Tag Archives: Ghost

A Decade In Film: The Nineties – 1990

A new series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favourite films from each year of that decade, and discuss the legacy those years have left us.

Kate has chosen to relive the nineties, because she’s old enough to remember them in their entirety  This week she revisits 1990.

5. Pretty Woman

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“I think we both know she’s not my niece.”

Bridging the gap from the big hair and leather boots of the Eighties to the sleek bobs and kitten heels of the Nineties is Pretty Woman. Hot off the heels of the female-barbershop-quintet-renal-failure-romp Steel Magnolias, Julia Roberts smashes it, teaches Hollywood Boulevard a lesson, and basically makes us all want to become a hooker.

I’ve written before that I first saw this film in primary school. Over twenty years on, it stands the test of time. Roberts is adorable and exquisite – the need to exclaim how much nicer her real hair is once she loses the wig never tires. I generally don’t see the appeal of Gere, though his brooding business man (a precursor to Sex and the City’s Mr Big)  is endearing. However it’s Héctor Elizondo as the kindly hotel manager who steals the show. And his real life love story with director Garry Marshall is even cuter than Edward & Vivian.

 

4. Home Alone

“Kevin, you’re such a disease!”

After defining teen movies throughout the Eighties, John Hughes enters the new decade with a new protagonist, and children everywhere respond by attempting to bunk off their family holidays. As is the John Hughes grown up hating way, eight year old Kevin is smarter, more socially aware, with better woodworking skills than his adult counterparts, and defends his house accordingly.

Watching this as a kid around the same age as the star was pretty exciting, and a great way to diminish a fear of burglars. Just don’t say it launched Culkin‘s career, because he was brilliant in Uncle Buck the year before. It stands up to repeat viewings, and the great Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s forgetful mum becomes more infuriating each time. I’m a sucker for a good Christmas film, and you can’t beat a bit of Carol of the Bells. Home Alone 2 is miles better, though.

 

3. Ghost

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“Molly, you in danger, girl.”

The highest grossing film of the year, nominated for five (winner of two) Academy Awards, and perpetually dismissed as a chick flick. The ghost of a murdered banker enlists the help of a usually phoney psychic to save the life of his lover. A potter’s wheel and The Righteous Brothers also star. That Sam and his colleagues conduct their multimillion dollar deals on VDU green screens shows the leap in technology about to take place. By the end of the decade we were watching The Matrix.

A love story, no doubt, but the relationships both Sam and Molly have with psychic Oda Mae Brown are the important ones. Goldberg plays cynical and hysterical to perfection, and this role sets her up nicely for a career as a nun. The late Patrick Swayze offers up some serious emotional acting, after spending the previous few years typecast as a face kicking dancer. He still manages to take his top off quite a bit though, which is no bad thing.

 

2. Edward Scissorhands

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“Before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did.”

Tim Burton‘s surprise follow up to Beetlejuice and Batman chronicles the discovery of an inventor’s unfinished creation in weird suburbia. The film is said to be largely autobiographical for Burton. Except the bit where he has scissors for hands. A tragic love story about society, reality and hedge-trimming. Beauty and the Beast for the Nineties, but without the happy ending.

An angsty teen staple, I watched my VHS copy until it died. Even the trailer makes me well up. Depp is stunning as our Gothic hero, in the first of many collaborations with Burton. And the always good Dianne Wiest, is the nicest Avon lady you could ever hope to procure eye shadow from.

 

1. Goodfellas

“One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother’s groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.”

Spanning three decades in the life of a gangster and, after the economic slump of the Eighties, showcasing a lifestyle we could all aspire to. A contender for the greatest film of all time (until we reach 1994, at least) and certainly one of Scorsese’s greatest achievements (not counting his Curb Your Enthusiasm cameo).

Ensemble cinema at its best, marred only by the fact that our original DVD copy had to be flipped over halfway through the film to accommodate the 146 minute running time. From the pitch perfect soundtrack, to that tracking shot, Goodfellas is perfect every time. And then we got to relive it the following decade, when half the cast showed up in The Sopranos.

