I predicted a three-way race in the poll for 1993, and I got a three-way race. It just wasn’t the race I was expecting. Forrest Gump was left in the dust as Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption contended with . . . Four Weddings and a Funeral. Given that The Real Dawn Summers is the first person in 15 years that I have ever heard expressing any sort of enthusiasm for that movie …well, let’s just say I’m skeptical. Do I suspect her of ballot stuffing? I can't say. But yes.
In all seriousness, I’m having a blast with this, especially when I discover those movies I thought had thought sunk beneath the sand are still alive and well in the hearts of one of you, or maybe more than one. Speaking of “more than one”, I had better give some love to Quiz Show, a 1994-nominee that was seen as a potential winner that year. Robert Redford’s historical picture about the quiz show scandals of the 50s is still very much loved by many of you. I haven’t seen it since it was first out, and though I remember it as being good, I’d heard very little love sent its way over the years and I left it off. I may have been wrong on that count; certainly a number of you made sure I knew that.
Anyway, let’s not let all this finger-pointing keep us from 1995.
|Mel Gibson, in the hot tub, finally getting what he demanded.|
And The Keepers:
The American President – Otherwise known as the last Rob Reiner movie worth a damn, one of the few movies that lets Michael Douglas be charming rather than sleazy, the movie with that inspired hit TV shows for supporting actors Michael J. Fox (Spin City) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing), and a damn fine entertainment in the Frank Capra model.
Apollo 13 – Otherwise known as Ron Howard’s best movie to date. Tom Hanks continued his winning streak with the real tale of stranded astronauts, but the role I’ll always remember from this movie is Ed Harris’ mission controller. I think he probably deserved the supporting Oscar in an understated role (Kevin Spacey won this year for what was basically a lead in The Usual Suspects). I really appreciate this movie’s style; quiet and unassuming and straight-foward, much like its subjects.
Babe – Otherwise known as the “that’ll do, pig” movie. I’m done with this “otherwise known as” theme now.
Bad Boys – The movie that put Michael Bay on the map and established Wil Smith as a credible action hero. Actually a pretty fun action movie, if typically bom-Bay-stic. See what I did there?
The Basketball Diaries – Marky Mark began his transformation from underwear model/crappy rapper into an occasionally brilliant actor with a supporting role. This movie was also notable for a 3 hour scene  in which a strung-out Leonardo DiCaprio howls “MOOOOOOONEEEEEEY” at his mother.
Braveheart – Mel Gibson hasn’t really done himself any favors recently. He was the big Oscar winner in 1995 with this big historical Scottish epic, winning both Best Director and Best Picture. There are still a lot of people – mainly guys – who still consider it one of the greatest movies ever. I saw it after having a) all my wisdom teeth out and b) four Vicodin, so I thought the raining Smurfs during the big climactic shuffleboard game were out of place. Anyway, after blaming all wars on the Jews, howling death threats and racial slurs at his lady-friend, and starring in an inexplicable movie about a man who talks to a beaver puppet on his own hand . . . let me just say that I actually doubt that it would win. In fact, I sort of expect it wouldn’t get nominated. I mean come on. A movie that spends literally half its running time on a subplot where Abe Vigoda struggles with his diabetic Labradoodle’s infertility? The Vicodin was good.
Casino – Essentially this is Goodfellas 2. It was still pretty good for a pale substitute. “Charlie M? You made me pop your eye out of your head for Charlie M??”
Clueless – Don’t know if this one is losing steam or not. It was so much better than I expected an Alicia Silverstone movie to be. I think we're all still surprised.
Dead Man Walking – Good acting, and a surprisingly even-handed look from generally one-sided Tim Robbins on a controversial subject. In most years, I think Sean Penn would have won for his turn here. Not this year, though.
Goldeneye – This is remembered more for the video game than the movie. It’s James Bond. The one where he beat the bad guy. Then he made a quip. It was that one.
Heat – This was recognized as a good movie at the time. Now it’s understood as one of the best crime movies of the nineties. Pacino. DeNiro. They only share one scene together. No matter; the centerpiece bank heist scene is a straight-up marvel. Al Pacino is a ham of the best kind. You know what? I need to watch this again.
