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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
One of my stranger movie viewing quirks is a little-discussed obsession I have with the year in film 1995. This was a particularly uneventful year, and one where I can’t even remember which film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. A cursory glance over at Wikipedia tells me Braveheart won, which seems incredulous to me. Other films nominated included Babe, Apollo 13, Il Postino, and Sense and Sensibility, a group of solid and inoffensive films that range from ok to good. None of these films are classics, I would argue, except for maybe Braveheart. And that’s a pretty debatable maybe.
I don’t list any of those films as my favorite from the year. My list includes a wide array of esoteric films that perhaps no one would even give a second look (and perhaps not even a first look). My list includes three unimportant films that are for some reason interesting to me. With this article, I am hoping to explore exactly why these films appeal to me and just maybe get at the root of why I think they’re unique.
Up first, Stallone’s disastrous Judge Dredd, quite possibly the worst film of 1995:
Judge Dredd is a mess of a movie anchored by a terrible performance from Stallone, incomprehensible direction by Danny Cannon (who would find later success as a series director and producer of CSI), and a mess of a plot that stretches 45 minutes of story into an hour and a half (and in the process feels much longer than its 96 minute running time). Dredd was critically maligned upon its release and a massive commercial flop. Critics tore into it and it was nominated for several worst-of-the-year lists.
Fans of the original comic property also blasted it, particularly over Stallone’s performance as Dredd (and the infamous removing of the helmet). There were also debates over just who Judge Dredd was supposed to please. Studio interference saw the film cut and recut, and a controversy behind-the-scenes erupted, causing additional bad press for the film. In the end, Dred collected just north of 30 million dollars in North America against a gargantuan budget. It seemed nothing about the film worked…
…and yet, I find it totally appealing. I’ve probably even seen it 25 times. So what do I like? Let’s start with the performances that are actually good.
The hated Rob Schneider consistently cracks me up as the sidekick (at this point, I kind of find Schneider to be underrated as a comic actor); Diane Lane is at her sexiest; Armand Assante chews scenery like a 21st century Nic Cage; Max Von Sydow brings class to every performance and raises this film’s classiness at least one level. The set design is absolutely amazing as well. Mega-City One looks phenomenal, and more importantly, lived-in. Dredd doesn’t have the look of a typically glassy, cleaned-up science fiction film. Everything is dirty and real. The special effects rival any moves of the 90s, and still look just as good as films released up until the early 2000s, perhaps because of its prevalent use of more practical special effects over straight-up CGI.
It also helps that this was one of the first R-rated films I ever saw (followed by Face/Off, which was ’97 but would be on this list if released in ’95). Much was made over the cutting and recutting of the film, but it does have several violent segments that shocked a 13 year old me, and which please a late-twenty-something me. Assante’s prison escape is delightfully fucked-up and violent, as is Dredd’s tussle with the scorch-earthed cannibal hillbillies. The ABC robot is also menacing and intimidating (and looks great as well). There’s a lot to appreciate if you’re into well-executed violence. I can appreciate it for that.
I would never argue that Dredd is a good film. It is incompetently directed, anchored by a lousy Stallone performance, and has a script which makes little sense unless it’s supposed to seem like a random series of events. But it also has its appeal, if only to me.
Next week, I’ll cover 1995’s Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie at her most jail-baitiest.