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o you think you’re a 90s fan? OK, Walker, Texas Ranger, can you handle this? It’s I Love the 90s, and this is 1996! The flicks, the fashions, the trends, the TV, the tunes—a totally awesome year that brought us these burning questions:
Were Rage Against the Machine really so revolutionary?:
Zach Smola: Rage made you want to be political in the sense that you wanted to read the anarchist cookbook and overthrow something after hearing them. That’s politics, right?
And what made those damn Tamagotchis so popular?:
Gavin Mueller: It's all the fun of feeding and cleaning up after your pet without all the hassle of real-life interaction with anything. What more could a kid want?
Because you still love the 90s, because you still have nightmares about the dead baby from Trainspotting, admit it—this is 1996!
*** Beck*** Dilbert*** Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony*** Fargo***
*** Mentos*** M2*** Rage Against The Machine***
*** Romeo and Juliet*** Fugees*** Slasher Films***
*** Swingers*** Zach Smola Remembers 1996*** Tamagotchi***
*** Busta Rhymes*** Kareem Estefan Remembers 1996*** Jackie Chan/Chuck Norris*** No Doubt***
*** Macarena*** Space Jam*** Loser of 1996: Singers Turned Actresses***
*** Garbage*** Forgotten Films: Dead Man***
*** Video Game Consoles*** Trainspotting***
Ken Munson: Goofy white boys: your leader has arrived.
Christina Adkison: Beck became popular because mankind is fascinated by things they do not understand. Countless people are fascinated with the paranormal. Beck is as incomprehensible as musicians come.
John Rothery: He’s a cowboy musician trapped in the face of a choirboy.
Ken Munson: Beck was so playfully bizarre, he was like a novelty one-hit wonder, except he had albums and albums full of such treasures. And my God, that boy could dance. Granted, his dancing was all in his legs and not in his body, but it was great all the same.
R.S. Ross: In the US, MTV’s decision to put the wiry weirdo’s “Loser” video on heavy rotation made him an overnight sensation for, um, “cool kids” everywhere. It was an anthem for a lot of ostracized adolescents.
Tony Van Groningen: “Loser” was such a hit, I think, because it sort of reflected a lot of the sentiment of grunge music but did it in a ridiculous manner and in the form of an extremely catchy pop song.
Andrew Unterberger: “Loser” was one of the craziest hits of the 90s, one-upping the Beasties for playful zaniness and even reversing the song’s hook for one chorus (almost 10 years before Missy)!
Ken Munson: The Beck song formula: “Let’s throw some weird random shit in here.” See also: The Beck video formula.
R.S. Ross: Beck’s “Loser” vid was so trashy! I remember Beck standing on top of a roof, strumming his guitar and when he sings “a stain on my shirt” we see an image of—you guessed it—an oblong grease smudge on his shirt.
Tony Van Groningen: Apparently the once-angsty youth were more than ready for it, because as much as it sounded like a one hit wonder at the time, we all know how big Beck got in the years to follow.
Matt Chesnut: Odelay: It’s like Paul’s Boutique except a little less hip-hop and some folky shit.
Josh Timmermann: Yes. What a good record! 1996 actually wasn't a very good year at all for music, or at least not for albums, but I can remember buying Odelay, and listening to for the first time, thinking, "Well, this is it—this is what's been missing."
Ben Woolhead: Mellow Gold might have signaled potential future greatness, but Odelay was the real deal—a jaw-droppingly awesome postmodernist mish-mash of just about every genre under the sun which, while joyous and playful throughout, never lapsed into shallow parody. I could—and did—listen to it for hours without getting tired.
Zach Smola: I don’t think anyone expected Odelay to unconditionally kick nearly as much ass as it did, does, and forever will. Not even Beck.
Ben Woolhead: The lyrics simply had to be read to be believed—they’re generally far too bizarre to be deduced from just listening to the tracks. I constantly found myself thinking, “Did he really just say that?!
Matt Chesnut: At any rate, Odelay is a defining record that ushered in post-modernism into pop music or shaggy dogs on cover art, depending on who you ask.
Ken Munson: It was ages before I realized that it really was a leaping dog on the album cover.
Adrien Begrand: Odelay was probably the single greatest moment for those funny looking noodle dogs everywhere. Does anyone know what those dogs are really called?
Ben Woolhead: As for a favorite song from Odelay, it would have to be one of the trio of singles: “Devil’s Haircut”, still guaranteed to get me on the dancefloor; “The New Pollution”, slick and suave; and “Where It’s At”, with its brilliant video which starts out with Beck as a road worker in the middle of the desert and ends up with a massive line dance.
Brad Shoup: What about those who swing both ways? AC/DC’s?
Adrien Begrand: How did Beck get so darn popular? Must've been that devil's haircut he had in his mind. That, and the incredible electric piano hook in "Where It's At".
Kareem Estefan: Beck never recaptured the Top 10 glory he tasted with “Loser”, but who could have expected that he would even make another dent in the mainstream, let alone release four Top 100 singles and a double-platinum album?
Brad Shoup: Maybe it was the hip-hop angle. His intial gimmick was the slacker rap. Even on Odelay, the presence of the Dust Brothers added a hip-hop feel to a lot of the material. Utterly bizarre for alternative, soon to be imitated by every frat band with a Sublime album and a nickel bag.
Ken Munson: Most critics ask me to take Beck way too seriously. I mean, Jesus. It’s just Beck.
John Rothery: Was he authentic? Does authenticity matter?
Zach Smola: Everyone talked a lot about how Nirvana’s greatest virtue was the fact that Nevermind convinced every teenage boy he could be in a massively successful band. If that is the case, than Odelay convinced us everyone could be a floppy-haired visionary. Plus, you just can’t buy lyrics like “You only got one finger left, and it’s pointin’ at the door.”
Kareem Estefan: Beck only ranks behind Radiohead in managing to captivate popular audiences while remaining extremely innovative.
Brad Shoup: Beck has been many things in his Beck-like career - musical chameleon, indie gateway drug, twenty-trick pony. But he will never be the new Dylan. He is the first of the new Becks, and that is good enough.
Brad Shoup: As if office proles needed another thing thinking for them, now we have Dilbert.
Tony Van Groningen: Along with the Office Space movie, Dilbert has completely captured and satirized the corporate mentality that in so many ways characterizes the 1990s.
Ken Munson: Dilbert is the comic strip that scared millions of college kids away from office jobs.
Tony Van Groningen: I was pretty indifferent to Dilbert until I graduated college and got a corporate office job; all of a sudden, Dilbert became really damn funny.
Ken Munson: There’s a theory that before you apply somewhere for a job, you should check the cubicles and see how many Dilbert strips there are. Lots of Dilbert strips = Pointy-haired boss equivalent works there. Search for employment elsewhere.
Christina Adkison: At the age of eleven, I didn’t understand the comics at the time. But now that I actaully have a Pointy-Haired Boss, I really appreciate them.
Tony Van Groningen: The various characters in Dilbert all had equivalents in my office. I even got fired by a fat human version of Catbert.
Christina Adkison: The best comic strips were the ones with Dogbert and/or Catbert. Whatever they said was always funnier than the humans.
Kareem Estefan: Dogbert was definitely the highlight of the Dilbert comics. If I remember correctly, he was just like the dog from Family Guy, except better.
Andrew Unterberger: Dogbert was like a cross between Snoopy, Brian from Family Guy, and a James Bond villain—more proof that, like I’ve always suspected, dogs are pure evil.
Michael Heumann: My favorite character has got to be Ratbert, the Sisyphean rodent whose best friend is a toilet paper roll.
Kareem Estefan: The mere concept of a dog named “Dogbert”, a rat named “Ratbert”, and so on continually sent me into long fits of laughter. There’s the sign of a good comic—it keeps you laughing even when it’s not trying to be funny.
Michael Heumann: I always appreciated Dilbert. I even watched the TV series (which wasn't bad, really).
Christina Adkison: I watched the cartoon a couple of times but it weirded me out….Dilbert had a mouth!!
Josh Timmermann: I used to try to read Dilbert because it was supposed to be so funny and all that, but I never laughed. I just scratched my head and sucked my thumb the way you do when you're the only one not in on the joke.
Zach Smola: I thought comics were supposed to be funny. But I guess that in the same way over weight single 30-year-old women can relate to “Cathy” and strict conservative right-wing Christian parents can relate to “Family Circus”, so can boring office workers find a boring comic about how boring office life is funny in their free-time.
Ken Munson: I think Dilbert was the last good comic strip to come on the scene. Now there’s nothing but crap in the funnies, but Dilbert is holding out strong.
John Rothery: These are still being produced now and are very funny. The cutting nature of the observation continues to leaves me in a nebulous emotional zone, bisecting the laughter and crying genes.
Pat Brereton: “Thuggish ruggish bone bone bone bone…”
Ken Munson: I really like Bone Thugs, I do. I like that they mostly sing their lyrics instead of rapping them, and I like that they can spit them out and mind-blowing speed.
Zach Smola: The Bone Thugs n Harmony, to use the full name, were simply too fast of rappers to ever achieve lasting success.
R.S. Ross: How cheesy were these guys!? They were from Cleveland, which was close to where I grew up, so my classmates and I took a special interest in these Afro-touting babblers. I mean, 13 year-old girls talk this way when they’re stoned on sugar. THIS was the cutting edge of rap?
Pat Brereton: Bone Thugs originated in Cleveland, Ohio. They were pretty big on a nationwide scale, but in Cleveland they were huge. Their half-sung/half-rap schtick went over especially well in the stark-white suburbs and in my west-side, all-guys, 95% white high school.
Zach Smola: I really, really didn’t like Bone Thugs when they first came out, and by 1996 I was as immersed as I was ever gonna get in gangsta rap. I hated the super fast, almost unintelligible rapping, and the sing-along choruses…gangsta rap mixed with R&B; just didn’t seem legit at the time.
Pat Brereton: The people who actually went to their early concerts were treated like astronauts, and there was a rumor that the older brother of a kid I knew did drugs with Layzie Bone. All I knew was that they wore Browns and Cavs jerseys in their videos on MTV, and that was okay by me.
Ken Munson: If I ever direct a movie about my life, one scene will feature me sitting on a roof reflecting on things with “1st of tha Month” playing in the background. And “Tha Crossroads” may be the saddest song I’ve never understood.
Pat Brerton: “Prayyyyyyy, and we pray and we pray, and we pray, and we pray
Everyday, everyday, everyday, everyday
and we pray, and we pray, and we pray, and we pray”
Matt Chesnut: This song was nutso huge in San Antonio. KTFM probably played it five times every hour.
Brad Shoup: What a classic song. Made Cleveland the hip-hop capital of the country for the next decade.
Kareem Estefan: For the innumerable listeners doubting that Bone Thugs n’ Harmony were rapping actual English words, the video for “Tha Crossroads” spelled things out.
Tony Van Groningen: The video was pretty cheesed out as well, with the angel of death and everybody in white, I think Heaven may have been involved but I haven’t seen it for almost ten years now.
Brad Shoup: The video gave me the willies. Remember when Uncle Charles lost his retinas to the angel of death? Damn.
Gavin Mueller: I MISS MY UNCLE CHARLES, Y'ALL
Andrew Unterberger: “Tha Crossroads” had me believing more than I ever could in ten years of Sunday School.
Josh Timmermann: Music about heaven and souls and stuff doesn't usually register with me all that much. It's a pretty good song, I guess, but I'm holding for out for a more atheist-acceptable R&B; number about how being dead just really sucks, period, sans all that "you're in a better place now" horseshit.
