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My past, and present.

With one exception, every movie I’ve seen in 2022 originally debuted in 1997.

It’s part of my New Year’s resolution, which was to build a virtual time machine and travel back to my lazy, hazy days behind the counter at Videoville.

I ate a kajillion Reese’s Pieces, was rightly described by my boss more than once as a “gossipy old church lady,” and injected cinema into my veins at a staggering rate between 1994 and 2006.

Even got paid more than a few bucks to do so.

Life hasn’t been the same since, as future jobs in the dish pits and out on farms beat the crud out of my back — something later made worse by lounging on too many butt-eroding bleachers while writing about prep sports.

If one thing has remained constant over the years, it has been my habit of mainlining movies into my cranium.

Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of good to great films, and a LOT of bad to worse ones.

And yet I endure.

How I watch them has changed over the years, with video stores sidelined, streaming systems taking over the world, and the act of going to the theater having irreversibly changed.

Not just by Covid, though, as ever-present cell phones, in all their annoying glory, ruined the live cinematic experience long before anyone worried about being coughed on in the dark.

Why should I go out of my way to arrange a six-movies-in-a-day marathon at the nearest mall — complete with squares of light popping on and off around me — when I can spend the same day buried under blankies on my recliner?

Especially now that I’ve chosen to spend a chunk of 2022 living in 1997.

So now I’m 38 flicks — 34 features and four short films — down the movie memory hole, and a few things already stick out.

Batman and Robin is not only still the worst superhero film ever made, but it’s somehow gotten worse in the 25 years since I ruined a Friday afternoon watching it in a theater on opening day.

The only good thing to come out of it is that George Clooney has been so willing to ridicule the film (and his own performance) every day since.

Meanwhile, Speed 2, thoroughly lambasted at the time for not being a carbon copy of the awesome first film in the series, is NOT as bad as you think it was.

Sandra Bullock is both adorable and a butt-kickin’ heroine, Willem Dafoe is reliably bonkers playing with his leeches, and the cruise ship crashing through town like Godzilla is still a hoot.

Also, it’s interesting what the passage of time will do.

I loved The Spanish Prisoner the first time around, and loved it this time too, having forgotten all the intricate surprises waiting to be sprung.

With other revisited thrillers like Switchback, Cop Land, Scream 2, and Jackie Brown, the twists were still lodged in my brain, but other than the basic outline of David Mamet’s con man caper, the rest had filtered away.

Then there’s Hercules, which I saw 17,808 times in the first few years after it hit home video, thanks to my oldest nephew — who was very young at the time.

Eventually, he moved on to new things, and there was a big enough time gap before nephews #2 and #3 arrived, that they never got hooked on the film.

Coming back after all these years, I found Hercules — with its hero channeling the nerdy charm (and vocal stylings) of Christopher Reeve in Superman —┬áto be one of the best of the new-era Disney animated films.

Not to the level of Aladdin, certainly, but personally I prefer it to The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.

Yes, yes, I’m a blasphemer.

Meanwhile, I Married A Strange Person, with its super-horny animated birds, is still a hoot — if you’re not watching it with other people. Then it gets awkward fast…

Snow White: A Tale of Terror with Sigourney Weaver is an underrated story perfect for those of us who wanted to see Prince Charming get thrown out an upstairs window, while Princess Mononoke remains a pristine gem.

And Jurnee Smollett, at 11 years old, knocked it out of the park in Eve’s Bayou, which, like other hidden gems such as Traveller, never had a chance come Oscar time. Which is a pity.

What’s still ahead to revisit? A lot.

All-timers like L.A. Confidential, The Sweet Hereafter, and Boogie Nights, plus more middling fare such as Anaconda, Good Burger, and Leprechaun 4: In Space.

The good. The godawful.

The ones I remember. The ones I don’t.

Even a few which, horror of horrors, I somehow never saw the first time around.

I’m stuck in 1997, and I’m not coming back anytime soon.

 

To follow my journey, pop over to:

https://letterboxd.com/davidsvien/list/we-have-to-go-back-rewatching-1997-in-2022/

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We have to go back … to the “good ol’ days.”

Everyone needs a good, irrational New Year’s resolution.

You know, the sort where other people hear it, then they nod and slowly start backing away, looking for a convenient exit. That kind!

So, instead of going with the pack and picking something normal like losing weight, or committing to never, ever comment on anyone’s inflammatory Facebook posts, I’m doing my own thing.

Which is to pretend like it’s 1997 again, and I’m back snug as a bug in the first part of my 15-year video store “career.”

I started at Videoville in ’94, and by ’97, things were humming.

My first nephew popped into the world, and we were well on our way to a (brief) time when a store in a cow town, in the middle of a rock in the water, would be renting 500 VHS tapes almost every Friday and Saturday.

I kid you not.

Movie studios loved video stores in ’97, and the free stuff, from advance screener copies of movies to autographed star photos, t-shirts, leather bomber jackets, and a whole lot of candy, cascaded down.

And to make things even better, it was a glorious year for movies. Or, at least that’s how I remember it 25 years later.

I mean … L.A. Confidential. Boogie Nights. The Fifth Element. Ulee’s Gold. Con Air. Grosse Point Blank. Men in Black. Austin Powers.

Even some film about Kate Winslet letting Leonardo Di Caprio freeze to death cause she wouldn’t share her rather ample hunk of floating wood after that iceberg punched out the world’s snazziest boat.

That one made a few bucks, I think.

But 25 years is a fairly long time. Toss in the additional 34,602 films (estimated…) I’ve seen since then, and who knows whether I can accept my Swiss cheese memories as fact.

So, I’m going back. Sort of.

My plan for 2022 — my resolution, as it were — is to watch as many films from 1997 as possible, to see what has held up, and what should have been chucked on the recycle pile.

Back then, we lived in a streamlined VHS fantasyscape, where a solid video store would have pretty much everything you were looking to find.

In this blighted streaming world, where “everything,” which often means nothing, is a click of a remote control away, it’ll be interesting to see how much of ’97 is readily available.

But what the heck, it gives me a mission.

I mean, how else will I know if the moment in Anaconda where the snake swallows an EEEEEVILLLLLL Jon Voight whole, barfs him out, then re-swallows him, is still a banger?!?

Sort of doing God’s work over here, is what I’m saying.

Want to follow along throughout the year? Pop over to:

https://letterboxd.com/davidsvien/list/we-have-to-go-back-rewatching-1997-in-2022/

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