A Lifetime of Film covers one specific year of a Cinefessions’ writers existence, from birth to now, and goes over their top ten films from that year. It stems from a meme on Letterboxd, and is simply being expanded upon here. This week, Ashe covers 1991.
1991 was a horrible year me. I was 14, and miserable at the school I was going to. They were cutting the budget on everything I was interested in, and dumping it in sports, meaning we were getting crappier educations. I hated riding the bus to school, and while I still had some amazing friends nearby, I felt completely disconnected from everything. As a result, my film obsession grew, and there were some great releases that year. Honorable Mentions include He Said, She Said, Regarding Henry, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Warlock, City Slickers, Lunatics: A Love Story, Steel And Lace, Doc Hollywood, Dead Again, Highlander II (although I’m referring to the Director’s Cut), Point Break, Sleeping with the Enemy, and Hot Shots!. Highlander II is kind of a nonsensical sequel to a film that really didn’t need one. Although the Director’s Cut restores much of the formula that made the first one good, it’s still a bit of a mess. Regarding Henry was really my first look at Harrison Ford as something other than Indiana Jones or Han Solo, and I still love this one. Steel and Lace, Warlock, and Lunatics are all from the direct to video pile, but I loved them when I first saw them. So what are my top ten?
10. My Girl (dir. Howard Zieff)
I originally watched this one way back when as a negotiation with my sister over what we got to watch. She got one movie, I got one movie, and then we’d have to both pick the third. This was hers and I original only half watched it, but then it sucked me in. I can’t pin down what it was about the film, but it hit all the right buttons with me as a teen, although I’m sure a lot of this was aimed more at adults reminiscing about their childhood. The cast does a great job, and I can admit that I got all teary eyed when I first watched it, and I still do nowadays.
9. Backdraft (dir. Ron Howard)
I apparently have a thing for Ron Howard films as this isn’t the first one to pop up here, nor will it be the last. This has a great cast, apart from the ho-hum acting from William Baldwin. The rest of the cast more than makes up for it, though. Backdraft has some great action sequences, some amazing shots, and they managed to make the fires seem almost tangible while you watch. While they try to come up with a plot that hinges on conspiracy, the real main villain is the fire itself, and the conspiracy is more of a side plot that fizzles. Still, this is an amazing film to watch.
8. Soapdish (dir. Michael Hoffman)
A wonderfully self-aware film about the actual lives of soap opera stars on the show The Sun Also Rises. It has a brilliant cast. The only thing I love Kevin Kline in more is A Fish Called Wanda. This is one of those comedies that manage to walk that fine line between being completely ridiculous while still maintaining realism. This is one of those movies that I’d forgotten about until I started doing this, and one I need to find and watch again because it is quite hysterical and would make a great double feature with A Fish Called Wanda.
7. The Rocketeer (dir. Joe Johnston)
One of the more underrated directors out there, Joe Johnston manages to take a slightly risqué comic book and make it not only family friendly, but keep some of the adult themes in the film as well. Set in the ‘30s, this is a great translation of the comic to the big screen, and while some of the effects work hasn’t held up as well as it could have, it’s still a fun adventure flick with a decent cast. I will admit that one of my reasons for liking the film so much will be attributed to Jennifer Connelly, but the rest of the cast does a decent job. Hell, I even like Timothy Dalton in this, and he is very hit or miss with me. It’s a shame this didn’t do better at the box office, but I’m glad to own it on Blu-ray now.
6. The Addams Family (dir. Barry Sonnenfeld)
I will admit to liking the sequel a bit more than this one if only because of the story focus on Wednesday in the sequel, but we wouldn’t have had that one without this one. Angelica Huston and Raul Julia are pretty much perfectly cast as Morticia and Gomez in the film. While I can take or leave Christopher Lloyd as Fester, Christina Ricci as Wednesday proves to be a brilliant move. This has what I come to expect from the strange family, which was my preferred bizarre family in black and white when I was younger. The Munsters were too off for me, but I loved the Addams Family from the moment I heard the theme, so the big budget film interested me, and they didn’t disappoint. While I think most people remember Barry Sonnenfeld from Men in Black and its sequels, his stint in the Addams Family series is still my favorite.
