1991 in Movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released theatrically in 1991, when I turned 10.

1. Slacker, directed by Richard Linklater (10/10)

No plot, no main characters. This is more a documentary of a time and place, only the people are fictional. The concept is maddening until it grows on you. It takes a while to figure out what is going on but that is probably part of the point. Here is an unflinching examination of the so-called generation X (and others) who, like the third generation after the robber barons, don’t really know what to do with the situation they’ve found themselves in. I want to write something profound but it’s just not coming to me.

2. Delicatessen, directed by Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (10/10)

One of the most inventive dark comedies you will ever see. The only reason I rank it lower than Slacker is that Slacker arguably changed American film forever (and for the better). It is certainly the far more entertaining film. I highly recommend you see it. Pinon is perhaps the greatest face-actor (is that a thing?) of his generation. Just wonderful.

3. Barton Fink, directed by Joel Coen (9/10*)

This was the Coens film that changed my life. I cannot be objective about it. All I can think of is Milhouse after he saw it. That was me.

4. Naked Lunch, directed by David Cronenberg (9/10*)

Seen as an impressionable teen and I must admit that I have never read the book.

5. Kafka, directed by Steven Soderbergh (9/10*)

There was a time in my film-watching life when gimmicky film tricks – such as, say, suddenly using colour instead of black and white – “had me at hello” and I must admit that I watched this film during that phase of my life. I have not seen it since, partially because I don’t want to know how wrong I was.

6. Daughters of the Dust, directed by Julie Dash (8/10)

An arty, outdoor period chamber drama about the last day of a Guallah family on a Sea Island in South Carolina. Read the review of Daughters of the Dust.

7. Boyz N the Hood, directed by John Singleton (8/10)

I supposedly saw this as a teenager but have so little memory of it, I must have watched a few minutes of it on TV and decided I’d rate it. (I did that a lot in my teens.) Anyway…

This film has dated more than a little – the score is really ’80s – but, on the whole, I understand why it was such a big deal. Not only did it portray a world few Americans had knowledge about, but it does so in a way that feels authentic – the characters and setting feel real.

The film itself is no masterpiece in my mind; I have seen this story before (in different places) and there’s no particular visual element that is really striking. But it’s well made and it’s a bit of a cultural landmark. (Outside of Spike Lee, there wasn’t a lot of African American cinema a this point and Spike Lee focused on a different city.)

It’s worth watching and it’s an important movie, but I understand why Singleton hasn’t exactly gone on to a distinguished career.

8. My Own Private Idaho, directed by Gus Van Sant (8/10)

This is a pretty great Henry IV adaptation that I think I sold a little short. I should probably re-watch it.

9. Archangel, directed by Guy Maddin (8/10)

I have lost my review but if memory serves this is the first of Maddin’s films to properly establish his style. (It might be the second, I am having memory farts). Maddin – the most unique Canadian feature filmmaker and perhaps the second greatest ever –  conveys a real time and place here better than he does in any of his other movies. But I feel like some essential wackiness was missing.

10. The Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme (8/10)

At one point in the distant past this was on my list of the greatest horror movies of all time. I take that back as you can tell by the rating. I have seen it multiple times and feel like some parts of the film are more effective than others.

11. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, directed by Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola (8/10)

For its time, an extremely revealing portrait of a debacle-turned-classic. Read the review of Hearts of Darkness.

12. A Brief History of Time, directed by Errol Morris (8/10)

This was the first Morris film I ever saw. I feel like I should re-watch it (hell, I should just buy all his films) because I’m not sure I appreciated him properly at the time.

13. Homicide, directed by David Mamet (8/10)

Unfortunately I watched this right before I started writing regular reviews.

14. Night on Earth, directed by Jim Jarmusch (8/10)

This is pretty much everything I want out of this type of film. The stories are interesting, often funny, and often affecting. I’ve never had any taxi ride this meaningful, but Jarmusch manages to give us interesting portraits of five separate but strangely similar places in a fairly short amount of time. I prefer it to Mystery Train.

