1994 Movies

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘The Remains of the Day’

Snooze

Alright. We’ve come to the end of the 1994 nominees for Best Picture. And what a snoozy doozy way to end them. I’ve been sitting on how to approach writing about this movie for a couple days, and I just…well, let’s give it a shot.

I’ll start with the acting. Anthony Hopkins, the most recent, and controversial winner of the Best Actor award, is so Anthony Hopkins in this. He’s a butler of a giant estate owned by a nazi sympathizer in pre-World War II England, and he rules every scene, as he always does. When I say Hopkins is so Hopkins, you know what I mean: he’s got those signature tics, the witty little reactions, the head-held-high snootiness that he’s best known for.

As always, he’s great, and I really think this movie would have been in a lot of trouble without him. Emma Thompson, like Hopkins, is who she always is – not bad, just incredibly British and sad, and honestly, it took me three sittings to finish this movie because Thompson films put me to sleep.

Something strange to see is Christopher Reeve, just a couple years before his debilitating accident that ultimately led to his death, as the American ambassador that attempts to convince the owner of the manor not to work with the Germans. The acting is here, the problem is, there’s not much else.

There are also a couple of Game of Thrones alums in this, not surprising since it’s probably the most British movie ever made. We’ve got a really young Lena Headey as a housekeeper, and that old blind dude from the wall as Hopkins’ dad.

This movie drags. Hard. I haven’t read the book, of course, but I came away from the film wondering what the hell just didn’t happen. I won’t ruin it for you, but when the credits rolled, I was really surprised. It’s one of the dullest endings to a movie I’ve ever seen, and I’m guessing it’s explained better in the novelization.

The strangest part of the film for me, is that there is this clique of butlers and housekeepers, and they’ve all crossed paths at some point. And there is also this hierarchy in which these people are fighting over, and the top spot is butler. Like, I’m sorry, but what the fuck? Is this a strictly British thing that I’ve never heard of or read about? Or was this made up for dramatic effect? What the hell is going on in this movie?

Sorry. I will say, the movie is pretty. It’s shot so well, and though it doesn’t really take many risks, each shot feels like a painting you’d find in a gallery. There’s a scene toward the end, where Hopkins and Thompson are sitting on a pier and the lights come on, and the contrast of the lights’ colors are absolutely mesmerizing. There is also a sunset scene with Hopkins driving that really is amazing. Trouble is, a lot of these shots make you feel like you’re watching something on PBS. I know there’s a market for that (probably bigger than I think), but woof, not my bag, man.

This is the sort of movie that’s playing at your grandma’s house on her tiny TV on a summer afternoon. It’s a costume designer’s blueprint, a Masterpiece Theater special stretched long, the film that appeases your groaning grandparents so they’ll watch the Oscars. It’s undeniably, the worst of the five ’94 nominees: not necessarily bad, but without the substance of the other four.

Where is ‘Philadelphia,’ by the way? How did that movie not get nominated? It’s cool that Hanks won Best Actor, but that movie carries so much more emotional depth and focuses on a much bigger worldwide issue than The Remains of the Day attempts to. Perhaps AIDS was still much too taboo for the Academy, but Philadelphia absolutely crushes me every time I see it.

Well, that’s the end of the 1994 nominees. Overall, the right movie won, and it really wasn’t close. I feel like four of these should have been nominated, but that seems to be the case every year. Next up for this month, we’ve got the 1985 nominees. I’ll try to squeeze them all in this month, but life has a way of making that tough, so we’ll see.

Have you seen The Remains of the Day and want to tell me I’m absolutely wrong? Think some other movies from 1993 should have been nominated for the ’94 Oscars that weren’t? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram, and it’ll probably help me write these in the future.

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘Schindler’s List’

Yikes

Oh, Schindler’s List. My god, what a movie. Possibly the most visceral film ever made, and Spielberg’s emotional masterwork, there is no way any other 1993 movie had a chance at winning Best Picture. And in case you haven’t seen this (you must, do it now!), let’s get into why it’s so damn good.

I’m assuming most have seen Schindler’s List, but for those that haven’t, be forewarned that there will be some minor spoilers following. Let’s start with the cinematography. Janusz Kaminski, a frequent Spielberg collaborator, crafted this film as a series of old photographs. Every piece of Holocaust video or photography that we’ve been witness to over the years comes to almost nauseating life in the movie, and brings you right in – whether you want to, or not – to the horrors and crimes against humanity that the nazis brought to Europe and beyond.

