Empire Records. That sure was 1995!

I’m deter­mined to do at least a cou­ple of entries per week here. I know that I’ll have some more to write about ear­ly next week (plan­ning a trip), but for now, it’ll have to be some­thing mun­dane. We just fin­ished din­ner (lamb shanks, cooked in a nice braise of car­rots, cel­ery, onions, red wine, chick­en broth and herbes de provence) and now I’m think­ing about the movie I saw last night: Empire Records. It’s one of those movies that has two key fea­tures:

  1. It has a large, ensem­ble cast with peo­ple who turn up lat­er in lots of movies. For instance, George Lucas’s Amer­i­can Graf­fi­ti had Richard Drey­fuss, Ron Howard, Har­ri­son Ford, Kath­leen Quin­lan and even Suzanne Som­mers (who will always be remem­bered as the mys­te­ri­ous Blonde in the T-Bird).
  2. It seems to mark a point in an an era that is absolute­ly a water­mark. You can point to that movie and say, ‘yeah, that was absolute­ly 1999/2000, as is the case with 200 Cig­a­rettes (which also had a lot of famous peo­ple in the cast, includ­ing Ben and Casey Affleck, Dave Chap­pelle, Janeane Garafa­lo, Kate Hud­son, Jay Mohr, Martha Plimp­ton, and Christi­na Ric­ci (wow!). My all-time favorite move like this is Real­i­ty Bites (with Ben Stiller and Janeane Garafa­lo again, as well as Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Swoosie Kurtz, and Renée Zell­weger), which tech­ni­cal­ly should have been too late for me to iden­ti­fy with (his­to­ry says I was 34 when it came out), but some­how it feels like the movie I can point to and say, ‘yeah, that was my era too’.

At any rate, Empire Records is anoth­er one of them (and it also stars Renée Zell­weger, so I guess there could be a sort of Kevin Bacon game amongst these types of big ensem­ble movies). The big cast in Empire Records includes Ms. Zell­weger, Liv Tyler (yowza!), Antho­ny LaPaglia, Robin Tun­ney, Debi Mazar and even Tobey Maguire (although his scenes end­ed up on the cut­ting room floor). And you can point to it and say ‘1995’, which is when it was shot and takes place. Absolute­ly 1995.

I won­der what the film that typ­i­fies the ear­ly 2000 decade will be? I don’t think it’s been made yet (although I sus­pect the movies the last few years will be known for will be Pas­sion of the Christ and Fahren­heit 9/11). We may or may not know the movie when we see it. I doubt if any­body real­ized that Amer­i­can Graf­fi­ti, Real­i­ty Bites, 200 Cig­a­rettes or Empire Records were so emblem­at­ic of their time and that so many of the cast would be so busy after­ward.