Drop Dead Fred – Get Rekt!

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Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1991, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Ate De Jong’s anarchic cult classic, Drop Dead Fred, the movie about a lonely young girl who grows up to be a bored pushover until her mischievous imaginary childhood friend comes back.

Sales: 3. I can’t go 2 here because it made double its budget, but it was hardly a hit. It grew into that cult hit later, especially on TV here.

Critical Consensus: 2. I would almost go with a 1 here because it was critically despised upon release, while not enough fans saw it to care. But eventually the fans would flock to it and move it, and decades later critics have come to re-evaluate it as, if not a classic, at least an entertaining and thought-provoking favourite which was ahead of its time. Critics, man, sometimes they just don’t get it.

Director: 3. De Jong is a director who made a load of films in The Netherlands which no-one has seen – then he made this. It’s clearly a personal story – something which critics completely missed – but it is possible to enjoy this purely as a silly slapstick comedy, certainly children take it like that. Anyone who can control a manic Rik Mayall deserves at least a 3.

Performances: 4. It’s Mayall let loose. It’s a sweeter character than he’s known for, perhaps surprising for some to read, but what a perfect actor to portray both childhood trauma, acting out, and pre-adolescent anarchy. Phoebe Cates is excellent, sweetly bemused, while the rest of the cast and cameos are fun.

Characters: 3. It’s all about Fred and Elizabeth – two lifelong friends with an often strained but unending relationship. It’s great to spend a hundred minutes with them, to learn from them.

Cinematography: 3. It never goes full cartoonish or fantasy like if Tim Burton had been the director, and as such it looks like a glossy big city sitcom.

Writing: 4. Lots of funny one-liners, lots of cynicism, lots of jokes coming from kids and parents mouths that you don’t expect and cut so close to the bone that you probably wouldn’t get away with it these days. While not as quotable as many of my favourite comedies, there’s still plenty to quote and others will get the reference.

Plot: 3. A woman who has spent her life being a doormat for abuse finds herself at breaking point and resurrects her one rebellious outlet, her imaginary childhood friend Drop Dead Fred. He’s a bit naughty, but he helps her to stand up for herself.

Wardrobe: 3. Similar to the Cinematography, you feel this could have gone in a more adventurous direction, but that may have changed the tone of the movie. Outside of Fred’s suit and Snotface’s dowdy attire, it’s all by the by.

Editing: 3. Sharp, not as manic as you might expect a film like this to be.

Make up and Hair: 3. See wardrobe.

Effects: 3. Not much to go on, but fine.

Art and Set: 3. See Wardrobe.

Sound And Music: 3. I’m being very generous with my 3 here – the main theme and the associated tracks are fine – nothing remarkable, nothing original, nothing even too memorable. But they do evoke a childlike vibe, they are fun, and they work in the context of the movie. However, the production is horrible, the whole thing sounds like it was recorded on a V-tech Keyboard and feels about 5 years out of date. It’s not a 1, but I can see people going 2.

Cultural Significance: 3. Again, fairly generous here because I don’t think the film went on to inspire or influence anything but a generation of kids found solace in it. However, it did unleash Rik Mayall on wider US audiences, as well as introducing him to kids. I sort of knew him from Blackadder when I was young, but was already a huge fan thanks to Bottom. He would go on to more acclaim off the back of this performance, but I can see you going 2 here.

Accomplishment: 3. It’s a bizarre story to bring to the screen, but to make it both funny, personal, silly, complex, and to have it be both accessible to young and old, is the main accomplishment. You can look at this from a hundred perspectives – 3 is the ceiling, 2 is the basement.

Stunts: 3. See Special effects.

Originality: 3. I don’t think there’s enough to reach a 4 here, but 3 sounds reasonable. It’s not the sort of story you see everyday.

Miscellaneous: 3. Average 3.

Personal: 4. I loved it as a kid and kept loving it as a teen. I don’t enjoy it as much now, but probably because I’m comparing it with Bottom, which is flawless.

Total Score: 62/100.

Lower than I thought, but I don’t think I could really go higher in any of the categories. If I’m being honest, the score could conceivably go down by around 5 points if you felt the 3s were more accurately 2s. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1991!

