Good Film Time Machine: 1992

After taking a trip down movie memory lane a la 1985, a lot of nostalgia flooded me. And that’s one of the best things about movies, how it makes you remember who you were and where you were in your life when you saw them. I will always remember Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan as my first movie without my parents. I will remember Silence of the Lambs as the first “R-rated” movie I saw in the theatre. I will remember my parents hoping a 5-year-old Russel was asleep while they enjoyed Piranha at the drive-in. And with that in mind, I’m looking at the year I graduated from high school: 1992. It’ll either make you think I’m really young or really old. (FYI – the voice over guy got a lot of work this year)

A Few Good Men – Something about  “handling the truth,” Jack Nicholson yelling while in military uniform and Tom Cruise looking smarmy. Director Rob Reiner takes a pretty impressive cast and makes a pretty good courtroom drama out of them.

El Mariachi – The story goes that director Robert Rodriguez financed this, his first movie, by submitting himself to paid medical experiments. What a guy will do to tell a violent story of a musician caught up in gang violence and mistaken identities.

Aladdin – Sure there’s a story about a poor thief and his love for a princess but it’s really overshadowed by the living cartoon himself, Robin Williams as the Genie. The animators had their work cut out for them bringing this character to life but the truth is, it’s a good movie already. He just adds (a lot) to it.

Basic Instinct – the iconic sex thriller with Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas. Most people just remember that leg-crossing scene but what you might not remember is a pretty smart psychological thriller. Did she kill a bunch of people with an ice pick? Maybe.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Director Francis Ford Coppolla definitely put his stamp on the tale of THE bloodsucker but, even more so, Gary Oldman took a character we’ve seen on screen and TV forever and made him his own. If that weren’t reason enough: the cast is amazing (except Keanu but you get used to him) and the practical special effects are impressive as hell. Take that CGI!

Chaplin – I’m not sure if this was Robert Downey Jr.’s 1st or 2nd comeback but he does a great job playing the iconic actor, both for the funny and the serious bits. It’s a who’s who throughout the film but it’s Downey you won’t take your eyes off in this story based on Chaplin’s autobiography.

The Crying Game – If you’ve seen or heard about this movie, I’m guessing what you mostly remember is “the scene”. And yes, “the scene” comes as rather a surprise but it comes at the end of a pretty good film about British and IRA tensions and a soldier with a few personal conflicts.

Glengarry Glen Ross – you couldn’t imagine a better cast: Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey. Now throw in the fact they’re real estate agents. Add some “you could lose your job if you don’t sell” stress. Shake well. Good movie.

Honeymoon in Vegas – Nicolas Cage has a problem with commitment. Sarah Jessica Parker is getting impatient. Yes, this is usually where you say you’ve seen this movie a hundred times…usually with Kate Hudson, but in this case the back drop of Vegas, James Caan and Flying Elvi make it better.

Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Up until this movie, Rebecca DeMornay was mainly known as the sexy escort who ruined/saved Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Now she’ll be known as that AND as a sexy, conniving nanny out to ruin a lovely little family.

The Last of the Mohicans – I like coming back to this every few years. Directed by Michael Mann, this is a great retelling of the classic book. Daniel Day Lewis is great in everything, why should his portrayal of Hawkeye be any different. The

My Cousin Vinny – Can the annoying mobster from the Scorsese movies help the Karate Kid get out of legal problems? Well, it’s a lot of fun watching him try. Joe Pesci is fun to watch as a rookie lawyer, way out of his depth in a southern court. His movie girlfriend got an Oscar (Marisa Tomei).

League of their Own – “There’s no crying in baseball!” A bunch of ladies prove to their alcoholic coach (Tom Hanks), to the world and each other that they’re really good at this baseball thing. And that Madonna is fine as a supporting actress if she doesn’t have to say much, except to Rosie O’Donnell.

Reservoir Dogs – Quentin Tarantino wanted to be noticed. He was a former video rental store employee with an obsession for film who decided to not only write, but direct his own movie. We get one of the most well written and intense movies in recent memory, and a hell of an introduction to a leading film director. Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, welcome. Try not to kill each other.

River Runs Through It – Before this movie we knew Brad Pitt was pretty. After this movie we knew he was pretty and he could act. Robert Redford tells the story of a father and his two sons, as they deal with crime, each other and fly-fishing. It’s more interesting than it sounds.

Sneakers – sometimes you have to see a movie just because of who is in it. This one has Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, River Phoenix, Ben Kingsley and Dan Aykroyd, (yeah, I felt weird adding that last one to the list) and from the guy who wrote Field of Dreams. Thankfully it’s also a pretty fun spy thriller.

Thunderheart – Val Kilmer is a bit Sioux Indian…well his character is. Why does that matter? It’s the reason he’s assigned to work a murder on a Sioux reservation with Canadian actor Graham Greene. Well told murder mystery mixing in the native culture.

Unforgiven – This movie OWNED the Academy Awards for this year. It was Clint Eastwood’s return, and swan song, to westerns, and what a way to go out. Gene Hackman as the bad guy, Morgan Freeman as Eastwood’s partner, and a gritty story of redemption. It wasn’t pretty, but it was awesome.

Wayne’s World – In 1000s of years, they’re going to wonder why this was funny. But, in the early 1990s, this was comedy gold.  This was the movie that let Saturday Night Live think they could make 90 minute movies from ideas that worked for only 3 minutes on TV and made Mike Myers a movie star. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth.

White Men Can’t Jump – if writer Ron Shelton puts together a sports movie, I’m watching it. Bull Durham, Cobb, Tin Cup, The Great White Hype…and this little story about con artists and basketball. I’m sure there’s a “hustle” joke in there somewhere. It’s also the movie that made us notice Woody Harrelson, and not Woody Boyd from Cheers.

 Good Film Time Machine: 1992
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