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o you think you’re a 90s fan? OK, Keyser Soze, can you handle this? It’s I Love the 90s, and this is 1995! The flicks, the fashions, the trends, the TV, the tunes—a totally awesome year that brought us these burning questions:
Just how off-putting can full frontal nudity be?:
Zach Smola: Showgirls is sincerely among the most horrible things I have ever seen. If I ever witness a gruesome murder, I think I might still feel the same way.
And once and for all: Blur or Oasis?:
Charlie Frame: I blame my allegiance to Blur for most of my troubles at school. The Oasis kids could be recognized by their massive foreheads, primal postures and their tendencies to throw you in the lovely prickly bush some sadistic school caretaker had thoughtfully planted next to the playground.
Because you still love the 90s, because you still harbor fond memories of your first dial-up connection, admit it: This is 1995!
Andrew Unterberger: In 1995, there was a short-lived attempt to sort of forge a Brat Pack of the 90s with movies like Mallrats and Empire Records.
Adrien Begrand: Oh man, is Mallrats ever terrible. Not even Stan Lee could save this flick.
Ken Munson: Mallrats is probably the worst of the Kevin Smith movies.
R.S. Ross: I remember Kevin Smith on MTV apologizing for what an egg he’d laid. At least he was honest.
Ken Munson: The best thing about it is that Kevin Smith, like Richard Linklater, realized that Ben Affleck is best when he’s playing a complete asshole.
Ben Woolhead: Ben Affleck really is a twat. Thankfully his character gets fucked over.
Andrew Unterberger: Did this movie even have a plot? All I remember in terms of story is Jeremy London trying to get back with some girl and Jason Lee being an asshole.
R.S. Ross: That Jeremy London was such a lame actor. Why would Smith choose him as the lead?
Ben Woolhead: Unlike fellow ex-Beverly Hills 90210 star Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls, Shannon Doherty at least got to keep her clothes on and, with it, her dignity.
Zach Smola: Mallrats arose to guilty pleasure status for millions of film snobs, and is a superior film to Empire Records if only due to the fact that it has those hilarious blue-print schemes with Jay and Silent Bob. And, also, an apt critique of the Magic Eye phenomenon.
Gabe Gloden: “That kid is on the escalator again! I hope his pants get caught and a bloodbath ensues.”
Gavin Mueller: Mallrats was funnier, but Empire Records had hotter girls. Both these movies suck.
Josh Timmermann: The only thing I remember about Empire Records was Liv Tyler in a mini-skirt. The only thing I remember about Mallrats is a fortune teller lady with a fake third nipple.
Andrew Unterberger: Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, the chick from The Craft…and a bunch of guys who never went on to do absolutely anything else. Though Lucas was also Slater in Dazed and Confused, so he gets a footnote for that.
Ken Munson: My friends tell me often I remind them of Lucas. I have no idea why.
Andrew Unterberger: Like Mallrats, Empire Records achieved a sort of classic status with kids my age in 1995.
Ken Munson: Empire Records has no classic characters, a weak plot and a lack of memorable comic sequences. Why is it so great?
Akiva Gottlieb: I'll be goddamned if this isn't every ex-girlfriend's favorite movie of all-time. A flop upon initial release, and it should have stayed that way.
Ken Munson: Despite its young Gen-X stars, its down-with-the-man philosophy and its Gin-Blossomed, Cranberried soundtrack, Empire Records doesn’t feel like a 90’s movie at all. There’s no irony, no hip self-awareness. Everyone is an easily identifiable stock character with their own compelling problems.
Zach Smola: Empire Records was almost a really good teen movie, until the completely unnecessary scene where out of nowhere, Liv Tyler’s character is accosted for her addiction to speed. It’s like the producers thought “hmmm…this isn’t teenage and controversial enough…make the good girl a speed addict.”
Akiva Gottlieb: This is the Gen-X movie for wimpy younger siblings, the Can't Hardly Wait of 1995. In other words, a mildly palatable "edgy" flick for populists. The soundtrack is pretty killer, though.
