Friday, January 14, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars 002: 1991

I’m enjoying taking a trip through years past; right now it seems likely that I’ll move back to 1980 – 1989 after I’m through with 1990 –2000 retrospectives.

After reading through the comments, I think a few points of clarification are in order. First, if I list a movie as a “survivor”, it doesn’t mean that I think it is good or bad; it just means that I think that the movie has been collectively remembered. Thus, I’m leaving out movies that I remember very well indeed, but which I think have been largely forgotten. The question I ask myself is: Is it likely that anybody at all is watching this right now? If the answer is “probably not, or, if so, it’s a pretty huge coincidence” – then I leave it off. The result is that I’m probably ignoring your favorite movie. I’m sorry. I’m leaving out some of mine, too. Perhaps we need a Precious Forgotten Snowflake category to this. In fact, I think that The Grifters, which I did mention for 1990, probably belongs to that category.

Secondly, when I talk about whether or not a movie would win an Oscar today, I do not mean “what movie do I personally think is best?” I mean “what movie would the actual Academy of Motion Pictures vote for if they had a chance to vote now, with the benefit of hindsight?”

To be fair, I think I will list my choice for best picture as well. That way you can accurately berate me, if you want.

Thirdly, I was right. The poll shows Goodfellas in a landslide.

Also, Real Dawn Summers voted for Ghost in 1990, yo. For Best Picture. Ghost. Without shame. Best Picture. Ghost.

Can somebody get her some help?

"Hello, my name is Hannibal, and I'll be giving you nightmares tonight. Is
this your first time entering into a symbiotic psychodrama with us?"

OK then. As Prof. Flava Flav, PhD (University of Funkacology) once said “Let’s do this like Brutus, cuz we knew this.”

And here’s the contenders.

Barton Fink – I’m probably going to list 90% of the movies that the Coens have made. As time goes on, and they become more and more prolific, it’s pretty clear that there are two of the major film-makers of our time, and thus their pictures will keep getting revisited. I haven’t seen Barton Fink since it was new on video in 1992, when I most certainly didn’t get it. I have a feeling that 36-year old me would have a different take than 17 year old me. Also, the “We’re going to see an R-rated movie! Barton Fink! Barton Fink! Barton Fink!” joke in The Simpsons remains one of my favorite random-ass pop-culture jokes that show has ever produced.

Beauty and the Beast – Still probably the Disney gold standard. If you like princess movies, and don’t mind ignoring the somewhat squicky bestiality overtones and the fact that the Beast is really a total dick . . . the songs are good. Anyway, my daughters all love this movie, and they love Snow White, which is 70 freaking years old, so I am guessing that Beauty and the Beast will last for a long, long time.

Boyz n the Hood -- Cuba Gooding Jr. before the Oscar and the talking dog movies, and the shame. Ice Cube in jeri-curls. Larry Fishburne. Not Laurence. Larry. Are you kidding? Don't know if this movie holds up (I seem to remember a really head-poundingly obvious STOP sign being used, like, totally symbolically). At the time, there was nothing else like it.

Cape Fear – I think this one is primarily remembered for inflicting Juliette Lewis on the world. Also tattooed Di Niro laughing menacingly and smoking a cigar in a movie theater. Also reminds me of Sideshow Bob stepping on the rakes. This will be the last Simpsons reference, I promise.

Defending Your Life – Underrated Albert Brooks/Meryl Streep comedy that has achieved minor cult status. Enough people have brought this one up to me that I know it lives on.

The Doors – Actually, I don’t know how well this is remembered, if at all. I think it brought back the music of The Doors for another generation, though. Don’t know how your feel about that.

Father of the Bride -- This movie actually hasn’t survived, but it is notable for being the moment when Steve Martin gave up on being funny, and Hollywood began their long slow slide into the Remake Crevice.

The Fisher King – I love this movie. Jeff Bridges is fantastic in this, the first role I saw him in. Tom Waits as a societal traffic light. The thin line between sane and . . . less sane. Robin Williams singing “Lydia the Tattooed lady.” Michael Jeter belting out Ethel Mirman to Amanda Plumber. And, especially, the Grand Central Station dance. One of Terry Gilliam’s best.

Fried Green Tomatoes - This is the movie that let us know that it’s all right to kill a man and serve him to your customers as BBQ if he was really really mean. Also, Chris O’Donnell gets hit by a freight train. Who doesn’t want that? (Spoilers!)

Hudson Hawk – Sometimes utter failure can keep a movie alive in our hearts. Bruce Willis stars in one of the biggest flops of all time. Go back and check it out and tell me it isn’t pure midnight movie fun. Come on, all together . . . would you like to swing on a star . . .

