The Classics: 25th Hour (2002)

The Classics: 25th Hour (2002)

The phrase “Trump’s America” seems to be in vogue among thinkpiece writers right now, and that couldn’t bother me more. It implies that just because Mr. Trump won the election and is our president, that the country is now his. So writers are finding tiny reflections of him everywhere in the culture or telling you how to survive or how to have a conversation “in Trump’s America”. It’s a pithy phrase, and an annoying one. So allow me to use it in one post and one post only.

While re-watching 25th Hour for my series on the classic movies from 2002, I came upon one of the movie’s famous scenes and thought instantly, “This is Trump’s America.” If you’re not familiar with 25th Hour (and you’re probably not- it made only $13 million), the movie follows Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) on his last day of freedom before he goes to prison for drug charges. It’s directed by Spike Lee, and it’s a beautiful movie about New York and America hurtling toward an uncertain future.

Monty is having lunch with his father (Brian Cox), who owns a bar, to confirm that he will drive Monty to the prison the next day. At one point, he goes to the bathroom, and while there, he has this exchange with himself in the mirror. Heads up: lots of f-words here, and probably some offensive things said about other races. That’s the point.

So I watched that scene, and immediately thought, “This is Trump’s America.” And it really felt true, at first. Monty is angry, and he turns his anger on everybody in the city, reducing people to their tribes or their surface-level labels. He lashes out at his friends for their faults and their flaws. He curses his girlfriend for simply being suspicious.

But don’t let anyone tell you that this xenophobia and irrational anger is “Trump’s America”. Instead, look to the last 15 seconds, when Monty turns the “f*ck you” onto himself. In that moment, he takes responsibility for what he did, instead of turning the blame onto everyone else. He finally directs his anger at the one person that deserves it.

I hope that you don’t place your hope in America. There are greater things, eternal things. But we can hope things for America. I hope that America emulates those last 15 seconds and takes responsibility for the ways that it has screwed up. And I hope President Trump finds out that is his America.


The Classics: Buena Vista Social Club (1997) by Buena Vista Social Club

The Classics: Buena Vista Social Club (1997) by Buena Vista Social Club

Albums this rich with meaning should not be this easy to listen to. Buena Vista Social Club, a genre-defying record from Cuba released 20 years ago, is old-fashioned and beautiful. It is also, for many, the only picture they have of Cuban music and culture, which many saw as problematic. Buena Vista presented an image of free-wheeling, roaring-twenties, cha-cha clubs, with big-band, mambo jazz groups leading their parishioners in dances celebrating their culture. The album (and the corresponding Wim Wenders documentary) basically ignored 40 years of history.

But the album’s presentation at the time should not detract from the transcendent joy underneath the surface of every song. And while the way foreigners may have distorted Cuban history with how the album was marketed, this was the first time many of these musicians were heard outside of the Cuba. For much of Cuba’s tortured history, artists were oppressed and suppressed like the rest of the country’s people. Buena Vista took older, classic Cuban musicians (like Ibrahim Ferrer and Omar Portuondo) and combined them with the talents of younger, hustling artists. The result is an image, frozen in amber, of Cuba breaking free.

The Classics: Minority Report (2002)

The Classics: Minority Report (2002)

In Hollywood, you can barely wave a clapperboard without hitting a Steven Spielberg movie, a movie made by one of his protégés, or a movie that was influenced by his themes or his style. He has countless classics, beloved all over the world. He could have rested on his laurels, but he continues to innovate new filmmaking techniques and to tell new stories.

Most great directors would already have their canon set forty years into their career, but the early 2000s saw a restless Spielberg working tirelessly on a triptych of ambitious stories: Kubrick’s unfinished A.I.; the Frank Abagnale, Jr. biopic, Catch Me If You Can; and an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report. Catch Me If You Can was the most conventional of the three, and A.I. the biggest undertaking. But it’s Minority Report that resonates the most now, and not just because it was so prescient about coming technological advances.


Much was made at the time and has been made since of Spielberg’s decision to form a think tank of futurists for pre-production brainstorming about what the movie’s 2054 world would look like. And what they came up with was certainly predictive: driverless cars, virtual reality, touch screens with poor interfaces, personal targeting in advertising, facial recognition, etc. Minority Report doesn’t feel like science fiction as much as an impressive look into our near future.

