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Why 1994 was such a great year for film

Uma Thurman and John Travolta in
Uma Thurman and John Travolta in "Pulp Fiction."

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There are a lot of great movies that turn 20 this year, which both made us feel old and also reminded us what a great year 1994 was for film. Here's a little trip down memory lane:


For more on why 1994 was such a good year, and arguably the peak of the indie film movement, we're joined by Anthony Breznican, senior writer at Entertainment Weekly.

Interview Highlights:

On what made 1994 such a great year for film:
"That was the year I graduated high school, so I can't tell you what was happening in the movie industry that made this happen, but it was just a tremendous year for very funny movies, moving films like 'Forrest Gump', that will just make you well up inside, and films that really pushed the boundaries of what cinematic storytelling could be like 'Pulp Fiction.'"

On the film that is quintessentially 1994:
It depends on what you mean by quintessentially 1994. The most memorable film from that year I would say is "Pulp Fiction". You can just trace the comment trail of influence that that movie had for the next 20 years. But if there is a film I would say that's like dated in a way, where you watch it and say, "There are the 90's," I would say "Reality Bites".

It's such a zeitgeist-y movie. Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Winona Ryder. That one was about college kids, but we high school kids could really relate to that because we were about to enter that world. 'Oh, this is what's waiting for us. You don't really have any more answers after you get that degree than you do before.'"

On how 1994 was the peak of the indie film movement:
"That was when the Sundance Film Festival was at full power. It had been around for a number of years, it wasn't like it has just started but it had reached its pinnacle. There was money available to film makers who had a vision that weren't necessarily part of the studio system. Guys like Quentin Tarantino who were scraping together money to make 'Reservoir Dogs', and that was like '92.

Just a couple of years back before that, that film comes out then you have guys like Kevin Smith, literally a clerk at a New Jersey convenience store who scrapes together money by auctioning off his comic book collection to make a little black and white film. It didn't make a lot of money when it was released in the box office, but it had this tremendous life on video and just had such impact on your average guy, your average girl, anyone across America who thought, 'I don't have any connections to Hollywood, but I have a video camera, and that can get me in.'"

On the famous directors who got their start in 1994:
"One of my favorite films was 'hallow Grave', Danny Boyle's first feature. He had been working in television before that. It's Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, these roommates who were torn apart after they find some stolen cash. I love that movie. Another example, Peter Jackson had made a lot of freaky, funny, pulpy movies before this, but 'Heavenly Creature's was kind of his breakthrough as a serious filmmaker, and Kate Winslet's first film.

Another filmmaker who is very hot right now is David O. Russell — 'American Hustle', 'The Fighter', 'Silver Linings Playbook' — his first movie was in 1994. Little indie film called 'Spanking the Monkey'. Very, very controversial. He was pushing the envelope and that's how you got noticed in a way. If you had a little film that didn't have any stars, didn't have any buzz around it. But then you also just saw 1994 was the year that some mainstream film makers really tried to do different things. Tim Burton had been around for many years. He had made 'Batman', the Pee-Wee Herman films, 'Beetlejuice', this is the year he made 'Ed Wood', which I think remains his most heartfelt story."

On how Jim Carrey dominated 1994:
"I didn't realize until I was coming in to talk about this year with you that 1994 was not just the year of 'Ace Ventura', but also 'The Mask' and 'Dumb and Dumber' all came out that year. Amazing. You often see actors have two or three movies come out, but sometimes they're not all that great, some of them are hell, that's why they're all clustered together that way. All three of those are classic Jim Carrey films and really made him a movie star in a very short period."

What's your favorite film from 1994?