological order, and so I can reveal that after sitting through the Rookie and especially Total Recall (not to mention the Lethal Weapon films last week), I was very very very tired of pointless and gratuitous gun-based violence. So from the outside looking in this was probably not the best film to queue up, but to my delight I loved everything about this, especially how it counters how most other films use violence. Here the gunplay and explosions and so on are concerned with stylistic flourishes and balletic orchestrations, the actual bloodletting and exit wounds and so on marginalized in the corners. It's an incredibly violent film, but one that maintains a lack of prurient interest in the violence.

And "the lack of prurient interest" could be the motto of the film with regards to its most outwardly problematic narrative conceit as well, namely that we're watching a romance between a middle-aged French hitman and a twelve-year old girl (though I don't think the film ever says her actual age, it's worth noting). I don't think the flirtations and boundary-pushing of Natalie Portman's character are off limits for any film so long as there's no endorsement or follow-through, but this movie takes the idea about as far as it can go without becoming gross wish fulfillment for a certain contingent of the raincoat brigade. Indeed, I was all the more impressed at how the film avoids all the wrong directions this could have gone without judging or advocating for what is an extremely questionable kinship between Portman and Jean Reno. And isn't it strange that the default objection is to a sweet and chaste romance rather than Reno's hitman training of Portman to be a "cleaner"? Her confused actions make sense for her age and situation (a violent loveless household and a peer community that conflates sex with intimacy, marked with an extremely traumatic experience and continuous exposure to more violence and danger), and the film never indulges her in her flights of fancy (presentation is not agreement). I watched the extended cut on the Blu-ray and I suspect some of the more potentially uncomfortable elements were absent in the theatrical version (which runs 25 minutes shorter!), but I wouldn't want to revisit this again in any other form but the long one. And I am sure I will be revisiting it again. Portman is flabbergastingly good in what must have been an impossible to cast role, Reno hits the right notes of a loner taking someone in out of rare base humanity and then alternating between paternal instincts and something stronger, and, well, Gary Oldman's classic music-loving baddie is so over the top that you're either on board or waiting for the next train, but I loved it. And I loved the film. A lock for my list.

the Rookie (Clint Eastwood 1990) I don't know that I've ever seen such a flagrant collection of police buddy movie cliches lined out one after another. And this isn't a good action movie either. Some of its best action sequences are so illogical from a narrative standpoint that they cause I who does not care about plausibility in an action film to question their execution-- take the opening sequence wherein Raul Julia fends off Eastwood's high speed pursuit by dropping luxury cars behind him from one of those big skeletal transport vehicles. An interesting idea and a compelling visual image, but does it make any sense for that character to waste the time, lives, and money at stake for something that ends up having such a negligible effect on the problem at hand? The whole film's like that. And the less said about how Charlie Sheen's movement through the film is one of "This asshole doesn't like me so now I have to prove myself by being as big an asshole as he is," the better. After this and the Lethal Weapon movies, I am so very tired of male bonding being reduced to its most negative outward traits of just being a horrible human being. As for Eastwood's direction, the film is shot in an overly-kinetic style that works for Sam Raimi, with the camera being thrown into the fist fights and high octane action as in the end of Zazie dans le Metro, but I don't think it suits this film and more often than not Eastwood doesn't use it in any way but to obfuscate the stunts.

Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven 1990) A strong premise of a future where the implantation of memories can replace actual vacations leads to Ahnold going in for the procedure and realizing to his confusion that he's already had his memories wiped once before and now everyone wants to kill him for reasons he can't quite recall. If the premise is sound, the execution is too much in the Robocop style of extreme cartoonish bloodletting for my taste. I think there are effective moments and elements: I liked Sharon Stone a lot more here than in Basic Instinct, and the eventual revelation of the Russian nesting dolls-level degree of brainwashing does answer many of the film's nagging plot questions. But man is this film ugly to look at. I don't know if it's the Blu-ray transfer or the intended approach, but the film as I saw it looks like a faded Technicolor movie, with pale greens and pink dominating the palette. That plus all the grungy Mars sets make for one of the most visually gross films I've seen in recent memory. Overall I got my two hours' worth of entertainment, I guess, but not much else.

