Tuesday, November 21, 2023

24 Hours of Movies: 1995

by Patrick Bromley
A marathon devoted to a surprisingly great year for movies.
I didn't appreciate how good 1995 was in 1995. There were plenty of movies that I liked, sure, but I didn't really appreciate how the tides were turning, how a new kind of indie was springing up, how the blockbusters were playing with formula in new and interesting ways, and how many cool movies existed on the fringes. With hindsight, I'd take 1995 over most years of the 2000s. Programming this marathon gave me new respect for a movie year I now know I'll keep coming back to.

10 am - Heavyweights (dir. Steve Brill)
You know, for kids. This cult Disney comedy written by Judd Apatow and future Happy Madison company man Steve Brill and directed by Brill centers on a group of kids sent to a summer camp that's recently been taken over by a fitness guru (Ben Stiller in full "Ben Stiller" mode). None of it is especially funny and a lot of the jokes about being overweight have not dated well, but the majority of the cast is very winning and it has a pleasant '90s vibe that Adam Riske can love.

11:45 am - Money Train (dir. Joseph Ruben)
Let's get some mid-'90s action going sooner than later. Rewatching Money Train recently, I was struck by how '70s it feels: the movie is in no hurry to get to its central conceit (cops rob train full of money), instead content to just hang out and observe flawed characters for most of its running time. Plus, Robert Blake shows up! If this had come out in 1975 people would still be clamoring for a Kino Lorber Blu-ray. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson have great leftover White Men Can't Jump chemistry and Jennifer Lopez makes a major impression in one of her very first feature leads. The '90s sheen and general dopiness might keep people underestimating this one, but they're wrong. Plus it's a holiday movie!

1:30 pm - Safe (dir. Todd Haynes)
If we want our marathon to truly represent the year 1995 in film, it can't be all fun. One of the things that makes the year special is that it marks a true indie movie breakthrough, like Safe, the sophomore feature from the great Todd Haynes. Julianne Moore stars as a suburban housewife who becomes allergic to pretty much everything and has to go live on a commune among people with a similar condition. It's an anxiety-ridden nightmare for much of its running time, but it's also brilliantly acted and directed -- one of those great sophomore studio (or semi-studio) leaps that so many filmmakers got to take in mid-to-late '90s. What an exciting time to be a movie fan.

3:30 pm - S.F.W. (dir. Jefery Levy)
If we're gonna do a 1995 marathon, let's commit to the 1995 of it all. S.F.W. might be the most 1995 movie ever made. The story of a bratty, obnoxious slacker (Stephen Dorff) who becomes a cult sensation after surviving a hostage situation inside a convenience store, S.F.W. is some real '90s Gen X bullshit. The music is all "Creep" and Soundgarden and Hole, the cast all Jake Busey and Natasha Gregson Wagner and early Reese Witherspoon. I don't think I like this movie very much but it wouldn't be a 1995 marathon without it.

5:15 pm - Crimson Tide (dir. Tony Scott)
While not his most commercial movie (that's still Top Gun), Crimson Tide is probably Tony Scott's best commercial movie. It's also one of the best commercial movies of 1995, right alongside Apollo 13. For a filmmaker remembered for his flashy style, Scott was always at his best when he really focused in on his characters, and that's exactly what he does with this tense underwater stand-off between Denzel Washington (in the first of many, many collaborations) and Gene Hackman. Another reminder that he was a filmmaker capable of more than just style over substance, Crimson Tide is the rare movie that's made for a wide audience but doesn't sacrifice intelligence or depth.

7:30 pm - Waterworld (dir. Kevin Reynolds)
Let's give the Primetime Pizza slot to one of my favorites of 1995, Kevin Reynold's underloved Waterworld. While it has found more of an audience over the years, it's still not recognized for the great action adventure film that it is. Kevin Costner seems to actively be playing against nearly every hero trope, but there's so much sweep and scope to the action and the practical sets and settings are so great that it all balances out in a very satisfying way. The idea that this was considered a "failure" of a blockbuster (it still made money) in 1995 is just further proof of how far we've fallen when it comes to blockbuster filmmaking. For the sake of time, we're going to watch the theatrical cut even though I prefer the longer "Ulysses" cut.

9:45 - Shallow Grave (dir. Danny Boyle)
The UK's answer to Blood Simple, Danny Boyle's feature debut remains a solid neo-noir about a trio of awful flatmates (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, and Ewan McGregor in a real "Holy shit, who is that?" breakthrough performance) living together in Edinburgh whose lives and relationships begin to unravel when they come into a large sum of money provided they're able to dispose of the corpse that left it behind. Pitch-black and nasty while still being flashy in that early Danny Boyle style, Shallow Grave is the perfect sort of mid-'90s indie gem that no longer exists.

