Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, and right about now, with the many think pieces and fond memorials of the 20th anniversary of “Pulp Fiction” that have been doing the rounds, it feels quite easy to lapse into an overly sentimentalized view of the past as being somehow better than what we’ve got today. Because we like to kick against that a bit, and because we’re total masochists who enjoy dredging up deservedly forgotten dross and forcing ourselves to sit through it, we recently looked back 30 years and ranked the films of Summer 1984. Finding ourselves in grave danger of going “Hey, October 1994 had ‘Pulp,’ ‘Hoop Dreams,’ ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ and more all open within a few days of each other, weren’t the old days great?” we decided to do it again, only this time skipping back a mere two decades and covering the releases from just this one month.
Some context: in October 1994, Nelson Mandela visited the U.S., Gary Larson retired the “Far Side” comic strip and “Seinfeld” was in its sixth season with “The Pledge Drive,” “The Chinese Woman,” and “The Couch” playing during the month. China was pursuing nuclear tests while North Korea was signing a pact to end theirs. Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan and Ulster Protestants agreed to a ceasefire. And Palau, an island nation in Micronesia, of which we had never heard until right this second, gained independence. Here then, ranked from worst to best, are all the films that a 1994 cinemagoer had to choose from when deciding to celebrate Palauan independence with a night at the movies.
23. “Exit to Eden” (October 14th)
Dan Aykroyd, Rosie O’Donnell, Dana Delaney and Paul Mercurio star in a Garry Marshall film based on an erotic novel by Anne Rampling (aka Anne Rice)—what could possibly go right? This one spices up the fetish romance storyline of an island retreat where people go to explore their domination/submission fantasies with a trademark early ’90s plot involving diamond smuggling villains being pursued by a pair of wacky cops (Aykroyd and O’Donnell). O’Donnell is really the only one who comes out of this sad trombone of a film with any dignity intact. Aykroyd is non-existent as her partner, Mercurio is awkward and stockily beefed up from his svelte “Strictly Ballroom” days and Delaney just horribly miscast as the dominatrix “mistress” who rides around on a horse wearing a succession of filmy togas. And we’re being kind by not mentioning Iman‘s role at all. If you ever find yourself in danger of lapsing into nostalgia for the films of 20 years ago, “Exit to Eden” is as reliable a wake-up call as an ice bucket challenge, and its “sexy” shenanigans might also have that effect on your libido.
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22. “Drop Squad” (October 28th)
A comically inept and self-serious take on a central premise that actually could have been a neat, high-concept way to explore some pretty potent issues, David C. Johnson‘s “Drop Squad” is only ever referenced now as an influence on executive producer Spike Lee‘s own widely unloved “Bamboozled.” Featuring Eriq LaSalle, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Williams and “Eve’s Bayou” director Kasi Lemmons, among others, the titular squad is kind of a militant morality brigade, who kidnap “brothers” who have lost their way by selling out to the (white) man, dealing drugs, becoming corrupt or otherwise turning their backs on their black communities and families. Unfortunately, having had that semi-interesting story idea, Johnson and his co-writers couldn’t think of anything to do with it, bar have people spout long, hilariously literal speeches at one another in a series of increasingly cheap locations. A thought-provoking dissection of conflicting takes on the struggle for black identity and equality it is most emphatically not, but it’s not even fun enough to be exploitation either.
21. “The Puppet Masters” (October 21st)
Look at something like “Pulp Fiction,” and 1994 doesn’t seem so far away. But then, presumably because you did something bad in a previous life, you watch “The Puppet Masters” and find yourself, if you can stay awake, marveling at the fact that you were even alive when they made this. A horribly miscast, poorly directed, cheap, misjudged mess of an adaptation of Robert Heinlein‘s 1951 novel, the writers (among them David S. Goyer) very visibly clashed over their how loyal they wanted to be to the source material, resulting in a decidedly schizophrenic film. Part homage, especially in the creature design to “Alien,” part sub-“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ’50s B-movie, featuring a somnambulant Donald Sutherland and somebody called Eric Thal, in a hokey, derivative plot about space parasites who latch onto human hosts and control them, what’s truly striking about “The Puppet Masters” is that it’s not even schlocky fun. Leaden of script and wooden of acting, it’s pretty much the definition of a clunker.
