Han Shot First!

Ruminating on the 500th episode of The Simpsons, in his latest Bleat, James Lileks writes:

I watched the 500th Simpsons last night, because it was the 500th episode. I suspect many tuned in, just to see what they’d do, or to have their suspicions reconfirmed, or see if Barney is drinking again. It made me nostalgic for the 90s, and I’m never nostalgic for the 90s.

(ten minutes thinking about the 90s)

It’s odd. The 90s were interesting. If there was a decade in my life I’d like to replay, that would be the one. The reason I have no nostalgia of the sorts you get for your teens and twenties is this: I was divorced from popular music. Not from popular culture, just the music. Early on in the 90s a switch flipped, and everything on the radio started to sound annoying or irrelevant, full of convictions I didn’t share. When that happens, memories lose their soundtracks. Maybe that’s it.

What were the sounds of the 90s? Here. I like quite a few. I remember listening to “All I Wanna Do” while watching the sun go down over Santa Monica Boulevard, which was a nice moment. I only remember “Buddy Holly” because the video came with a computer I bought. Otherwise, lots of songs whose artist had a made-up name with a hyphen, and “featured” two or three people of whom I was unaware.

I had the same reaction in the early 1990s to pop music's change in tone as James did, but I attributed it to hunkering down in the business world, and turning my back for a time on a pop culture that I was previously saturated in. But in retrospect, while pop music was headed towards a blind alley back then, the movie industry had a pretty good run in the 1990s. On my shelves of DVDs and a few aging laser discs include the following titles from that era:

  • Goodfellas
  • The Crow
  • Terminator 2
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • JFK
  • The Fugitive
  • True Lies
  • Groundhog Day
  • Apollo 13
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Schindler's List
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Toy Story
  • Austin Powers
  • Starship Troopers
  • Men In Black
  • Dark City
  • The Matrix

Yes, there's plenty of nihilism in there, and particularly in the case of JFK, plenty of Manchurian Candidate-level paranoia. But all in all, the 1990s was a pretty good decade for popcorn-style summer movies and entertainment, and Hollywood and movie theater owners were rewarded accordingly. In 1997's Air Force One, Hollywood asked for a president (played by Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford) who was a Vietnam-era veteran who knew his way around the business end of a jet airplane, and took no guff from terrorists. Two years later, George Clooney made Three Kings, in which he called out George H.W. Bush for not removing Saddam Hussein and finishing the job in Iraq.

Be careful what you wish for...