1992: Movies Sorted By Tier

  • Loved

  • Glengarry Glen Ross

    ... Good gravy what a cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and Jonathan Pryce. Unsurprisingly Jack Lemmon stands out as he delivers a spectacular performance, especially in the way he just deflates in his moments of defeat. But I was perhaps more struck by how much Jonathan Pryce does with so little. Very impressive, and I think I completely overlooked his performance this first time I watched this. Having dissed Mamet's direction so often, I really have to give him credit here for his faulous script.
  • A Midnight Clear

    ... While I really need to see this again, I remember it as my favorite war movie. It's the tragic story of what happens when an isolated group of American soldiers encounters a similar group of German soldiers and they agree to a tentative cease-fire.
  • Reservoir Dogs

    ... This movie would make a great play. It has that legendary bantering dialog that good actors can really cruise on, and the set design would be a piece of cake. You would think, given that most of the movie is just a handful of guys talking in various rooms or cars this movie would watch like a play, but it never does; it's always wonderfully cinematic. What a remarkable one-two punch Tarantino delivered with this then Pulp Fiction. I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite. I vaguely recall thinking Pulp Fiction lost something on my second viewing, but I liked Reservoir Dogs every bit as much the second time around. I'm sure I'll have to do third viewings of each, and they'll stay neck-and-neck.
  • Unforgiven

  • Really Liked

  • Aladdin

  • Brain Donors

    ... "One of these things is not like the others..." Okay, maybe this one is a cut below the other offerings here, but I laughed out loud from beginning to end.
  • A Few Good Men

  • Hard-Boiled

  • Like Water for Chocolate

  • El Mariachi

    ... I still have some clear images from this movie in my head - one as our hero skids (on foot) around a corner. I thought it was visually interesting, and a very good take on the mistaken identity theme.
  • The Player

  • Porco Rosso

    ... A hidden gem in the Miyazaki treasure box. I wonder why you don't hear much about this movie relative to his others. The story of an Italian airman cursed to live life as a pig does seem a bit off his beaten track (the "Italian airman" part, not the "transformational curse" part), but he does love to animate flying, and his work here in that regard soars. It's a slow movie, full of nice ambiguities. Maybe that's what keeps it from getting as much word-of-mouth with the little kids? Anyway, my whole family dug it.
  • Glad I Saw

  • Baraka

    ... A beautiful and at times moving documentary comprised of a scenes of nature, man, love, war, religion, etc. set to wonderful "world music" (the piece the melded Japanese kodo drums, Scottish bagpipes, Tibetan horns was particularly great). I love National Geographic, and this movie seemed like that magazine brought to life both in terms of the imagery and the general world view, including the enviro-political slant. Watching this it occurred to me that it's probably a good example of a movie that folks describe as "great to watch stoned/on acid/etc." It got me thinking about how that comment can be taken in a complimentary or derogatory light. As a compliment, I figure it just means you take one potentially mind-expanding experience and compound it by experiencing another mind-expanding experice at the same time, kinda like putting instant coffee in a microwave and going back in time (as Steven Wright would say). Of course, the only mind-altering drug I've tried is vodka, and that was just that one time on the overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, so I clearly don't know what I'm talking about, but I digress... As an insult, it means a work is either so bad or so incomprehensible that the only way you can enjoy it by giving your brain some extra-curricular recreation. Anyway, if anybody described this movie to you that way, take it in the complimentary light. It was worth the rental for the Balinese Monkey Chant alone, and oh, those chickens!
  • Batman Returns

  • Bob Roberts

  • Candyman

    ... Very effective. I watched the first third through my fingers, and it's highly unlikely I'll be saying "Candyman" in front of a mirror at this late hour. In terms of starts and frights, you get more of them in the beginning when our villain is off-screen. After he appears there's less jumping and more ghastly wonderment, as you try to figure out what he's about and what fresh hell he's devised for our heroine. I didn't really get the ending, but that's okay, I enjoyed getting there. I can count the slasher films worth seeing on one hand, and I think this one warrants a finger.
  • Diggstown

    ... James Woods plays a con man just released from prison who makes a bet with Bruce Dern that 48-year-old boxer Louis Gossett Jr. can beat 10 Diggstown men in 24 hours. Oliver Platt and a completely wasted Heather Graham round out this surprising cast. Given the litany of despair that is his filmography, I don't know why I like Lou Gossett, but I do. Despite the big con not really being much of a con, a fairly anti-climactic ending, cut-and-dried good guys/bad guys, and an incongrously dark moment that is never resolved satisfactorily, I quite enjoyed this movie. Not bad for one I hadn't even heard of prior to seeing dgeiser13's list!
  • The Last of the Mohicans

