In my previous article, where I reviewed Silvio Soldini’s Bread and Tulips, I also mentioned my new subscription to MUBI, a streaming platform that hosts thousands of movies from different decades, with a particular attention to cult movies; I really appreciate this because I have been watching movies since I was very little thanks to my grandfather’s video-library (he was a huge cinephile who owned plenty of movies on DVD and would also record films to VHS tapes whenever they were broadcast on the Italian television).
MUBI also includes a series of movies from the 1990s and I truly love movies from this decade because I was born in the ’90s, which was a particularly prolific period for cinema, thanks in part to the popularity of home video; Taschen’s volume on the films of the ’90s reports Scorsese’s thoughts about the potential of the VCR, which led to a renewed enthusiasm for cinema, allowing audiences to see films as often as they would like. These films are worth studying and appreciating, and nowadays they are also being rediscovered thanks to streaming (in Italy I have had difficulty finding some sought-after films on DVD, such as the iconic 1988 black comedy Heathers, which is only available on the second-hand market at high prices. I have found some of these movies on the European marketplace and I now have the chance to stream them again thanks to MUBI).
The 1990s cemented cinema’s belonging to universal culture, making it a common good. I have selected five films from this decade that I love very much; they are all included in the Taschen series curated by Jürgen Müller and I hope you will enjoy them as well:
1) Goodfellas (1990): I must have been fifteen years old when I first watched Goodfellas. It was one of my grandfather’s favorite movies and I watched it on DVD, which I once borrowed from his video-library. I fell in love with this gangster movie; as a young girl it was almost considered strange because it’s part of a genre that teenage boys generally like. I have always enjoyed watching this type of movie and am also a big fan of the 007 series. Goodfellas is a quasi-biographical chronicle of the life of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), an Italian-Irish gangster in New York, and it is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 bestselling book “Wiseguy – Life in a Mafia Family.” The story begins in Brooklyn in the late 1950s, when 13-year-old Henry observes the neighborhood mobsters from his apartment, all dressed in expensive suits, and longs to become like them. He then neglects school and begins to be a messenger for the boss, establishing himself in the neighborhood and also becoming “a good fella,” as the mobsters like to call each other. Over the years, he becomes inseparable friends with Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito, played by Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci respectively; however, some signs emerge later on that crumble the façade of their seemingly perfect gangster world.
The film is told like a novel thanks to Martin Scorsese’s love of detail and historical accuracy in filmmaking; the soundtrack is wonderful (I own the CD), with pieces from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that follow the various stages of Henry’s life, from simple Brooklyn guy to mafia criminal. It is one of the finest films of the ’90s and it won many awards (including an Oscar to Joe Pesci for Best Supporting Actor). It is at once comic and brutal; truly one of Scorsese’s best.
2) Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994): this is a little gem from British director Mike Newell (some of you may know him as the director of the fourth Harry Potter movie). It stars Hugh Grant as Charles, a staunch monogamist incapable of stable affection, who is invited to a wedding every week along with his friends, who one after another all get married. However, he meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell) in a love-at-first-sight situation; although it seems to end there, the two meet again at the next wedding. The series of weddings is interrupted by a funeral following the death of a close friend of Charles. Hence the title of the film, which is a satire of behavior and relationships in the British high society and shows how in the film the only couples truly in love are those who will never marry. The film has excellent writing and the screenplay was in fact edited by Richard Curtis, one of the most talented British writers. Made on a limited budget, it was probably the most successful British film of the 1990s before Notting Hill came out. A Time Magazine review wrote that: “Mike Newell’s film takes as its starting point one of the smallest realizations of modern life: exemplary of the yuppie species, the man spends most of his earnings on clothes to attend his friends’ weddings.” The director reveals very little about the characters’ daily lives, giving the viewer a chance to review these festively dressed people on their way to all these weddings and dwelling on the ones that are most interesting in terms of dialogue and mannerisms. The film is a perfect blend of comedy and melodrama to watch possibly on an evening with friends.READ MORE
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