Matthew Hoemke

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1990

Awakenings - Inspired by the 1973 memoir of Oliver Sacks concerning a strange medical case where a medication used to aid people diagnosed with Parkinson's was administered to a small group of individuals who had another medical malady that was thought to possibly be related and how it helped these people who were now waking from a comatose-like state.  Exceptional performances from Robin Williams and Robert DeNero elevate an already strong film from director Penny Marshall.  This is a unique portrait of medicinal history and has been used as a visual text for many classrooms since it's release.  I first remember seeing it in a psychology class in high school and being absolutely captivated by how trans formative DeNiro can really be as an actor.

Darkman - When Sam Raimi's attempts to bring The Shadow to the big screen failed, he decided to instead invent his own dark superhero, complete with pulpy backstory and a whole lot of mayhem.  The irony that this film's success led to Alec Baldwin's 1994 Shadow movie getting the green light is not lost on me.  This film is incredibly inventive with its camera work and visual language that it was a no brainer for Sony to turn to the man who helmed this film to usher the world into the filmmaking era of superhero movies with 2002's Spider-Man.  This film finds a brilliant scientist being nearly killed by evil crime lord Durant.  The scientist is left a charred shell of the man he once was, but uses his ingenuity to reconstruct his face, but the kicker is that it only works for brief periods of time.  Liam Neeson brings a good sense of pathos to the role and is fully believable in becoming the hero known as the Darkman.  His flame is played by Frances McDormand who is just fantastic.  This is a very engrossing B movie with A+ talent behind it.

Edward Scissorhands - Tim Burton delivers this wonderfully weird, breathtakingly beautiful and surprisingly light drama that showcases the talent of stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder and gave birth to the Hot Topic kid.  The cinematography is beautiful (as comes standard with every Burton film), but this is the first film where Burton is able to marry his weird aesthetic with a story that can support and engage it.  As a filmmaker, Burton often has the visual elements of cinema down but he often forgets to be a storyteller.  This film hits both angles with grace and the charm and wonderment of Edward as he is introduced into her world is magical.  When the film takes a dramatic turn, it doesn't feel inauthentic and the film earns its climax.  The final shot of this film is whimsical and  filmically poetic.  Burton has mad a handful of fine films, but very few are exceptional.  I would say this film and Ed Wood are his masterworks of the 1990's.  Both films showcase his potential when he reigns himself in to focus on narrative in equal parts to visual style.

Ghost - This movie is often thought of for its one iconic scene (pictured right of screen or below for you phone users), but people forget that this film, while being a relatively tight romance, is also a pretty effective thriller.  Patrick Swayze is at the height of his powers and damn good in the film.  Whoopi Goldberg gives a gripping performance as a seance artist who helps Demi Moore reconnect with her lover who died, unbeknownst to them, at the hands of his business partner.  The romantic scenes are passionate and memorable, and the climax of the film is tightly shot and tense.  Whoopi owns the movie.  Every scene she is in is incredible and she earned an Oscar for the performance.

Tremors - Tremors should not be a good movie, and yet it is a great one.  This is one of the best 50's style throwback monster movies of its kind.  The cast is great.  Keven Bacon and Fred Ward expertly bounce off each other with tremendous comedic timing, and both actors can bring it dramatically when the screenplay calls upon them to do so.  Michael Gross steals all his scenes and gun enthusiast Burt Gummer and his turn to face the dread Graboid is one of the film's most memorable scenes.  The film pits the citizens of a small town against unknown monsters that attack from the loose dessert soil.  The film offers no explanation of their existence, but it hardly matters because these people are cut off from any aid and need to rally together for survival.  It is fun, fast paced, tense when called upon to be so,  This is the prime example one could point to for not sequelizing every film success.  Not only are the sequels all awful, they drag the reputation of this film down.  This is one of the best modern monster movies.  I dare you to watch this film and say otherwise.

Best Picture : Dances with Wolves - Kevin Costner's epic finds Civil War hero Lt. Dunbar giving up the life he knows for the simplicity of life with the Native Americans.  I have not seen this film, but have heard that it is a good movie, if a bit ignorant and a bit on the cringy side.


Biggest Box Office : Home Alone - John Hughes steps out of the world of Teen filmmaking to cater to a younger crowd with this film that was a breakout success and turned Macaulay Culkin into a household name.  With Hughes on script, it was up to director Christopher Columbus to helm what has become a quintessential Christmas film.  Slapstick humor, and stronger performances from Culkin, the two bandits that want in his house; Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, and neighborhood freak Old Man Marley played by Roberts Blossom elevate this film which feels oddly timeless.  John William's score is powerful and moving.