Another Spielberg teammate, John Williams, crushes your soul repeatedly for over three hours. The violin entries are almost too much at times, making your skin crawl in anticipation of another relentless act of violence from those in the Third Reich.

Speaking of horrible people, the always villainous Ralph Fiennes makes Voldemort look like a harmless gecko in his turn as Amon Goeth, the nightmarish SS lieutenant in charge of overseeing the construction of a new concentration camp in Poland. From the get-go, he’s a slippery ghoul, straight from the bowels of an unthinkable hell. I won’t get into the details of what he does to the incarcerated Jews, but holy shit, did it have me sinking to unimaginable depths of my couch.

Another thing to note, is how this violence is portrayed in the movie. Not letting up in the slightest, Spielberg chooses to show every bit of the hyper-realistic executions of men, women, and children inside the camp. It’s a bold choice – one that I’m sure had the MPAA arguing for months – but I think it’s necessary to show this, to really drive the point home, and induce some of the trauma endured by the victims of the German fascists. I will also note, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with more headshots. Not even in a Rambo or John Wick flick.

Some more notable performances include that of the always wonderful, Sir Ben Kingsley, and action star, Liam Neeson as the titular Schindler. The first (and only other) time I saw this film, I thought Neeson was pretty dull. I was also probably around 15, and didn’t really have an appreciation for Neeson at all. Now that we’ve seen him in countless revenge-action flicks that rerun on TBS every weekend, it’s almost breathtakingly impressive just how good he is. Wait until the end. God damn.

Now, I will admit that a few scenes got me that hadn’t on my first run through more than 20 years ago. Perhaps, it’s the recent rise of White Christian Nationalism in our country (and world), or I’m just a weaker soul, but the first scene to note is where the children are leaving the camp in truckloads to be gassed (while singing gleefully, as if they’re about to go on a field trip), and the mothers run after them screaming in horror, helpless.

Another is a scene where women and children that are meant to join their fathers and husbands at Schindler’s new camp, are accidentally sent to Auschwitz. Earlier in the film, rumors spread through the camp that Auschwitz has been gassing Jews en masse in the showers, and as they arrive in Auschwitz, sure enough, they’re shipped into the showers as a group, naked. It’s a deeply unsettling scene, with more tension than any horror film I can name.

So, the big question is, ‘Did Schindler’s List deserve to win Best Picture in 1994.’ Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Rarely have I seen a film so enveloping and purposely discomforting as Schindler’s List. It will remain for the foreseeable future as a masterpiece in filmmaking. It’s necessary, it’s permanently relevant, and it will go down as Spielberg’s greatest work, guaranteed. If you haven’t seen it, carve yourself out 3 hours, turn down the lights, and get ready to bawl. This is essential film.

To end 1994, I have The Remains of the Day, starring recent Best Actor winner, Anthony Hopkins. It’s another on this list that I haven’t seen, and I can’t say I’m very excited about it. But, we’ll see. See you in a few days, before we get going with a new year of Nominees in May!

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘In the Name of the Father’

abACABadoo!

Another film on this enormous list that I have not yet seen was this Irish drama that stars the greatest actor of our generation, Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis, in an absolutely amazing performance, that probably comes as expected at this point.

The movie begins almost just like ‘Children of Men,’ with a cafe bombing in London. The story kicks off with an incarcerated Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon, who’s been falsely imprisoned by the English government. Conlon, an Irishman, is in London to dodge a minor charge in his home of Belfast, but the classic wrong place-wrong time puts him, his friends, and family into an embroiled mess with the IRA.

Long story short, Conlon is imprisoned along with his father and friends for 15 years, before Emma Thompson takes his case. It’s peak-90’s Drama, almost too PBS for its own good with a score that screams ‘your grandma’s going to love this movie,’ but overall, it’s a really damn good flick.

Day-Lewis steals every scene, his usual physical transformations throughout the film, which would be a marvel if it had been any other actor. Pete Postlethwaite is refreshingly kind and warm-hearted throughout the movie as Conlon’s father, Giuseppe, and some scenes between the two are undeniably heartbreaking.

Of the films on this list (the only one left I haven’t ever seen, ‘Remains of the Day’), this one feels the most dated. Perhaps it’s the score, or the rather pedestrian cinematography, but it just didn’t bring too much excitement to the table when compared to its honorary counterparts. I did appreciate the theme throughout regarding cops’ mistakes and lack of care, which ultimately brings down the system as a whole, and how relevant this is today, especially since I watched this the day before a certain murdering cop was surprisingly found guilty of all charges in Minnesota.

