Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best of the 1990s

The only remaining film decade from recent memory is a tricky one, because it's the ten-year period in which I 'came of age' as a film student, and where my film-watching habit seriously got out of hand. My relationship with the films of that decade is therefore perhaps the most mercurial, as I began to develop a perspective on film (and film criticism) that I soon started to call my own, and my response to new films became all the more opinionated. With cinema established as more than a somewhat obsessive hobby, I approached it with something resembling religious zeal, often either enraptured by some films on the basis of expectations inflated to the point of hysteria, and dismissive of others because I thought I knew it all and developed a sense of arrogance toward the unfamiliar.

My number one film for the decade right now is a film I liked from the start, but that kept growing on me as I returned to it again and again. Linklater's film has become a cult object for many others, perhaps due in part to the fact that it captures a vaguely optimistic sense of aimlessness that sets out to capture the 1970s (which it does better than any other 'period' film about that decade), but which seems equally appropriate to the disembodied fin-de-siècle of the Clinton years.

1. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
2. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
3. The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
4. Miller's Crossing (Coen Brothers, 1990)
5. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
6. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
7. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
8. The Big Lebowski (Coen Brothers, 1998)
9. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Werner Herzog, 1997)
10. Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen, 1992)
11. Fargo (Coen Brothers, 1996)
12. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
13. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
14. Lone Star (John Sayles, 1996)
15. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
16. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 1999)
17. Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
18. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
19. Barton Fink (Coen Brothers, 1991)
20. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)
21. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
22. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
23. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
24. The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
25. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
26. Riget I (Lars von Trier, 1994)
27. Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994)
28. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
29. 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)
30. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1996)
31. Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton, 1996)
32. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
33. Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997)
34. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999)
35. Howards End (James Ivory, 1992)
36. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993)
37. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
38. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
39. L.A. Story (Mick Jackson, 1991)
40. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
41. Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)
42. Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992)
43. Nixon (Oliver Stone, 1995)
44. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
45. Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
46. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
47. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
48. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
49. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
50. True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)

Saturday Morning Watchmen

Teaching Watchmen alongside Jamesonian theory again this week prompts me to revisit this appropriately bizarre take on Alan Moore's classic text.

1% Inspiration, 99% Cliché

A pretty seamless montage of 'inspirational' moments from Hollywood history.

"Eponymous: The Movie"

A surprisingly amusing montage of characters saying the name of the movie they're in.

Look Behind You!: the Mirror Scare

A collection of shots that illustrate one of the most enduring visual clichés of the horror film genre: the mirror scare.

Zombies vs. Vampires

Now that the horror genre has been entirely mainstream for several years now, the zombie trope is slowly being eclipsed by the vampires of True Blood, Twilight, etc.

An essential starting point for understanding the zombie genre is this piece by the master of the video essay, Matt Zoller Seitz.

Sam Leith's excellent article for Prospect productively relates the zombie figure to the vampire by way of the class implications both tropes represent: "Vampires are monsters of the right; zombies are monsters of the left."

Meanwhile, vampire expert

Visual Effects in Film History

The Dialectics of Do the Right Thing

Another brilliant video essay courtesy of Matt Zoller Seitz, this one on the dialectical nature of Spike Lee's classic Do the Right Thing, which is indeed about 'more than race.'

"There's not many happy superheroes, are there?"

Finally, an amusing superhero-related YouTube clip -this one from The Ricky Gervais Show- spurs me back to long-delayed blogging. My habit of posting every link of interest that I come across to Facebook and/or Twitter is meanwhile making me re-think my blogging habits, as it's becoming increasingly frustrating to retrieve those links a few months down the line. Perhaps it's time to start relaxing my 'superhero material only' policy for this blog and start using it as a public archive for more general stuff of interest.