"Sir, are you human?
No. I'm a meat popsicle."
In retrospect, The Fifth Element has matured into a great film. As Roger Ebert said, it is one of the great goofy movies. Not because it is somehow connected to The Goofy Movie franchise but because it doesn't take itself very seriously, which is why it's so great. Director Luc Besson wrote this film when he was a teenager and had the audacity to turn it into a big budget movie. Turning your childhood imagination into a wild fantasy story and for those ideas to be recognized as great - just wow. Luc Besson is one hell of a filmmaker. But The Fifth Element doesn't always work well. It's story is kind of hazy, half-assed even. It's the little details and characters that bring this film life. Gary Oldman's Zorg, who's a arms dealer with a southern twang, is one great example. Everyone seems to having a great time on set. Especially Chris Tucker... Though you must already know his character Ruby Rhod. If not, stop what you're doing and go watch great fantasy comedy asap.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much,
my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst."
American Beauty has been called a comedic tragedy. I think it should be labeled as a horror film about the American dream. This film is all about a man who is tired of running the rat race. Not only is Lester Burnham tired but he is sick and infected with the ideal world of a white-picket fence, matching gardening shoes and pliers, and of course fake smiles. Maybe it's just a mid-life crisis but Lester is a hero! American Beauty breaks down many modern ideals and stereotypes with Lester swinging the hammer. It's a lot of fun until it gets messy and overwhelming. It's a bizarre film that's incredibly well acted and at the heart it's a revealing tale that asks it's audience to reexam their own lives.
About ten minutes into this American classic and we learn that Forrest Gump's great grandfather was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, or at least his mama tells him so. Young Forrest explains, "We all do things that well, just don't make no sense." Then the film moves on. Forrest Gump is an insensitive movie from an insensitive time in our country. Not for blatant racism or weird masculinity complexes that plagued cinema of the 90' but for it's perspective. The movie is all from the perspective of Forrest Gump and we all know who he is. He sees everything in his own special way and at times it's a very endearing and wholesome perspective that will bring tears to your eyes. Other times it brushes over very harsh moments in our country with a blind eye. For this reason it doesn't sit well with a lot of audiences in 2021. Which is a shame, because Tom Hanks miraculously brings this character to life and he was one of the only actors who could possibly pull it off. This movie could have very easily been a cringe fest but it manages to not be most of the time. It is still one of the most quotable movies of all-time. Though it's a shame it beat Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction at the Oscars. Those films aged way better.
"I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven."
In 1994, Luc Besson made a movie about an immigrant hitman, who stubbles into a diluted father-figure role for 12-year old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). Overall, this movie is way ahead of it's time. The child apprentice role is both epic and disturbing. Besson indulges his plot without regret and created a movie that could never release in America today. The performances from the whole cast are phenomenal. Jean Reno and Gary Oldman are both some of my favorites of all-time thanks to a script that creates this immersive movie experience.
Braveheart was my standard for ambitious cinema as a child. The three-hour war story following the ultimate romantic, William Wallace, and the bloody fight for Scotland's freedom was a story dear to my little heart. This cinematic experience is both emotionally effective and brutally poignant. The war scenes are graphic, unapologetic, and technically impressive. Mel Gibson's work is thoughtful and driven capturing a story of true heroism representing the good in both humanity and freedom. For a long time I considered this one of my favorite films and even now it's a right of passage for film junkies.
The first emotion I felt during this movie was surprise. What was I to expect from a film about a prostitute with narcolepsy? Certainly, I wasn't expecting a comedy. Though Gus Van Sant’s colorful and humorous tale about two hustlers searching for whatever, wherever, proves to be a lot of different things. It’s a funny story where the lead falls asleep whenever anything is about to happen. Where Mike wakes up and who put him there is the basis of how we learn about him. His need for love and acceptance. It’s a story about people on the edge of society, about working the streets. It’s pretty, entertaining, and begs to question the meaning behind it all. If there is any. Is there?
