After writing about the 25th anniversary of 1989 recently, I knew it was inevitable the 20th anniversary of 1994 films would be recognized everywhere. And it seems we’re still talking about at least four films from that year: “The Lion King,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Pulp Fiction.” All of those ironically competed for the best picture crown at the Oscars the following year and arguably have more social media references than perhaps anything else. Even if it seems more films from 1989 get quoted more often, it shows that 1994 in film had a larger number of films that ultimately became part of our collective film amnesia.
Consider a few of these films that were forgotten gems and also memorable flops that we should still be referencing today on Twitter, yet haven’t. The only time they pop up in reference again is when something closely related to it comes up in the media that perhaps brings a sideline mention.
“Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”
The 1990s were a banner decade for Gus Van Sant where his most influential works seemed to shine above anything he’s done since. This one with Uma Thurman may be remembered in your subconscious for her oversize thumbs as her character, Sissy Hankshaw, hitchhikes across the country. What you might have forgotten, though, is all the other serious subject matter the film took on. And some might say it took on too much, including everything from homosexuality to religion. All of those subjects get some interesting insights from the Van Sant perspective, plus through the usual coterie of offbeat Van Sant characters.
Everyone from Keanu Reeves to older stars Angie Dickinson and Buck Henry were in this one. It even had cameos from authors Ken Kesey and William Burroughs, which should give it cult status. You might have also forgotten that this was one of the last movies River Phoenix appeared in before his tragic death. Regardless, it’s only a small role here.
Directed by Robert Redford, this film hasn’t been referenced much in pop culture since it first released. A depiction of the infamous 1950s quiz show scandals, it seems more interesting now that we’re in the thick of reality shows sometimes being questioned for how real they really are. Even if we know most reality shows are scripted to create situations, the TV industry still treats it like a closely guarded secret. In that regard, it starts to look a little like “Quiz Show” and a potential for a similar situation in the future.
You may have forgotten how good the cast in this was. You had John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, and Rob Morrow giving excellent performances of the real individuals involved in the scandals. It was also a rare example of those real people (alive at the time) saying they mostly approved of the interpretations of them in the film.
Now onto the colossal flops. If you remember seeing this Martin Short catastrophe in a theater, then you probably remember sitting in there nearly alone. I remember seeing it on opening day with my family and hoping to gets some laughs at another Martin Short comedy. Instead, we almost left before it ended as perhaps Martin Short’s worst movie project in his career. Despite a good cast, his “character” of Clifford is easily the most annoying since any created by Adam Sandler.
In fact, it’s so bad that it’s almost worthy of having quotes from the movie placed on social media. This has yet to happen.
Tie Between “North” and “Cabin Boy”
Both movies are considered some of the worst flops of the decade. However, they also might have been the most misunderstood, namely because they approached comedy from an offbeat perspective. “North”, particularly, was a satire from Rob Reiner that a few liked after putting the satiric spin in perspective. Most critics didn’t get it, however, and became Reiner’s worst film in his canon.
Likewise, Chris Elliott’s “Cabin Boy” can be hilarious if you look at it through the David Letterman style of comedy perspective. With Elliott coming from there, you can more than see the influence. Letterman even has a funny cameo in the film. Nevertheless, it’s a miracle Elliott is still working today after how badly this flopped.
This film wasn’t a flop and, in fact, a fairly good romantic comedy gem. The reason is because it used Albert Einstein as a pivotal character for the first time. Played by Walter Matthau, it’s one of his best roles of the 1990s. He plays romantic matchmaker to his niece (played by Meg Ryan), outside of us not really knowing if he had a niece in real life.
While it showed Einstein in his final years at Princeton, Matthau was perfect as the character and makes you wish someone would have made another film based solely on Einstein’s life. This one might have slipped people’s minds, but it showed that depictions of Einstein don’t have to be taken overly seriously since he was far from serious himself.