Wild Things (John McNaughton 1998) I'm not sure a film this dependent on twist after twist works all that well on a second viewing, but considering that I could only vaguely recall the actions of the film after the first twist, I gave it a shot. This is a competently made and entertaining neo-noir trifle gifted with an exaggerated reputation due to the aforementioned glut of twists and its free use of nudity and sexual situations (which are actually not as prevalent as memory inflates). As in Drop Dead Gorgeous, I think Denise Richards hits the right notes of the dead-eyed youthful beauty (it's no surprise her career never went anywhere once she stopped getting cast in teenage girl parts), and while the sheer number of characters and extras harping on Matt Dillon's alleged sexual appeal got to be a little Mary Poppins/Poochie-esque, there's surely no better actor to play a swaggering dick, right? This isn't much more than an enjoyable lark but I will give special praise to the wonderful end credit sequence which intercuts superfluous explanations of the multitude of double-crosses and twists in between credit cards at a furious pace. It's rare that a film acknowledges how implausible its twists are and then calls an audience's bluff and explains them!

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#153 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sun Oct 19, 2014 1:31 pm

Some recent Woody Allen watches

Alice (1990) At this point, having liked Cassandra's Dream, Anything Else, and Scoop very much, I should know better than to follow the consensus of Allen's "lesser" movies, but this movie's bad reputation puzzles me more than any of the films above. I know it's one of domino's favorites (and Donna Bowman loves it, which is as good a recommendation as you'll find anywhere), but I've seen a lot of people deem it one of Allen's first missteps, moreso than September or A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (my bottom two Allens currently, although I still have the worst of his DreamWorks deal to go). I found it to be positively charming, aided by a typically lovely performance by Mia Farrow and some of Carlo Di Palma's most beautiful cinematography for Allen. And while I'm going against the consensus, I found it to be on roughly the same quality level as Midnight in Paris (and I'd say the sequence with Alec Baldwin is better than most of MiP). It probably won't make my list, but I definitely recommend it.

Celebrity (1998) This movie's poor reception, on the other hand, I can understand, even if I don't necessarily agree. It's Woody going back to the well (by the time of the black-and-white shot of the front door of Elaine's, I wondered if Allen was actively trying to suggest this), and while I found it frequently funny (the detour with Leonardo DiCaprio being a highlight), I can't see myself revisiting it often except for the cinematography. And believe the hype, Kenneth Branagh's performance here enters whatever the human equivalent of the Uncanny Valley is.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#154 Post by knives » Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:25 pm

Goodbye South, Goodbye
I've mostly been lukewarm on Hou up until this point with really only Three Times blowing me away for two thirds of the runtime, but with this I finally feel as if I'm on his wavelength even if the sense of lukewarmness remains. Almost all of this is caused by the score which is brilliantly used. I'm probably not entirely on board with the film's narrative which is okay for what it is, but nothing I'd call special. Yet every ounce of sound present tricks me into love as if it were a slower Wong film. Much more than through any character the sound overlayed to these images gives me this intense madness over the alienation sitting in a car or talking with friends you hate. I am not sure if that's actually the intended message of the film, but the story seems so indistinct that I sort of don't care which I guess ultimately contradicts the wavelength comment. Still definitely a worthwhile if meek experience.

Finzan
This is a case where my own failure to handle cultural differences really comes and makes it hard for me to specifically look at the whole of a film. This is probably the first film about the plight of women to really affect me with probably the most disturbing climax I've seen. Yet the comedy is so out of place and weird yet I know from other west African films and stories that that's just how things are told. It's not really something worth criticizing, but I just can't make it work.

Goya in Bordeaux
This isn't necessarily one of Saura's best, but with its sedated Ruiz style and abundance of humour toward the era it can come across as such. Sleepily it seems intent on imposing Goya's style onto Spain rather than talking directly about the man himself. Goya is less character, though he is quite the character, and more narrator as he arrogantly tries to argue his history as Spain's. It's at equal terms pathetic and enriching to see such a great man so low. The ploy to madness isn't really played with enough to be anything more than a provider of fascinating imagery. It seems that Saura is aiming for a Wild Strawberries like effect on that account but it is honestly some of the least interesting stuff in the film.

