Forrest Gump The Shawshank Redemption
The Best Picture battle of ’94 was one of the best. Academy voters preferred Forrest Gump, while historians continue to praise Pulp Fiction for its shattered conventions. But if listmaking is at least part democracy, the people have spoken. Even my taste for Bubba Gump shrimp must bow before the people, who have kept up the pressure and, over time, transformed Shawshank from box office flop to IMDB’s top rating. That’s all it takes sometimes: pressure and time. That and a big god-damned poster.
Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) Robert Redford (Quiz Show)
After “Canon in D Major” montages in Ordinary People and poetic fly-fishing in A River Runs Through It, Redford’s Quiz Show nailed Charles Van Doren’s moral quandary with network execs invading his cinematic space and crane shots showing his pressure-cooked moments of decision.
Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) Jim Carrey (Ace Ventura / The Mask / Dumb and Dumber)
When Tom Hanks won his second straight Best Actor for Gump, he said, “I think if I’m nominated for anything next year, there’ll be a wave of suicide jumpers from the third tier of the Chandler Pavilion.” After awarding Hanks twice already, this Oscar goes to the man who used three roles in ’94 to become the first of any genre to earn $20 million for a single role (The Cable Guy). Jim Carrey’s acceptance speech is impossible, but it’s time we prevent film snobs from “talking out their ass” and “rip the heads” off cinema eggheads. As Roger Ebert said, “The purpose of comedy is to make you laugh, and there’s a moment in Dumb and Dumber that made me laugh so loudly I embarrassed myself.” Roger, Roger.
Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) Irene Jacob (Three Colors: Red)
Irene Jacob won Best Actress at Cannes for Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991), but her best film with Kieslowski was Three Colors: Red, the grand finale of his Three Colors Trilogy.
Best Supporting Actor: Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
When Martin Landau accepted his Oscar for Ed Wood, he exclaimed, “My God! I feel like I’m having an out of body experience!” Perhaps he was. Landau’s Bela Lugosi was so convincing that it appeared Dracula himself had risen from his coffin to wage jealous rants against the success of rival Boris Karloff: “You think it takes talent to play Frankenstein? It’s all makeup and grunting. … Karloff does not deserve to smell my shit! That limey cocksucker can rot in hell for all I care!”
Best Supporting Actress:
Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway) Robin Wright (Forrest Gump)
Forrest and Jenny were like peas and carrots, and Robin Wright’s restless and abused “Free Bird” was the perfect counter to Tom Hanks’ straight and narrow. Lying on her death bed, she heard all about how Forrest ate chocolates, broke leg-brace barriers, taught Elvis to dance, returned kickoffs for Bear Bryant, saved troops in Vietnam, made ping-pong peace with China, mooned sitting presidents, exposed Watergate, stunned protest rallies, launched a gazillion-dollar shrimpin’ business and traversed the country in the pair of Nikes she gave him. “I wish I could have been there with you,” she said, to which Forrest replied, “You were.”
Best Original Screenplay: Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary)
Voted the WGA’s No. 16 Greatest Screenplay, Quentin Tarantino exploded conventions with non-linear vignettes (The Bonnie Situation), memorable characters (Marsellus Wallace), jaw-dropping twists (The Gimp), a killer soundtrack (“Misirlou”), witty banter (“Royale with Cheese”), Biblical philosophizing (Ezekial 25:17) and plenty of pop culture references (“We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies”). Countless imitators have tried and failed to replicate this cinematic shockwave.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Forrest Gump (Eric Roth from a novel by Winston Groom) The Lion King (Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts & Linda Woolverton from a play by William Shakespeare)
None of the above films grossed as much as The Lion King. After three straight hits in The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, Disney dropped Shakespeare’s Hamlet into the African savannah, where Mufassa (James Earl Jones) explained the “Circle of Life,” brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) had him whacked, and prince Simba weighed whether “to be or not to be” king of the jungle. Timeless tunes by Elton John and Tim Rice cement arguably the greatest animated film of all time.