The Tom Hanks produced series The Movies continues this week with The Nineties. If the 70s, when I was born, was my introduction to film, then the 80s was my box office education as I dove into all manner of genre films. By the time the 90s rolled around, I was in the heyday of my time working in a video store (or two, or three).
So this time around, I knew every title that got mentioned in this episode. I knew the box art. I could see it on the shelves of the stores I worked in, and I had seen more than my far share of the titles highlighted this time around.
The 80s catered to my need and love of big budget entertainment (c’mon man, look at 1982, what a year for genre film!). Then the 90s made me realize there was so much more to find out there. More than just my beloved popcorn entertainment and interminable sequels.
The 90s saw countless actors stepping behind the camera to direct. Some of them finally got recognized by their peers for their contributions. One of these actors turned directors is Costner (I saw Dances With Wolves in the theatre a number of times. It just spoke to me, and that score by John Barry!). Others include Howard, Eastwood and Foster.
Disney was finally able to reposition itself and reclaim its glorious tradition. The smart rom-com arose (looking at you Nora Ephron). And there was a more than welcome explosion of indie titles and Black cinema. The 90s brought us more female writers and directors! All of these things happened at just the right time in this decade to expand my love and appreciation of film. It moved me from just enjoying a big bankable movie to delving into subtleties, storytelling, acting, and different perspectives.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t big blockbusters that captured my interest, along with the rest of the world. Blockbusters like T2, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix. But there were countless smaller films that arose and got the attention they deserved as well. Movies like Rushmore, The Piano, Clerks, and Swingers. There are subtle comedies, and there were those who pushed the boundaries. Not all of them work, but sometimes they grow beyond themselves. Comedies like Austin Powers, Wayne’s World, There’s Something About Mary, Waiting For Guffman, there were laughs for everyone.
The 90s, for film, were a revelation for me, and made me realize the huge difference between movies and cinema. This, for me, is the most enjoyable episode to date (I thought the 80s would be, as that was so my youth). It’s not just because I recognized all the titles, and had seen almost all of them. But because this was when I was truly growing into a cinephile, seeking film out, listening to recommendations, watching everything.
Sure, once again viewers will be saying, hey what about such and such a movie. But the series continues to give us solid overviews of the decade and the films that we treasured during that time.
Next time is the 2000s and beyond, before we head back to the beginning of it all with The Golden Age!