The Essential Performances of the 90s Showdown
Our friend Andrew Kendall of Encore’s World… has painstakingly planned and vetted 64 of the greatest performances of the 1990’s out of a possible 200, this difficult task eventually proving fruitful, presenting us with a showdown where you can vote for the better performance out of two that are paired. Thirty-two performances begin this showdown, but there can only be one winner.
FULL BRACKET HERE
Andrew has chosen me as one of his henchmen, the others being Jose Solis of Movies Kick Ass and Nick Prigge of Cinema Romantico. I pretty much tried to rig and troll the list while the three of them brought the bracket some quality. Other bloggers suggested their bests, like Amir Soltani of Amiresque, Courtney Small of Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, Craig Bloomfield of Dark Eye Socket, Ruth Maramis of FlixChatter and Ryan McNeil of The Matinee, Alex of Film Forager, Andy from The Film Emporium, and Jessica of The Velvet Café.
Andreas Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grr, Michael Cusumano of Serious Film and Yojimbo of Let’s Not Talk About Movies have also stepped in to do what I’ll be doing every other day or so – talk about two of the performances that are pitted against each other.
I already submitted some of my write-ups, the first one between the surprisingly restrained Nicolas Cage and the classical touches of Irene Jacob, both performances being in the moment, the actors enveloping each moment with intense emotion. I’m trying not to be biased between the two. You have until Tuesday to vote between the two of them, since every showdown is given three days to fight against each other. The clue to the next showdown that I’ll be moderating is in the picture below. Which one is it? I’ll link you when it’s up.
Now go to Andrew’s site and vote! And comment!
“Houdini Magic Ticket” Blog-a-thon
I would like to begin this post by saying that today is my birthday! And thanks to Dan Stephens, not only do I get one wish but ten, being a part of this blogathon that asks its…members?… about the fictional movie worlds I would like to enter for specific reasons. This blogathon is inspired by his post on The Last Action Hero. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, even if there’s a local cinema that plays this move once in a while. Anyway, let’s begin!
What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?
That woman who is one of James Cole’s (Bruce Willis) boss from Twelve Monkeys. Or better yet, any character from Twelve Monkeys.
What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?
Dotorre Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintingnant) from The Conformist, although it wouldn’t end well.
If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?
In who could also be my answer for the passionate romance question, Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) from The Departed. Digression, but Leo should have been nominated for here Oscar here instead of Blood Diamond.
What animated feature would you love to walk around in?
Fantasia, like are you kidding me? The first sequence is Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre! I’ve also drunkenly danced to the ballet dancing hippos, so I guess I have used my ticket for this already.
What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on / OR / What adventure based in an otherworldly, fantasy-based location would you most like to go on? I.e. Would you like to join the Goonies on their treasure-finding mission, or Luke Skywalker in his search for his family’s murderer?
For the earthly one, I’d choose whatever happens in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know that I probably won’t survive but swordplay is an adventure.
When it comes to the fantasy-based place, I’d pick Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) trying not to erase Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) froom his memory in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because what could be more otherworldly than someone else’s changing brain?
What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?
The Delorean in the Back to the Future films. Are we even allowed to talk about this magic transportation movie in a post about another magical way of transportation? Or can we talk about the art house version of those gadgets, specifically the movie screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo?
What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?
Atom Egoyan’s Chloë. I don’t know how and I don’t know if my presence and power would cure the plot from being ridiculous.
What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?
The 1860’s in The Leopard. I know it’s unsanitary and heteronormative and that period has religious hypocrisy, but it’s also like Gone with the Wind but in Italian. And the balls and the chance to dance with either Principe Felipe de Salina (Burt Lancaster) or his son’s fiancée (Claudia Cardinale)? Get me my Magic Houdini ticket now.
Double: “Outbreak” and “NeverEnding Story”
Preparing for Contagion, I watched Outbreak, since both have the same subject. Col. Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and Robby Keough (Rene Russo) – are a divorced couple but they stay amicable, his military status still maintaining her respect, her bravery calling for his devotion. Besides, they’re both in the medical industry and any developments in that field both concern these high-positioned professionals.
Patrick Dempsey looks less McDreamy and more longer haired, leather jacketed Scott Speedman. His character, Jimbo Scott, in 1995, is a leftover from the grunge movement. He is one of chains in smuggling a non-indigenous monkey into California and lets her out into the redwood forests. She sneezes on him, making him this film’s Gwyneth Paltrow, and when Robby finds him, he’s too sick to utter a word. He falls victim to the airborne and mutating Motaba virus, its original strain being discovered in Zaire three decades before the film’s time frame. He dies along with his girlfriend, one of a few doctor dying through human error (Kevin Spacey) and more get infected.
