The Year In Film: 1994

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-The year was 1994. Hip hop was coming into a renaissance of its own, R&B was reaching a new height, television was full of great shows, and movies were thriving as usual. While 1994 isn't as iconic as the year that we covered last week, it is a solid year in its own regard. Diversity in films is always important, and while this year had a few by the numbers films, for the most part, there was something for everyone. If you wanted animation and Disney, look no further than the greatest animated film ever, The Lion King. If you wanted action packed in with cinematic greatness, look no further than Pulp Fiction. If you wanted a movie that appeals to the urban audience and that neighborhood, then Above The Rim has you covered. If you want a tragic yet Oscar worthy coming of age story, look no further than Forrest Gump. If you want a silly comedy, allow Jim Carrey to give you three options in Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, or Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Need a live action film for the kids? Enjoy Angels In The Outfield, Blank Check, or even Richie Rich.  Looking for a solid action film? Leon The Professional and True Lies has that covered. The greatest part of that? The year had so much more to offer. Let's take an in depth look at 1994 and what the year in film gave us. Let's get into it.

1994 was a good year for film. Dumb and Dumber was so stupid but hilarious as well. It's about two best friends who find themselves in trouble with killers after they take a trip to Aspen. I enjoyed Clerks also. Two workers neglect their jobs as clerks and have run-ins with multiple characters. It's in black and white, which is pretty funny . They're pretty much having conversations and arguments throughout. The commentary is hilarious to me. I love Freddy Krueger films (only the ones with Robert Englund) and Wes Craven's New Nightmare is the 7th installment about the menacing character Freddy coming to real life. He's usually funny and demonic, but this time he's a lot less funny & more vicious. 

As a kid, I loved these types of films like Blank Check. After being given a blank check by a criminal, an 11 year old makes it out for 1 million dollars and goes on an adventure and now the criminal is after him. Richie Rich starring Macaulay Culkin as a rich kid who has everything but friends. His parents go missing and he teams up with kids who help him save his friends and have a wild adventure.
The Lion King is another great film, and who hasn't seen this classic. We watched this in the 6th grade and every kid fell in love with the film. I was even surprised becausr I really only liked really funny or violent animations at that point so this movie being all sentimental was a new chapter for me. I still enjoyed it.

Now these next two films, I didn't see them until I got older. A few years ago actually, my homegirl got me to watch these two classics. The first, Pulp Fiction, is brilliant and hilarious. The jokes, the foul language, the violence, and its 70s feel acted out by an all-star cast with Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, and etc, all directed by Quentin Tarantino. I now know why it became a classic. Another classic that I was decades late on was Leon The Professional starring a young Natalie Portman who's taken in by a hitman for hire (Jean Reno) and is shown the ropes of his dangerous lifestyle after her whole family is murdered. I now understood why this was regarded as a masterpiece. I wish a grown up Natalie Portman would've made a sequel to this.

Forrest Gump, a slow thinking and talking man who loved everyone, had 1 best friend along with 2 good friends and knew no limits because that's how his mother taught him. He served in the war, became a football star, started a ping pong craze, but none of that was as important as Jenny, his child love. This film has had "life is like a box of chocolates" ingrained into our brains for decades. The film was a great watch. Speed was a nice thriller film, which is my favorite genre. Starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock, this was a very interesting film. A cop tries to keep passengers alive by keeping a bus driver going above 50 mph to keep a bomb from going off that has been placed on the bus by an angry former bomb squad member.

Blue Chips was a nice basketball film that I liked because it had my favorite player at the time Penny Hardaway and it also starred Shaq. I loved the Street Fighter games, but damn I hated this film. It wasn't executed well and the characters weren't visually pleasing at all. The acting was terrible and the worst thing about it is they never even made up for it with a better film. Though there were some lackluster films, for the most part, 1994 was a solid year overall.

We’ve already established that 1995 was an unbeatable year, the movies were endless and the classics poured in, but it was the year before that created the momentum. Today, we get to talk to 1994 and the best films that year. As usual, Hollywood kept pumping out flicks and while some were terrible, others were okay, and there were the few that were great. Here are the films I felt made ’94 a perfect precursor. 