CopLand
It's a bit sad that the film's goals aren't exactly met due to a lack of ambition. There's a lot of truly great elements presented which could have lead under any number of great roads but they're all kept low key and not particularly looked into. That said while the potential Bonfire of the Vanities level film is missed Mangold still crafts a lot of interest for a worthwhile film. Particularly the use of star helps build the world in a way that is far too rare nowadays. He really builds three different worlds of cops that match and mix in occasionally surprising ways thanks to the expectations that come from the actors. The corrupted cops can be totally low key and surprisingly similar to Stallone, friends even, because having Liotta and Robert Patrick there makes them corrupt enough. There's a few other things brought in that don't work entirely like the Stallone dream sequences, but the film moves fast enough despite the slow tone that they don't become much of a bother.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#155 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:10 am

knives -- the Hou films really come to life when screened in a way that one might not expect if one's only familiarity with them is courtesy of home video. Even films I felt only moderately enthusiastic about are working splendidly on the big screen.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#156 Post by Forrest Taft » Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:40 pm

Time to revisit some Kitano, and what better place to start than with the strangely appealing Boiling Point. Shot with a mostly static camera, filled with characters looking straight into it, and with the action happening quickly and suddenly, sometimes in the background and sometimes off screen. The first true Kitano film in some ways, it’s the first where he’s the sole credited writer, the first collaboration with composer Joe Hisaishi (though there’s hardly any music to be heard in the entire film - I keep waiting the Boiling Point cues I know from my Kitano meets Hisaishi CD, but are they even here?), and his penchant for the absurd is much more prominent that in Violent Cop, a movie I don’t care for all that much. It starts of with a hilarious, extended scene on a baseball field, where a (the?) main character is introduced, an irresolute man, seemingly incompetent at everything from baseball to his job, the latter which gets him into trouble with some yakuza. He will eventually set off on a trip, along with a fellow baseball-player, and they'll spend the second half of the film in the strange presence of the director-star.

Kitano himself appears only halfway through the film, as a psychopathic lowlife who has pissed off the yakuza. This is by far the least sympathetic character Kitano has ever played, and there’s an odd scene where
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he first forces his girlfriend to have sex with his friend. Then he interrupts them, and rapes his friend. After this he’s upset with his friend for having slept with his girl, he insists the friend cut off his finger. When the friend refuses, the finger is forcefully cut off. This is all played for laughs - and it is funny - making the scene all the more uncomfortable. Kitano will spend much of the remainder of the film hitting his girlfriend in the back of her head, eventually ditching her on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
Certain stylistic touches are quite wonderful here: there’s a brief, exquisite flash forward montage I particularly love, signaling the impending doom of a major character. If I understood what this movie is about, it would probably make my list. Boiling Point has such a strange hold on me, and everything I love about Kitano can be found here, but I haven't got a clue what it all amounts to. Recommended :wink:

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#157 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:01 pm

I think the main flaw of Boiling Point is that Kitano is trying so hard distance himself from his comic persona that the film sort of upends under the weight of his efforts. There's an insecurity to all the gross behaviour.

Kitano's greatest film this decade is definitely Kikujiro. Not just because it's so sweet and sad (and hiliarous), but because it's unburdened by any posturing. The Kitano character is a cheerful parody of the director's own on-screen persona: a man whose tough-guy facade is constantly made to seem ridiculous. He is, himself, very much a big kid, but one who proves his worth not by committing violence but by being willing to endure it (and humiliation and disappointment) in order to make someone happy.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#158 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Oct 20, 2014 8:22 pm

Kikujiro, Sonatine and A Scene at the Sea share top (Kitano) honors for the 90s -- with (extremely) honorable mentions for Hana bi and Kids Return. ;~}

These top 3 are each so different from each other I find it very hard to pick one over theothers.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#159 Post by Dr Amicus » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:37 am

A Scene At The Sea is the only Kitano (directed) film from the period I haven't seen. Going to see the new Kitano was always a highpoint of the London Film Festival for me in the 90s.

I seem to remember that the critical reaction to Kikujiro was much less positive than the seeming love for it here. It was the cover film for Sight & Sound, but in general the reviews were a notch or so below Hana-Bi, which would top my list.