  • A League of Their Own

  • Malcolm X

  • My Cousin Vinny

  • Patriot Games

  • Rapid Fire

    ... Brandon Lee as Jackie Chan. He had real potential, and showed it off well here, in this otherwise mediocre movie. Very sad, the Lee family story.
  • A River Runs Through It

  • Scent of a Woman

  • Sneakers

  • Strictly Ballroom

    ... Give me Moulin Rouge any day, but this wasn't a bad early effort from Luhrmann by any means. Definitely quirky and stylized, but pretty fun, and the final act is strong enough that it made me like the whole movie more in hindsight.
  • White Men Can't Jump

  • Guilty Pleasures

  • Under Siege

  • Could Have Missed

  • Bram Stoker's Dracula

  • Death Becomes Her

  • The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

  • Once Upon a Time in China II

    ... By all accounts (the few I've heard anyway) this sequel was supposed to be superior to the first. I must dissent. It was fine, with a couple good fight scenes, but it was pretty leisurely plotted for an action movie (although it's much more linear than the original). And I generally enjoy wire-fu as much as the next guy, but with one caveat: I find it laughable when somebody can land more than two or three kicks in midair without the impact affecting their trajectory or power. When Jet Li leaps in a crowd of enemies and you hear the CRAK-CRAK-CRAK-etc. of like a dozen rapid fire kicks wiping out a dozen guys in one jump it takes me right out of the moment.
  • Romper Stomper

    ... Probably the only skinhead love-triangle movie I'll ever see. I can only assume it does a pretty good job depicting gang life, and the performances were pretty good across the board. Russell Crowe seemed oddly out of place, probably because he's A Big Star now. I was mostly interested in seeing how this turned out, but not particularly engaged. I'm finding more and more I can't get into movies where I can't work up some emotional involvement with the characters (either affection or antipathy)--it's like watching ants under a magnifying glass--interesting, but without drama. So it was with the skinheads here. Sure, I hate 'em in real life, but I couldn't get worked up over these particular characters.
  • Wayne's World

  • Should Have Missed

  • Alien III

    ... Might have to give this another chance, but I really felt cheated leaving the theater.
  • The Crying Game

  • Dead Alive

    ... I'm sure if I were a fan of splatter films I would've loved this, but I'm not, so I didn't. Still, I recognized it as effective. Even though the blood and various other fluids, organs, and creeping entrails were obviously fake, I was still revolted at all the right times. The big problem is that the humor left me cold. Had the movie gotten more help from the dialog rather than relying almost entirely on slapstick I probably would have enjoyed it more. While it was clearly an upper-low budget effort, the rat effect was surprisingly good and the baby effect was surprisingly bad. I have to give Raimi the nod in the low budget arena, and Jackson the nod when the budget inflates. Nonetheless, it was amusing to watch this early Jackson effort on the eve of seeing Return of the King. How the mighty have risen.
  • Lethal Weapon 3

  • Man Bites Dog

    ... Bold ultra-dark media satire or just exploitative and icky? I'm more inclined to believe the latter, although you have to note that this "psycho with the gift of gab" mockumentary came out the same year Tarantino's villains talked up a witty storm in Reservoir Dogs. Benoit Poelvoorde does a fabulous job in the lead, such as it is, and you can see why his career went into a tailspin in much the same manner as Malcolm McDowell's did after A Clockwork Orange or Anthony Perkins' did after Psycho (based purely on the criteria that this is the only movie of his I've heard of). But I'm probably wrong in thinking the satire was heavy-handed, overblown, and extreme; after all, the Criterion Collection thought it was worth immortalizing.
  • El Sucko Grande

  • The Lawnmower Man

Jim, how you can put the excellent Bram Stoker's Dracula on the same level with crap like Death Becomes Her is beyond me. Perhaps you need to see BSD on a bigger screen - which wouldn't help at all with DBH.

I know lots of folks love that version of Dracula, but I just couldn't get on board with it. I think largely this was due to Gary Oldman, who I found more silly than anything else (this in turn may have been due largely to his hair). I also recall Reeve's Harker as problematic, but at least it's not etched into my mind as laughable (oh, that vampire hair!). I'd be willing to give this one another shot someday, though.

For what it is worth, I am in your corner. It is a very lovely film to look at, but little else, in my book.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks! I thought I was the only one.