15. 35 Up, directed by Michael Apted (8/10)

Read my review of Up documentaries.

16. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, directed by James Cameron (7/10)

As a tweenage boy, this movie is forbidden. As a teenage boy, this movie is awesome. As an adult, this movie reeks of “wow, look at this cool effect we can make” and doesn’t feel like a real follow up to the first movie.

17. The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone (7*/10)

The first time I watched this I believe I was in the height of my Oliver Stone phase.

18. Black Robe, directed by Bruce Beresford (7/10)

This is an interesting film in that it portrays an era and location rarely portrayed by Hollywood (or frankly anyone else) and that it is a narrative that defies Hollywood convention.

But there are some pretty big problems, the biggest for me (and most nitpicky, I admit) is the fact that here you have French people speaking English with French accents – and I don’t know what happened with the sound, but it looked so much like they were speaking French that I actually switched the sound over, only to find out that the overdubbing look was even worse, so they were actually speaking English – and the odd Canadian (or American) speaking English as French people but with Canadian English accents. I am one of those people who believes that if you are going to translate an entire film into a language, those people shouldn’t then speak with the accent of that language (why would they?); so all those “Germans” in WWII films speaking English with German accents do drive me absolutely insane. This movie is already made in many languages. Why not make it in French too? It would have seemed less artificial and it would have felt like less of a ploy to get English viewers.

19. Star Trek 6: the Undiscovered Country, directed by Nicholas Meyer (7*/10)

Long my favourite or second favourite of the franchise, I have seen it far too many times. Shatner’s speech at the end is ridiculous, but I still feel like the film is rather solid compared to the other post-Kahn entries.

20. What About Bob?, directed by Frank Oz (7*/10)

I remember seeing this and thinking it was one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. And then I saw it again and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t one of the funniest movies I had ever seen. Both viewings were in another century.

21. At Play in the Fields of the Lord, directed by Hector Babenco (7/10)

Another film I watched right before I started keeping track of what I thought. Unfortunately at this moment my memory is not perfect, so I cannot say what I think of this.

22. The Addams Family, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (7*/10)

I cannot be objective about this film I have seen multiple times because a) it introduced to me to the greatness of Dan Hedaya, Angelica Huston and especially Raul Julia and b) because I fell in love with Christina Ricci.

23. L.A. Story, directed by Mick Jackson (7*/10)

Haven’t seen this since I was in my mid teens.

24. Grand Canyon, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (6/10)

This is one of those movies that you really wish could be something significant, especially with that cast.

25. The Adjuster, directed by Atom Egoyan (6/10)

Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of Atom Egoyan. I have only ever thought one of his movies that I have seen good; that was The Sweet Hereafter and that was years ago, and I have no idea what I’d think of it now. I found at least one of his other films to be abjectly terrible.

Read the full review of The Adjuster.

26. The Naked Gun 2 ½: the Smell of Fear, directed by David Zucker (6*/10)

I think I have seen this one the most. Anyway, seen too many times to judge accurately.

27. Hot Shots, directed by Jim Abrahams (6*/10)

I have seen this way too many times to be objective about it.

28. JFK, directed by Oliver Stone (5/10)

An incredibly well made film which just happens to completely, utterly destroy the truth of what happened.

29. Robin Hood, directed by John Irvin (5*/10)

The better of the two Robin Hood movies this year; not saying much.

30. Regarding Henry, directed by Mike Nichols (5/10)

Not really in Nichols’ wheelhouse.

31. Backdraft, directed by Ron Howard (5*/10)

I don’t remember this at all, but William Baldwin is in it.

32. The Rapture, directed by Michael Tolkin (5/10)

It’s hard to know what to make of this movie. I thought it was going one way for a while, then it started going another way. That second way was quite effective and should have been pursued to the end. Instead, it shifts back to its initial course and we get a budget version of the apocalypse. We are left with a vague and I guess inoffensive version of religion where our fate is indeed up to us. I don’t know Revelations well enough but I think that doesn’t quite fit with this whole idea of Rapture. I think this could have been a great film had the writer been a non-believer. The ending is in some ways like the ending of Inherit the Wind: right in the middle of the road.