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Greeting, Glancers! 1991 is great. Terminator 2? Beauty And The Beast? Those two alone made an indelible impact on my life. As with any other year, there’s a bunch of stinkers stanking up the place. Here are some of those.

The Addams Family

I’ve always sorely wanted to enjoy this film. It looks great, if a little cheap, features some of my favourite performers, and from a story and character perspective it’s right up my street. But… it’s a bit shit, right? It also features some of my least favourite performances, the story is not what I would place these characters in, and most of the humour falls flat. It’s also incredibly dull. I’ve seen this as a child, a teenager, and now I’ve watched it with my kids but it’s the same result every time – I just stare through the screen and try to put my finger on why it’s so naff.

The Commitments

I’ve never really grown out of my dislike for Irish movies and my dislike for movies which revolve around crap music. I mean, it could have been worse; it could have been about Irish music which… well I never would have watched it then. Not my thing.

Doc Hollywood

Lets me honest – Michael J Fox should have been huge. He went on and became a TV star, but outside of Back To The Future he didn’t make anything I’d want to see more than once. Yes, I’m including The Frighteners in there. Doc Hollywood is a 1984 movie which somehow ended up in 1991. It didn’t work then, it doesn’t work now, and my only thought while watching it is ‘why didn’t they just keep making Back To The Future movies’.

Father Of The Bride

There has to be at least one Diane Keaton movie on my list every year. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s neither romantic nor funny. It has Steve Martin as a dad who grimaces at things deemed unsavoury. It somehow made more money than double the combined box office of The Thing, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble In Little China. It’s…..no.

For The Boys

I have to have a musical in there too. Musical biopics – we had The Doors this year – but almost without exception I don’t enjoy these movies, whether they are based on a fictional nobody, or an actual real life nobody. Bette Middler is loud… that’s about it.

Freddy’s Dead

It was between this and Fried Green Tomatoes. You already probably assume (correctly) that I don’t like FGT, so I’ll go with the more interesting choice. I don’t hate Freddy’s Dead. I have a soft spot for it given it was the first Elm Street movie I ever saw in full. It’s the weakest in the series (at least on par with part 2), and is basically a Loony Toons cartoon with a 3D sequence. Interesting cast and some cool ideas, and I enjoy it more than anything else on this list, but the series was a literal joke by this point.

Hudson Hawk

You know how Bruce Willis only makes straight to streaming crap now? Those films which probably have names like Deadly Vengeance, or Gunshot, or I Am Bruce Willis Give me Money While I Show Up For A Single Day’s Filming And Stand On An Empty Set To Read Lines Into The Camera (Part 2). Hudson Hawk is the equivalent of those movies, except it was released at the height of his powers and I think he’s actually trying. Good cast, it’s him leaning more into comedy than his more straight action roles – he did come from a comedy background after all, but seriously, what the hell is this?

The Rocketeer

What I usually refer to as a Sunday movie. For context, I hated Sundays when I was young and any TV shows and movies they typically showed on TV on Sundays. Ironic, because when I was old enough to go to the Cinema by myself I would choose to go on Sunday as there was nowt else to do and I was usually the only person there – perfect! But The Rocketeer is one of those movies – always seemed to be on when I was already in a mood, and all it did was further dampen my mood. It wasn’t want I wanted from a superhero movie – it’s too light and fluffy, there’s a crap villain, the hero doesn’t have any particular skills, and it’s set in 1930s USA – a time period which always seems to get on my tits. Plus it’s made by perennial Least Favourite Movies Appearance Maker Joe Johnston, whose excellent Jumanji seems like an incredible fluke.

Let us know your least favourite movies of 1991 in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1991

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

We start as always with a brief slurp over the froth dripping away from 1991’s bountiful cup. Backdraft is that rare thing – a fun movie about firefighting, complete with almost sentient flames tickling Billy Baldwin’s arse. It shouldn’t be good, but Ron Howard brings plenty of tension, action, and even emotion, and it has a damn god cast – Kurt Russel, Rebecca De Mornay, JT Walsh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland, and one Robert De Niro. An equally impressive cast elevates Oliver Stone’s controversial JFK from conspiracy-bait court drama to absorbing thriller – notable names include Donald Sutherland (again), Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ed Asner, John Candy, Joe Pesci, Michael Rooker, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Wayne Knight, Kevin Bacon, Sally Kirkland, and Laurie Metcalf.

