Tag Archives: Movies

The Naughty Nineties

Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, the cigar, and the blue dress that never made it to the dry cleaners.  Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and the Coke can.  Desert Storm and the Scud Stud.  CNN and the 24-hour news cycle.  The Rwandan Genocide.  The Bosnian Genocide.  Kosovo.    Grunge mashed up heavy metal and punk and draped a torn flannel shirt over it.  Riot grrls took third wave feminism and added electric guitars and explicit lyrics.  And speaking of explicit lyrics, they put warning labels on rap CDs, helping sales under the law of unintended consequences.  The 90s was the era of sex, lies and the Intertubes.  James Cameron was king of the world.  Disney started making animated classics again.  They freed Nelson Mandela.  Alternative music and indie film briefly took over, until the big corporations caught on and cashed in.  A lot of us started thinking it might be worth it to pay more for organic.  Scientists cloned a sheep – hello, Dolly.  Al Gore started talking about something called ‘global warming.’  On TV we had Friends (hairdo: the Rachel), ER (hairdo: the Clooney) and, of course, Steve Urkel.

Here are some of my favorite films, books and music from the 1990s:

Favorite 90s Films

Short Cuts (Altman, 1993)
Before Sunrise (Linklater, 1995)
Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993)
Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)
Happiness (Solondz, 1998)
Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
Fargo (Coens, 1996)
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Morris, 1997)
The Celebration (Vinterberg, 1998)
Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
Lone Star (Sayles, 1996)
Microcosmos (Nuridsany/Pérennou, 1996)
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
Secrets & Lies (Leigh, 1996)
The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 1997)
All About My Mother (Almodóvar, 1999)
Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992)
Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997)
The Apostle (Duvall, 1997)
American Beauty (Mendes, 1999)
Election (Payne, 1999)
Boys Don’t Cry (Peirce, 1999)
Brother’s Keeper (Berlinger/Sinofsky, 1992)

Favorite 90s Music

World Party  Goodbye Jumbo (1990)
The Sundays  Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990)
They Might Be Giants  Flood (1990)
Sinéad O’Connor  I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)
Rosanne Cash  Interiors (1990)
Franz Liszt  Sonata in B minor (Pollini) (1990)
Erik Satie  Erik Satie (Queffélec) (1990)
R.E.M.  Out of Time (1991)
U2  Achtung Baby (1991)
Throwing Muses  The Real Ramona (1991)
Johann Sebastian Bach  Cello Suites (Rostropovich) (1991)
Elliott Carter  The Four String Quartets (Juilliard Quartet) (1991)
R.E.M.  Automatic for the People (1992)
Josquin Des Prés  Missa “Ave maris stella”; Motets & Chansons (Taverner Consort & Choir/Parrott) (1992)
Aimee Mann  Whatever (1993)
Liz Phair  Exile in Guyville (1993)
Anonymous  Adorate Deum: Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass (Nova Schola Gregoriana/Turco) (1993)
PJ Harvey  To Bring You My Love (1994)
Letters to Cleo  Aurora Gory Alice (1994)
Johnny Cash  American Recordings (1994)
John Dowland  Complete Lute Works, Vol. 1 (O’Dette) (1995)
Alban Berg  Wozzeck (Barenboim; Grundheber; Meier; Baker; Clark) (1994)
Dmitri Shostakovich  String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet) (1994-1999)
Garbage  Garbage (1995)
Alanis Morissette  Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Emmylou Harris  Wrecking Ball (1995)
Aimee Mann  I’m With Stupid (1995)
Beck  Odelay (1996)
Radiohead  OK Computer (1997)
Sarah McLachlan  Surfacing (1997)
The Sundays  Static & Silence (1997)
Bob Dylan  Time Out of Mind (1997)
Yo La Tengo  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997)
Garbage  Version 2.0 (1998)
John Scofield  A Go Go (1998)
Lucinda Williams  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
Steve Reich  Music for 18 Musicians (1998)
Wilco  Summerteeth (1999)
Tom Waits  Mule Variations (1999)
The Magnetic Fields  69 Love Songs (1999)
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny  Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1999)

Favorite 90s Books

David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest (1996)
Arundhati Roy  The God of Small Things (1997)
Zadie Smith  White Teeth  (1999)
Daniel C. Dennett  Consciousness Explained (1991)
Richard Fortey  Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (1997)
Philip Gourevitch  We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (1998)
Janet E. Browne  Charles Darwin: Voyaging  (1995)
Andrea Barrett  Ship Fever: Stories (1996)
John McPhee  Annals of the Former World (1998)
Norman Rush  Mating (1991)
Tony Judt  Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (1999)
Tim Riley  Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary (1992)
David McCullough  Truman  (1992)
Julia Cameron  The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (1992)
Dennis Overbye  Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Story of the Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe (1991)
Aljean Harmetz  Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca–Bogart, Bergman, and World War II  (1992)

The Execrable Eighties

I just need two words to sum up what was wrong with the 80s: Ronald Reagan.  He’s the guy that fired the striking air traffic controllers, thereby sending the message to employers everywhere that the government was on their side, not the side of the workers and their unions.  He’s the guy that made it cool to be conservative, to blame the poor for their poverty, to pretend that racism and sexism were problems of the past and those who didn’t buy this outrageous lie had a “victim mentality.”  They made ‘tax and spend’ liberal a four-letter word, while raising government spending to record highs.  What was that stuff trickling down, anyway?  It wasn’t water and it smelled kinda funny.