Overall, I’d definitely suggest checking this movie out. It totally drags at times, but I think it’s a mistake to ever pass up a chance at watching a Day-Lewis romp. He’s unbelievable at times in this one, and makes the whole 2+ hours absolutely worth the ticket price.

Up next, we have the soul-stomper, ‘Schindler’s List,’ the movie that ultimately took home the little gold dude in ’94. I’ll see you in a few days with my thoughts on my second time through that chest ripper.

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘The Fugitive’

SPECIAL EFFECTS!

What can be said about The Fugitive that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the ultimate “Flipping through the hotel cable and it doesn’t matter how far into the movie it is, I’m fucking finishing it,” movies.

I guess I’ll try anyway. For those that haven’t seen it, The Fugitive stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man framed for his wife’s murder, convicted, and on the run from the US Marshals led by a ridiculously good Tommy Lee Jones. It’s got a ton of people you’ve seen in almost everything over the years, like Jane Lynch as a non-comedic doctor, Rose from Lost as a cop, and that dude that totally Judased Neo and crew in The Matrix.

The movie is surprisingly gorgeous, given Ford is on the run on the outskirts of Chicago. It’s shot masterfully, both incredibly exciting and intentionally slow at times, and the James Newton Howard score keeps everything calibrated perfectly – John Williams frantic when it needs to be, and a slow-burning Jazz fusion when the tension needs to build.

What am I saying? You’ve seen this movie. It fucking rocks, right?! It’s the perfect blend of a Ramboesque tale filled with Robocop style flashbacks. Tommy Lee Jones is driven by what feels like must be mountains of coke, and Ford seems to hurt himself more than Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

One thing I did notice on this thousandth or so rewatch (which I’m sure many have noted before), is that David Lynch lifted some names for Twin Peaks from the extensive Fugitive lore (it was a TV show in the ’60s), as Lee Jones’ name is Gerard, and the villain (who has one arm) is named Freddie Sykes (the dude with the strange green fist in ‘The Return’). Why is that important? Because I’m a fucking nerd, that’s why.

Anyway, this movie rules. You know it, I know it, the world knows it. No one dislikes this film – it’s one of those. Why didn’t it win in ’94? Well, a little film called Schindler’s Fucking List came out the same year and pretty much obliterated any other movie’s chances of going anywhere near the little gold guy. However, I do want to ask you one question before I leave you:

How many times have you stopped flipping channels in the hotel room to watch Schindler’s List again? Thought so.

Up next, we’ve got ‘In the Name of the Father,’ another one I haven’t seen, starring the unrivaled cinematic god, Daniel Day-Lewis. Until then, be safe, and drink some water if you haven’t yet today.

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘The Piano’

What the Fuck

It struck me a couple of months ago that I haven’t seen that many Best Picture nominees, and I should probably be better about it. I realize that being nominated doesn’t necessarily make a movie great – especially in the Academy – but, the films nominated are also often recognized because of their impact and reflection of society at the time.

I got it in my head that I could go back 50 years to 1971, put all the years individually into a hat, and randomly choose a year’s nominees for each month. Now, it’s going to take me about 5 years to do this, and I don’t really know what the end goal is – maybe I’ll write a book, or maybe it’s just nothing more than cinematic enlightenment – but anyway, 1994 is up first this month. I’ll do a small review of each movie I watch on here, along with some opinions and comparisons to their running mates.

I started this little journey by randomly picking 1994 first. I’ve never seen a few of these, so I decided to go with The Piano to start, a movie I actually knew nothing about and confused with ‘The Pianist’ a few too many times. I didn’t know who starred in it, and assumed it was some sort of Jane Austenesque comedy. Hot damn, was I wrong.

The movie stars Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, and Harvey Keitel in one of his weirdest performances since Bad Lieutenant. I’ll spare you the fat, and just tell you that this is one strangely fucked up story concerning mutes that love the piano, Sam Neill peeping on his wife cheating, white men taking advantage of Natives, and Harvey Keitel’s gratuitous donger.