Andrew Unterberger: Edwyn Collins, ex-lead singer of Orange Juice, had a deservedly huge hit with “A Girl Like You”. And it wasn’t even the weirdest 1995 top 40 hit from an ex-lead singer of a legendary indie band on the soundtrack to a hip teen movie. What a year, huh?
Akiva Gottlieb: Gin Blossoms have always transcended the wimp-rock tag, and Edwyn Collins' sexy smash sounded like the background music for some retro-chic hipster bordello.
Ken Munson: The soundtrack is actually a major defeat for alternative rock. The movie is emblematic of the mid-90’s rock scene, but the film’s best song by far is “Say No More (Mon Amour)” by the Robert Palmer sound-alike.
Akiva Gottlieb: I don't remember if Rex Manning made the soundtrack, but his "Say No More (Mon Amour) " is the movie's saving grace.
Zach Smola: The single “Say No More (Mon Amour)” is absolutely hi-larious. Plus, it’s the only movie I can think of in which Gwar eats a character.
Andrew Unterberger: OK, the movie doesn’t hold up like it did in 1995, but come on , there are still some classic scenes and lines—“What, no applause?” the mock-funeral, “because it would hurt a lot, Warren,” A.J. gluing pennies to the floor, the final celebration to “’Til I Hear it From You”…
Ken Munson: The whole thing makes you want to believe that all conflicts can be resolved by the end of the day, and that throwing a concert solves everything, and that if you hold up a store at gunpoint, the manager will realize you just want acceptance and hire you.
Andrew Unterberger: So for everyone who ever loved Empire Records, shout it with me: “SHOPLIFTERRRRR!!!!!”
Ken Munson: Damn the man. Save the Empire.
Zach Smola: Barring the occasional strokes of genius before his emergence on the scene, before the mid-90s music videos were mostly used as a means of finding out what artists looked like. Spike Jonze was among the first people to make videos that seriously merited watching.
Tony Van Groningen: I don’t remember being cognizant of this when it was happening, but Spike Jonze directed some of my favorite all time music videos. I still love the videos for “It’s Oh So Quiet,” “Undone,” “Buddy Holly,” “Sabotage,” and many others that he has done since then.
Andrew Unterberger: I caught a special of Spike Jonze’s videos once on MTV and I just couldn’t believe that all these great videos were done by the same guy.
Gabe Gloden: The thing that really endeared me (and I think a lot of people) to Spike Jonze was his devotion to the indie DIY video aesthetic of the 90s. His videos had a “Hey, I could do that” quality about them, a style that was very easy to copy and became the norm for most of those 120 Minutes bands.
Tony Van Groningen: He was a true breath of fresh air on MTV—his videos were funny, intelligent, and just different than pretty much anything else being shown at the time.
Ben Woolhead: The videos for “Buddy Holly” and “Sabotage” are undoubtedly two of the finest I’ve ever seen, the sort of thing that make trawling through hours of mediocre anodyne shit on MTV worthwhile.
R.S. Ross: The “Buddy Holly” vid introduced a lot of us to the new coolest band ever in Weezer. Spike was the original Indie for many.
Christina Adkison: The "Buddy Holly" video consisted of Weezer being grafted into old video footage (a la Forrest Gump) into an old episode of Happy Days.
Andrew Unterberger: Ritchie gets jealous, the drummer makes google-y eyes at Joanie, and of course, Fonzie wins the dance contest.
Matt Chesnut: If you can ever learn to do the Fonzie Dance, you will be king. This I can assure you.
Andrew Unterberger: “And please….try the fish!”
Ben Woolhead: The “Sabotage” scenario: the Beastie Boys all dress up as a 70s cop show and arse about. All Beastie Boys videos involve them arsing about, but this one features big fake moustaches too and is thus superior.
Andrew Unterberger: The B-Boys break down doors, tackle bad guys into pools, break up mischievous card games and still find the time for donuts during the song’s break. All in a day’s work.
