The Movies of 1991 Turn ... 30!
And they don't look a day over 29
It's hard to believe three decades have passed since we last saw the original crew of the starship Enterprise together for one last time. It's really hard to believe it's been three decades since Kevin Costner half-assed both a British accent AND a Louisiana accent in the same calendar year. And it's really, REALLY hard to believe that it's been 30 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger got the line "Yes, a mimetic poly-alloy" right in one take. But 30 years it has been since ... eek ... 1991!
Some of you reading this weren't even born then. Others were around my age now -- cough, cough ... early 50s ... cough, cough -- and this was your moviegoing prime. As for Yours Truly, 1991 was a fine year. I turned 21 that fall, I went from my junior year to senior year in college, and I was the film critic on my college newspaper. Good times!
At any rate, I'm feeling nostalgic. So here's a fond look back at the Movies of '91, all of which are currently celebrating their -- gulp! -- 30th birthday:
THE BOX OFFICE HITS
1) "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" -- This was the film that taught me that "judgment" is spelled without an "e" in the middle. The film also taught me three other things: 1) the coolest name to say with a heavy Austrian accent is "Miles Bennett Dyson;" 2) it's really quite fun to bag on a 10-year-old kid as his voice cracks; and 3) if a Terminator can learn the value of human life ... maybe we all can.
2) "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" -- Kevin Costner was Hollywood's most bankable star in '91, coming off a string of hits that included "The Untouchables," "Bull Durham," "Field of Dreams," and his Oscar triumph "Dances With Wolves." A franchise character seemed destined. Man, did he suck as Robin Hood! A shame, because the film is actually good popcorn fun, with two great villain turns by gravelly voiced Michael Wincott and the awesome Alan Rickman ("Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans! No more merciful beheadings! And call off Christmas!!!")
3) "City Slickers" -- Whenever I see an old dude who has spent way too much time in the sun, I still quote Billy Crystal's assessment of Jack Palance's Curly: "Did you see how leathery he was? He was like a saddlebag with eyes." If I say it to a person young enough, they think I actually came up with that line on my own!
4) "Beauty and the Beast" -- It's a film that transcends its year and its time. Mommys and Daddys will be watching it with their little spawn probably forever. It cleared $145 million at the North American box office alone (in '91 dollars!) and was the first-ever animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
5) "Hook" -- I make no apologies for loving this big, goofy Steven Spielberg movie. It caught me and the future Mrs. on the right day one chilly December afternoon between final exams in the old Westview Cinema in suburban Baltimore. We laughed, we cried, and we will forever be bonded over our shared imitation of Maggie Smith in her lilting British accent saying: "So, Peter, you've become a pirate!"
THE OSCAR CONTENDERS
1) "The Silence of the Lambs" -- Somehow, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was a pretty old and conservative bunch at that time, grew a collective pair and gave this dark, twisted, truly unnerving motion picture the Best Picture honor. Not only that, the film swept all FOUR major categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director) AND won the Best Adapted Screenplay award. And it's not that the rest of the films that year were bad. Behold...
2) "JFK" -- One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. And it's not because I agree with its politics or its nutty central conspiracy theory. It's because I hold it up to be one of the flat-out, best-made motion pictures ... EVER! I think it's the best edited film ever made, switching between multiple time frames, multiple film stocks, reality and fantasy, conjecture and fact in an absolutely seamless fashion. On every other technical level -- cinemtography, sound design, set decor -- the film excels and took several of the technical categories at that year's Oscars. And the cast is just a dream. Costner DOES give a star performance here. But he is also backed up by Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, and Joe Pesci.
3) "The Fisher King" -- Mercedes Ruehl won the Best Supporting Actress honor for this memorable Terry Gilliam film. This remains one of the only flicks I ever gave a negative review to in my college critic days that I have since changed my mind on. I just wasn't prepared for it when I first saw it. Today, I love the movie!
4) "Bugsy" -- It earned double-digit nominations. And in most other years, the Academy would have showered this fine movie with Oscar gold.
5) "The Prince of Tides" -- Slept through it then ... haven't matured enough in 30 years to give it another chance.
"The Addams Family" -- I still can't believe Raul Julia is dead. The Grim Reaper is a real son of a...
"Backdraft" -- This wasn't just a boys' movie. Sure, it had fire trucks. Yes, it had Jennifer Jason Leigh wanting to have sex atop fire trucks. Of course, it... Ah, never mind. It's a boys' movie.
"Boyz N the Hood" -- "You still got one brutha left, man."
"Cape Fear" -- Remember when DeNiro had the power the scare the living doo-doo out of you?!
"Defending Your Life" -- Still one of my favorite comedies of all time.
"New Jack City" -- "Out my face, fool, I'm the illest! Bulletproof, I die harder than Bruce Willis!"
"Other People's Money" -- Remember the poster? Little Danny DeVito flanked by both the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center! Haha! Hilariously funny visual joke. Hahaha! That's a poster I'll always be able to look at and laugh and-- Ah, #^%* you, terrorists!
"The Rocketeer" -- One of the great, underrated movies of the 1990s. It still hurts this didn't hit.
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" -- Trekkies can always feel glad that the original crew of NCC-1701 went out on a truly high note .. and were all still alive in '91.
"Thelma and Louise" -- True story. Saw this movie on opening night. Brad Pitt showed up on the screen for the first time, and the teenage girl sitting behind me called out, "Ohmygod! He was on an episode of 'Growing Pains'!!!" I still use that line every once in a while when Brad Pitt has his first scene in a movie today. I still find it funny...
OTHERS (in no particular order): "Doc Hollywood," "Father of the Bride," "Sleeping With the Enemy," "Jungle Fever," "The Naked Gun 2 1/2," "Hot Shots," "Barton Fink," "Rambling Rose," "Out for Justice," "Soapdish," "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey," "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," "Point Break," "Regarding Henry," and "What About Bob?"
I'm sure I missed a few...
About the author
Teddy Durgin is author of "The Totally Gnarly, Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor," a mystery novel set in 1986. He also wrote the Halloween radio drama, "The Next Street Over" and the holiday plays "Remembering Frosty" & "I Am Santa."