The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1994

Ah, 1994. I love seeing people get upset at this. This year gives me no trouble whatsoever. Yet when everyone points to questionable decisions in recent years, this and 1998 are almost always the first two to come up (2005 has also crept into that conversation). Yet to me — it makes perfect sense. The Academy will always be the Academy.

Outside of Best Picture, Forrest Gump wins Best Actor for Tom Hanks (talked about here), which on its own is a good decision (the category sucked and he was great. The only really questionable part was him having won the year before this, which I feel shouldn’t have happened), and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis (talked about here), which was a given based on the Best Picture win. Best Actress was Jessica Lange for Blue Sky (talked about here), which is a bad decision, but makes sense knowing that Lange was considered heavily overdue, and the Academy didn’t want to give Jodie Foster a (deserved) third Oscar in seven years. Best Supporting Actor was Martin Landau for Ed Wood (talked about here), which was a really good decision. I just had to stand by Sam Jackson there. And Best Supporting Actress was Dianne Wiest for Bullets Over Broadway (talked about here), which I think was a bad decision (Jennifer Tilly was much better in that same film).

As for this category — look, when Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption (let’s also not forget Quiz Show) are nominated for Best Picture, there are going to be strong opinions. Gump is clearly the most Academy-friendly of the bunch, therefore it stands to reason it won. End of discussion. It makes sense. So there’s no point in saying it shouldn’t have won, because it’s a great film, and the Academy will always vote for something like this. Your opinion may be different (as mine is), but it doesn’t make this that terrible a decision.


And the nominees were…

Forrest Gump (Paramount)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title)

Pulp Fiction (Miramax)

Quiz Show (Hollywood Pictures)

The Shawshank Redemption (Columbia, Castle Rock Entertainment)

Forrest Gump — Pretty sure we all know about this one. Simple man from Alabama, manages to become involved in history in the most marginal of ways. All through it — Jenny. Simple, yet very effective.

Seriously, if you need me to provide a synopsis for this film, you really need to start watching more movies.

This is a great film, and I understand completely why it won. I also understand people not thinking it should have. I don’t think it necessarily shouldn’t have, but I will be voting for something else.

Four Weddings and a Funeral — Weird choice for a nominee. I don’t quite get it. I guess it’s one of those Full Monty type deals. The film charmed them, so they put it on. (But imagine how much stronger this would have been if Bullets over Broadway were put on instead…)

The film is about — well, you can guess. Over the course of four weddings and a funeral, Hugh Grant meets Andie MacDowell, and he doesn’t know who she is. But they keep bumping into one another, and the attraction is obvious. And they get closer over all of these gatherings, and eventually start sleeping together. However, we find out that she’s engaged, and it’s sad for a minute. But they end up together anyway.

It’s a Richard Curtis-scripted film. Pretty much any major thing to come out of Britain in the past 20 years has Richard Curtis involved in some way. Black Adder, Mr. Bean, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually — his name pops up everywhere. This film, I feel, is not one of his better efforts. Many people would disagree, but I just don’t like it. (Mike Newell did direct the film, so it’s not entirely a Curtis film. But with those other films I mentioned, come on.) It’s clearly a #5 on this list, and it seems like the only reason it got nominated is because it popped huge and charmed everyone into voting for it (like The Full Monty, like The Sixth Sense, like Little Miss Sunshine, like The Blind Side, like The Help). That’s not to say it’s a bad film (same for the others I mentioned), it’s just that the reason it got nominated is because of that perfect storm of good reviews, lots of money and universal support. That’s how these films get on. Still clearly a #5, though.

Pulp Fiction — Another film that doesn’t require a synopsis. Any filmgoer worth their salt has seen this film a half-dozen times over by the age of 17. And if you haven’t, you know you need to. That’s all there is to it.

