Nostalgic for ’90s movies

I think nostalgia always creeps up on you. It takes time to bloom — sometimes a lot of time — and ferments in the secret vats of your mind. Then one day, the vat is uncorked (that’s the metaphor we’re going with?) and suddenly nostalgia is flowing like wine all of over your brain.

I knew I’ve always been heavily nostalgic for 1980s movies, but I never really thought I would be the same for 1990s flicks… until I suddenly was. Guess the fermenting process finally finished, because here we are over two decades later, and I’m finding that I have a swoony soft spot for movies from the ’90s.

I mean, it makes total sense for a lot of reasons from my life. It’s the decade that we started Mutant Reviewers, after all, and that drove a lot of passion toward film. It’s also the decade that I worked in video rental stores, got my first TV and VCR, grew from a teen to an adult, went through college, and saw so, so many movies. It’s the decade that I settled on many of my top 10 favorite movies, such as Empire Records, PCU, and Hudson Hawk, and leaned hard on movies to be my post-college best friends as I moved away to start a new career.

That’s one of the lovely wonder of movies, that they become these preserved time capsules of personal memories and associations. Just by popping certain movies in, I’m transported back to my college dorm rooms, or my high school bedroom, or on dates, or in my first apartment. I’m reminded of what I used to think was cool and important, what characters I admired, and what quotes I committed to memory. Many of these movies remind me of the painful Gen X angst that was prevalent (not to mention the horrible fashion!).

Beyond the time travel aspect, I’m finding that from the vantage point of 2021, there’s a certain charm to movies from the ’90s. I seem to like their comedies a whole lot more than ones from successive decades, for starters, and scifi films hit this brief transitory period between practical models/effects and CGI. I liked the experimentation that emerged from non-summer blockbusters. And, of course, I adore the cult movies that grew like crazy.

Was it all perfect and amazing? Hah, no, of course not. That’s how nostalgia works: It makes you remember fondly what you loved while actively suppressing recollections of stinkers. The 90s empowered Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich to make far too many stupid explodey movies. Parody films devolved into the lowest common denominator. And certain rebellious and crude movies like Clerks I find way too juvenile and crass to enjoy today.

But I still love this decade and its movies. I love the franchises like TMNT and Batman and Star Trek that let me geek out in private before the internet arrived to make it cool to do so with strangers. I liked the Disney renaissance animated movies before they turned them into terrible live action copycats. I really enjoyed discovering quotable comedies like Austin Powers, Happy Gilmore, and Ace Ventura that integrated into conversations between friends.

And I’m excited that there are still so many ’90s movies that I’ve yet to see. How many buried gems are waiting to be discovered? By the power of nostalgia, I’m going to find out…

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