For comedy, I'll start with Ace Ventura Pet Detective. This was the first real big screen movie that Jim Carrey starred in and I was surprised at how good it was. Normally, I would never watch a movie about football but I gave this one a chance and I really enjoyed it. Carrey plays a super weird and overly dramatic detective that works to find missing animals and lo and behold, the dolphin mascot of the Miami Dolphins has gone missing. The entire storyline sounds silly, and it is but it is also entertaining, fast paced and there really is never a dull moment. I didn’t realize it back in 1994 but as the years passed, this movie definitely aged well. It’s still fun to watch and gets an “out loud” laugh or two along the way. This was a memorable film this year. 

One film that should have been on your radar is When A Man Loves A Woman. I watched this movie because it was recommended to me. I’m not much of an Andy Garcia fan nor am I a huge Meg Ryan fan, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very intense and dealt with subject matter I had never really been exposed to. Meg Ryan plays a woman who becomes an alcoholic, Andy Garcia is her husband and they have kids. It’s a dramatic, (probably) realistic and extremely heart wrenching story while taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster the whole time as it shows how this addiction devastates the fabric of marriage. The silver lining here is that it also shows the process of recovery but doesn’t make it easy nor make it fast. In fact, that aspect is a little open ended but what makes this movie so captivating is how well it details and focuses on emotions, both from the addicted and their family members. Overall, this was a more serious movie but an important one. The writers, director and of course the cast did a fantastic job of connecting this to real life. 

Another comedy is next, as The Mask is the next choice for me. Clearly ’94 was a big year for Jim Carrey because this would be his second film of the year. Since Ace Ventura was a success and audiences knew what kind of films to expect, The Mask would be another weird but very entertaining film, which was perfect for Carrey’s personality. He thrives in over the top, high energy roles where he can let loose and this was exactly that. The storyline was a bit superhero-ish but more of a villain than anything, with the mask transforming Stanley Ipkiss into a half real-half animated whirlwind of humor. He robs a bank, beats up a street gang, infiltrates Dorian’s team of crooks and entertains with his dancing, singing and cartoon like charm. His on screen chemistry with Cameron Diaz was great as she was making her first big on-screen appearance here. Although Diaz is nothing like Jim Carrey, her light hearted and seemingly fun personality was great throughout. The Mask was without a doubt a super fun, purely mindless, easy to follow film and a perfect second release for Carrey. 

On a slight somber note, I have to mention The Crow. This movie holds a special place for me because it was the last movie Brandon Lee made and because he lost his life in an “accidental” shooting while filming…a re-enactment of one of the “murder” scenes was suppose to have blank bullets in the gun and only one of them was a real bullet and that just happened to be the one that shot him. As for the movie, it’s eerie given the fact that Brandon Lee actually died. It fits in alarmingly well with the storyline of his character being murdered, and coming back via a crow because of unsettled business. After the incident, this movie became a sought after one but it is great despite the tragedy. To this day, crows freak me out because of this but it’s a good film and one that does have a lot of replay value. 

Of course, 1994 was the year of Pulp Fiction. Conceptually, this is one of the greatest movies ever, of course because Quentin Tarantino is the genius behind it. The characters are dope and the casting is even better. Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis are exceptional at bringing the story to life and perfectly executing a high caliber dialogue and series of events. This is a bit hard to follow at first because the scenes don’t follow the typical chronology of events but it somehow makes perfect sense anyways. Much like all Tarantino films, the cinematography is flawless, the storyline spares no details of realism and of course the timing of dialogue is exceptional. Pulp Fiction is now regarded as a classic and that’s thanks to ’94. 

In the action genre, we have to talk True Lies. If someone had asked me if a movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be good, I would have laughed but here I am ranking this as one of the best movies of the year because it was. Jamie Lee Curtis proves to be a force on screen and of course Schwarzenegger promises a fast paced, action-packed film. The storyline is somewhat comical, as a spy and his wife and daughter are living seemingly normal life until he discovers that his wife is seeking attention and excitement with another man. He sets to rekindle things with his wife while battling middle eastern terrorists. It’s exactly what you would expect from a film with these actors but IMO, Jaime Lee Curtis carries the film and complements Arnold to make this an all around enjoyable movie. 

