The 1990's was a decade that got a great jump out of the gate and then stumbled a bit before the finish line. Still much better than the 1980's but not as good as the 1970's. Various genres won as best picture during the decade making it a pot luck of films, but very enjoyable ones.
So here are the 1990's, whatever.
Films I have seen - Dances With Wolves (Best Picture), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Dances With Wolves is a modern western that helped make the genre popular again, at least for the first half of the 90's. A simple story about a Civil War veteran who takes an outpost in Indian territory and then leaves the army and joins their tribe. Awakenings is based on the story of a doctor who found a temporary cure to sleepy sickness, good acting. Ghost is a sappy love story but very popular even if the acting wasn't good. I didn't see it under the best circumstances so I was a bit biased when I saw it but twenty years has soften me a bit, but not much. The Godfather Part III could have been great but it just fell short. It felt rushed, needed more polish, was not at the level of the first two. Still a great movie in it's own right but if the second matched the first or even exceeded it then the third part would have to be the greatest movie ever made, and it wasn't. Goodfellas is another great Scorsese film that once again got passed by. A great gangster film in the same class as The Godfather trilogy.
Verdict - This is only the second time a western won best picture, the first since 1931. Dances With Wolves is a grand epic and was well done, even if it was a bit too long and would fall off the wheels when the VHS tape would be rewound. They had to design a special VHS case for the film. Its not the best western ever made but it was done at the right time and earned best picture. Goodfellas is a close second and a shame that it didn't win but is now a modern classic. The Godfather earns a third place nod, mostly because of the first two. Awakenings is fourth and Ghost is last.
Films I have seen - Silence of the Lambs (Best Picture), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Silence of the Lambs is one of the most terrifying, best acted, suspenseful films ever made. The acting between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins is so powerful, some of the finest ever. This is one of the best films ever made. Beauty and the Beast was a great Disney film, even though it was a cartoon it was a good story. This film made people realize that good movies can be animated. I have listened to this movie over three hundred times when I worked in a video store, I can still recite all the lines, unfortunately. Bugsy is a sloppy Warren Beatty film about the gangster Bugsy Malone. The guy was an animal and built a casino in Las Vegas, acting was cheesy too. JFK was Oliver Stone using every theory about President Kennedy's assassination, all of them, the serious ones and goofy ones, and put them in one movie. Does have an all star cast and got people questioning the assassination again. The Prince of Tides is a silly sappy unrealistic movie that is comical even though it isn't supposed to be. Also sends a warped message that cheating on your wife is how to save your marriage.
Verdict - Only the third and currently the last time a film swept best picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay, and rightfully so. Silence of the Lambs is the best picture of 1991 and the 1990's. Beauty and the Beast is second mainly because it helped bring animation into a new level of recognition. Third is JFK only because it was slightly better than the bottom two. It's almost a tie for worst for 1991 but Bugsy slides into fourth and The Price of Tides last.
Films I have seen - Unforgiven (Best Picture), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Unforgiven is one of the most dramatic westerns I have ever seen. It shows what happens after the gunslinger hangs up his guns and moves on with his life. Great acting, scenery and a simple story done well. The Crying Game is a bizarre mystery that will surprise you if you don't know the story. Gets kind of bloody and little unnecessary violent at times. A Few Good Men is a strong military drama with great acting with the exception of Demi Moore. She could have been replaced with a box of laundry detergent and it would have been a better actress. Howards End is a Merchant Ivory typical production, Victorian era drama that when you have the patience is an enjoyable film to watch. Unlike Scent of a Woman which was almost unwatchable. Al Pacino won the Oscar for best actor, when he truly should have won best supporting actor for Glengary Glen Ross where he was amazing.
Verdict - When I saw the scene when Clint Eastwood fell of his horse I gasped, along with every other guy in the theater, and said to my wife who was my girlfriend at the time, "Oh my god, Clint Eastwood fell off his horse!". She didn't understand why I was so shocked. If you understand why I was shocked then you understand why this film was the best picture, if you don't then I can never explain to you why it deserved to win. I would put Howards End second, A Few Good Men third, The Crying Game fourth and Scent of a Woman fifth.