33. White Fang, directed by Randal Kleiser (5*/10)

Seen when I was likely 10 or 11.

34. Shadows and Fog, directed by Woody Allen (4/10)

Very weird lesser Allen. The title is very similar to Resnais’ amazing documentary, which makes the whole thing even weirder.

35. Beauty and the Beast, directed by Gary Tousdale, Kirk Wise (4*/10)

Riley’s judgments of Disney films he watched as a tween or teen are not to be trusted.

36. A Kiss Before Dying, directed by James Dearden (4/10)

Unnecessary and frankly bizarre remake.

37. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, directed by Kevin Reynolds (4*/10)

I changed this rating retroactively (having seen this movie multiple times as a child and tween) once I realized how ridiculous it was to have a Robin Hood movie starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater.

38. Sleeping with the Enemy, directed by Joseph Ruben (4/10)

This movie has been made way too many times and it doesn’t get better when it is remade.

39. Only the Lonely, directed by Chris Columbus (4/10)

I feel like this is charitable.

40. Body Parts, directed by Eric Red (4/10)

I feel like this rating is too high, but you must understand that it was seen in the midst of numerous truly terrible horror movies – I was part of an unofficial club – and it probably seemed really good in comparison.

41. The Last Boy Scout, directed by Tony Scott (4*/10)

I have recently read that this has become a cult movie. When I saw it I was confused more than anything. Perhaps I need to reevaluate it. But perhaps I just need to keep dismissing it as ridiculous machismo trash.

42. Hudson Hawk, directed by Michael Lehmann (4*/10)

I feel like this wasn’t anywhere near as bad as everyone said it was but I also feel like I may have been 15 when I watched it.

43. Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (3/10)

The greatest movie of all time featuring the three greatest actors of their generation.

44. Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg (3*/10)

The inevitable anti-Spielberg bias is at play here. I’m sure this film is actually quite enjoyable. I loved it as a tween. And then I became a Spielberg-hater and changed my mind. It’s not an apology but it’s an explanation.

45. Oscar, directed by John Landis (3*/10)

Saw when I was perhaps too young to get it.

46. Cape Fear, directed by Martin Scorsese (3/10)

I freely admit that this is not a 3/10 movie. But you must understand that I went into it being told that Robert DeNiro was scary-as-I-don’t-know-what and that it improved upon the original in every way possible. None of that is true and so I rated it extra low, as I am want to do, to make up for all the people who think that this version tops the original. Robert Mithchum is awesome. Don’t you forget it.

47. F/X2, directed by Richard Franklin (3*/10)

Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.

48. Nothing but Trouble, directed by Dan Aykroyd (3/10)

For reasons I cannot explain I have seen this disaster multiple times.

49. Curly Sue, directed by John Hughes (3/10*)

I have no idea if this is the most annoying movie of all-time but I know that when I was 13 it definitely was. Thanks Becky!

50. House Party 2, directed by George Jackson, Doug McHenry (3/10)

This film required two directors! Amazing!

51. Toy Soldiers, directed by Daniel Petrie Jr. (2/10)

This is pretty much just Red Dawn with terrorists and a boarding school.

52. Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare, directed by Rachel Talalay (2/10)

More of the same. But somehow better than The Dream Child.

53. Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, directed by Simon Wincer (1*/10)

I am perhaps being slightly too harsh on this movie. Perhaps.

54. Highlander 2: the Quickening, directed by Russel Mulcahy (1/10)

Even more incoherent than the original, if that is even possible. And yet, they still made a TV series out this franchise.

55. Ernest Scared Stupid, directed by John Cherry (1/10)

Certainly one of the more inventive films of the franchise.

56. Problem Child 2, directed by Brian Levant (1/10)

Yes, I saw the sequel as well. Who didn’t?