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The Year in Film – 1998

Insert preface here about what a great year for film 1998 was, restored hopes in Hollywood (with a whopping four major studio pictures on my top ten list), resolutions about seeing movies in a more timely fashion and being less cynical, etc.

1. Happiness. Happiness is a warm gun after all. Brutally honest, the only film short of Saving Private Ryan this year that pulled no punches (and even Spielberg tacked on a phony ending to his flick). Recommended above all others, but many viewers may not have the stomach.

2. The Spanish Prisoner. Mamet’s brainy mystery is a worthy successor to House of Games, one of my favorite films of all time. It’s good to save Davie back in the movie houses, behind the camera.

3. Saving Private Ryan. Ah, the critical darling. Probably Spielberg’s best work. Better than Schindler’s List, even. No detail left unattended. The best war movie since Platoon, and a sure winner of multiple Oscars in March.

4. Shakespeare in Love. Funny, serious funny. It’s good to see a little culture bringing people into the movie theaters, even if it does take Gwyneth Paltrow’s bare boobs.

5. Pleasantville. Funny and serious – two great tastes that go great together. A bit sappy to win top honors, but an excellent morality fable that I’ll definitely buy on DVD.

6. The Celebration (Festen). The dark horse in more ways than one. Certain to be overshadowed in foreign film voting by Life is Beautiful, The Celebration is a bit of old-school Danish horror/drama that’s an out-and-out freakshow from start to finish. We love it.

7. There’s Something About Mary. Funny, not serious funny. Bad taste is good, no? Certain to reign teen rental cards until South Park: The Movie. I don’t blame them.

8. Rushmore. A last-minute addition and one of only three comedies on the list. Watch as Bill Murray pulls off his greatest role since Larger Than Life! Uh, wait a minute…

9. Celebrity. Lest we forget the Woodman, Celebrity is his best work in years.

10. Gods and Monsters. Two great performances by Ian McKellan and Lynn Redgrave make up for a moderately interesting and rambling story. Ultimately a rewarding film, but you’ve got to work at it.

10.5. A Simple Plan. Almost a dead heat with Truman, I just have a weak spot for snow-covered Midwestern epics where just about everyone gets killed.

CLOSE BEHIND (in order): The Truman Show, Life is Beautiful, Zero Effect, Out of Sight

WORST FILM, WORSE EVEN THAN JUST LISTENING TO JET ENGINE NOISE ON A FIVE-HOUR FLIGHT: Tarzan and the Lost City. Followed by Permanent Midnight.

MOST UNDERRATED: The Spanish Prisoner. Dog my cats! If you didn’t like it, you’re too stupid to be reading this column. Get back in line for The Waterboy, Philistine.

MOST OVERRATED: The Thin Red Line. If you really liked it, you’re too full of yourself to be reading this column. Don’t pretend it made any sense, folks.

SECOND MOST OVERRATED: Elizabeth. A waste of good costumes and big hair.

BEST UNHERALDED RETURN TO GOOD FILMMAKING BY A DIRECTOR WHO’S BEEN PUSHING CRUD FOR ALMOST FIVE YEARS: Celebrity

WISH I’D SEEN: Henry Fool, Two Girls and a Guy, American History X

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