20. “Silent Fall” (October 28th)
The kind of unpromising star vs. kid procedural that was once commonplace as a way to fill empty multiplex screens at this time of year (see also: “Mercury Rising,” “Don’t Say A Word“), “Silent Fall” (directed by “Driving Miss Daisy” helmer Bruce Beresford) sees therapist Richard Dreyfuss brought in by the cops to help when an autistic boy is the only witness to the brutal murder of his parents. But is he the witness or the killer? The film’s got a strong cast (Linda Hamilton, John Lithgow, J.T. Walsh in the part J.T. Walsh always played, even a young Liv Tyler in her screen debut), but it’s unrelentingly grim, full of silly twists and giant plot holes, and crude in its depiction of autism. No surprise, then, that the film was the first produced screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, who’d go on to inflict “Batman & Robin,” “Lost In Space” and “A Winter’s Tale,” among others, on us.
19. “A Troll In Central Park” (October 7th)
In the days before DreamWorks and company, Disney’s biggest rival (and, in their late-1980s doldrums, a serious one) were Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, who departed the Mouse House to set up their own. Some of their films (“An American Tail, “”The Secret Of NIMH,” “The Land Before Time”) were beloved hits, others were…not. Undoubtedly, the bottom of the pile was “A Troll In Central Park,” a charmless tale about Stanley (Dom DeLuise), a troll able to bring plants to life, who is banished to New York and befriends a family. Sloppily written, made on the cheap (the production values are more akin to Saturday morning cartoons than to, say, “The Lion King,” released only a few months earlier), utterly bland and with totally disposable musical numbers, it’s the kind of animated film that makes people hate animated films.
18. “Little Giants” (October 14th)
One of Rick Moranis‘ final big-screen roles before he retired from acting, “Little Giants” sees the “Ghostbusters” star as a suburban dad who attempts to escape from the shadow of his older brother (Ed O’Neill) by coaching local misfits into a pee-wee football team that can take on the intimidating all-stars his brother manages. The film’s almost exactly as formulaic as it sounds, with all the fart jokes, half-baked sub-plots, shoehorned-in NFL cameos (John Madden is third billed) and eventual triumph you might expect. The only real surprise (other than it taking four credited writers to get it on screen), is that the film was lensed by Janusz Kaminski almost immediately after he won the Oscar for “Schindler’s List.”
17. “The Specialist” (October 7th)
About as generic an early-90s actioner as you could ask for, “The Specialist” (once, bizarrely, linked to David Fincher) sees Sylvester Stallone’s ex-CIA bomb-making assassin team up with Sharon Stone, a woman seeking vengeance for the death of her parents at the hands of mob scion Eric Roberts. James Woods is a typically good value as an old adversary of Stallone’s, and the film does at least deliver on the promise of featuring a number of explosions of varying sizes, but this fails on most levels, from the ludicrously convoluted plot, to the total lack of chemistry between its mismatched stars. The most depressing thing about the whole thing is having to watch the great Rod Steiger slum it as a Cuban-accented mob boss. Fun fact: Peruvian helmer Luis Llosa (who went on to make “Anaconda”) is the father of Oscar-nominated arthouse director Claudia Llosa, of “The Milk Of Sorrow” fame.
16. “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale” (October 28th)
An undemandingly effective family film straight from the Ed Zwick school of oversimplified, manipulative historical/cultural drama, ‘Squanto,’ directed by Xavier Koller, may have only the most tenuous of connections to the story of the real Native American Thanksgiving hero who famously helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter, but is a serviceable enough adventure story nonetheless. This Disneyfied Squanto is the epitome of the noble savage, tricked by perfidious whites, captured and brought to England to be the plaything/cashcow/performing monkey of a dastardly Lord (Michael Gambon at his dastardliest). Escaping, he is befriended by kindly Brother Daniel (Mandy Patinkin), who teaches him English, and also that not all white men are dastardly, only for Squanto to make it back to the New World and discover that the newcomers wiped out his tribe, so, yeah, dastardly. Still, it’s a handsomely mounted and well-intentioned introduction to a distant slice of history that might fill a rainy afternoon for younger viewers.