Sticking with epics, we have two of the best coming out of Asia in 1991, the Martial Arts Historical opus Once Upon A Time In China, and Zhang Yimou’s gorgeous drama Raise The Red Lantern. Jumping over to France we were treated to Jean Pierre Jeune’s debut Delicatessen, the incredibly odd yet visually memorable tale. Marc Caro co-directs this post-apocalyptic version of Sweeny Todd. Cape Fear accomplishes the difficult feat of at least meeting, if not exceling beyond, the excellent original with Martin Scorsese bringing together the original cast in part roles and letting Robert De Niro go full tilt alongside Juliette Lewis, Jessica Lange, and Nick Nolte.

In keeping with much of the unsavoury material released this year, The Silence Of The Lambs became the year’s critical darling, picking up a bunch of Oscars and reminding critics that Horror and genre filmmaking was just as worthy of praise and attention as straight dramatic fare. Barton Fink saw the Coen brothers further cement their names as a partnership to watch, blending a number of genres together and unleashing a madcap John Turturro and John Goodman on the world.

In the Indie space, a series of lesser known names and films made a huge splash. New Jack City took a grimy look at the Drug war underworld while Boyz N The Hood saw John Singleton tackle gang and youth culture in South Central LA to devastating effect. My Own Private Idaho saw both Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix trying to break from their respective moulds, playing hustlers trying to find meaning and a future in their lives. My Girl, everyone’s favourite childhood tearjerker follows Anna Chlumsky as she struggles with coming of age in the 1970s, growing up in a funeral parlor and befriending nerdy outcast Macaulay Culkin. Often mocked now, it’s still an effective, thoughtful, and funny look at childhood. Finally, Naked Lunch is… well I still haven’t quite figured it out.

10: Drop Dead Fred (US/UK) Ate De Jong

Who Ate De Jong? I’ve no idea, but I hope he was tasty. The world suffered a massive loss when Rik Mayall passed. He made an indelible impact on British comedy, but is remembered for fondly for his TV work rather than his big screen outings. Drop Dead Fred was released around the height of his powers and is his most successful movie release. It was a modest hit, was critically panned (particularly in the US), and went on to become a cult film. Rik Mayall’s physical, anarchic style is perfect for British humour, but US sensibilities never had a widespread punk cultural movement and as such his antics don’t seem to translate. The humour is juvenile yet deals with sophisticated and progressive concerns, the film is silly yet emotionally touching, and while Mayall is unleashed, the likes of Phoebe Cates and Carrie Fisher give their own levels of grounding and sarcastic flair. It’s a film which speaks to both the child and the free spirit adult.

9: Double Impact (US) Sheldon Lettich

There was a joke about Double Impact when I was in school. It was a boob joke. If you’ve seen Double Impact, you probably have your own version of that joke. Outside of boobs, this is the most famous example of JCVD playing multiple characters. Here he plays two very different twins separated at birth a la Mary Ann Benedict, after their parents are murdered. They grow up and have very different lives, Chad runs a dojo and is a bit of a polite ladies man, while Alex is more of a thug. Things happen and the pair meet, clash, learn about their parents, and plot revenge. Then there are fights and guns and boobs. It’s fun. It’s not top budget Van Damme, but it’s among the best of the rest and remains a lot of silly, violent fun.

8: The Doors (US) Oliver Stone

All musicians and writers go through a Doors phase. We get into the music, the lyrics, the mystique, and if you’re like me, yo visit Jim’s grave in Paris. Oliver Stone’s biopic is one of his lesser seen movies of his most successful period, and focuses on the formation of the band, their success, and their demise following Jim’s death. It weaves an ethereal moody vision of the 60s, complete with the requisite music and fashion, and while it never feels exciting or revelatory, it’s watchable thanks to the stellar cast led by a flawless Val Kilmer. Elsewhere, Kyle Maclachlan, Kevin Dillon, Michael Wincott, Meg Ryan, Frank Whaley, and Kathleen Quinlan are all memorable, and it’s a vital, if inaccurate watch for Doors fans.