‘Are Father and Uncle Max going to push the car all the way to Switzerland?’ Genuine question.

She’s clearly upset. Just don’t ask me to tell you why.

Ah, the eighties. Simpler times. Before political correctness ‘went mad’ and we could just tape films off the telly with no regard for their regulatory deemed suitability. Before our parents were told that letting us play video games would make us grow up and kill people. (Indeed, any ounce of patience or tolerance I may possess today is entirely down to a childhood spent attempting to complete the 17 levels of Alex Kidd in Miracle World WITHOUT A SAVE OPTION!)

Rather than be corrupted by evil cinematic images I wasn’t considered old enough to see, for the most part I was blissfully unaware of their existence and enjoyed the films regardless. Not unlike the first time I saw The Usual Suspects, where I lost the thread of what was going on quite early into the film (my teenage head crammed too full of Boyzone trivia to be much use to anyone), but continued watching nonetheless because I liked Pete Postlethwaite’s accent. The big twist at the end was still a wonder to behold, even though I was just seeing it on a very base level. ‘He’s not who he said he was!’ was revelation enough, with the implications of said discovery reserved for, and enjoyed on, subsequent viewings.

I asked Twitter, and they reminded me about a whole host of films I enjoyed as a kid, while the finer details soared unknowingly over my head.

The (some might say integral) presence of Nazis throughout The Sound of Music escaped me. I knew there was much tutting over some flags, and that the family had to run away from the ‘police’ at the end. But that was as far as I got. I was also sad that Rolfe blew his whistle (because, for whatever reason, that meant he’d dumped Liesl) and kind of intrigued that they planned to walk to a whole other country at the end. But I was confident Maria would make everything fun with all her singing.

 I remember watching the hooker fairy tale Pretty Woman at a slumber party back in primary school, where we must’ve had such a scant understanding of the storyline it became nothing more than a series of shots of a lady going shopping, interspersed with a massive bubble bath and the occasional horse. It was a few years later before I realised the colourful strip of plastic Julia Roberts pulled from her boot were condoms, and a couple more before I understood the particular appeal of that piano solo.

Presumably long before the availability of ESPN on UK tv, my dad decided to show us the Snipes/Harrelson mashup White Men Can’t Jump one weekend, because my little brother was really into basketball. This proved something of an error on his part, as he proceeded to fast forward through three quarters of the film at the first sniff of a sex scene, while instructing us not to tell our mum we’d watched it.

In 1950’s high school romp Grease, I knew Rizzo wasn’t pregnant when she jumped off the ferris wheel screaming ‘I’m not pregnant!’. But I was oblivious to the entire unprotected sex conversation that preceded it. (Not to mention the references to nose jobs, hookers, gang bangs and chicks creaming throughout.) Looking back, Kenickie says he’s had his ’25-cent insurance policy’ since the seventh grade. Since he is roughly 45 by the time they graduate, is it any wonder the condom perished?

Despite Dickie’s kindly face and patient explanation on the Jurassic Park tour, I didn’t get the science behind it one little bit. Moreover, I was perpetually confused by the fact that, despite the writers obviously possessing the know how to breed dinosaurs, they chose to make a film about it instead of, you know, building an actual theme park. Which I would’ve forced my parents to sell their house in order to take us to. (Naïve maybe, but I was smart enough to realise the mean lawyer guy was joking about having a coupon day.)

The list is pretty extensive. The talking sperm at the beginning of Looks Who’s Talking, the endless vibrator references in Parenthood, the unorthodox approach to ceramics making in Ghost. I didn’t realise that ginger orphan Annie’s parents were dead, but I also couldn’t comprehend why she refused an offer to go live with someone who could buy out an entire cinema on a whim. I had no clue what Suffragette Mrs Banks was up to in Mary Poppins, and concluded that she was just a bit weird. And although I used to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail weekly, battered copy of the screenplay in hand, it never failed to piss me off when the police car turned up at the end. Presumably because I wanted it to be real. I still do.

Which films did you adore as a kid, if not entirely understand?

(With thanks to: @mooglemeg, @rella_robinson, @araarabella, @SuperduperJoJo)