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The Quest of 1995: The Single Finest Film of Our Generation?

I was so sure we were on 1996 for this biweekly edition of the Quest for the Single Finest Film of Our Generation. I was mentally pumping myself up for writing about Independence Day so hard. How did I totally skip over the nominees for the median year of the decade and head straight into late-90s territory? Well, take a look at the films below and you might understand why. Right now as I'm typing this intro things aren't looking pretty for this week's entry, and I apologize for that (has ever intro paragraph for the Quest included an apology of some kind?) profusely. But who knows, sometimes wondrous memories pop up into my pop culturally fettered brain while I'm writing about the randomest pieces of nostalgia on this here Blogulator. So before I get too wrapped up in analyzes my own thought processes, let's kick this thang into high gear as we enter the final stretch of uncovering the Single Finest Film of Our Generation. Vote for your favorite from the listed nominees below via the comments, and if I'm forgetting something, lemme know. My ridiculous voting/nomination rules of the Quest in a nutshell: 1) throbbing nostalgia, 2) is it still entertaining?, and 3) how firmly does it set its feet outside of reality/high art? Remember, Road House was the inspiration for this journey.

P.S. After a tie-breaking vote from my dear Jerksica, Speed is the victor from the 1994 round. And I didn't even mention in the last post that a couple of Blogulator readers got in trouble in middle school for writing a "Bomb on Bus" note during a field trip! Ah, youth.

Die Hard With A Vengeance: While I mostly enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard, I have to admit it diluted the power of the Die Hard trilogy, like most tacked-on fourth entries do. And while it shouldn't by any reasonable form of logic, it also weakened the throbbing nostalgia I once had for the one film of the series that came out during my golden years of enjoying cinema. Then again, there are a lot of things illogical about nostalgia. Why did I go through various attempts of taping Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson bickering at each other while bombs went off every 20 minutes during our month-long HBO preview at home? There's no logic there. Why did I, when my first few attempts with old VHS tapes failed, bike furiously to the nearby Osco Drug and back to buy new blank ones before HBO replayed the film for the thousandth time that month? No reason that I recall. I was a highly impressionable 12-year-old that had recently rented the first two Die Hard films and fallen for John McClane's brash heroics, and so when I heard that the guy from Pulp Fiction joined him in the third entry to the franchise, I nearly wet myself. Simple as that. Now, I remember nothing enjoyable other than that there were fun tricks Jeremy Irons played on the duo. And then I kept that VHS tape (when I finally succeeded at recording the movie) next to the TV, ready to watch it again and again next time a sick day reared its head.

Congo: The term you're looking for is "coattails", I believe. While the half-assed attempts to turn Michael Crichton's books into a 90s film phenomenon didn't end with Congo, they certainly should have. I don't even remember the plot of Congo, except that there were scientists and gorillas. I also don't remember why I have such throbbing pangs of nostalgia for this film either. With Die Hard With... at least I can trace a path of understanding. Here, I just know that it was ostensibly Jurassic Park without dinosaurs or Spielberg's majestically overwrought/awesome direction. Who wants to watch a spectacle movie about scientists when there's apes instead of raptors?! Apparently 11-year-old me did. And not just once either! While I cannot remember the story, I have vivid flashes of Grant Heslov looking ugly and scared, Dylan Walsh (aka Sean of Nip/Tuck) looking curly-haired and oaf-ish, and gorillas looking totally fake and escaping...lava? Or am I combining memories of Heslov's other film, Dante's Peak? I don't even know. Oh well, at least I'm not writing about Sphere.