7: Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (US) Pete Hewitt

For Metal and Rock fans in the 80s, the Bill And Ted movies were a rite of passage and watched on a monthly if not weekly occurence. I always preferred the original, but the sequel has Death. Both a ridiculous, stupid, but fun, and filled with references for young fans to spot or chase down. The sequel sees the pair being killed by a terrorist from the future and replaced by evil robots – the good Bill and Ted go to Hell and must defeat the Grim Reaper in order to return to Earth, win back their babes, and ensure that the Wyld Stallyns’ music survives. It’s weird.

6: Thelma And Louise (US) Ridley Scott

There’s no obvious reason why a young me should have enjoyed this movie, but I’ve loved it since day 1, and therefore had the benefit of growing up to not be an asshole (in some respects) and of knowing who Bradley Pitt was before he hit the big time. Naturally, it also gave me a lifelong crush on Geena Davis. It’s a perfect movie to me, from the lead 4-5 performances to Scott’s direction and Khouri’s script.

5: Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves (US) Kevin Reynolds

This film was a monster, and was accompanied by one of the biggest songs of all time. Kevin Costner was a leading man, Alan Rickman was at his hammiest, and standalone action spectacles were getting more grandiose. This is the most entertaining version of the Robin Hood story for me – sword fights, arrows, castle walls being scaled, terrible accents, romance, wizened old crones and creepy sub-villains, and lots of swinging about in trees. Plus they actually had people from Maid Marian And Her Merry Men in the film! It’s easy to ridicule now, but it’s still wildly entertaining and cheesy, complete with unnecessary cameos and breaking the fourth wall moments, and also features Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

4: Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (US) Stephen Herek

I always put this in the same bucket as Wayne’s World and Bill And Ted – it has a similar vibe, similar characters, but the humour is less juvenile, and the plot is less like a series of vignettes. It also features a young Danielle Harris, so it was a must see for me when I was young. It stars Christina Applegate as your typical teen on the verge of adulthood but somewhat directionless. When her mom goes away on business, rather than being left in charge of her 400 siblings, she is left with an elderly babysitter with tyrant syndrome. As the title suggests, the babysitter dies, and the kids decide to get on with life till mom gets home. This means a lot of partying, messing around, boyfriends and girlfriends; eventually, for Applegate this means a job and responsibility. Lots of great one liners, amusing famous faces popping up, good soundtrack, and it’s a seminal coming of age movie for me.

3: The Last Boy Scout (US) Tony Scott

I’ve covered this in my Top Ten Bruce Willis and Tony Scott movies. It’s wonderful.

2: Beauty And The Beast (US) Disney

It’s my favourite Disney movie of all time. Covered in my Top Movies of the decade.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) James Cameron

Covered in my Top movies of the decade.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (The Top Three)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1991

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

This is another year which I almost went for a top twenty list, but I decided there was enough of a difference between how much I loved the top ten versus how much I liked the 11-20 to let me stick with a solid ten. Here’s the ones that didn’t make the cut: Backdraft. Barton Fink. Boyz N The Hood. Cape Fear. Delicatessen. JFK. My Girl. My Own Private Idaho. Naked Lunch. New Jack City. Once Upon A Time In China. Raise The Red Lantern. The Silence Of The Lambs.

And now for the Top Ten:

10: Drop Dead Fred (US/UK) Ate De Jong

9: Double Impact (US) Sheldon Lettich

8: The Doors (US) Oliver Stone

7: Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (US) Pete Hewitt

6: Thelma And Louise (US) Ridley Scott

5: Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves (US) Kevin Reynolds

4: Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (US) Stephen Herek

3: The Last Boy Scout (US) Tony Scott

2: Beauty And The Beast (US) Disney

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) James Cameron

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (The Top Three)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One