R.S. Ross: The epitome of lame. I’m all for Christian forgiveness, but why does every sleazy rapper (or Ronald Regan for that matter) get the benefit of sainthood when they die?
Brad Shoup: In hip-hop soteriology, everyone in the hood makes it to heaven. But first, you gotta put on your hiking shoes.
Gavin Mueller: In Eazy E's heaven, there's nary a fat girl to be seen.
Zach Smola: After the chronicles depicted in “First of tha Month” and the tear jerking beauty that was “Tha Crossroads”, people simply got too tired of not understanding what was going on. The videos helped. But, essentially, the Bone Thugs failed in the same light that all existential and post-modern works fail—the general public simply isn’t smart enough.
Gavin Mueller: The only thing with longevity coming out of Ohio is fast food chains.
Tony Van Groningen: Bone Thugs is a lot easier for me to listen to if I think of it as a pop song than as a gangsta rap song—they do have some damn fine harmonies.
Ken Munson: When my cousin died last March, I poured out a 40 for him and listened to this song over and over. See you at the crossroads, man.
Zach Smola: Genius. Or something.
Ken Munson: Oh ya, Fargo, ya, now that’s one fine movie, yer darn tootin.
Adrien Begrand: Fargo is the definitive prairie movie. People in Minnesota, North Dakota, and even Saskatchewan and Manitoba related to this movie on so many levels. The little smalltown prairie quirks the Coens nailed make this movie so special. Uh, not that we love to stuff our friends in wood chippers or anything...
Zach Smola: Easily the best Coen Bros. flick. Unlike some of their zanier comedies, this one had the teeth of being based—however loosely—on a true story.
Pat Brereton: The opening credits say the movie is “Based on a true story,” which is a bunch of BS.
Kareem Estefan: Fargo recounts the “true story” of an inept car salesman’s attempt to escape his financial problems by hiring two men to kidnap his wife and demand ransom from her rich father.
Christina Adkison: However, the only intelligent person in town (aka the pregnant sheriff) is hot on the trail of his plot. Right away, we realize that the premise of this movie is unrealistic. There are at least six people in this movie and we all know that there are less than five people in Minnesota.
Kareem Estefan: Needless to say, the plan falls through, many people die, and Steve Buscemi is called “funny-looking” on more than one occasion.
Ken Munson: This film finally put on a point on it: Steve Buscemi is funny-looking. More than most people, even.
Pat Brereton: All the actors did a great job, but some type of Oscar should have gone to William H. Macy for his absolutely perfect channeling of Ned Flanders.
Ken Munson: William H. Macy plays the most squareheaded, and most pathetic, criminal in history. Marge destroys his defense after, what, talking to him twice? Columbo would have cornered the guy in two and a half seconds.
Ken Munson: The best scene is where Macy drives up to his father-in-law’s dead body, and there’s a sad pause, and then you just see the trunk pop open.
R.S. Ross: “Blood has been shed, Jerry. In Brainerd.”
Josh Timmermann: This movie features one of the oddest movie scenes to somehow not end up on the cutting room floor—Marge's dinner with old high school classmate Mike Yamagita, who, rather inexplicably, lies about having married a fellow acquaintance of theirs whom he claims has since died, when neither, Marge later finds out, is actually true. It’s been cited as the key scene in the film, and its inclusion in the movie is fascinating in and of itself.
Zach Smola: My favorite Fargo related memory is the fact that a strange woman once went seeking the money hidden in the film, which, contrary to its opening credits, was not actually based on a true story. That strange woman died looking for that money, which seems fodder for another Coen bros. movie.
Adrien Begrand: The part where Buscemi buries the money in the snow, looks one way, sees miles of barbed wire fence, looks the other way, sees miles of barbed wire fence...that's EXACTLY what winter's like out here.
Ken Munson: Fargo is the movie that introduced the woodchipper into everybody’s violent revenge fantasies.
Gavin Mueller: I love that all McDormand's character hears about Buscemi is that he's weird-looking. When she finally meets up with him, only one of his legs is left. Gotcha!
Adrien Begrand: You could definitely understand the reasoning behind Peter Stormare stuffing Buscemi's character in the chipper. After all, the guy was a Jose Feliciano fan, for crying out loud.
Kareem Estefan: Fargo might not contain much of the oddball humor central to the Coen Brothers’ films, but it presents the director/producer team as irrefutable masters of characterization and setting.
Michael Heumann: Yes, this is the best Cohen film ever, if only because it's the only one I can actually sit through without thinking, "Dammit, George Clooney/Nicholas Cage/Jeff Bridges/Tim Robbins/etc., will you just shut the fuck up for a minute?!"
Zach Smola: While Francis McDormand saying “I think I’m gonna barf” is one of filmed history’s zeniths, it’s still no Big Lebowski.
Kareem Estefan: To the brothers’ credit, Fargo is not only the story of a horrific crime, but also a disturbing look into the bleakest fragments of American life. and it ranks alongside Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski as one of the Coen Brothers’ finest films.
Ken Munson: Doo doo doo doo, doo doo… DOO WAH!!
Christina Adkison: “No matter what comes, fresh goes better with life, with Mentos Fresh and full of life!”
Pat Brereton: In the mid-1990s, Mentos had the single greatest run of commercials since, well, forever. I remember having conversations in grade school that actually began with the words: “Did you see the new Mentos commercial?”
Ken Munson: Mentos commercials were like a product of another era, if not another planet. I was blown away the first time I saw one.
R.S. Ross: These freaky adverts—straight from Denmark, I think—were fabulous. Whether it was inadvertent or not, they played as ironic and that was a lot smarter than anything else at the time.
Ken Munson: It was so cheesy I kept waiting for the ad’s ACTUAL punch line, where it would reveal itself as a parody or ironic or something. But that didn’t happen; it was genuinely that cheesy, and unaware of it too. I was so dumbfounded that my jaw literally dropped at the end of it.
Michael Heumann: I enjoyed these ads. They prove that European culture is as stupid and insipid as American culture (only with slightly less glitter).
Gavin Mueller: Mentos: the breathmint that aids in social situations, not by freshening breath, but by inspiring quirky solutions to life's annoyances.
Christina Adkison: The commercials consisted of something really crappy happening to the person, like getting wet paint on their suit by sitting down on a park bench. But, through the power of Mentos, aka Crack Tablets, and creative problem solving, everything goes better with Mentos: fresh and full of life.
Brad Shoup: Mentos, judging by the commercials, was candy courage, allowing you to clear your mind, hatch ingenious solutions, and convince construction workers to pick up your car and manually parallel park it.
Zach Smola: I just like the notion that Mentos can solve any problem. They are the McGyver of breath mints.
Tony Van Groningen: Personally, I really loved the awesomely cheesy European style Mentos commercials. But I also really liked the Mentos product.
Ken Munson: Mentos are actually fine little things. I eat ‘em.
R.S. Ross: Did I!? The mixed fruit packs were terrific! So terrific I ate three packs a day for an entire summer. How can you beat that chewy center? And how does Mentos get so fresh?
Tony Van Groningen: Mint Mentos were pretty fresh-making, but don’t hold up compared to an Altoid. The fruit-flavored Mentos weren’t fresh-making, but they tasted damn good. If I could find them, I would definitely eat them.
Gavin Mueller: I've had restaurant mints left on my check that were fresher.
Pat Brereton: I did try Mentos once, and, yes, they are that fresh.
Andrew Unterberger: My fondest memories of the Mentos craze are of when the Foo Fighters did that parody video for “Big Me”.
Ken Munson: The “Big Me” video wasn’t so much a parody of Mentos as it was of the song itself, by pointing out that it was wimpy enough to be the theme for a Mentos commercial.
Zach Smola: I never really liked the song “Big Me” at the time, but I thought the video was incredible. The initial Mentos commercials were definitely filmed in foreign lands, and it was high time someone made fun of them properly.
Brad Shoup: What’s great about the “Big Me” video is that it wasn’t a parody! Only the smiles of the candy-holders were bigger. I’m sure Mentos was coming out with a kid-pops-Mentos-and-rocks-it-with-band commercial, the Foos just beat them to it.
Zach Smola: But then Mentos, once the video hit, started trying harder to make rational commercials, and that was the end.
Andrew Unterberger: Thank god for the demise of Mentos, though, for it made the success of those Winterfresh commercials possible. Come on, sing it with me--much…MUCH…COOLER!!!!
Andrew Unterberger: On August 1st, 1996, God created M2. And he saw that it was good.
Christina Adkison: When the Music Television Network realized that they had became the Real World Stupid News Bad Dating Game Useless Shows And Boring Cartoons Network, they knew they had to make room for another channel for their intended purpose.
Adrien Begrand: M2 was a godsend. The perfect channel to flip to while commercials were on during other shows.
Ken Munson: An around-the-clock music channel? That’ll never work!
Andrew Unterberger: In 2004, M2 seems like a totally impossible proposition—a 24 hour, no-commercial, no playlist, no annoying VJ, no reality TV station that played nothing but music videos?!?! But for the few lucky enough to possess M2 in the late 90s, for a couple of years it was sweet, sweet reality.
Zach Smola: For a while, M2 was such a beautiful thing, and it is almost solely responsible for my initial introduction to indie rock. The first video it ever played was “Where It’s At”, which was a fitting description of the station.
Andrew Unterberger: Because they had virtually no viewers to cater to, M2 could do whatever the hell it wanted—if they wanted to play an hour of nothing but Spike Jonze videos, they could do that and it wouldn’t seem unusual at all.
Brad Shoup: When Radiohead’s Kid A came out, M2 put a camera on a CD player and let its listeners hear the whole thing. Another time, they broadcast every video MTV had in its library in alphabetical order.
Adrien Begrand: The channel's alphabetical rundown of every video they had was one of the greatest things in the history of television. The fact that us Canadian "grey market" satellite subscribers were continually hit by signal outages right as this was happening was one of the most tragic things ever.
Andrew Unterberger: Being the music video junkie I was in the late 90s, I don’t think my heart would’ve been able to withstand getting to see every music video in the M2 library. Perhaps it was a good thing I only got to watch it on my grandparents’ satellite TV, if I got it at home I would never have left the house.
Ken Munson: I really wish I had MTV2. There’s just no equivalent on basic cable anymore.
Michael Heumann: Isn't it sad that MTV had to create a new channel just to show videos?! But even that's disappearing on M2: now they're showing blocks of Beavis and Butthead and stuff like that.
Gavin Mueller: I have it in the sickly, pale version it has assumed today. They show anime now. Anime!
Andrew Unterberger: When after almost a half-decade of pining, I finally started getting M2 in 2000, they were already showing Eve 6 videos in heavy rotation. The dream was over.
Brad Shoup: Now it’s just MTV’s minor leagues, where former indie acts pay their dues and dancehall starts plot their one-hit wonder status.
Zach Smola: Once M2 started reaching so many people, 24-hour videos were no longer profitable, or at least MTV senior needed another outlet for its terrible reality programming. Here’s hoping “Nick Jr.” holds up better.
Adrien Begrand: 24 hour a day music TV is going strong in Canada right now. We have a metal channel, a retro channel, a hip hop channel, and a dance channel. Not too shabby.
Andrew Unterberger: 24-hour music video programming still exists in the form of channels like VH1 Classic and MTV Jams, but dammit, it’s just not the same. I suspect nothing ever will be again.
Gavin Mueller: Could M2 happen today? It could, it just wouldn't make as much money.
Kareem Estefan: Still, M2 was one step closer to the station we all long for, in which Junior Boys, Xiu Xiu, and Madvillain would currently be dominating the airwaves.
