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:
- 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).
- 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 RenÃ©e 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 RenÃ©e 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.