15. “The Road To Wellville” (October 28th)
It’s easy to look back on the great films of yesteryear and wonder if they’d ever get through the studio system today. It’s even easier to look back and wonder the same about a baffling misfire like “The Road To Wellville,” a sort of period sex farce about a Michigan sanitarium run by cereal pioneer Dr. Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins), and a couple (Matthew Broderick and Bridget Fonda) who travel there after the death of their child. Based on T.C. Boyle’s novel, and written and directed by Alan Parker, it’s visually lavish and occasionally funny (the sheer extent of its scatology is impressive, at least), but it’s tonally wonky in the extreme and highly unruly in its plotting, with a sub-plot featuring John Cusack that could be lifted out entirely. The film’s rife with miscasting too: Hopkins pays Kellogg like a blend of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and whoever decided Dana Carvey should be his son may have been drunk at the time. The film’s such an odd duck that we’re sort of glad it exists, but we’re also glad we don’t have to watch it again.
14. “Radioland Murders” (October 21st)
Of all George Lucas‘ projects between the original “Star Wars” films and the prequels, “Radioland Murders” probably remains the most obscure (at least “Howard The Duck” was infamous). In development for nearly twenty years—Lucas sold the treatment at the same time as he sold “American Graffiti“—this broadly comedic murder mystery set in the world of old-timey radio eventually landed on screens in 1994, produced and based on a story by Lucas, and directed by the late British comic and director Mel Smith (“Bean“). Set in Chicago in 1939, the screwball-ish plot sees a number of radio station employees being bumped off over a crucial night, with writer Roger Henderson (Brian Benben) trying to solve the killings, even while they’re briefly pinned on him. Lovingly put together, and positively crammed with both gags and cameos (George Burns, Joey Lawrence, Rosemary Clooney, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael McKean and Bobcat Goldthwait among them), the main problem is that too few of them work, the jokes generally land with a clang and there’s a needlessly frantic energy to the whole thing, not helped by a deeply bland lead turn by Benben. Still, better than ‘The Phantom Menace,’ we suppose…
13. “Love Affair” (October 21st)
It probably didn’t help “Love Affair” that the year before Nora Ephron had had a major hit with “Sleepless In Seattle,” which paid tribute in a major way to 1950s weepie “An Affair To Remember,” a film that, like the ’94 edition, was itself a remake of a 1939 original starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. A passion project for star Warren Beatty (who co-wrote the script with Robert Towne), but directed by “Moonlighting” mastermind Glen Gordon Caron, who had a major falling-out with Beatty, it sees Beatty in the Boyer/Cary Grant role, a womanizing football player, and Beatty’s real life wife Annette Bening as his counterpart, a singer. Despite a big budget and some serious talent (including Garry Shandling, Pierce Brosnan, Conrad Hall shooting, Ennio Morricone scoring and the final screen role for Katharine Hepburn), the film’s a creaky vanity project, sticking too close to the previous versions to present much reason for its existence. It’s interesting as a look into Beatty’s new giving-up-chasing-girls point of view on the world, as his tribute to Bening, but the film really goes no deeper than that.
12. “Only You” (October 7th)
It also probably didn’t help “Love Affair” that a significantly more charming, though far from perfect, romance had hit theaters a few weeks earlier. “Only You” (Norman Jewison‘s first entry in the genre since the acclaimed “Moonstruck“) starred recent Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei as a young woman who is told by a Ouija board that she will one day marry a man called Damon Bradley. Mere weeks before her wedding to another man, she heads to Venice to find him, aided and abetted by an American stranger (Robert Downey Jr.). As a romantic comedy, it’s not especially funny, and there’s something unpleasantly stalker-y about the whole affair when you look back two decades on, but Jewison has a couple of secret weapons. First, there’s his cast: Tomei and Downey Jr. are both winning despite the contrivances of the script, and share some honest-to-god chemistry together. Secondly, there’s his setting: though it’s one of the most romantic cities in the world, too few rom-coms have taken advantage of Venice, and the screen swims with romance thanks to the way that Jewison shoots the picture. For all the film’s flaws, and there are many, it does make you swoon a little when it works.
11. “Stargate” (October 28th)
Now probably best-known for launching a long-running franchise of TV shows that no-one you’ve ever met watches, Roland Emmerich‘s “Stargate” was, in 1994, an oddball sci-fi picture that proved a surprise hit at a quiet time of year. Looking back, it’s both quite a bad movie and an intriguing one. The plot sees a scientist (James Spader) and a soldier (Kurt Russell) traveling through the mysterious archaeological find of the title to a distant planet with a civilization similar to Ancient Egypt, ruled over by an alien impersonating the god Ra (Jaye Davidson, the Oscar-nominated star of “The Crying Game,” in his only other major acting role). The plot is borderline incomprehensible, the dialogue often clunky and/or unintentionally funny and the treatment of women is reprehensible, but the film’s design and effects work still impress today. For all the silliness, there’s a richness to the mythology that makes it an immersive world to spend a couple of hours in, particularly as Emmerich handles the action sequences as well as ever. The non-intuitive approach to casting (Spader, Davidson, French Stewart as a marine for some reason) makes it feel a little fresher too. It’s not exactly a good film, but it’s more fun than a lot of what’s on this list.
