A good time as things went. Plentiful jobs. Many girls to chase after. Parties to attend. New things to do, see, and explore. When you're 21 you sometimes think you're miserable, but 22 years later you realize that you were having a pretty good time.
The biggest movie that year was Independence Day. I have never understood the appeal of this film. Other big movies included Twister (below), the first (!) Mission: Impossible, The Rock, and Jerry Maguire. I wouldn't say it was an especially good year for movies, though some of the lesser-known films were not bad. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Ransom, Fargo, or Sling Blade.
Some Good Ones
Jeffrey Wright leads an impressive cast in this movie about the painter who was either a genius or a con-man. I think you'd be better served by 2000's Pollock, but Basquiat is good too. It's only that it doesn't start asking the really pertinent questions until the movie's halfway over.
Fun Fact: David Bowie, who plays Andy Warhol in this movie, had a longstanding relationship with Mr. Warhol. The song "Andy Warhol" appears on his 1971 album Hunky Dory.
2. 2 Days in the Valley
Crime film set in Southern California. James Spader plays an excellent psychopath, and the movie's full of many good performances. My biggest complaint is that Eric Stoltz's and Jeff Daniels' characters seem to lack any real purpose or function in the film. I'm thinking that many of their characters' scenes were removed from the final cut.
And only Charlize Theron could make Teri Hatcher look somewhat average. 2 Days in the Valley was Theron's second film, after the straight-to-video Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.
3. Bastard Out of Carolina
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jena Malone star in this portrait of Southern child abuse.
...and goddamn some of the scenes in this movie are hard to watch. I get why it was banned in Canada. Yikes!
If you ask me, Leigh is one of the great American actresses. When you think about the type of roles she's taken, and the breadth of her filmography, she's in a class by herself.
A lovable band of misfits chase tornadoes around Oklahoma. And naturally there's another, "bad" group of misfits trying to steal their shine. But worry not, dear viewer, Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt find true love in each other's arms by the end of the movie. ...not that any of us saw that coming.
I'll watch any movie with Bill Paxton at least once, but this is definitely one of his more forgettable films.
Fun Fact: Joss Whedon wrote parts of the script.
Fun Fact #2: Burned retinas, concussions, back injuries - a lot of people got hurt during the making of Twister. Many of the cast and crew blamed director Jan de Bont for the mishaps on set.
5. The Funeral
Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, and Benicio del Toro star in this most Catholic of gangster movies. It's slow going, but it has its moments. It was also directed by Abel Ferrara, so you know it's going to a dark place.
Fun Fact: Abel Ferrara directed a porno movie! 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy. I kid you not!
6. Bottle Rocket
Two idiots try - and fail? - to become criminals. It's Luke and Owen Wilson's first movie, and even though it sets the stage for 2+ decades of typecasting it's still excellent. Oh, and it was also director Wes Anderson's first movie - the only one in which Bill Murray doesn't make an appearance.
7. The Evening Star
Bill Paxton again, this time opposite Shirley Maclaine. Maclaine plays a domineering grandmother trying to come to terms with her past life. Even though the characters are trying too hard to be quirky it's still an enjoyable film.
When I think about it, Shirley Maclaine has a real knack for elevating what would otherwise be forgettable movies. It's no Terms of Endearment, but she manages to make The Evening Star memorable.
Armand Assante was ill-used in Striptease (see below), but in Gotti he's on firmer footing. Assante gives a masterful performance as the famous mobster, even if the film's too talky, and the low budget shows at times.
Fun Fact: John Travolta will be starring in another version of the same story. His version of Gotti should hit theaters this year.
9. Kansas City
The best thing about this movie is the jazz. If you like jazz, the parts in the club are great. Jennifer Jason Leigh's character is somewhat annoying, but the recreation of 30s-era KC is fascinating. For Robert Altman it was also a return to form. One of the best movies of that year.
Fun Fact: Joshua Redman, Ron Carter, and many other jazz greats play in the band featured throughout the movie.
10. Secrets and Lies
Very British, very depressing, and full of actors you've never heard of. If in 1996 the Academy had offered an Oscar for Most Crying, Secrets and Lies would have been the movie to beat. As it was it received a lot of other awards, and remains a good movie.
11. Citizen Ruth
Finally - that movie about huffing/abortion you've been waiting for! Alexander Payne is a very overlooked director, and Laura Dern is great in almost everything. If you look real hard, you'll notice that the "paramilitary dude" from the Police Academy movies is the judge at her trial.
Hey Kids! 10 out of 10 doctors agree that inhaling patio sealant WILL LIQUEFY YOUR BRAIN! So next time your friends pass around the old spray can, you might want to say "No thanks!"
Burt Reynolds is, by the way, also (see below) great in this movie. It's just too bad that Striptease was so lackluster, and that so few people bothered to see Citizen Ruth.
Talk about some unhealthy relationships. Infidelity, incest - these guys have it all going on.
It's a decent movie that answers the question as to what Maria Conchita Alonso was doing after The Running Man. Some of the story points could have been elaborated upon further, and Edward James Olmos' character is extremely underdeveloped.
One That Could Be Either Bad Or Good
I tried, but I can't hang with most musicals. I'm a big fan of director Alan Parker, but I had to abort mission a minute or so into Antonio Banderas' first song. I've heard that this is Madonna's best movie, but I suppose I'll just have to take other people's word for it.
Some Bad Ones
1. Before and After
Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson star as parents confronted by the possibility that their son has committed murder. The parents are hard to both understand and sympathize with. Streep hasn't been in many bad movies, but I'd have to say that this is one of those few.
2. The Mirror Has Two Faces
Like most Barbara Streisand's movies, this one's about "ugly duckling" Streisand finding the man of her dreams. The first half is surprisingly good, and the second half proceeds with all speed to Implausible Land, a place where characters cease to be sympathetic and where plot points make little sense.
One That's So Bad It's Good
What a weird movie. It starts out all serious, and then turns into a comedy, and then turns into I don't know what.
Back in the day guys were probably pretending to see this movie out of an enduring love of Burt Reynolds. But come on - you know Demi Moore is going to look amazing on that stage. She might not have been the best actress in the world, but that woman was FINE.
Strip clubs and erotic dancing, however, have never done that much for me. Even so, Demi Moore was quite impressive once upon a time, and if Striptease has a strength it's that very thing. Showgirls is a much better "bad" movie, but Striptease is not bad (in a bad way?)
Burt Reynolds is, paradoxically, great in this movie. He almost makes it good enough to be called "good."
Fun Fact: Striptease pretty much swept the Golden Raspberry awards in 1996. The only "loser" (i.e. "winner") was Burt Reynolds, who failed to win Worst Actor.
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