7 other forgotten masterpieces of the 90´s: including smaller independent-productions plus lesser-known efforts by big-scale directors.
zur deutschen Version: Weitere unterschätzte Filmperlen der 1990-er (deutsche Version)
7. “Dave” – Ivan Reitman
Ivan Reitman is one of the overlooked comedy directors of Hollywood. The Slovakia-born Canadian made his breakthrough with “Ghostbusters”, and went on to direct some fine and warm-hearted comedies in the 80´s such as “Twins” or the second part of “Ghostbusters”. In the middle of the 90´s he directed “Dave”, on of his most compact works. It´s about a guy (Kevin Kline) who gets engaged by the White House to take the place of the president as his Doppelganger, while the real president is in Coma. Slowly people close to him realize something about him has changed, also this unnatural situation causes, understandable, chaos and quite funny and awkward moments.
In addition to good gags and great acting “Dave” brings us an inside view of the White House, the challenges an American president has to face, and the how difficult it is for his families to adapt to that lifestyle.
6. “True Crime” – Clint Eastwood
“True Crime” is another solid, enjoyable film by master Clint, with a serious topic. Eastwood plays an elderly reporter, who gets assigned to do an interview with a death row inmate who faces death penalty. For some reason, Eastwood´s character, Steve Everett, get´s the feeling Frank Beechum is innocent, and starts to collect background information on the case. The deeper he get´s into the case, the more his “nose” tells him that there is something wrong, and the wrong guy is facing death…
“True Crime” could be described as a thriller with political implications, and emotional scenes. In addition, it has a great cast, lead by Eastwood himself, but supported by Isaiah Washington and James Woods as his boss. Unlike most thrillers, it also has a happy and satisfying ending, where justice sustains.
5. “Last Boy Scout” – Tony Scott
Tony Scott is one of the most important and innovative blockbuster directors of all time, who sadly passed away way too soon. His most famous film may be “Top Gun”, the 80´s classic, while other of his films did not get the recognition they deserve. One of these is “Last Boy Scout”, a hard-boiled cop-thriller in the tradition of “Beverly Hills Cop”. Only this time, Bruce Willis teams up with Damon Wayans, a team of losers who mess up the L.A. crime scene.
Willis plays a fucked-up private detective who lost his wife, his house and his dignity, but somehow survives on a daily basis with his sarcasm and black humor. One of the great benefits of “Last Boy Scout” are the sharp and witty dialogues, written by Shane Black, and the performance of Bruce Willis.
4. “Ed TV” – Ron Howard
Ron Howard is, after Steven Spielberg maybe, the most important American mainstream film director. He has delivered entertaining masterpieces like “Apollo 13”, “A beautiful mind” or the “Illuminati”-series. One of his best efforts, though, is the clever and funny media- and Reality-TV-satire “Ed TV”, starring Matthew MacConaughey as “average guy next door” who gets famous by participating in a Reality-TV-show.
Howard combines a serious issue, the power of modern media, with funny scenes and good directing, his effort is backed up by a solid cast including Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman.
3. “Last Man Standing” – Walter Hill
Walter Hill is the man for well-crafted, masterfully directed macho-films, a documentarist of the American male ego and the dark, shabby side of the country. In the 90´s he produced “Last Man Standing”, an ultra-minimalistic and bone-dry remake of the Western-classic “For a hadful of dollars” by Sergio Leone.
Bruce Willis plays “Nobody”, a man without name and history, who comes to a small town that is controlled by two rivalizing gangs. He sets them up against each other, and there will be a lot of blood…
“Last Man Standing” is one of the less known films by Hill, but a truly remarkable one. It is as minimalistic as his classic “The Driver”, the story is ripped to the bones, and the directing has no time for any unnecessary effects or falderal. Highly stylistic, with an exquisite soundtrack by Ry Cooder, and a convincing Bruce Willis as elliptical outlaw. Highly recommendable.
2. “Buffalo 66” – Vincent Gallo
One of the defining Independent productions of the 1990s: Author-director-actor and genius mastermind Vincent Gallo delivers a small, weird, partly surreal, but beautiful and movieng piece of art that, despite all odds, finds something like a very unlikely “Happy End”. “Buffalo 66” is full of creative directing ideas, interesting acting performances, by Gallo himself and Christina Ricci as his “savior angel”, and beautiful and moving scenes.
It is a pity Gallo didnt go on to direct more movies (except the follow-up “the Brown Bunny”), as he is obviously an extraordinary artist with an unique handwriting and vision.
1. “Crash” – David Cronenberg
Cronenberg, the Canadian film Auteur, has produced a large number of intellectually challenging and highly disturbing films, his efforts “The Fly”, “A history of violence” or “Eastern Promises” can be considered as real classics of modern cinema.
One of his most interesting, maybe also brave films though is “Crash” from the year 1996. Martin Scorsese himself has mentioned he thinks this one a real masterpiece, and it truly is. The plot evolves around a lonely and somewhat bored film prducer (James Spader) who gets into a car accident, and almost loses his leg. Through his accident he somehow gets access to a weird underground gang/cult who is fascinated by the sexual components of car accidents, in short: They are aroused when mechanical metal cuts into human flesh.
The self-proclaimed cult-leader thinks he has found something like a “benevolent psychopathology” with this morbid fetish, and takes more and more risks to get his “kick” by crashing into cars. “Crash” is highly disturbing, dark in tone, yet fascination ins intellectually stimulation. Truly, one of the gems of the 90´s that every film fan should have seen.
extended List: in “Taste of Cinema”-magazine: 10 great forgotten masterpieces of the 90s