The Year In Film: 1998

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-There are years in film that transcend expectations and exceed the standard quality, and 1998 is one of those years. With a plethora of films that were important, made an impact, and ended up being classic, 1998 is a year that I personally enjoyed at the cinema. Today, we decide to look back at this amazing year in film and discuss our favorites and some of the movies we didn't enjoy so much as well. Let's take a look back at the year 1998 in film.

Another fantastic year for Hollywood was of course 1998. This was a year that saw many great releases and probably has the most “slept on” films. There were too many to choose from but I narrowed it down and here are my top picks in no particular order.

First, The Man In The Iron Mask.
Any year with a movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio is going to be a good year and of course this didn’t disappoint. This is a story about Louis XIV, a fight for the throne and that of family discord and jealousy. Dicaprio plays his first dual role as Louis XIV and his twin brother who is imprisoned for years. There are a ton of big names in the cast and that made for a very entertaining and well acted film overall. I love the incorporation of the musketeers. I love their heroic efforts to free the man in the mask, and of course when truth unravels. This film is packed with action, it has an element of a love story and of course the brotherhood of the musketeers, so it has something for everyone. While some people may critique it for its lack of seriousness or depth, I personally think that’s what makes it so fun to watch. It never gets boring and Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Gerard Depardieu alongside Leo keep the seriousness and lighthearted humor in perfect balance. This is one of the more slept on films of the year. 

Next, I have to talk City Of Angels. Here I am again, top listing a Nicholas Cage movie! This one surprised me when I first saw it (shortly after its release) and I have loved it ever since. It’s my second favorite movie released this year because it was so well written, so well acted and the storyline, theme and concept was that of blind faith, of love, true friendship and soulmates with a dark whimsical feeling weaved throughout while keeping death a primary focus. Although this is a chick-flick in every way, what I find even more appealing is that it’s sad. The opening scene is a bit difficult because we know that a child is about to pass away, while there is a man (Nicholas cage) sitting there but no one can see him. Immediately we know that he’s supernatural in some way and about 15 minutes into the movie we can differentiate “angels” from those who are alive. They live amongst us, they’re always there and yet show up when people need them the most and not always to accompany someone who has passed. I also love the way angels are described and depicted. Something about death is fascinating to people, perhaps because we can’t understand it and will never actually know what it’s like but this has been one of my favorite movies that deals with the concept. This is an outstanding movie and very much worth the watch. 

Another choice is Sliding Doors. This is another heavily slept on film and the only reason I watched It is because the video store had it as a recommendation. I’m so glad I did. Gwyneth Paltrow was the only cast member I recognized so I didn’t have high expectations at all and this movie surprised me. I don’t think there has ever been a movie that dealt with fate/destiny and the whole “meant to be” concept quite like this. The film starts off with one story line and veers off and introduces a parallel storyline. Whether she catches the train or misses the train, we see how her life turns out in each case. The difference is literally a split second that sends her down two totally different paths, but what is so great about the story is that at some point, the parallels actually meet and become one. Some circumstances would have happened regardless, just the path to it would have been different. Much like City of Angels, this deals with an element of destiny and “meant to be” events. It seems like it would be confusing to keep up, but the way they differentiate the two is Paltrow’s character looks different (short blond hair in one; long dark hair in the other) and that helps. It was organized and done very well. I’ve always been fascinated by these concepts and Sliding Doors is a very good portrayal of it. 

Of course, I will mention He Got Game. This is still one of the best Spike Lee films and that’s largely because of Denzel who plays a dude who went to prison for manslaughter and whose son is the best high school basketball player. He is let out for a week with the promise of a lighter sentence if he can convince his son to sign to the Big State university team. The movie although about basketball on the surface, really centers around the relationship between father and son as well as the system. The control, the resilience and the manipulation that comes with it. The dialogue has depth and supports each of those underlying concepts. In the end, it works out but the system always prevails as well and that’s where this becomes a thought provoking film that is definitely worth watching. 

