Hello readers! My name is Emma Nicholson and I’m new here at MFR; so, to introduce myself I present to you my favorite films from the year I was born: 1992.
The 1990s saw the beginning of the digital revolution which would very quickly come to dominate cinema, confining most dramas to the indie sector (and awards season). However, nineties films were still bursting with stories of real people, in the real world, leading believable lives.
My parents’ extensive VHS collection informed my early appreciation of film. This was where I would discover tales of misfits, family films, and thrilling action.
Here are my five favorite films from 1992, some very much off the beaten track: exactly where you’ll find me.
Chaplin is not terribly easy to sit through. Perhaps it’s my modern, concise, TV biopic familiarity talking, but Richard Attenborough’s passion project falls short of its potential. That said, Robert Downey Jr. gives an uncanny portrayal of the slapstick king in a performance which had Chaplin’s daughter awestruck at the actor’s resemblance of her father.
This picture is uncomfortable and fascinating in equal measure with some magical moments and artistic set pieces, even if it is too much ‘talkie’ and not enough Chaplin. While the film doesn’t stand up to repeated viewing, Downey Jr.’s masterful acting is so enchanting that the clunky storytelling can almost be forgiven.
4. A River Runs Through It
In A River Runs Through It, director Robert Redford invites the audience to share in the memories and life lessons of one man’s Western childhood. Craig Sheffer is the straight-and-narrow Norman Maclean, big brother to Brad Pitt’s defiant and free-spirited Paul. Their parents are the anxious Brenda Blethyn and Tom Skerritt‘s austere and watchful minister who teaches them morals and integrity through the medium of fishing.
At the heart of this nostalgic all-American tale is a tender story of family nestled comfortably in the stunning vistas of Montana. This coming-of-age drama is a good old-fashioned heart warmer, and has the audience hook line and sinker.
3. School Ties
This is a film I had the good fortune to stumble upon on Netflix one rainy afternoon. It is a story of a talented quarterback who leaves his Jewish family to attend an elite prep school. Set in the mid-1950s when casual anti-semitism was common, David (Brendan Fraser) is persuaded to hide his Jewishness. In a melting pot of themes from coming-of-age, rags-to-riches, and outsider drama, David struggles to balance his ambition with his secret identity.
Surrounded by his privileged contemporaries and their lazy entitlement, Greene fits in just fine, at first. But his secret inevitably crumbles and it comes to light in a room full of his school’s highborn alumni.
Finally, after a climax where the school’s honour code justice system meets with toxic social prejudice, the lasting impression is of acceptance, not just among friends, but within your own identity.
2. Scent of a Woman
Al Pacino won an Oscar for his portrayal of blind, sarcastic and abrasive Lieutenant-Colonel, “not sir!” Frank Slade, opposite Chris O’Donnell’s prep school scholar. The movie is cut from the same heartwarming cloth as Rain Man. Both characters have something the other desperately needs.
Built around the familiar coming-of-age formula, it also has ingredients from prep-school misfit drama thrown in. The schools internal justice system is the setting for the finale, a popular theme in 1992, apparently. It culminates in an overblown cheese-fest which is also the least convincing scene of the film.
Scent of a Woman will have you sitting uncomfortably through Al Pacino’s many volleys of insults – “uh oh, we got a moron here!” In the end, I defy you not to find a smile stretching across your face.
1. Peter’s Friends
The thespian pedigree is strong in this comedy featuring a merry band of British acting royalty (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, etc.). Peter (Stephen Fry) has invited his friends to stay for New Year in a hopeful attempt at reconciliation of their student days. The convincingly flawed characters and infinitely quotable dialogue ripple with purest British sarcasm. It meets pleasingly at the crossroads between Blackadder and Richard Curtis (Love Actually, etc.)
This brilliantly awkward film is carelessly happy and desperately sad all at once. Kenneth Branagh sums up the central theme of bittersweet nostalgia perfectly: “it’s like kindergarten, school, university, Black Hole…”
So, there you have it. Of the relatively few movies I’ve seen from my year of birth, these are my top five. What are your favorite films from 1992?