But more impressive was what the filmmakers got right about how these technologies would be used. The world of Minority Report is a world consumed by its technological advances. Not only is technology ubiquitous (a fact that probably feels true no matter what era it is), but it is the battleground for all power struggles. In the wake of the Russian hacks on our country’s election and Anthony Weiner’s laptop being confiscated by the FBI, nothing feels more real in Minority Report than the power struggle over who gets to control the pre-crime technology. Under the pretense of making the world a better place, the pre-crime technology is instead used to seize or to maintain power.


The effectiveness of the quality of the technology in Minority Report is echoed in the effortlessness of everything else. We’ve seen Steven Spielberg make sci-fi epics that don’t quite work all the way through (A.I., for example, or, in keeping with the Tom Cruise theme, War of the Worlds). But in the case of Minority Report, everything is flawless, from the presentation of the exposition (the opening scene that sets up the concept of pre-crime is awesome) to the meticulously choreographed action sequences (you’ll never find a more clever action scene than when Cruise’s John Anderton ends up in a ready-made getaway car at a factory).

While the legacy of Minority Report has largely been a reputation as the most realistic science fiction movie of our time, it is this overall quality that makes it a classic now and that will help it endure in the long run. Even the performances are superlative. Tom Cruise, following his run at being a serious actor from Jerry Maguire to Vanilla Sky, gives his best starring performance. He’s matched by a creepy and beautiful turn from Samantha Morton, a strong villain in Max von Sydow, and Colin Farrell’s breakout role as Anderton’s would-be rival.

At the time, Minority Report probably felt like a change of pace for Spielberg, following the heaviness of Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, and A.I. But in hindsight, Minority Report fits right in with Spielberg classics like Close Encounters, E.T., and even Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s always had a knack for breathtaking action set pieces swirling around a core of humanity. In the end, Minority Report is just another great Spielberg movie.

The Classics: OK Computer by Radiohead

The Classics: OK Computer by Radiohead

Beginning a series on the classic albums from 1997 with a record that could realistically fit into the conversation about the best album ever released may seem a little obvious, or a little too easy. Radiohead have received enough plaudits. They were, for a time, the biggest band in the world. They may be the last rock group to transcend their industry. The music business isn’t dead yet, but mainstream rock bands most certainly are, and Radiohead were the best of the last of them. Or maybe the last of the best of them. Or just the last of them.

Rock Band Radiohead

And that’s a fine narrative, especially as Radiohead released one of the few rock records of the last few years that was able to capture even a hint of the zeitgeist. May’s A Moon Shaped Pool was an album that everyone had to comment on, which is a testament to the value that Thom Yorke and his band still hold among the tastemakers. But that necessitates the belief that there was ever a monoculture to begin with. It’s easy in hindsight to assume there was one before the Internet was omnipresent, but there were always pockets of counterculture that weren’t covered by the mainstream trades.

Radiohead, who sounded like a fairly conventional alt-rock band when they broke out with The Bends in 1995, are the best argument against the existence of a monoculture both then and now. The Bends was an easy record to like, because it sounded of a piece with a dominant genre at the time. Their follow-up in 1997, OK Computer, was a harder sell, because at that time the album sounded like nothing else.


That’s an easy fact to forget now, after everyone from Coldplay to Kanye has mimicked their sound. Indeed, the minor-key, anti-catharsis melodies on OK Computer were a new kind of rock music. They were creating new guitar landscapes on otherworldly songs like “Subterranean Homesick Alien” and reinventing old ones on songs like “Exit Music (For a Film)”, which is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from an alternate dimension.

It’s tempting to pigeonhole their brand of abstract introspection as depressed, white-boy music. But this isn’t the math-rock of Muse or the empty pop rock of Keane. The syncopation on “Electioneering” begs retrospective comparisons to a Run the Jewels beat. And the crunch of the guitars and the disruption of the drumbeat are the same kind of subversive as anything from Yeezus. Indeed, while it’s a softer, even warmer, record, OK Computer’s rebellious themes fit easily alongside any of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘90s albums.


It’s strange now to look back and think of the ‘90s as a prosperous time, yet a time that birthed music known for its angst. OK Computer is no different in this respect. The quarter-life crisis is in full swing on OK Computer, and it reveals a certain amount of privilege on the part of Radiohead’s songwriters. The band would go on to make politically conscious music (Hail to the Thief) and even to address their own vaulted economic status (Amnesiac’s “Dollars & Cents”). But OK Computer is frozen in a self-centered youth. And that may make it all the more relatable.