Another gem is Belly. Hype Williams is my favorite video director (of course) so when Belly came out and it was written and directed by Hype, I was thrilled. I’ve always been a fan of mafia style and heist movies so this piqued my interest, not to mention it has every signature of Hype’s that we loved from the videos but in a full feature. Nas, DMX, T-Boz, Method Man and others being cast were also a huge bonus not to mention the little details including the music. Of course, this isn’t a five-star blockbuster film that will appeal to everyone but it does appeal to most fans of hip hop in some way. As for the acting, I’ve heard every possible opinion from it was terrible to those who thought it was great. For me, I thought it was exactly on point for the story. Sincere (Nas) is lowkey and more mature in life and then there is his excitable, go-getter friend Tommy (DMX), which seems to be an amplification of their real life personalities. The acting was natural and I liked that and of course I loved that the most badass person in the entire film is Chiquita the Jamaican assassin who comes out of nowhere and takes out Lennox by slitting his throat! It’s the dopest scene ever with the lasers, the dialogue…everything about it. Belly is an entertaining movie that I really liked. 

An all time favorite is Rounders. This is on my top 5 movies of all time and the best release of ’98. In fact, this was the movie that got me interested in No Limit Hold’em. Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro and Martin Landau (RIP), amongst others make up the cast of this movie. The story starts out with Mike McD (Matt Damon), who uses the money he’s saved for law school, in a no limit hold’em game against Teddy KGB (Malkovich) while narrating some “pointers” about poker, and things he’s learned like: “if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table…you are the sucker”. He talks about reading the players, he talks about betting and how to play as well and then a very quick crash course in the game as we see him lose everything and swear off poker. As the film continues on and the characters develop, the audience ends up rooting for Mike. I’ve often said that “Rounders” should be used as a manual to life because it touches on friendships, hobbies, passions and of course the difference between an honest person and a grimy one. The film does an excellent job of contrasting Worm (Norton) and Mike’s characters the whole way through, and at the same time showing how different each lives with their set of morals. I love the incorporation of poker legends like Eric Seidel and Jonny Chan as well as references to Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. This is a fantastic movie for those who want to see a “full circle” moment and all the struggles to get there. I’ve watched Rounders at least 500 times and I’m sure I’ll watch it another 500 times. It is an amazing movie!!

Another good movie on the year is American History X. This was the first movie I remember watching that was so directly dealing with racism in such a graphic and straightforward way. Edward Norton and Eddie Furlong are cast as two brothers who come from a typical white supremacist family. The film uses the contrast of black and white scenes with those of color scenes to show the past and the present which makes the story much easier to follow. Basically we learn very early on, through the images of confederate flags, Hitler and swastikas, that this is going to take us through some events from the perspective of racist whites. Derek (Norton’s character) finds himself in jail and as we see him on the yard, shirtless, on his chest is a huge tattoo of a swastika. He seeks refuge with his white inmates but he’s assigned to do laundry alongside an African American guy. Although this aspect is wildly underdeveloped, the more time he spends talking with the African American, the more he sees that his racist mentality is trash and we see him change (albeit quickly). Where the movie becomes interesting is while Derek is ridding himself of racist beliefs and mindsets, his brother is becoming increasingly involved with white groups. Finally, when Derek gets out of jail, he tries to educate his brother and change him as well. It works and he does. Of course. Where this film falls a little short is the rushing through developing stories and characters to get to the intended point/result, but otherwise this is a very solid film and one that sparked immense controversy when it came out. 

As I said, 1998 was another year stacked with incredible films that it’s impossible to mention all of them however other notable titles this year were “The Negotiator”, “Armageddon”, “Patch Adams” and of course “Avengers” all of which were either highly emotional, thought-provoking, or just plain entertaining. Each one of these films worked to make this year a memorable one.

My favorite films of the year for 1998 were as follows. First, Belly starring Nas (Sincere) and DMX (Buns) is about 2 criminals who've ran crime together all their lives until they begin to take 2 different paths. Sincere wants out and desires a one way trip to Africa while Buns gets locked up but is offered a deal to go free if he kills a religious leader. Great film IMO. Can't Hardly Wait is one of those classic teen movies about the end of school with drama, partying, fun, trying to get the girl, and of course lose their virginity. So many standout characters with little time but impactful roles. This was one of the films that laid the foundation for Superbad IMO.
Very Bad Things is about 4 friends who hire a stripper for a bachelor party but things get crazy and one of them accidentally kills the stripper. After this chaos follows them. This movie was very funny and entertaining. 

City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan was another good one. This was about an angel who helps the dying with their journeys to heaven. He observes an emotional doctor whom he develops a love for, so much so that he gives up his immortality to become human to experience what it's like and they fall in love. But soon after she gets sick and the movie takes a turn from there. Meet Joe Black is about Joe (Brad Pitt) who is the physical form of death that comes to take an old man named Bill's (Anthony Hopkins) life but somehow they make a deal... Bill gets a few extra days to live while Joe gets to see what it's like to be human. Problem is Joe starts to fall for Bill's daughter and things get interesting from there.