Brad Shoup: Although the form of Spike Jonze videos is such that practically anyone can mimic them (save the delightful "It's Oh So Quiet"), no one usually does.
Zach Smola: The dancing mailbox in “It’s Oh So Quiet” might be one of film’s greatest moments, period.
Tony Van Groningen: The one that really moved me was for Wax’s “California,” for some reason the slo-mo running, burning man was in my mind quite the appropriate symbol for the southern Californian lifestyle.
Andrew Unterberger: Dinosaur Jr.’s “Feel the Pain”—J. Mascis proves that full-contact golf really would be the greatest sport ever.
Adrien Begrand: Jonze's best video is, easily, Daft Punk's "Da Funk". Somehow, you care for that half-man half-dog guy, and when he can't get on the bus with the cute girl, it rips your heart apart.
Gabe Gloden: Poor Charles the Dog Boy. He had to choose between his girl and his radio.
Brad Shoup: Let's call a turd a turd, though. "Undone" was crap. A bunch of dogs running across the screen? Twice?
Ken Munson: You know, the coolness of the Buddy Holly video notwithstanding, I’ve honestly never been that impressed with Spike Jonze. I am a Michel Gondry person at heart.
Tony Van Groningen: I definitely prefer Spike Jonze doing music videos to Spike Jonze doing full-length movies, although his movies have some cool moments in them as well.
R.S. Ross: It’s difficult to assess his films because they’ve all been buoyed by Charlie Kaufman’s scripts, although seeing Kaufman’s work in the hands of Michel Gondry’s sheds a bit of doubt on Jonze’s “genius”.
Zach Smola: The videos for “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Sabotage”, “Buddy Holly” and “California” fit their songs better than any other concept possibly could. Just as he had previously done with skateboarding videos, Spike Jonze manages to make music videos that actually transcend their medium and defy all the trappings it entails.
Christina Adkison: It's a shame that Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola didn't stay together….they could have combined forces and directed music videos with mopey girls that are always in their underwear, Japanese people, and a not-so-funny Bill Murray all pretending be cops.
Tony Van Groningen: Visionary? Maybe.
Zach Smola: Oh, for the days when an absurdly large shoe-size entitled you to your own kung-fu videogame, series of terrible films, and hip-hop career.
Andrew Unterberger: Shaquille O’Neal, center for the Orlando Magic in 1995, was possibly the most popular athlete in the world after MJ’s first retirement.
Ken Munson: Some basketball stars are successful because they have incredible speed, grace, and talent. Shaquille O’Neal was successful because he bulldozed over people like a stampeding elephant and dunked like no tomorrow.
R.S. Ross: Tuning in to the Sunday game of the week and watching Shaq-Diesel open a can of whoop arse on him to the accompaniment of Marv Albert (pre-bite) grunting “Shaquille O’Neal, banging down in the paint. Puts up a shot… YES!” was a great excuse to lounge on the couch eating fast-food.
Ken Munson: It’s funny; here was a star player with the world’s most killer dunk but a regular shot that was pitiful. It also gave other teams an easy way to neutralize him: just keep fouling him, because he’s never gonna make those free throws.
R.S. Ross: I also remember him breaking a couple backboards, which seems gratuitous now but was absolutely breathtaking at the time.
Ken Munson: Then he started expanding himself into other media, including making shitty movies that no one liked, recording shitty hip-hop that no one listened to, and licensing a shitty video game that I seriously hope to God no one played.
Brad Shoup: I am Kazaam!
Christina Adkison: For me, Shaq wasn’t very credible as a genie. Considering how many times he screws up three point plays, he would almost certainly screw up three wishes.
Matt Chesnut: In Kazaam, the kid wishes for a lifetime of junk food or some such business. This is followed by Shaq’s granting of said wish what with the torrential downpour of candy and burgers. Even as a kid, I thought it was ridiculously unhealthy. Plus, where does one keep that many perishable items? He should’ve wished for a storage shed first.