Radiohead defied conventions that were in place before OK Computer and, in retrospect, upend the norms that have fallen into place since. Kid A is seen as their revolutionary, experimental record, and it deserves that reputation as a genreless monolith. But OK Computer played in rock’s own backyard, and still managed to break down the fences and become something totally different.

The Cult Classics: 2001’s Movies

The Cult Classics: 2001’s Movies

A cult classic is a movie whose reputation has improved over time to the point that it is remembered as a classic even though it wasn’t celebrated in its time.

Last year’s The Classics feature grouped all the classic movies from 2000 into one post with separate categories. One of the categories was “Cult Status.” Looking back at that post is laughable now. Requiem for a Dream doesn’t belong in the cult classic category- it was very respected in its time. Memento doesn’t belong in that post at all- it was released in 2001! But hey, I’m not going to dwell on the mistakes of my past. This post is about the here and now, and I think every movie here and now belongs in the cult classic category.

After the cult classics I included some of my personal favorites that got left off last week’s post and this week’s, for various reasons. They might not be classics, but I couldn’t help but highlight them anyway.


Why it’s a cult classic: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence doesn’t fit the expected profile of a cult hit. Yes, it was less than successful at the box office and critics were widely mixed on its quality. But it’s a Spielberg movie; Spielberg doesn’t make cult classics, right? And yet over time A.I. has quietly grown in critical estimation to the point that it’s now included on many “Best of the 2000s” lists.

My take: I saw this a long time ago, and I thought what many critics at the time did- it’s a wildly ambitious movie that somehow doesn’t manage to reach the heights its premise promises. Steven Spielberg tackling an unfinished Kubrick science-fiction story? I was ready to love this movie, and it disappointed me. But the exuberance with which critics hail it now makes me want to take another stab at it.


Why it’s a cult classic: Audition was the first of the modern wave of torture porn movies, and as such it could only ever be a cult classic. Directed by the polarizing Takashi Miike, Audition tells the story of a widower auditioning replacements for his wife, which is twisted enough without the macabre, unexpected turn the story takes. The movie is known as one of the most disturbing of all time.

My take: Never seen it! I kind of want to but I kind of don’t want to.


Why it’s a cult classic: Donnie Darko grossed $1.2 million and went mostly unheralded by critics, but it’s aged well, thanks to a real star turn from newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal and the zeitgeist-seizing Frank the rabbit. Director Richard Kelly made this at age 25, which has only grown more impressive with time. You’re not supposed to make your best movie that young, let alone one of the defining cult classics of the 2000s.

My take: I was skeptical going into it, since it has a human-sized rabbit named Frank and all. But Donnie Darko has an existential appeal, taking the weight of adolescence and funneling it through an absurdist view of the world. I loved it, and I wanted to watch it again right when I was done so I could parse through the plot. But I didn’t, because I’m a responsible adult.


Why it’s a cult classic: The Man Who Wasn’t There was one of the least acclaimed movies in the Coen brothers’ oeuvre. It’s not that critics thought or think it was bad, they just didn’t think much of it at all. As a black-and-white film noir released in 2001, audiences stayed away. And as a result of neglect from both critics and audiences, it had very little lasting power at first. But, as so often happens with Coen brothers movies, The Man Who Wasn’t There has floated up the leaderboard of the brothers’ movies, and it’s now revered as one of their best.

My take: Never seen it! I definitely want to.


Why it’s a cult classic: Sexy Beast was a hit with critics, but British gangster dramas don’t exactly scream big box office either. Jonathan Glazer’s movie has endured and flourished since it was released largely on the strength of its visual style and of Ben Kingsley’s supporting performance as a violent gangster.

My take: Never seen it! I do want to.


Why it’s a cult classic: Waking Life, as an animated discourse on philosophy and dreams, was never going to be popular. Critical reception was good, but it scored $2.9 million at the box office. It wasn’t a set thing that Waking Life would become a cult hit on video either. As strong as director Richard Linklater’s fanbase might be, Waking Life literally has no plot, no conflict, no hook. But its uniqueness in that regard has served it well over time, as has the way Linklater has built his overall filmography into that of a real auteur.