Jim, I take your points, but I also take lbangs' point - terrific visuals. Worth a higher rating.

You say that Man Bites Dog may very well be 'exploitative.' I think there's an issue I'd love to debate here, but first, would you mind elaborate on what you mean by the film being 'exploitative?'

It's a vague term, sloppily used. My apologies. I'm actually not sure what I meant by that. I see this term used frequently in criticism, but heck, unless you used child labor in the crew or you hold the cast at gunpoint, is any movie really exploitative? Must be referring to exploiting the audience somehow, but I'm not sure. Watch for a home page post asking the Listology community what the heck I'm talking about.

I think exploitative films do things that would ordinarily be considered indecent, excessive, cruel, invasive, or immoral, beyond the norm, just for entertainment or shock value, to make money.

Think of how people slow down on the highway to look at a car accident. Part of you is kind of hoping you'll see a nasty injury, and part of you is afraid you will, but perhaps you would be embarrassed to be caught staring. Exploitative films expose to the public such things, that would normally be hidden from view, because they're considered indecent or improper or shameful.

I think of exploitative films as being rude.

The way the camera stayed on the face of the bride at the opening of Kill Bill Vol 1 was a case of exploitation, to me. I was not used to seeing violence for its own sake, before that. I felt like the Bride's suffering was being exploited. I was being forced to look upon a woman in torment for far longer than was decent. It was as if the camera enjoyed watching her suffer, and expected us to enjoy it, too. A compassionate person has two choices: look away, or cease being compassionate. We can justify this for the duration of the movie, but how does that cross over into real life? Do we laugh at suffering? Are there people out there who looked at the bodies falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and laughed, because it looked so much like the movies they were accustomed to? Right now, we would think a movie which showed those bodies falling, in up-close and gruesome detail, exploitative. However, a day will come, when such a movie will be on CBS at 9:00 PM on a Sunday.

Very well-written thoughts!

I think I hold a different viewpoint, though, because I've seen so many 'exploitative' flicks that I'm compassionate in a way that makes me want to help hurt people but doesn't make me turn away from brutal violence. Which, I think, is a good place to be at, actually. And if the brutal violence is on film, then it's not real, so I don't have to worry about the former part of my own compassion (such as it is), and can feel free to satisfy the morbid curiosity that I think resides somewhere in all of us (I know it resides in me).

I think director's must always make a choice, and the choice they make will determine their audience. There are plenty of people like me who are... desensetised?... enough to handle the brutal violence of Kill Bill (or, for that matter, bodies falling from the WTC), and others who just can't handle that kind of stuff.

The director has to decide if he's going to make his film palatable to as many people as possible (and perhaps slightly dissapoint the expectations of some viewers), or if he's going to make a film that has a smaller appeal but may better please that smaller audience than otherwise.

In the case of Fahrenheit 9/11, I think Moore made the right choice in not showing the towers or falling bodies, etc., because of the audience he was trying to reach.

For Kill Bill, I'm not sure Tarantino was wrong on using so much bloody violence. It's a Tarantino flick, and this harshness is what Tarantino fans expect and, in part, what they WANT from a Tarantino flick.

And, please reply! I'd love to hear your response.

A few more thoughts:

If part of 'exploitative' includes things that are 'just for entertainment' or 'to make money,' then I'm positive that every film is exploitative. These are the purposes of film, after all.

Also, with regard to laughing at violence: this is a staple of film, and quite expected. Violence is funny (don't ask me why - I didn't design the human brain, I just use it). Slapstick comedies know this and use it to get laughs.

Of course, as some guy in Crimes and Misdemeanors says, "If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it's not."

Meaning, if somebody trips and falls and gets back up again, it's funny. If somebody gets beheaded, it's usually not (though, I have to admit laughing at ultra-violent stick figure deaths in things like the Xiao Xiao shorts).

Also, I find myself laughing at the comic use of excessive violence. For example, at the de-limbing of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I also remembering laughing at a part in, I believe, Kill Bill: near the end, when somebody is slashed open and his/her blood spews out to cover an entire wall instantly. The funny thing was that more blood spurted out than has ever been in a single human body (anime-style), so it was funny because it was impossible exaggerated.

I think it's very likely that we just have different tastes, but that doesn't mean it's not fascinating to discuss whether exploitation has merit, or exactly what exploitation is.

I've started to make my points about the idea of exploitative film on the main page post, thanks.

lol, except for where I've replied to RosieCotton's statements, here. I'm trying so hard to confuse you :-)