Andrew Unterberger: Could this guy really play anything except a genie and a gentle giant?
Brad Shoup: Don't forget Blue Chips. Shaq and Nick Nolte. To the producers' eternal shame, they didn't face off in a game of twenty-one.
Matt Chesnut: If I could wish one thing of Shaq, it would be that his ankles break whenever he plays the Spurs in the playoffs.
Brad Shoup: Can we talk about Shaquille the artist? “What's Up Doc (Can We Rock)”? “I Know (I Got Skillz)”? “I Hate 2 Brag”? All classics of the New Shaq Swing Style.
Andrew Unterberger: TWisM for life, bitches.
Brad Shoup: The Big Irrelevance set the bar for future baller/rappers like Chris Webber, Allen Iverson, and Aaron Carter. It's about time he received his due.
Zach Smola: It deeply hurts me that Wu-Tang Clan at one point associated with Shaquille O’Neal in a musical context. It also hurts that any 9-year old boy could probably, given Shaq’s resources, design a game superior to Shaq-Fu.
Gavin Mueller: Shaq Fu was a poorly conceived fighting game in which you could beat every computer player by high-kicking repeatedly. East Asian demons were involved.
Brad Shoup: My brother and I bought Shaq-Fu for our Super Nintendo. Our fat hero had to save a kidnapped urchin by traveling through time and taunting shamans. The 16-bit soundtrack was awful and eminently sample-worthy.
Andrew Unterberger: Playing Shaq Fu for the first time was without a doubt the funniest experience of my life. Seriously, if you ever find that game in a $2 bin, don’t pass up a golden opportunity.
Zach Smola: If the Noid, mascot of Domino’s pizza, had a game, I guess Shaq can too. I’m being a little harsh.
Matt Chesnut: Forget Shaq. I was all about Penny Hardaway and those unforgettable Lil’ Penny commercials, which would prove to be the reemergence of Chris Rock.
Ken Munson: I remember Shaq’s glory reflecting onto Penny Hardaway, and how they were going to be the next Jordan and Pippen, but that didn’t quite happen, seeing as how Jordan and Pippen weren’t done being Jordan and Pippen yet.
Matt Chesnut: It’s too bad Penny’s legs were made of breadsticks because he used to be able to tear it up.
Zach Smola: In all seriousness, given his stirring film performances, revolutionary rapping skills, brilliant espousal of the videogame industry, and tremendous shoe-size, Shaq truly was the Leonardo Da Vinci of our times. Also, he could play basketball. A super man, indeed.
John Rothery: Big, epic, swashbuckling, Oscar-pleading, schmaltz-fests usually involve Kevin Costner or Tom Cruise looking constipated. This one was Mel doing some Scottish folklore. A shout of BOTHERED was issued from this observer.
Joe Niemczyk: As far as historical epics go, Dances With Wolves was still the king. Braveheart was bigger, bloodier, and more quotable, but it's not a classic or anything.
Christina Adkison: Braveheart is the pre-Passion Mel Gibson epic where he, as William Wallace, runs around resembling a member of the Blue Man Group and attempts to rid the U.K. of everything that isn’t Scottish. Because after all, if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!
Josh Timmermann: Ugh, this was just vile. It's a big, dumb, historically oblivious, intensely homophobic action flick dressed up in a kilt (which actually weren't even worn yet, by the way) as some sort of grand period epic thingy.
Ken Munson: Braveheart is an epic in every sense of the word. Everything about it practically drips with grandeur: William Wallace is the greatest hero and strategist of all time, his love of his dear wife the greatest love ever given, Longshanks the most sadistic and evil king to ever reign, the battles the most spectacular ever seen.
Zach Smola: Braveheart was probably the first hint that Gibson was going Jesus on us. The film took some tremendous historical liberties to make William Wallace a grander character than he actually was, editing out some massive mistakes he made.
Ken Munson: The great thing about Braveheart is that absolutely none of it ever happened. The moral of Braveheart’s success: Fuck historical accuracy.