My take: This movie was so boring. Watch Linklater’s Before trilogy instead. It’s got the same stoner conversations with actual context.


Why it’s a cult classic: Werckmeister Harmonies is a film by Hungarian master Béla Tarr, and it’s known primarily for its long takes. These aren’t the long takes of Alfonso Cuarón, which are impressive and effective because they follow action over long periods of time. Tarr and his wife/co-director, Ágnes Hranitzky, specialized in still long takes, allowing the structure of the mise en scène to capture his viewers and hold their gaze.

My take: Never seen it! You’ll notice I said nothing of the plot, and that’s because the movie’s plot seems to be…hard to describe. So I don’t know if I want to see it or not.

Personal Favorites Left Off


Ali: Ali saw its two stars, Will Smith and Jon Voight, nominated for acting Oscars, and it was directed by the largely revered Michael Mann. Maybe it’s because Mann’s work has fallen off lately (I submit last year’s Blackhat for your consideration), but for some reason Ali has been largely forgotten in his filmography. I think it’s a really great, insightful look at one of the most important people of the 20th century, and the boxing scenes are truly something to behold.


Black Hawk Down: I guess I can understand why Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down hasn’t lasted. It’s a busy war movie, and there aren’t the sweeping moralizations of war that are so characteristic of other war movies. But I find it’s one of the best at portraying both the cost of and the motivation of being a soldier.


Monsoon Wedding: Mira Nair’s family epic about the wedding of an arranged marriage in India went overlooked in 2001 and continues to be overlooked now.


Monster’s Ball: You’d think the movie that featured the first African-American Best Actress Oscar winner in Halle Berry would have become a classic. While the moment of her win is a classic one in the Academy’s history, the movie received mixed reviews at the time and has a mixed history since.

Ottakring: "No Man's Land" in der Brunnenpassage

No Man’s Land: This was the Best Foreign Language Film winner at that year’s Oscars, but Amélie was the nominee that became classic. No Man’s Land is a brilliant war movie about the conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina in which two opposing soldiers get trapped together in a demilitarized zone, and it deserves to be remembered.


The Others: There are scarier horror movies, but few are so exquisitely rendered to both frighten and entrance. Directed by the underemployed Alejandro Amenábar, who was responsible for the great sci-fi mind-bender Open Your Eyes and went on to direct The Sea Inside, The Others leaves a psychological impression that only the best horror can.

Alright, that’s it for the classics from 2001. Disagree? Sound off below in the comments section.

Next up in The Classics: I’ll tackle the classic albums from 1996 in a few months, so get excited for me having to include a Beck album with albums that are actually good!

The Classics: 2001’s Movies

The Classics: 2001’s Movies

Last year I ran a couple of features on movies and albums that were ready to be designated as “classic”. They were meant to be a fun look back on previous years and which pop culture artifacts from them will be remembered down the line. I had plenty of trouble determining which ones should be considered classic and how to categorize them. After all, what does “classic” even mean?

I settled on something approximating art’s ability to last beyond its time. If a movie or album is truly classic, it’s remembered. It might not be remembered for its quality, per se, but even a movie of average quality can resonate with the culture. This is why a movie like Bring It On made it on last year’s list.

I think I included too many movies and albums last year. It was hard to leave things out. But if I look back on the lists for each year (1995 for albums, 2000 for movies), it’s clear to me some don’t belong. Pollock isn’t really a classic movie, regardless of how good Ed Harris is in the lead role. And Exit Planet Dust isn’t a classic album, no matter how well-respected the Chemical Brothers are now.

Last year’s posts were too long, and there were too many categories. This year, for 2001’s movies, I’m splitting the feature into two posts: one today for straight up classics, and one next week for the movies that have become cult classics. In next week’s post, I’ll also include my personal favorites that were left off both lists.

The Classic Movies


Why it’s a classic: France’s Amélie is one of the most beloved foreign-language movies to ever be released in the States. Monetarily, it’s the 6th-most, behind only the likes of Crouching Tiger, Life Is Beautiful, and Pan’s Labyrinth. It was well-reviewed at the time, though the general population enjoyed it more than critics did. And it was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Language Film, which it ended up losing to Bosnia’s No Man’s Land (which I’ll cover in next week’s post).