10. “The Browning Version” (October 12th)
One would like to be more enthusiastic about something like “The Browning Version.” Mike Figgis‘ adaptation of Terrence Rattigan‘s play is a firmly grown-up picture, modest and underplayed, the kind of thing that was rare twenty years ago, let alone these days. Starring Albert Finney, the film focuses on the final days and weeks in the career of a Classics teacher at an English public school, who’s facing not just the end of his teaching life before retirement, but the prospect of a life alone, with his wife (Greta Scacchi) embroiled in an affair with a younger colleague (Matthew Modine). But the film’s just too drab and dull, like Finney’s performance, only really coming alive in the (admittedly excellent) final scene. That may be the point, but it doesn’t make the film any more engaging to watch, and Figgis’ unfussy direction doesn’t seem to care whether or not you’re involved. Still, if you do check it out, keep an eye out for a then sixteen-year-old Jim Sturgess as one of the pupils.
9. “I Like It Like That” (October 14th)
A sweet, low-key movie free of stars that was somehow released by a major studio (something like this would probably go underseen at Sundance these days, let alone in the marketplace), “I Like It Like That” is perhaps too sitcom-y to stand the test of time, but it’s worth a revisit if you can track it down. Written and directed by Darnell Martin, a former assistant to Spike Lee (the influence of his films, most notably “She’s Gotta Have It,” is keenly felt here), it focuses on a young Puerto Rican mother (Lauren Velez), who has to make ends meet when her no-good cheating husband (Jon Seda) ends up in jail, and ends up working in the music industry for executive Griffin Dunne. It’s virtually plotless, and does occasionally lapse into comedy that’s too broad, or drama that’s too soapy, but Martin has such a strong sense of place and character that it remains hugely engaging, if a little minor, throughout, particularly due to a great central performance from Velez.
8. “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (October 14th)
Two years before “Scream,” Wes Craven took post-modern meta horror for a test-drive, and revived his best-known franchise in the process, with his “New Nightmare,” the final film in the original, non-rebooted “Nightmare On Elm Street” series. The film focuses on Heather Langenkamp, the star of the original movie, playing a version of herself, now married with a child, and being courted to return to the series for a new movie. But when crew members and the likes start dying off, and her son Dylan grows increasingly troubled, it appears that her old fictional adversary Freddie Krueger (Robert Englund, who also appears in the film as himself) is breaking out of the fictional world and into the real one. A major stylistic departure for Craven (who acts in the film, somewhat stiffly, it should be said), it’s toned down from the grotesquerie and comedy of previous sequels, successfully making Freddie scary again by keeping him mostly off-screen. This owes more to psychological horror than, say, ‘Dream Warriors,’ with Langenkamp’s environment, and even her child, becoming as terrifying as the prospect of falling asleep. Most importantly, the meta elements give Craven the chance to say something a little more substantial. Like “Scream” (and arguably more effectively than in that movie), it’s a horror film about horror films, and the effect they have on both those who watch them and those who make them.
7. “Vanya On 42nd Street” (October 19th)
After “My Dinner With Andre” proved a surprise cult hit, filmmaker Louis Malle reteamed with Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory for this fascinating drama/documentary/theater hybrid. As the title suggests, the film involves a group of actors gathered by Gregory and Shawn (most famously Julianne Moore, as Yelena, with Shawn playing the title character) rehearsing a production of Chekhov‘s play in a run-down theater in New York. There’s little in the way of examination of process—it’s essentially a run-through of the play, spare and without trappings—but the out-of-context nature (the actors perform in their own clothes, sometimes accompanied by coffee cups) makes it a potent love-letter to both the source material and to actors in general. The film was Malle’s last (he passed away from lymphoma a little over a year later), but it’s as fitting an end to an amazing career as you could ask for.
