In three days, I will turn fifty. Or maybe you could say, I will achieve fifty years old, finishing my 50th year. To celebrate (at least, on this blog), we’re taking a look back and picking a film from each year of my life that I think is notable. My birthday is June 7, so each film came out in the year that began on that date, according to Wikipedia.
I’m not warranting that these are the best movie from each year, or even my favorite. I’m actually purposely avoiding mentioning any films that are on my recently created and revised list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most (to be revealed soon). The ones listed here are just movies I find interesting and worth noting–and that maybe are worth seeing if you have the opportunity.
As I was preparing for this, I decided to pick another from each year that I haven’t seen, and make a viewing-list for myself for the 51st year. You can see that list on the bottom of the post.
21st Year (June 1990 – June 1991)
Directed by Andrew Bergman
Release Date: July 20, 1990
Matthew Broderick plays a film student who has a crazy professor who teaches from nothing but The Godfather Part II, when he suddenly finds himself wrapped up with real mobsters led by Carmine Sabatini who looks exactly like Vito Corleone because they are both played by Marlon Brando. This leads to a crazy situation where Matthew Broderick’s character loses a komodo dragon in a shopping mall. There’s a lot of quirky stuff going on here, but it all works surprisingly well. I remember going into this movie thinking Marlon Brando would barely be in it and that he’d be entirely shot by himself against some disconnected background, but I was wrong. He’s fully involved in this film story and even has a scene where he’s ice skating.
22nd Year (June 1991 – June 1992)
My Cousin Vinny
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Release Date: March 13, 1992
My Cousin Vinny is about two young college students who get wrongfully imprisoned in a remote part of Alabama. Desperate for help, one of them seeks out the one lawyer in the family, ie the “cousin Vinny” of the title. This turns out to be Joe Pesci, who is accompanied by his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito. Ralph Macchio from The Karate Kid gets second billing in the cast as Vinny’s cousin who is the suspect, but the real breakout star of this movie was Marisa Tomei, who won an Oscar as Mona Lisa. She and Pesci have great comic timing together and deliver many satisfying moments. On top of that, the movie is a decent courtroom drama–a winner all around.
23rd Year (June 1992 – June 1993)
Leap of Faith
Directed by Richard Pearce
Release Date: December 18, 1992
Steve Martin is Jonas Nightingale, a Christian faith healer who rolls up with his operation in a small town in Kansas that is beset with drought and other issues. But Jonas Nightingale is a con-man, who proceeds to ply his trade and win over the hearts and wallets of the community. But just as Jonas and his crew are impacting the community, the community begin to impact them in return, and Jonas finds his “faith” in his con-man lifestyle shaken. It’s an interesting film that looks at questions of faith with a comedic eye but still has some serious things to say, with nothing as straightforward as blind acceptance or outright rejection. It’s also got a good supporting cast, including Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meatloaf (!!), and some really good Gospel music.
24th Year (June 1993 – June 1994)
The Remains of the Day
Directed by James Ivory
Release Date: November 5, 1993
Back in 1993, there was a week or so where I got out to the theatres multiple times, to see–I think it was–Schindler’s List, The Piano, Shadowlands, Philadelphia and The Remains of the Day. Obviously, this was when I was a bit more of a “film guy” than I am now. Out of all of those, Shadlowlands was my favorite, but The Remains of the Day was the most depressing for me. Anthony Hopkins plays James Stevens, the butler of a great English manor, who is utterly incapable of revealing any emotion to the woman he loves. He and Emma Thompson do an outstanding job of shepherding us through the story of these characters’ relationship over the years of their mutual service in the home. It’s a beautifully told story about a world where hearts are most assuredly not worn on the sleeve, and in the end, at least there’s this one pigeon that manages to escape being trapped in that house. I’m not as much of a reader as I’d like but I have read the novel this is based on, by Kazuo Ishiguro, where the characters are even more repressed. I have to say I actually enjoyed the movie’s interpretation more.
25th Year (June 1994 – June 1995)
A Clear and Present Danger
Directed by Philip Noyce
Release Date: August 3, 1994
There have been a lot adaptations of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character over the years, and A Clear and Present Danger isn’t really anyone’s favorite…except for me! The movie weaves a complex plot involving drug lords in South America and a secret American military operation which suddenly finds itself a casualty of ongoing negotiations. Harrison Ford gets to play a lot of moral indignation at all the slaves to politics that surround him. Particularly gratifying is seeing him stand up to the President. “How dare you, sir!”
26th Year (June 1995 – June 1996)
Sense and Sensibility
Directed by Ang Lee
Release Date: December 13, 1995
It’s hard to believe that this movie was directed by the same dude who did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but there you go, it’s true. In a world full of many good Jane Austen adaptations, this one still holds it head up high as a good one. Emma Thompson (again!) delivers a great performance as the self-controlled Elinor Dashwood which is only marred by how much older she obviously is than the character is meant to be. Still one can overlook it fairly easily and the result is a cleverly paced and effectively toned romantic drama about sisters whose livelihoods are threatened by uncaring relatives. Kate Winslet by Elinor’s sister Marianne who is full of romantic ideals but is terribly vulnerable as a result. The movie also features Hugh Grant and the always wonderful Alan Rickman as the romantic leads. Plus there are some interesting appearances by people like Hugh Laurie (Blackadder, House) and Robert Hardy (All Creatures Great and Small).