Films I have seen - The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, Remains of the Day
Films I have not seen - Schindler's List (Best Picture), The Piano
Analysis - Only the second of three years where I still have not seen the best picture. The Fugitive is a good action film taking the classic TV series and making it into one film. In the Name of the Father is a slightly gritty drama about accused IRA terrorists being sent to jail and their attempt to prove their innocence. Remains of the Day is another Merchant Ivory film that is very stylish, but can run on too long.
Verdict - Since I haven't seen Schindler's List, which I know will be very depressing, I would put The Fugitive as a temporary top film and Remains of the Day second for now.
Films I have seen - Forest Gump (Best Picture), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Forest Gump is a big budget film that is the movie equivalent of cotton candy. It's sweet but has no nutritional value and eating too much of it gets you sick to your stomach. This is a film to make Baby Boomers feel good about themselves. Lots of popular music, reenactments of famous late 20th century historic moments and a main character who is too stupid to realize anything that goes on around him. If you show this film to someone fifty years from now, unless they lived during the 1950's through to the 1980's or have a doctorate in late 20th century American popular culture, they would have no idea what this film was about. Practically every joke and cultural reference would go over their heads. It was a popular movie for its time that is becoming less and less relevant each day. Four Weddings and a Funeral was a cute romantic comedy, but not much more. Pulp Fiction helped bring back independent films and the type of film that was common during the early 1970's. Although it is criticized for being too violent, which is can be at times, and for the stories being told out of sequence, it is an amazing film. It is one of the first major films to show the villain or evil character full. Usually the villain has a bad accent and you don't know anything about them, just that they kill. Here you see them as real people having emotions. They engage in conversations about things normal people would. This film opened the door for a lot of small budget and small production companies to make moves. Granted most of them have been terrible, but a few good ones have shown up and they can thank Pulp Fiction for paving the way. Quiz Show is an attempt to do a dramatic bio-pic but just falls flat. Shawshank Redemption is one of the finest movies ever made, top 5 of all time. A simple story that is such a powerful drama and so well acted and told, it is a classic. Where Forest Gump is the movie equivalent of cotton candy, this is the movie equivalent of filet minon. And if you show this film fifty years from now, unlike Forest Gump, people will understand the story since it is timeless, and say how great this movie is. And why didn't it win best picture.
Verdict - Years ago I worked with someone in a video store who would always say that the movie that makes the most money each year should win best picture. I disagreed and said you need to separate quantity from quality. After Forest Gump won he refused to make that argument any more. Shawshank Redemption was robbed, plain and simple. It was the best picture of 1994 and I am not alone on this point, many people agree. Pulp Fiction is second because of the influence it had on the movie industry. Third is Forest Gump because it is a big budget film and had good costumes and special effects. Four Weddings and a Funeral is fourth and Quiz Show is fifth since it could have done better.
Films I have seen - Braveheart (Best Picture), Apollo 13, Babe, Sense and Sensibility
Films I have not seen - Il Postino
Analysis - Braveheart is an epic historic war action drama (enough genre's for you huh?) that is a really good movie. Great message about fighting for you land and your freedom. Apollo 13 was much better than I though it would be. The story was told well, the acting was great and it flowed very smoothly. Tom Hanks should have got his Oscar for this film and not Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Babe is a nice cute kids movie that I'm guessing was popular enough to reach the top five. Sense and Sensibility is another of the Victorian era/style dramas that was popular in the early 90's. If you like those films this was great, if you don't then it's just another boring film.
Verdict - Braveheart was the best of all of them, with Apollo edging into second for now slightly above Sense and Sensibility.
Films I have seen - The English Patient (Best Picture), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Shine
Films I have not seen - Secrets & Lies
Analysis - This was the year of the independent film. Four of the five nominees came from, at the time, smaller production companies where normally most if not all would come from major Hollywood studios. Pulp Fiction in two years helped change this. The English Patient is a love story, bit depressing, that is a mystery that unfolds as you watch the film. Very well done with makeup, scenery, acting, screenplay and keeps you involved throughout the entire film. Fargo is another great Coen brother's film that too has great acting, storytelling and they even have the nerve to fool you in thinking it was based on a true story. These men are geniuses. Jerry Maguire, the only major studio film, is a typical love story about a man who cares so much about his work that he loses touch with the human element of life, blah, blah, blah. I'm sorry, but people who are dedicated to their careers are not as comically unbalanced as they are in the movies, this film is a joke. Shine is a interesting story, a bio-pic about David Helfgott the famous pianist and his mental illnesses that effect his life and career. A rather good film with some really good classical music.
