1994 turns 18 this year and we're celebrating! I’ve routinely cited this as my favourite year of film – it’s my 1999 if you’re a fan of that other particularly vintage year of the 1990s – and, just to stretch the birthday analogy as far as it can possibly go, I thought I’d investigate the year even further. Invite back old favourites as well as hopefully discover a lot of new ones. Being comprehensive is sexy, isn't it?
I've lumped these two films together not because they share any commonalities, but merely because they didn't really inspire all that much in me to devote their own entry. While they both share an air of prestige, they both fail to capture that lightning in a bottle that is so necessary when dealing with films of a very observational nature. In an amusing twist that I hadn't even considered until right now, Nell and Barcelona both rise and fall thanks to the opposite thing: Nell's major selling point is its actors, but let down by a simplistic screenplay; Barcelona's major selling point is its quippy screenplay, but let down by actors that don't have enough magnetism to sell the material. What on Earth are we to do?
Nell was directed by Michael Apted - curiously, this is not only his second film of 1994, but the second I've discussed at this early stage of this lil project - and, like a lot of his films, it can easily be described as "workmanlike". There's nothing particularly spectacular about it from a technical standpoint, although Dante Spinotti's cinematography (again working with Apted after Blink) is impressive. Then again, it'd be hard for somebody as talented as Spinotti to screw up North Carolina countryside vistas. Still, nothing else raises much of an effort and I suspect that is because they never felt the need to, as Nell's screenplay dictates that it is little more than an acting exercise for its impressive actors. Jodie Foster, nominated for an Oscar and winner of the Screen Actor's Guild award, is deserving of all the kudos she received in late '94 and early '95. She's fantastic as the eponymous Nell, a woman who grew up in the forest away from civilisation and learning her language from a stroke-affected mother and a long-absent childhood sibling. It's a marvel to see Foster weave throughout the dialogue, filled with missing and mispronounced words as well as invented ones and audible ticks. While obviously not on par with Foster, it would be easy to forget about the work given by Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, who were married sometime after the filming of this movie. Far from the type of work that wins, or even courts, lofty plaudits and award consideration, they are nonetheless rather great and find intriguing beats to play out of the screenplay by William Nicholson and Mark Handley. B-
Blink (B-), Reality Bites (B)