Josh Timmermann: The worst part of it is the opening narration where the guy says "history books are written by those who hang heroes" or some such utter bullshit, thus giving ol' Mel a convenient excuse to bastardize history to his little (brave)heart's content.
Brad Shoup: I thought it was kind of boring, actually. Not even vaguely homoerotic.
Ken Munson: And: Rapid cut battle scenes! Slice!Spear!ArmCutOff!Smash!Wham!Death! I hate war movies, but I could watch the battle scenes in Braveheart all day and all night.
Christina Adkison: This movie (unfortunately) confirmed my suspicion that Scots do not wear anything under their kilts.
Matt Chesnut: Hey, you know what would be a really good parody of this movie? If someone would paint blue and white halves on their face and do some variation of the “freedom” speech! That would be such a riot!
Brad Shoup: Er, Wallace? Ever heard of the United Kingdom? They took your freedom, boy-o.
Gabe Gloden: I heard Mel Gibson had a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts flown in fresh every day from the U.S. to Europe on location as part of his contractual agreement for this movie. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ll believe anything anybody tells me about Mel Gibson nowadays. Psycho.
Joe Niemczyk: Now I'm not a huge Gibson fan, but I don’t get why everyone accuses Gibson of some kind of terrible hubris for making this film. He's no more self-indulgent than Tarantino, and no more of an historical revisionist than Scorsese. I'm not saying he's an auteur like them, but that he's just been on the end of some unfair barbs from armchair film critics for too long.
Ken Munson: And then William Wallace conquered England and the entire British Isles, beat back the Spanish Armada, led the American Civil Rights movement, and defeated Dr. Robotnik. Yes, truly, William Wallace was a great man in history.
Zach Smola: Then came The Patriot, or, as it should have been titled, American Braveheart. Eventually, we knew Gibson was going to make the movie about the guy who saves not just a nation, but the entire human race. He can’t help himself.
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t understand why Mel didn’t just fulfill his destiny by casting himself as Jesus in The Passion and turning it into Braveheart IV. The movie’s greatness would’ve been a lot less contested, that’s for sure.
Pat Brereton: Yeah, I never got Björk.
Adrien Begrand: It is impossible to not like Björk. How can you hate someone who sings with so much joy and passion all the time?
Brad Shoup: Yoko Ono beat Björk to most everything with a lot less indie cred.
Ken Munson: Björk sounds like something Pinky would shout at The Brain. Narf. Björk.
Gabe Gloden: No other female performer of the 90s more successfully walked the thin line between artistic talent and saucy pin-up girl. Do we like her because her music’s good or because we can’t stop looking at her hypnotic elvin beauty?
John Rothery: She is a little mad creature, probably slightly too odd looking to be endearing.
Ben Woolhead: She effectively patented that weird bobble hairstyle, the most distinctive female hair design since Princess Leia’s ear donuts.
Zach Smola: The first time you heard Björk sing or saw what she looked like, you knew she wasn’t exactly from around here. And when I say here, I mean the entire planet.
Joe Niemczyk: Björk was, and probably still is, the last pure pop star since Madonna. Has any artist really used the media to express themselves like Björk did, or broken down so many barriers in creating their music?
Charlie Frame: I don't get it. I just don't understand how this shouty little sprite could find her way onto normal decent people's car stereos and become the biggest thing since sliced puffin.
Ken Munson: I find all the enthusiasm about Björk as incomprehensible as Björk herself.
John Rothery: She possesses the most wonderful speaking voice as her broken English has a cockney twang to it.
Charlie Frame: Her accent is priceless. It goes from incomprehensibly thick Icelandicto rough'n'tumble Cockney "Já, njóta hlusta sounds of the drum an' da bass massive innit me ol' china?"
John Rothery: This accent is normally the preserve of Dutch darts players.
Josh Timmermann: I've long loved Björk, though I do have a couple friends who are rather, uhh, frightened by her. I honestly don't get it; she just gets really, really excited.
