Forrest Gump (winner)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Shawshank Redemption
The Academy did a decent job with the nominations this year, although there were a number of notable films worth mentioning that did not have a shot at the top award. Preeminent among these is Leon: The Professional
, arguably Luc Besson’s most impressive and best work. Also on the non-English language front, Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red
and Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman
would seem potential candidates. With precedent of animated films being nominated for Best Picture, The Lion King
certainly is worth a mention. Beyond this, Ed Wood
and Natural Born Killers
may have been too strange for this award, but would not have been completely out of bounds selections.
Weeding Out the Nominees
5: Since I’m basing this entirely on personal opinion, I see nothing wrong in immediately knocking out eventual winner Forrest Gump
. There are plenty of technological reasons that this was an impressive film. Including Tom Hanks in stock footage, Gary Sinise’s missing legs—these were exciting moments for the film geek. But the story itself is maudlin and ultimately silly. This is bottom-level philosophy trumped up to look like wisdom. Every character in this film is either rock stupid or aggressively selfish and/or angry. None of this is appealing.
4: Four Weddings and a Funeral
is a very good film, but I’m not entirely sure it’s worthy of a Best Picture nomination. It earns points for managing to avoid some of the obvious tropes of the genre, even for transcending its genre in a number of places. It’s a bit corny in places, but it is solidly written and performed. It’s biggest problem is the sheer size of the cast. It needs either fewer people or another 20 minutes to make some of those people more central to where the film wants to go.
3: I like Quiz Show
pretty well, and it has all of the earmarks of a traditional Oscar film. It’s based on a real story, it has a sort of prurient appeal since it’s about a national scandal, and it’s beautifully acted all the way through. The best part of Quiz Show
is the story itself, though, and while vital, interesting, and worth watching, I’m not convinced that it’s enough to catapult this to the top spot for the year. I like it being a nominee, but I’m also satisfied that it didn’t really deserve to win.
This leaves us with the two films that in my opinion should have really been up for this award: Pulp Fiction
and The Shawshank Redemption
. While perhaps not his greatest accomplishment, Pulp Fiction
was absolutely Quentin Tarantino's emergence into national prominence as a filmmaker. It's a hell of a good movie, weaving a number of related stories into a something that reaches a logical ending despite not ending at the conclusion of some of those stories. It's smart, features great dialogue, and contains a host of characters who are memorable for good reasons instead of embarrassing ones. With The Shawshank Redemption
we get everything that makes an Oscar picture an Oscar picture and it's all done perfectly. Again, we have memorable characters. We have people fighting against injustice. We have characters who have been treated unfairly and struggle just the same. And true to the title, we have that redemption in the end. The third act of Shawshank
remains (my opinion only) one of the great sequences of film in the 1990s.
I'd have genuinely been happy with either of these taking the prize, but at gun-to-head time, both my heart and my head side with The Shawshank Redemption.
It holds up 20 years after it was produced, and is just as vital now as it was in 1994. Sure, the ending might feel a little corny, but after everything we go through with Andy Dufresne and Red, it's exactly what we need. The Shawshank Redemption
hits every note and hits them all perfectly.
The reason Leon (which is a fantastic film) probably wasn't considered is they most likely based their votes on the American Cut (The Professional) rather than the far, far superior International Cut (Leon). The American Cut blows... hard. It removes the heart and soul of the film entirely. I am surprised, however, that The Lion King wasn't nominated. Considering Beauty and the Beast had just been nominated a few years prior, and Lion King is basically considered the Gold Standard of Disney, it should have been a lock.ReplyDelete
That was my thinking, too. I'm in the wrong generation to love The Lion King, but there is an entire generation that identifies with it.Delete
You're also probably right about Leon. It's the film that jumped out at me the most when I scanned what else came out in 1994.
From this list Leon and Pulp Fiction are the two films I could see any time any day. They hold up well and both triggered great careers for practically all involved. Ah, what we could do in hindsight...ReplyDelete
Screw hindsight. The Academy just needs to talk to people like us!Delete
I have seen only 14 movies from 1994, including all the Oscar nominees excluding Quiz Show. I think if I had been voting from the Academy's list I would have gone for Pulp Fiction, much as I often hate Tarantino.ReplyDelete
Of the ones you mention, I would have gone for Red, though Ed Wood would also have been a contender.The only movie of 1994 that I rated 10/10 was Muriel's Wedding - I could watch that over and over. Some 9/10 movies not mentioned were Barcelona (this has a really special place in my heart - love it); Il Postino; and surprisingly to me Little Women.
Obviously, I'm really enjoying your new feature!. Love that still of Woody Allen listening to the pseudo-intellectuals discussing Marshall MacLuhan. Annie Hall, right?