And what did our culture give us as the backdrop for this class war?  MTV: Paula Abdul dancing with cartoons.  Boy bands.  Boy George. Big hair for women (and hair metal bands); buzz cuts for men.  Speaking of hair, A Flock of Seagulls.  And in the theaters:  Porky’s.  Flashdance.  Iran-Contra.  Wait, that last one was real, wasn’t it?

I can’t complain too much, though.  On a personal level, the 80s brought me together with my life partner and true love (you know who you are) – but I can promise you that Reagan had nothing to do with it.

Here are my favorite books, films and music of the 1980s:

Favorite 80s Films

Stardust Memories (Allen, 1980)
Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)
The King of Comedy (Scorcese, 1982)
The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)
Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
Raging Bull (Scorcese, 1980)
Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)
Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)
Say Anything… (Crowe, 1989)
My Dinner With Andre (Malle, 1981)
sex, lies, and videotape (Soderbergh, 1989)
The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)
Raising Arizona (Coens, 1987)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen, 1986)
This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
Baby It’s You (Sayles, 1983)
Local Hero (Forsyth, 1983)
Atlantic City (Malle, 1980)
Return of the Secaucus Seven (Sayles, 1980)
The Vanishing (Sluizer, 1988)
Sans Soleil (Marker, 1983)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Richter, 1984)
Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Ophüls, 1988)

Favorite 80s Books 

Salman Rushdie  Midnight’s Children (1981)
D.M. Thomas  The White Hotel (1981)
Gerald Mast  A Short History of the Movies (1986)
Raymond Carver  Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories (1988)
Randy Shilts  And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987)
Howard Zinn  A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (1980)
John Gardner  The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (1984)
Anthony J. Lukas  Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (1985)
Don DeLillo  White Noise (1985)
T.C. Boyle  World’s End (1987)
Art Spiegelman  Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History (1986)
Tom Robbins  Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)
James M. McPherson  Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)
Taylor Branch  Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (1988)
Ernst Mayr  The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance (1982)
A.J. Ayer  Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1982)
Robert Middlekauff  The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (1982)
John Diekelmann  Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities (1982)
Martin Amis  Money (1984)
Joseph Campbell  The Power of Myth (1988)
Tim Riley  Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After  (1988)
Jack Connor  The Complete Birder: A Guide to Better Birding (1988)
Kenneth O. Morgan  The Oxford History of Britain (1988)
R.F. Foster  Modern Ireland: 1600-1972 (1989)
John Kobal  John Kobal Presents the Top 100 Movies (1988)

Favorite 80s Music

Talking Heads  Remain in Light (1980)
Dire Straits  Making Movies (1980)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  Le Nozze di Figaro (London Philharmonic Orch./Solti; Te Kanawa; Popp; von Stade; Ramey) (1982)
Elvis Costello  Imperial Bedroom (1982)
The Roches  Keep On Doing (1982)
Paul Simon  Hearts and Bones (1982)
Tom Waits  Rain Dogs (1985)
Domenico Scarlatti  Best Sonatas (Ross) (rec. 1984-1985, rel. 1991)
Elvis Costello  King of America (1986)
Peter Gabriel  So (1986)
Paul Simon  Graceland (1986)
U2  The Joshua Tree (1987)
Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir   Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares          (1975, rel. in US, 1987)
Alison Krauss  Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection (1987-1994)
Béla Bartók  6 String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet) (1988)
k.d. lang  Shadowland (1988)
Johann Sebastian Bach  The Well-Tempered Piano, Part 1 (Jaccottet) (1989)
Henry Purcell  Dido and Aeneas (The English Concert and Choir/Pinnock) (1989)

 

A New Way of Making Lists

All you listers out there will be interested to know that I have been experimenting with a new listing method that overcomes one of the worst frustrations listers face: the numerical limit.  Top 10 this.  Best 100 that.  The difficulty, if you love something, isn’t coming up with 10, or 100, but getting it down to the required number.  When I compiled my Top 100 Movies list, I started with over 200: cutting those last 25 movies to get down to 100 was a painful experience, and it felt very arbitrary – is Mildred Pierce really better than Cool Hand Luke?

But thanks to a number of websites that ask members to give ratings (1-5 stars, usually, sometimes 1-10) to books, movies, albums, etc., there is another, less frustrating option: listing your 5-star rated items.  Instead of arbitrarily cutting off your favorites at 10 or 100, you can list every book, movie, album, etc,, that you gave the highest rating.  The total number is irrelevant: it could be 7, 99, or 274.  This method provides a more accurate depiction of your favorites and, more importantly avoids the awful pain of cutting just to reach an arbitrary number.

Here are the results of my experiments:

Books: http://beckchris.com/the-lists/literature-lists/my-five-star-books/
Films: http://beckchris.com/the-lists/movie-lists/my-five-star-films/
Music: http://beckchris.com/the-lists/music-lists/my-five-star-albums/