Thursday, December 09, 2004

Overlooked Films of the 1990s

Another list! Woo-hoo!

The Online Film Critics' Society has released its list of the Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s. The criteria seems a little malleable; the participating critics' argue these flicks were chiefly ignored by audiences and critics alike, yet many of these were, indeed, critical darlings. But no matter. As I'm apparently unable to happen across any list without commenting on it (except for that Ten Commandments stuff --booring!), I again feel the need to make a few remarks.

#1 Miller's Crossing
It's not Joel and Ethan Coen's greatest film, but it comes mighty close. Boasting rich cinematography and a top-notch cast, the Coens brought their unmatched talent for dialogue -- and dialect, cadence, etc. -- to this brilliantly convoluted story of 1920s-era gangland intrigue.

#4 Lone Star
A textbook example of tremendous screenwriting. John Sayles' best film to date had so much to say -- about mythologizing the past, race relations, immigration, fathers and sons, undying love, America -- you'd think it would have collapsed under the weight of its own ambitions. But it never lags.

#13 The Straight Story
What an amazingly controlled, understated and heartfelt story from the one director, David Lynch ("Blue Velvet," "Lost Highway"), whose typical works are anything but controlled, understated or heartfelt.

#22 In the Company of Men
The first film by director-writer Neil LaBute, and his only good one. It's a magnificently dark knife to the gut of decency. Considering its gloomy assessment of the male mind, it's surprising that Lifetime doesn't air it 24/7.

#36 Jacob's Ladder
I loved it up until I realized I was watching "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

#37 The Spanish Prisoner
An unsung David Mamet masterpiece, this exercise in quiet intrigue features some of Mamet's best writing.

#43 October Sky
My wife finally pushed me to see this. I resisted for the longest time, convinced it would be pure saccharine, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is great straight-arrow Hollywood storytelling.

#46 L.A.Story
It's occasionally too precious for its own good, but this gentle romantic comedy marked another Steve Martin excursion into more adventurous cinematic territory.

#49 The Limey
I respectfully disagree. Not a bad film, but its needlessly nonlinear narrative highlights Steve Soderbergh at his most art-house pretentious. That's all before he joined the Rat Pack, of course.

#51 Before Sunrise
It says a lot about the charm of a movie that it can rise above a torrent of talk, talk, talk .... and Ethan Hawke. Hey, lookee me, lookee me! I rhymed! Get Jay-Z on the horn!

#52 Bob Roberts
Another disagreement. Tim Robbins' mockumentary was as obvious and ham-handed as they come. As far as being a poster child for liberals, he's about as effective a spokesman as Scott Peterson is for family planning.

#53 Dick
This endearing satire of Watergate is speculative whimsy about the true identity of the scandal's infamous "Deep Throat" source. The flick never found its proper audience in the theater, but it's a great movie that deserves a look on DVD. It also doesn't hurt (to be pronounced hoyt in that snarky raised-eyebrow sort of way) that Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are so dang cute in it.

#56 The Ref
This movie made me realize what Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis were really capable of. A brutal, and brutally underrated, black comedy of marriage.

#57 Exotica
Hmm. The only thing I remember from this Atom Egoyan-directed movie is something about a stripper in a Catholic high-school plaid skirt.

#74 Flirting with Disaster
Director David O. Russell followed up his surprise success of "Spanking the Monkey" with this wicked comedy of familial dysfunction (that's redundant, isn't it?).

#85 Quick Change
"Groundhog Day" is the Bill Murray film that justifiably received post-theatrical release life as a masterpiece, while "Quick Change" never got the recognition it deserved. There's nothing wrong with formulaic comedy when it's this expertly crafted, good-natured and character-driven.

#90 Living in Oblivion
Nice pick! A criminally overlooked film about moviemaking. And the closest that Steve Buscemi will likely come to the leading man role.

#92 Glengarry Glen Ross
Alec Baldwin's shining moment. "Always ... be ... closing!"

A few notable omissions that would have made my list, had I complete and utter power: 12 Monkeys, Ed Wood, Citizen Ruth, Happiness, Metropolitan, The Spanish Prisoner, City of Hope, Copycat, To Die For and Prelude to a Kiss.


At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See how easy it is to overlook "The Spanish Prisoner?"

You overlooked it about 12 grafs after you called it "unsung."

I love lists. I love comments on lists. Did you catch George Lang's column in Friday's paper about the overrated lists in The Guardian? Worth reading (and commenting upon).


At 1:10 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Yikes. You're right. My bad. Man, that IS the epitome of easily overlooked.


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