Michael Heumann: Coming soon: M3.
Adrien Begrand: Ah, Rage Against the Machine--heroes to annoyingly earnest college students everywhere.
Tony Van Groningen: Oh man, was I a Rage fan in 1996. They stood for something, godammit, and they were loud and angry at pretty much every existing US governmental body. That was cool, even though I didn’t really know what I stood for at the time.
Josh Timmermann: I consider myself a liberal Democrat. God knows I want George W. Bush out of office come November. But Rage Against the Machine are embarrassing, at least from a political standpoint.
Zach Smola: Rage made you want to be political in the sense that you wanted to read the anarchist cookbook and overthrow something after hearing them. That’s politics, right?
Josh Timmermann: Rage were these radical militant Marxists who wrote cryptic, almost scarily impassioned songs about Emiliano Zapato and the American government's mistreatment of Native Americans and lots of other fun subjects that 15 year-old metalheads really give a flying fuck about.
Charlie Frame: With Rage Against the Machine it wasn't so much the politics that did it for me, more the fact they said "FUCK!" a hell of a lot. And, y'know, that was cool, but I don't think they said "FUCK!" enough on their second album and that's why it didn't do so well.
Ben Woolhead: The emergence of RATM reignited the smouldering remains of the defiance of grunge and handed disaffected youth a rallying cry: “FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!”
Kareem Estefan: To appreciate Rage Against the Machine for their message, one would first have to understand what the hell Zach de la Rocha was saying. I, for one, could only make out choruses like “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME” among the unintelligible verses.
R.S. Ross: If you want droves of allegiant teenage kids on your side, be angry, very angry.
Ken Munson: For being a band supposedly all about righteous fury, I find a lot of RATM’s earlier stuff plodding and repetitive. What’s that, Zach? Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses, you say? Huh. Huh, you know, I’m just not getting it, why don’t you tell it to me FIFTY MORE TIMES.
R.S. Ross: We all pretended to care about the politics, but what we really liked was Tom Morello’s squeaky solos and Tim Commerford’s phat bass lines.
Brad Shoup: You cannot front on those riffs.
Zach Smola: All I ever really cared about was screamed slogans, dense riffs, and guitars solos that sounded more like dinosaurs or car engines. Tom Morello was my first guitar hero.
Adrien Begrand: They sounded great, and Morello was good at making goofy sounds with his guitar, but that gimmick never held up for an entire album. Rage just became tiresome too quickly.
Charlie Frame: If they'd REALLY cared then you'd think they'd have been a bit more proactive than to release only three proper albums throughout their ten year career. I guess chilling out is as much a part of activism as anything else though.
Christina Adkison: I always considered Rage Against the Machine to be huge hypocrites. They were always "so political" and "against the man", but they signed with Sony. After all, no one represents the little man more than Sony.
Tony Van Groningen: A few years later I realized that Rage didn’t really specifically ever say what they stood for either in their music, except in the broadest general messages.
Ken Munson: I don’t begrudge Rage Against the Machine for having deeply held convictions, but I seriously hope no one listened to them hoping to hear profound political insights. Some of their songs are composed entirely from bumper stickers.
Christina Adkison: The thing that pissed me off most about this band was the time the burned the American flag on stage. Excuse me Jefe, you kinda owe your citizenship to us, amigo.
Michael Heumann: I knew this guy who went to school with one of the Rage dudes. Every time he heard one of their songs on the radio or saw one of their videos on TV, he'd yell (to anyone who'd listen), "That's the asshole who never gave me back that Ministry CD!"
Matt Chesnut: Politically, they were like Public Enemy but without the comic relief of Flava Flav. Well, that time Tim Crommerford climbed the set at the 2001 VMA’s was pretty funny.
Kareem Estefan: On some level, I bet Rage were for real, but then there’s also the time their bassist refused to get off the MTV stage during the VMAs. I just can’t imagine his political motive for that.
Tony Van Groningen: I think they did care a lot about the politics of it all, and unlike a lot of other heavy bands, had some real reason to be so damn angry all the time. They cared about the common man and the underprivileged! Bands like Pantera, on the other hand, were so fucking mad because…they drank a lot of whiskey, mostly.
Adrien Begrand: Boy, the Free Mumia fad sure fizzled out fast, didn't it? Is he still in jail? Do earnest college kids still care?
Ken Munson: I think when it came down to it, Zach de la Rocha was the only one who cared about the politics, whereas the others just kinda outgrew Marxism.
Adrien Begrand: Take away the politics, and what do you get? Freakin' Audioslave.
Tony Van Groningen: The fact that they were the de-facto godfathers of a shitload of horrible rap-rock bands hasn’t diminished them at all.
Charlie Frame: Before Rage, the Rap-Rock style was for novelty collaborations only – Run DMC & Aerosmith, Public Enemy & Anthrax etc. After Rage, Rap-Rock was kind of compulsory – you couldn't avoid the bloody stuff.
Zach Smola: As is the case with anything good, an abundance of sorry imitations ruined everything. Here’s lookin’ at you, Papa Roach.
Christina Adkison: In conclusion, Rage against the Machine was NOT worth the birth of rap-rock. Why? Two words: Limp Bizkit.
R.S. Ross: I think Rick Rubin acts like The Beastie Boys and RHCP were more responsible for the rise of rap-rock, but Rage was one of the better manifestations of that movement.
Ben Woolhead: Whether they like it or not, RATM spawned the rap-rock monster – but, as horrible as that many-headed hydra was (mercifully it seems to be pretty much dead now), I still wouldn’t bemoan their existence, such is the quality of their musical legacy.
Charlie Frame: I put the first album on the other day and was expecting this big nostalgia trip, but no it did nothing for me. Why? Because they still play the whole bloody album in my local every Friday night. It's still way better than any of the hordes of whining fratboys who followed them though.
Brad Shoup: In the end, they sold a few million, and convinced some high schoolers to log onto Rock For Choice. Hasta la victoria siempre, biyatches.
R.S. Ross: To illustrate their impact, at my high school a burgeoning guitar hero named Palko overtook the school by holding an impromptu concert of Rage tunes in the tiny theatre. Even though Palko (who didn’t sing) played only the guitar parts, we were enraptured. Girls swooned. Guys threw their boxers. I think Palko’s selling pizza now.
Charlie Frame: I remember that one poem by Dylan Thomas "Do not go gentle into that good night". I was asked to read it out to my English class and began: "Rage, Rage Against The Machine".
Adrien Begrand: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet is the movie equivalent of the first Weezer album. Teens fell for this hook, line, and sinker, while those of us who were older were left wondering what all the fuss was about.
Christina Adkison: Okay, The Lion King was a good adaptation of Hamlet…but to modernize Romeo and Juliet with the original dialogue is too weird for most movie watchers (even for me, a lover of Moulin Rouge).
John Rothery: Oh now I’m a big fan of this. Combining classic literature with a seemingly incongruous modern context when pulled off is sensational. That is what classic literature is all about, surely? Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth reading.
Andrew Unterberger: Puffy shirts are BORING. Classically trained actors are BORING. Swordfights are BORING. Gunfights, swirling colors, hot teenagers, a modern rock soundtrack, RAPID FIRE JUMP CUTS—Christ, the Bard would’ve used this shit himself if he could have.
Zach Smola: Stylistically, Baz Luhrman makes films that are like eating entirely too much candy: it’s fun while it’s going on, but afterwards I just have a stomachache.
John Rothery: It was just beautifully put together; it looked and sounded so colourful and interesting that you didn’t even need to follow the dialogue.
Ken Munson: Hey, Baz Luhrmann: Shakespeare is ridiculous enough already without your help. I mean, seriously, what’s the point of updating the setting if the dialogue is still the same impenetrable ancient gibberish?
Christina Adkison: If you hadn’t read Romeo and Juliet like two hours before the movie, you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.
Brad Shoup: We actually watched this at my Christian school in English class. Probably because the lines were still Shakespeare’s. But the hotness was all Leo’s.
Andrew Unterberger: Most people already knew about Claire Danes from My So-Called Life, but for many, this was the first viewing of the otherworldliness of Leonardo DiCaprio. Teenage girls all across the country went into seizures after about 15 minutes.
Gavin Mueller: My favorite part of seeing this movie was hearing everyone in the audience groan when Leo broke out in Elizabethan brogue. Like anyone's going to alter Shakespeare's dialogue.
Christina Adkison: The best line from the movie was when Leonardo DiCaprio shouts out “I am fortune’s fool”. Yes, you are Leo. “Stella!”
Tony Van Groningen: My favorite modernized part is the gas station scene- the cars, the gun, the shoes, everything is so amazing looking.
Christina Adkison: I did enjoy the movie’s attention to detail. When John Leguizamo and his gang pull out their guns the word “dagger” is enscribed on the barrels. They pull their swords! Get it?
Brad Shoup: The gun named “sword”. That was a nice touch. Good writing, Mr. Shakespeare!
Gavin Mueller: Mercutio as cross-dressing party boi!
Zach Smola: The best update was clearly the cross-dressing x-dropping black Mercutio.
Andrew Unterberger: Having that damn Queen Mab segment be a drug-induced hallucination was brilliant, ‘coz even after the weeks we spent analyzing that in English, that shit still makes no sense sober.
Adrien Begrand: The best thing about this movie was the sudden, and fleeting, popularity of The Cardigans. "Lovefool" was a great song.
John Rothery: “Lovefool” wasn’t written for this movie, but it fits it so perfectly that it couldn’t have been commissioned. That accident over design is always better for soundtracks is a rule you can’t break. But damn you Thom Yorke you wrote “Exit Music (for a film)” and just broke my rule.
R.S. Ross: It was cool to finally see girls getting into Radiohead (courtesy of the soundtrack).
Andrew Unterberger: Two of Radiohead’s best songs appear for the first time—and we’re still arguing this movie’s greatness? Come on.
Christina Adkison: I remembered Romeo’s death scene vividly. Just as he’s sucking down the poison, Juliet wakes up and reaches for his face. Then he dies staring into her eyes. I laughed so hard.
Brad Shoup: How skilled was Danes to blow her brains out and not extinguish a single candle?
John Rothery: I don’t think Leo has done anything this good since. In fact has he done anything even remotely good since? Thought not. Clare Danes is great in this and she is a top actress but also hasn’t done as well as one might have expected on the basis of Romeo and Juliet.
Michael Heumann: I thought this film sucked when I saw it, but then I saw Baz's Moulin Rouge. My god! Can't anyone kill Baz Luhrmann before he makes yet another over the top, poorly edited, spastic train wreck of a film!?
Josh Timmermann: Whenever I hear that someone is a fan of this movie, I automatically recommend Michael Almereyda's much finer modernization of Hamlet. Whereas Baz Luhrmann's film feels ultimately like a really cool stunt, Almereyda's is a moody meditation on Shakespeare's ambiguous place in the 21st century.
Tony Van Groningen: I thought this movie was badass in 1996, and I still do. The visuals, especially the costumes and props, are amazing. The new take on the Shakespeare classic is a good thing I think- it was done respectfully, and the updated elements don’t detract from the story.
Ken Munson: This movie wasn’t very good at all, yet the only way I can read Shakespeare now is to imagine it in modern times.
Tony Van Groningen: I would so much rather look at the new version than the traditional frilly balloon pants and silk vests and powdered wigs.
Brad Shoup: Wyclef, Lauryn, Pras. The Fugees.
Ben Woolhead: The Fugees were the white middle-class American dream – non-threatening “rap” music that parents could accept their kids listening to.
Brad Shoup: They were just effortless. Socially aware without being preachy, informed by poverty without playing the eager hustler part.
