By Trevor Busch
Although some journalists consider it to be a cardinal sin to stray from the golden path of being a hard news enthusiest, pouring through the minutia of daily news headlines that swirl about the globe like a swarm of locusts, I myself have never totally ascribed to the theory that news should be just simply that.
True, most readers have probably come to expect some historical punditry or the savaging of this political position or the next from your humble narrator, oh my brothers, and I usually feel it necessary to offer something in the way of explanation, when I whimsically choose to depart from the true teachings of the Gods of Newsprint.
So what’s it going to be then, eh? Call it laziness, a decline in the fervour of the true spirit, or whatever your heart would desire, but I’ve instead chosen to review a smattering of favourite films of the early 1990s (I having discovered early on that the period spanning 1990 to 1995 contains apparently more than enough fruitful fodder for the restless pen than can fit adequately into our limited column space).
Tremors (1990) – In many ways, this little piece of B-movie ballyhoo should probably have remained simply that, an easily-forgettable foray into trashy science-fiction horror. And it has all of that in spades, but for some reason this film simply seems to hang on in memory (and late-night television) like that pesky cough that just won’t quit. A huge financial success that has spawned multiple sequels, we might not have seen the last of this “graboid” franchise.
The Hunt for Red October (1990) – Outstanding acting from Sean Connery in his role as a Cold War-era Russian submarine commander who has become disillusioned with the Soviet state make this film based on the Tom Clancy novel one to remember, and one of the top-grossing films of 1990. The film was the first in a set of sequels throughout the years involving the fictional character of Jack Ryan.
Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Before 1991, Anthony Hopkins had been known to the world as an excellent actor in a series of outstanding dramatic roles over the years. After 1991, however, his face had become that of cannabalistic serial killer Hannibal Lector, and he will forever be associated with that iconic role. It was only the third film to win Academy Awards in all the top five categories – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay. It is also the first Best Picture winner widely considered to be a horror film, and only the second such film to be nominated in the category, after The Exorcist in 1973.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) – Largely a forgotten epic (and at over three hours perhaps best forgotten for some), at the time this film directed by Hector Babenco and starring Tom Berenger, John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah was critically panned and only recouped a bare fraction of its $36 million budget. Despite this, the film has since developed something of a cult following for its deep exploration of moral themes and a modern extension of the idea of the “white man’s burden”. Berenger’s turn as Lewis Moon was a memorable performance, and the film itself has unexpectedly weathered the ravages of time.
Alien 3 (1992) – Often considered by many to be one of the weakest installments in the epic Alien franchise, Alien 3 has been unfairly treated by much of the film establishment, and fans alike. Featuring a crew of unlikely criminal heros pitted with almost no weapons against a formidable alien adversary, they are forced to improvise with surprising and bloody results. Worth re-visiting for those who discarded their VHS copy after one viewing back in the 90’s.
Thunderheart (1992) – Considered something of a “A” list actor in the 1990s, Val Kilmer has since dropped off the Hollywood radar, appearing in an incessant series of low-budget B-list films. A murder mystery taking place on a South Dakota indian reserve, Kilmer’s performance as a half-breed FBI agent and the comedic stylings of Graham Green make this film one to remember from the early 1990s, while exploring racial violence and prejudice in the 1970s American west.
Tombstone (1993) – A once hugely popular film genre in Hollywood in the 20th century, by the mid-1990s Westerns were not being churned out on anything like the scale they once were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. A fresh and exciting look at the Wyatt Earp saga of old, in Tombstone roles played by the likes of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday helped solidify that actor as a 1990s icon, while those played by Kurt Russell and western fixture Sam Elliot rounded out an ensemble cast.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Sometimes compared with George Lucas’ one-night teenage cruise film American Graffiti (1973), Dazed and Confused was a counter-culture watershed for 1990s teenagers, who identified with many of the ideas that were on display in a film set in a small town at summer’s start in 1976. Hilarious roles played by the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich (long before major stardom) keep viewers coming back for more of this stoner/coming of age epic.
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Not the world’s first introduction to quirky film maker Quentin Tarantino, it was certainly the vehicle which launched him into super-stardom. Featuring an ensemble cast, this film takes the idea of odd coincidences not being entirely a matter of chance as storylines meet together at bloody crossroads. A hugely popular 90’s film, it followed what became known as the Tarantino “method”, taking disparate takes of a film and shuffling them like a deck of cards to come up with something entirely unique.
Seven (1995) – A dark and twisted tale of serial murder, I think it would be fair to say this film disturbed more than one viewer when it hit theatres back in 1995. Every role in the film was played superbly, be it Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey or even Gwyneth Paltrow in what largely amounted to a headless cameo. Atmospheric and depressing, it betrays the touch of director David Fincher throughout, while epically taking the twist ending to new and gory heights.
Honourable Mentions – Total Recall (1990), Dances with Wolves (1990), Flatliners (1990), Goodfellas (1990), Miller’s Crossing (1990), Quigley Down Under (1990), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), JFK (1991), Point Break (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), Far and Away (1992), Unforgiven (1992), Last of the Mohicans (1992), A River Runs Through It (1992).