' ' Cinema Romantico: Ray of Light

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ray of Light

When I saw this Tweet, this Tweet from the invaluable David Roth, our foremost T*ump chronicler, it got me to thinking as it absolutely had to. Not that I mean to impugn his choice for The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History but, my God, what a thought exercise: determining The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History. And that’s crucial, that “Shit”, because that’s a different sort of descriptor than, say, seminal. Like, “Singles” or “Reality Bites” or “Clerks” or “Fight Club” might well be the seminal 90s film, given, in order, their grunge scene atmosphere, Gen X irony, talky slackerdom and end of the century opining on the culture of too much stuff. But seminal, that’s not Shit.

“The Matrix” was the perfect apĂ©ro for Y2K while “The Net”, and even “Virtuosity”, in its own way, were indicative of a particular 90s cyber culture but not representative of this sort of 90s Shit aesthetic. Ditto the fashion of “10 Things I Hate About You” or the slang of “Clueless.” The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History goes beyond simple artifacts of the era.

Parker Posey was just, in general, iconic, the shit, but not The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History.

The scene in “Truth or Consequences, N.M.” where Martin Sheen chops off Max Perlich’s fingers while Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” plays in the background captures the 90s cinematic zeitgeist even more than “Pulp Fiction” because “Pulp Fiction” rip offs were the rage du jour while Chris Tucker quoting Barry White in “Money Talks” embodied the 70s coming back around in the 90s (just as the 90s have been coming back around right now). But the zeitgeist, that ain’t the Shit.

The Shit is more like if you could somehow take a moment of American film and peddle it at some interstate truck stop as Americana. That’s why My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife suggested Ethan Hawke’s hair in “Before Sunrise” as The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History; you could see Jesse Wallace wigs being sold at some Twenty-Twenties version of Route 66 souvenir shops. But hair is too tangible to ultimately be the Shit. Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains appearing as the CopyMat employee providing Zen-like reinforcement to Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire” reflects the self-referential nature of many 90s film but that sort of sentience is not evocative of Pure Shit. The closing credits to the rom com trying to springboard Jennifer Aniston from sitcom ensemble to silver screen leading lady, “Picture Perfect”, being set to Texas’s “Say What You Want” feels like it might be in the ballpark, though still too much about the surrounding context rather than just about itself.

No, do you remember “Wild Things”? Of course you remember “Wild Things.” And do you remember when Denise Richards and Matt Dillon and the other guy (Cory Pendergast) are riding in the jeep listening to Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life?” Yup. That’s it. That’s The Most Purely 90s Shit In Film History.

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