Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Living in the Nineties 1995 - 1999 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 29

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Living in the Nineties 1995 - 1999 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 29


Twenty-ninth chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)


View "Chapter 29: Living in the Nineties"


Living in the Nineties

When I was in jr. high, I used to see infomercials for a CD compilation called "Living in the 90s." It struck me as absurd at the time - nostalgia for a decade that was still unfolding - but it also made me think. How would people remember the nineties? From the standpoint of 1997 or so, the decade seemed hard to classify. The eighties were gaudy, flashy, and plastic, the seventies shaggy and mauve, the sixties bright and psychedelic. Of course it was easy to think this way when I'd more or less missed out on these eras and could only soak up the pop culture's later depictions of them. Yet I had to wonder: would later decades be able to classify and identify the nineties in such a way?

I'm still not so sure we can - partly because the pop culture had become too self-aware and fast-paced to fall into a "natural" groove, partly because there were few larger-than-life events (with the Cold War over, economic prosperity fostering complacency and inward absorption) to unify cultural experience. Yet if the nineties can be characterized, I think these clips capture some of its spirit.

(continued below, along with NSFW warnings)


Many have style to spare, and with the influence of MTV and Tarantino (featured yesterday) in the air, films were attaining a certain zip and flash. The very different strands of the nineties seem to find a voice here - the earthy grunge/hip-hop vibe of the early decade expressed in a group of kids sharing a joint, the technological advances represented through an iconic video-game landscape, the rapid-fire MTV style in an animated series that uses subliminal flashes to plumb psychological depths, and the ubiquity of home video cameras in the final clip, a precursor to You Tube. It might not be easy to define "living in the nineties" - but these clips can help us remember.

(Oh, and pay attention to that bearded singer outside the prison - he's got a pretty good voice, doesn't he?)

*The clip of End of Evangelion was added in 2015, and is not featured in the original upload video at the bottom of the page.

NSFW: kids using drugs 0:35 - 1:10; profanity 4:35 - 5:05; profanity 5:05 - 5:35; nudity 5:35 - 6:10

I have covered today's films here and here.



Yesterday: Pulp and Popcorn


Visit the Video Gallery for a complete list of the chapters so far.

2 comments:

Shubhajit said...

After the lull of the 80's, American cinema flourished in the 90's, and the earlier chapter & this one bear full testimony to that.

Here's what I've seen.

Before Sunrise - Lovely concept & beautifully filmed. What could have been dull & boring, turned out to be surprisingly affecting & engaging. I liked the sequel too.

Donnie Brasco - I found this undercover cop story quite interesting & suspenseful. Not a great work, but certainly worth a watch.

Rushmore - One of many well-crafted black comedies on dysfunction by Wes Anderson, undoubtedly among the most talented directors of his generation even though not as popular as a number of his contemporaries.

The Big Lebowski - Though Fargo & No Country remain, in my opinion, Coen Bros' best works, and that too by some distance, this one undoubtedly remains as their most iconic film. And yes, a damn entertaining film!

American Beauty - The decade close with a bang thanks to this brilliant film. What pungent & tar-black humour & satire! And not to forget, great performances by all, especially by Kevin Spacey. Though Sam Mendes has made a few noteworthy films post this movie, but none remotely as good as this one.

Ah, so now we've arrived at the final leg of this incredible series of your!!! Looking forward to the final 3 "Days of Movies" :)

Joel Bocko said...

Sorry for the delay in posting this, Shubhajit, I was unfortunately without power for about 36 hours due to a snowstorm (in October!!!).

I agree that Anderson is among the most talented, maybe in terms of sheer skill and imagination, the most, but unfortunately he needs good collaborators to reign him in (think of the writer in 8 1/2 tying a rope to Marcello's leg as he floats in the sky - sometimes that rope is necessary!) I know Owen Wilson had a lot of input on the Rushmore screenplay, which is probably Wes' most wry, self-knowing, human film and that he had less but still participated in Royal Tenenbaums, which is Anderson's last truly successful live-action film I think.

Since then he's worked with Noah Baumbach, whose brand of stuffy misanthropy (intermittently successful in his own films) is just the wrong poison for Anderson to pick - it brings out the most artificial, cocooned, phony instincts in him. A real shame, because I think he could be creating masterpieces, but then again maybe he's too prone to the Faberge school of filmmaking to create something with as much substance as style.

I actually think Lebowski may be the Coens' best film! Glad you like it.

Before Sunrise is far and away my favorite Linklater, an accomplished director whom I'm not entirely enchanted with.

American Beauty I think is a well-made, enjoyable film but somewhat overrated. And along with Fight Club and some other films of the same time (The Matrix, Memento) it seemed to usher in a certain epoch of cinema which doesn't really appeal to me - a cinema of great stylistic aplomb but somewhat one-dimensional (in this case for all of the talk of a spiritual rebirth/consciousness it seems a little glib, and I never got a real sense of what it feels like to be in Spacey's head as he wakes up and says, "This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!"). But that's something of a quibble, it is a good movie, and that iconic opening made for a great closer here!