Verdict - At the time I didn't care what won as long as it wasn't Jerry Maguire. I was happy to see independent films in competition and one of them winning. The English Patient is the best film, only edging out Fargo just slightly because it was a slightly grander film. Fargo is one of the Coen brother's best, but not their greatest. But of course even the worst Coen brother's film is still much better than most other directors good films.
Films I have seen - Titanic (Best Picture), As Good as it Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Titanic is the grand epic of the infamous ship, but told as a love story. Great special effects, great scenery, so-so acting, horrible script, but overall still a great movie. As Good as it Gets is a film that really doesn't tell much of a story, just a bunch of strange people somehow becoming interwoven in each other lives. Jack Nicholson is really good and earned best actor. Helen Hunt was good and I guess probably earned best actress. Greg Kinnear was horrible and helped drag the film down. The Full Monty is a quirky film about a bunch of unemployed factory workers who decide to make money stripping. Not much more than that. Good Will Hunting is an interesting film that was very well written, pretty good acting and was a solid film. L.A. Confidential is an attempt to be a gritty cop drama that falls flat and gets muddled at times.
Verdict - Titanic was the best film, it was bigger and grander than all the other combined. I would put Good Will Hunting in second and a three way tie for third for the remaining since none of them are that good and it is too hard to try and figure out who is slightly better or worse than one another.
Films I have seen - Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan
Films I have not seen - Shakespeare in Love (Best Picture), Life is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line
Analysis - This is the last year where I have not seen the best picture winner, not that I don't have a good excuse. I have a copy of the movie on VHS sitting on the VCR, but since I have a DVR, that's all I ever watch. It seems to be more fun to try and watch it after I tape it. But I am getting very caught up and when the DVR gets to 70 to 75% empty, maybe I'll pop it in. Elizabeth is the historic drama of the same Queen of England, pretty neat opening scene of them burning Protestants, but gets a bit boring after that. Saving Private Ryan is a epic WWII film that has the most intense opening scene of DDay I have ever seen. Good acting but the story seemed a bit unrealistic or silly in a way. During a major battle lets pull a bunch of soldiers to risk their lives, to tell one to go home and then risk his fellow soldiers lives? Great acting by Tom Hanks who ruined it by getting two he didn't deserve years before and now gets overlooked.
Verdict - I still have to see the majority of films nominated this year, Saving Private Ryan will hold the top spot for now.
Films I have seen - American Beauty (Best Picture), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - The secret to winning is not to put "The" in front of your film title. American Beauty is a drama about how life is frustrating and living in the suburbs is not utopia. Like a I needed a film to tell me that. Life is hard all over no matter where you live. I found this film hard to watch the first time, turned it off after about twenty minutes. I only watched it once I started my project to see all of the films that won best picture. The Cider House Rules is a drama that's not bad but never seems to become great. An orphan who could be a doctor decides to go and pick apples instead. The Green Mile is another adapted Stephen King short story about a prison in Maine. Not as good as Shawshank, but an interesting story about a healer put on death row and how he effects all around him. Very enjoyable and well acted. The Insider is a long, boring, long movie about the man who revealed that smoking is harmful to your health. He was also going to reveal that falling off a fifty story building would kill you when you land on the sidewalk, but the film didn't have enough time. The Sixth Sense is a great suspense film that you don't want to know the ending if you haven't seen it.
Verdict - None of these were really outstanding films, but none of them were really that bad either. I can see why American Beauty won and would tend to agree, but I could see why The Green Mile could have won. The Sixth Sense could have had a chance but not that strong, so it would come in third behind The Green Mile. The Cider House Rules falls safely into fourth and The Insider last.