It's been a while but I feel a desire to return to rounding up years of cinema to which I both know not that much about and wasn't blogging for. A few months back I rounded up my Top Ten Films of 1999
, now it's 1998's turn.
10. American History X (dir. Tony Kaye)
When a former Nazi supporter is released from prison and had his life changed due to the experience only to find that his younger brother has been ensnared by these same Nazis it's left him with a job to do before it's too late. The film's strengths include being visually jarring and thematically poignant dealing with the need for those people in our lives to guide us along the right path. We understand that Derek (Edward Norton
) strayed from the path due to this lack of guidance and seeing that his absence has led Danny (Edward Furlong
) into the same predicament which further nails the film's point into the audience's mind. The black & white versus colour, past and present storytelling makes for a visually interesting film that won't be forgotten too quickly.
9. He Got Game (dir. Spike Lee)
is a filmmaker who has his own style and venacular that goes along with it. With his love of basketball he takes on an interesting father/son dynamic as Jake (Denzel Washington
) is released from prison with the sole purpose of convincing his son, Jesus (Ray Allen
), into showing intent to attend a specific college. Jake takes this opportunity to attempt to -- as best he can -- try and patch up his relationship with son after heading to jail in what some may call a series of poor circumstances. Using daring visual shots, evocative dialogue heavy scenes (one of my favourite being the car ride monologue NSFW btw
) and when you throw in a passion like basketball as a core subject Lee
shines as bright as he ever has.
8. Pleasantville (dir. Gary Ross)
Many scholars still argue that the shift from black and white to colour in cinema was a poor choice, let this film change your mind. In this world -- at all times -- we site dreading change. We embrace it only after being dragged kicking and screaming only to realize how good that change can just be. So when in the world of Pleasantville
-- a black and white TV show -- we introduce the notion of colour the citizens (for the most part) are reluctant to the point of violence. The film is a great allegory for racism and the shift in culture but can also be extended to any time in history when social change was asked of the world. It's honestly one of the most unsung gems of 1998.
7. Out of Sight (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Noir crime drama done at it's finest and from the hands of the veteran Steven Soderbergh
. With scenes that will down right leave you mezmerised as we watch Jack Foley (George Clooney
) charm his way out of any scenario it just works.
6. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (dir. Guy Ritchie)
The crime comedy that redefined the genre as every film that followed tried its best (including the director's follow up films) to imitate and recreate it.
5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (dir. Terry Gilliam)
The great Terry Gilliam
decided to make a film about/based on the ideas of Hunter S. Thompson
and I don't think that I could conceive of a better pairing in this world. Both names are synonymous with insanity and it pays off gloriously as Raoul (Johnny Depp
) and Dr. Gonzo (Benecio Del Toro
) go on their journey into the land of debauchery in Las Vegas. Jammed packed with cameos from Gary Busey
, Tobey Maguire
, Ellen Barkin
and Penn Jillette
the film always finds more ways to top its previous drug induced moment with even more drugs, sex and violence all wrapped around a man with a type-writer.
4. The Thin Red Line (dir. Terrence Malick)
This is the beginning of Terrence Malick
's "much bigger than any one man" filmmaking where he has so much content that he's able to build a narrative around any character in the film. With news of how he's constantly editing people out of his latest film (To The Wonder
) it's not hard to see that he was doing this from a long time back watching this film. It's a beautiful construct of the affect war has on a man and that it's not an isolated thing.
3. Saving Private Ryan (dir. Steven Spielberg)
A much more focused look at war and what it does to us Steven Spielberg
looks to make his epic that has redefined the war action epic in its effort to redefine our expectations when going to the cinema. The opening scene alone of landing on the beach, which lasts near thirty minutes, and how it depicts war has been parodied and copied for the last fourteen years with no one able to really make us forget it started here. The way in which this film frames death in such a scary way I dare any horror fanatic to name me a film which does it better. While the film may be diluted by his later efforts with war epics (namely Band of Brothers
and The Pacific
) which while good never made it to the benchmark he made here.
2. The Truman Show (dir. Peter Weir)
This movie defined a generation of media in a way that I don't quite feel the world fully appreciated at the time. With reality television starting to really hammer down the door consumers were clamoring for more and more. Here was a film which was a completely fake construct about a man who's entire reality was a lie. Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey
) lived in a reality that was broadcast to the masses 24/7 and everyone around him was a paid actor with a script of their own. He, unfortunately, was never made aware of this and has been living his entire life in this bubble of a lie. The depths of intrigue cannot be defined in this mere paragraph but let's just say that it manages to give its audience ideas worth discussing while at the same time delivering entertaining narrative just as if it were one of those television shows that the masses are still begging for.
1. Rushmore (dir. Wes Anderson)
When no one seems to get how genius you are then the world will turn on you at any given time. With Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman
) he only had to wait till high school to have that happen to him as he's the brilliant thespian who makes new clubs everyday and never seems to get much else right in his life. He falls in love with a teacher at the school and must do battle with Herman Blume (Bill Murray
) for her affections, though those affections being returned has never really been discussed. The film is brilliant in every sense of the word and puts Anderson
on course for the kind of films we all love him making.
What are your favourite films of 1998?