Watching Kids was the closest I'd felt to my home state in a long time. The city cried out to me, which is curious considering the film barely even once leaves the kids it's following to show off the city. Then again I was a kid when I lived there, though admittedly nothing like these kids... Harmony Korine's film mirrors the madness of the city by following two boys through a normal day on the streets as they swear, drink, smoke blunts, and most importantly (and utterly destructively) fuck. These boys wanna fuck. More importantly they wanna fuck virgin's. This is why Kids could never have been made in 2021. Not only are the actors minors but their characters are middle school age. It's way too real and uncomfortable for modern release and at the same time it makes it's subject matter. Watching Kids is like watching a film about a concentration camp in WWII. The film works as an observation meant to inspire conversation. I hoped at one point there would be a happy ending. I realize that was ridiculous to even consider. For as morbid of a film as Kids is though, there's so much life involved in it's big mess. Life that has the power to connect with it's audience if they've lived any sort of life... Powerful enough to drag you along it's terrible tale. And when you consider that Korine was only 19 when he wrote the script its even more impressive. Perhaps most impressive though it's two stars who create teenage boys so despicable and real that you want to forget about them the moment the film ends.
Paul Thomas Anderson makes movies that mostly chose not to take sides and instead present realistic and time specific narratives that encompass many different characters and perspectives while maintaining a consistent theme. Boogie Nights is all about the porn industry of the late 70's. Its story focuses on a dysfunctional group of pornographers and it's pacing is similar to that of a Scorsese film. It's extremely entertaining until it makes you feel uncomfortable. But it doesn't try to do much of either, which makes it also very different than a Scorsese film where the day of reckoning is always just around the corner. Someone could perhaps argue otherwise but I don't think Boogie Night's is very concerned with morality. It's more concerned with history. The switch from film to video in the porn industry has a huge impact on the story and I think a lot of what happens symbolizes the changes in the entertainment industry. It's a dark film but to consider the porn industry through a perfectly clean lens would be simply unrealistic. The cast is incredible, Anderson's camerawork is spectacular, and its runtime really flows by in a blink. It's a must watch of the 1990's and one more reason Anderson is one of today's greatest filmmakers.
When considering Scorsese's impressive career and specifically his collection of mafia films, Casino is surprisingly different from the others (Goodfellas, Mean Streets). The energy is still there. The quick cuts and rock n roll, the drugs and beautiful women. Watching any scene from this film is a dead giveaway of who made it. Yet, Casino's focus is more Las Vegas than anything else. It tells the story of how Las Vegas ended up being too strong a drink for the eastern men who tried to settle it. Sam Rothstein (De Niro) wants nothing else than to run the casino he was gifted by the gods but made man Nicky Santoro (Pesci) sees Las Vegas as untapped territory. Both of these men end up ruining their lives but that's no secret. The film starts with it's ending like most Scorsese films. The best thing about Casino is that it exposes a bigger underworld. One that eats goodfellas for breakfast. And all we can do is watch it burn. This would be the last mafia film Scorsese would make before returning with The Departed in 2006, which is it's own beast and a new narrative style for Scorsese. Casino was a fitting end to the 80's and 90's mafia classics from Scorsese. He ends it by saying- look, there's so much more corruption out there. Stop being a sheep. Open your eyes. And don't fuck your partners wife or the gods will fuck you.
A late-night watch party of Scream with good friends is always a treat. Though in 2020, its a bit of an ironic experience. This film was made in retrospect of the horror films of the late 80's and early 90's. Its very self aware and is constantly referencing classic horror movies, which is a good laugh most of the time. The true irony for us current viewers is that this movie has been constantly rehashed itself. So not only is it referencing clichés but its simultaneously creating them. With that said, it's still loads of fun. It's not scary in the slightest, but maybe that's the true genius of master horror director Wes Craven's Scream. It doesn't have to be scary. The actors, the script, the ridiculous plot, the loads of fake blood, all of it timeless because it's fun. Truthfully, that's a lot more than can be said about 90% of horror films that release today.