I love lists. I love pop culture too. The longer you live the more interesting questions like “what’s the best movie you ever saw?” or “what’s your favorite book?” become. Especially if you leave those questions unexamined which in the press of being an adult sometimes slides down the priority list.
But I am a glutton for punishment and feeling the need to scratch some OCD itches so I figure the easiest way to sort out what my favorites are is to actually try to remember what I’ve experienced and start to sort out my favorites. I say favorites because how really does it make any sense to try and say objectively this art is better than that art? Besides, lists should be personal, that way I can defend mine to the death and carefully pick yours apart. Er… allow us to have an entertaining and informative discussion over any differences of opinion we may have.
Let’s start with an arbitrary year — 1990 — so that I can work through a decade that was pretty important to my life. If I even get to the point where I can figure out my favorites from the decade of the Nineties as a whole I might feel like I can tackle other decades eventually.
First of all here’s a list of movies I never saw from 1990 that I’m guessing otherwise might be very high on this list:
Goodfellas; Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!; Dreams; Avalon; The Handmaid’s Tale; Mo’ Better Blues; Alice; Vincent & Theo; La Femme Nikita, and Trust. Wow — in retrospect I missed a lot of critically acclaimed movies that year. Of course, I was 21 at the time and living in a small college town with a crew of friends that were mostly interested in Hollywood action movies and horror flicks. Still, it looks like I’ve got some movies to put on the Vudu/Amazon Prime queue.
Of the movies that came out that year that I did see, there are a number that I suspect hold up pretty well (I’ve seen almost none of these since the first time I saw them in the theater that year) and were liked by lots of people besides me. I am going to take a stab at ranking my ten favorites and hope I can do that without too much hemming and hawing. I’d be especially interested in any suggestions for movies I’ve missed; or any disagreements with my 1990 list.
- Millers Crossing
- Quick Change
- The Grifters
- Jacob’s Ladder
- The Freshman
- Joe Versus the Volcano
- House Party
- Wild At Heart
Okay now that I’ve tried to do this — it’s hard! I feel guilty about what I haven’t seen and whether to trust my memories or not. Also when you get down to it you like movies for so many different reasons that it’s awkward to try to compare them. I mean I’m still posting this but I’m dubious on the merits of my list at this point. Of the above current top ten list I suspect only Miller’s Crossing and Quick Change may have a chance at a decade long favorites list.
I also saw several movies that while they don’t make my “favorites list” here I still remember liking: Pump Up the Volume; Pretty Woman; Edward Scissorhands; The Hunt for Red October (a little slow I recall); Godfather, Part III (okay ultimately this was somewhat boring and disappointing but it was the first Godfather flick I was old enough to see when it hit the theaters); Dances With Wolves; Back to the Future, Part III; and Dick Tracy (which at the time was promoted as A BIG DEAL comic
book strip movie, coming on the heels of Tim Burton’s Batman). I really liked The Two Jakes but I didn’t see Chinatown until years later. Flatliners was a lot of fun even if hokey. Plus it had a pretty notable cast. Oh my god — Young Guns II was out this year too. Lots of Kiefer Sullivan screen time that year. I also saw Flashback – another basically about average action-comedy Kiefer was in that year.
Pacific Heights has a lot of meaning for me, in part because I later lived in San Francisco where it’s set. A flawed movie to be sure but a weird yuppie version of taking the law into your own hands kind of movie. Also My Blue Heaven came out which was filmed in the college town I was still living in (as I was still in college!). Always kind of cool to recognize streets and scenes on screen you live in everyday — but not sure Steve Martin was the best choice for the role of big city Italian-American mobster in the witness protection program relocated to a small town.
Hey – what about movie adaptions of books? I loved the Scott Turow book Presumed Innocent and I do really like the movie version. Harrison Ford is a good actor despite agreeing to be in Indy 4 and at least I remember liking this. My vague recollection was at a bit of surprise that after this movie, the further Turow books were not also made into movies (I think one was made into a teevee miniseries).
Home Alone came out this year too which really was funny even if ultimately it’s simply a live action cartoon. No really, I almost put this one on the top ten list, I just have tremendously good memories of the slapstick in this one. But it did inflict future Chris Columbus directed movies on all of us so I docked it some points.
I saw Ghost too which is important mainly so that I fully appreciated the Naked Gun parody later.
I’m sure I saw Die Hard 2 but I can’t remember it which isn’t a good sign. Was it as good as the original one? Kindergarden Cop — everyone remembers the “It’s not a tooomur” line, right?
The other Arnold movie from that year — Total Recall which also had the insane director Paul Verhoven at the helm, was a lot of fun. I have not seen the remake yet and it’s not really on my to-see list right now.
I saw Tremors on tape later on but that is a really fun B movie. A key unanswered question so far — how many movies was Kevin Bacon in this year?
Very recently, I saw The Witches with my kids and mostly we liked it. It’s a decent adaptation of the Roald Dahl book.
12/15/12 Finally saw Goodfellas which completely lives up to its hype. Compelling action, amazing work by Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro. The absolute ending felt a little sudden but really that’s about the only thing I can nitpick at. Not sure it’s displacing any of my favorites this year but it certainly was one of the ten best movies of this year.