5. Beauty and the Beast (dir. Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise)
My favorite of what I consider the more modern era of animated Disney films that started with The Little Mermaid. I loved the characters, the darker tone, the design of the Beast and the songs themselves are still great fun. Gaston is one of my favorite Disney villains as he just comes across as so ludicrous, and yet you could see him being one of the more popular people in a little town. They actually dabble a bit with using CG to help with some of the animation but it’s not as obvious as in some of their other films. While I still like The Black Cauldron and The Fox and The Hound as two of my favorite of the older Disney animated styles, this one firmly reigns in the modern versions, which pretty much have come to an end with The Princess and The Frog as they seem to have gone all CG now. As much as I like Frozen, I still like the hand drawn animated films better.
4. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (dir. Kevin Reynolds)
I haven’t watched this film in well over a decade, and while I know it’s not even remotely accurate for the times, I still love it to death. When it came out on VHS everyone in my extended family got a copy and we took turns watching each other’s copies all day on Christmas that year. I saw it in the theaters when it came out as well. It’s a fun romp, and while it’s a bit uneven, it does enough things right that I think I’d still enjoy it now even with some years on me. Alan Rickman’s performance is what really kills the movie, though. He nails it perfectly with a great blend of being on point and serious, and just completely over the top at other times. The music is fantastic and we even get a Bryan Adams song in the end credits. Formulaic? Sure. But it hit all the right notes at the time to make it a fun hit.
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (dir. Nicholas Meyer)
I don’t think it’s coincidence that two of my favorite original cast Trek films are both from Nicholas Meyer. This one is a little more on political point than the simple revenge film plot of Star Trek II however, and has more of a tie-in to the politics of the day like Star Trek IV where they save the whales. This one makes a direct correlation with the fall of the Soviet Union and paints the Klingons as the Soviets and the Federation as the U.S. where they have to all get along in this new world, but some factions just don’t want to let go. While Kirk, Scotty and Chekov would have smaller parts in Star Trek Generations, the first of the Next Generation films, The Undiscovered Country is definitely the sendoff film for the original cast. It has them all in it, for starters, gives them all important roles throughout, and still feels like classic Trek in a way that you don’t get in Generations. The effects are great, the story solid, and while the cast was aging, it’s still a fun romp back from the original crew era.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (dir. James Cameron)
While the Terminator saga has rumbled on past this film with a short-lived TV series, two more films, and another one in production, I don’t think anything can really top what Cameron did with Terminator 2. He developed the world from the first film, and amped up the action and effects, all the while keeping the characters grounded, believable and more than a little tragic. The comic book series produced after this, and some of the episodes of the TV show, managed to capture this, but the other two films were definitely hit and miss, and a lot of that has to do with Cameron and his writing and directing style. Terminator 2 delivers on a lot of different levels, and that’s just one of many reasons this film has not only aged well, but still looks just as good as it did when it hit theaters 23 years ago.
1. The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme)
Now realistically I could say that this and Terminator 2 tied for first, but I have to say that this film hits me a lot harder than Terminator 2 does. Based off the bestseller by Thomas Harris, this is actually the second film to feature Hannibal Lector, the first being Manhunter, which is a decent ‘80s adaptation that would later be redone as Red Dragon, a much better film. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins deliver amazing performances in Silence. Hopkins would later return to the role of Hannibal, but I never thought he was as creepy as he was in this film. The score is fantastic, the film exudes this dark and brooding atmosphere, and to be honest, it’s kind of my benchmark for the creepy horror thriller. There’s a reason this film was so popular with the Oscars that year despite being a horror film, because it’s so much more than that.