Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Favorite Films Of My Lifetime: 1996

1996 turned out to be a difficult year to pick from for me.  It was also a pretty great year for comedy for me, unfortunately having to make the final cuts of Kingpin and Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.  It sucks, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose.  Overall a pretty strong year for movies and the one that introduced me to the Coen Bros.  If young me would have told you about 1996 I would have been allllll about the Independence Day.  Its surprisingly a movie I never turn back to and am kind of afraid to do so.  But, in 1996, that movie and I had our time together and it was a good one.

Here's who the Oscar's picked as the Best Pictures of 1996

WINNER - The English Patient
Jerry Maguire
Secrets & Lies

And here's what I took away from it

The Cable Guy

I know I'm in a severe minority on this, but this is my favorite Jim Carrey comedy of all time.  For some reason I just saw on the same wavelength as this one.  I remember the advertising and marketing push was selling this as a "dark" movie and...I'm really not seeing it.  It was still pretty laugh out loud funny to me.  I saw it twice in the theater and the 2nd time I think I laughed even more than I did the first time.  My uncle Mark, my grandma and I used to run around quoting this one quite a bit.  And for some reason I laughed so damn hard at the Medieval Times Star Trek-inspired battle scene.  I couldn't get enough.


Here's what should have won Best Picture ;)  This was the film that introduced me to the quirky, wonderful world of Joel and Ethan Coen and their awesome capers and characters.  Fargo essentially follows their formula (they are never compared to him, but are very Hitchcock-like in this aspect) that we see them return to from time to time.  Steve Buscemi was this actor back in the 90s that popped up in every 90s indie film and if you saw his name attached you probably picked it up and likely found a gem.  After this he would start to take off into more mainstream films.  Frances McDormand was also dynamite and got a well deserved Oscar for her performance here.

From Dusk Til Dawn

This movie was kick ass.  Like two separate movies colliding, plus it turned me on to George Clooney as a badass.  It also was one of those movie that I felt like I was friends with the collaborative directors considering they cast Tom Savini and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson in roles when those were guys that I thought only myself and few others appreciated.  It was awesome.  The best experience anyone probably had with this movie was my dad.  When I got it on VHS, I showed it to him and he didn't have a clue as to what the movie was or what it was about.  And I didn't tell him.  When the whole script flipped and it swapped to a vampire movie, he lost his shit with surprise.  He thought it was terrific.  And my dad normally hates anything sci fi or horror, but he really enjoyed the ride that this one provided.

Mission: Impossible

If Alfred Hitchcock were around to direct a Mission: Impossible film, this is what we likely would have received.  It was the work, however, of a director who's made a career off of being inspired and using his work for guidance, Brian de Palma.  So, its as close as possible.  The film (which still works incredibly today) feels like a love letter to all the spy films that Hitchcock made a career out of shooting.  This one went right over the heads of audiences at the time too.  It was too smart for summer, popcorn munching audiences.  They apparently (and still to this day) don't like to have to think while things are exploding.  But, this is a rock solid mystery and the twist is pretty damn simple to comprehend, but it confused the hell out of people.  Go back and see the movie if you were one of those people, its really awesome.


Horror was just about dead theatrically in 1996.  It felt like the entire genre was headed into the straight to DVD avenue for future scares.  Then came the loveletter film to the subgenre that got it through the 1980s.  Scream was a huge sleeper hit coming in at the very end of 1996.  It was the meta movie Wes Craven started exploring with New Nightmare, but more fully realized here.  I originally avoided this movie as the cast in it all the hype made it feel to kind and "pop" for me as the big time horror fan who had seen all the movies this one was attributing its existence to.  Well, I finally caved and became amazed.  This movie WAS for me.  I was crazy about it and loved these characters.  The movie shocked me, surprised me and was an interactive game that had me playing to the very end.  Time hasn't been kind to Scream as its definitely dated (the fact that one of the characters has a cell phone makes him prime suspect #1), but if you're willing to accept the time and setting this movie takes place in, it still works.  Its a ton of fun and works as a murder mystery, a slasher and a comedy all at the same time.  Its a lot of fun.


This movie was kind of like my beginner's guide to Los Angeles before and a little after I'd lived there.  While I didn't live there until 9 years after this movie takes place, the vibe, goals and personalities were all the same.  I was surprised at a lot of the accuracy of the movie.  I don't demand a sequel or anything, but I'd really be interesting in seeing how the film worked out for some of these guys.  With this movie I definitely have seen some of the people I'd met and befriended in these guys in the movie.  When I first moved out there, I had a desire to see all the places featured in this movie.  And I managed to find everything I could.  I even wound up living not too far from Favreau's apartment in this movie for a couple years.  Its kind of cool that 2 big directors came from this movie and that the Doug Liman probably isn't the biggest of the two.  This movie has great classic moments, quotable lines, laughs and really good drama that does indeed highlight a lot of the truths of being someone in their 20s trying to make it in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

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