Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '96 - Sean Wicks ""

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Underrated '96 - Sean Wicks

Sean is a good friend of mine and he runs the Cinema-Scope blog (http://cinemascope-blog.blogspot.com/) which is very much a sister blog to my own (we often do series in conjunction with each other). An all-around social media lover, he's very active on twitter (https://twitter.com/wixpix), tumblr (http://seanwicks.tumblr.com/) facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WicksFlicks), and letterboxd (http://letterboxd.com/wixpix/). 

Ahhhh I remember 1996 well. It was my second year of college and living in Los Angeles and memorable moments included being invited to Paramount studios to see STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT and seeing INDEPENDENCE DAY on July 4th at the Chinese theater in Hollywood. I also remember getting in several arguments with my fellow film students because I thought THE ENGLISH PATIENT was flawed while everyone around me seemed to think it was a masterpiece (I stick to my belief btw, time is on my side).

Being in Film School in Los Angeles, 1996 ended up to be a year where I ended up at the movies an awful lot. I mean, I still do…but that year it felt like I saw everything that was released. I had also just started working at Dave’s Video, a laserdisc store in Studio City which was staffed completely with obsessive and well-educated film fanatics so I was in movie-lover’s heaven.

Here is my list of underrated gems from that year. And no, INDEPENDENCE DAY is not one of them.
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BOUND (Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski)
I’m not quite sure whether or not BOUND qualifies as underrated, as it was something of a critical darling when it was released and it put the Wachowski’s on the map.


Lana (who at the time was Larry) and Andy Wachowski took the sexual noir genre that had really taken hold of the late 80s/early 90s (think BASIC INSTINCT) and stepped it up a notch with this masterly crafted neo-noir thriller that did not even think of shying away from treating the Lesbian characters at its core properly. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are as tough and as sexy as you can imagine, and make one of the great underrated screen couples of the 1990s without falling into annoying stereotypes. I remember coming away from this film a little more than infatuated with Jennifer Tilly.
I also have a personal reason to love this movie as one of the producers, Andrew Lazar, later gave me my first Hollywood job that started my career. BOUND was the beginning of his path to a studio deal so without BOUND, I may never have gotten my first Assistant and later Creative Executive job at a studio based Production Company.

FLY AWAY HOME (Directed by Carroll Ballard)
Director Carroll Ballard has had an interesting career. With only a handful of credits, most of them rank among the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen, meaning of course NEVER CRY WOLF, THE BLACK STALLION and WIND. The recent Criterion Blu-ray for THE BLACK STALLION really shows off Ballard’s mastery of capturing nature in an appealing and realistic light.


FLY AWAY HOME is also a film that is centered around nature. Following the death of her mother in New Zealand, Anna Paquin is forced to move to Canada with her eccentric inventor father played by Jeff Daniels. When she discovers and nurses a nest of abandoned geese, young miss Paquin finally starts warming to her new Canadian home. The geese think Paquin is their mother, but when the time comes for them to fly south for the winter (a Canadian winter at that), Paquin and Daniels devise a plan to help lead them to where they need to be thanks to an elaborate flying machine. There’s also a bad-guy wildlife officer who wants to clip their wings, claiming of course that the order comes from the Queen or “crown” herself. Ahh Canadians. Need the Queen as a scapegoat.

This is a beautiful, heart-warming, sweet movie that will bring a tear to your eye. The story is simple yet effective and perfectly cast, and like THE BLACK STALLION and WIND, looks gorgeous.

One bit of comedy though you might find watching it in 2016 is the moment when Paquin and Daniels fly unannounced into the U.S.A. and are pulled over by fighter jets. Post-9/11, that encounter might not have ended so friendly.

GET ON THE BUS (Directed by Spike Lee)
Director Spike Lee does what he does best in GET ON THE BUS, and that is delve into what it means to be an African American man. The movie takes place on a bus headed for Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March where men from various backgrounds bond and unite and divide over the issues that affect their lives.

Particularly great is the Shabooya roll call sequence, a unique take on the Spike Lee “rants” (for lack of a better term) like in DO THE RIGHT THING and THE 25TH HOUR.

TIN CUP (Directed by Ron Shelton)
From African American male issues to white dudes working out their issues and trying to impress a woman via the whitest of games…golf (thanks Tiger Woods for changing that).

Kevin Costner and Don Johnson both have eyes for Rene Russo. Costner is a washed up pro-golfer thanks to his inability to back down from a challenge, even if it results in his ruin – which it has. Costner, now the owner of a run-down driving range, decides to try and qualify for the U.S. Open which will pit him against Johnson with Russo in between them as the ultimate prize.

Shelton knows how to make great sports movies (BULL DURHAM for one) and this really taps into the idea of men’s need to compete and win at all costs.

ONE FINE DAY (Directed by Michael Hoffman)
So what do you get when you mix two extremely attractive movie stars (George Clooney and Michelle Pfeifer) playing divorced single parents in the same movie? An extremely pleasant experience that is better than it should be.

So these good looking people take shifts looking after each other’s children so they can get on with their difficult day – meaning they need to hold onto their jobs while juggling being a single parent.

Yes, it’s light and fluffy, the premise is super-simple, and you can pretty much dictate what the end result will be well before it happens, but this is one super-delightful movie that somehow manages to keep you engaged all the way through even when you should be asking yourself how you find yourself liking it more than you thought you would.

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