Books that celebrate movies suffer from a built-in insecurity complex. They don’t move, for one thing. They merely refer to movement. Come, gaze upon manifold magic moments of cinema! Their glossy pages proclaim, but a whisper in the background insistently asks, What are you doing here? The multiplex is that way.
None of which has stopped anyone from buying books that suggest the best films to rent, that spill off-the-set dirt, that sternly deconstruct the feminist underpinnings of postwar monster flicks, or that simply mix a lot of pretty photos with a little text and exist primarily for the placement beneath them of coffee tables. We welcome them all because they’re fun, and because sometimes a hardbound overview can draw connections between those two-hour waking dreams, each one as different from the others as a cat from a battleship.
Movies of the 90s covers everything from ”All About My Mother” to ”You’ve Got Mail” but ends up offering much more cohesive insights, if only because editor Jürgen Müller and his writers have focused on a specific slice in time and then laid out key films of the decade?commercial and artistic?in year-by-year fashion. This supports the introduction, which, in its droll, stiltedly translated auf-deutsch fashion, correctly identifies sped-up pacing, ironic quotation, and nonlinear narrative as the hallmarks of ’90s cinema (with ”Pulp Fiction” thereby the Rosetta stone of the entire decade). You see those qualities develop and take root as the pages turn and the films pass by?when you’re not sucked in by the photos.