Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '96 - Joe Gibson ""

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Underrated '96 - Joe Gibson

Joe is a tireless regular contributor here at RPS and he made countless list for this site over the years. He is a true RPS hero.

He can be found on Letterboxd (a highly recommended follow) here:
'96 in the Mix! 1996 was a huge year for me personally, cinema-wise, as it's among the first years that I remember going to the movies a fair amount, usually with my dad. But before you go squawking about nostalgia or rose-colored glasses or anything like that, know this: Everything on this list is objectively great, on an aesthetic and thematic level.Report this list

MARS ATTACKS (1996; Tim Burton)
A lot of my cinephile peers have completely turned on Tim Burton, but I never could if for no reason than this, a massive sentimental favorite but a triumph of craft and humor as well. Too many stars to name, but I'm just gonna mention one: Martin Short as a George Stephanopoulos-like womanizer on the president's staff. Definitive Short, in my opinion. I also really like the trading cards, if anyone cares.
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996; Renny Harlin)
One of my favorite excursions into Shane Black Land, even though it's my understanding that his original script was quite different from the finished product. 1996 is pretty far from the era of the Big Screen Private Eye, so perhaps I'm biased towards any decent example of the form, but to me this is almost-perfect bottled fun. I did not see this with my dad when I was 9, by the way.

SPY HARD (1996; Rick Friedberg)
This movie I absolutely did see with my dad when I was 9, an inevitability given his admiration for the comedic stylings of Leslie Nielsen, gleefully passed down to me starting with this. For years I assumed this was actually terrible and unfunny a la 2001 A Space Travesty but I caught a few minutes on cable a while back and found that a lot of the jokes still land, and casting Andy Griffith as a maniacal supervillain will (hopefully) never not be funny. On yet another personal note, this was also my first exposure to the work of "Weird Al" Yankovic, who delivers one of the most memorable parts of the movie with his Thunderball-aping title sequence.
THE PHANTOM (1996; Simon Wincer)
I admit I might be scraping the barrel here, but this actually isn't a bad watered-down Indiana Jones style adventure throwback movie, with Treat Williams as the least intimidating screen villain of all time. Come on Treat, we all know you're decent to the core!
BLACK MASK (1996; Daniel Lee)
My heart actually belongs to this movie's sequel, the insane Black Mask 2: City of Masks, but since I imagine we're a long way off from celebrating the underrated film offerings of 2002 I'll go ahead and place this here. In today's superhero-saturated movie world, it might be hard to believe that it was once a novelty to tell such a straight-foward masked hero yarn as this, but trust me, it was. Watch for a cameo from my beloved video game console, the Sega Saturn.
OMEGA DOOM (1996; Albert Pyun)
You guys knew I had to give it up for Mr. Albert Pyun, even though this is not among my favorites of his. It's essentially a cyborg-inflected riff on Yojimbo (or Red Harvest, if you prefer), starring Rutger Hauer as the titular robot warrior. One possible claim to fame for this one is that there's a sizeable contingency of people out there who believe the Wachowskis ripped off a couple elements of it to make The Matrix. I will leave the viewer to make a ruling on that.
UNCLE SAM (1996; William Lustig)
Heyooooo William Lustig and Larry Cohen, together again after the Maniac Cop trilogy (IMDb lists this as a 96 release, Letterboxd has it as 97)! The mid to late 90s were a curious time to we in the present, as mainstream filmmakers were allowed to be crazily irreverent towards the military and patriotism in a way that seems retroactively transgressive even now (see also, Mars Attacks) but also like a breath of fresh air. This may be the only 90s movie I ever saw at the Drafthouse's Terror Tuesday, a telling distinction that speaks to its entertainment value.

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