Friday, March 1, 2024

Notes on Film: 1994 Into the Fire

 by Anthony King

It was a very good... month.

Well, friends, 1994 month is officially over. That means you're no longer allowed to watch any movies from '94 ever again. Of course, I'm kidding, but I'm quite sick of movies from 1994 so I probably won't watch any more this year. This year's F This Movie Fest was another roaring success. Although I spent half the day at a hockey tournament, I was happy to be able to watch four of the six films with you lovely people. But those weren't the only movies from '94 I watched. Although I would have preferred to watch at least 29, I did get around to watching 22 movies from 1994. So allow me to present my Top 10 films of the year I don't need to type again.

10. The Getaway (dir. Roger Donaldson)
This movie was hot as hell. As much as I prefer Sam Peckinpah's original, and as much as I love Steve McQueen, I think I like the remake just a smidge better. I'm the opposite of Patrick when it comes to watching Alec Baldwin suck his wife's nipple. I liked it! The action is great, Baldwin is charming as hell, and tandem baddies James Woods, Michael Madsen, and David Morse are incredible. Plus bonus Philip Seymour Hoffman and Richard Farnsworth!

9. Camp Nowhere (dir. Jonathan Prince)

Full disclosure, my four-and-a-half stars for this movie on Letterboxd is almost all due to nostalgia. I was a camp kid, so almost any camp-based movie automatically receives two-and-a-half stars from the start. The events that take place in Camp Nowhere are not only preposterous, they're highly illegal and inappropriate. It's a movie! I had THE biggest crush on Gaby (Melody Kay) in 1994 and when Mud kisses her at the end (spoilers!) I dreamt I was him. When Kino announced this on Blu-ray I pre-ordered it immediately. It still hits, I still laugh, and I still dream (as a twelve-year-old).

8. The Santa Clause (dir. John Pasquin)

I can't deny my love for Christmas movies. I also can't deny my love for Tim Allen's comedy. I think the dude is (still) hysterical (when he's not on his bad politics). The first third of the movie is my favorite movie of 1994. When they get to the North Pole, it becomes my eighth favorite movie of 1994. I watch it at least three times every Christmas season, I still find it magical, and I still laugh hysterically at least a dozen times every time I watch it.

7. Trapped in Paradise (dir. George Gallo)
Spoilers, this isn't the last Christmas movie on my list. This is a Hallmark movie for grown-ups. It's got the small town charm the saps like; it's got the idiot brothers the goofs like; and it's got the Nic Cage the freaks like. I think it should be a holiday staple in every household like A Christmas Story is, and it's a goddamn crime it's not on Blu-ray.

6. Clerks (dir. Kevin Smith)

During my re-watch this month I wasn't expecting my love for this movie to show up. I hadn't seen it in several years. In my younger days I related to Dante and Randal. This was on a constant rotation with Richard Linklater's SubUrbia (1996) and Empire Records (1995) as angsty teen/young adult calls-to-arms. As luck would have it, my Clerks love came screaming back. While I don't relate to Dante and Randal any more, they still crack me up. But more than anything, it's Smith's irreverent dialogue and (still) fresh style of indie filmmaking that got into my heart this time. It's nothing new to say Clerks still feels groundbreaking, but it still does and, more than likely, will always feel that way.

5. Dumb and Dumber (dir. Peter Farrelly)
It's my favorite Jim Carrey of '94 and my third favorite of his career (after Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). This was another one I hadn't seen for years (decades), and I didn't know how it would stick. Well, it stuck good and hard. It was like putting on a favorite sweatshirt you haven't worn all year. I couldn't help but recite dialogue like I'd just seen it yesterday. The version I watched, though, was the unrated cut where certain scenes are extended. Let's just say they made the right cuts for the theatrical.

4. The Ref (dir. Ted Demme)
Spoilers, this is the last Christmas movie on my list. Why so many holiday films, you ask? Well, if I watch a movie at least once a year, even if it's only at Christmastime, then I must really like it. This is a perfectly constructed comedy. It's best buds Demme and Denis Leary making absolute magic. There is so much anger in this movie it could very well become overwhelming for many people. But there are cathartic moments throughout that relieve the tension, mixing in a little sweetness even, before twisting the anger knife again. Perfection.

3. Forrest Gump (dir. Robert Zemeckis)

I've written about this movie a couple times recently, so I won't rehash my sentiments. But it's ok to love a movie, folks. We don't have to hate something just because it's popular. It's good. Great, even.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont)

I knew this would be on the list, but where exactly I didn't know. Shawshank was another one I hadn't seen in many, many years. I knew I loved it. I just didn't realize how much I loved it. Every single performance is perfect. It's impossible not to love Freeman and Robbins. It's impossible not to hate Gunton and Brown. These are hallmarks of great and unforgettable performances.

1. Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Cliche, sure, but I love this movie. There's nothing I can add to the conversation of Pulp Fiction, so I'll just express my gratitude for my high school chum, Brent Coates. Brent introduced me to Pulp Fiction. He would quote this movie endlessly, and the night he showed it to us was a truly magical and unforgettable evening. All these lines I'd been hearing Brent say were actually from this incredible movie. A movie the likes of which I'd never seen before. It was revelatory.

Thanks again to everyone that participated in 1994 month and the fest this year. It's because of all of you we keep doing what we're doing here at FTM. On to the next one!

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