After ‘going rogue’ from corrupt higher-ups (Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland), Daniels and Maj. Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) find the Motaba carrier, they go on TV and a concerned mother of a rural home call in that the monkey is in their backyard, her daughter christening her as Betsy. Cue the character’s spectator-ship echoing ours in such a tense moment – this happens a bit in many movie so I’m not surprised. Salt points a tranquilizer gun near the girl, the girl’s parents telling Hoffman ‘I can’t stand this.’ I can’t stand it neither. These officers characters get Betsy, then they fly away again.
This film is punctuated by characters flying in and out of America that they might as well call this movie “Army Helicopter.” Personal and worldly issues mix here in the most melodramatic of ways. The world was still reeling from AIDS, which gets a shout out in this movie, but thankfully Twelve Monkeys gets released seven months later, adding surrealism to 1990’s apocalyptic paranoia.
Outbreak‘s director Wolfgang Petersen is also responsible for The NeverEnding Story, about a kid who gets bullied because he reads or something. Again there’s the spectator within the spectacle, for example Bastian telling Atreyu (Noah Hathaway, whose credits include playing a ‘Harry Potter Jr.’ before the books came out) to run. The story engages Bastian so much that he’s reading and staying in school way after closing to find out how it goes. He’s aware that the story isn’t real, but he cares about fictional characters in a way that never stops after childhood. The film also shows that like him, a great reader bridges those two worlds to learn lessons about himself and the dangerous real world.
This film is pre-CGI so it’s still marvelous how Petersen gets most of the giant creatures and sets on-screen, both of which produce wonderment and fear. The talking creatures don’t look like mere scale sculptures and the sets look painted on to colourful effect. Some of the magical entities, like double sphinxes that kill passerby with their laser eyes, are accurately created to standards of antiquity that won’t ever be depicted the same way. I also get Flash Gordon/Clash of the Titans ’81 flashbacks because of the topless sculptures/violent subject that is still right for a children’s film. And despite the faltering British accent, Hathway’s Atreyu never gets lost within the magnificently designed sets.
- Cinema de Gym: ‘Outbreak’ (thefilmexperience.net)
Book: Sense and Sensibility
I finished this book on February 15th for a Jane Austen Book Club. We’re never going to have our first meeting. Sad. The first thing that comes to mind is the dialogue, impressionistic between the Dashwoods, focusing instead on portraying a pastoral tone through narrative. The novel seems more dialogue-centred during chapters when Elinor and Marianne encounter male characters. Some conversations are either omitted, or through hearsay, obscured so that even the Dashwoods don’t know their endings. dialogue is important both in form and content in this book because it cements or disintegrates the female characters’ engagements with their suitors.
Had Austen been born in this era, Elinor would have rolled her eyes at people, especially when it comes to the alleged relationship between her and one of Marianne’s suitors, Colonel Brandon. This platonic relationship is probably Elinor returning the favour to Marianne with the latter’s few conversations with the former’s suitor Edward Ferrars. Marianne and Edward both hate jargon, the former’s poetic personality refreshed by Edward’s simplicity.
The book also perfectly encapsulates female heartbreak. I’ve seen it personally and it’s nasty and can almost suck the soul out of someone. Yes, and even if the book is mostly from Elinor’s perspective, Marianne’s heartbreak is more tragic. Speaking of conversations, Elinor has a last conversation with Willoughby that doesn’t really make him sympathetic, no matter how hard Austen tries to sway us.
The only adaptation of the book that I’ve seen is from Emma Thompson’s screenplay. Willoughby’s introduction scene still makes me giddy, even if I know how he really is. Eventually having to cast herself as Elinor, Thompson is the wrong age for the part. But I can’t help but hear her voice when I’m reading Elinor’s dialogue. Pardon the limp wordplay, but Thompson’s adds sensibility and soul to make Elinor and Austen proud. Also, House is in this movie.
Facebook Movie Preparation!
This wasn’t intentional, but on separate days before I watched a film where Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher teamed up, I watched two movies where both men create their own utopias.
My childhood memories of The American President and its run on late 90’s HBO Asia was that Annette Bening as Sydney Wade is the most beautiful woman on earth, her glow of sanity here is unforgettable. Crazier roles almost made me forget, but rewatching is remembering. She cuddles to President Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) in the couch, the country loves her, they get all the votes they need. The perfect couple. I honestly didn’t remember how hostile the movie was.
