1994 was a very big year for me. Personally speaking, it was the year I met a girl who would later become my wife and mother of my children. I was 15 and high school graduation was two years away. It was a time of discovery. Of myself, my life, my loves, my passions. I already knew I had a fondness for movies, but after the slate of films that came out in 1994, my escalating attachment to the medium was unstoppable.
Among the highlights:
It was the year I fell in love with Paul Newman.
It was the year Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman took the world by storm.
It was the year Quentin Tarantino left his indelible mark and took the entire motion picture industry by surprise.
It was the year that Tom Hanks became our generation's Cary Grant.
It was a year that saw Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman at the top of their game.
Independent filmmaking was thriving in Hollywood and they were a considerable force to be reckoned with. They started competing with the big blockbusters and garnered esteemed reputation. Roman Polanski and John Sayles made two very small, very well-regarded films and continued their steady rise as well-respected movie makers. I continue to admire their efforts today.
Jeff Daniels and Meg Ryan played against type and earned their best reviews to date. He, a serious and subtle performer, showed us that he has the chops to pull off obscene physical comedy. She, a box office heavyweight with a flair for fluffy rom-coms, showed considerable talent in soapy melodrama. They took risks this year and earned a newfound respect from me. I've been fans of their work ever since.
It was the year we said goodbye to Jessica Tandy with her last role.
It was the year we said hello, again, to John Travolta.
It was a year where we never looked at a box of chocolates, a bus coasting on the freeway, laxatives and a boat on the beach the same way again.
It was a year that was impossible to forget. In my Best of the Year post of 1994, I had no less than 15 films that I gave my highest rating. 15 movies that I'm happy to call my favorites.
For the purpose of this blogathon, here are five of those films that truly define how remarkable this year is. These films transcended their respectful genres and became timeless classics.
In my year-end round up, I wrote, "On paper, the film sounds impossible to pull off, but everything works perfectly. The flashback structure, the blending of reality and fiction, the litany of memorable one-liners, the seamless and ground-breaking effects, the gorgeous set design …all of these elements collaborate together so well, one has to assume it's a miracle that this film even worked." One of my favorite films of all-time, Forrest Gump is what I like to call a Top 5 contender. I can't think of a single negative thing to say about it.
I wrote, "It is one of the most influential films of all time, an exercise of pure kinetic filmmaking, infused with crackling dialogue, a fractured, mind-blowing narrative structure, and career-defining performances by long-established actors." Pulp Fiction got me excited about filmmaking. Movies became more than just a place to escape to. Movies became art, a craft I eventually learned to study and appreciate.
I wrote, "There is a reason why this film remains at the top of IMDb's Best 250 films of all time. It's a universally embraced drama about hope and freedom." In an age of cynicism and despair, The Shawshank Redemption is a ray of sunshine. One of the few films where my tears are actually tears of joy.
I wrote, "Wild, fast, and incredible to look at, Speed is the ultimate summer flick, the very best in the entire decade." Action films don't get better than this. Visceral, thrilling, violent, funny. Amid all of the chaos, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock emerged from the wreckage to became bona-fide movie stars.
Dumb & Dumber
I wrote, "In the funniest film of the year, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels made the most unlikely comic duo and succeeded with flying colors. There’s nothing quite better than a twisted comedy that still holds up after several years and repeated viewings." Of course, comedy is subjective, but for my money, there are very few films funnier than this one. My appreciation for Jeff Daniels grew exponentially while my love for Jim Carrey swelled even more.