1994, what a messy Oscar year it was.

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Best Picture.

Line up:

Forrest Gump (winner)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
The Shawhank Redemption

Left out: Ed Wood, Clerks, The Lion King, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Eat Drink Man Woman, Strawberry and Chocolate, Nobody’s Fool, The Madness of King George, Bullets over Broadway, Heavenly Creatures, Three Colours: White, Three Colours: Red, Interview with the Vampire, Speed, Clear and Present Danger and True Lies.

Forrest Gump, for sure, doesn’t deserve the big backslash from film fans for defeating BOTH Pulp Fiction and The Shawhank Redemption, which easily are 2 of the most loved films of the 90’s (and even film history). In addition, the acknowledge that both The Lion King and Ed Wood had to sit aside the Best Picture seat favoring the almost forgotten by now “Quiz Show” and the rom-com “4 Weddings”, plus the supposed blandness of good ol’ Forrest, isn’t easy to digest for many. Truth is, the top 5 contenders, are all almost masterpieces in my book. With only 5 nominees, it was obvious some films needed to be left out. If we’re going to give it a try to guess, which would have been the Best Picture nominees if up to 10 slots, Ed Wood, The Lion King, Nobody’s Fool and Bullets over Broadway seem quite clear. The 10th slot probably would have been empty or taken by Three Colours: Red, which got a Best Direction nom. My line up would have been tremendously different, for the matter.

If 5:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Clerks
Ed Wood
The Lion King
Pulp Fiction (Winner)

6. Forrest Gump
7. True Lies
8. Bullets over Broadway
9. Four Weddings and a Funeral
10. The Shawhank Redemption

There’s no need to talk about Pulp Fiction, probably and why it should have been the winner. It’s arguably THE film that defines the 90’s itself. Talking about the other top 5 is more interesting.

Clerks is my runner up for 1994. If Tarantino wasn’t around with his sophomore, Kevin Smith’s rookie film would have probably be the film the 90’s would be defined for, and that’s something every film critic, secretly knows in his inside. Tarantino probably does, as he’s one of Smith’s friends and confidents (along with Robert Rodriguez and some others, they make a real “rat pack” of indie filmmakers who constantly talk with each other and meet). Clerks is born of pure passion for filmmaking. It’s the wet dream of any aspiring filmmaker, actually. You get a bunch of your friends, get the money from wherever possible, and just shoot what you can, almost guerrilla style. It is almost impossible to hate Clerks. It is almost impossible to acknowledge, for any “serious” film critic how magnificent it is, once you acknowledge the limitations it faced… shoot a film almost out of nothing. Years later, another indie stunt/masterpiece got also blatantly and shamelessly snubbed of any Oscar recognition, “The Blair Witch Project”, which is another wonder to treasure… but that’s 1999 and another story.

My third film of the year was “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert”. Talking about underrated masterpieces, here you have one. It not only features a cast to die for (Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) in top form and playing against type, when nobody remembered Stamp (an old glory) nor really knew Weaving or Pearce (they broke through later). Cinematography is a-m-a-z-i-n-g, the costumes earned a richly deserved Oscar (its only nom) and the story is deeper than expected, way deeper, with surreal touches, and a contagious, infectious joy of living. A tale about tolerance, acceptance, set in the surreal australian outback.

Fourth would be Tim Burton’s masterpiece, “Ed Wood”. An ode to passion filmmaking. Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker… an excellent cast, an excellent screenplay, an epic dramedy about the real-life unique friendship of the world’s worst film director and Bela Lugosi.

My fifth pick is, probably, the most daring animated Disney film ever attempted. Setting an amalgam of Shakespeare’s work in the set of African wildlife, was not only brilliant, was amazing. The music is simply unforgettable, as the creation of some characters, which went on a successful and fun animated cartoon TV-spinoff.

I don’t mean Forrest Gump wasn’t deserving. Everybody that read the book probably know that it is unfilmable as it is, so they did a great adaptation to make it something not only watchable, but epic and classic. The Shawshank Redemption, has the handicap of featuring almost every possible prison-movie cliché in film history, which undermines its personality enough to get a lower position in my book than on almost anyone’s else (IMDB’s top 250 features it always among the top 3 EVER). Four Weddings and a Funeral is THE rom com per excellence, and I love the challenge its structure provides and how successful Mike Newell got with one of those cast you can’t help but loving all together. So many films did try to repeat its charm and couldn’t.

The other two misfits of my list… well, Bullets over Broadway is one of Woody Allen’s best films, funny as hell, and well directed all together, simply that. And True Lies is the popcorn film to die for. Actually Arnold Schwarzenneger had a really good year to prove he could act beyond one liners, this one and also his Golden Globe nominated performance in “Junior” (a film I remember way better than the rest, it seems). Before Titanic, I feel this one paved the prestige to sit on a Best Director line up in the future.

Biggest snubs, in my opinion in other categories…

– Tim Burton, Director, Ed Wood
– Johnny Depp, Lead Actor, Ed Wood
– Kevin Smith, Original Screenplay, Clerks
– Jeff Anderson, Supporting Actor, Clerks
– Terence Stamp, Lead Actor, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
– Hugo Weaving, Lead Actor, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
– Guy Pearce, Lead Actor, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
– Tim Robbins, Lead Actor, The Shawhank Redemption
– John Turturro, Supporting Actor, Quiz Show
– Robin Wright, Supporting Actress, Forrest Gump
– Jorge Perugorría, Lead Actor, Strawberry and Chocolate
– Sihung Lung, Lead Actor, Eat Drink Man Woman
– Ang Lee, Director, Eat Drink Man Woman
– The Lion King, Adapted Screenplay
– Kate Winslet, Lead Actress, Heavenly Creatures
– Tom Cruise, Supporting Actor, Interview with the Vampire
– Kirsten Dunst, Supporting Actress, Interview with the Vampire

I think that probably, if AMPAS repeated their polls, the line up would change drastically everywhere.

2 thoughts on “1994, what a messy Oscar year it was.

  1. hey. i lived through the 1994 race. So just wanted to pipe in to say that there was no way that ED WOOD was getting anywhere near the Best Picture list. It was just not a mainstream favorite in that kind of way. It was too stylized and funny for the kind of biopic Oscar goes for.
    (Its reputation has improved over the years but the Academy was not going to touch it beyond Martin Landau)

    • Indeed. I forgot about Muriel’s Wedding, shame on me. Toni Colette was unforgettable… And rechecked “Four Weddings” yesterday… How John Hannah did not get the Supporting nom, is a mistery… Just his monologue/speech at the funeral…

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