Saturday, August 6, 2016

1998--The Year in Review

Though my top 15 or so are all superb films, the drop-off is quite drastic in 1998. It's a period filled with likable works, though few are earth-shaking. The headline of the year was, of course, Terrence Malick's return to directing movies after a two-decade absence. His adaptation of James Jones' highly personal novel The Thin Red Line (which had been previously filmed more traditionally in 1964) elegantly captured the chaotic and exquisite vistas of the battle for Guadalcanal during the final Pacific-centered stages of World War II. Photographed with unparalleled verve by John Toll, the film found itself up against another lauded World War II epic, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, a film that impressed everyone with its sensational 45-minute opening sequence dramatizing the beachhead invasion of Normandy. Even so, this solid work became more by-the-numbers as it moved on, hitting a clutch of war-movie cliches even as it entertained perfectly. Malick's thoughtful film, in contrast, is easily one for the ages, as it confronts not only the violent field of war, but the fulsome reflections of those who fought and died in it. It is the year's most graceful film, instantly reminding us of what we desperately missed about Malick's unique voice.

For me, the closest thing to The Thin Red Line's grand emotional cachet was the first entry into the controversial cinematic movement masterminded by a cabal of Danish directors. Dogme '95 was an attempt by these artists to strip away all technical frills and story cliches from their cinema. It first resulted in The Celebration, Thomas Vinterberg's stunning, extremely unpredictable tale of family schisms shot in a radical, digitally-pixellated style by Anthony Dod Mantle (the Dogme movement would never hit such a height again). As for the acting awards, it's impossible, now, to deny Jeff Bridges and John Goodman their deserved awards for the Coen Brothers' cult hit The Big Lebowski (for which they weren't even nominated, amazingly). Honestly, what was the Academy thinking here? I mean, I know the film was not a big hit when released but, still, how could they have missed out on recognizing the quality of these two iconic performances? I still think Bridges' later Best Actor win for Crazy Heart is a make-up for ignoring his unforgettable turn as Jeff Lebowski, while John Goodman is still awaiting his first nomination. Then again, this is a year in which I part with the Academy on many issues (for instance, if Kathy Bates had not won her Oscar for Misery, she would've won for her more moving performance in Mike Nichols' Primary Colors). 1998 was a strange year for movies--who could've predicted its final winner, the sweet but ultimately inconsequential Shakespeare in Love? But the following year would be one that changed the art form forever. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.


PICTURE: THE THIN RED LINE (US, Terrence Malick) (2nd: The Celebration (Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg), followed by: The Big Lebowski (US, Joel Coen); A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (UK/France, James Ivory); Saving Private Ryan (US, Steven Spielberg); Rushmore (US, Wes Anderson); A Simple Plan (US, Sam Raimi); Primary Colors (US, Mike Nichols); Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (US, Terry Gilliam); Out of Sight (US, Steven Soderbergh); 42 Up (UK, Michael Apted); Dark City (US/Australia, Alex Proyas); Frank Lloyd Wright (US, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick); The Truman Show (US, Peter Weir); After Life (Japan, Hirokazu Kore-Eda); Shakespeare in Love (US/UK, John Madden); Affliction (US, Paul Schrader); There’s Something About Mary (US, Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly); Central Station (Brazil, Walter Salles); The Idiots (Denmark, Lars Von Trier); The Dreamlife of Angels (France, Erick Zonca); Brakhage (US, Jim Shedden); Eternity and a Day (Greece, Theo Angelopoulos); Run Lola Run (Germany, Tom Tykwer); The Opposite of Sex (US, Don Roos); The Red Violin (Canada/Italy/US/UK/Austria, Francois Girard); Buffalo '66 (US, Vincent Gallo); Pleasantville (US, Gary Ross); Hillary and Jackie (UK, Anand Tucker); Regret to Inform (US, Barbara Sonneborn); Ringu (Japan, Hideo Nakata); Bulworth (US, Warren Beatty); Gods and Monsters (US, Bill Condon); My Name is Joe (UK, Ken Loach); The Cruise (US, Bennett Miller); Zero Effect (US, Jake Kasdan); Twilight (US, Robert Benton); What Dreams May Come (US, Vincent Ward); Little Voice (UK, Mark Herman); Half Baked (US, Tamra Davis); Babe: Pig in the City (Australia, George Miller); Great Expectations (US, Alfonso Cuaron); The Farm: Angola USA (US, Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack); A Bug’s Life (US, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton); Permanent Midnight (US, David Veloz); The General (Ireland, John Boorman); The Wedding Singer (US, Frank Coraci); Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (UK, Guy Ritchie); The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (US, Aviva Kempner); The Last Days of Disco (US, Whit Stillman); Pi (US, Darren Aronofsky); SLC Punk (US, James Merendino); High Art (US, Lisa Cholodenko); The Prince of Egypt (US, Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, and Steve Hickner); Love is the Devil (UK, John Maybury); American History X (US, Tony Kaye); Velvet Goldmine (US/UK, Todd Haynes); Happiness (US, Todd Solondz); Elizabeth (UK, Shekhar Kapur); The Mask of Zorro (US, Martin Campbell); I Stand Alone (France, Gaspar Noé); Armageddon (US, Michael Bay))



ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, THE BIG LEBOWSKI (2nd: Ulrich Thomsen, The Celebration, followed by: Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters; Nick Nolte, Affliction; Peter Mullan, My Name is Joe; Bill Paxton, A Simple Plan; Edward Norton, American History X; Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan)


ACTRESS: Fernanda Montenegro, CENTRAL STATION (2nd: Jane Horrocks, Little Voice, followed by: Christina Ricci, The Opposite of Sex; Emily Watson, Hillary and Jackie; Gwenyth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love; Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth; Elodie Bouchez, The Dreamlife of Angels; Barbara Hershey, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Goodman, THE BIG LEBOWSKI (2nd: Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan, followed by: Bill Murray, Rushmore; Benecio Del Toro, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Larry Hagman, Primary Colors; Kris Kristofferson, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries; Anthony Roth Costanzo, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries; Dylan Baker, Happiness)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kathy Bates, PRIMARY COLORS (2nd: Bridget Fonda, A Simple Plan, followed by: Paprika Steen, The Celebration; Patricia Clarkson, High Art; Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters; Brenda Blethyn, Little Voice; Leelee Sobieski, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries; Rachel Griffiths, Hillary and Jackie)

DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick, THE THIN RED LINE (2nd: Joel Coen, The Big Lebowski, followed by: Thomas Vinterberg, The Celebration; Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan; James Ivory, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries; Wes Anderson, Rushmore; Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan; Terry Gilliam, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: THE CELEBRATION (Denmark/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg) (2nd: After Life (Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda), followed by: Central Station (Brazil, Walter Salles); The Idiots (Denmark, Lars Von Trier); The Dreamlife of Angels (France, Erick Zonca); Run Lola Run (Germany, Tom Tykwer); Eternity and a Day (Greece, Theo Angeopoulos); Ringu (Japan, Hideo Nakata))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: 42 UP (UK, Michael Apted) (2nd: Frank Lloyd Wright (US, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick), followed by: Brakhage (US, Jim Shedden); Regret to Inform (US, Barbara Sonneborn); The Cruise (US, Bennett Miller); The Farm: Angola USA (US, Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack); The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (US, Aviva Kempner))


ANIMATED FEATURE: A BUG’S LIFE (US, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton) (2nd: The Prince of Egypt (US, Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, and Steve Hickner))



ANIMATED SHORT: MORE (US, Mark Osborne) (2nd: Billy's Balloon (US, Don Hertzfeld), followed by: Bunny (US, Chris Wedge))



LIVE ACTION SHORT: PRAISE YOU (US, Spike Jonze) (2nd: Ray of Light (US, Jonas Ackerlund); Election Night (Denmark, Anders Thomas Jensen); Gasman (Scotland, Lynne Ramsay))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:  Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rutov, THE CELEBRATION (2nd: Joel and Ethan Coen, The Big Lebowski, followed by: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, Rushmore; Andrew Niccol, The Truman Show; Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Scott B. Smith, A SIMPLE PLAN (2nd: Scott Frank, Out of Sight, followed by: James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries; Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line; Elaine May, Primary Colors)


CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Toll, THE THIN RED LINE (2nd: Anthony Dod Mantle, The Celebration, followed by: Janusz Kaminski, Saving Private Ryan; Robert Yeoman, Rushmore; Eduardo Serra, What Dreams May Come)

ART DIRECTION: DARK CITY, Shakespeare in Love, Rushmore, Pleasantville, What Dreams May Come


COSTUME DESIGN: VELVET GOLDMINE, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, Pleasantville, Dark City



FILM EDITING: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Celebration, The Thin Red Line, Out of Sight, Run Lola Run

SOUND: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Thin Red Line, The Mask of Zorro, Armageddon, Dark City

SOUND EFFECTS: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, The Thin Red Line, The Mask of Zorro



ORIGINAL SCORE: John Corigliano, THE RED VIOLIN (won in 1999) (2nd: Mark Mothersbaugh, Rushmore, followed by: Danny Elfman, A Simple Plan; John Williams, Saving Private Ryan; Hans Zimmer, The Thin Red Line)



ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (2nd: Mattthew Wilder, David Zippel and Jerry Goldsmith, Mulan)



ORIGINAL SONG: “There’s Something About Mary” from THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (Music and lyrics by Jonathan Richman) (2nd: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon (Music and lyrics by Diane Warren), followed by: “That’ll Do” from Babe: Pig in the City (Music and lyrics by Randy Newman); "A Soft Place to Fall" from The Horse Whisperer (Music and lyrics by Alison Moorer and Gwil Owen); "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt (Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz))



SPECIAL EFFECTS: WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, Dark City, Mighty Joe Young

MAKEUP: ELIZABETH, Saving Private Ryan, Dark City

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