There's Something About Mary was all about multiple men vying for the attention of this magnetic woman. Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz have always been good at comedies. This one is a part of their big breaks. I thought it was a hilarious film. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer showcased Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brandy, Mekhi Phifer, and Freddie Prinze Jr. back to take on the vengeful killer in this classic slasher. There were also some good hood movies on the year. The Players Club starring Lisa Raye, Ice Cube and Bernie Mac shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of the lives of strippers, club owners, and club goers. RIDE is about a group of young NY hopefuls who travel to Miami for a music video hoping to get noticed but this doesn't happen without major drama and comedy along the way.
I Got The Hook Up was about friends who find a shipment of cell phones and sell them but the phones are malfunctioned and of course people are pissed. This was funny because around that time the company Cricket actually had problems with calling one person but it would end up calling someone else's line and the calls would get crossed. Half Baked is the classic weed movie that really put Dave Chappelle on the map and it was also pretty solid and funny.

Other films I enjoyed on the year:
The Truman Show
The Faculty
Dark City
Urban Legend
Disturbing Behavior
The Waterboy

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, 1998 had so many good movies that it's impossible to list every single one of them. I found Adam Sandler and his films this year to be entertaining as both The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy were pretty successful. The same could be said for Denzel Washington who was a part of three movies this year. While Fallen isn't one of my favorites, I really enjoyed The Siege and of course, He Got Game. There were some hood favorites on the year as well that a lot of people enjoyed, myself included. Of course, The Players Club was where we really got introduced to Lisa Raye, though she had appeared in Michael Jackson and 2Pac's music videos, but the real star of that film was Bernie Mac. His performance really allows you to enjoy the film, which otherwise doesn't have much going for it aside from the obvious. If you've ever wanted to see a black vampire kick some ass, then Blade was the movie for you. I remember in my neighborhood, not too many of us knew the origin of Blade, but to see what was essentially the equivalent of a black vampire "hero", played by Nino Br......errr.....Wesley Snipes, we loved every second of it.

Of course, this was the year Streets Is Watching dropped, as well as the No Limit film I Got The Hook Up, which was actually pretty funny. Each year usually brings a favorite black film for women, and perhaps How Stella Got Her Groove Back is that film. Starring Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs, the film wasn't my cup of tea necessarily, but it did have some good laughs throughout. Another film that women seemed to enjoy was Woo, a slightly funny comedy that featured Jada Pinkett and Tommy Davidson.
For those who love music related movies, Why Do Fools Fall In Love is an underrated gem. For the younger crowd, a sequel to the Lion King was released, but it was honestly far from the level of the first. There were other kids films like A Bug's Life, The Parent Trap, and Mulan, both of which are very solid films and enjoyable to watch even now. If you're a Samuel L. Jackson fan, then I'm sure you watched The Negotiator, which was a good film as well. One of my favorites,
Eddie Murphy, would have a weird year filmwise. So, he had a successful middle of the road movie in Dr. Dolittle, but would make one of his worst films ever in Holy Man, which came a year after his awful movie Metro. It was really strange to see Eddie take such a fall filmwise and I still wonder why Holy Man was even a project he wanted to be a part of.

Another film that was interesting was Deep Impact, which showcases Morgan Freeman as the president. Watching that film now and considering some things that we see today is very intriguing. For me, Enemy Of The State is one of the best Will Smith films and it was definitely a favorite on the year without question. I actually watched and enjoyed What Dreams May Come  when it first came out, but repeat viewings haven't been so kind. It's not a bad movie, but it just hasn't aged well. One of the most intriguing films to me ever was The Truman Show, as I believe the concept was really interesting and honestly not out of the realm of possibility considering the world we live in. It was essentially one of the more serious Jim Carrey roles, but it was very entertaining and engaging. Still, my favorite movie on the year is and will always be Rush Hour. The Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan buddy cop comedy is one of the best comedies I've ever seen and really showcased some of the best comedic chemistry ever. 1998 has so many great movies that I can't even list them all, but there were award winning films like Saving Private Ryan, action sequels like Lethal Weapon 4, classic horror sequels like Halloween H20, and so much more. 1998 is without a doubt one of the best years in film, with very few misses on the grand scale.



Post a Comment

Popular Posts