1994 oscars

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 – ‘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!