Sunday, September 9, 2018

Top 10 Underappreciated Favorite Films of the 1990s

After a report was released in August showing the favorite 1990s movie of every state and revealing that The Lion King was the favorite 1990s movie of Texas, it got me thinking about the movies of the 1990s.  See, though I may have been born in the 1980s and be able to remember it well, the 1990s were my formative years.  These are the years that I began to set my own tastes in music, in film, in style, and in art.  The 1980s movies I watched on VHS or television.  For many of the 1990s movies, I remember being in the theater.  These are the films I chose to see.  The ones I waited for.  The ones where I then bought the DVD (or VHS still, even in college).

And with that fresh on my mind, I set out to write a list of my top 10 favorite movies from the 1990s.  And I can't do it.  It's too hard. The field is too varied and too vast.  How do you choose between Pulp Fiction, Se7en, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Fried Green Tomatoes, Scream, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, etc.  There are way too many good recommendations that it is too hard to narrow down the field.

So, instead, I've chosen a different list.  A narrower category to select from.  My list of top 10 underappreciated films from the 1990s.  Films I love that no one else might even like.  Movies that I can sit down and watch anytime they are on.  Movies I love for a particular moment, a particular scene, a particular sentiment.  Some of these might not even be called "good movies," but they are movies I thoroughly enjoy.

So, without further ado, my list of Top 10 Underappreciated Favorite Films of the 1990s, in release then alphabetical order.

  • The Rocketeer (1991) - this movie ticks so many boxes for me: classic Hollywood setting, superheroes, action/comedy, and an iconic look.  That Art Deco poster was such a perfect encapsulation.  I love the source material from Dave Stevens comics to the new ones that have been released over the past few years, and I adore the film.  I may have tracked down a Zavvi exclusive UK steelcase for the Blu-ray on this one.
  • Mallrats (1995) -  first exposure to Kevin Smith, first exposure to Jason Lee, and one of the greatest Stan Lee cameos of all time.  When people talk about Kevin Smith films, the discussion is usually on Clerks and Chasing Amy, and while those have been over analyzed, I love this quirky little oddball of a film.  Though it has Kevin Smith's typical humor and nowhere near family friendly, its slightly milder than his later excesses.  Jason Lee's Brodie makes the film.
  • The Birdcage (1996) - In making this list and looking at my favorite films of the 1990s, I realized just how much of a part Robin Williams played through these years in particular.  And this remake of La Cage Aux Folles is one of my favorites.  A great concept that still plays well today and a superb cast.  Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Hank Azaria, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, and Christine Baranski.  All at the top of their game.  The penultimate dinner scene is incredible.
  • Mars Attacks! (1996) - one of my favorite Tim Burton films.  It's just so silly.  And that makes it amazing.  A truly all star cast including an unrecognizable early Jack Black.  And the inspiration references fly by throughout the film. 
  • My Fellow Americans (1996) - I know Grumpy Old Men is the better film, but I love this odd little comedy.  Perhaps it's the pairing of Jack Lemmon and James Garner. It's definitely a comfort film; something to slip on when I'm not feeling well.  A ridiculous plot saved by a stellar cast. 
  • Can't Hardly Wait (1998) - in the dorms at UT there was one station that cycled through about 4 or 5 movies on repeat.  This was one of them, so I saw this film a lot and grew to love it.  It has a who's who of teen actors from the 1990s and an epic party night for the plot.  A great soundtrack and a lot of fun.  
  • Playing by Heart (1998) - This is probably the most random film on the list and feel needs a little more explanation.  I have a soft spot for films with large casts that tell seemingly unrelated stories that all converge at the end.  And this one has one great cast of couples.  Sean Connery and Gena Rollins, Jay Mohr and Ellen Burstyn, Gillian Anderson and John Stewart (pre-Daily Show), Ryan Philippe and Angelina Jolie, Dennis Quaid and Patricia Clarkson.  I'm not a fan of all of the plotlines (like the priest committing adultery), but there are great character moments in this movie.  I also liked the film when the title was originally Dancing About Architecture in reference to a paraphrase quote in the film: "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture."  
  • Dick (1999) - If you ever wondered what was on the missing Watergate tapes, this movie has your answer.  An 18 1/2 minute long love message from a teenager lovesick over Richard Nixon.  I never knew I needed a farce surrounding the Watergate investigation, but I'm glad I've seen it.  And Dan Hedaya is a criminally underrated actor and gives a hilarious portrayal of Nixon in the film.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) - a dark black comedy mockumentary about a Minnesota beauty pageant.  A biting satire with an excellent cast.  Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Denise Richards, Amy Adams, Brittany Murphy, Kirstie Alley.  A beauty pageant crown so fought for, they kill each other for it.  I saw this with Brooke and Taylor in Austin at an art-house cinema and would have expected the crowd to be a little more connected.  Surprisingly, we seemed to be the only three laughing when the combine exploded.  I don't know what that says about us. 
  • The Iron Giant (1999) - the one film on this list I know is a truly great film, just not well seen, particularly in its early release.  A hand drawn masterpiece in animation by Brad Bird.  Touching on cold war paranoia, the film celebrates the bonds of outsiders and childlike wonder.  If you don't cry at "I'm Superman," I don't know what to say.

That's my list.  Oddball picks and all.  What are some of your favorite "underappreciated" gems?

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