And I don’t remember Sorkin writing the typical second act of a romance movie where the lovers are driven apart. Their differences are more political, as Shepherd’s Crime Bill conflicts with Wade’s fossil fuel bill. Let me remind you guys that this is 1995, when people still cared about the environment. Then people stopped caring, then Al Gore made people care again. The film’s a product of its left-leaning time. Another conflict within the film is how the Republican men labels Wade a ‘whore.’ How dare they! And she had red hair? And everyone else in this film has red hair?
Michael J. Fox is awesome here too. I never thought he could play an adult, but there you go. Aaron Sorkin is a great but with his characters-as-symbolic ideologies method, he’s not the best writer of TV and film. He does, however, know how to write explosive, eloquent dialogue. His America sounds more true than we think, one that doesn’t pay attention to sexual gossip of the Clinton era nor the Tea Party insanity of today. I just hope my country catches up. Also, Samantha Mathis and Anne Hathaway’s stepmother in Rachel Getting Married is in this movie.
Also, I never watched “The West Wing“. I know Peggy’s in it, but I was 11. I liked stuff like Buffy and MTV. Give me a break.
Now to Fincher. I’m not the biggest fan of ubermasculinity and Fight Club is the cinematic version of a hockey bag. Yes, I’m turning down shirtless guys with that sentence. At the same time, I also resent that Project Mayhem promised so much but didn’t really happen, or that it kinda did but people turned away and instead defended the institutions that oppress them. But then again, if I ever joined a radical group like Project Mayhem, I’d cry if they took away my iPod. My whole life is in there!
I’ve had, however, fantasies about this scene, as an Asian who hates his job and secretly wants out.
Fight Club, not The Social Network, is Fincher’s most Wellesian film. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inherits an empire and wants a newer, more radical, destructive, oppressive one of his own making. It’s liberating to blow up buildings of credit card companies, but a leader taking away individuality casts doubts. Yes, this movie was in my Imperialist Cinema class. This film also fits into my unorthodox education, corporate sculpture and bauhaus bourgeois being shoved away by performance art, performed by Project Mayhem.
And the shot composition, finding unconventional ways to light every shot, and often times there’s symmetry despite its baroque angles. And the colour, just like Se7en.
My mom has harped about how ugly Pitt is, an unfathomable concept to me until I rewatched this movie. As Tyler he’s both sexy and bruised, letting himself go as he sees fit. Speaking of Brad Pitt, this was a date movie. That’s as much as I’ll share.
Thinking this out, Fight Club might become my favourite Fincher instead of Zodiac all along. Also, I need to read Palahniuk’s book.
- Modern Maestros: David Fincher (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Cher tries to set up people in couples and boxes, but Clueless subverts assigned stereotypes, the most obvious one being that ‘clueless’ newcomer Tai (Brittany Murphy) is sluttier and bitchier than she looks. There’s more.
Dionne is not Mammy. Dionne (Stacey Dash), is a true Beverly Hills girl with mood swings, which is why I love her. If writer-director Amy Heckerling was a worse writer, Dionne would only serve as life support to Cher. Dionne has juicy scenes like crying in the bathroom in a party when she finds out that Murray (Donald Faison) – who isn’t threatening because he wears braces – shaved his head, or slightly betraying Cher by huddling around Tai (Brittany Murphy), or freaking out on the freeway. I especially love how the film sets up the latter scene. Her line reading of ‘What if he was really tired?’ is both deadpan and camp, both levels played well together. Dionne and Cher talk like that throughout the film, like a Whit Stilman film where all the character wear pink. And the deadpan aspect of the line readings prepare you for the hilarity that’s gonna ensue. Also, she is older than Paul Rudd. Speaking of minorities,
I couldn’t tell if Christian was gay neither. The Jason Priestley lookalike’s pleated pants and old man abs made it more difficult, if you must know. And yes, the film deceives us when Christian acts a bit combative towards Mel (Dan Hedaya), while gay boys successfully befriend parents. Although ‘hagsville,’ Tony Curtis RIP and ‘Aww, honey, you baked’ should have rung alarm bells. Which brings me to why I didn’t wanna bury this section as a third item. I’m a Filipino gay man in my twenties who writes about film instead of a white straight male critic over 40, and for some reason, I feel more personally about characters who fall in whatever bracket I share him or her with. That’s something I don’t see too blatantly in 40-year-old straight white men, or at least their character critiques are more general. I think. In layman’s terms, I kept comparing Christian to myself, or who I was when I was the same age as he is. Can someone back me up on this? Christian dances with another guy in that party, something I would never try to do unless I was in a predominantly gay area. But then he’s a classical film lover and a bit of a ‘art fag,’ written by a woman, based on a source material from the Regency period. Christian makes me curious about what ‘gay guys’ have been like in 1995 or the early 1800’s. And how could Murray have known and not Cher nor Dionne? Don’t women have better gaydars than straight men. Or maybe Cher and Dionne just don’t.