Zach Smola: Fu-gee-la! Here we have a perfect example of how egos ruin good music with very little difficulty!
Kareem Estefan: Out of the many albums I bought in 1996 on the basis of a couple songs, The Score is the only one without tons of filler surrounding the singles. It even had great skits, the best undoubtedly being the one before where Wyclef and Pras go to a “Chinese Muslim joint”.
Andrew Unterberger: “You think I open up a restaurant in the middle of the hood and don’t know what’s going on? I FUCKING REPRESENT!”
Kareem Estefan: After inauspiciously asking for “beef”, Chang-Wang gives it to them, calling them “bitch-ass niggers” and threatening them with “the flying fist of Judah”. Classic line: “I fuck you the fuck up!”
Brad Shoup: What crappy source material for the songs, though. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”? “The Gambler”? “Islands in the Fricking Stream”? I guess Haiti can only afford a 35-year-old AM station.
Ken Munson: The Score worked better on paper than it did in reality. There are some moments of absolute brilliance, but for the most part it was kinda dull. All of them have done better work solo.
Kareem Estefan: After the Fugees dissolved into a non-entity, Wyclef Jean procured a large following with the single “Gone Til November”, which helped his first solo album achieve triple-platinum status. Lauryn Hill followed suit with her debut, winning five Grammys and topping both the albums and singles charts. As for Pras, well, “Ghetto Superstar” was a pretty big hit, but he likely owed its popularity to guest singer Mya’s hotness.
Matt Chesnut: Most importantly, The Fugees spawned the careers of Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and…the other guy.
John Rothery: At the time I liked Lauryn Hill, now I think she is a moderately talented racist. I hated Wyclef and now I think he is a pretty funny, moderately talented racist that smokes more than his own body weight per annum judging by the dilation whenever a camera goes near him. I have no views on the other one.
Zach Smola: Now, granted, Wyclef and Lauren’s solo albums showed pretty well that both of them had abundant talent (note the word had-Wyclef is awful hit-or-miss these days, and we should all pray for Lauren Hill). But what about Pras? The poor guy never got his comeuppance. “Ghetto Superstar” doesn’t count, because it features ODB and Mya, all of whom may currently be working at Denny’s.
Ben Woolhead: Lauryn Hill fair enough, but the world didn’t really need the fat bloke whose only job seemed to be to say “One time” and “Two time” every now and again.
Ken Munson: Pras: the most worthless band member since Andrew Ridgeley.
Matt Chesnut: The Other Guy from The Fugees is like The Other Guy from Wham…so overshadowed by their bandmates.
Kareem Estefan: Not having a logical favorite, I side with Pras because he needs the fans more than the other two.
John Rothery: Superstar? No I think maybe… you are not.
R.S. Ross: That Ms. Hill has got a fine bum, so she’s this reviewer’s favorite, but they were all overrated.
Tony Van Groningen: Pras was a mediocre rapper at best, Wyclef was a little better at it…but Lauren turned almost every chorus into a thing of beauty, and she could sling rhymes too. “Fugee La,” “The Score,” and “Ready or Not” are all quality songs of classic or near-classic caliber…and then there is “Killing Me Softly,” which is the true showcase of Lauren Hill’s talent and is easily the best song on the album. I played it over and over and over….
Ken Munson: God, do I love Lauryn Hill’s voice. That part near the end of “Killing Me Softly,” you know, it goes, “whoaaaaaa-ohh-oh, oh oh ah ahhhhhhh ah,”? Sends chills down my spine.
Josh Timmermann: I was never huge on the Fugees, nor on any of the members individually, but there's just no denying their "Killing Me Softly" rendition--better, I'd argue, than not just Roberta Flack's already-great original but also Hugh Grant's version.
Andrew Unterberger: The Fugees never recorded a follow-up album, the members all said and did a lot of stupid shit in the interim, and today The Fugees are regarded as being barely one step above Arrested Development in the canon of rappers accepted by middle-class white America.
Brad Shoup: Hey Fugees, thank you for the Black Eyed Peas. Thank you a bajillion times over.
Tony Van Groningen: I think the Fugees deserved their props for a few reasons: Wyclef made some good beats, and they had Lauren Hill’s voice turning everything they did into gold.
Andrew Unterberger: The Score still owns a special place in my heart for being the first rap album I ever loved. Someday soon I’m gonna put on that album, turn off the lights and pretend the last eight years never happened. I’m sure it’ll still sound great.
Matt Chesnut: OK, I’ve got a knife, a mask, and some broads to kill, but I’ve only got two hours to do it.
Christina Adkison: Scream is the movie where the killer is a ghost faced guy that has turned "real-life" into a horror movie. He harasses people on the phone, says he wants to see what their insides look like, and proceeds to do so. I was genuinely spooked out by Scream the first time I saw it.
Tony Van Groningen: Scream was a really big deal in the summer of ’96. It was a pretty clever update on classic slasher movie archetypes. It wasn’t good enough from a cinematic/technical standpoint to get as much as hype as it did though, but it did serve to demonstrate exactly how much audiences love to see good looking people get sliced to pieces.
Christina Adkison: The characters in Scream are dumber than any other characters in any other slasher movie. The characters know all the horror movie rules and they somehow still screw up (lose their virginity, run upstairs instead of outside to safety, etc) and run into their well-deserved deaths.
Andrew Unterberger: Scream got a lot of mileage out of a little bit of self-awareness—scenes where characters deduce who the killer is by using standard slasher movie guidelines and follow standard horror rules of safety to survive gave it just the right bit of irony for it to be a classic 90s movie.
Ken Munson: The guy laying out the rules of horror movie survival actually missed a couple. “Be white,” for example. “Be the main character,” for another.
Christina Adkison: One of my favorite scenes is when Jamie Kennedy is watching Halloween (starring Jamie Lee Curtis) when Ghost Face is coming up behind him to stab and he’s going “Watch out, Jamie! Watch out, Jamie”.
John Rothery: It’s hard to admit this. You will think me a fool but all I can offer is that I was young, naïve and innocent. I went into this movie not realising it was a big spoofy satire of slash. It took the Fonz scaring himself in a mirror to confirm that this was indeed baloney. Very funny baloney though.
Christina Adkison: The scene that shocked me the most was when the murderer kills the principal, Henry Winkler. They killed the Fonz!
Adrien Begrand: The opening scene of Scream with Drew Barrymore is the only part of the movie that still holds up well. Now that is inspired, prototypical horror filmmaking, the best thing Wes Craven had done in years.
Ken Munson: Scream got all the attention for its postmodern awareness, but it was also a great slasher flick without it. The opening scene absolutely kills (so to speak), and the scene where Rose McGowan dies is like, freakin’ awesome.
Christina Adkison: I was honestly glad when Sydney’s friend, Tatum, was killed. Her death was so great….she breaks her neck while being trapped in the doggy door of the garage. Take that, bitch.
Josh Timmermann: The best reason to hate Scream is that it introduced us to Matthew Lillard, arguably the single most annoying movie actor of his generation.
Ken Munson: Check this out: David Arquette, Matthew Lilard AND Skeet Ulrich in one movie, and it still somehow doesn’t suck.
Christina Adkison: What really amazed me about the movie was how Billy and Steve (the two killers) were so initially brilliant, but were retarded by the end of the movie. They killed Sydney’s mom and easily pinned the crime on Cotton Weary, they flawlessly murder about a dozen other people without leaving a trace of evidence. But by the end of the movie they’re so bumbling that they both die at the hands of Sydney Prescott, who isn’t exactly a Mensa member herself (cough, cough….she had sex with the killer….cough, cough…).
John Rothery: That first Scream movie, at the time, was worth a watch. The overkill that came after was unwelcome and undid the good work of the first one. Scream 2 and 3 are just irony for irony’s sake and that is unacceptable.
Charlie Frame: I think everyone has to agree that despite it's obvious flaws (high-school teens played by 32 year old actors etc) the first Scream film was pretty clever. It's not to be written off as a dumb slasher. Unfortunately any sense of credibility was destroyed by the unnecessary follow-up flicks and lousy imitations.
Gavin Mueller: Let's just say Scream didn't exactly elevate the discourse of popular film.
John Rothery: It is a ploy that Robbie Williams has used ever since “Angels” to try to peddle ropy music. This line of argument: “I’ve made a movie/song/video/drawing of a dog that’s crap but look I know that its crap and as long as I reference it’s crapness and nod and wink a lot that makes it uncrap.” NAY NAY AND THRICE NAY. It is still crap no matter how conscious you are of its crappiness.
Ken Munson: Scream was a postmodern, subversive masterpiece, but the only thing that the Hollywood execs noticed was: “Slashers sell. Pump out more.” And so we got “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which is in all honesty the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen.
Christina Adkison: I think I Know What You Did Last Summer was an honest attempt to scare people about drunk driving that backfired. I mean, the guy they hit deserved to die….the world would have been better off without the psycho hook-hand murderer. It almost encourages me to hit all shady people walking on the side of the road.
Adrien Begrand: The sheer brainlessness of I Know What You Did Last Summer proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kevin Williamson's Scream screenplay was a total fluke.
Andrew Unterberger: I Know What You Did Last Summer was like a Goosebumps book for teenagers. Even the title was 100% R.L. Stine.
Christina Adkison: I Know What You Did Last Summer was not frigthening at all. The killer was ridiculous. Am I supposed to fear the Gorton Fisherman with handwriting that’s neater and girlier than my own? “I Know What You Did Last Summer…..tee hee heee….”
Tony Van Groningen: I Know What You Did Last Summer was essentially a Scream remake with a different cast, but I like it better because the lead role/slashing knife target is Jennifer Love Hewitt, whom it seems God pretty much custom designed for this kind of movie. Not that I mind or anything.
Ken Munson: We also got Urban Legend which didn’t make sense at any single point in the movie; and two more Halloween sequels, which the world just doesn’t need any more of.
Christina Adkison: My favorite killer from the late-90s slashers is also my favorite girl: the killer psycho girl in Urban Legend. Way to make a stand for women, Rebecca Gayheart. Little did we know that Rebecca Gayheart had homicidal instincts. Except in real life her weapon of choice is an automobile.
Andrew Unterberger: The irony got too heavy when it got to the Urban Legend series. You could practically OD on the self-awareness of the second one.
Christina Adkison: If were to pit the ensemble cast of I Know What You Did Last Summer (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., et al. ) against the plot of Urban Legend, I would pick Urban Legend. And Urban Legend has plot holes so large that the Hubble Space Telescope could fit through them.
Andrew Unterberger: Once a movie called I Still Know What You Did Last Summer emerged from the movement, you knew it was over. Even the pre-teens had to giggle at that one.
John Rothery: To any other irony debasers out there – idea for you guys. Do something good instead. If you are unable to do something good then go and flip burgers or take out my trash. Now.
Andrew Unterberger: Swingers, baby. Swingers.
Tony Van Groningen: Yeah, this movie was my favorite for a few years. I loved it. I loved the fact that nothing much really happens in it, even though all the characters try so fucking hard to make something happen. The trailer scene, the house party scene, the diner scene….The characterization is spot-on, totally believable. It’s funny as hell.
R.S. Ross: I was so caught up in this movement. Every girl that would talk to me became a “beautiful baby” and I was all about showing off a little patch of chest hair.
Ken Munson: Swingers is a pleasant, if a little underwhelming journey into the love lives of struggling Hollywood actors.
Christina Adkison: When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought it was a porno flick. Then I found out that Vince Vaughn was in it and I knew there was no possible way that sex scenes would be allowed. Vince Vaughn and sex shouldn’t be together in the same paragraph.
