Sunday, March 15, 2009

Life is Like a Box of Choc Lump of Coal

Remember that collaborative series Best Pictures From the Outside In starring Nathaniel (myself), Nick of Nick's Flick Picks and Mike of Goatdog's Movies? Yeah, we almost didn't either. But it's back!


This time we're taking on the Oscar winners from 1941 and 1994 as we move chronologically from Oscars first years forward and most recent year backwards. Eventually we meet in the middle (the 1960s).

****

Mike: This episode of Best Pictures from the Outside In is a milestone in the admittedly brief (in entries, if not in time) history of this series. For the first time, gone is the middling crap we're often forced to discuss. Instead, fate has allowed us to pair two earth-shattering films, films that redefined the very art of cinema in their respective eras. From 1941 we have a movie that's topped countless lists of the greatest films ever made. Its spectacular cinematography spawned countless imitators, and its labyrinthine plot still has few equals. From 1994 we have what is arguably its modern equivalent, a film whose brilliant dialogue, fragmented plot structure, and countless historical references spawned countless imitators, including some by this film's own director. Dear readers, it is my pleasure to present the Best Picture winners from 1941 and 1994, Citizen Kane and Pulp Fiction.

Read the Rest... wherein we unfortunately have to puncture Mike's fantasy.

[Would that his fantasy were reality. But no, the Academy selected How Green Was My Valley and Forrest Gump as the Best Pictures. What a world. The Academy can knock you over with a feather sometimes]

21 comments:

Arkaan said...

I love the Ford film, hate the Zemeckis, but don't think Pulp Fiction was robbed. There were a dozen better films from 1994. There may have been a handful from 1941 better than HGWMV, but I can't argue with it's best picture win in terms of quality.

---

Preemptive strike: No, The Piano isn't a great film (ducks and covers).

Katey said...

Here's what I'll always struggle with about Forrest Gump, despite understanding everything you guys criticized about it. It was just a big part of my childhood, one of those movies that everyone saw and knew and loved without a critical thought (because I did not grow up in the most film-savvy of communities). And it was filmed in my home state, and I knew people involved in the production, and I just loved it without thinking about it.

I realize that's the kind of blanket nostalgia that this movie cynically panders to, but I can't help it. How do you go back and criticize something that feels like a childhood bedrock?

Kelsy said...

I like Forrest Gump well enough, but I'm not going to seek it out. However, 1994's The Shawshank Redemption remains one of my all-time favorites. It might not be particularly innovative filmmaking, but it's incredibly moving. And it was before Morgan Freeman narrated everything ever.

NATHANIEL R said...

"how do you go back and criticize something that feels like a childhood bedrock?"

i suppose you don't ;)

kelsy -- 1994 is a weird year for me. i did not understand the fascination with either of the mainstream favorites (forrest or shawshank) and shawshank in particular i know so many cinephiles who just love love love it (critical types you know) and I still don't get it.

I like shawshank a helluva lot more for the sole reason you cite but to me neither of those much loved films were anything like "VERY BEST OF YEAR"

give me Heavenly Creatures and Pulp Fiction and it's a wrap. They towered over everythign that year.

cal roth said...

Green is far from Ford's best (he has at least 10 absolute masterpieces, but only The Quiet Man and Grapes of Wrath got big 5 Oscars), but it is a very very lovely movie.

I love Pulp Fiction, but the big deal that year was the astonishing Rouge, that got Kieslowski a directing and screenplay nominations.

Arkaan said...

re: Shawshawnk

It's a male weepie. It's a film that celebrates a friendship between two guys without tripping into "bromance," and keep in mind when the films that celebrate male-male friendships are "Dumb and Dumber" and "Bill and Ted." So it feels like a balm.

It's flawed as all hell (implausible? Yep. Shallow? Yeah.), but it still works. I think it's one of the first films where I realized all those "behind the camera" people - Deakins swooping camera; Newman's stirring score, Freeman's thrilling sound design (sorry, but everyone knows that the film wouldn't work as well without his gravelly, distinct narration).

Additionally, I think something else that helped it is the sense of surprise/personal discovery. It wasn't a huge hit, wasn't THAT acclaimed (it's worth mentioning that the third film of the PULP FICTION vs FORREST GUMP debate wasn't SHAWSHANK, but THE QUIZ SHOW), had that weirdly off-putting title. So people sorta fell in love with it on their own, without any real hype. It was the first "grown-up" film to really be helped by home video, I think (Disney films obviously loved home video)

Arkaan said...

oh, and ditto cal roth on Rouge. In fact, foreign films in 1994 were awesome. Queen Margot, Wild Reeds, Before the Rain.

