Monday, July 6, 2015

A Reel 20: The Year in Film 1995

Twenty years ago, one of the last great years in film before our current era was upon us, and in some ways, was responsible for where we are today. It was an industry on the verge of a new world, and a year of great film. 

The year began with a bang in the early Summer Movie Season, when John McTiernan’s third film in the DIE HARD franchise, subtitled WITH A VENGEANCE, exploded into theatres. A high-energy film with a great cast of Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jeremy Irons, WITH A VENGEANCE would eventually be the top domestic money maker of the year. On the opposite side of the theatre, Mel Gibson’s BRAVEHEART would open wide the same weekend. Epic in scale and still memorable to this day, BRAVEHEART would not crack the Top 10 overall domestic box office that year, but it would win the Academy Award for Best Picture and solidify Mel Gibson as a top-tier Hollywood director. It was also one of the last films to win Best Picture released outside of the Fall and Winter months. 

Less than a month later, Ron Howard would enter both the early Oscar race and the box office competition with APOLLO 13. Based on a true story, APOLLO 13 would bring the early efforts of NASA back to the public conscious, earn nine Oscar nominations, and would dazzle audiences by filming scenes in reduced gravity aircraft. APOLLO 13 would also take advantage of early CGI techniques; a small step into the larger future ahead. Also making headlines that month was Walt Disney Pictures’ 33rd film, POCAHONTAS; which would win two Oscars for its music and earn big at the gate. 

As the days of autumn grew darker, so did the movies. David Fincher’s psychological thriller SE7EN entered theatres in September and melted the brains of audiences with its knockout ending. Another hit at the box office, it would raise Fincher’s name into the upper-class of filmmakers. Later in the fall, Nicolas Cage would surprise everyone with his work in the tortured-soul drama LEAVING LAS VEGAS; work which would eventually earn him an Oscar. 

In the packed month of November, Rob Reiner would romance the hearts of the country with THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT; a film which would eventually be considered to be one of greatest love stories by the American Film Institute. Later that month, James Bond would return after a six-year hiatus with Pierce Brosnan in the role in GOLDENEYE; his first of four appearances as 007. A box office hit, GOLDENEYE would modernize Bond for the times and secure the future of the franchise at least into the new millennium. 

And that new millennium would start early. In late November of 1995, Pixar Animation Studios changed the world with their first feature, TOY STORY. Directed by John Lasseter and featuring the voice talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, TOY STORY was the first feature-length computer-animated film and would usher in an era of CGI…along with signaling the end of the hand-drawn animated film. TOY STORY would become a box office hit, spawn two sequels, and would be the first of many triumphs for Pixar. An animated film meant for kids with multi-layered storytelling which spoke to adults as well, TOY STORY re-invented the animated film genre overnight and changed the industry forever. 

Other notable releases in 1995 were Sam Raimi’s THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, Wolfgang Petersen’s OUTBREAK, Tony Scott’s CRIMSON TIDE, Clint Eastwood’s THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, Bryan Singer’s THE USUAL SUSPECTS, Martin Scorsese’s CASINO, Kathryn Bigelow’s STRANGE DAYS, Michael Mann’s HEAT, Terry Gilliam’s 12 MONKEYS, Kevin Smith’s MALLRATS, Robert Rodriguez’s DESPERADO, the Liam Neeson-led Scottish adventure ROB ROY, the Robin Williams-led fantasy JUMANJI…along with some notorious releases such as CUTTHROAT ISLAND,  SHOWGIRLS, BAD BOYS, BATMAN FOREVER, and Kevin Costner’s WATERWORLD. 


In 1995, we were six years away from CGI-heavy fantasy epics like THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER, and George Lucas had not even begun to tinker with his original three STAR WARS films as a test-run to see if a Prequel Trilogy could be done. But the seeds that were planted in 1995 would bring all that about and more. It was a year of benchmarks for Pixar and for filmmakers such as Ron Howard, David Fincher, and Mel Gibson…and overall a year which offered quality films for everyone; comedy, fantasy, action, family, drama, and romance…1995 did it all. 

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