Today! Because I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook –
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Directed by Frank Darabont
Starring Morgan Freeman (x3), Tim Robbins (x3), Bob Gunton (x4), Clancy Brown (x2), William Sadler (x2), James Whitmore, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston (x2), David Proval, Brian Libby
How great a year for movies was 1994? It was so great that The Shawshank Redemption – by popular acclaim the greatest movie ever made, if IMDB ratings are to be believed – is my sixth favorite movie from that year. Sixth! ’94 was so great that even though it was plenty revered in its day, there was no hint whatsoever of it actually winning Best Picture. Hell, it didn’t really win anything – only nominated for Screenplay and Actor for Freeman at the Golden Globes, it then picked up a slew of Oscar nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, Actor (Freeman again), Cinematography, Sound, Film Editing, Score – and lost every single one. It was named one of the ten best movies of the year by the National Board of Review, and did enter the National Film Registry in 2015, so that’s something, but for a movie that to a man everyone agrees is beyond words great, is basically perfect, it had the huge misfortune of being released in one of the the four or five best movie years ever. Hard luck, Shawshank!
So where the hell do I get off, not placing the best film in the history of the world higher than #116?! Good question! While I’ll readily admit, it’s a tremendous movie, a damn near perfect movie, and has nice highs and grim lows and good characters and Rita Hayworth and everything else, I wasn’t a huge devotee of Shawshank for a long time. I’m not sure when I first saw it, but it wasn’t in theaters – and this was a period of time when I was seeking out award nominees. I think I was kinda dismissive of this non-supernatural Stephen King adaptation, and plus, again, there was a ton of other stuff coming out that year. And sure, when I did finally see it, whenever that was in the mid-’90s, I recognized it as a stunning movie, way more than one could expect. Like, have you ever watched a film you had awareness of as a Great Great Movie for a long time before you actually saw it, and it almost never lives up to whatever you’ve built it up as in your mind? I recently saw All About Eve for the first time, knowing about it for decades, and, like, yeah, it’s great, but I didn’t think it was mind-blowingly Great Great. And that’s almost certainly on me and my expectations.
But the thing with Shawshank was, even though you hear it’s great, I still kinda didn’t believe it, I guess. Like, how good could this box office flop prison movie really be? Hell, they released it in September! What kind of faith do you have in a movie to dump it in September, for Chrissakes? And so, despite everyone saying how amazing it was, I somehow managed to temper expectations and be rightly blown away. Or maybe the movie is just so great that it would always live up to expectations. If you’ve never seen it, and you go in expecting the greatest movie of all time, that’s a helluva lot to live up to, and yet I don’t know anyone whose summation has ever been anything less than It’s great. I’ve also never met anyone who has adopted this as their favorite movie either, though (and I ask virtually everyone I know longer than ten minutes this question).
Movie MVP? Oh, come on. Hands down –
Even with a bunch of new Two-Timers and advancing Three-Timers, we still manage a spotlight for one, as the lone Four-Timer today is the great character actor Bob Gunton (#357 JFK, #274 Argo, #175 Patriot Games), never better than as the underhanded warden.