JFK – Back, and to the right . . . back, and to the right . . . back, and to the right . . . Remember when Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone were relevant? This movie’s accuracy has been questioned, and it presents a discredited crackpot unambiguously as a crusading hero for The Justice; nevertheless, it is an electric political/courtroom historical drama, and probably the focal point for modern conspiracy theory. Still a classic.

Point Break – This movie is a great hunk of Velveeta cheez. It has The Busey. It has The Swayze. It has The Keanu. It is completely ridiculous. I. Am An F! BI. AGENT!!

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Easily the funniest movie of 1991. Kevin Costner is hilarious as a mullet-headed Midwestern farm boy who is under the delusion that he is British, while Morgan Freeman tags along as his long-suffering psychiatrist. Also notable for that horrid Brian Adams song.

The Silence of the Lambs – One of the most well-respected thrillers of the past decades. Sort of kicked off the serial killer movie in earnest, especially the one in which the brilliant young agent has to get inside the killer’s head. We’ll forgive it for that, though, because it was a very, very good movie.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – I could be wrong, but I think this began James Cameron’s long string of getting in way over his head, spending way way too much on a movie that could never recoup the money, risk his entire career due to his obvious megalomania . . . and then deliver a mega-blockbuster that makes all the money back with a couple billion profit on top. He’s the king of the world, and T2 is still one of the great enduring action movies.

Thelma & Louise – Plenty is memorable about this chick flick meets fugitive movie, AKA: Bonnie & Bonnie. Indelible performances from Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Brad Pitt’s first major role. Iconic ending. It sort of got shoved into the ‘message’ movie ghetto, but these days I think it’s remembered for what made it memorable: hardcore dwarf sex scenes. Wait, no. Strong performances and cinematography. Heh, um . . . forget I said that other thing.

"A quarterback tried to make a 'pass' at me. I ate his throwing arm with
favre beans. You see what I did there?"
And The Time-Delayed Oscars Goes To . . .

Best Picture

Real Nominee List: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides, The Silence of the Lambs

Today’s List: Beauty and the Beast, JFK, The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Thelma & Louise

This is awkward, but we’re entering into a stretch of movies where I think the Academy probably got it right – that is to say, they would probably make the same choice if given the chance again. Silence of the Lambs won in 1991, and it would win a re-vote. It seems obvious that Silence would win in the lineup above; but when you consider that all but forgotten movies Bugsy and The Prince of Tides were considered genuine contenders at the time. (I think that The Prince of Tides got destroyed by the Simpsons episode where . . . never mind). So, good for them for picking the all-time classic over the flash-in-the-pan Oscar bait.

My Pick: The Fisher King

Best Actor: Kevin Costner was so brilliantly hilarious in Robin Hood, but let’s face it, the Oscars are biased against comedic performances, so we might consider him. We’re still not ready to deal with Keanu Reeves’ line readings in Point Break. And honestly, Anthony Hopkins really was a supporting actor in Silence if you go by screen time. The movie’s character arc actually belongs to Jodie Foster. Not that any of this matters: Hopkins dominates his movie; he’s simply playing one of the most iconic film characters of all time. He won then; he wins now. Wow, this is getting boring. Why couldn’t they have given the award to Nick Nolte so I could say, “Can you believe Hopkins didn’t win this year?”

Best Actress: Jodie Foster won for Silence. She was excellent in this; in many ways she gave the more important performance. Her Clarice Starling held the movie together. But she never did that ff ff ff ff lip thing after saying she ate a census worker's liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti, so not as many people remember that it's actually her movie. Nevertheless, she's still not all that vulnerable to reassessment. Her only competition came from Thelma and Louise themselves, but Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are believed to have split one another’s votes. In the past 20 years, I don’t think there has been a consensus that one was superior to the other. I think these days Linda Hamilton might get some love for T2, but the award is probably still Foster’s to lose.

This was a long way to walk for no sugar. Stupid unchanging 1991.

What was the best movie of 1991? Go vote at FilmChaw!

1 comment:

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Thank you for the props to "Defending Your Life" and "T2". Perhaps neither is the "best" movie of 1991, but frankly they are probably my two favorites of all those movies you listed.

Maybe I'm the only one, but I think "Silence of the Lambs" has aged poorly and frankly I think it is almost kind of campy when I watch it now. I would not consider it for best picture (not sure which movie is worthy of that, I haven't seen most of those under consideration), although I think Hopkins runs away with best actor, and I don't have a problem with Jodie Foster for best actress either as she was really good in the film.

Love this idea, Goat. Keep 'em coming. And I will sanction you doing 1980-89 next (as long as Back to the Future wins 1985, obv), but you can't go back any further than that since all movies sucked balls from a few years prior.