Adrien Begrand: Has Vince Vaughn ever played a different character than the one he does in this movie since?
Michael Heumann: In the end, Vince Vaughan should have just stopped right here. It's been downhill ever since.
Ken Munson: Swingers is my favorite movie where all the dialogue consists of one word:
Vince Vaughn: That baby is money! You’re money!
Jon Favreau: I’m not money!
Vince Vaughn Money! Money money money mon-ey!
Tony Van Groningen: I am guilty of using the lingo, I especially abused “you’re so money, baby” and its variation “you’re so money, baby, and you don’t even know it.” To this day I still infrequently will quote “you’ve got these big claws, man…” I don’t think I’m ever going to let that one go out of style.
John Rothery: “Vegas baby vegas”
Zach Smola: I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to bother using “Swingers” lingo. I still hear things called “Money, baby!”.
Christina Adkison: I hated how Vince Vaughn’s character kept saying “Look at all the beautiful babies”. It just creeped me out…I was expecting Michael Jackson and R. Kelly to show up at anytime.
John Rothery: Whenever me and my mates leave a crowded bar I say ‘It was dead in here anyway’
Pat Brereton: “I’ll have the pancakes….in the Age of Enlightenment.”
Andrew Unterberger: Jon Favreau was kind of a crybaby in that one. He paid for it by being cast as the annoying friend for the rest of his career, I guess.
Ken Munson: I was totally relating to poor heartbroken Mikey, but when I found out that he left her, he lost all my sympathy. Wait, YOU dumped HER? Then you can just shut the hell up, you whiny bastard.
Pat Brereton: This movie spawned the whole swing dance craze, which was about as cool as, I dunno, about as cool as any dumbass dance craze can be.
Ken Munson: I guess the centerpiece of the film is the whole swing-dancing scene, but you know… fuck do I care about dancing.
Pat Brereton: And, of course, the scene where they have Jeremy Roenick make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed in Sega Genesis NHL ’93 is brilliant.
Adrien Begrand: Swingers doesn't hold up well at all. It has its moments (like the Sega hockey game, for instance), but it's little more than a Tarantino wannabe, right down to the Reservoir Dogs homage.
Zach Smola: Probably holds up the worst of the 90’s indies. And, after all, Vince Vaughn is currently hanging out with Ben Stiller and Will Farrell, you know, doin’ whatever they’re doin’.
John Rothery: Of course Swingers still rings true. It is a bunch of mates searching for fun and fulfillment and ripping the piss out of each other. That is as relevant as it gets for me.
Tony Van Groningen: I still quite like this movie, and think it holds up fine today other than the fact that the swing dance craze seems to have disappeared again. Instead of going to the Brown Derby, the characters would all separately drive themselves to Skybar, and everything else would happen in a similar fashion, except with Bulgarian deep house music.
John Rothery: Oh, and it is bang on the money when it addresses the concept of cool. Cool just is, if you strive for it you won’t get there. There is no perfect bar, there is no ultimate high or perfect night out and even if there was you wouldn’t get there by chasing so hard.
Pat Brereton: “Let’s get outta here.”
“Yeah….this place is dead anyway…”
Zachary Smola Remembers the 1996 Olympics
Being that I have lived in the metro-Atlanta area for about a decade or so, I remember quite well when the 1996 Centennial Olympics came to town. Now, the Dirty South is a strange place to have anything important, much less the Olympics, but we handled it pretty well. I remember seeing the torch burn for those weeks every time we drove by. Lots of people housed athletes and stuff, but my family housed some people we knew vaguely from Massachusettes who just wanted to go to the Olympics and stay somewhere free. We all made sacrifices for the games.
We all watched proudly as that little gymnast girl performed phenomenally with a broken ankle or whatever and as Michael Johnson shattered track records or something. But a few matters of controversy: what the hell was the mascot? I doubt anyone remembers the needless blue blob that was Izzy the Whatzit, but suffice it to say he was a poorly chosen mascot. And also, few people outside of Olympic cities realize that afterwards you are left with empty stadiums and giant torch-bearing towers with no torch to burn. But you do what any reasonable people would do in this situation—convert those stadiums into different stadiums, make some new parking lots, and leave the tower as a constant reminder that by some total fluke your city housed the Olympics and not that much went wrong. Except for that bombing.
Ken Munson: Oh, the joys of pushing a button on a little beeping pink thing every five minutes.
Brad Shoup: Tamagotchis were four-bit pets hooked onto a keychain. You had to respond to their needs, or they would sicken and die.
Matt Chesnut: There were two main brands, the Tamagotchi and the Giga Pet. Both had the same basic functions. Take care of a 4-bit computerized animal.
Ben Woolhead: Just as dolls exist to teach young girls how to look after a child, Tamagotchis were a way of teaching kids how to look after a pet. Unless they were vindictive little bastards, that is, in which case they could enjoy starving them to death.
Matt Chesnut: This fad got so insanely huge that I’m pretty sure there were rules for it in the student handbook.
Christina Adkison: I remember the girls in class that would have 12 to 20 or more of the Tamagotchis on long chains. They couldn’t do their work because they were compelled to feed, clean up after, and bitchslap their virtual pets all class.
Ken Munson: My little brother had one of these. It was a virtual frog, and he’d let it sit on his desk and never touch it or feed it ever. So it would just keep starving to death and re-spawning, only to starve to death again. This seems unspeakably cruel to me now.
Charlie Frame: My siblings had one each. They were a pain in the arse and kept bleeping at inopportune moments like 3:30am. I think my Mum broke them on purpose.
Brad Shoup: My brother had one. When I got pissed at him, I’d steal the damn thing and refuse to clean its poo.
Matt Chesnut: If you disciplined the animal too much (i.e. rolled up newspaper, electro shock treatment) then it became too scared. In this way, it does not reflect real life. You hit a dog enough times, he just becomes a mean old bastard and bites neighbor kids for no reason at all.
Charlie Frame: I didn't see the Tamagotchi so much as a virtual pet than a virtual pain in the arse. Rather than little children, this should have been marketed at the painfully alone who don't have girlfriends/parents/children/teachers to piss them off all day.
Gavin Mueller: It's all the fun of feeding and cleaning up after your pet without all the hassle of real-life interaction with anything. What more could a kid want?
Michael Heumann: Frankly, they should have made them virtual boyfriends or girlfriends. Same as virtual pets, only the petting is more fun.
Ben Woolhead: At least Tamagotchis didn’t shit everywhere.
Charlie Frame: Luckily the Tamagotchi ran on batteries. One cell set was more than enough to get thoroughly fed up with it.
Zach Smola: Tamagotchi and Tamagotchi-related culture is sort of saddening. Allegedly, these things (and also programs like “Pokemon”) were designed because in the overpopulated Japanese cities, pets were not allowed, but all kids want pets.
Christina Adkison: My Tamagotchi cat convinced me that I will be a terrible parent. I didn’t feed the cat enough and it died. I tried again and fed the cat too much and it became obese and died. I left the cat behind on a week long vacation and it drowned in its own waste and died.
Zach Smola: I think everyone just got to a point where you were sick of the little guy so you starved him or overfed him just to see what the little LCD death animation looked like.
Christina Adkison: So I took the batteries out of the son of a bitch. You can’t take the batteries out of a kid.
Brad Shoup: I’m sure it was a good toy. Kids learned that babies require constant attention, and that leaving them in their own filth would cause them to die, forcing you to pull the baby’s reset tab and start all over again.
Ken Munson: In 1996, Busta Rhymes had us all in check.
Matt Chesnut: Woo HA! How much money would you care to wager that everyone starts their blurb this way?
Ken Munson: I don’t know if Busta Rhymes was one of the best rappers ever, but he definitely had the best persona.
John Rothery: Busta drinks too many sugary drinks. He can’t sit still for longer than a nanosecond and sleeps in a hunched standing position in New York nightclubs.
Zach Smola: YAW YAW YAW, YAW YAW! I cannot deny that as a young white child, the first time I heard “Woo-Hah! Got You All in Check!”, I was forced to concede that it was the absolute shiz-nit.
Gavin Mueller: He's at least 80% responsible for bringing the phrase "What the dilly, yo?" into the mainstream.
Andrew Unterberger: If for nothing else, Busta Rhymes deserves credit for getting the two whitest woman of the 90s—Martha Stewart and Marge Simpson—to say “what the dilly, yo?”
Josh Timmermann: Busta Rhymes was kind of amazing for a little while, though I don't remember why exactly. I think it was either his weird, quasi-schizo (but, you know, in, like, a fun way) delivery or those crazy, voodoo-fied videos.
Ken Munson: Busta Rhymes videos, all of them, are completely and totally awesome. They are magically ridiculous, distorted haunted funhouse rides. Except for the one with Janet, that one’s awful.
Kareem Estefan: Busta Rhymes likely appealed to a younger audience than any other rapper. His ridiculously hyper delivery, matched with a wardrobe of colorful suits (displayed in the video for “Woo-Hah! Got You All in Check”) were enough to make any little kid want to grow up to be Busta.
Brad Shoup: “Gimme Some More” was a twisted little video. I think the whole thing was less than three minutes, but everything from the fish-eye lens to the Pee Wee costumes to the Merry Melodies backing track added up to the scariest cartoon in history.
Andrew Unterberger: Nobody took advantage of the fish-eye lens shot quite like Busta did. A normal close-up of Busta doing his crazy shit is weird enough, but with the fish-eye lens, it’s like CRAZY 3-D BUSTA!!!!
Zach Smola: And the hits just kept coming, sampling everything from the Knightrider theme to the less-obvious but infinitely cooler sample from the Psycho theme in Gimme Some More”.
Gavin Mueller: Busta's bugged-out antics and carnivalesque videos anticipated hip-hop's later ecstacy infatuation.
Zach Smola: And thusly a man who was once pegged in Tribe’s “Scenario” as that-awkward-reggae-rapper rose to such tremendous heights that he now only has to appear on crappy remixes whenever he desires new rims for his myriad automobiles.
Andrew Unterberger: In the end, Busta might’ve been a bit too much for the public to stomach for too long, but he certainly made the Puff Daddy-saturated late 90s rap world that much more gloriously bizarre.
Kareem Estefan Remembers 1996
As a young child, I wasn’t much into music. As fourth grade rolled around, though, I felt mounting pressure to assimilate the pop culture my friends enjoyed into my life, and thus in 1996 I began to watch MTV.
Soon afterwards, I owned a third tape, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and the Smashing Pumpkins remained my favorite group throughout elementary school. Of course, pretty much every other spot rotated endlessly; most of my enduring tokens from 1996 are papers deceptively titled “Top 40 Songs of All-Time” or “Top 40 Artists/Bands of All-Time”. I loved everything from Cranberries to Coolio to Bone Thugs N’ Harmony to Garbage (but hated Metallica and Notorious B.I.G.). I honestly have no idea what my ten-year-old self looked for in music.
This unjustified selectivity, however, epitomized the innocent fun of 1996 for me; there were bands that I despised, but it was all as delightfully trivial as my mounds of lists. I had the obsessive qualities, the desire to rank, rank, rank, of any music critic, but none of the criticism. Of course, my pickiness would follow eventually, and so I can cherish 1996 1) because it had not yet surfaced and 2) because it later would.
Andrew Unterberger: In ’96, there were two men leading the biggest kung fu renaissance in the US since the 70s—Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris. What they lost of Bruce Lee’s integrity, they more than made up for in cheap laughs.
Michael Heumann: Jackie Chan was the Chinese Buster Keaton.
