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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My 40 Favorite Films of the 90's - 1 - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994;
Castle Rock Entertainment)
Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Frank Darabont screenplay adapted from the short story by Stephen King
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown

Here it is.  After all this time, all the delays, everything… I’m here.  The Shawshank Redemption is my favorite film of all time.  I have a few reasons for this.  First, this movie came out when I was still pretty young, and I saw it for the first time at thirteen (I think).  It changed the way I saw movies forever.  It was the first real drama that I ever fell in love with, and after seeing it I needed to see more.  I was inspired to seek out all the movies I had heard about but never saw because they weren’t action or comedy movies, and it opened up an entirely new world for me.  Aside from the very personal influence this had on me as a film fan, it is objectively a great, great movie.  It was nominated for numerous Oscars but did not take home any statuettes, but then again, it was the 1995 Academy Awards, where it was up against the likes of Forrest Gump, Quiz Show and Pulp Fiction.  That is some stiff, STIFF competition.

The film follows a banker named Andy Dufresne who is convicted of murdering his wife and her supposed lover and sentenced to life within the dreary stone walls of Shawshank Prison.  There he befriends a slick smuggler named Red who begins to guide him and help him adjust to the reality that faces him.  However, Andy refuses to embrace his fate, taking every opportunity to remind his fellow inmates that there is hope beyond the prison’s walls.  He enters the corrupt prison and changes the lives of everyone there by simply refusing to let go of hope.

The Shawshank Redemption is not slogged down by a lot of the typical cliches of modern dramas.  There is no forced romance, no comic relief, no big tense dramatic moments (at least not until the very, very end of the film) and no forced melodrama.  The movie is told over several years of Andy’s sentence until his ultimate and impossible escape.  He leaves behind hope to his friends and retribution to those who abused their power.

One can come up with any number of allegories that may fit the story of Shawshank, but I like it as a simple story of a man who changes everything.  I know deeper meaning can be found, but I prefer to see this film today the same as I did in my young age.  It means something to me.  It was a demarcation point in my life as a kid growing up in a period of excess, where I began to seek out something different than what was being sold to me.  It has had a tremendous impact on me because, to this day, I remember how this movie changed me, and I am always willing to find the next movie to forever alter the way I perceive popular culture.

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