Outbreak: Okay, now we're cooking. It was pretty painful getting through those last two, I admit, but this film and the one that follows are the two reasons 1995 is worth giving a damn about. Hoffman. Russo. Spacey. Freeman. Gooding, Jr. And Sutherland! Donald Sutherland! Holy crap that cast still rocks. This is how you make a virus movie, ladies and gents. You put the six most dramatic actors that 12-year-old me recognizes, hire a director with a penchant for melodramatic white-knuckled suspense (Wolfgang Petersen, who two years later will make his career-high masterpiece Air Force One) and make it Rated R, but make it about something that doesn't necessitate a lot of blood-spilling so my mom not only approves of it, but likes it as much as I do. Seeing this film and loving every moment of scenery-chewing idiocy made me feel like an adult. It made me feel like movies could be serious and entertaining. Of course I wouldn't realize until years later that it's a mind-boggling mess of a film with convolutions aplenty, emotional manipulation poured on by the boatload, and a stupid little monkey that no one can seem to capture and/or realize it's the cause of the disease (I don't remember exactly)! Love it. Want to watch it right now.

Bad Boys: That was a close one, folks. I very easily could have been primarily inspired by Outbreak to grow up a bit too soon. It could have led me to enjoy the Jack Ryan movies more than anyone actually should, or it could have influenced me to actually see Jerry Maguire...ever (yeah, I've still managed to hold out somehow). But thanks to Bad Boys, another Jerry ruled my teenage years. One that may be more insidious but is infinitely more entertaining. Yes, Mr. Bruckheimer (and his even more moronic sidekick Michael Bay) came on my radar with what may still be the defining film of their career, in my eyes. This is because while the awesomeness of Bad Boys surely stems from the twinklings of beautifully idiotic ideas from "The Bay and Bruck" (action scenes with a glossy sheen, editing that rivals the speed of a cheetah, etc.), Will and Martin (as I like to call them) completely destroy the notion of the buddy flick. Like Qualler wavers on the level of art in Speed's commitment to ridiculousless, I, my friends, struggle with comprehending the level of art present in the interplay between Smith and Lawrence. The machismo riffing, the nonsensical screaming, and the downright ballin' facial expressions these two muster up is tantamount to Butch and Sundance, Jack and Ennis, or Abbot and Costello. It's dumb stuff, but it's so incredibly magnetic that while Bad Boys does get my vote, I finally understand and appreciate the monumental complexities present in voting correctly for this absurd Quest.

The Net: The day before middle school started. A double feature of Sandra Bullock freaking out about the Interweb and the live-action rendition of Mortal Kombat. My only true friend at the time, The Drax, and I sit in the theater after suffering through the redhead nervous faced lady from Speed running away over and over again from mean lean Jeremy Northam. We're about to sneak on over to see a darkly lit version of a video game universe we only knew peripherally, as both of us too often preferred the VCR over the SNES. I scoop up my last bit of nacho cheese. The Drax slurps up about half a straw full of Pepsi. There's a pause as we wait for everyone to leave so I can tell him The Net was kinda cool and he can tell me to shut the hell up. Before said moment can occur, dude spews everywhere. Everywhere. In my nacho tray, half into his cup as he's trying to open it in time to catch the yellow chunks, but mostly on the floor. Turns out he's totally nervous about starting middle school! We're best friends that pretend to hate each other but freely talk about the crap that makes us nerdy emotional boys and admit that movies are the best way to escape, so instead of calling my mom to pick us up early, we still go see Mortal Kombat and while he holds his stomach and looks like death, he calls me an idiot for thinking Sandra Bullock is kind of a good actress. Every time I watch my taped VHS of The Net, I remember this day.

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  1. Blogger Jess | 9:09 AM |  

    So, I know you're probably thinking, is this a noxema commercial or what? But actually, I liked way normal movies for a teenage girl.

    This is a testerone fest, and I object. I have not seen any of these movies! None. And, let me tell you, 13 year old me frequented the theater because I could go alone with friends. No parents!

    What about The American President, Apollo 13, Empire Records, Clueless, French Kiss, Mallrats,or Now and Then?!? My vote is Clueless- what is not to like about that movie? A modernization of Emma, with Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, and Brittany Murphy before she looked like an anorexic junkie???? I mean, that was our generation, man. Because of that movie, my friends and I had lots of awkward boy-girl parties where we played "suck and blow" with playing cards. Did I enjoy it? As if!