This is a perfect film, and to me, should have won Best Picture. To me, this, Gump and Shawshank are all films that would win this category in most years. The real deciding factor is that this is the film that’s had the most historical impact on the industry and means the most. Plus it’s my favorite. So I’m voting for this.

Quiz Show — What a great film this is. Totally gripping from beginning to end.

The film is about the great quiz show scandal of the 50s, where it came out that one show had been feeding answers to its contestants and rigging the shows. We start with John Turturro, a dude who had won a large amount of shows in a row (kind of like Ken Jennings), continuing to win no matter what they threw at him, question-wise. And the studio (as well as the corporate sponsor backing it) see that the ratings aren’t going up anymore, so they decide to get him off the show. They offer him a lot of money to take a dive. And they make him do it on the most deliberate question, too — “What film won Best Picture in 1955?” And they tell him to say On the Waterfront, even though Marty is the answer. And he does it and takes the money.

And what they do is, they get Charles van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), a literature professor and son of a famous poet, as their new golden boy. They set him up to win the show. And slowly but surely, they introduce the rigging factor to him. He thinks he’s won fairly so far, but soon they tell him it was all rigged, and start rigging it for him. He doesn’t really want to cheat, since he feels he can do it on his own, but eventually relents and starts accepting the questions in advance (but not the answers, as a point of pride). Meanwhile, the government gets a whiff of the cheating, and they start an investigation. And eventually it all comes out that cheating was involved, and there’s a great amount of shame for all involved.

It’s an amazing film. A lot of people might not necessarily know that it was directed by Robert Redford either. I mean, a lot of people do, but I feel like I’ve, on more than one occasion, mentioned that he directed it, and people (who had seen the film and loved it) went, “What? Really?” But it’s an amazing film, and really helps make this one of the strongest Best Picture categories of all time (Four Weddings and a Funeral really brings it down, though, much like The Prince of Tides brings down that amazing 1991 category). I can’t vote for it though, because — look at those other three films. But damn, is this great.

The Shawshank Redemption — The third film on this list that I shouldn’t have to say a word about. You should have seen it, and you should know how perfect it is.

I’d say that of the big three films, this one might be the film the most people would vote for in this category. I know Pulp Fiction is Pulp Fiction, but this one has that emotional factor going for it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see people voting for this. And it totally deserves it too. But I’m still voting for Pulp Fiction over this.

My Thoughts: It’s Pulp Fiction. It has to be (for me, at least). What that film did to the film landscape, that’s the deciding factor. Shawshank is second and Gump is third, but Pulp Fiction is my vote.

My Vote: Pulp Fiction

Should Have Won: Really, any of the three, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump or The Shawshank Redemption. Even Quiz Show is kind of worthy. I’d have preferred either Pulp Fiction or Shawshank, though.

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. It is. Whether you like it or not, it’s still acceptable.

Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption, you’re dead to me, you’re dead to the world, you don’t like movies, and you should probably stop trying, because how have you made it this far without being eaten by dinosaurs?

Quiz Show, I feel, is an essential film. It’s so amazing. It’s such a great, engrossing film. You need to see this one, because it’s one of the best on this entire Quest.

Four Weddings and a Funeral — meh. I wasn’t a fan. But it’s okay. Some people love this. I’m indifferent.


5) Four Weddings and a Funeral

4) Quiz Show

3) Forrest Gump

2) The Shawshank Redemption

1) Pulp Fiction

2 responses

  1. Chad

    My rankings are:
    1. Forrest Gump (but just barely)
    2. The Shawshank Redemption (tie with Pulp Fiction)
    2. Pulp Fiction (tie with The Shawshank Redemption)
    3. Quiz Show
    4. Four Weddings and a Funeral

    August 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

  2. By the way, did you know that Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption all rank in the Top 20 on IMDB’s Top 250? The Shawshank Redemption ranks at #1 with a 9.2/10, Pulp Fiction sits at #4 with an 8.9/10, and Forrest Gump comes in at #18 with an 8.7/10.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm

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