Having exhaustively mined the 1970s and ’80s for all they are worth – and then some – pop culture is now most certainly setting its sights on the 1990s.
We might live in an accelerated culture, but, by gum, nothing is accelerating faster than nostalgia. Take the just-released One Day, for instance. One of the great pleasures to be gleaned from David Nicholls’ source book, and, to a much lesser extent the movie, is its immersion in the period detail of the ‘90s: the music, the looks, the ‘Cool Britannia’ movement, and the dreadful Brit Pop-ish late-night television. It’s a story as much about the mood of that decade especially as it is a bittersweet love story or will-they-won’t-they-should-they romance.
Meanwhile, on September 23rd, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dino-blockbuster Jurassic Park is being re-released in cinemas in spanking new digital print. It’s hard to convey to those who weren’t around at the time of its original release – and, terrifyingly, there are college-age youngsters today who weren’t even born when JP first roared into cinemas – just how massive a cinematic event Jurassic Park was back in the early 90s.
Pre-Titanic, pre-Lord of the Rings, pre-Avatar, Jurassic Park, boasting its then-unprecedented CGI magic, was billed ‘the movie of the century’, and indeed, for a brief period, was the most successful release in movie history.
Without meaning to sound too much like Dawson Leery (sigh, look it up kids), Jurassic Park was the biggest cinematic moment of this 90s-child’s life, and I, for one, will be in the queue first thing that morning of the 23rd, just as I was as an inveterately nerdy 12-year-old all those summers ago.
When you stop and cast your eye over pop culture in general right now, you’ll detect more and more signs that the 90s are very much back – to borrow an iconic song title from the era – in vogue.
For example, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the emergence of the grunge music scene, and Nirvana’s decade-defining second album Nevermind. Similarly, director Cameron Crowe has made a documentary about Pearl Jam and their album Ten, which was also released in 1991.
Meanwhile, grunting slackers Beavis and Butthead are making their way back to MTV; Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley will be back as Edina and Patsy in three new episodes of Absolutely Fabulous; and that iconic late-90s single gal Bridget Jones of Bridget Jones’ Diary fame, will, by all accounts, be back for a third movie as well as a new West End stage musical with Lily Allen-penned songs.
On that note, one of the big stage successes of the summer in London has been a musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning 1990 movie Ghost.
In the US, TeenNick, a spin-off from kids’ TV channel Nickelodeon, has started re-showing a raft of 90s shows from its canon to surprisingly large viewing figures, including Clarissa Explains It All, Rugrats and Doug, in part as a response to a high-profile Facebook campaign entitled ‘I Want My 90s Nickelodeon Back’ which attracted over 1m fans. Hell, even Tia and Tamara from Sister Sister are back with a self-titled reality show about one of them having a baby and another planning her wedding.
Even politics isn’t immune from the ‘90s-rear-view-mirror-checking. US presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann recently showed that her current affairs perspective, if not her IQ, was stuck in the late 80s/early 90s by announcing that the Soviet Union – which cased to exist as an entity 20 years ago – is a threat to the United States.
Given that the nostalgia kaleidoscope has now twisted enough to throw the 1990s very much into focus, it’s surely only a matter of time before movies fully embrace the trend, if for no other reason than there is a hell of a lot of money to be made in playing to the childhood memories and wistful remembrances of Generation Y-ers.
In some respects cinema has already started re-visiting the 90s. Shattered Glass (2003), a terrific true story directed by Billy Ray, focussed on the uncovering of Stephen Glass’ journalistic fraud at the ‘New Republic’ magazine in 1998 (what’s more it solicited a great performance from Hayden ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ Christensen).
The action of Stephen Frears’ The Queen (2006) took place over the summer of 1997, between the heady, celebratory days of Tony Blair’s New Labour electoral landslide, and the lachrymose, some would say hysterical days following the death in Paris of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Ryan Reynolds comedy Definitely Maybe (2008) also saw a lot of its action take place in flashback during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, replete with nod-and-wink references to Clinton’s sex life, brick-sized mobile phones, dial-up internet, and the emerging grunge outfit scene.
That same year, The Wackness, a comedy set in the summer of 1994, and is peppered with time-specific and affectionate jokes about contemporary cultural topics like Forrest Gump and OJ Simpson.
Earlier this year, we had another Anne Hathaway-starring 90s romance, Love and Other Drugs, set in 1996 around the time Viagra, erm, popped up on the public consciousness, as well as the soulful Of Gods and Men, based around the Algerian Civil War of the mid-90s.
Even Bridesmaids was inflected with 90s-talgia with the prominence given to Wilson Phillips’ 1990 hit ‘Hold On’ on the soundtrack.
What’s next? Apart from Jurassic Park, Disney is re-releasing their 1994 sensation The Lion King in – groan – 3D format in October. There are also two movies about 90s singer Jeff Buckley in the works starring Reeve Carney (currently dodging death – actual and professional – on Broadway in the title role of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark), and Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley respectively.
So what, if any, ‘90s relics would you like to see disinterred? Maybe you’d fancy a sequel to Independence Day? A remake of Death Becomes Her perhaps, starring Goldie’s daughter Kate Hudson and Meryl’s actress daughter Mamie Gummer? A movie version of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Jaden Smith playing the fictional Will Smith, and his father, the real Will Smith, in fat suit, playing the fictional Will Smith’s Uncle Phil? Let your 90s-formed imaginations run riot!
See also – We love 80’s Cinema
Words – Declan Cashin