Brad Shoup: Did you see her knock that reporter out? Fiona Apple would never do that. Lisa Gerrard? Girl, not in a million years!
Gabe Gloden: Whatever you do when you meet Björk, under no circumstances should you say, “Hi Björk, welcome to Thailand!” She’ll see nothing but red and that pixie’s got claws.
Zach Smola: “Welcome to Thailand!” PUNCH! Madonna certainly wouldn’t do that.
Joe Niemczyk: The only thing more amusing about Björk assaulting the paparazzi is the idea that they were watching her in the first place. Couldn't they find Dennis Rodman?
Christina Adkison: I’m sure that everyone is going to talk about the dress….Ellen Degeneres looked ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS in that swan dress.
Brad Shoup: The swan dress may never die. But it got her name out there. As a serious artist/actress who's... out there.
Zach Smola: Regardless of how she ended up on earth, Björk rocks hard enough to wear a bird. Nuff said.
Ben Woolhead: Is she a pixie or flake? Both. Surely that’s the only conclusion that can be reached from watching the video for “It’s Oh So Quiet”?
Zach Smola: “It’s Oh So Quiet” stands head and shoulders above 99.98% of music videos ever filmed.
Gabe Gloden: I love all those videos, especially “Bachelorette” where the book writes itself in real time and creates that narrative loop, a play within a play within a play until everyone turns to plants.
Adrien Begrand: Björk finds a book that writes itself, she gets it published, and becomes famous. She attends a play about her finding a book that writes itself, getting it published, and her sudden fame. Then in the play there's a play about her finding a book that writes itself, getting it published, and her sudden fame...Then the words in the book gradually vanish, and the world reverts back to nature.
Gabe Gloden: It’s profound if you think about it.
Adrien Begrand: Every time "Human Behaviour" came on, I was glued to the tv. I still don't know what it means, but it still amazes me. It's creepy and kind of cute at the same time.
Joe Niemczyk: ”Hyperballad" is a mind-blowing piece of video art. There's no narrative, no close-ups of her looking seductive or cute, no bear suits, but it's still as exciting and moving as anything she or her collaborators have ever put together.
Steve Lichtenstein: After I marry her, Björk will give birth to one daughter, named Car Parts, Bottles, and Cutlery. I will then spend the remainder of my life in a stoned bliss, listening to my wife talk to my daughter.
Adrien Begrand: She might take her own sweet time between albums, but Björk has amassed a catalogue of albums of such high quality, that no female artist has come close to being able to match it in the last decade. Björk might have inspired a generation of Icelelandic kooks (MuM, Sigur Ros, Emiliana Torrini, Gus Gus), but nobody can hold a candle to her wacky self.
Joe Niemczyk: Unfortunately, the couch potatoes and Generation Y drones of America, who have no capacity for irony and can't distinguish fashion from real style to save their subscriptions to People, never really got it.
Andrew Unterberger: Björk might be remembered more for her bizarre public behavior and Celebrity Jeopardy parody than her music or her music videos, but we have no right to complain. We must only be thankful that she graced us with her presence for as long as she did.
Gabe Gloden: You dudes want to get a “Venus as a Boy” chant going?
Coming up tomorrow on I Love 1995…
The 90s’ greatest TV guilty pleasure:
Steve Lichtenstein: “People who haven’t ever seen an episode of Friends”: the new “people who don’t masturbate?”
And painful memory associations with the seven deadly sins…
Gabe Gloden: Se7en was also successful in curbing my canned spaghetti diet thanks to the Gluttony scene. So disgusting that if I was on the Chef Boyardee board, I’d have sued the filmmakers.
So, you think you've got the b-list celebrity it takes to be an authority on the 1990s?
Well, then drop us a line giving a little background on your qualifications (bloggers, music writers, and obsessed webboarders all welcome) and comments on two out of these four sample 1996 items:
1. The Fugees
2. Mission: Impossible
3. The beginning of M2
We look forward to hearing from you.
By: Stylus Staff
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