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American Cinema of the 1990s

American Cinema of the 1990s: Themes and Variations

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    American Cinema of the 1990s
    Book Description:

    With the U.S. economy booming under President Bill Clinton and the cold war finally over, many Americans experienced peace and prosperity in the nineties. Digital technologies gained popularity, with nearly one billion people online by the end of the decade. The film industry wondered what the effect on cinema would be.

    The essays inAmerican Cinema of the 1990sexamine the big-budget blockbusters and critically acclaimed independent films that defined the decade. The 1990s' most popular genre, action, channeled anxieties about global threats such as AIDS and foreign terrorist attacks into escapist entertainment movies. Horror films and thrillers were on the rise, but family-friendly pictures and feel-good romances netted big audiences too. Meanwhile, independent films captured hearts, engaged minds, and invaded Hollywood: by decade's end every studio boasted its own "art film" affiliate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4578-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. TIMELINE: The 1990s
    (pp. ix-xv)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Movies and the 1990s
    (pp. 1-23)

    The World Wide Web. The Internet. Cell phones. Palm pilots. Chat rooms. Spam. Computer viruses. Netscape. E-Bay. Google. Yahoo. E-mail. Blogs. Webcasts. CD-Rs. Digital cameras. DVDs. Netflix. Zip drives. Cyber space. iFilm. ʺSee you online.ʺ ʺThe server’s down.ʺ A flood of words and concepts linked to digital technologies changed our lives in the 1990s. A new communications revolution was under way that continues to alter daily life in both developed and developing countries. By 1994, three million people were online; by 1998, one hundred million. At the end of the decade, the number had leapt to almost one billion....

  7. 1990 Movies and the Off-White Gangster
    (pp. 24-44)

    InGoodfellas, one of the yearʹs most critically acclaimed films, the main character says of a fellow mobster, ʺJimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.ʺ In the first year of the new decade, Americans sometimes found it difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. With the Berlin Wall and the Soviet bloc newly dismantled, Cold War political anxieties were suddenly replaced by fears of a reunited Germany and nationalist conflicts in Eastern Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as the first executive president of the Soviet Union and received the Nobel...

  8. 1991 Movies and Wayward Images
    (pp. 45-69)

    The Gulf War came to us as a seamless flow of eerily simulacral images, remarkably consistent grainy black-and-white computer pictures from the point of view of unmanned missiles, producing an entirely abstract landscape cut to the measure of the TV screen that we watched every day. Images provided by a disembodied agency as abstract as a video game occupied the whole picture, pushing concrete locations and real bleeding and dying bodies out of the frame.

    But Gulf War imagery produced only one of a series of weird inversions between fiction and reality that played out across our mediascape. Many of...

  9. 1992 Movies and the Politics of Authorship
    (pp. 70-90)

    This was the year President George H. W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in the presidential election. At stake in this election, which marked a cataclysmic shift to the liberal/left after more than a decade of Republican leadership, was the question of who would embody the values and political responsibilities of the American people. The election makes visible a number of themes, foremost among them the condensation of male authority in the face of a shifting social landscape. And authority embeds within it the idea of authorship. Who scripts the story of the nation and its future? Which voices are...

  10. 1993 Movies and the New Economics of Blockbusters and Indies
    (pp. 91-114)

    In the year the Clinton presidency began, New York’s World Trade Center was attacked by Islamic fundamentalists exploding a truck bomb in the parking garage, and Michael Jackson was accused of pedophilic assault, making famous the ʺwacko Jackoʺ personality to which the tabloids had alluded for years. But these were surface phenomena compared to the surge of neoliberal economics as the driving force in international and national affairs and the increasingly globalized cinema industry.¹ Having beaten his predecessor by hammering at George H. W. Bushʹs stressed economy, Bill Clinton pressed for federal spending cuts combined with new taxes to reduce...