I would like to add just a bit of love for Getting Any?. Its release in the UK was minimal (I assume I must have seen it at the LFF) but I found its ramshackle silliness rather appealing. Minor Kitano undoubtedly, but I have a soft spot for it.
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#160 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:47 am

Apropos of nothing: Yoichi Sai's 2002 film Doing Time, a prison drama based on an autobiographical manga series, has a great scene in which the prisoners who get rewards for good behaviour get to go to their mess hall to watch a screening of Kitano's Kids Return! And get provided with chocolate biscuits and pop!

(I suppose it comes across as sort of the less oppressive version of the Bells of St Mary's screening scene in The Magdalene Sisters!)

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#161 Post by Forrest Taft » Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:24 pm

Kikujiro is indeed a lovely film, and will be making my list, but Hana-Bi will be charting higher! I do think the so-so reception the film received must have had something to do with the expectations of many reviewers. Kitano is simply a loser here, a parody of Kitano's persona as Sausage puts it, rather than the though guy he was known as at the time. I also agree with MK on Kids Return, a great coming of age film, and thinking of it reminded me they made a sequel to it last year. Did anyone catch it?

Edit: I see I already asked about the sequel here. No reply then. I'm guessing no one has seen it now either.

Getting Any, on the other hand, certainly won't be making my list. I remember my first viewing, with a friend who also loved Kitano, and we were laughing throughout the whole thing. When I revisited it a few years ago, I failed to see what had made me laugh the first time around - imagine my disappointment. I enjoy some of it, and the absurd finale with the giant fly is a nice touch (as is Kitano's haircut), but this is very minor stuff.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#162 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:28 pm

There's a Portuguese review of the Kids Return sequel -- which does not make it sound very promising: http://ultimofilme.blogspot.pt/2014/05/ ... 40530.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#163 Post by Numero Trois » Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:32 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:knives -- the Hou films really come to life when screened in a way that one might not expect if one's only familiarity with them is courtesy of home video. Even films I felt only moderately enthusiastic about are working splendidly on the big screen.
That could be said about many films. In the end its always subjective. I saw Goodbye South Goodbye in the VHS edition some years back and it turned out to be one of my favorite nineties films.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#164 Post by swo17 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:51 pm

Speaking of which, I understand that Hou's films from Good Men, Good Women through Millennium Mambo received an English-friendly release in Taiwan a few years ago with much superior PQ compared to the R1 equivalents. Does anyone know if that set is still available anywhere?

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#165 Post by The Narrator Returns » Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:10 pm

Going on an Emmanuel Lubezki binge in time for Birdman

The Birdcage (Mike Nichols, 1996) A delightful little farce, enlivened by great performances from everyone who isn't the son or daughter. Robin Williams was so often stuck with manic characters that seeing him do deadpan so well is almost a little sad. Lubezki favors really lush, bright lighting here, seemingly a world away from the more naturally pretty images of The Tree of Life and Children of Men, but still lovely.

Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999) Many people tag the decline of Tim Burton to his increased work with Johnny Depp, but watching this, I feel like the blame must lay more at Helena Bonham Carter's feet. This doesn't rely too heavily on Burton's soon-to-be-beaten-into-the-ground tropes of weirdos and social rejects, and it's got killer atmosphere, some good moments of dark comedy, and a treasure trove of great character actors. Lubezki does great work here with an almost monochrome palette and plenty of shadows.

A Little Princess (Alfonso Cuaron, 1995) I kind of hate the phrase "They don't make 'em like this anymore", but they really kinda don't, in this case. This kind of children's entertainment, which treats neither the kids nor the parents like idiots, is pretty rare nowadays, and that's a shame, because this is a truly wonderful movie, one that may be a lock for my list. There were several bits which had me on the verge of tears, especially
SpoilerShow
the main character tearfully begging her amnesia-stricken father to remember her, so she isn't carted away by the police.
Lubezki got his first Oscar nomination for this, and I can't fault the Academy for their pick. His work here strikes a balance between the aforementioned lushness of Lubezki's early work and his more grounded later style (the scene following the main character's father in the trenches reminded me a lot of Children of Men).

