Endless Summer: 1990s Tournament Recap

You got to lose to know how to win. Well before his voice changed into the screech we all know, Steven Tyler sang those wise words. And they undoubtedly comforted fellow Steven — Steven Spielberg — over these last several weeks — as he made his way to consecutive Endless Summer Blockbuster Tournament championships with Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark only to see them fall to films from his friend, George Lucas.

Lucas left the ’90s tournament in the first round this time — with the overall #1 seed Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace falling to 1992’s Best Picture-winning Unforgiven. That left the field wide open for Spielberg to succeed with Jurassic Park. Having swallowed up a field of beloved films like Maverick, Sister Act, There’s Something About Mary, A League of Their Own and The Lion King, Spielberg’s dinosaur odyssey went on to take the trophy over the tenacious Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

But to use Jurassic parlance, T2 grew closer than it appeared early on. The #4 seed became the lowest-seeded film to advance to the championship match, saying hasta la vista to Die Hard 2 in its first round and a true murderer’s row of popular contenders after that: Speed, #1 seed Forrest Gump, #2 seed Independence Day and fellow #4 seed The Fugitive.

But in Jurassic Park, the T-800 finally met one dickwad it couldn’t chill out, losing to the champion by a score of 88 to 76.

Although this is the last we’ve heard of James Cameron in the summer tournaments, Spielberg will be back for the 2000s tilt with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and 2005’s War of the Worlds. And of course, Lucas still lurks with a pair of prequels: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

But there are plenty of party crashers for the new millennium — like the popular Pirates of the Caribbean films, the arrival of Spider-Man and Shrek, the preeminence of Pixar, and the grandiosity of Christopher Nolan, whose The Dark Knight is the #1 overall seed.

That’s right: You can cast your votes in the 2000s Summer Blockbuster Tournament — which starts with a fresh field of 64 — on Monday, Aug. 17! Vote on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pg/midwestfilmjournal) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/MWFilmJournal) on a whole new set of impossible choices to make about your favorite summer films.

Until then, here are some notes about the 1990s tournament and the full final bracket embedded below:

  • Two fun Cinderella stories here, including a pair of #14 seeds that survived to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. The John Grisham thriller A Time to Kill held court over The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Sleepless in Seattle before falling to Independence Day. Meanwhile, A League of Their Own advanced to the Elite Eight — sending Ghost, The Truman Show and The Mummy down swinging before losing to eventual tournament champion Jurassic Park.

  • For the first time, two #4 seeds made it to the Final Four … and they had to face off against each other. In a region blown open after Phantom Menace went home, The Fugitive had a wild run through Face/Off, Total Recall, The Rock and Twister before giving up the chase against T2 — its fellow #4 seed and tournament runner-up.

  • John Travolta faced Will Smith in two separate first-round matchups — and impressively wrangled even just a few votes from The General’s Daughter vs. Men in Black and Phenomenon vs. Independence Day. A further reminder that every movie in the tournament gets at least one vote along the way, even those first-round sacrificial lambs.


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An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


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