Christina Adkison: His hands are like the Roadrunner’s feet.
Ken Munson: Excerpt from Jackie Chan movie: Jackie Chan walks into [insert setting] looking for [insert plot device]. He is not trying to cause trouble, but a bunch of guys come to fight him, so he beats them all up with a nearby [insert object].
Adrien Begrand: Jackie Chan brought joy to action movies. Totally charming, unbelievably athletic, surprisingly non-violent (people rarely died or used guns), and always, always left you smiling at the end.
Ken Munson: Jackie Chan action sequences are exquisitely choreographed, endlessly creative ballets of sheer pain. Where Jet Li and other lamer heroes are fighting people with a boring old stick, Jackie is using, say, a toilet seat. I saw him beat someone up using a refrigerator. I saw him beat someone up using a pair of wooden shoes.
Zach Smola: I like Jackie Chan best when I didn’t understand the words that were comin’ outta his mouf.
Brad Shoup: He’s from that Arnold school of movie stardom, where you get famous fast so you don’t have to lose your awful accent.
Ken Munson: The single most mind-blowing fight sequence I have ever witnessed in my life is in Jackie Chan’s First Strike, where he fights off something like thirty guys with a ladder. And he’s flipping it around, setting it up and jumping through it and smashing people over the head with it. You gotta see it.
Gavin Mueller: Rumble in the Bronx had it all: colorful biker gangs, stunts that were crazy but still realistic, a HOVERCRAFT... Best of all, the American actors' dialogue was dubbed into Chinese, then re-dubbed back into English. Their mouths technically fit their speech, but it's exaggerated like a live action cartoon. Perfect.
Adrien Begrand: Rumble in the Bronx was filmed in Vancouver, and the best part is, the movie makes no attempt to hide this, despite it supposedly taking place in The Bronx! So instead of a gritty urban setting, you see ocean and mountains. The sheer absurdity of it all made it so enjoyable.
Zach Smola: Rumble in the Bronx is just several people attacking one man who repeatedly kicks their asses. And his best cinematic moment is in Who Am I? when Mr. Chan climbs to the top of a mountain, stricken with amnesia, and screams in garbled English…the title of the film.
Adrien Begrand: Today, I can never figure out what stunts were in which movie, but whatever film it was, the bit with Jackie Chan fighting the dude in the wind tunnel is one of the coolest, funniest fight scenes ever
Brad Shoup: I know this is going to sound bad, but Chan was better before he was famous. From falling off a clock tower (multiple times!) to kicking chairs in people’s faces? No contest.
Adrien Begrand: And how cool were those stunt outtakes during the credits?. –
Tony Van Groningen: Jackie Chan is an amazing martial artist and entertainer. Jackie Chan is not the Bruce Lee of the 90’s. Jackie is way more into stunts and having fun, Bruce was the quiet, consummate badass. Jackie gets into situations where he is having a hard time fighting off 20 generic thugs with, like, a toaster and a Windex bottle; That being said, I still like to watch Jackie Chan movies- he does some incredibly creative things, and his movies are at least entertaining if not awe-inspiring.
Andrew Unterberger: While Jackie Chan was traveling all over the globe, Chuck Norris was holding it down with Walker, Texas Ranger.
Gavin Mueller: He's a kung-fu cowboy, delivering justice with well-timed kicks and a well-trimmed beard.
Pat Brereton: There are some television shows that are so freaking awful that you can’t help tuning in every week to see how bad it’s going to be, how plastic the acting is, or how inconceivably idiotic the plotlines are. This is not one of them.
Ken Munson: I think this show was basically Miami Vice, except with blue jeans in the desert rather than pastels at the docks. Oh, and no Tubbs.
Matt Chesnut: As a native Texan, everything about this show is exactly as it seems. Everyone wears hats and Chuck Norris beats the shit out of people all the time.
Brad Shoup: Chuck Norris was a Christian ass-kicker, who hangs out with his small-town friends like the Black Guy and the Crochety Old Man.
Pat Brereton: The show’s only saving grace, however, is the fact that Walker’s sidekick is played by the same guy who was Hans Gruber’s lovable, African-American computer hacker in Die Hard.
Zach Smola: Chuck Norris is actually like only 5 ft. tall, and I’ve heard everyone cast on the show was short as well, and he always wore boots, in order to appear taller and more threatening to evil. Ha!
Ken Munson: Here’s a piece of trivia: More stuntmen have died working on Chuck Norris movies than any other actor’s films. So yeah, I definitely see why he deserves a TV show.
Pat Brereton: Somehow, it managed to stay on the air for more than one episode, and is STILL airing on re-runs. Conan O’Brien currently has a “Walker Lever” behind his desk, and occasionally will unleash a Walker clip. High comedy.
Zach Smola: An American Karate expert’s ship will never really come in. You will eventually get a cameo in Dodgeball, though.
Christina Adkison: Although Chuck Norris may have been convincing as a Texas Ranger, he could never top his performance in Dodgeball. “Fucking Chuck Norris”.
Ken Munson: The biggest new band of 1996 was No Doubt, a SoCal ska band consisting of Gwen Stefani, Gwen Stefani’s ex, a naked drummer and some other guy.
Tony Van Groningen: Catchy, catchy ska-pop-punk, it was a true breath of fresh air for alternative radio. It didn’t hurt that Gwen Stefani was extremely fit, pretty, and charismatic as hell either.
R.S. Ross: Gwen was such an idol, inspiring teenage girls everywhere to be loud and terribly, terribly skinny.
Ken Munson: Gwen Stefani was the single coolest rock star on the planet. It seemed like every half-cool girl in school dressed like Gwen. The frontwoman of every bad cover band had a well-worn copy of Tragic Kingdom in their stereo.
John Rothery: Gwen was tasty. Great dash, with dashing exposed midriff.
Kareem Estefan: I don’t give Gwen Stefani enough credit. I think it’s because after her, every hip alternative band had an attractive, unusual blonde for a lead singer, and I was too young to remember what it was like before her.\
Ben Woolhead: Please tell me I’m not the only bloke who’s left cold by Gwen Stefani. She does absolutely nothing for me. Her face is too white, and she has a nasty habit of wearing her hair up which has the effect of pulling her face up towards her forehead.
Josh Timmermann: Okay, we get it: You're cute. Happy? You're just a crazy, mixed-up girl in this crazy, mixed-up, man's world. Nice hair, by the way. That shade of blue totally adds that extra ounce of girl power. Bitchin'!
Brad Shoup: Pity the XY-possessing members of No Doubt. That’s why Adrian drums naked – when you’re fronted by Gwen Stefani, you do whatever it takes to get noticed.
Matt Chesnut: How much does it suck to be Tony Kanal? He has to tour and record around his ex who is clearly the superstar and the only reason why No Doubt has maintained this popularity.
Ken Munson: God bless poor Tony Kanal. Standing there, pretending like he doesn’t care that he’s playing songs about how much Gwen hates him for dumping her. A full quarter of the songs on Tragic Kingdom are blasts against Tony.
Gavin Mueller: Don't shed tears for Kanal; I heard he's quite blessed *down there*.
John Rothery: She had a lot of sexiness about her partly ruined by her relationship with Rossdale. Finding out about them was like taking a girl out for months, not getting anywhere and finding out that some loser from two years above had boned her.
Christina Adkison: You may disagree, but I’m glad Gwen ended up with Gavin Rossdale and not Tony Kanal. Could you imagine being Mrs. Kanal? Can you imagine the terrible jokes? "Hey, are you going to name your kids Suez, Panama, and Birth?"
Tony Van Groningen: I have no idea how she could choose superdouche Gavin Rossdale over Tony Kanal, or over any of the millions of other guys she could have dated…the singer from Goo Goo Dolls would have been better than Gavin Rossdale, and that guy sucks pretty bad.
Christina Adkison: No Doubt in the mid 90s was in it’s electronic-ish power ballad ska phase. This was before the reggae and video game techno phases.
Kareem Estefan: “Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs” were extremely catchy songs that I loved in 1996 and I love now.
Adrien Begrand: "Spiderwebs" was a great song, and despite being played fifty million times during 1996 on the radio and MTV, somehow I never got sick of it. But the ska thing did get tiresome--"Just a Girl" grates when I hear it today.
Kareem Estefan: My memory, however, has forever relegated “Don’t Speak” as “the slow one that I don’t like much”. I think it’s because at the time of the song’s release, I couldn’t bear the thought of No Doubt breaking up.
Brad Shoup: When I close my eyes, I can see a gym full of junior high girls mouthing along to “Don’t Speak” over their dance partners’ shoulders. Chilling.
Ben Woolhead: There’s only one word for “Don’t Speak”: horrific. Why didn’t you just heed your own advice, Gwen? Radio would’ve been a safer place.
Tony Van Groningen: “Don’t Speak” was a powerful song, and a bit of a surprise after the other singles, and I think it’s the one that really permanently cemented No Doubt into the minds of fans everywhere.
Christina Adkison: Even though I thoroughly enjoyed "Don’t Speak" and " Just a Girl", I realize how strange Gwen Stefani’s voice was back then. She is a much better singer now (e.g. "It’s My Life").
Ken Munson: Gwen Stefani is actually a much better singer now than she was then. She’s reigned it in since, but back then her voice too cutesy and annoying a lot of the time.
Brad Shoup: How the hell is No Doubt still popular? Granted, they’re making their best stuff now, but three albums of hookless dreck should have earned them a pink slip.
Gavin Mueller: They were wise to jettison that ska crap early on, though.
Zach Smola: After No Doubt harshly abandoned its horn section and keyboard players, I became too infuriated to care about anything they do. You just don’t cut half the payroll because ska isn’t cool anymore. There’s no honor in that.
Matt Chesnut: The girl I had a huge crush on loved Tragic Kingdom, so of course I liked that album. And evidently, so did about 10 million other people.
Tony Van Groningen: Tragic Kingdom is a surprisingly strong, cohesive album, everything falls into place perfectly for the band on that album and they are still reaping the rewards from it. I, for one, am glad that they’ve been on the radio ever since.
John Rothery: Good pop songs. Repeated plays guaranteed to grate though “Don’t Speak” will still rotate on VH1 Classic in 2040.
Christina Adkison: The Macarena was the dance that consisted of feeling yourself all over whether you liked it or not.
Josh Timmermann: Hands out, palms down. Palms up. Hands on the back of your head. Folded over your chest. Down to your hips. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.
Matt Chesnut: The Macarena was a dance craze that middle America could latch onto. It was easy and didn’t require much movement of the feet or hips. So, yeah, it was shit.
Ben Woolhead: The stuff of nightmares—the sort of novelty summer song that originates somewhere in Europe and then is brought back to Blighty by holiday-makers unaware of the fact that they’ve been infected, resulting in the entire nation waking in a cold sweat in the middle of the night mumbling gibberish.
Gavin Mueller: "Sumthin sumthin sumthin sumthin macarena. Por la sumthin sumthin sumthin sumthin sumthing cosa buena." That means the Macarena is a good thing.
Ken Munson: Christ in heaven was the Macarena everywhere. They were using it in Hawaiian Punch commercials. There was—no shit—a hit bluegrass version.
Brad Shoup: Who was immune to the sinewy charm of the Macarena? Al Gore? Nope. Kosovar refugees? Try again. Somalian warlords? As if!
Adrien Begrand: For a millisecond, the Macarena became the de rigeur drunken idiot dance at wedding receptions, briefly replacing "Y.M.C.A.".
John Rothery: Marvelous stuff. Kind of Whigfield fused with latino and Benny Hill. Possibly my favorite song ever if I’m not allowed “Land of Confusion” by Genesis.