Another gem on the year is Above The Rim. We had seen Pac in “Juice” and “Poetic Justice” and loved his onscreen performances so when “Above The Rim” came out, audiences were excited. It has a typical element of street life meshed in with basketball. While the storyline is somewhat predictable, I still enjoyed it. I thought Tupac, Duane Martin, and Tonya Pinkins did a remarkable acting job at bringing a realistic edge. I also liked that the attention to filming, as the movie was shot in a basketball court in Harlem where NBA legends use to play. The history and how they purposely did that is dope for any basketball fan! 

I have to mention Interview With The Vampire. I love anything to do with vampires, especially movies! Although back in 1994 the fascination wasn't as prevalent as it was in later years, this is where it all started. The formula, the "rules", and portrayal of actual vampires was fantastic to the point that it blurs the line of fact or fiction. What this movie does best is stay true to the sadness that comes with a life of death, blood-sucking murders and eternal torment. There is no glamorizing it, it's not fun and the whole way through, it's chilling. The cast is brilliant, from Brad Pitt to Christian Slater and Tom Cruise, the talent is undeniable (this is before Tom Cruise became absurd) and the language of dialogue is also noteworthy. This is a brilliant piece of work and hands down the best vampire movie of all time! 

You will not be able to discuss 1994 in film without mentioning The Lion King. This is the most loved Disney movie and a highlight of the year. Everything about this movie is great, and James Earl Jones was the perfect voice for Mufasa, as he had a presence and power that fit the King of the Pride Lands and Jeremy Irons as Scar was a great balance because he executed a manipulative and deceitful character so well. As much as I love the characters, songs, music, and humor, it’s the story and lessons that I loved the most. We learned that family doesn’t always mean loyalty, as well as that being a leader takes sacrifices as well as love. This film also taught that true friendship happens at random, but will always manage to overcome obstacles. This is truly a classic and an all-around favorite.  

The best movie of the year is The Shawshank Redemption. I can never speak about this movie and do it justice. It has absolutely everything to elicit every emotion. Since it deals with wrongful conviction, we know we’re in for a whirlwind of events and early on, we'll develop favorite characters. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman have such a profound and solid friendship and the rest of the cast work to complement both these incredible actors. We find ourselves forgiving deceit when Andy steals hundreds of thousands of dollars, we celebrate the release of long time inmates and the downfall of the warden, we mourn the loss of Brooks shortly after his release and feel victorious when Red and Andy reunite at the end. “Shawshank” is such a beautifully written, flawlessly directed and perfectly casted movie and one that became a favorite almost instantly. This is the most re-watched movie of all time and seems to appeal to every type of person regardless of genre preference. 

Although 1994 wasn’t the greatest year to me, it had quite a few notable titles that made the year a great one to revisit. There are certainly classics that were released but if nothing else, this was the perfect precursor to all of the releases that came the following year.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-1994 wasn't the greatest year of course, but it had a lot of interesting films. For me, this year gave me films that I watched so much growing up. My grandmother used to make me watch Forrest Gump regularly and I would memorize the lines, and of course, as a kid I would always watch The Lion King. I also watched films like Jason's Lyric, The Inkwell, Above The Rim, A Low Down Dirty Shame, and of course, my personal favorite movies of the year, Crooklyn and Fresh. Both were relatable to me coming up, and while I love Forrest Gump and The Lion King, I didn't see myself in any of those characters. I saw a piece of myself in Fresh, and recognized elements of my real life in Crooklyn. Aside from those movies, you had entertaining films like Natural Born Killers (this was popular back then), Speed, The Little Rascals, Beverly Hills Cop 3 (not the best movie), and The Shawshank Redemption. Overall, 1994 was a solid year in film. Not the best nor the worst, but still a solid enough year that would lead into the landmark year, 1995. 1994 gave us Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Fresh, Crooklyn, and Pulp Fiction. For that alone, 1994 is a worthy year.



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