My take: I like Amélie fine enough, but its joy, which is supposed to be infectious, didn’t infect me. There’s a lot happening onscreen, but not much going on behind it.


Why it’s a classic: A Beautiful Mind won the 2002 Best Picture Oscar and was the highest-grossing non-franchise, non-Michael-Bay movie of the year. Critics widely praised it, though mostly for Crowe’s lead performance as the mathematician, John Nash. Coupled with Gladiator the year before, it’s remembered as perhaps the peak of Russell Crowe’s illustrious career (and the peak of Jennifer Connelly’s sadly less illustrious career, though she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Nash’s wife, Alicia).

My take: The best thing in A Beautiful Mind is Crowe’s performance, though that shouldn’t be a discredit to the movie around it. Crowe gives one of my favorite movie performances, so it’s no small thing that he’s the best thing in the movie- it’s a great movie.


Why it’s a classic: Gosford Park has been somewhat forgotten in the popular estimation, but it will live on as a classic due to its extremely strong critical support and the fact that it was a movie made by the great, ensemble-loving Robert Altman. Sort of a take on the classic “Upstairs/Downstairs” model, its all-star cast (including Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Helen Mirren) took the movie to 7 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director, and a win for Original Screenplay (by Julian Fellowes, incidentally, the creator of Downton Abbey).

My take: I enjoyed Gosford Park, but not nearly as much as the critics seemed to. Especially when considered next to Altman’s ‘70s classics, Gosford Park seems more like a curiosity rather than one of his greats.


Why it’s a classic: In the Mood for Love barely made a dent in the box office, either domestic or worldwide, and yet it is widely praised as the best movie made by its director, Wong Kar-Wai. He is among the most respected filmmakers in his native China, and this little movie about unfulfilled love between two people whose spouses cheated on them is a big reason why.

My take: Its story is as insular as this year’s Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom, but its beautiful cinematography lends the movie a far more epic romance befitting a classic. I only saw it once a few years ago, but the memory of the way the camera moves across the interactions between the characters has lingered.


Why it’s a classic: Lagaan was a huge hit in its native India, and while the movie did not achieve big box office success here in the States, it is the one movie out of Bollywood that seems to have resonated in America over time. At the time, critics gushed over the movie’s lush visuals and well-told narrative about an Indian village challenged to a cricket game by the English officers in charge of their town as a means to avoid paying an exorbitant tax. Lagaan was expected to act as a gateway to America for Bollywood, and while that hasn’t exactly panned out, the movie itself has lasted.

My take: Sports-movie clichés abound in Lagaan’s screenplay, but they seem to spring up naturally and joyfully rather than out of contrivance. You can try to resist the swell of emotion that comes along with such a stirring underdog narrative, but I won’t.


Why it’s a classic: Legally Blonde was not a hit with critics, but who cares? It was a huge hit, and unlike many similarly successful comedies that come and go, this one made its lead actress into a star. Reese Witherspoon had achieved mild celebrity with Cruel Intentions and Election, but Legally Blonde rocketed her into full-fledged stardom. For that alone, Legally Blonde deserves classic status.

My take: Witherspoon is superbly funny, and while the rest of the movie around her isn’t perfect, it’s clever enough. Without a star as magnanimous with her gifts as Witherspoon, the movie might be cloying, but with her it’s an invigorating piece of comedy.


Why it’s a classic: The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring shouldn’t have worked. Fantasy movies had rarely been big box office or critical successes, and Peter Jackson’s biggest credit previously had been the 1996 horror comedy The Frighteners, which grossed $16 million. Yet Fellowship debuted to critical raves, ended up being 2001’s 2nd-highest grosser only behind the first Harry Potter movie, and was nominated for 13 Oscars, including Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.

My take: Fellowship is my favorite of the trilogy, which means it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a classic, and it’s mind-blowing that it’s been in my life for 15 years now.


Why it’s a classic: Memento gets a lot of attention today as a cult classic, but it’s hard to classify it that way considering how critically acclaimed it was and that it was very successful at the art house box office. Also, it was nominated for 2 Oscars, 1 for Best Adapted Screenplay, 1 for Film Editing. Sorry, you don’t get “cult” status if you were nominated for Oscars.

My take: Christopher Nolan’s movies are puzzles boxes in which he reveals bit by bit what’s at the heart of the story he’s telling. This movie is where that attribute of his really solidified, and it lives up to its reputation.