Matt Chesnut: My grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary around this time, and at their celebration, the entertainment played this song.
Ken Munson: Even I did the Macarena once. It was at the roller rink. Everyone was doing it. I had to do it too, or I would have looked like an idiot! But I didn’t do it anywhere else, I swear.
Charlie Frame: Someone once tried to teach me how to do the Macarena. I ended up hurting myself by accident and then hurting them on purpose.
Zach Smola: It is also helpful to know that “the Macarena” is in actuality quite a dirty song in its native tongue.
Christina Adkison: Someone told me that the song “Macarena” was actually about a prostitute. Huh…now it makes sense why my hands were on my butt….
Zach Smola: But more importantly, why were two old Spanish men crooning on an abysmal dance song that was dated the moment it was released?
Brad Shoup: Who was Los Del Rio? Judging by the video, Los Del Rio translates loosely to “Dirty Old Men”.
Ben Woolhead: There I was, a young man of 18 sans girlfriend, forced to look on whilst a pair of sepia-tinted seedy-looking Spanish geriatrics jigged around with a bunch of nubile young girls wearing nothing more than brightly colored bikinis. The moral of the story being that life is not fair.
John Rothery: The two blokes in the video were very cool. Eyeing up the booty while moving in the arthritic fashion patented by Tom Jones.
Gavin Mueller: Those old Hispanic guys looked so cute in their little suits. And when they start clapping!
Adrien Begrand: This year, a Canadian frozen pasta company, showing just how ridiculously out of touch they are, used the Macarena as their jingle. It made me want to stab my eye out, not buy spaghetti Bolognese.
Brad Shoup: I think the abysmal U.S. chart record of Las Ketchup speaks for itself. Dance moves that require everyone to face the same way are dead.
Gavin Mueller: The Eurotrash responsible for the Ketchup Song can't hold a candle to the nubile Macarena girls.
Ken Munson: When the next Macarena-type craze rolls out, I hope to be dead.
Ken Munson: Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now. We got the real jam goin’ down. Talkin’ bout the Space Jam. Here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam.
Christina Adkison: I genuinely enjoyed this movie when it came out, although it was a huge misnomer since the movie didn’t take place in space at all. Though I did jam pretty hard.
Zach Smola: “We’re playin’ Bas-ket-ball!” Yeah! I totally saw this one in the theatres. At that point, it was probably beyond me that it was a giant Warner Bros. produced commercial for Hanes, McDonalds, and Nike which proudly proclaimed/explained MJ’s return to basketball. Then, I just wanted with great sincerity for Jordan to vanquish the alien dream team.
Kareem Estefan: In Space Jam, a bunch of aliens steal the talent of five of the NBA’s best players to appease their greedy boss, but face a tough battle from the Looney Tunes, who hire Michael Jordan—“but I play baseball now!”—to defeat the aliens in a basketball game that will determine the fate of the players’ skills.
Andrew Unterberger: Space Jam was a fucking event movie in my young life, maybe like Who Framed Roger Rabbit was for kids in the 80s but with sports, too.
Gavin Mueller: Please, Roger Rabbit is a far cry above this overwrought commercial.
Christina Adkison: It must have taken a very brave man to propose this idea. “Okay, eveyone listen up! I have a phenomenal idea for a movie! It’s going to involve professional basketball…..and um, the Looney Toons…yeah, yeah, the Looney Toons!........and um, aliens?......and we’ll throw in Wayne Knight, Bill Murray, and Danny DeVito for no reason. It will be a blockbuster hit! Guys?......”
Ken Munson: I’m kinda torn between how much I enjoyed this film eight years ago, and how I know now that this movie must have been a huge mistake. Yeah, it was more of a marketing scheme than anything, but it had its moments, right? Right? Well, I laughed at parts. I was twelve.
Kareem Estefan: Space Jam was my favorite movie for at least two years. What kid didn’t want to see his favorite cartoon characters hanging out with his favorite basketball stars?
Brad Shoup: I didn’t get it. Gatorade and Nike and Hanes and Ballpark Hot Dogs made Mike seem so human, so cool. How did one of the most storied cartoon franchises in cinematic history suck all the life from him?
Matt Chesnut: Compared to Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny is practically chewing the scenery.
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, Michael Jordan—not the most expressive of athletes turned actors. He takes the whole being kidnapped by cartoons and being forced to play basketball for his freedom thing a bit too lightly—Shaq would’ve knocked you out with that shit.
Matt Chesnut: Bill Murray had the best cameo here. “Larry’s not white. Larry’s clear.”
Kareem Estefan: Bill Murray is easily Space Jam’s funniest character, too tall/human to be a Looney Tune, too short/untalented to be a basketball player. The poor guy just wants to fit in, but alas, he’s exceedingly different from the rest of the cast.
Brad Shoup: Bill Murray’s crap-o-meter needed a serious recalibrating after this flick. Wayne Knight... well, we expect this from him.
Andrew Unterberger: And lordy, what a soundtrack.
Ken Munson: Even as someone deeply unaware of most urban music at the time, I felt like I knew every note of the soundtrack.
Kareem Estefan: I loved the Space Jam soundtrack back in the day. I’m not sure if there’s even one song I still enjoy, though.
Ken Munson:“I Believe I Can Fly” was everyfreakinwhere. “Hit ‘Em High,” that song has: Coolio, LL Cool J, B-Real, Method Man and Busta Rhymes. That line-up still blows me away.
Andrew Unterberger: The inspirational “I Believe I Can Fly” is bettered only by the music video, which begins with R. Kelly waxing nostalgic in a corn field and ends with him directing a humongous gospel choir on the Space Jam basketball court. “I CAN DO IT!!!!”
Christina Adkison: I do believe I can fly! And I’ll prove it! :::jumps:::
Kareem Estefan: In the end, good triumphs over evil, the aliens decide they’d rather be Looney Tunes than slave under their tyrannical leader, and Michael Jordan is conveniently peer pressured into returning to basketball.
Zach Smola: There have been lots of sci-fi movies, but “Space Jam” was really the first to take the whole “aliens just want to play basketball” approach.
Brad Shoup: I really wanted to like Space Jam at the time. I didn’t hate it, but when the high point of the movie is when the other NBA stars make fun of Charles Barkley, something’s very wrong.
Ken Munson: I sum up my defense of Space Jam as follows: The only other popular kid’s movie of the year was Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In all honesty, would you rather go see that, or Daffy Duck throwing it up with MJ?
Andrew Unterberger’s Loser of 1996
Singers Turned Actresses
In 1996, several female singers made the leap to the big screen in surprising bids for artistic integrity. After a decade of languishing in some of the most critically panned movies ever made, Madonna made the transition to serious actress with her Golden Globe-winning turn in Evita. Even more surprisingly, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love made a run at it with her breakthrough performance in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. However, come Oscar time, neither made the cut, and as a result, the film careers of both have declined immeasurably. Now this would all be forgivable, except that equally ignored by the Oscars was Kylie Minogue’s masterful work in the Paulie Shore vehicle Bio-Dome. Goddamn it, will you stuffy bastards never learn?!?!?
Adrien Begrand: This might sound a bit odd, but what a breath of fresh air Garbage was in 1996.
Tony Van Groningen: Garbage was never really a band I truly liked, although I did, like everyone else, know all of their singles word for word. They crafted undeniably memorable songs, and had a unique sound if you’d never listened to Curve before.
Adrien Begrand: Amidst all that post-grunge crap came a killer rock band unafraid of catchy melodies and electronic beats, and it sure was nice to see the band hit the big time.
Ken Munson: They were midway between industrial and alternative, and their lyrics were dark and nasty, yet somehow, they made some of the finest pop songs of the decade.
Brad Shoup: Never liked Garbage. Too bland and preening. Give them a male singer and it’d sound like third-rate Suede.
Tony Van Groningen: A huge part of their lasting appeal was undoubtedly Shirley Manson, their strangely sexy frontwoman.
Ben Woolhead: Before anyone saw any pictures of Garbage, all the talk was of superproducer Butch Vig’s involvement. The man behind Nevermind and Siamese Dream (to name but two classic albums) was now behind a drum kit in his own band. But as soon as pictures had surfaced, all the talk was of Shirley Manson. Butch who?
R.S. Ross: Shirley Manson was the sort of hot that leads to one’s being laid up in a clinic taking a shot of antibiotics up the Wang canal. Believe me. I know.
Pat Brereton: Shirley Manson was only hot insofar that she was female and had a great accent. She also seemed to lack underwear most of the time…
Zach Smola: Scary female singers are sometimes attractive, when they’re P.J. Harvey. But Shirley Mason always sort of weirded me out.
John Rothery: Shirley Manson is as rough as set of badgers. Horrible, ginger primate. She should be locked in a cage and fed goulash.
Charlie Frame: Shirley Manson needed a good month out in the sunshine before I'd look at it. I think the first time I saw a photo of her she was wearing a binliner. Sorry, trash ain't my thing.
Christina Adkinson: This is my All-Time Unbreakable Rule: If your last name is Manson, you will be unattractive.
Brad Shoup: I guess in America, Scottish is considered exotic. This is the reason, of course, that the Proclaimers are such the sex symbols they are today.
Pat Brereton: However, give me D’Arcy from the Smashing Pumpkins any day of the week in the Mid-1990s Post-Grunge Hot Chick dept.
Matt Chesnut: When Rolling Stone did one of their all-time records list, Shirley Manson talked about the first time she heard The White Album was when she was getting fingerbanged. That’s probably the most interesting Garbage-related factoid.
Ben Woolhead: The band’s feisty flame-haired frontwoman famously took a dump on a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s breakfast cereal.
Kareem Estefan: In an interview around the time Garbage first hit MTV, Shirley Manson made a point to mention that naturally, she had seen everyone in the band urinate, since they were band mates (and presumably, that’s what band mates do). I don’t know if I follow her logic, but she certainly opened my then ten year-old mind.
John Rothery: And the backing band were really obviously old. All a bunch of Canadian session musicians.
Tony Van Groningen: She had more going for her than just the way she looked though; her subject matter was a little left of the typical song on pop/alternative radio.
Ken Munson: There was always a healthy undercurrent of self-loathing in all of Garbage’s songs. From their song titles alone, I can tell you that Shirley Manson is a queer, stupid girl who thinks she’s paranoid and is only happy when it rains.
Tony Van Groningen: “Only Happy When it Rains,” while eminently cliché from the moment you hear the chorus, is nonetheless a song most teens (and mopey adults) can relate to (or can pretend they relate to).
Gavin Mueller: She had just a tinge of goth going on, not so much that you wanted to punch her though.
Christina Adkison: If Shirley Manson is only happy when it rains, she must orgasm when a hurricane blows through.
Zach Smola: The only song of the bands I ever truly enjoyed was the first single, “Queer”. It is also one of few examples of the “major label 90’s single with a sampled noise freakout” not by Beck (i.e. Butthole Surfer’s “Pepper”).
Tony Van Groningen: My favorite Garbage track is “Stupid Girl” though—Manson seemed to be well aware of a certain type of materialistic “it-girl” that her music was bound to attract and pretty much eviscerated that stereotype in a brilliant preemptive strike. Props.
John Rothery: Despite the look and feel of the band, I liked “Stupid Girl” and I think the songs are well crafted and put together. The sound was similtaneously clean and dirty; a nod to grunge, a wink to indie.
Ben Woolhead: They might have desecrated the memory of that first LP with what has followed, but “Stupid Girl” has stood the test of time and remains a great pop single—dark, spiteful and stylish.
