Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Best Films of the 90s - 75-71

75. Nixon - (1995)

Oliver Stone's surprisingly fair take on the 37th president's life reached for and achieved Shakespearean proportions as the complicated man is undone by greed and paranoia. Anthony Hopkins is somewhat miscast, but gives a terrific performance anyway. Everyone else (including Joan Allen, Ed Harris, Paul Sorvino, James Woods, and Powers Boothe) is more suited for their roles. The back and forth editing actually builds something emotionally complex as Nixon's Quaker upbringing informs everything during his presidency. Lots of great lines, but the one I use every few months or so is, "Only when you've been in the deepest valley will you know what it's like on the highest mountain."

74. Malcolm X - (1992)
Spike Lee's epic tribute to the slain, militant civil rights leader successfully follows him from young punk through his conversion to his rise as influential preacher. The period sets and costumes are terrific, but Lee captures the attitudes of his characters just right. Denzel Washington gives one of the decade's best performances, showing vulnerability, charisma, anger, ambition, and everything in between. It would be all downhill for Mr. Lee from here. Except for Inside Man. That was pretty good.

73. Red Rock West - (1994)

John Dahl's second and last film on the list has Nicolas Cage as a Texas drifter who's wrongly assumed to be a hitman by a man who wants his wife dead. Things get complicated when he warns the wife of her husband's intentions and the real hitman (played by the maniacal Dennis Hopper) shows up. It's basically a perfect noir film set in the desolate Rocky Mountains for the majority of the film. Unfortunately, it paints itself into the corner toward the end when it really should be expanding. But Dahl closes the film extremely well both with Cage's exit and dialogue.

72. Hearts of Darkness - (1991)
The greatest filmmaker of the 70s lost his mind in the jungle filming Apocalypse Now with production delays, casting changes, and an unfinished script. Francis Ford Coppola's unusual process is fascinating to watch as he develops the script and inspires his talented cast between takes. The behind the scenes footage is fascinating, especially seeing Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando both half in-character, half-out of character.

71. Wag the Dog - (1997)

Just prior to his reelection, the president is caught in a sex scandal. One of his advisors (Robert de Niro) teams with a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to fake a war and save the president's candidacy. A terrific satire about so much that is wrong with the political system, the film (scripted by David Mamet and directed by Barry Levinson) flies by pushing all the implausibilities to the side to make room for more. The actors are clearly having a great time. The attempt at profundity toward the conclusion ends with mixed results at best, but I'm not sure how this super cynical film could have ended any differently.

100. Glengarry Glen Ross
99. Dead Again
98. Ed Wood
97. True Romance
96. The Commitments
95. Bound
94. Die Hard 2
93. In the Line of Fire
92. Affliction
91. Shakespeare in Love
90. In the Company of Men
89. Short Cuts
88. Copland
87. The Hudsucker Proxy
86. The Last Seduction
85. The Apostle
84. Burnt by the Sun
83. The Godfather Part III
82. Good Will Hunting
81. Speed
80. Reversal of Fortune
79. Forest Gump
78. American Beauty
77. Dazed and Confused
76. True Lies

1 comment:

Lawyer said...

Nixon- Agree.

MX - Haven't seen.

RRW - Remember liking a lot (we saw it in the theater together with a bunch of your old roommates), but need to revisit.

HOD - Haven't seen.

WTD - Love the first 3/4, but the last part is a major drag. The film is my kind of cynical.