If you pay attention to the film, you’ll know how it might end. I also really like this scene/shot/movie because of the generational divide, Josh (Paul Rudd) looking at Cher with such reverence while Mel’s being stern towards Christian. And Josh is aware of this generational divide, telling Mel not to let Cher go out looking like ‘that.’ Josh is in between, the bridge between Cher and Mel, old enough to know better, young enough to know that Cher isn’t so vacuous as others might think. Although he distractingly sounds a bit like Christopher Walken in one of the last scenes. Also, did anyone see this movie and think ‘Josh is gonna be ubiquitous,’ because I didn’t.
Cher isn’t always perky, but some of you might have known this already. Yes, her arguments about violence in the media is considerable, but her knowledge of ‘Haitians,’ jazz and art criticism needs work. If any of my professors heard ‘Monet’ defined like that, they would pop a blood vessel. She drops the Beverly Hills accent once in a while, which surprisingly makes both inflated and deflated Cher more convincing. And is that a Kollwitz sculpture behind her? I imagine her being a philanthropist, if she’s not misled.
New York Tristate in the house. Timothy Findley who first talked to me about the New York exodus to California in the early days of cinema. Apparently Tai and Mel has kept that tradition alive, their accents representing as prominently as the California accent.
Ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size. If this movie’s setting is 2010, she wouldn’t need to ask that question because she’d be a size 0. Or maybe not being size 0 makes her better than the average airhead.
Starbucks? That existed before the 1999 Seattle riots?
The world goes on despite of Cher. So this is the third movie I’ve seen this year about the Bosnian War, although I’ve seen Clueless before. The Bosnia reference also shows how 90’s it is, a great addition to other 90’s references like Ren and Stimpy, Radiohead, Alaia. Also, is that a flower-pot? How much did Mel let her decorate in the house? Cher’s very girl for a girl raised by a single parent. This movie is about Cher becoming more well-rounded. It also helps that she has people like Josh around her, correcting her without being condescending. And Christian ‘educating’ her about film and art. And Mel who’s an art collector himself. And Miss Geist (Twink Caplan).
I also watched the television series, where Caplan, Dash and Faison among others took the roles they had in the film, but you knew that already.
Also, Scott Rudin prouced this movie. Respect. Silverstone and Heckerling, also the director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, are reuniting to make Vamps, about vampires on the prowl in the city a la “Sex and the City.” I’m worried.
- Scenes We Love: Clueless (cinematical.com)
Somerset Hitting the Books
Before I show my answer, I wanna show my back-ups.
The most elegant/scary opening credits.
Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) reacts to stuff.
Four reasons why Mills is a terrible person are shown/implied in this shot.
I suppose this is the right space to write about my complaints about this movie, on how Mills, a guy who’s worked homicide for five years is still a moralizing optimist. Or that the murders wherever Mills is from can’t be as bad as the one’s he’s about to see in L.A. I also have problems with John Doe (Kevin Spacey) hating fat people but hating skinny people too. I don’t know about California law but around here if a the defence admits to his counsel of being guilty, the fight is over. I’m also sure that the whore he killed has used condoms while she’s on duty.
Thankfully, my latest viewing of this movie is one when the dominant force is Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), patient, pensive yet jaded. My answer after the cut.
Director David Fincher‘s always known for his low-light sfumato effect in his films. The same goes for Se7en, where even the ‘white’ shots are wedged in contrast with sharp black. There are, however, instances within Se7en when big dots of colour appear, like here, colour shown behind a car window, made translucent by the rain, looking like a Van Gogh.
The neon signs of the city can advertise anything, including, sadistically, this
But my best shots and two that I can expand upon are these.
Green study lamps, aesthetically pleasing. What a way to visualize enlightenment ignored in a dark, seedy, crass city. Bright objects always get to me.
The library guards are on good terms with Somerset, leaving the books all to himself. He chooses a table, sets the briefcase down, looking at all the books that the guards are ignoring. He eventually addresses this disconnect ‘All the knowledge in the world at your fingertips.’ The guards see his bet and tops it by playing Bach on the boom box, making this trip to the library a relaxing time.