Kareem Estefan: Garbage’s self-titled album is actually quite good, if mostly for fantastic singles like “Queer”, “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Vow”.
Josh Timmermann: But why the hell are we talking about Shirley Manson when '96 was the year of the mothafuckin' antichrist superstar himself? I mean, did she ever have ribs removed so she could perform oral sex on herself? Was she a cast member on the Wonder Years? Did she even sell her soul to Satan? I don't think so!
R.S. Ross: From the perspective of a Nirvana fan, it was baffling to hear just how glitzy and polished Butch Vig had become. For me it served as the final (neon) sign that Grunge was over.
Ken Munson: One thing’s for certain—Garbage had the most 90’s band name.
Josh Timmermann’s Forgotten Films of 1996
Though very highly regarded by some (myself included), Dead Man has benefitted curiously little from the respective popularity of Jim Jarmusch and Johnny Depp. Of course it's barely in the same filmic universe as a Bruckheimer blockbuster like Pirates of the Carribean, but it's never seemed to have developed even a more modest, if devoted, cult following, surprising considering it's the best film Jarmusch has directed and Depp has acted in, to date. Perhaps predictably, it's one of the most bizarre westerns ever made; less so, it's also one of the most profound, philosophically serious examinations of life and death to be found in American movies.
Widely reviled upon its release, I'd argue that Jane Campion's reimaging of Henry James' novel is among the best, most cinematically interesting literary filmizations of recent years for perhaps the same reason that it's woefully underappreciated in many circles: it's effectively the quintessential anti-Merchant Ivory picture. Where Oscar-lauded flicks like A Room with a View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day won over audiences and most critics with their safe, sumptuous, Masterpiece Theatre-style adaptations of revered texts, Campion twists and radically re-shapes a sacred work of classic literature for her own intents and purposes, offering her uniquely feminist take on the manipulation of Isabel Archer.
Andrew Unterberger: 1996 was a time of many essential questions. Clinton or Dole? New Labor or Conservative? N64 or Playstation?
Ken Munson: N64 was the console for middle schoolers and little tiny babies. Playstation was for snowboarders, potheads, and Mountain Dew chuggers.
Tony Van Groningen: Playstation pretty much kicked everything else’s ass. Gran Turismo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Tekken, Siphon Filter, Metal Gear, John Madden Football, Twisted Metal, Puzzle Fighter… so many good games were on Playstation.
R.S. Ross: If I subtracted all the nights my friends and I sat around eating Taco Bell and drinking malt liquor while “totally dominating” on NBA Live with the team we created in our likeness I’d have cured cancer by now.
Ken Munson: My favorite game for Playstation was the Twisted Metal series. That was a fun time, blowing up the Eiffel Tower and running over people and everything.
Tony Van Groningen: I would have wasted countless hours in college doing things like studying, meeting people, and exercising if it weren’t for the Playstation—it used up the best years of my life, and I don’t even regret it. I can’t even say that about my ex-girlfriend.
Andrew Unterberger: When after being denied video games for the first 13 years of my existence, I was forced to choose which system would be my entry into the gamer world, it was no contest. Playstation was for serious gamers who were into gore and realism and epic shit. N64 had fun, harmless multi-player games and a lot of pretty colors. Needless to say I went N64, and I never looked back.
Matt Chesnut: N64 forever!
Kareem Estefan: N64 was the first gaming console I ever owned. I remember the night my dad got it for me; I woke up with pink eye at 2AM and played Goldeneye with the sound off until the sun rose. Luckily, pink eye’s contagious, so I got to continue playing instead of going to school.
Matt Chesnut: We had Goldeneye, the greatest multiplayer first-person shooter ever. For the first time, you could play as James Bond AND beat up women!
Kareem Estefan: Speaking as someone who doesn’t have a long history with video games and does not play RPGs, Goldeneye is an absolutely brilliant first-person shooter, and my favorite single-player game for N64. Even if I got frustrated before I could beat the game on Secret Agent.
Christina Adkison: Okay, as if my NES didn’t look bad enough when Super Nintendo came out….after N64 was released my original Super Mario Bros. looked like Asteroids.
Gavin Mueller: I had to go over to my friends' houses for a chance to play a few levels of Mario 64.
Christina Adkison: I remember playing Mario 64 and was boggled by it. I could actually go back after the screen had panned across.
Kareem Estefan: Mario 64 really disappointed me, but Mario Kart and Mario Tennis were truly works of genius.
Ben Woolhead: At university I lived for two years with a bunch of guys in a house with an N64. I hate to think how much time we spent either running around darkened rooms and vaults firing at each other with rocket launchers (Goldeneye) or racing around mud tracks dropping banana skins and cackling when one of those on our tail skidded off onto the verge (Mario Kart).
Gavin Mueller: Mario Kart 64 was a revolution.
Zach Smola: I was a N64 man myself, but basically I think everyone changed sides every time either one released a good game. Obviously, Goldeneye was the answer to the 64 million dollar question, but in terms of innovation, brilliance and addiction, the obscure Blast Corps was favored by me and my various friends and relatives.
Ken Munson: It’s interesting to compare the two, because they had radically different shelf lives. Playstation, people were playing with that for a half-decade or more. The N64, I got on my birthday and by that Christmas they weren’t making any more good games for it.
Andrew Untererger: The sad thing for me is that I never really made it past N64, and every new game console that’s come out since just confuses and frustrates me more and more. As with so many other things, my gamer tendencies are forever stuck in the 90s.
Michael Heumann: I had one of the earliest game stations, an Odyssey. I think my dad got one of those back in 1980 or so. I played it day in and day out for about two years. Then I gave up. I really haven't bothered with video games since then, and I don't think I've missed anything.
Andrew Unterberger: Trainspotting had us all staying straight and choosing life in ’96.
Michael Heumann: This is a smart, intelligent drug film that managed to show both the highs and lows of drug addiction and to make both of these things utterly repellant.
Charlie Frame: Trainspotting was THE Britpop film.
Andrew Unterberger: Trainspotting was sort of like a British Goodfellas—impossibly cool, rapid-fire style chronicling a lifestyle that’s extremely dangerous but sexy as hell at the same time.
Ken Munson: Wasn’t this sort of controversial at the time? You know, for glamourizing the junkie lifestyle? Because I don’t remember it looking all that glamourous in the movie. I guess you can cause all sorts of controversy by suggesting that druggies like drugs.
Andrew Unterberger: Did Trainspotting make me want to do drugs? Nah, but it convinced me that if I was ever broke on the street with absolutely nothing in the world, getting into smack might not be the worst way to go.
Zach Smola: Everyone said Trainspotting glamorized (or glamourized, to be realistic) shooting smack. Indeed, the film is slick as hell. But whoever feels this way totally neglects the guy-with-aids and terrifying baby-on-the-ceiling scenes.
Josh Timmermann: Moral of the story: Don't do heroin if you don't want scary dead babies to crawl across your walls and devour your flesh. (Okay, so I kind of made up that flesh-devouring part, but you get the picture).
Charlie Frame: The cold-turkey scene with the baby on the ceiling managed to be tacky to the extreme and yet scary as hell!
Gavin Mueller: The baby on the ceiling thing gave me nightmares, yeah.
R.S. Ross: I’m still haunted by that swiveling baby head.
Michael Heumann: But, really, I loved this film because of two scenes: the Ewan MacGregor diving into the toilet scene, the family covered in excrement at breakfast scene.
Adrien Begrand: Favorite scene? Probably when Spud wakes up and notices his, erm, "accident" in bed. The comic timing of that grunt is priceless: "Eugh?"
Charlie Frame: What about the scene where Frank Begbie tosses his pint off a balcony and starts the biggest bar-room brawl since the days of John Wayne?
Adrien Begrand: Robert Carlyle as Francis Begbie...now that is called a tour-de-force performance. One of the most frightening characters I've ever seen in a movie.
Ben Woolhead: Begbie is not someone you’d really like to run into on a night out. It was hard to accept the fact that, around the same time as he so convincingly portrayed a complete psycho, Robert Carlyle was also playing the lead role in Hamish Macbeth, a gentle Sunday evening British TV series about a policeman stationed on the rural west coast of Scotland.
Adrien Begrand: Amazing how Robert Carlyle and Shirley Henderson played cute romantic leads on BBC's Hamish Macbeth, and that same year in Trainspotting, Carlyle is beating guys will pool cues, and Henderson winds up covered in feces.
Ken Munson: I gotta admit, there were long stretches where I didn’t understand a damn thing anyone was saying. I guess the whole thing had to be filmed with full Scottishness intact because, once again, if it’s not Scottish it’s crap.
Ben Woolhead: Proof that swearing sounds so much better in Glaswegian than in any other accent.
Zach Smola: Up there with A Clockwork Orange in that it is one of those rare films that probably requires a dictionary, if we’re being realistic.
Kareem Estefan: I just watched Trainspotting on closed caption for the first time, and it’s amazing how much more I picked up. The scene where Spud goes to an interview on speed was infinitely more hilarious.
Adrien Begrand: The movie is like any Irvine Welsh novel. The accent is odd at first, but five minutes in, you settle in, and wind up trying to fit the word "radge" into your sentences for the rest of the day. And I still have no idea what "radge" means today.
Ken Munson: “The worst toilet in Scotland” may be the single greatest caption in the history of subtitles. False advertising, though: I didn’t spot any trains at all in that movie.
Ben Woolhead: The first time I saw this I was drunk, and the only thing I could remember the next day was someone climbing out of a toilet and a distinct lack of trains.
Adrien Begrand: Trainspotting achieved the rarest of trifectas: great book, great movie, great soundtrack.
Kareem Estefan: The opening scene with Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”, the overdose scene with Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”, and the closing scene with Underworld’s “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” are enough to convince me that Trainspotting perfected the holy marriage of music and film. That there are still so many more brilliantly soundtracked scenes is just absurd.
Adrien Begrand: Trainspotting did three things: it introduced me to the fun, demented fiction of Irvine Welsh, it made me a Robert Carlyle fan for life, and most importantly, it got me listening to New Order, after ignoring them for over a decade.
Andrew Unterberger: The scenes with Rents’s underage girlfriend singing “Temptation” made a thousand indie kids fall in love with Kelley MacDonald, and made about ten thousand fall in love with New Order.
Adrien Begrand: I knew New Order's more popular singles back in the 80s, but man, nobody ever told me about the 1987 version of "Temptation"! When I heard this on the soundtrack, and saw Kelly MacDonald sing it coquettishly during that freakout scene, my eyes were opened at long last.
Charlie Frame: It did have an excellent and pretty clued-up soundtrack: Blur's excellent "Sing" and Pulp's "Mile End" represented the obligatory Britpop contingent; Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" was the perfect backdrop for Mark Renton's overdose; "Atomic" for the club scene; and of course "Born Slippy"!
Andrew Unterberger: “Born Slippy” hurts so good at the end of the movie. I spent the entire movie waiting for it to show up and then suddenly SHY BOY SHY BOY DIRTY DUMB ANGEL BOY…it’s like the perfect hit.
Ben Woolhead: I hate “Born Slippy” just as I hate everything else Underworld have ever done. But, within the context of the film, it at least makes some semblance of sense.
Zach Smola: While all relatively dated or beaten to death, it’s a pretty choice soundtrack.
John Rothery: I could well be the only person living in the UK under the age of 40 that hasn’t seen this movie. This knowledge makes me swell with pride.
Charlie Frame: It's not regarded as that great a film any more but I remember loving it back in the day. I wonder if Irvine Welsh is still around? He must be running out of drugs to write about.
By: Stylus Staff
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