“Winona” – Matthew Sweet

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To put Matthew Sweet’s paean to Winona Ryder from his breakthrough 1991 album “Girlfriend” in perspective, you must go back to 1989. It may be hard to believe these days, but at one point in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Winona Ryder was THE hot and very talented young actress of the day. While Julia Roberts got most of the mainstream buzz during that period, Ryder won the hearts of the hipster nerd crowd. And the movie that cemented this obsession was the 1989 film “Heathers.” Unlike other teen films of the era, “Heathers” was overtly nasty and cynical and seemed to make mincemeat of the John Hughes films that gained popularity during the 1980s. And Ryder, the star and heroine of “Heathers,” was the one hot girl of the era that hipster nerds thought they possibly might have a chance of charming. Never mind the fact that in real life Ryder dated Hollywood studs-du-jour Christian Slater and Johnny Depp (this was “21 Jump Street”-era Depp … long before he became … well … the Johnny Depp we all know and love today) and that she wouldn’t fart in our general direction even after consuming two beef burritos from Taco Bell, “Heathers” dammit … gave us hope … or at least played into our delusions that a very cute girl would embrace us outsider misanthropes.

Of course, if anyone had suggested back then that 25-years later Johnny Depp would be one of the biggest movie stars in the world, both loved by the critics and audiences and that Ryder would be relegated to barely noticed supporting roles, most would guffaw at the thought. But … that’s reality. Which is unfair to Ryder. She’s had her struggles over the years, but she’s still a damn fine actress. Her supporting turn in “Black Swan” in 2009 deserved an Oscar nod, but got lost in the buzz surrounding Natalie Portman’s and Mila Kunis’s performances.

In any case, Sweet’s ballad may seem a little silly today, but it’s an accurate reflection of the psychic crush many had on Ryder back in the day.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, this is my all-time favorite romantic scene from a film. From the Quentin Tarantino-scripted / Tony Scott-directed 1993 cult classic “True Romance,” I first saw this at a time when I was a lot like Christian Slater’s character Clarence. This movie gave me hope at a bleak time in my life. Eventually, I found my Alabama … ironically in Alabama … three years later. Thankfully, she was not a call girl, four-days on the job or otherwise. And yes, I’m envious of my friends in Norfolk, Virginia who are watching this on a big screen tonight at the Naro in Norfolk, Virginia.

4. “True Romance” (1993) dir. Tony Scott

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This selection on my all-time favorite film list shouldn’t come as any surprise if you’ve been following the blog recently. I recently posted two clips from this film due to director Tony Scott’s recent demise. While the clip on the rooftop between Christian Slater’s and Patricia Arquette’s characters is my favorite scene from the film, this one also ranks high on the list.

Since my entry about this film on my previous blog is gone, I’ll briefly summarize why this film has so much meaning for me (and you can skip this part, if you’ve read this already on my earlier blog). I saw this movie during the fall of 1993, which at that point in my life, I was very similar to Christian Slater’s character Clarence: no girlfriend, dead end jobs, and the only beacon of light was maybe the chance I’d get accepted into a grad school program somewhere. Anyway, not only was this movie enormously entertaining, it gave me a beacon of hope, in an odd way. Granted, my personal beacon didn’t involve a suitcase full of illegal drugs, a prostitute girlfriend, and 10 million bullets, but it did put a big smile on my face back in the day … and still does.

This is my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, even though he was only the screenwriter. Tarantino has admitted that Clarence is autobiographical to a certain degree, because he was a lot like him when he was in his 20s. It’s a very special script and Tony Scott so respected it that he allowed Tarantino to be an integral part of the process of making the film (something unheard of in Hollywood). Their most passionate argument during the making of “True Romance” involved the ending. In Tarantino’s original, Clarence dies. However, Scott made an impassioned case to Tarantino to let Clarence live, not for commercial reasons, but because he said he loved Clarence and Alabama (Arguette’s character) so much, he wanted them to have a happy ending. Scott’s respect for Tarantino was such that he shot two endings, one where Clarence dies and the one where he lives. And Tarantino admitted that Scott’s ending was the better ending for the film that Scott made. A true gentleman’s agreement if there ever was one.

Yes, this is Tarantino so the attached scene is not safe for work or little ones.