The Best and Worst 1994/Movies

8 Speed Just when I thought I never wanted to see another action film, director Jan De Bont unleashed this bravura contraption, a comic-book existential bus ride to hell. Though engineered to be nothing more than a roller coaster, Speed is so ingenious in its conception (a booby-trapped public vehicle will explode if it slows down to below 50 mph), so witty and suspenseful in its execution, that it becomes a thrilling oxymoron: a dumb movie made with virtuosity. As the daredevil hero, Keanu Reeves transforms his Valley Boy blankness into an action star's fearless facade.

9 Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould Pure enchantment. Unveiled in a series of 32 dramatic sketches, the life of the famously eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould becomes an exhilarating meditation on genius, on celebrity, on the glory of music and the loneliness of those who would give up their lives to it. By the end, the spectacle of Gould retiring to his recording studio becomes a haunting metaphor for something much larger: the mystical, beckoning allure of privacy in a public world.

10 To Live One of the most intimate historical epics ever made, Zhang Yimou's wrenching portrait of life under Chairman Mao follows the most ordinary of heroes, a poor, uneducated couple (Ge You and Gong Li) who are such simple, trusting souls that they never quite grasp that they're living through a reign of terror. How could they? Everyone around them — friends, neighbors, their new son-in-law — has become, in effect, part of a giant religious cult. As the chaos and regimented exultation of Mao's regime swirls over three decades, Zhang, working with deceptive calm, immerses us in the quietest details of day-to-day existence, creating a testament to human perseverance that is also a clandestine cry of outrage.

Honor Roll

Best Comebacks John Travolta, Pulp Fiction; Arnold Schwarzenegger, True Lies; Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies; Barry Levinson, Disclosure

Best Odd Couples Tom Noonan and Karen Sillas, What Happened Was ... ; Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, The Professional; Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures

Best Retro Soundtracks Pulp Fiction (zingy '60s surf rock), Natural Born Killers (Leonard Cohen's gorgeous doom poetry), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (did anyone really think disco sucked?), The Mask (Jim Carrey's exuberant "Cuban Pete")

The Worst

1 Being Human Perhaps it's time for director Bill Forsyth (Local Hero) to go back to Scotland. His dismal history-of-man parable, starring Robin Williams in sad-guy mode as five men named Hector (each one wimpier than the last), plays like a series of bedtime stories related by a lobotomized Aesop.

2 Exit to Eden In this S&M "comedy," which might be described as a very long Club Med commercial with nipple clamps, director Garry Marshall attempts to do for the whips-and-chains crowd what he did for prostitution in Pretty Woman. Perhaps it would have worked if someone had bothered to write a script. As the dominatrix with a heart of gold, Dana Delany looks like she'd rather be having tea with Princess Di. As the detectives who infiltrate her naughty resort, Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd are about as funny as two fat poodles in black leather. Talk about pain.


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