  11. 1994 Movies and Partisan Politics
    (pp. 115-136)

    Two political cartoons by Mike Peters help to illustrate the yearʹs zeitgeist: in the first, a man in a voting booth stands poised before a ballot offering a choice between ʺThief,ʺ ʺLiar,ʺ ʺCrook,ʺ ʺAdulterer,ʺ and ʺPsycho,ʺ and in the second, labeled ʺForeign Gump,ʺ a Bill Clinton/Forrest Gump composite sitting on a park bench proclaims to an onlooker, ʺMy Haiti policy is like a box of chocolates, you never know what youʹre going to getʺ (ʺ1994 Perspectives,ʺ 65, 70). Together they articulate something fundamental about the yearʹs mood: hostility toward politicians and politics as usual, and the use of popular movie...

  12. 1995 Movies, Teens, Tots, and Tech
    (pp. 137-156)

    The middle year of the decade was marked by a visible concern for youth within the nationʹs media. The most disturbing evidence of this came in the aftermath of the bombing of Oklahoma Cityʹs Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on 19 April. Many news sources initially assumed the attack had been perpetrated by foreigners, but within days authorities revealed that it had been the work of a few homegrown terrorists (Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier). In this swirl of confusion, the majority of news media made an interesting symbolic choice, launching an emotional campaign featuring images of the...

  13. 1996 Movies and Homeland Insecurity
    (pp. 157-179)

    At first glance, this seems like a rather stable year for the United States. President Bill Clinton was reelected, the first Democrat to achieve this feat since Franklin Roosevelt. Although partisanship was intense, his relationship to moderate Republicans was not unduly strained, despite Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starrʹs continuing investigation into alleged misconduct of the Clintons in the Whitewater case. The countryʹs economy was sound. The nation was not at war, and Clinton was promising to bring home the few troops he had committed to Bosnia the previous year. Superficially at least, things seemed fine at home.

    Many Americans simply wanted...

  14. 1997 Movies and the Usable Past
    (pp. 180-202)

    The animus of this year is a peculiar mélange of death, commerce, and corpses. Princess Diana was killed in a car crash after being hounded by paparazzi through the streets of Paris. Five days later, Dianaʹs friend, Mother Teresa, passed into immortality and quickly began her journey toward full-fledged sainthood. The Heavenʹs Gate cult took a less conventional route to the afterlife, staging the largest mass suicide in U.S. history. Believing they could rendezvous with a spaceship tailing the Hale-Bopp comet, Marshall Applewhite and thirty-eight of his followers (many of them professional web page designers, some of them neutered) took...

  15. 1998 Movies, Dying Fathers, and a Few Survivors
    (pp. 203-224)

    Even the alignment of the stars predicted this would be a bad year for father figures. Early in the year, astrologers foresaw trouble for the powerful in the positions of Uranus and Pluto. In June, Chiron and shocking Uranus clashed, carrying the energy of Scorpio, the sign for secrets and sexuality. The conflict between Uranus and Chiron was massively magnified by a solar eclipse that soon followed, a classic warning to leaders. And all year long, Saturn, the traditional father figure, moved in and out of the sign of its debility. This particular weakening of Saturn occurs only once every...

  16. 1999 Movies and Millennial Masculinity
    (pp. 225-248)

    On 20 April, the 110th birthday of Adolf Hitler, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold executed a plan they had hatched more than a year earlier. Storming Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado, the two teens killed thirteen people and wounded more than thirty before committing suicide. Having named themselves the Trench Coat Mafia, the eighteen-year-old Harris and seventeen-year-old Klebold fired an estimated nine hundred rounds using two shotguns, a semiautomatic carbine, and a semiautomatic handgun. Terrified students with cell phones flooded 911 lines as more than eight hundred police massed outside. Mercifully, the thirty-plus pipe bombs the young killers had...

  17. 1990–1999 Select Academy Awards
    (pp. 249-254)
    (pp. 255-270)
    (pp. 271-272)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 273-288)