6. “Clerks” (October 19th)
After sequels, an animated series, a bazillion podcasts and the diminishing returns of the director’s other movies, it’s easy to forget the impact the arrival of “Clerks” had. Made on a shoestring, and landing in the perfect post-Tarantino landscape to become a cult hit (arriving in cinemas only five days after “Pulp Fiction“), like the Tarantino film, it inspired a thousand terrible knock-offs. What people saw was so crudely, even amateurishly made, that every Joe Blow thought they could do the same, but the knock-offs proved to be just that. For all the rough edges, making “Clerks” wasn’t as easy as it looks. The film arguably remains Kevin Smith‘s best, with its smart, profane, even occasionally profound script announcing a fresh new comic voice, and proving eminently quotable and often gut-bustingly funny. For all the ropey acting and cut-price filmmaking (that said, to make this movie on less than $30K is an impressive feat), “Clerks” still holds up as well today as it did in theaters.
5. “Bullets Over Broadway” (October 14th)
One of Woody Allen’s purest unalloyed joys since the “early, funny ones,” “Bullets Over Broadway” is one of the director’s most perfectly constructed comedies, and one of his best latter-day works in general. John Cusack is fantastic in one of his best roles as the egotistical, conniving, 1920s, “Barton Fink“-ish playwright with delusions of a career like Eugene O’Neill, but the real strength of the film is to render the rest of his Broadway players as a horror show collection of freaks, pedants and oddballs. Jennifer Tilly is particularly fantastic as the screeching, dunderheaded mob doll Olive (misunderstanding the word “fore” during her table reading as a dour psychiatrist, she asks “So you’re telling me it’s like I’m talking about golf?”) and Dianne Wiest, of course, is killer in an Oscar-winning performance as the vainglorious Helen Sinclair, who seduces Cusack by lustily breathing, “Don’t speak!” like Gloria Swanson off her face on prescription drugs.
4. “The Last Seduction” (October 26th)
One of the very best movies of the early-90s neo-noir renaissance that encompassed everything from “Basic Instinct” to “Miller’s Crossing,” “The Last Seduction” is overlooked these days, overshadowed by some of the showier pictures that hit around the same time, but it’s just as worthy of praise and rediscovery—if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat—as any of them. Penned by Steve Barancik and directed by John Dahl, it’s a fiendishly complicated (but never convoluted) riff on “Double Indemnity,” starring Linda Fiorentino (where has she gone and how do we get her back?) as a borderline sociopathic femme fatale—two decades prior to Amy Dunne—who ups and leaves her abusive, drug-dealing husband (Bill Pullman, neatly cast against type), taking $700,000 of his money in the process, and hooking up with an insurance company employee (Peter Berg), who becomes embroiled in her schemes. Deftly and elegantly plotted, tense as hell and consistently surprising, it’s also smart and complex about gender politics, playing up to and twisting genre expectations and the femme fatale archetype in a way that feels like both a nod to the past and a tip to the future (it’s genuinely interesting to rewatch the film in the wake of “Gone Girl,” too). It was never going to change the world, but the movie definitely deserves a greater reputation, so too do the performances and direction. Dahl fell away from movies after a string of disappointments like “The Great Raid,” but he’s now a reliable name on TV, doing stellar work on the likes of “Justified,” “Homeland,” “Hannibal” and “The Americans.”
3. “The Shawshank Redemption”
One of the most famous failure-in-theaters-massive-in-its-afterlife movies of all time, Frank Darabont’s prison drama has become such a touchpoint in the genre of “triumph of the human spirit” movies by now that it’s almost hokey to admit to liking it. It’s such inarguably populist, broad-strokes entertainment that it now sits comfortably amid films like “The Sound of Music” and “It’s A ‘Wonderful Life” as something the whole family can watch together. But (similar in fact to those films) ‘Shawshank’ earns its uplifting highs because it goes to some pretty dark lows—murder, betrayal, rape, corruption—and the sheer craftsmanship of its storytelling means that none of its turns feel pat, and the surprise, when it comes, is always surprising. Darabont’s filmmaking is solid in the best way here, perhaps a touch overly sincere for some, but he seems to know he’s got enough gold in the story to shoot it in a restrained and classic manner, aside from the occasional flourish like the oft-copied, now cliché outstretched-arms-in-the-rain overhead shot. It’s an old-fashioned, absorbing, well-made drama, marked out by some truly terrific performances from Tim Robbins and especially Morgan Freeman, whose role might veer dangerously close to “magical negro” territory were he not also here the audience proxy, the narrator and, by the end of the film, its lead. Its quotable homilies (“Get busy living or get busy dying”), its playing-opera-to-murderers and teaching illiterate prisoners to read arcs all feel overused now as individual elements, but in context they all still somehow work and add up to something that even cynics like us can find a little magic in. We know it’s probably your Gran’s favorite film, and therefore way uncool, but if you’re not a little choked up by the irresistible ending, you’re made of sterner stuff than we are.
