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 1992.
Compared to 1991, 1992 was a much better year for me. I was 15 years old and had swapped schools. It was a much healthier culture for me both mentally and taste-wise, as my horizons and experiences exploded in a good way. My film obsession continued to grow, and there were some great releases that year. I cut my initial list of 83 films watched down to 32, and then had to narrow it down to ten from there. It was hard.
Honorable Mentions include Thunderheart, Wayne’s World, My Cousin Vinny, Jennifer 8, Army of Darkness, Death Becomes Her, Far and Away, The Bodyguard, Candyman, Ferngully, Cool World, Hellraiser III, Split Second, and Alien 3. Alien 3 was kind of a disappointment even though I like the film. The production cut restores a lot of where they were initially going with it and makes it more solid, but it still looks rushed into production. Army of Darkness, as much as I love that film and Bruce Campbell, just didn’t make the cut for a top ten. If I were making a horror or comedy list for the year, hell yes it’d be on it, but let’s face it folks, overall it’s not that great a film even though it’s fun to watch. Thunderheart almost made it into my top ten. Almost. I loved the hell out of that film. So what are my top ten?
10. Of Mice and Men (dir. Gary Sinise)
To be honest, I had no idea who directed this version until I looked it up for this list. Gary Sinise stars and directs in this adaptation of the book, along with an equally impressive performance by John Malkovich. I saw this film about the same time I had to read the book for a class, and I remember tearing up watching it just as I had reading the book. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember being blown away by both leads in the film, and it stuck with me for a long time afterwards.
9. Unforgiven (dir. Clint Eastwood)
I vaguely remember being pissed that the song by Metallica was never used to promote the film or in either credit sequence. Aside from that, I loved this take on the western. The heroes were fallible, and the plot would end up getting recycled in a Firefly episode with a few changes, but I also remember that the cast of Eastwood, Hackman, and Freeman stuck with me. This was one of the first where Eastwood went back to his earlier films and gave it another go, this time in the director’s chair as well. It is a really well done film that I need to watch again at some point.
8. Batman Returns (dir. Tim Burton)
While I still have issues with Catwoman’s origin in the film, it fits Burton’s style, even if it’s nothing like the real way Selena Kyle took up the whip and outfit. I can forgive that after having rewatched it, though, with so many other Batman reinterpretations over the years. This was just as good as Burton’s first outing with the Bat, and makes me especially sad they got rid of him to go more camp with the next two films. Keaton does a great job with what he’s given, but, like Batman’s rogue gallery, the actors playing the villains shine here with DeVito and Pfeiffer doing the heavy lifting. While Christopher Walken does ok, he’s kind of the ho-hum catalyst villain of the film, and he and his son never really do much for me. Still, add this to your Christmas film roster for sure.
7. A League of Their Own (dir. Penny Marshall)
While Tom Hanks got top billing in this film and he does a great job with it, it’s Geena Davis and Lori Petty that really give the film it’s solid core and drive. Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell provide some great comic relief, and the film is more of a comedy, but it’s also great in telling a bit of history that got swept under the rug. There’s a touching story about two sisters growing apart here, and not just a history of the first women’s baseball teams. I watched this I don’t know how many times with my sister when it hit home video, and it was fun each and every time.
6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Drawing from the novel, the stage play, and the original film, Coppola directs a great cast with a few mixed results. Still, this is one of the best novel-to-screen translations of the Dracula story we’ve ever gotten. He uses a lot of older film techniques to tell the story which results in some interesting visuals. There are a few actors who don’t quite deliver, but Gary Oldman as Dracula is a powerhouse that dominates every scene he’s in, which he rightfully should.
5. Memoirs of an Invisible Man (dir. John Carpenter)
I’m probably one of the few people who remember this film exists, let alone loves it. Where the studio wanted to use Chevy Chase to make a slapstick comedy, he wanted to instead do something more akin to the original novel, which was a sci-fi noir. Well coupled with Carpenter as director, he got what he wanted and then some. The comedy is kept mostly to dialogue and a few sight gags, but the effects work is amazing given the time period, and quite a bit still holds up today. It’s an interesting film and made after the heyday of Carpenter in the ‘80s, so is often overlooked. That said, there’s some meat to Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and I love that they went far more serious than was originally intended when they cast Chase.
4. Aladdin (dir. John Musker, Ron Clements)
Yes, another children’s film rears its head in my top ten. Disney casting Robin Williams for this as the genie was a brilliant move, and while I enjoyed the rest of the film, it was his over-the-top impressions that really sealed my love for the film. The music is great, the animation well done, and it has got some great characters. It’s aimed more at all ages than just kids, and it’s a fun film.
3. A Few Good Men (dir. Rob Reiner)
What do you get when you take a controversial subject like the murder of a U.S. soldier right on the firing line with some of the biggest actors in Hollywood, along with a fantastic script and courtroom drama? Probably the biggest reason JAG made it as a TV series, but also a damn fine film. Love or hate Tome Cruise, he’s fantastic here. Nicholson is intimidating as hell, and they manage to make the courtroom compelling by using some of the techniques pioneered by Law & Order over the years. Sure, this has some of the regular earmarks of the Cruise Blockbuster Formula, but the kicker is that it’s all set to actual drama and character storytelling, instead of high action set pieces, which is really what set this one apart.
2. Reservoir Dogs (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
I didn’t actually see this until my first year in college, three years after it was first released, and after I’d seen Pulp Fiction. The heist gone wrong is a long and oft told Hollywood tale, but Tarantino has a knack for despicable characters you can’t help but like. He combines snappy dialogue, well-timed flashbacks, and out of sequence storytelling in his first film, all staples that can be found in pretty much every one his films. The cast is great, the banter spot on, and it forever associated “Stuck in the Middle With You” with a torture scene.
1. The Last of the Mohicans (dir. Michael Mann)
Before he fell back in love with crime dramas and handheld films, Mann took a stab at the historical fiction action flick, and it blew me away. When this came out on VHS, we ended up watching it something like twenty three times in the first week we had it. Daniel Day-Lewis is great both to look at, and delivering his lines. While Madeline Stowe isn’t given much to do, when she gets to deliver her lines, she’s fantastic. The fact they got Russell Means for this, as well as Wes Studi, adds a bit to the film, even if it veers completely away from the source material, for which I’m eternally grateful. I still spew quotes from the theatrical cut of the film, which got an edit when it hit DVD, and another when it hit Blu-ray, which restored some of the sassiness that I loved. The action is great, the film looks gorgeous, and the score is still one of my favorites.