11:30 - Se7en (dir. David Fincher)
As we move into the overnight horror section of our marathon, it makes sense to start with 1995's most horrific thriller and the movie that made David Fincher a household name. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are Sherlock Holmes and Dumbass Watson investigating a series of murders based on the seven deadly sins; the rest is cinema and meme creation history. Revisiting Se7en recently, I was reminded of what an incredibly accomplished and well-constructed movie it is, further evidence that David Fincher is not the second coming of Kubrick. He makes very good thrillers.

1:30 am - Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (dir. Ernest Dickerson)
When people complain that the '90s were bad for horror, they a) are wrong and b) aren't talking about 1995, which has more good horror movies than I'm able to program in a single night. Let's get things going with the great Ernest Dickerson's Demon Knight, the best of the Tales from the Crypt movies and one of the best and most entertaining horror movies of the 1990s. Billy Zane is having a blast, the practical effects are incredible, and Dickerson directs with nonstop energy, invention, and color. It's too bad that this is a horror movie that appeals almost exclusively to horror fans because everyone else is missing out.

3 am - The Mangler (dir. Tobe Hooper)
There's no way I'm going to miss an opportunity to program a Tobe Hooper movie if I have the chance. His last studio movie is one of his biggest swings, an adaptation of a Stephen King short story about a haunted laundry press that requires blood sacrifices. This is a a horror movie for Tobe Hooper devotees (or lovers of weird and wild horror), with his usual themes of capitalism run amok on display brought to life under German expressionist influences and Robert Englund under a ton of seemingly unnecessary prosthetics. Watching it under these conditions -- overnight and in the context of all 1995 movies -- is going to give our audience new appreciation for the movie, I'm sure of it. The Mangler rules.

4:45 am - Tales from the Hood (dir. Rusty Cundieff)
We'll close our our horror overnight with the best anthology of the 1990s, an "urban" horror film that could have rested on its gimmick but instead opted to be awesome. Clarence Williams III is having a blast as a mortuary owner who tells cautionary tales to a couple of young criminals. This is the rare anthology where all of the stories are good and different. I'd say it should have launched a franchise but the truth is that it kind of did and maybe it was better left alone.

6:30 am - Congo (dir. Frank Marshall)
I thought about programming Before Sunrise as the sun comes up because I'm corny as fuck (and because it's one of the best movies of 1995), but I'd rather wake up with some gorilla-infested weirdness. Dylan Walsh and Laura Linney star in this profoundly silly Michael Crichton adaptation that someone, somewhere certainly thought would be the next Jurassic Park. I have to thank Adam Riske for giving me newfound appreciation for this one. We're definitely having sesame cake and green drop drink for breakfast.

8:30 am - Now and Then (dir. Lesli Linka Glatter)
It's early and the kids may be joining us again as they wake up, so let's go with this lovely coming-of-age drama about four young girls (Gaby Hoffman, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and Ashleigh Aston Moore [RIP]) growing up in 1970 Indiana. The hook of the movie, that it cuts back to the girls' much more famous adult counterparts, feels like an unnecessary marketing hook; it would be better if it just focused on the younger versions. Alas, this is a good movie that never got the shot it deserves and this is the perfect time in our marathon for it.

10:15 am - While You Were Sleeping (dir. Jon Turteltaub)
Ok, I know we're over 24 hours at this point, but we have to wrap up this marathon the right way. It's the holidays, and this is a great holiday movie in which a sentient Brown Sweater (Sandra Bullock) falls in love with two brothers, one who's in a coma (Peter Gallagher) and the other who's Bill Pullman. The choice is obvious. I miss theatrical romcoms, as nowadays they're mostly the product of streamers. This is one of my favorite romcoms of the '90s, and a very sweet, very gentle, surprisingly funny way to close things out.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate, and Happy Week to those who don't!


  1. I’m a fan of Now and Then and I’m glad it’s represented here. It’s the movie that caused kid me to fall in love with Christina Ricci (I’m not sure if I’m still there with present day Christina Ricci).

    1. And I agree I could do without the adult sections.

  2. Nice roster; I'd never heard of Money Train, but now I want to see it. Speaking of '95, another great film that, IMHO, would make for an interesting podcast? One based on a classic book, and that I think of every year when winter starts to set in? Muppet Treasure Island. (Okay, okay, it's actually a '96 picture, not '95, but I'm sure it was being worked on in '95. Also, it has pirates!)