My Favorite Movies – mid90s (2018)

26 Apr

By Tanner Smith

Maybe I should just stop rewatching movies and just let my original thoughts be. I fear change………

How DARE subsequent viewings of certain movies force me to like them better than my initial mild recommendations deserved??

My biggest issue with Jonah Hill’s directorial debut mid90s upon first viewing was the ending. I said in my initial review, “I’m all for ambiguous conclusions, but I don’t think there was a conclusion to be found at all. […] At the end of ‘mid90s,’ I don’t feel like much was accomplished. But thankfully, that’s not what I’m going to remember for time to come, when I’m thinking of ‘mid90s.’ I’m going to remember the memorable characters, the effective time capsule, and my own teenage memories.”

Hey, IDIOT-PAST-TANNER–did it ever occur to you that maybe Hill’s intention with the ending was to leave his audience with that exact type of nostalgic feeling??

Set in the mid-1990s (obviously), mid90s is about a short, scrawny 13-year-old boy named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) who falls in with a crowd of skateboarders to escape the abuse of his older brother. He of course comes of age and learns he doesn’t have to take the hardest hits, on or off the board. Call it “The Sandlot” meets “Kids.”

Jonah Hill does a really good job as a first-time director. If I didn’t know any better (or recognize today’s actors like Lucas Hedges and Katherine Waterston), I’d swear this film was actually made in the mid 1990s. The aesthetic is reminiscent of a ’90s indie flick, and the passive-aggressive attitudes of these ’90s teens feel genuine. (In fact, it’s rumored that a theater projectionist asked the distributor where they found a lost treasure from the 1990s…I hope that’s not true, but that says something about the film’s quality.)

Besides, we need a break from the ’80s anyway, right?

There’s hardly a plot here, but that’s not what matters–what matters is the emotions that are felt throughout. This poor kid has been pushed around and beaten up by his jerk older brother, and he takes up skateboarding as a sporty means of escape…mainly because when he falls, he’s used to getting hurt. This is disturbing and screwed up–it makes you feel for the kid even more, even when his friend Ray (Na-kel Smith) tells him after the most brutal accident, “You literally take the hardest hits out of anybody I’d ever seen in my life. You know you don’t have to do that, right?”

And it’s not just the sport that can used as a means of escape–it’s who you’re sharing the escape with that also truly matters. These other kids have their own problems, but altogether, each other is what they need to get through.Would I relate to any of the kids if I saw this film at a younger age? I’d see a part of myself in Stevie aka “Sunburn”, but if I’m being honest…I think I was more like Fourth Grade, the kid who’s always filming with a video camera because he wants to make movies someday. I was pretty dumb at that age (and filming stuff constantly) but not dumb enough to say some of the things he says in this movie. (“Can black people get sunburned?”) But I won’t go there.

The authenticity of the kids, of course, means there’s a lot of misogynistic and homophobic language, which sadly was very common in the mid-90s. Hill wanted his characters to discuss why they talk like that, but producer Scott Rudin (who himself is gay) advised against the idea, stating he didn’t think anyone would have this conversation in the mid-90s. Hill also said in an interview, “I’m not celebrating it–I’m just telling the truth. Why are artists supposed to be like the moral police? YOU make the decision.” Meaning, this is a conversation that would probably most definitely take place nowadays, but probably not back then…maybe.

OK, now I’m going to talk about the ending, so SPOILER ALERT!!!

Everything DOES add up at the end of “mid90s”–Sunburn takes the biggest hit he’s ever had (and ends up in the hospital), he makes amends with his abusive older brother, his mother finds out in a wonderful quiet moment how much his friends care about her son, and Ray, the older kid, reassures Sunburn that he doesn’t have to hurt himself anymore.

“mid90s” doesn’t end with a bang, but it instead chooses a quieter approach–I just didn’t see it that way the first time and I felt empty as a result.

Actually, none of what I just said is why my opinion has changed so highly on “mid90s.” (They’re good factors, though.) No, the part that really got me was what happens after–Fourth Grade, who has minimal dialogue throughout the film and is constantly filming everything with a video camera, shows his friends a movie he put together based on stuff he’s filmed. It’s a montage of all the good times they all have together. We know all of these kids have their troubles–but none of that matters when they’re together because they help each other get over those issues by just having a good time together.

I had something similar happen to me in my life with my old friends (I was filming everything, which basically means I was Fourth Grade)–my friends were upset about something, more upset than I was, and so I put together a little film about all of us having fun together prior to the disappointment we all faced (because I didn’t want them thinking of it as anything other than a fun time with friends).

Really good stuff here. Good job, Jonah.

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