Ok, I’ll tell you a bit more. Holly Hunter’s character is a widow with a young daughter (True Blood’s Anna Paquin) that is married unwittingly to a man on an island by her father. Hunter is mute, due to some sort of an accident, and is obsessed with this piano that she refuses to let out of her sight. As the movie progresses, there are even more obsessions that come to light, and the ending was a bit more astounding than I ever would have guessed going into this film.

A few things about this movie that I noticed, included its cinematography, the beautiful music, and some incredible shots from the beaches of New Zealand. A lot of the scenes were awash in a heavy blue filter, that really built a somber mood. The piano-soaked Michael Nyman score matched it beautifully, and those beach shots couldn’t be prettier.

What wasn’t pretty? Man, I totally get that there is more female nudity than male in film, especially the mainstream ones, but wow, Keitel is not historically shy about his package on screen. And you get quite an extended take in this flick. Hunter isn’t too shy either, in one of those scenes where you start to question whether or not they’re really getting down. Hey, if they decide to, more power to ya, I guess.

Anyway, I think this movie was set up pretty harshly with competition like Schindler’s List and the classically awesome, The Fugitive. It’s one of those films that you’d totally expect to show up in the running and not win. You know what I’m talking about – the period piece costumes, the story catered toward bored, post-menopausal housewives – but I did end up enjoying it a bit more than I thought. It wraps up nicely and pays off in the end.

I’ll be back in a few days with a review for The Fugitive. Until then, let me know if you’d like these to look a little different, or if there are other aspects I should focus on!

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 29: FIGHT! Street Fighter and Over The Top

Welcome to Episode 29 of CinemAbysmal: The Podcast, where the three writers of CinemAbysmal.com talk about what society would consider some of the worst of the worst media out there. This week, we discuss one of the 90’s craziest films, Street Fighter, and the 1987 musclebound Stallone classic, Over the Top! We also discuss one of 2017’s hidden cult gems Mom and Dad, starring Nicolas Cage going FULL CAGE! Check it out on all your favorite apps below! As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!

iTunes –https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cinemabysmal/id1153464020?mt=2

SoundCloud

Google Play Music –https://play.google.com/music/m/Irjld24rxpsi22hdnugilmxh57u?t=CinemAbysmal

Stitcher https://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=128435&refid=asa

Spreaker http://www.spreaker.com/show/cinemabysmals-show

You can also find us on BeyondPod! Just search for CinemAbysmal.

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 29: FIGHT! Street Fighter and Over The Top

Welcome to Episode 29 of CinemAbysmal: The Podcast, where the three writers of CinemAbysmal.com talk about what society would consider some of the worst of the worst media out there. This week, we discuss one of the 90’s craziest films, Street Fighter, and the 1987 musclebound Stallone classic, Over the Top! We also discuss one of 2017’s hidden cult gems Mom and Dad, starring Nicolas Cage going FULL CAGE! Check it out on all your favorite apps below! As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!

iTunes –https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cinemabysmal/id1153464020?mt=2

SoundCloud

Google Play Music –https://play.google.com/music/m/Irjld24rxpsi22hdnugilmxh57u?t=CinemAbysmal

Stitcher https://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=128435&refid=asa

Spreaker http://www.spreaker.com/show/cinemabysmals-show

You can also find us on BeyondPod! Just search for CinemAbysmal.

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 2 – ‘Junior’

junior

What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume Two

Junior (1994) – Comedy | Absolutely Insane

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Format I Own: LaserDisc

20170407_225815

Synopsis

OK. Bare with me. Junior is about Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plays some kind of scientist that deals in pregnancies, with his OBGYN partner Frank Reynol…Danny DeVito (if you’re not already gagging at the thought of this, you might need to reevaluate your life) in San Francisco. They create a drug that supposedly induces healthy pregnancies in women after they tested it on chimps or some shit, but the FDA turns them down and they lose their funding. It’s basically the setup for Ghostbusters, but about two dudes that want to get women pregnant instead of chasing spectral entities through New York. Anyway, DeVito convinces Schwarzenegger that he should carry the baby in some kind of abdominal cavity, sans anything that would biologically allow a baby to grow or thrive, but yeah. Guess what happens by the end of the movie?

What I Love

I have absolutely no reservations in calling this movie a huge fucking turd. Honestly, it’s an insult to film and really should never have been made. That being said, I love and respect a lot of what Ivan Reitman has done as a director, and most are allowed their misfires (I’m looking at you, Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler). Reitman is responsible for GhostbustersMeatballsStripes, and more. However, he’s also at fault for a lot of shit, so whatever.