Heavenly Creatures is awesome too. And Hoop Dreams. What a film.

Middento said...

More love for Rouge (and Heavenly Creatures!) from over here -- and thank you, Arkaan, for offering reasons why Shawshank has this seeming cult status. I think it's an OK film, but nothing spectacular, yet my students LURVE it to no end. Thanks for giving some really plausible reasons why.

rosengje said...

Yesss, Before the Rain is one of my favorite movies. One of my film professors is from Slovenia and when she first screened it for us pre-Criterion it was only available on VHS. Made writing a paper on it that much more interesting. Milcho Manchevski also directed an episode of The Wire, and is therefore forever in my good graces.

The Piano is not just a great film, it is perhaps the greatest.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. As if Pulp Fiction was ever more deserving of an Oscar than Forrest Gump.

Arkaan said...

Yeah, the reputation of The Piano is scarily strong, but it didn't work for me.

Paul Outlaw said...

As one of the only people I know who couldn't (and can't) stand either Forrest Gump (corny, reactionary and misogynist) or Pulp Fiction (derivative, racist and homophobic), I was not a happy camper about that year's Oscars....or the year in film in general. Much preferred Priest, The Lion King, The Madness of King George, Muriel's Wedding, Quiz Show, Tom and Viv, Bullets Over Broadway and Serial Mom to the two contenders.

Paul Outlaw said...

And Ed Wood and Heavenly Creatures.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I wrote this at Goatdog and I'll post it here too.

~~

"but it will always go down on my list as the biggest "We are completely out of touch" sign in the Academy's history."

Far be it from me to think that the "general public" and their opinion should count for much of anything, but I'm sure there are MILLIONS that adore Forrest Gump. I'm not a big fan - I haven't seen it in a long time though so who knows - but the movie DID gross $330mil in the US (compared to Pulp Fiction's $108mil) so one could argue that the Academy was merely "out of touch" with those who would take part in a series such as Best Pictures From the Outside In.

I think the more "what the fuck were you people doing to ignore it?" moment of that particular year was Hoop Dreams being snubbed from Best Documentary. Since it's probably one of the three finest films of the 1990s (I rank Jackie Brown and KBV1 over "Pulp Fiction" in QT's oeuvre) THAT is unforgivable.

~~

1994 was actually my favourite year of the 1990s (by a very wide margin). Hoop Dreams, The Shawshank Redemption (yes, count me in as a possessive fan), Priscilla, Pulp Fiction, Muriel's Wedding, The Lion King, Heavenly Creatures, The Last Seduction, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, The Professional, Speed, Bullets Over Broadway, Ed Wood, Eat Drink Man Woman, True Lies, Threesome, Shallow Grave and the Christmas comedy masterpiece The Ref. And there's even more that I'm not including in that list.

Anonymous said...

for all its faults, I still really really love Robin Wright Penn (who more often than not is too tentative and uneven an actress) in this film because she's the only actor who doesn't condescend their character to one broad stroke. What are your thoughts on her performance Nat? It's no Dianne Weist Bullets Over Broadway but I think she did quite nicely....

- Sean C.

suburbanidealist said...

I just wrote a column that, among other things, centers on my hatred of Forrest Gump: http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2009/03/16/busses_offer_chance_to_truly_s.aspx

NATHANIEL R said...

sean c -- i think Penn is fine in the movie (if no more than that) but the character construction is so irritating to me that I just. ugh i just hate that movie)

Janice said...

I remember walking out of the theater after FG when it first came out (I saw it with some friends in college in '94) and thinking "that was two hours of my life I'll never get back".

Kamikaze Camel said...

Wasn't it three hours?

Janice said...

//Wasn't it three hours?//

Probably so, Glenn. It felt more like five hours, so I guess I was giving it the benefit of the doubt. (or, I was just too lazy to look up the run time as I sat here typing.) there was one single moment that stuck with me or seemed emotionally "true" - and that was the moment when Forrest was asking Jenny if the child was "normal" or not. (though in retrospect it seems a strange question and probably insulting to anyone who is "developmentally disabled" as we now say. And makes no sense in the scheme of the film - Forrest has had a fascinating life (even if he hasn't the wherewithal to appreciate it) so why would anyone who has led the full life he has want to be "normal"? (Jenny after all is "normal" and look how damaged she ends up.)

Anyway that one moment was lovely in the theater - when I watched it shortly afterwards on TV (that scene) to see if the effect transferred, however, it didn't. But beyond that, it was a slog, and that's a long slog for one moment. (Not unlike sitting through Australia last year trying to find one or two gems from it.)

NATHANIEL R said...

It's actually only 142 minutes. I know it's tough to believe.