I often have a tendency to look at my past with romantic rose colored glasses (Jeesh I am old using that phrase) but looking at the listing of movies from 1996 I think I am correct in feeling that was a great year for films. It was also a great one for me personally and those are some of my fondest days.
I was finishing up college at Ft. Hays in Kansas and was just starting to travel to Lawrence to see bands and also smaller Indy movies as well. In Hays I often rented VHS from two different grocery stores and to this day I am not sure why they had so many Indy, foreign and WTF titles. I like to think it was some cool guy at the grocery store who ran it but more than likely a distributor just dumped a pile of whatever on them.
Looking through the list I also saw a lot I missed, this was a time before streaming and Youtube so a lot of my movie viewing dealt with video store availability and convincing my folks to let me rent via the new-fangled at the time Dish Network (which I would tape onto VHS to share/ re-watch later). I saw a lot of great films in 1996 that shaped and developed my love of movies and unique story telling. I look forward to telling the tales to the young attendants bringing my lunch to me in the nursing home but until then:
1. Beautiful Girls: The word that comes to mind when I think about this movie is charm. Most of the characters are flawed but loveable (especially Michael Rappaport who has made a career of this theme). A lot of the characters reminded me of guys I grew up with, they will bust your stones but will be there for you when you need them. The movie borders in the realm of stunt casting but most of the performances are pretty natural and reeled in (except Rosie O’Donnell). This movie still feels relatable to me when I go back home having left for the city as well, although not in a cool as fashion as Timothy Hutton as a piano man. Also, not only is the soundtrack amazing but Afghan Whigs make an appearance as a house band!
2. She’s the One: I was always more of an Independent Ed (Burns) guy than a Tarantino guy. I somehow got ahold of a dubbed VHS of Brothers McMullen and loved how natural and touching the movie felt and I found Burns to be the coolest guy with his no bullshit attitude and gravelly voice. I worked in a college radio station and we received the Tom Petty soundtrack and I knew seeing the film in western Kansas was not going to happen. Years later I bought it sight unseen and loved it as well and you could see Burns improving as a director. Jennifer Aniston easily plays one of those sweet girls with a heart of gold and Michael McGlone as Francis plays a true Wall Street selfish prick. She’s the One is a NYC fairy tale showing how complicated and selfish relationships can be and the fairy tale ending isn’t always with who or where you expect it to be. I still have my weathered loaned out to many DVD copy and realized it may be time to re-visit Independent Ed’s catalog (sorry Tarantino but Ed’s running times never made me almost pee my pants).
3. The Pallbearer: I remember seeing a preview for this one and I have to admit I liked Friends and Ross was by far my favorite character. This film always felt like an updated version of The Graduate with a few extra side stories that were just as for keeps as the main romance. This movie is full of cringe moments and the “I need to borrow a shirt” scene drives home just how little Tom (David Schwimmer) has changed and moved on with his life since high school, he still sleeps in a bunk bed at home and still pines on a crush Julie (Gwyneth Paltrow). This film does a great job with the concept of a sort of lie (and some out right lies) that just snow ball and most of the situations could be avoided by just telling the truth. The cover of the video makes the movie look like a sweet romantic comedy but it has a dark edge to it and an ending that is not sugar sweet and predictable. The Pallbearer also features another appearance by the busy in the 90s Michael Rappaport!
4. Hardcore Logo: When I am asked these days if I miss touring I often reply that I loved the time in when it happened but there is no way I could do it now at this age. This mockumentary follows the fictional Canadian band Hard Core Logo on a reunion tour and you see many different characters unravel in various ways. Watching this always reminds me of bands I used to see in small clubs and I wonder if the ones still out there doing it love it or resent the hell out of the fact they never made it to the next level? The brotherhood and the jealousy between the two main band members Joe Dick and Billy Tallent is shown in a very realistic way that anyone who has been stuck in a smelly van has probably seen it unfold. The music is great in this one as well (a common theme in 90s films) and the feeling of aging and questioning what have you done with your life really comes across in this film.
5. Heaven’s Prisoners: This movie just feels humid and hot and sticky. I rented this and watched on a sick day and it made me feel like I never wanted to visit Louisiana…ever. Alec Baldwin is a recovering alcoholic and former cop who is leading a quiet life with his wife Kelly Lynch. Their life gets super loud when a plane crashes and they rescue a young girl from the wreckage. The movie has a lot of twists and turns and an abundance of sweaty sleazy characters such as Eric Roberts and his main squeeze played by Terri Hatcher who plays way against her role as Lois Lane. Heaven’s Prisoners is entertaining story of redemption and loss and in some cases back to redemption.