Solo con tu pareja (Alfonso Cuaron, 1991) All I can say is that this is what I get for not listening. I pulled the same trick with Border Radio, and I instantly regretted it, and much of the same applies here. I can say that this movie was a more pleasant experience than that movie was, if only because Border Radio was ugly in addition to being monotonous, but I can say that it's rather amazing that Cuaron got from this beyond-stale sex farce to A Little Princess in only a few years. The first laugh came 58 minutes in, when Tomas Tomas has to assure the woman he's talking to that you can't get AIDS through a phone conversation, and many more did not follow afterwards. I will give it that it looks very pretty, with high-contrast interiors and soft white lighting courtesy of Lubezki, but the professional sheen only leaves it all dressed up with nowhere to go.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#166 Post by knives » Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:01 am

I actually really like Solo con which is a pretty hilarious if totally lightweight and misogynistic film. Not the world's greatest defense, but not the world's greatest movie (though Sleepy Hallow might be for me).
swo17 wrote:Speaking of which, I understand that Hou's films from Good Men, Good Women through Millennium Mambo received an English-friendly release in Taiwan a few years ago with much superior PQ compared to the R1 equivalents. Does anyone know if that set is still available anywhere?
I figure it isn't a PQ issue as the two films I'm most meh on him I've seen in the best condition. I'm sure the theatrical experience is good, but if Tsai's very theater dependent films can bring out an effect on home video I don't see why these films shouldn't be expected to.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#167 Post by Gregory » Wed Oct 22, 2014 11:51 am

War of the Buttons (John Roberts, Warner Archive DVD-R)
As the title suggests, this is a war film, unusual in that the armies are groups of school children in neighboring villages in southern Ireland circa 50 years ago. It's probably far too light-hearted a film for one about conflict and the kind of family life in which, if physical punishment fails to work, a child can be callously disowned. The battle scenes really plays as little more than spectacle and fun, even as the film seems to gently satirize the arbitrary and pointless nature of war. Rocks fired from slingshots apparently have such poor accuracy that no matter how many of them are fired, none of the young soldiers are ever shown getting seriously hurt, and the battle scenes are ultimately pure adventure, a proving ground for manhood and heroism, where you find out who your friends are, and all the nostalgia that surrounds things like scouting/camping and building forts and strategies in the woods, where the boys can find refuge from the world run by adults. While I understand the appeal of that kind of nostalgia, this is still a story about war, and one that's idealized and sentimental. Putting all that aside, it's certainly an appealing and entertaining film.
There were two earlier, French adaptations of the 1912 source novel, which would be interesting to compare.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#168 Post by knives » Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:06 pm

I think I'm going to keep all of my child based wars to chocolate for now.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#169 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:03 pm

I know one other person who loves Tsai -- and can't tolerate Hou. I think it is a matter of taste and disposition -- and the fact that the slowness of Hou bears little resembnlance to the slowness of Tsai.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#170 Post by FerdinandGriffon » Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:14 pm

Though I think Hou's influence is strong on Rebels of the Neon God, a wonderful film, it's true they've moved in very different directions since then.

Also interesting that with Stray Dogs, Tsai has returned to the image that marks the incipient arrival of the Hou known and loved (by most of us), that of "the Sandwich Man".
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#171 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:18 am

I'm going to save my spotlight and not blow it this early in the proceedings, but 'Human Resources' by Laurent Cantet is a terrific film, tackling domestic, labour and class conflict in such an effortless yet powerful way. Much recommended if you can find a copy.

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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#172 Post by domino harvey » Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:02 am

Interview with the Vampire: the Vampire Chronicles (Neil Jordan 1994) Props to the filmmakers here for taking three of the 90s' most notable male sex symbols-- Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas-- and putting them in hideous wigs with long-flowing straw hair and sickly, vein-popping facial makeup. This is a film which offers the viewer nothing, really. The story, as it is, seems like Cliff Notes for miniseries treatment we (thankfully) were spared from, and there's no real exploration of the moral quandaries the characters face. Oh, there's presentation of the question mark morals, but nothing more than lip service and a quick dismissal is ever attempted. Tom Cruise, victim of much derision for his casting as the blonde-haired Lestat, is… pretty awful, and I like Cruise more than most here. Pitt's asleep at the wheel, and Kirsten Dunst is pretty much what the film calls for, a My Little Vampire Doll. The film's visuals are drab and dull, and Jordan appears wholly uninterested in anything going on. He's not alone.