Why it’s a classic: Monsters, Inc. was the 4th in a long line of great Pixar movies. That alone qualifies it for this list, but Monsters was also a monster hit with audiences and critics. Pixar held it in high enough esteem to give it a sequel 12 years late, an honor that the studio had previously only bestowed on its crown jewel, Toy Story.

My take: How do you compare the Pixar movies to each other? Pixar has achieved quality so many times for such a long time, it’s easy to forget that Monsters, Inc. had one of the most original ideas in the company’s history and that they pulled it off so impressively.


Why it’s a classic: Moulin Rouge! was my go-to movie as a teenager to lend weight to my adolescent heartache. Because of this, I assumed that the movie was probably critically derided and only sort of a niche hit. You can imagine my surprise when I found that it was actually nominated for 8 Oscars, including Picture, Actress, and Cinematography. Turns out it resonated with more than just high school theater geeks.

My take: I appreciate it now even more than I did then, even as I relate to it less and less. The love story between Satine and Christian is over the top, for sure, but it’s meant to be, and the artfulness of all the over-the-topness grows more apparent to me with every viewing.


Why it’s a classic: Mulholland Drive is a David Lynch movie, which generally means that critics gush over it and audiences ignore it. And that was pretty much the case with Mulholland; critics did gush over it, and it barely made a dent in the box office. But Lynch somehow got a Best Director nomination from the Academy for this, and over time movie lovers have gradually come to include it in conversations about his best movies.

My take: I’ve only seen it once, which probably isn’t the best experience level with this movie to make a sure judgment about it. But I was underwhelmed by the overall effect of Mulholland, though I appreciated individual scenes and its dreamlike atmosphere.


Why it’s a classic: Ocean’s Eleven was a star-studded affair that very easily could have been insufferable but for its director, Steven Soderbergh. A Top 10 finish for 2001 at the box office wasn’t surprising, and neither was the enthusiastic response from critics, seeing as Soderbergh had built good will the year before with both Traffic and Erin Brockovich, though Ocean’s didn’t enjoy those two’s Oscar success. What has been surprising is how much its reputation has grown over the years from being one of Soderbergh’s trifles (albeit an expensive one) to being one of his very best films.

My take: I love this movie more every time I watch it. The cast is reliably great, but Soderbergh’s touch is lighter than any of his other directorial efforts, and Ocean’s is far better for it.


Why it’s a classic: The Royal Tenenbaums received moderate praise from both audiences and critics. It’s actually far better appreciated now than it was in 2001, spoken of in the same hushed tones by Wes Anderson purists as Rushmore. So why doesn’t it get cult status? A pesky Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay (which is actually the 1 nomination responsible for making Owen Wilson an Oscar nominee).

My take: Tenenbaums was my first Anderson movie, and I’ve since come to really enjoy his style. No Anderson movie can be truly bad, since he has such a fastidious directorial style, but this one didn’t resonate with me.


Why it’s a classic: Shrek, like so many other enormously popular movies, has been tainted since its release by decreasingly necessary sequels. But it was enormously popular, with both audiences and critics, and it remains a clever, oddly affecting movie, despite the sequels devolving into pop-culture-referencing garbage. It also boasts not only a Best Animated Feature win (it defeated Monsters, Inc. and, um, Jimmy Neutron) at that year’s Oscars but a nomination for Adapted Screenplay, which was no small feat for a cartoon.

My take: It’s still great. Even if it doesn’t offer the narrative satisfaction of Pixar’s best, it has memorable characters and several scenes that belong among animation history’s most classic.


Why it’s a classic: Training Day, on the surface, would appear not to belong on this list. It was financially successful, especially for a non-blockbuster crime drama, but not overly so, and critics certainly didn’t champion it. But Denzel Washington’s performance is such a tour-de-force- a term that I hate, because it is so overused in movie reviews, but there’s no other word for what Denzel does in this movie- that the movie as a whole has thrived in retrospective reputation.

My take: Its reputation is probably about right: average movie surrounding a titanic performance. Ethan Hawke was nominated for the Supporting Actor Oscar as the good cop to Denzel’s bad, but Denzel’s Oscar-winning turn is literally the only reason to see the movie.

That’s it for 2001’s classic movies. Check back in a week for 2001’s cult classics.

