10. Black Swan (B+)
11. Made in Dagenham (B)
12. Gentleman's Agreement (A-)
13. Barney's Version (A-)
14. Out of Africa (B)
15. The Social Network (A-)
16. The Sound of Music (B+)
17. Pulp Fiction (A)
18. Forrest Gump (A)
19. The Shawshank Redemption (A+)
1994 Academy Awards Faceoff!
1994 is probably the strongest modern Best Picture slate, with three films that would be easy winners in any other year (and all of them in the IMDB's top 50, two in the top 5); at the time, it was Pulp Fiction
vs Forrest Gump
, but these days The Shawshank Redemption
matches or eclipses both of them.
Of the three films, Pulp Fiction
is the only one I'm seeing for the first time; took me a while to get around to it, though I've seen several other Tarantino films. I guess I'm working backward (though I skipped over Jackie Brown
). Anyway, it's a very entertaining film - like all of Tarantino's best work, it's very dialogue-driven (I wonder what a collaboration between Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin would look like); though in this case, so many of the discussions have become memes by now (particularly with Samuel L. Jackson's character; indeed, with rare exceptions, Jackson has been playing this character ever since). Extremely entertaining and incredibly influential - my main drawback would be that, like all the Tarantino films that I've seen, there's not a tremendous amount of substance to go with the style.
was the first of these three films I saw, but on VHS; this was my first widescreen viewing. It has easily the largest hatedom of the three films, but I don't see it, personally. I'm still a big fan. Tom Hanks' performance is one of his best (and, much like his work in The Terminal
, he does an accent without making it look like a gimmick, which is a skill that most American leading men don't have), ably supported by other actors. Gary Sinise is particularly memorable (I wish he wasn't wasting his talent on CSI: New York
these days, though I'm sure he's paid well to do it). It also makes me long for the days when Robert Zemeckis wasn't doing all his films in unconvincing motion-capture CGI.
And finally, Shawshank
. Still my favourite of the bunch, and probably the one I've seen the most. Much like Jackson, Morgan Freeman has been reprising the role of Red in most of his subsequent roles (which is why things like his portrayal of Nelson Mandela is so different), but it's such an amazing role; one of my favourite film performances of all time. Tim Robbins also does a very good job with his character, who is necessarily closed off to a great extent. Whenever people talk about this movie, they usually talk about Freeman and Robbins, and to a lesser extent James Whitmore as Brooks (whose finale sequence is one of the saddest things ever put on film), but I think Bob Gunton as Norton is overlooked. He's a somewhat low-key but extremely memorable villain (Darabont and co. combine a couple of different wardens from the novel into one character, which works surprisingly well; the religious nature of one contrasts with the corruption of the other into a modern-day pharisee), with one of the most satisfying comeuppances in cinema. Also notably, with Roger Deakins looking likely to finally win an Oscar this weekend, this was his first nomination, and it's beautiful work indeed.