I would have happily accepted a Pulp Fiction win. As far as Il Postino goes, it was nominated for several Oscars in 1995, so I didn't include it here despite it's pre-1995 outside of the U.S. release date.Delete
And yes, Annie Hall.
I recently watched Shawshank again, and I find myself struggling to write a review about it because it's almost too much. Too good. Too moving. Too awesome. I agree with your assessment; I've seen all the nominees from 1994 (which, by the way, was the first year I became seriously interested in film, what a year!) and while Pulp Fiction is easily second, Shawshank is just... just... so good...ReplyDelete
Pulp Fiction for the win.ReplyDelete
I recently watched Shawshank for the first time and while I enjoyed it, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Just not my type of movie, I guess.
I love when I get two comments sequentially that are diametrically opposed.Delete
I'm of the opinion that The Shawshank Redemption is one of those rare movies that, when I watch it, I can't consciously think of a way to improve. That, more than anything, is why I think it should have won.
Knowing your feelings for Forrest Gump I figured this would be coming along at some point. :-)ReplyDelete
1994 is one hell of a year to try to pick a winner. You may remember I did a category a while back titled A Great Year for Movies - 1994 where I named it the second best year in movie history. I then reviewed 15 films from 1994 I had rated at least 4 stars. (I listed another FORTY-FIVE films from that year I would rate three stars.)
The two films I rated 5 stars never stood a chance for winning Best Picture since one was a little film from New Zealand (Once Were Warriors) and the other was a documentary that the Academy didn't even bother to nominate in its own category (Hoop Dreams). Among the 13 films I rated 4 stars I had nominees Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption, as well as one of the other films you mentioned - Leon: The Professional.
Personally, among the five nominees I don't have a problem with Forrest Gump winning. I wouldn't have had a problem with Shawshank winning, either. And while I enjoyed Pulp Fiction I think it's just slightly overrated.
But for me the best films of that year were Once Were Warriors and Hoop Dreams.
Oooh, Hoop Dreams was a 10/10. Wonder why I didn't rate it on IMDb. Wonderful film, wonderful year.Delete
I considered including Hoop Dreams (and Crumb for that matter) but didn't because documentaries don't tend to get nominated for Best Picture. The fact that Hoop Dreams, which is arguably the best documentary ever made wasn't nominated at all is why the method for picking the nominees was changed.Delete
I haven't watched Forrest Gump since I saw it originally. I was 18 and liked it, but it didn't scream "best picture of the year!" I remember being really upset that Pulp Fiction didn't win, and I know this is a really common pick for biggest Oscar mistake. I also agree that Four Weddings in a Funeral is fun but not one of the best of that year. I really wouldn't be too upset if Quiz Show or Shawshank had won; both are a lot better than plenty of winners. The Academy was even older at that point, so there was no way Pulp Fiction would win.ReplyDelete
The Professional is a great choice, but it's too much of a genre film for the Academy. I agree with Chip that Once Were Warriors is another solid choice, though it was too obscure at the time.
It's a hell of a good point about the age of the Academy, and I think in that sense, it's almost a little shocking that Pulp Fiction got nominated in the first place. Then again, if it hadn't, there might have been mobs armed with pitchforks and torches. The Academy is always too old, evidenced by any number of wins in the past.Delete
I'm still not sold on Quiz Show being worthy of the win. I think it's a great nomination, but it would have to be a pretty weak year for it to pull the win. Sadly for Quiz Show, 1994 was a hell of a good year.
Tarantino made a funny joke/Speed reference at the Mtv Movie Awards in 1995. He said, "Pop quiz hotshot: you go to awards show after awards show and you keep LOSING to Forrest Gump. What do you do? What do you do? You go to the Mtv Movie Awards!" (He won that award for Best Movie for Pulp Fiction.)Delete
I can't think of a good justification for Pulp Fiction losing to Forrest Gump beyond what Dan said above--the Academy was old.Delete
The thing is, it wasn't just the Academy Awards. Forrest Gump most every single Best PIcture award over Pulp Fiction, except for the Mtv one. That was Tarantino's point and the frustration he was expressing. And yes, Mtv skews much younger than filmmakers and film critics.Delete
Well, that's kind of it--the Academy is old, but so too are most award-granting bodies. I'm pretty sure the people who vote at Cannes and Sundance tend toward older as well. It comes with the territory that the awards handed out by various establishments are made up of, well, established people.Delete
I'd rank them the same as you, but with Pulp edging out Shawshank in the end. I love the hell out of Pulp.ReplyDelete
I'm perfectly fine with that. I wouldn't have complained too much if Pulp Fiction had walked off with it.Delete