Postcards from the Edge (Mike Nichols 1990) Peculiar backlot Hollywood flick based on Carrie Fisher's thinly-veiled tell-all about her mother Debbie Reynolds. Though Meryl Streep gets most of the "big scenes" and netted her nth Oscar nom for the film, I think Shirley MacLaine in the Reynolds-role is really the scene-stealer here. MacLaine gets at the doddering ineffectual nature of parents (or maybe more grandparents to my eyes given my young age) and her advice is often quietly humorous in its dim truth. Unfortunately, for all the little visual touches Nichols adds in to keep things lively (lots of long takes, a memorable shot of rear-projection that I've never forgotten from the trailer when this thing came out), this ultimately doesn't amount to much. For all the bells and whistles, this is a movie we've all seen so many times before and while it features some name brand stars, the overall unnecessary nature of the endeavor wins out over any novelty offered.

Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven 1997) The satiric reputation for this sci-fi special effects extravaganza has been grossly exaggerated here and elsewhere. While there are some obvious nods to the flag-waving classics of WWII-era American cinema, the overall experience of the movie is not much removed from any "Let's get 'em, boys" kinda flick. Nothing wrong with that, any stroll through my posting history will reveal I have few qualms about such entertainments, but the reason the "masses" didn't notice or care that this film so closely resembles a period in American cinema most of the target audience has never even experienced first-hand is because the end result is pretty straight forward and functional without any second-hand knowledge. That the film gets bolstered on the strength of its cliches as evidence of its intelligence is kind of sad, really-- this film is only a biting satire if you squint really hard and hope it into being. Satire should not be indistinguishable from the thing it is allegedly criticizing. As a movie, it's okay, I guess, but having seen it first when I was a teen and seeing it again now is about the maximum exposure I need to it for life. Do I want to know more? Not really (Though I have two sequels in the same Blu-ray box for later since it was cheaper to buy the trilogy than just the first movie-- d'oh!)

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#173 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:47 pm

domino harvey wrote:Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven 1997) The satiric reputation for this sci-fi special effects extravaganza has been grossly exaggerated here and elsewhere. While there are some obvious nods to the flag-waving classics of WWII-era American cinema, the overall experience of the movie is not much removed from any "Let's get 'em, boys" kinda flick. Nothing wrong with that, any stroll through my posting history will reveal I have few qualms about such entertainments, but the reason the "masses" didn't notice or care that this film so closely resembles a period in American cinema most of the target audience has never even experienced first-hand is because the end result is pretty straight forward and functional without any second-hand knowledge. That the film gets bolstered on the strength of its cliches as evidence of its intelligence is kind of sad, really-- this film is only a biting satire if you squint really hard and hope it into being. Satire should not be indistinguishable from the thing it is allegedly criticizing. As a movie, it's okay, I guess, but having seen it first when I was a teen and seeing it again now is about the maximum exposure I need to it for life. Do I want to know more? Not really (Though I have two sequels in the same Blu-ray box for later since it was cheaper to buy the trilogy than just the first movie-- d'oh!)
I'm no big fan of the film, but my recollection of it from a single viewing is that the satire was laid on with a trowel (aren't there even parody commercials built into it?) It wasn't particularly biting or insightful, but it was extremely hard to miss - though I concede that Verhoeven is in full cake-and-eating-it mode throughout. Ultimately, I probably end up about as lukewarm on the film as you did, but I don't follow the same line of reasoning.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#174 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:51 pm

The satire pops up a little at the beginning and is randomly interspersed throughout but is far far far less prevalent than memory seems to suggest, and pretty uninsightful. Hell, casting whitebread like Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards as Buenos Aries residents with names like Rico and Hernandez is far more subversively winky to the Hollywood war genre than the central action of the film itself

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1990s List Discussion and Suggestions

#175 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:52 pm

There are parodic thrusts that are far from subtle- having NPH dress up like a straight up Nazi stormtrooper, for instance- but as generally happens with Verhoeven movies, the genre movie qualities overwhelm the parodic qualities almost every time. Which works well with something like Robocop, where the two reinforce one another, but with Starship Troopers, it feels like window dressing on a movie that's basically not that good at any level.

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