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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 1990


 

#10: The Witches

Anjelica Huston enjoys herself to the hilt in Nicolas Roeg's witty, imaginative Roald Dahl adaptation, enhanced by Jim Henson's Creature Workshop.


#9: The Nasty Girl

Michael Verhoeven's comedy of persistence follows a German girl who enters an essay contest that requires her to research her hometown's role in the Third Reich. The appealing Lena Stolze plays her from girlhood to adulthood as she continues to dig around in the town's past, in the face of increasing resistance and danger. A keeper.

 

#8: Vincent and Theo

Everyone said The Player was Robert Altman's comeback, but that was just the movie that got more press; this intimate drama two years before, showcasing great work from Tim Roth as the furious Vincent van Gogh and Paul Rhys as his long-suffering brother Theo, was Altman's real return to form.

 

#7: Dances with Wolves

Big old-fashioned entertainment -- it appeals on the same level Titanic does. Gets a bit windy at times, but still a solid Western fable.

 

#6: Wild at Heart

David Lynch takes Barry Gifford's novel and doodles all over it. Sometimes it doesn't work, but when it does, it earns its Palme d'Or from Cannes.

 

#5: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Peter Greenaway's assaultive curiosity, art-directed and color-coded to within an inch of its life, still exerts a magnetic hold. It was the movie you had to see in 1990.

 

#4: GoodFellas

Martin Scorsese's generally acknowledged classic is a little too smitten with its own technique to be his masterpiece -- I prefer Taxi Driver or Raging Bull -- but try not to watch it if you happen to land on it on cable.

 

#3: An Angel at My Table

Probably the greatest Jane Campion movie you've never seen, and the reason I persist in keeping faith in her abilities despite the letdowns of The Piano and Portrait of a Lady. A sweeping (if shortened for theatrical release) account of writer Janet Frame's turbulent life, it's one of the finest "Portrait of an Artist" biopics out there.

 

#2: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Technically a 1986 movie, but it sat unreleased until 1990, whereupon it bothered a lot of people (including the MPAA, which refused to award it an R rating on general principle) and knocked quite a few others (including yours truly) on their asses.

 

#1: Miller's Crossing

For me the Coens' best -- style to burn, crackling dialogue, a plot that demands and rewards multiple viewings, and great iconic performances from stem to stern. Albert Finney's "Danny Boy" scene is just one of countless highlights.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III, which ultimately fails but has several eminently worthwhile scenes to recommend it ... Sam Raimi's balls-to-the-wall Darkman ... Warren Beatty's affectionate Dick Tracy, with a flamboyant what-the-hell performance from Al Pacino ... Jeremy Irons coating his dialogue with ice in Reversal of Fortune ... the redneck hoot Tremors ... the bouncy, likable House Party, effortlessly stolen by Robin Harris ... John Waters' Cry-Baby, the movie that rescued Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street infamy ... George Armitage's Miami Blues, sometimes a little too brutal for its own good, but still a vibrant, quirky, pre-Tarantino crime spree ... Uli Edel's depressing Last Exit to Brooklyn, notable for a matchlessly intense Jennifer Jason Leigh performance ... the sensitive AIDS drama Longtime Companion ... the decidedly insensitive Frankenhooker ... Marlon Brando spoofing himself in The Freshman ... Whit Stillman's engaging debut Metropolitan ... Clint Eastwood's study of John Huston White Hunter, Black Heart ... Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson loosening up in The Tall Guy ... Sidney Lumet's growling ethical drama Q & A ... Christopher Walken tearing the roof off in King of New York ... Kathy Bates hobbling James Caan in Misery ... Susan Sarandon and James Spader, making the May-December romance White Palace worth a visit ... and Philip Kaufman's overly tasteful but elegant Henry & June, the movie that christened the NC-17 rating.


SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION

 
David Lynch's oddball sensibility finally crept into the mainstream -- on network television, yet -- and did what it did so bracingly and entrancingly that, even though it's not a "movie," Twin Peaks more than deserves its spot here.


Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 1990

 

#10: Blue Steel

Kathryn Bigelow had done better (Near Dark) and would go on to do better (Strange Days). This ridiculous, gun-fetishizing thriller wastes a golden opportunity to cast Jamie Lee Curtis in a strong lead role, and humbly offers, in the person of Ron Silver, the single most laughable performance of the year.

 

#9: Bride of Re-Animator

Any sequel to the dingbat classic The Re-Animator has its work cut out for it, but this one doesn't even seem to try; despite imaginative makeup by Screaming Mad George, this lacks the loopy madness of its predecessor.

 

#8: Alice

Maybe Woody Allen thought we hadn't seen The Purple Rose of Cairo, in which Mia Farrow escapes into fantasy and learns about herself, so he gave us this pallid trifle in which Mia Farrow escapes into fantasy and learns about herself.

 

#7: Revenge

For the sake of symmetry, Kevin Costner gets to be in the seventh best and seventh worst movies of the year. This one deals in the type of outmoded macho posturing that even Hemingway might've found a bit much.

 

#6: Another 48 HRS.

Walter Hill at rock bottom -- a cynical attempt to make lightning strike twice. Fortunately for Nick Nolte he had a great performance the same year to point to (in Q & A), but Eddie Murphy took this as another step in his decline, from which he wouldn't emerge for another six years.

 

#5: Lord of the Flies

Whoever decided to update William Golding's classic to the '90s and turn the boys into Americans -- in two neat strokes obviating the entire point of the story -- should have a large rock dropped onto them.

 

#4: Home Alone

The unwanted Christmas gift that wouldn't go away. Its chief sin, aside from being puerile and no funnier than one of the lamer Three Stooges shorts, is that it made a major Hollywood player out of the obnoxious Macaulay Culkin. Today we can take comfort in the knowledge that his reign didn't last long.

 

#3: Heart Condition

Bob Hoskins? Denzel Washington? What the hell are they doing in this laughless racial comedy in which Denzel's heart is transplanted into the bigoted Hoskins' chest? This looks like something Denzel did way before Glory, that was released after it to cash in on his star power.

 

#2: Crazy People

Some amusing ad-campaign gags ("Volvo: They're boxy, but good"), but it adheres to one of the more annoying stock plots, Disenchanted Man Finds His Soul Among the Noble Insane.

 

#1: Loose Cannons

Just the other day, I'm certain, you were wondering: "Gene Hackman is a great actor; what's the worst film he's ever been in?" Look no further. This is a career nadir for Dan Aykroyd as well, a considerably harder feat for the man who made Doctor Detroit and Nothing but Trouble.


DISHONORABLE MENTIONS:
The entirely pointless The Exorcist III, William Peter Blatty's bastardization of his own fine novel Legion ... Penny Marshall's manipulative Awakenings ... Richard Stanley's ugly, pretentious Hardware ... Clive Barker's lackluster Nightbreed, which proves that David Cronenberg should probably stay behind the camera ... the brainless Stephen King's Graveyard Shift ... the unfunny Exorcist spoof Repossessed ... Andrew Dice Clay clinging to his sixteenth minute in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane ... Michael Keaton partially redeeming the synthetic thriller Pacific Heights ... Clint Eastwood's empty The Rookie ... William Friedkin's clownish The Guardian, wherein a nanny wants to sacrifice a baby to a tree ... RoboCop 2, a black mark on Frank Miller's resume ... the lame Western Quigley Down Under, brightened somewhat by Alan Rickman in cold-disdainful-bastard mode ... and the unaccountable blockbusters Pretty Woman, Ghost, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


SPECIAL DISHONORABLE MENTION

 

Take a great book, a great director, and a promising cast, and you have ... The Bonfire of the Vanities, one of the few unquestionable all-around turds out there. Brian De Palma perpetrated this a mere year after delivering the #1 movie on my Best list for 1989. You win some, you lose some...


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