I would have liked to reflect on the best films of 2015, but I live in rural Vermont, which means very little access to current movies. So I’ll follow J and L’s game and leap back precisely ten years, and identify the best movies of 2005.
… except in 2005 I also lived in rural Vermont, with the aforementioned film restriction; my children were then 7 and 10, respectively, which warped my movie watching as you might expect. And, to be honest, 2005 seems like a weak year in retrospect. I don’t think I missed much. I still might try it in a later, shorter post.
So, let’s reel back ten more years. 1995 saw me living in the relative film utopia of the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. My wife and I only had one child then, a babe, and managed to see a few more films. So here’s my list of the best movies of 1995. (Jesse’s list; LAGuy’s)
A few notes before the list begins: my tastes differ a bit from Jesse and Pajama’s. I have preferences for “genre” movies, mostly horror and science fiction. I also like historical fiction. Speaking of history, I’m interested in how movies react to the film tradition they inherit, and their place in subsequent years. Also: I haven’t seen everything I wanted to. That’s one reason for these lists.
- Se7en. A brilliant horror film which managed a rare feat, combining both terror (emotional and psychological) with horror (gut-churning disgust, gore). It’s rare to find a horror movie with staying power, but more people I talk to mention seeing – and being moved by – Se7en than any other Gothic work in the past fifty years. Splendid casting, and a devastating finale right through the terrible last lines.
- Toy Story. An effervescent bauble that hurled computer animation into the mainstream for a generation. Another twofer, Toy Story is a grand movie for children, while engaging and rewarding adults throughout.
- The Usual Suspects. Proof that noir will never die, especially when the plot twists cannily around. Maybe the perfect example of Chekhov’s Gun.
- Apollo 13. The perfect hard science fiction movie, although it’s about history, which makes it even better. Today, this would have to get made for tv.
- Dead Man. A dreamy and unjustly forgotten anti western, more powerful than its contemporaries for the lyrical and narrative risks it takes.
- Twelve Monkeys. In retrospect we can see this helping kick off our current love of post-apocalypse. Much as I despise remakes with thermonuclear hatred, here Gilliam manages a rich and imaginative tribute to La Jetée (1962).
- City of Lost Children. A gloriously imaginative tale, probably the best urban fantasy filmed in a generation, this movie’s manic design nicely matches its Rube Goldberg plot. City also dares to head to some very scary places, while managing to leap back into goofiness. It’s also a touchstone for steampunk
- To Die For. Hollywood generally stinks at satire, but this is one fine exception, an acidic parody of tv culture and American social climbing. Watch for the lethal cameo of David Cronenberg as “a prominent member of the Italian-American community.”
- Richard III. An inspired and suitably cruel 1930s staging of Shakespeare’s great villain story. Ian McKellen powers the movie with terrifying energy, including the ballsiest version of the dog’s opening monolog.
- Underground. What some call The Wars of Yugoslav Succession have largely fallen from awareness, which is unspeakable in several senses. Several films tried to capture that complex horror, and Kusturica’s is probably the best, using a surreal plot device to bring to earth decades of politics and their eventual catastrophe.
- Safe. A cold, ruthless dive into obsession, with dark hints for subsequent health anxieties.
- The Prophecy, which helps inspire today’s paranormal romance craze, and has some wonderful sequences with Christopher Walken as a very seedy angel.
- Canadian Bacon looks ramshackle and messy, but has some brilliant plot ideas.
- Get Shorty: a sweet noir/crime confection.
- Restoration ambitiously tries to capture a splendid historical moment, and might not have tried hard enough.
- The Young Poisoner’s Notebook. A charming bit of domestic Gothic.
- Casino underwhelmed me, honestly, but I’ve heard enough good discussion since to make me want to rewatch it.
- Ghost in the Shell: a strange, which is to say Japanese, riff on cyberpunk. We get hacking and cyborgs, then also mini tanks, east Asian politics, mystic networks, and a cute/lethal heroine. (thanks to Rev. Groom for the reminder)
Movies I missed, and would like to see from 1995: Clueless, Smoke, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Cold Comfort Farm.
Most overrated: Braveheart, a blundering mess of a film, a shambles of history (at best), with outbreaks of violent homophobia and ludicrous Mel Gibsonism.
If we made lists of the worst movies from a given year, let me nominate Kevin Costner’s spectacularly bad Waterworld, the extravagant disaster of Batman Forever, and the poison bonbon of Showgirls. Hackers is a weird failure, with some interesting gestures towards accuracy. Actually, there seemed to be a big (bad) cyberpunk wave in ’95, which also saw Johnny Mnemonic, The Net, and Strange Days.
Next up: 1985, as I try to keep pace with Jesse and Pajamaguy. Maybe 2005, too, if people convince me.