Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Movie Year: 1994

This post was written as part of Fandango Groover's blogathon, My Movie Year, which celebrates our favorite year in movies.

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.

Forrest Gump
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.

Pulp Fiction
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.

The Shawshank Redemption
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.


Anonymous said...

Although for personal reasons I'd be inclined to choose 1993 as my Movie Year there is no doubt that 1994 was a fantastic year for movies.

I'm very glad to see you giving some respect to Meg Ryan, she was absolutely exceptional in When A Man Loves A Woman; and Dumb And Dumber still makes me laugh after all these years.

I really enjoyed your post Dave, I'll have to drop by more often!

PG Cooper said...

Good list, love choices 2 and 3.

Mette said...

Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption are two of the best blockbusters I've seen... they are so universally lovable, I can't believe there are people who don't like them.

Alan Grimm said...

Once again I'm reminded that I need to get around to seeing Shawshank. Nice list!

Alexander Diminiano said...

Shawshank and Dumb are two of my absolute favorites. Gump is great, but it grows weak with multiple viewings, for me. Also, I think Shawshank should have won BP that year, not Gump. I've been meaning to see Speed forever. As for Pulp Fiction, I've been trying to avoid it due to its love for profanity and graphic violence, so I'm afraid it'll offend me rather than become one of my favorites. But I've been hearing so many great things about it, and it's in IMDb's top TEN (!!!), so I would assume I also have some good reasons to just give in and watch it when I get a chance. Great list. I'm not sure what my favorite year would be (there were a lot of great ones from '94, I agree), but I'd have to say '88, if anything. It holds many films I love, but the first three that come to mind are Die Hard, A Fish Called Wanda, and Beetlejuice.

Fernando Quintero said...

Great post. I was only 4 in 1994, but I've found myself a lot of movies released that year.

Kristen said...

1994 was a second runner up for me and I'm glad you picked pretty much the same movies I would have.

Pete said...

What a great year! Excellent choices, all undisputed classics. I reckon I might be able to find something I like more than D&D but the others would probably all make my top 20 of all time!

Dave said...

Paul: I know you're a Meg fan, and I figured you'd appreciate the shout-out. Thanks for coming by!

PG Cooper: Glad you agree!

Mette: I know what you mean when you say that you can't believe some people don't like these movies. I know everyone can't agree on everything, but really, everyone *should* love Gump and Shawshank, dammit!!!

Alan: What are you waiting for?!

Alex: Pulp Fiction is violent and hardcore. I'm sure it will offend you BUT if you can overcome that, you'll be rewarded with some really ingenious storytelling and electric filmmaking. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for art! And 1988 is a fantastic year! Don't forget Big! And Working Girl! And Naked Gun! I need to get that "Best Of" list up on my site. Maybe I'll tackle '88 next. Thanks for the inspiration!

Fernando: There's something here for everyone!

Kristen: Glad we share the same taste. I'll definitely have to check out what you thought ranked higher!

Pete: A couple of my other titles from that year almost beat out D&D but I thought that this film really represented how great of a year it was. There is no funnier film that came out that year!

Thanks everyone for chiming in!

iluvcinema said...

I have yet to see Dumb and Dumber - should before the next film comes out (wink)!

1994 was a milestone year for me and I remember it well.

And it was chock full of classics too!

Solid, solid picks!

Dave said...

Yes, you should definitely catch Dumb and Dumber. Of course, comedy is subjective. If this is your kind of humor, then what are you waiting for??

Funny how you choose '95. Looks like we're in agreement that the mid-90's were very, very good to us. :-)

Anna Adams said...

Love, love, love all 4. Dumb and Dumber *still* makes me laugh, a lot.

Dave said...

Anna, it has stood the test of time year after year. It's timeless, I say!

impassionedcinema said...

This was my runner-up year. The top three films alone would win an Oscar any year they were nominated.

Then the problem arose that those are the only three I truly loved from then, so I had to look towards a different year.

Dave said...

I see what you're saying Max. The quality of films pale in comparison when side by side with the powerful trifecta of Gump, Pulp and Shawshank. But my love for those films and the others on my top 15 are just never ending.

You did no wrong choosing '03, though. A fine year with many, many favorites.


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