Leaving Las Vegas –Nicholas Cage was The Amazing in this one. I’d watch it again to appreciate, but just thinking about this movie has depressed me again.
Othello – I’m cheating on this one. I don’t think many people remember it. But Fishburne as Othello and Branagh as Iago are just great; I can’t simply pass over these performances without mention. Also, how is it that it took us until 1995 to get a black Othello on the screen?
Rob Roy – Gotta say, I preferred this, the other “stalwart Scotsman fights the Evil British for the love of his wo-man’ movie of 1995. There’s just something more believable and earthy about it, and Jessica Lange is dead sexy in it. Liam Neeson and Tim Roth’s swordfight has to be among the most memorable committed to celluloid. No quips, no swashes buckled. Just two guys putting each other in mortal danger with long knives.
Se7en – The greatness of David Fincher begins here. “What’s in the box what in the BOX?” If The Silence of the Lambs started the serial killer genre, Se7evn was the first of its followers to take it in its own direction. I sort of stumbled out of the theater after this one. It was also one of the first movies I went to with the woman who is now my wife. Not a recommended date movie.
Species – This was 1995’s booby movie. I haven’t seen it, but it still gets referenced in popular culture, so them must have been some nice boobies.
To Die For – The first seriously acclaimed performance from Nicole Kidman, and a very young Joaquin Phoenix.
Tommy Boy – The most beloved comedy of this year, and of most other years. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Chris Farley is missed. Holy Schnikies.
Toy Story – Hold on . . .
Twelve Monkeys – Why isn’t Terry Gilliam more of a legend? Twelve Monkeys is one of my favorites of the year. It gave Bruce Willis his best role to date (that “Blueberry Hill” scene kills me), Brad Pitt one of his most interesting ones, and 1995 some of its most striking images. Giraffes on the bridge, yo. Watching the time-travel inevitability click into place was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year.
The Usual Suspects – This one has turned into an all-time mindscrew/modern noir classic. Notable for giving Benicio Del Toro his first major screen role, miraculously featuring Stephen Baldwin without sucking, and giving Kevin Spacey the lead role that made him a mega-star until his K-PAX moment. It was a lead role, by the way; didn’t keep him from picking up an award for supporting.
Waterworld – Hey,what’s that sinking? Oh, it’s just Kevin Costner’s career. Move along . . . I actually saw this twice. In the theater. On purpose. I didn’t want to see it either time; it just sort of happened. (That’s what SHE said – HEY-O!)
|Woody, being an antique toy, was the last to hear the "pull my|
finger" joke. He wouldn't stop telling it for days.
And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To:
Real List: Apollo 13, Braveheart, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility
Today’s List: Apollo 13, Heat, Se7en, Toy Story, The Usual Suspects
My Pick: Toy Story
The Winner: I don’t think the Academy knew what to make of Pixar’s blockbuster in 1995, but at this point the studio itself has become a critical darling and a major “star” in its own right. The annual Pixar film is pretty much the only sure bet each year for both box office success and critical acclaim. And it all started with a sheriff named Woody and a spaceman named Buzz. Not only did Pixar’s debut represent a quantum leap forward in computer animation, it irrevocably changed an entire genre of film. You could argue that it represented the same sort of seismic effect on event movies that Star Wars did a couple decades earlier. More importantly, it accomplished all this without ever sacrificing spectacle to character and story, and heart.
That’s why, if the Academy were offered a decade of hindsight, they’d rightfully choose to award the Best Picture of 1995 to Toy Story, making it the first animated movie to take the top prize.
(And I really wish that I could say that 12 Monkeys would be even nominated. It should be, but I don’t think it would be remembered well enough. Too bad.)
And now, after un-nominating nearly the entire Best Picture slate, I'll keep the status quo.
Best Actor: Nicolas Cage. Look, Cage used to be one of the most amazing and unpredictable actors of his generations. He deserved his award in a close one vs. Sean Penn. He’d keep it.
Best Actress: Susan Sarandon. Poor best actress. I’m always sick of writing by the time I get here. Maybe I’ll lead off with it next time. Anyway, Nicole Kidman would make a run at this (she’d certainly at least be nominated this time), as would the boobies from Species, but Sarandon was due and deserving, and the performance still holds up. She wins.
So what was the Best Picture of 1995? Vote at FilmChaw!