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The Quest of 1997: The Single Finest Film of Our Generation?

Here it is, folks. The last official round of voting for determining the final nominees for the Single Finest Film of Our Generation. Yes, I will post a quick Wild Card round post next week touching on all the random flicks from 1990-1997 that I missed during my initial aggregation of contenders and/or have been nominated by you, the readers, at some point in the comments section, but other than that, this is it. Then, on November 10th, we will find ourselves with a winner from the following list of eligible films (plus two): Independence Day, Speed, Jurassic Park, The Mighty Ducks, Point Break, and Home Alone. It'll almost be as confusing as having eight (much less ten!) Best Picture nominees. Whoa, that just gave me an idea. What if there was an All-Time Oscars? Or even just a Decade Oscars? That would be awesome. Anyway, enough of that. The nods for the least nostalgic year and/or the year where our intense love for the cinema dominated and sometimes overly influenced our tastes as adolescents for approximately the last time, go to...

Air Force One: I ran out to the mailbox to get my hands on it, as I did every week. I thumbed straight through to the movie review section. Yes, it was true. Entertainment Weekly gave the Harrison Ford-as-president movie an A. I still remember what that issue felt like in my hands when, for the first time in my recollection as a budding teenager, an action film was "given the recognition it deserved" by a major critic. Some of the words that Owen Gleiberman (or Lisa Schwarzbum, I don't remember) used were beyond my understanding, but from what I could tell, they finally gave an A to a guns-n-explosions flick because it was "serious" and "triumphant." This is all in my head, mind you. I have no desire to go re-read that review for fear of interpreting it a completely different fashion. But that was it for me, for better or worse. I loved the mildness and sterility of Wolfgang Petersen's venture into the airplane action-drama subgenre (I also loved Executive Decision!) because EW told me to. But what matters is that at the time, it felt so good to cheer in my head when Ford yells at Gary Oldman, "get off my plane!" even though the movie was kinda boring.

Con Air: Now "mild" and "sterile" are definitely two adjectives not to be uttered when discussing the great Con Air. Instead, I would suggest that "fireball!" and "shit yeah!" would be more appropriate. And yes, the exclamation marks are totally necessary. Man, where to start with this one. Let's free associate, as I'm sure that's what Bay and Bruckheimer did while sculpting this piece of work. Dave Chappelle running and trying to catch up with the plane, Nicolas Cage's mullet and southern accent, John Malkovich giving this movie as much energy (if not more) and vitriol as any other film or play he's ever acted in, Ving Rhames being quintessential Ving Rhames, John Cusack and his hippie sandals and sunglasses, "Sweet Home Alabama" ad nauseum, and last but certainly not least, Steve Buscemi talking about wearing someone's head as a hat. What else do you want? That list right there should have made making this movie illegal, but it somehow found its way into cinemas with myself trembling with excitement as it began. (I felt really nervous about sneaking into this one at 14! I thought for sure Austin Powers would be the only awesome movie I saw that day!) All this and yet, there's still something that it's missing to really clinch the deal. What is it? Oh, methinks the answer lies below.

The Devil's Advocate: One simple beautiful word/extraterrestrial-sounding moniker, my friends. Keanu. Yes, I'm sorry, but I believe my hypothesis made about Keanu being our generation's Swayze may indeed be true. In fact, he may be even more than that. Already he's the only star to be in two of the final nominees for The Quest, possibly soon to be three, but instead of transitioning into a new "Finest Films" star for the 00s as his reign over the 90s came to a close, the man starred in the mothereffing Matrix. Mr. Reeves is so powerful that instead of passing the baton to a new so-bad-it's-good star, he retains his status and ups it a notch by starring in a film millions of people loved totally un-ironically. Amazing, right? Well, The Devil's Advocate may be one of his lesser-appreciated works, but it shouldn't be. Especially with Al Pacino playing the ACTUAL devil (unlike Meryl Streep totally NOT playing the devil in The Devil Wears Prada). And what happens when you have an already hyperactive insidious star like Pacino play the devil and Reeves as the doe-eyed protagonist? A dark delight of sinful pleasure and magnificent terror. That's what. It was even more scarring to watch than Con Air, and while this one I saw "legally" with my brother as my official guardian, I still remember feeling all icky and freaked out when leaving the budget theater. Then I realized that was just the Dots on the soles of my shoes, so I bought my own copy of this convoluted thriller previously viewed at Blockbuster and got totally mesmerized by how Keanu fights and (spoiler alert!) somehow wins against moral turpitude and demonic grandeur. It's a ridiculously awesome movie that I want to watch every time I think about it. That's a surefire sign of a bonafide Quest candidate.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: I don't want to diminish the competition though. Yes, Con Air and The Devil's Advocate are two of the most high octane mind-melters discussed throughout this entire journey, but there's something to be said for a warmed over teen slasher flick like IKWYDLS. First of all, take a look at that mouthful of a title. Wowzers! I've always been fascinated by titles of things, especially when they're even the least bit unique, so of course add an awkward title, the screenwriter from Scream, and the fact that it's based off a Lois Duncan novel (yeah I ate all her crap up during middle school silent reading), and you're guaranteed at least three viewings. Oh and don't forget about my first official teen crush: Ms. Jennifer Love Hewitt. I still kinda crush on her, but back in 1997, hoo boy, you did not want to hand me a magazine with her on the cover while I was standing up with nothing to hide my bottom front quadrant behind. Even better? The plot and actors were terrible, but Williamson knows how to deliver shoddy entertainment in a serviceable way no matter how bland or milquetoast its contents are. Everything was dark blue at night and bright yellow in the day time, making it visually striking to my 14-year-old brain while not being too weird, and it was essentially just a string of foot chases put together into a loose narrative. And I HEART foot chases! Way better than car chases. Some of you may have heard me rant about this before, so I'll stop before I get ahead of myself.

