1982 was the year I discovered movies, but 1991 was the year I started really looking at movies. And writing about them. I was a junior at Occidental College when I started writing my first official reviews, for the college paper, The Occidental. Of all the movies I saw and wrote about in 1991, none affected me, intellectually and artistically, more than Barton Fink. I became a fan of the Coen Brothers with Raising Arizona, but Barton Fink is what made me a Coen admirer for life. Back in 1991, the indie arthouse movie explosion had just begun (sex, lies and videotape was released in 1989), and Barton Fink led the way to bringing a unique, surreal, odd and darkly humorous sensibility to movie multiplexes. Barton Fink is definitely an acquired taste, but, for me, it was like coming out of the darkness and into the light—and made me want to watch and write about movies for the rest of my life.
A modern love story? Maybe. But what I love the most about L.A. Story is its sweetness. Steve Martin is great, as is the entire ensemble (especially Marilu Henner and a young and obnoxiously perky Sarah Jessica Parker), but it’s Martin’s sincerely heartfelt screenplay that gets me every time.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
What I loved about Terminator 2 is the same thing I love about The Matrix: action with brains. There is a story here—great ideas, concepts and imaginations at work. But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s the special effects that make this worth watching. But without the depth, it would just be just another Transformers.
I know I’m a generation too late for the Warren Beatty phenomenon, but I can see what all the fuss is about. I love this gangster movie/romance because it’s Beatty at his egotistical best, but, you know what? He pulls it off. It doesn’t hurt that Annette Bening matches him at every turn. No wonder he married her.
I really wonder if this movie would hold up 21 years later, but I can tell you, back in 1991, it was an insanely original and unique movie that I absolutely adored. I haven’t seen it since, but I remember loving Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi (and not loving Kenneth Branagh’s accent) and this mystery caught me hook, line and sinker.
The Silence of the Lambs
I’ll be honest. I didn’t see this in 1991. I don’t even think I saw it in 2001. It took me a long time to get up the guts to watch it. But when I did, needless to say I was blown away. Anthony Hopkins’s performance lived up to all the hype, but it was Jonathan Demme’s direction—the way he created a vibe and a mood throughout the entire movie that made your skin crawl ever so slightly—that makes this such a masterful piece of cinema. And a great argument for vegetarianism.
Would I like this movie as much if Jessica Lange weren’t in it? Hard to say, but I did enjoy the campiness of it and the classic callbacks to the thriller genre that director Martin Scorsese peppers throughout. And Robert DeNiro’s villain is one for the ages.
I can’t imagine seeing this one again or ever loving it the way I loved it when I was 21, but there’s just something about its energy and spirit that resonated with me back then.
Father of the Bride
Steve Martin perfected the art of the sentimental comedy in the ‘90s. This one is my favorite.
Thelma & Louise
The best buddy movie ever made.
Sleeping with the Enemy
Pass the popcorn, please.
The Fisher King
Not an easy film to watch, but rewarding enough in its visual style and perfectly calibrated performances. Robin Williams’ best performance since The World According to Garp.
Fried Green Tomatoes
There was a time when Mary Stuart Masterson could do no wrong. Even though this movie features four strong performances (Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Louise Parker and Masterson), it’s Masterson’s Idgie Threadgoode that steals the show. There are some movies you love because of their style or depth or visual mastery. And then there are the movies that just latch onto your heart and play you like a fiddle.
One of the boldest movies I’ve ever seen. Visually arresting and thematically mesmerizing, JFK is great theatre.
The other Holly Hunter/Richard Dreyfuss movie that I love (the other being Always), this movie annoys a lot of people, but there’s just something about the chemistry here that works for me. And Gena Rowlands and Danny Aiello are fantastic.
Defending Your Life
Are you sitting down? I love this movie and, yes, Meryl Streep is in it. It’s true, I have the capacity to like a movie that Streep is in. However, the point must be made that this movie is so brilliantly written and acted by Albert Brooks that nobody could have ruined it, not even Meryl Streep. So, there’s that.
Truth or Dare
Yes, I know this is a Madonna concert movie/ego project. I know it is of no value or substance and adds very little to the creative landscape. But boy is it fun to watch. Pure candy.
The Movies That Should Have Mattered More
Beauty and the Beast
I know we owe a lot to this groundbreaking animated film, but it did nothing for me.
The Prince of Tides
Love you, Babs, but…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
To all of you who think Always is Steven Spielberg’s worst movie, I have something to show you.
Thank goodness I wasn’t a fan or it might’ve been worse.
There was a long time when this movie would be the answer to the question “what’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?”
For the Boys
Bette, what were you thinking? This movie stinks.
This should’ve been right up my alley, but it was in a completely different neighborhood.
The Movies That Might Have Mattered (But I Missed):
My Own Private Idaho
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Oscar Winners of 1991:
Best Picture: Silence of the Lambs
Best Director: Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs
Best Actress: Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs
Best Supporting Actress: Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King
Best Supporting Actor: Jack Palance, City Slickers