best film: Goodfellas is narrative and stylistic cinematic bliss. I could watch it once a week. It has everything from some of the more memorable characters (acted to perfection be Liotta, Pesci and De Niro) in cinema history to sustained visual brilliance for the entire running time. Given enough time, a cinema enthusiast could write an entire paper on the Copacabana shot/sequence which is amongst the greatest shots of all-time. The opening freeze-frames are fantastic as is scorsese’s work with slow-motion tracking shots (usually to the rolling stones and usually in a bar). It is wall-to-wall brilliance and one of the best 20 movies of all-time.
most underrated: I guess I’m not shocked dick tracy isn’t in the top 1000 of all-time on TSPDT. The film had mediocre reviews when it first came out and it’s a comic book adaptation. However, for those that are impressed by visual style and cinematic beauty the film would be impossible to leave off the top 500-600 let alone 1000 so this is my #1 underrated film from 1990. Warren Beatty has only directed 5 films, and this was his first one since 1981’s reds—and he puts all his energy into it. I think it’s his best film as a director. The film won the oscar for art direction and make-up and should’ve won costume (Cyrano De Bergerac won). It’s a marvel of mise-en-scene and shot by Vittorio Storaro (apocalypse now, the conformist).
most overrated: I don’t count kiarostami’s close up as fiction. It walks the line of documentary and fiction very finely but I’ve made my own personal ruling. If I counted it, it would easily be my most overrated film. Given that, I’d have to go with Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands as my most overrated film of the year. The consensus has it as #645 which isn’t awful (I’m 500 slots or so lower) but when you take out close up this makes it the #3 film of 1990 and that’s just not something I can get behind. I love some of the expressionistic touches of the film (the pastel houses, the gothic castle) and depp’s performance (and diane wiest is solid as well) but I’d have to knock this film down a few slots.
gem I want to spotlight: Days of Being Wild is really the beginning of WKW. If you like chunking express and in the mood for love (if you don’t you don’t really love cinema) you have to start here. Every shot is perfectly composed and WKW does a rarity cinema where he is both formally rigorous (like a jim jarmusch or Eisenstein) but also cinematically romantic with his stylistic flourishes (perhaps more like a ophuls. Cuaron, Truffaut or Renoir).
trends and notables: 1990 was supposed to be known as the year of godfather III but goodfellas from Scorsese swooped in and became not only the best film of the year but one of the best film of all-time. Coppola’s film is very good—but cinematic high-water marks like goodfellas come alone once or twice a decade at most. These two films were not alone in the genre, we had Abel Ferrera’s the king of new york as an solid gangster film entry. There are not a lot of first films for directors here in 1990 and frankly we’re a little light on actors as well as we turn the new decade. 1990 gave us the first archiveable films from Annette Bening (bigger role in grifters and a great scene in postcards from the edge). Brendan Gleeson would make his first appearance in the field. There aren’t many other large notables. It’s a big year for Tony Leung with both a bullet in the head with John Woo and days of being wild from WKW and it’s worth noting how good of a filmmaking Rob Reiner was in 1990. In 1990 he’d give us misery but that’s following up a 7 year stretch that includes this is spinal tap, stand by me, the princess bride and when harry met sally. He’d complete this run in 1992 with a few good men. A great director for a stretch here.
best performance male: The top slot here is a virtual tie between two actors in the same movie. I’ve thought long and hard about this and there’s no wrong answer picking either Liotta or Pesci for their work in goodfellas as the performance of the year. If forced to choose I’ll go with pesci for his magnetism but I can hardly finish this sentence without changing my mind so I’ll just move on. Behind those two I think there’s enough room here for De Niro’s work as well. He’s clearly third behind Pesci and Liotta but if my goal is to highlight brilliant work in great films I can’t not mention de niro in goodfellas. After we get past the goodfellas trio stealing the show (and I have half a mind to put paul sorvino here too) I’d get to Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands and Al Pacino in dick tracy. Both actors nearly disappear in their roles (depp with his facial expressions and pacino with his costume, prosthetics and vocal work). Both are magnificent. Lastly, I have to mention two smaller performances in wonderful films. John Turturro doesn’t play the lead in miller’s crossings or even 2nd or 3rd billing but his scenes are absolutely pivotal and he’s as good as any actor in 1990 minute for minute. Matching Turturro is Willem Dafoe as “Bobby Peru” in David Lynch’s wild at heart. These scenes with Dafoe are the best in the 2nd best film of the year. There’s a reason this character is still discussed and remembered by so many nearly 30 years later.
best performance female: It’s a shut out here for goodfellas in 1990. There’s nobody that compares to Lorraine Bracco’s work in this category. Her transformation from beginning to wild coke-infused mini-film third-act finale is as wild and pivotal as liotta’s characters journey. Behind Bracco we have the dueling performances of Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine as real life mother and daughter Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in postcards from the edge. Maggie Cheung is definitely worthy of a mention for her work in days of being wild and once you stop thinking about Willem Dafoe’s “Bobby Peru” in wild at heart you’ll be think about and be haunted by the performance of Diane Ladd as David Lynch’s wicked witch of the west in wild at heart.
- Wild at Heart
- Miller’s Crossings
- Dick Tracy
- Days of Being Wild
- Dances With Wolves
- Total Recall
- The Godfather Part III
- Edward Scissorhands
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Bullet in the Head- Woo|
|An Angel at My Table- Campion||R|
|Cyrano De Bergerac||R|
|Dances With Wolves||HR|
|Days of Being Wild- WKW||HR|
|Dick Tracy- W. Beatty||MS|
|Edward Scissorhands- Burton||R|
|Hidden Agenda- Loach||R|
|Internal Affairs- Figgis||R|
|Joe Versus The Volcano||R|
|Ju Dou- Yimou Zhang|
|La Femme Nikita||R|
|Life is Sweet- M. Leigh||R|
|May Fools- Malle|
|Miller’s Crossings- Coen||MS|
|Mr. and Mrs. Bridge- Ivory||R|
|Postcards From the Edge- Nichols||R/HR|
|Presumed Innocent- Pakula||R|
|Reversal of Fortune||R|
|State of Grace||R|
|The Field- Sheridan|
|The Godfather Part III- F. Coppola||R|
|The Grifters- Frears||R|
|The Hairdresser’s Husband- Leconte||R|
|The Hunt For Red October- Mctiernan||R|
|The King of New York- Ferrera||R|
|The Match Factory Girl- Kaurismaki||R|
|The Russia House- Schepisi||R|
|The Sheltering Sky- Bertolucci||R|
|The Witches- Roeg||R|
|To Sleep With Anger|
|Total Recall- VerHoven||R/HR|
|Vincent and Theo- Altman||R|
|Wild at Heart- Lynch||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10