Monday, June 26, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1994

1994 was a pretty important year for me, since it was the year I was born. No it wasn't. But 1994 was a year, and that makes it special in its own kind of way. Movies came out in 1994 and I like some of them quite a lot. And while I would consider it one of the better movie years around, narrowing down a top 10 here wasn't as hard as I figured. Is this enough filler text? I think so, so on with the countdown.

10. Speed

One of the better '90s popcorn action movies, and a great showcase for Keanu Reeves to do "acting" and Dennis Hopper to be evil and awesome (as he so often did). It's not a hard movie to enjoy, it's got a simple action premise, and honestly I could sit down and watch it at pretty much any point without issue. Is it high art? Nah. But it doesn't need to be. It's fun fast-paced, has a memorable villain, some great scenes, enough twists to keep it interesting, and some fun back and forth dialogue between Keanu and Bullock.

9. Orochi, The Eight-Headed Dragon

Toho made a pretty incredible albeit short-lived comeback in the late '80s and '90s, and while most of what they were making at this point was Godzilla centric, one of my very favorites was this, an exaggerated adventurous retelling of the
story of Yamato Takeru. Not as heavily focused on the giant monster as the title might suggest, Orochi is a really fun fantasy swordfighting movie with great sets, a fun story, and a lot of pretty cool action. The brief moments with the dragon are pretty awesome, and it definitely holds up pretty well to rewatches. Give it a go -- if you're able to find it.

8. Chungking Express

My favorite Wong Kar-wai film, Chungking Express would probably be much higher on this list if I had seen it more recently (it's been 5-6 years now) and if this weren't such an incredibly great year for movies. The music used in this movie is on the surface repetetive, but the songs they repeat develop new meanings as the story progresses around them, and I find that kind of thing very interesting. It's a lovely looking movie with fine performances and a coupleasure good stories. What's not to like?

7. Pulp Fiction

Whaaat? How can the greatest movie ever only be #7?!? Try not to poop your pants, okay? I already said this list was stacked, and Pulp Fiction is a great movie, but not one I feel like watching frequently or get much out of outside of fairly surface level things. But with its non-linear story, several really great scenes, and a jukebox soundtrack that adds to the already lively tone of the movie, it's hard not to like it. It's got that great Tarantino writing and Samuel L. Jackson in his single greatest performance ever. Great movie, and its praise is pretty well justified.

6. Three Colors: Red, White, & Blue

Krzystoyzzxof Kieslowskiwizkzi (or something like that) is a damn fine director. Damn fine! This trilogy (which started in 1993, making this entry a slight cheat) is one of the best in the history of film, a group of visually magnificent, powerful dramas with a touch of comedy for good measure. While all three can be viewed individually, they do work far better as a collective, with Red being the final chapter that ties all the stories together. These are pretty dense and emotional (with the exception of the more light and cynically comedic 'White'), so don't enter them lightly. His work in The Decalogue may be better, but this is easily his next best work.

5. Cemetery Man

One of the few Italian horror classics from the '90s, this English-language zombie comedy/drama is not just a great showcase for Rupert Everett (charming, as usual), but a weirdly twisted horror movie with some fantastic imagery and unique world building. Based on comics or graphic novels written by the same guy who made Dylan Dog, and directed by the guy who made the 1989 horror movie The Church, Cemetery Man is a lot of fun to watch, but is definitely a little too twisted and cynical for most audiences. If you like Italian horror, this is essential.

4. In The Mouth Of Madness

It's fairly rare to find direct film adaptations of H.P Lovecraft books that are any good, while most of the best ones are more like this, borrowing ideas and themes from them. And this, while definitely very closely attached to Lovecraft, is the best around, a ceaselessly dark and mind-bending horror/mystery/thriller with awesome visuals and one of the absolute best Sam Neill performances. This is a dark horror movie that doesn't rely on cheap jump scares to be terrifying, but instead creates a sense of unease, dripping with atmosphere and great ideas. It's one of the few horror epics that really works, and one of John Carpenter's very best.

3. Satantango

Bela Tarr is an uncommon filmmaker. This is by no means an insult, but not always a compliment. His movies have a tendency of dragging on with seemingly endless shots, and with this 7+ hour epic there are probably 3 solid hours of nothing more than looking at walls, cows, and people walking with little more than that. But it's how he handles this negative space that makes it so impressive. He takes the mundane and transforms it into something greater, with every single frame as hypnotic as the last. This is not a movie for everyone. In fact, it's almost not for anyone. But to us few go the spoils. Prepare to be bored but totally mesmerized.

2. The Lion King

Out of all the animated Disney classics, this is probably my favorite. Part of this is indeed nostalgia, but the other part is why it's really in this list. Everything about this movie, from the beautiful animation to the fantastic music (both lyrical and orchestral), is pure gold. Classic scenes and moments are all over this movie, filled with wonderful characters and equally as strong voice work from an uncommonly good voice cast. This movie marked a turning point in voice casting, with just about every animated film following it utilizing bigger stars. But yeah, this is a wonderful movie in pretty much every way -- except for "Morning Report". That song kinda sucks.

1. Ed Wood

Aaaand of course my #1 is Ed Wood. And how could it not be? This has been one of my favorite movies for a decade now, and I doubt it's gonna change in another decade. Tim Burton's interest and admiration for Wood is apparent, and his connection to the story actually mirrors his own life somewhat (Burton's relationship with Vincent Price is much like Wood and Bela Lugosi), adding whole extra layers to the story. Depp is perfect in the lead, a character who makes garbage movies but loves it so much, you can't help but to find his enthusiasm charming. The look and feel matches the tone of the classic '50s, and the music used here is perfectly appropriate. But even with everything great about this movie, it's Landau as Bela Lugosi who is the highlight. His performance is one of the best ever, as he steals every scene and absolutely transforms into the man himself. I could write thousands of words on this movie (I may do that someday), but in the end the entire point is that this is one of my favorites ever and easily my #1 of 1994. Thanks for clicking and reading my post.

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