July 8, 2014

My Five Favorite Films From...1994

Honorable Mention – Natural Born Killers: I have a story to tell about this film but I will save it for another time. Very intense, bloody and off-the-charts nuts, but it’s well-made and definitely worth seeing.

5. Hoop Dreams: Even now I think this stands as one of the better documentaries of the past 20 years or so. It was a sin against common sense and general decency that it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award that year.

4. Clerks: To many this is still Kevin Smith’s best movie*. I think it holds up as one of the better comedies of my generation. The sequel…not so much.

3. The Shawshank Redemption: If this was a list about quality, this would be first in a cakewalk. The best adaptation of a Stephen King story ever**. Still amazes me whenever I watch it.

2. Léon (The Professional): A huge sleeper film that caught everyone by surprise and is now recognized by many as one of the better movies ever made***. Not a down moment the entire movie. And it still amazes me that this was Natalie Portman’s first film. Who acts like that their first time out?

1. Pulp Fiction: The film that resurrected the careers of John Travolta and Bruce Willis and made the careers of Samuel L. Jackson**** and Ving Rhames. Tarantino’s best movie. Spawned a whole new sub-genre of movies trying to copy what Tarantino did with dialogue and playing with the timeline of the movie*****.

Wow. Even though 1993 was stronger overall, the top three films (for me) of 1994 are all some of the most respected films ever made. If you go to IMDB, Shawshank is currently #1 while Pulp Fiction is #5 and Léon is #27. That’s remarkable.

Films I Like But Didn't Make The List: Three Colors: Red, Three Colors: White, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Clear and Present Danger, Quiz Show, Bullets Over Broadway, City Slickers II, Junior, Legends of the Fall, Heavenly Creatures, Ed Wood, Dumb and Dumber, Wyatt Earp, The Mask, True Lies, Little Odessa, Immortal Beloved, PCU, The Madness of King George, The Paper, Reality Bites, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Speed, Star Trek: Generations, The Ref

Underappreciated – Cobb: This movie never got a lot of love from people. My theory is that a lot of people were uncomfortable watching Tommy Lee Jones portray a man who was a great ballplayer, but also a nasty, vile unrepentant racist and misanthrope. It’s hard to make a person like that the centerpiece of a story and then expect the public to come out in droves. But those people missed out on a great little film.

Guilty Pleasure (x2) – Timecop and Stargate: Both these movies rise above the usual “Guilty Pleasure”. The first was Van Damme’s only $100 million film, and it was his best by a wide margin. Stargate was the only film Roland Emmerich ever directed that doesn’t make me want to jump out a window******.

Major Disappointment – Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult: After the first two films, expectations were high that this would be a gut-buster as well. Instead, it stunk. I mean, this movie is flat-out bad. Not funny at all. Peter Segal’s career as a director would have died right here if it wasn’t for Tommy Boy coming out the next year and saving his ass.

And what has David Zucker written since this bomb? High School High, BASEketball, H.U.D., An American Carol ******* and Scary Movie 5. Ye Gods.

Growing Disenchantment With… – Forrest Gump: I loved it when it first came out. Then I liked it a little less each time I saw it. Now I don’t even bother flipping to it if it’s on television. I don’t know what it is exactly about the movie that caused this to happen. Maybe it’s the fact that Jenny dicks Forrest over for decades, sleeps with him once and then dumps a kid on him before she dies of AIDS. And this is the love of Forrest’s life. Yeah, that might have something to do with it…


* For me personally, it’s Chasing Amy. I know some people dislike it but I think it is a more cohesive overall story than Clerks. Other people may say Red State or Zack and Miri. To each their own.

** There are three more adaptations that are allowed into this discussion: The Mist, Stand by Me and The Shining. I liked 1408 and Salems Lot. The Stand and It were awesome mini-series. But the argument begins and ends with those four films. We'll see what happens with The Cell next year.

*** It’s true. #27 on the IMDB Top 250. And it’s just obvious from watching it. Jean Reno and Gary Oldman are flat-out awesome in that movie.

**** Unless someone wants to argue that Jackson’s role as Stacks in Goodfellas or his star turn in Amos and Andrew was his big break. In which case I’ll have to take a croquet mallet to your temple.

***** Yes, Reservoir Dogs did the same thing. But Pulp Fiction got a bigger audience than Reservoir Dogs ever did. I mean, it isn’t even close. More people saw the second film and that is why it had that kind of impact on film-making.

****** He also directed The Patriot, which only makes me want to ram my head into a wall. By that standard, it was a roaring success.

******* An American Carol was as funny as finding out you have cancer of the pancreas. It was seen by a sliver of the 27% of Americans who are still stupid enough to believe President Obama is some kind of gay Kenyan Muslim terrorist dictator. Thankfully we never had to see a hagged-out Ann Coulter pimp this all over television. Otherwise I would be blind from all the bleach I would have had to dump in my eyes.


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