Breakdown: But there's always gotta be a dark horse. And here it be. If I were a braver person, I would put all my money behind this Kurt Russell suspense vehicle. In fact, just last night, Brigitte, Qualler, and I were discussing the severe absence of true suspense movies in the film landscape nowadays. Like suspense movies that are actually thrilling, sometimes even bordering on the horror genre. And I tell you what, the dearly departed JT Walsh as a morally ambiguous truck driver would still haunt my dreams if I were to revisit this classic, which I have wanted to do for a very long time, but I have never found a reason to replace my now-lost taped-off-HBO VHS. Anyone interested? This of course almost immediately disqualifies Breakdown, in which Russell and wife Kathleen Quinlan encounter the eponymous problem, only to be helped/kidnapped/terrorized by Walsh and crew for a relentless 90-some minutes, from getting my vote for the Quest, but it does deserve at least this much recognition. It's an intense film that takes place almost completely in the desert, and Russell is one of my all-time favorites (have I mentioned my love for Executive Decision yet? I wish he got more work nowadays!), therefore when you see sand stain Russell's jeans or the humidity cause him to sweat non-stop, you almost feel it yourself. That's how intense it is! I'm serious! Let's all go watch Breakdown! PLEASE?!?!?!!!

Vote for your totes fave in the comments, of course!

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  1. Blogger qualler | 8:40 AM |  

    Easy - The Devils Advocate get's my vote. *SPOILER ALERT* I wouldn't say that Keanu really defeats the Devil in this film, though, because at the end, when he returns to the courtroom, he again displays his vanity, and then that lady he's talking to turns back into Al Pacino as the Devil. *END SPOILER ALERT*

    Air Force One rawked when I first saw it but I re-watched it last winter and it's pretty unbearable with how many machine guns are shot inside an airplane.

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 9:59 AM |  

    This may be the best year yet! I remember seeing Air Force One and thinking it was great because it could really happen! And the scene from Con Air with Steve Buscemi and the little girl still gives me chills! And Keanu! And IKWYDLS--what a glorious cast! And Breakdown...I saw it, but I don't remember anything about it (I would definitely be in for a viewing, Chris).

    As much as I'd like to vote for Devil's Advocate (KEANU!!!!), I have to go with Air Force One. We took it so seriously back then! Can you believe it?

  3. Blogger chris | 10:15 AM |  

    Oh gravy, you're right, Qualler! Haha totally forgot about that awesome "last scare" ending.

    Totally good points, Unspar. We did take it so seriously! "Man, too bad Clinton's not badass! Terrorists would break his neck in no time!"

    And yes, I need to plan/make final decisions for the next movie party. The Quest has inspired so many ideas!

  4. Blogger Brigitte | 10:28 AM |  

    CON AIR! CON AIR! CON AIR!

    i still love this movie. it has everything a movie should have: a star-studded cast, explosions, lots of crazy criminals, a seemingly impossible situation, a jerk whose car gets smashed up by the plane, and a love story. and an original hit song. How do i live without you, con air?

  5. Blogger Sean | 12:07 PM |  

    IKWYDLS wins. Con Air is a close second.
    "What are you waiting for? Come and get me I'm right here!"
    Brilliant. Why does the contest stop at 1997? It should go up through graduating high school or 9/11. That's when our generation was defined.

  6. Blogger DoktorPeace | 2:15 PM |  

    I'll abstain this round, never having seen any of these all the way through. However, I did (and still do) stop every time I pass(ed) IKNWYDLS on television, for the same reason Chris graphically (in a not-so-graphic way) describes. Before J Love, I always thought I was a butt man...

  7. Blogger Christine | 5:29 PM |  

    Look at this close vote!

    Ima stop this tie right in its tracks: IKWYDLS.

    It officially started the marathon of predictable, pretty, scary movies all of which seemed to have hope of being as popular as Scream. And that marathon of bad horror is definitely a mark of our pop culture generation.

  8. Blogger Lane | 7:54 PM |  

    I will untie Christine, and vote Air Force One.
    Chris I think your next series could be the greatest performers of our generation...:)

  9. Blogger DoktorPeace | 1:24 AM |  

    I am just now watching The Fifth Element for the first time, and wondering why it's not on this list. Actually good? Not "good" enough? I don't know, but I'm having fun.

  10. Blogger Unspar! | 8:31 AM |  

    Good call, DP. Fifth Element for the wild card round!

  11. Blogger chris | 8:49 AM |  

    It's tooooo good!!!! I LOVE Fifth Element. Though it definitely does have Quest-esque qualities, Fifth Element is up there with Scream as one of the actually best films of the 90s, in my opinion.

    Oh, also, there's a four way tie between Con Air (got a vote on Facebook), Devil's Advocate, IKWYDLS, and Air Force One. Unless Brammer turns his abstaining vote into a real one for IKWYDLS or someone else votes, I'll be asking Jerksica for her input tonight...

  12. Blogger DoktorPeace | 4:09 PM |  

    Again the qualifications confuse me, as I maintain Jurassic Park is objectively good. I'm coming to believe confusion and chaos are Chris's real goals here.

    Anyway, I'll officially vote for IKWYDLS, if only because I don't think women like Jerksica should be suffraged. Also, J Love Hewitt circa that movie was in her element. The fifth element...

  13. Blogger chris | 1:14 PM |  

    Jurassic Park is only half objectively good, Brammer. I'm sorry, but it's truth. And it's my Quest and I'm a big baby, so there.

    Fifth Element is half awesome, half wicked, so therefore it's disqualified.

    Now where's my ba-ba binky?

  14. Blogger Adam | 8:45 AM |  

    I know it's probably far too late, but just in case, I vote for Con Air.

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