=1. “Hoop Dreams” (October 14th)
An astonishingly clear-eyed, unsentimental portrait of a slice of American life that is rarely the subject of such compassion and insight, Steve James’ groundbreaking film has certainly earned its place in the pantheon of all-time great documentaries. Famously snubbed for a documentary Oscar nomination (a decision so unpopular it contributed to a revision of the voting rules spearheaded by Roger Ebert, who would later call “Hoop Dreams” the best film of the 1990s) and with a theater-unfriendly running time of nearly three hours, somehow the film went on to be a hit anyway. Now it can definitely be seen as the vanguard of a new approach to the documentary form, as much from distributors and producers as audiences and filmmakers, the fruits of which we are still enjoying to this day. But aside from its assured place in movie history, “Hoop Dreams” remains vitally (and perhaps tragically, considering this was twenty years ago) relevant—the issues of disenfranchisement and social injustice are as prevalent now as then. But James’ considered, broad approach, which saw him shoot over 250-hours of footage over a five-year period, takes a much more 360 degree approach and, tempering the sadness of innocence lost and dreams dashed, there’s always a sense of the resilience of hope, and the strength that can be drawn from family and community. These two very different teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, have two very similar dreams of basketball glory, but “Hoop Dreams” takes that tiny kernel and spins out a deeply moving, utterly absorbing real-life modern American epic. If no movies other than “Hoop Dreams” and Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” had been released that month, it would still make October 1994 one of the most remarkable in film history.
=1. “Pulp Fiction” (October 14th)
“Hoop Dreams” may have redefined the documentary genre, but Quentin Tarantino’s sophomore feature remade the mainstream narrative filmmaking scene in a way few movies before or since have. Following the breakout success of his tremendous debut “Reservoir Dogs,” it was clear that we had a new talent on our hands with the motormouthed ex-video store clerk. What’s still so surprising about ‘Pulp’ is just how different a film it was—a vast banquet of oversaturated, amped-up riches where ‘Dogs’ was a lean whipcrack. But of course, the hallmarks were there, as Tarantino’s brand of auteurism has always been just too unmistakable to miss: arch, quippy, pop-culture inflected dialogue; an approach to chronology founded on equal parts chutzpah and classic storytelling craft; an obviously encyclopedic knowledge of film and a total brazen fearlessness about showing off that knowledge through homage, winky reference and blatant rip off. With the Palme D’Or under his belt, it was already clear that the establishment was going to embrace Tarantino, but it’s an interesting what-if to imagine they had not, and “Pulp Fiction” could really have gone either way. There was something so counter-cultural and subversive about ‘Pulp,’ so irreverent and iconoclastic that it’s almost a shame that Tarantino’s immediate coronation as the King of Cinema Cool meant that we’d never again quite get that sense of a voraciously hungry outsider looking in. Still, the film endures, and whatever you think of Tarantino’s subsequent career, or however many dorm walls the poster has bedecked, it is still a riotously entertaining time at the movies. Beyond that, there are times when, retrospectively, you can see the industry has become a tiny bit staid and stale, when just in the nick of time, along comes a new thing that acts like a blast of oxygen into a stuffy room. “Pulp Fiction” appropriated many old things, but did so in such a new, joyously infectious, smartass way that spawned a slew of terrible copycats, but more importantly threw open the doors for a moment and let us all take a deep, deep breath. Great films are often surprising and inspiring; “Pulp Fiction” was one of the few that really felt liberating.
We know, we know. What you’re all thinking right this second is, “Wait up! Where the eff is “Vertical Reality“?” Snowboarders, skiers, we apologize because of all the films released in October 1994, this documentary was the only one that none of us could track down. For what it’s worth, it’s made by Warren Miller, who is the go-to skiing and snowboarding documentarian, and has quite some props within those communities. But that aside, as far as we can tell, that’s a total rundown of all the theatrical releases of this month, twenty years ago. Was it an anomalous period? Are we cinematically richer or poorer two decades on? Sound off below. —Oli Lyttelton & Jessica Kiang