The Classic Albums from the Year 1995

If it takes fifteen years for a movie to reach classic status, it takes a bit longer for music. We hold on a bit more tightly to the music we love. Music more easily seeps into our identities. We associate huge life events with songs or albums, and it’s harder to let those go or admit that they belong to a different time.

So I’d say it takes about five more years for music to become classic. Nirvana is now a classic rock band, since all of their music took place over twenty years ago. That’s hard to fathom, but it’s undoubtedly true.

Like my list of 2000’s movies that are now classic, I decided to make a list of albums from 1995 that fit under the same label. Again, this list isn’t the same as the Bummys. I don’t even like some of these albums. But some works of art belong in the canon regardless of how I feel about them.

The albums can be broken down into four categories:

Undisputable: Again, it’s supposed to be “indisputable”, but how boring is correct spelling, am I right? These are the albums that are unarguably classic, no matter what you say.

Critical Consensus: These are the albums that may not have huge album sales but will always be championed by the critical community.

By Popular Demand: And these are the albums that weren’t necessarily critically adored but were and have been enormously popular regardless.

Cult Status: These albums have achieved popularity over time, rather than making a big splash when they debuted.



The Bends, Radiohead

Radiohead’s best years have seemed behind them for a few years now, so now seems an appropriate time to remember their most underrated album. At the time it was their breakthrough of sorts; they had already seen success with “Creep” off 1993’s Pablo Honey, but The Bends cemented them as more than just another band riding the Nirvana wave. Whereas grunge was generally introspective, frontman Thom Yorke’s songwriting was externally focused, and, as such, made a strong musical statement from such young, under-the-radar Brits.


Brown Sugar, D’Angelo

It’s easy to forget how big R&B was in the ‘90s. And of all its stars- Aaliyah, Maxwell, Babyface- D’Angelo always seemed like the most tortured, and even more so in retrospect. Brown Sugar was the man at his freest- still dirty, but less haunted than on 2000’s Voodoo.


E. 1999 Eternal, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

E. 1999 Eternal is nearly synonymous with BTH, as it’s really the only crossover success of their career, a lightning-in-a-bottle moment orchestrated by Eazy-E. BTH obviously had a singular sound of their own, considering they put Cleveland on the hip-hop map, but Eazy-E brought West Coast producers into the mix to catapult the group into stardom. The album would be a classic for “Tha Crossroads” alone if the rest of it weren’t so timeless.


Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters

Decidedly more lo-fi than the sound we’ve come to expect from them, Foo Fighters now sounds like their most authentic record. Grohl recorded nearly everything on the album himself and only found a temporary backing band later for the supporting tour. The current iteration of the band didn’t form until the recording of their third album, but Foo Fighters remains one of their best.


Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette

Being one of the best-selling albums of all time has its perks, but Jagged Little Pill’s financial success seems to have hampered its qualitative legacy. Alternative music wasn’t meant to be popular, but the ‘90s was the decade of the outsider. Thus, Morissette’s album of defiant confessionals has sold over 33 million copies, but make no mistake- Pill is a classic for its quality too.


Jars of Clay, Jars of Clay

Jars of Clay’s debut gets credit for popularizing acoustic worship music with songs like “Love Song for a Savior” and “Like a Child”. But Jars of Clay is more impressive for the offbeat sounds of “Flood” and “Liquid”. Jars of Clay has continued to produce unconventional Christian rock music, but their debut stands at the top of their catalog as their most influential.


Jesus Freak, dc Talk

And if we’re talking influential Christian rock albums, you don’t get more of an impact than the effect dc Talk’s most popular album had on the artists in their industry. At the time of the record’s release, dc Talk were already among the most popular Christian acts in America, but Jesus Freak was a significant step forward for the group artistically. Jesus Freak mixed genres and incorporated rap in ways unseen beforehand in the Christian music world, and the record now comes off like a collection of the band’s greatest hits.


Me Against the World, 2Pac

Pac has always been more complex than any critic or profiler could convey in a music magazine review or feature. Me Against the World seemed to pare down all the hype and controversy surrounding him and to present the purest form of 2Pac the world had yet received. You can’t really know an artist just from listening to one of his albums, but 2Pac made you believe you could.


Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, The Smashing Pumpkins

If 28 songs seems like overkill to include on a single album, that’s because it is. But Mellon Collie’s bombast is one of its charms, reflective of every teenager’s inner self-centeredness. Billy Corgan makes it easy to hate Smashing Pumpkins; Mellon Collie makes it impossible.


Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Raekwon

Produced by RZA and masterminded lyrically by Rae and Ghost, Cuban Linx was the second of a post-Enter the Wu-Tang wave of solo albums from the Wu’s collection of misfits. It also might be the densest, the one with the most complete arc from beginning to end. If Ghostface is inarguably the group’s best rapper and RZA the group’s de facto godfather, Cuban Linx is the proof, even 20 years later, that Raekwon is Wu-Tang’s indisputable narrative genius.


Post, Björk

In her 30-year career, little has changed about the public perception of Björk. Sure, she’s grown in critical estimation, but she’s still by and large seen as an otherworldly artpop chanteuse, a persona cemented by her breakthrough second album. She was hounded by the paparazzi in Iceland and was a star in her own right for her unique style, but Post was her crowning achievement to date.


(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis

Morning Glory is the kind of record it’s easy to dismiss, since “Wonderwall” (as well as, to a lesser extent, “Champagne Supernova”) is one of the most overplayed songs of all time, especially by any schmo on a college campus with an acoustic guitar. But it’s important to remember that Oasis, for all their faults, were one of the two biggest British bands in the world at a time when that meant something. And while Morning Glory comes off as more generic than its predecessor, Definitely Maybe, it’s still a bloody good album.


Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris

There never hasn’t been such a thing as Americana, but Wrecking Ball may have created it anyway. The ‘90s were around when the country industry began to mirror the pop industry far more often than it wanted to. So Emmylou Harris’s release of Wrecking Ball, while lowkey, was a strong statement of intent for one of country’s elder states(wo)men. As lovely an album as she’d ever written, Wrecking Ball became an inspiration for singer-songwriters anywhere that traditional folk music still had a place in America.

Critical Consensus


Exit Planet Dust, The Chemical Brothers

Hardly the most influential electronic album of the ‘90s (or even of 1995; see below), but it’s the one the critics liked the most and has been remembered as a result.


Lament, Resurrection Band

Glenn Kaiser’s band was never enormously popular, but they were always critical favorites among the Christian media, and this, their last album, was their most championed.


Leftism, Leftfield

This is the aforementioned most influential electronic album of 1995; the best of EDM in 2015 sounds an awful like Leftfield’s prog house album.


Maxinquaye, Tricky

Maxinquaye, on the other hand, seems to have had the most influence on hip-hop’s beats; it’s hard to imagine the current vast expanse of rap without Tricky’s seminal Brit-hop production.


Timeless, Goldie

Definitely the electronic album with the most apt title.


To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey

There’s an alternate universe in which To Bring You My Love  was the most popular alt-rock album of the year in place of Jagged Little Pill; PJ Harvey will just have to settle for being a critical darling instead.

By Popular Demand


Daydream, Mariah Carey

Mimi’s first Billboard #1, but not her last.


Different Class, Pulp

If Blur were the Stones to Oasis’s Beatles, Pulp were The Who, but they might have secretly been the Beatles all along.


Garbage, Garbage

Only in the ‘90s would an album as alternative and queer as Garbage be one of the most popular of the year.


Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt

If, like me, you dislike No Doubt for being a middling band that achieved great success at the expense of better bands, you still can’t deny that they achieved great success.


The Woman in Me, Shania Twain

The first album from a female artist to go diamond (sell over 10 million copies), and the first of Shania Twain’s efforts to take over the world.

Cult Status


Elliott Smith, Elliott Smith

The ultimate cult album from the ultimate cult artist.


Liquid Swords, GZA

The Genius didn’t seem to care that Liquid Swords, the rappers’ rap album, wasn’t commercially successful; neither do its many admirers 20 years later.


Mercury, The Prayer Chain

The Prayer Chain is often described as underground, though their first album was quite popular; Mercury, on the other hand, went seemingly unnoticed until it grew in the estimation of alt-Christian music’s enthusiasts over the years.


Soul Food, Goodie Mob

In retrospect, it’s amazing that CeeLo became as popular as he is now, since Goodie Mob always seemed like OutKast’s outcast cousins, but now Soul Food looks like one of the more prescient albums to come out of southern rap.