  2. Blogger qualler | 9:54 AM |  

    Clueless isn't in here because it's actually good vs. Speed, Jurassic Park, and Home Alone, which are ironically good, but also good. Read the rules!

    Gotta go with Outbreak! I believe my reaction to it was the samesies as yours -- "whoa, what a grown-up movie! This is serious business!" Plus I think I read some book by Robin Cook that was also about the ebola virus. THEY BLEED FROM THEIR EYES!!! Isn't that crazy???

  3. Blogger Christine | 10:09 AM |  

    Yeah, Mallrats or Now and Then should definitely be included here!

    I get that Clueless was genuinely good and Empire Records was not enjoyable to watch again as an adult so neither could be included (Jess, I questioned Chris on Clueless as well)...but Mallrats? Come on. Include, include!

    But I love the Net - so I would probably vote for that anyway. Even if it wasn't the only movie on this list that I've actually seen.

    Vote = The Net

  4. Blogger qualler | 10:14 AM |  

    Don't they gotta also be high box office grosses? I believe Mallrats/Empire Records were box office floparoos...

  5. Blogger Unspar! | 10:45 AM |  

    I can't believe I've only seen two of these movies (Outbreak and The Net). I can barely bring myself to vote for either of them. I remember the night I watched Outbreak--I also watched Swamp Thing (the movie), which was far more enjoyable.

    I vote for The Net, if only because it's hilarious that something now so pedestrian as identity theft was once made into a suspense movie. Oh, Internet alarmism.

  6. Blogger chris | 1:11 PM |  

    Qualler's somehow managed to figure out the way my brain works! That's impressive. So yes, he is right on all accounts. Clueless is a great movie and does not deserve to be lumped in with these films. And my box office rule is to ensure that the movie was universally celebrated with tons of cash in its year by the populace. (Empire Records would totally be in the list of noms otherwise, though Christine might be right. It might not hold up today.)

    The American President and Apollo 13 had their appeal, but they were way too boring for 11/12-year-old me. And French Kiss was for moms I thought, until suddenly I found out girls our age liked it when we watched it in French class in high school. Now & Then, however, that actually almost made the list of nominations. I will consider it whole-heartedly for the Wild Card round.

    Do we really have a tie between The Net and Outbreak right now? That's amazing.

    No BAD BOYS fans though?!?! Will that be the next movie party?!

  7. Blogger Lady Amy | 1:21 PM |  

    Oh, man. Outbreak and The Net made me way way way too nervous. I'm voting for Now and Then.

  8. Blogger DoktorPeace | 3:41 PM |  

    Don't fret, Jess. I am a boy (TM) and I have seen none of these films myself.

    HOWEVER, some random girl (I think her name was Nancy?) did call me in 6th grade to go see Congo with her and her friends. My mom thought that movie looked too violent, so I had to refuse, and I haven't had a girlfriend since.

    If I can vote for Congo on those grounds, then I do.

  9. Blogger Sean | 7:31 PM |  

    I don't know what the f these rules are that you speak of. The competition makes no sense.

    Also, all of these movies suck. Not a single one is finest of anything.

    If this isn't the real contest, where is it? Are we in the Matrix? Did that movie come out in the 90's? Cause it should have.

  10. Blogger Lady Amy | 10:36 PM |  

    OMG -- can I change my vote to Congo? That is the saddest story ever, Doktor!

  11. Blogger Unspar! | 10:09 AM |  

    Three way tie among Outbreak, The Net, and Congo!!!

  12. Anonymous .molly. | 7:37 PM |  

    Got to represent for the ladies.
    Vote = The Net

    (though I have to state that my favorite 90s tech-centric flick is a two-way tie between "Hackers" and "Sneakers")

  13. Blogger Sean | 11:01 PM |  

    I'll play by the rules and vote Congo. Green olive drink.. yay.

    P.S. Sneakers is phenomenal. my voice is my passport, verify.

    P.P.S. the president from BSG is in sneakers and she's kind of hot (i think she's hotter in bsg with the wig).

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