It’s been established that Somerset wants to give up his badge. However, it’s stuff like pulling all-nighters that make others, like the guards in this library, think that he’s eternally linked to this job. He absorbs the information on a handful of books neither with young earnestness nor a yawn. No coffee breaks. The film also establishes this scene as if this might be his last trip to this library, and wants to sit down and take his time with the books.
A guard say ‘Hey Smiley, you’re gonna miss us.’ He responds ‘I just might.’ Interesting nickname.
Also notice the lamps in the second shot are pointing different direction, the mise-en-scene arranged in meticulous disarray.
This post is part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot Series.
- Blu-ray Review: Se7en (seattlepi.com)
- Check Out a Classic Scene From the New ‘Seven’ Blu-ray (cinematical.com)
Geek done good Martin Scorsese is like a pre-Tarantino in his depth in film knowledge. The master, however, exceeds the extra mile by referencing both film and art in his 90’s film Casino, and make those references fit into the 1970’s and 1980’s when the movie was set. Scorsese’s always been visual but it was his work in the 90’s showcased this talent, with movies like Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, and arguably Cape Fear.
Edward Hopper – although this is a little bit of a stretch
Edvard Munch – SPOILERS!
Image: The Usual Suspects
(Remember when both Stephen Baldwin and W Magazine were still great? ph. MGM)
Rumble in the Bronx
(too close ph. Miramax/New Line)
So I decided to mix things around by seeing a non-festival thing, although “Rumble in the Bronx was part of the opening weekend for the Underground.
I don’t know why I always compare martial arts movie stars to their earlier dancing counterparts. It’s been said before, and if anything Jackie Chan’s the danci-est, most flamboyant, boyish martial arts guy. The most fascinating parts of his performance in “Rumble in the Bronx,” just like any post-classical work of any genre, has the spirit of being showy and the performer’s ambition to outdo himself.
“Rumble”shows all of physical challenges the same way later Fred Astaire numbers would. There’s a constrained space between him and his opponents that Keung (Jackie Chan) has to work with, an aspect that will be diminished later on. In the first fight scene, he and the urban motorcycle gang hit each other while tugging at each other’s clothes and bags. Sometimes the enemy gets too close. It’s interesting to watch how he survives while being surrounded, and claustrophobic circumstances make way for really precise moves. There’s also the feeling like that of any first fight, when relative peace exists and the protagonist doesn’t wanna leave a mess yet.
(We’ve got to move these refrigerators/ We’ve got to move these color TV’s)
Later on he passes through small hallways and spaces between walls and trucks, little interludes between him leaping and flipping all over big parking lots where another fight happens. And of course, the playing field gets larger. I really like the detailed and mise-en-scene, with alleyways, random playground rails, refrigerators and even grocery carts. The whole movie is slightly reminiscent of the Technicolor faux urban stage of 1950’s musicals. Or, a comparison more fitting because of the claustrophobia in some scenes, a grungy, more colourful yet less trippy version of the Bruce Lee hall of mirrors. Every space and object is an opportunity to escape and attack.
This despite the super dated pop culture references. This came out in China in 1995 and it might as well have been out half a decade earlier. I’m a forgiving person.
It’s really hard to talk about movies I love. Since I was under the academic wing, movie writing is especially difficult with examples that have a lot of comic relief. I would be talking about a pimp describing “a coked up whore (not Madeleine Stowe) and a fucking crazy dentist (not Bruce Willis)” instead of dystopia.
And dystopia’s pretty much what the movie’s about – the world is shit both in the 1990’s and in the mid 21st century. We see a grungy mental institution with overconfident psychiatrists and contrasted against a group of scientists who cannot even get the poor man to travel in time properly. The 1990’s attitude is when psychiatry and labeling people like James Cole as crazy is the norm instead of helping him as the prophet that he is. The 21st century, however, does not want to overdo themselves by changing the future but instead want to learn from it. The future scientists also get closer to their mark in all their attempts to solve their historical puzzle.
I also love how “Twelve Monkeys” is the closest well-resulting thing we can have of a Vertigo remake without it being too literal and therefore terrible. At one point, I even felt like this film is better than Vertigo. Like the Hitchcock film, one person contracts the crazy just as the other tries to wean himself off it. Both use insanity as a metaphor for love and vice versa, as the protagonists want to live in a perfect world and want to share that with someone. It’s this dream and mismatched love tragedy that makes us come back for more. And I’m not the biggest fan of Vertigo and writing that makes me wanna watch it again to see if I love the whole as much as I love the parts.
I also watched “If” and “Elephant,” and tried to put three movies in some umbrella post of violence, but it ain’t gonna work. I will talk about the two movies mentioned in this paragraph in a later post.