27th Year (June 1996 – June 1997)
That Thing You Do!
Directed by Tom Hanks
Release Date: October 4, 1996
It turns out that Tom Hanks is sort of good at everything. That Thing You Do is lively film telling the story of the quick rise and quicker fall of a fictional one-hit wonder band, who are actually called the Wonders. A lot of the band’s story is modeled after different moments in the real history of the Beatles, although not so closely as to make this look like a biopic at all. They are played by a bright young cast, whilst Hanks himself joins in in a key supporting role as their manager. The story is energetic and passionate, but still emotional and heartfelt. Hanks doesn’t aim too high for his directorial debut, but he hits the mark perfectly.
28th Year (June 1997 – June 1998)
Good Will Hunting
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Release Date: December 5, 1997
People love Good Will Hunting. I recognize it’s strength, but it never grabbed me enough to make me genuinely love it. Those strengths are some solid performances by leads Matt Damon and Robin Williams, an immersive sense of its setting (in South Boston), and a real attempt to find authentic psychological depth to the characters. That last one is absolutely critical because of the subject matter–a gifted but troubled kid finding his way out of self destruction by the connection he forms with a like-minded counselor. The weakness of the film is that the story arc is quite predictable, but
29th Year (June 1998 – June 1999)
Directed by Mike Judge
Release Date: February 19, 1999
Office Space is a classically bizarre cult comedy about a stressed office worker whose hypnotist dies of a therapy session, causing him to be unusually laid back and relaxed in his waking life. This leads to a series of changes in his personal and work situation, which culminates in he and his friends hatching a scheme to slowly steal small amounts of money from their company. There are so many odd bits and pieces to this movie, most famously a scene where the three guys taking a printer that has given them grief into a field and smash it to pieces, while gangster-rap plays on the soundtrack. And things continue to get stranger from there. It’s memorable little movie that is a bit harsh but still a lot of fun to watch.
30th Year (June 1999 – June 2000)
Run Lola Run
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Release Date: June 18, 1999 (USA)
One of the most energetic and unexpected films I’ve seen, Run Lola Run is a German film which is about a young woman who finds out that she has 20 minutes to get a huge amount of money to her boyfriend before he gets into serious trouble with the mob. What makes it unusual is that it shows her making this effort three times, each time managing to run just a fraction longer–the impression one gets is like watching someone play a video game where one learns little things which help them get through the level faster. The small differences in Lola’s run end up having a huge impact not only herself but on the people she encounters, even if those encounters are fleeting. It’s a fun movie which showed us all how cool Franka Potente is.
Fifty Films for my Fifty-First Year – Part Three
Now here, we continue with my choices of fifty more films, one from each year, which I plan to watch in this upcoming year. I’ve never seen any of them before. Some I’ve always wanted to see, while others I never really thought about (or even heard of in some cases) before working on this post.
Year Twenty-One – Quigley Down Under directed by Simon Trancer–Tom Selleck features in an Australian-American Western. I want to see it just for the oddness of it, if for nothing else.
Year Twenty-Two – The Commitments directed by Alan Parker–a well received Irish musical comedy-drama. I’m in!
Year Twenty-Three – Glengarry Glen Ross directed by James Foley–this is very well received drama written by David Mamet, adapted from his own play.
Year Twenty-Four – Six Degrees of Separation directed by Fred Schepisi–another interesting sounding play-turned-movie that I have vague memories of being in the theatre back in the day.
Year Twenty-Five – Before Sunrise directed by Richard Linklater–a romantic drama that I’ve always been curious about.
Year Twenty-Six – Living in Oblivion directed by Tom DiCillo–an independent film about independent filmmaking, starring Steve Buscemi and debuting Peter Dinklage. Sounds like something to give a go with.
Year Twenty-Seven – Secrets and Lies directed by Mike Leigh–years ago I think I tried to watch this well regarded British drama, but the VHS tape didn’t work properly. Now it’s my chance!
Year Twenty-Eight – Steel directed by Kenneth Johnson–I know this thing is supposed to be terrible, but after so many good movies I feel like I need to have a bad one or two in there, and since this is a DC Comics superhero adaptation, I feel like it’s right up my street.
Year Twenty-Nine – Pi directed by Darren Aronofsky–a famously weird little movie that I have never dared put myself through before.
Year Thirty – Mumford directed by Lawrence Kasdan–I’d never heard of this comedy-drama before preparing for this post, but it’s directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who did The Accidental Tourist, and stars Loren Dean, an actor I’m interested in, so…okay.
Check out Part Four here