If you saw 1988’s Twins (also with Schwarzenegger and DeVito), well, you know what you’re getting. So in a way, this falls along the same lines as that film and his other Schwarzenegger-helmed flick, Kindergarten Cop. This movie has an absolutely fucking batshit plot in which a god damn baby grows inside of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscly abs. If you don’t love that a movie was made strictly around that nuthouse premise, you need to learn how to enjoy this weird thing called reality. Because, guess what? This movie actually, really exists.

My Favorite Scene

About 80 minutes into the film (yes, this shit factory is nearly two hours long), Arnold goes full drag at about eight months pregnant. He and DeVito show up at some kind of compound for expecting mothers to find shelter from the evil dicks at the college that want to steal her…er, his baby away from him as it was experimental, so belongs to them. At this point, the estrogen has completely taken hold of Arnold and he and DeVito hug as the James Newton Howard score intensifies. He even starts speaking like a woman, and it’s so insultingly bad, I couldn’t help but giggle like a little kid.

THEN, holy shit. A god damned montage in which Arnold does Lamas and races other pregnant women down stairs and cries to doctors and shovels food into his mouth. It is so spectacularly out of control and really saved this movie for me.

 

What You Might Not Like

What really bothered me about the film was my now current familiarity with perhaps Danny DeVito’s most iconic character in his career: Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Now, I realize this film was made in 1994, but holy shit, all I can think about is Frank alone in a room with a woman doing gawd knows what down there, and it just does not work. Other than that, the film really is just shit. Arnold is practically yawning the whole film and the story is laughable, at best. I couldn’t imagine watching this with anyone that had a trace of a Medical education or even faintly studied Biology. It’s so ridiculous.

Honestly, the last time I watched this movie was over 20 years ago. I remembered liking it, so swooped up the LaserDisc copy and have just had it sitting there for years. Will I watch it again? Eh, maybe? If I want to show someone how not to make a movie, I’ll definitely show them this. But did I enjoy it again? Oh, hell no.

How You Can Watch

  • Streaming on HBO Now as of 04/07/2017
  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 1.5/4

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Similar Films: Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Any Movie that a Dude is Pregnant in…

Cathy’s Take on ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

brooks

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Great Family Romp | Total Science Fiction

Directed by: Not Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

How I Watched: VHS Rental from the Uptown Library

Full disclosure: I have never been to prison. I live my life according to the law and have never had a run-in except for when I dropped a Dairy Queen Chocolate Cherry Blast Blizzard in my lap in front of a police officer and got pulled over. The officer said I almost swerved into the oncoming lane and he feared I’d had a stroke. I was so T.O.’d for dropping my Blizzard that I almost had an aneurysm. Those treats are seasonal and it was the last day of the season according to a Blizzard-specific Facebook group I am a member of. When I called DQ, they said they’d send me a coupon for a free one and I ended up getting Heath flavored because they were in fact out of Chocolate Cherry Blast. I got off with a warning is the point of the story, and I never went to jail. Not like Andy Dufraine, or Red, or Boggs, or the librarian with the crow. They are all characters in the 1994 classic, Shawshank Redemption.

Shawshank Redemption is a movie about a guy, named Andy Dufrayn, played by Tim Robbins, who goes to jail for killing his wife. He has a hard time, but then plans an escape thanks to getting a miniature pick-ax from Morgan Freeman, which he hides behind a poster of some scantily clad ladies. I should warn you guys, this is a prison movie so it is a bit violent. There is a scene in which he gets raped by some other people in prison. They are real bullies. But the rape is not shown and is really tastefully done. The film focuses on the whole gamut of prison life, from the rape, to the doing of income tax, to the playing of opera music on the loudspeaker. Eventually, Andy escapes prison and builds a boat and Red comes and visits him. And I know this movie doesn’t sound very good, but trust me, it really is. There is also a sad part in which the librarian with a crow gets sad about not being a librarian in prison, so he hangs himself. That really added some weight to the film.

All in all, this is a warm hearted prison movie that says that even if you are convicted of killing your wife and her lover, you can still have good times and do taxes for your buddies and even build a boat in Mexico when you get out. It is a movie about redemption and it is a movie about the prison life, but I forget the name of the prison. Close your eyes during the rape and violence, but otherwise this is a great family romp and a really good Netflix movie.
Cathy Gives It: I give it 10 out of 10 smuggled miniature pick-axes for making prison chess.