Most Annoying Performance
SAMUEL L. JACKSON – The Red Violin
Best Comedy Performance
Adam Sandler – The Waterboy
Best Ensemble Cast
Shakespeare in Love – Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Martin Clunes, Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Antony Sher, and Tom Wilkinson
WTF did I just see?
The Truman Show
Most overrated movie
The Big Lebowski
Notes from awards committee:
1998 was an outstanding year for (grown up) movie fans and our choice for best year of the 1990’s. House Clark agreed with a few of the Academy 1999 nominations, but none of the winners. Our top Motion Picture of the year was Dark City, a one-of-a-kind film with wonderfully weird Sci-Fi and a dark film noir vibe. In the Sci-Fi arena, the alternative or parallel universe is a HouseClark favorite, and Dark City presents one of the best ever “not everything is as it seems” mind bender. The movie had me on my toes from the opening scene, when our hero John Murdock (Rufus Sewell) awakes to find his worst nightmare in a shabby hotel room. Director Alex Proyas turns this Sci-Fi movie on its head by seamlessly folding a noir detective story as the driving force of the plot. Murdock runs for his life and struggles to find Shell Beach, a place fondly remembered by all, but nobody knows how to get back there. This ingenious film also has dark, spooky environs together with a touching romance story. I’ll stop there – you definitely need to discover this elite film for yourself.
Hollywood went all in on Elizabethan England in 1998 with two major motion pictures; Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth. Cate Blanchett stars as Elizabeth Tudor in the later, and is awarded a Best Actress Simpson. She successfully portrays the transition of the young crown Princess Elizabeth to the most famous Queen in British history. In the former movie, Judi Dench, with the best “resting bitch face” in the business, excels in a minor role as the aging Queen Elizabeth. She delivers perhaps the best line of the year when she scolds Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) on the morals of his fiancée, “She’s been plucked since I last saw her, and not by you. A woman knows”.
Tom Hanks is awarded a Simpson for Best Actor for his performance in Saving Private Ryan as the paternalistic, fearless Ranger Captain Miller. The movie would be far less memorable without him.
Fun Surprises -
Saving Private Ryan – is a magnificent pro-American propaganda film with Spielberg and Tom Hanks at their best. This movie grabs you by the collar and flings you into the chaotic violence of D-Day with more realism than most of us can imagine, or perhaps desire. The opening act in this film takes place on Omaha Beach, and includes the most spectacular WW2 battle scenes ever filmed. The second act bogs down and is followed by a sentimental third act that borders on cringey.
Zero Effect - Who's the eccentric private eye who drinks Tab and avoids people if at all possible? Why, Daryl Zero, of course (brilliantly played by Bill Pullman). With Ben Stiller co-starring as his serious minded assistant, and an excellent supporting cast, Zero Effect is the shiniest Hidden Gem of the 1990 decade. This is one of those rare movies that is perfect for repeat viewing.
Wild Things – is not your typical jailbait teenage girl movie. Instead this is a trashy masterpiece with a fast pace and fun twists and turns that I did not see coming. A “tits out” cult favorite that seems raunchy and fun compared to the sexless modern cinema of the puritanical 2020’s.
Besieged - A very underrated and impressive film about an unexpected love story. This film gets to the heart of the matter and answers the tricky question: What is the nature of true love? Strong performances by unknown actors, captivating camera shots of Rome and the best musical score of the year make this Bertolucci masterpiece a hidden gem.
Soldier - A veteran, professional soldier, Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) is replaced by an AI and robot military force (sound familiar?) and exiled to a minor space colony full of pacifists. They are not interested in war, BUT war is interested in them. Todd is the only one who can save them – and it is this Messiah theme that gives Soldier some bite. The lean script, fast pace direction, and splendid acting makes this B-movie a near flawless film that builds to a perfect climax. Kurt Russell, in his late 40s, outperforms actors 20 years younger.
Shakespeare in Love – In 1590s London, Will Shakespeare struggles to write a new stage play, Romeo and Juliet, with the help of his muse and lover, Lady De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). In tune with modern times, Lady De Lesseps is a retro-feminist bravely breaking rules barring women from the Elizabethan stage. She is completely unconvincing when she is disguised as a male actor. How did she get all her long blonde hair under that little wig? The commercial success and SEVEN Oscars represent a triumph of marketing and publicity by Harvey Weinstein Productions.
Elizabeth - Cate Blanchett is every inch a queen in this film as she portrays Elizabeth’s rise to power and initial power struggles. The stakes are high; 500 years ago power struggles ended with the losers head on the chopping block. Elizabeth Tudor quickly develops from a tentative, naive young girl into an iron maiden confronting the hostile Catholic powerhouses of France and Spain. Is the film full of historical inaccuracies? Yes, of course; it’s a Hollywood movie so a fake romance story is shoehorned in. Anything to do with Elizabeth’s sex life in the movie is pure fiction dreamed up by the writers. But it catches enough of the overall true history of Tudor England, especially the religious tensions between Catholic and Protestants. When the movie opens, Queen Mary Tudor (aka Bloody Mary) is on the British throne. The burning of heretics by Queen Mary is well documented, and the Fires of Smithfield earned the devout Catholic Queen an ugly reputation. Executions are like potato chips; you can’t have just one. The record shows that Mary ordered 280+ “heretics” burned at the stake during her brief five year reign. The tension between Elizabeth, who was raised a Protestant, and step sister, Mary was very real. Few people mourned Mary’s death, and it was a relief for England to crown Elizabeth, who was considered a religious moderate. And indeed she was.
Thursday - This is a dark, sinister new wave crime movie about a tough gangster trying to escape his bloody past. The acting is first rate with Thomas Jane and Paulina Porizkova delivering memorable roles, and an over-the-top cameo performance by Mickey Rourke. Very entertaining and ass kicking movie.
Married to the Mob - Irish-Cuban actress, Mercedes Ruehl, with her best Italian accent and tackiest wardrobe carries this crime-screwball comedy about “the war on crime”.
Meet Joe Black - moves ponderously from one slow paced scene to another. Conversations drag on and on without much of anything being said, and include lots of lingering close-ups and pregnant pauses. Yet many viewers were touched by the “Life Truths” reveled in the film. Here’s what you need to know: 1) A loving families is priceless, 2) Marry your true love, 3) Good people don't have to fear death, and 4) The Grim Reaper does not like peanut butter. That’s it! I saved you from three hours of boredom. You are welcome.
The Big Lebowski – is an odd celebration of stupidity with an excess of vulgarity. The Dude is as sharp as brick, but has a few worthwhile ideas on home décor.
Armageddon – I acknowledge that Bruce Willis has a cult following, but this writer is not part of it. For true fans, the film delivers as expected: an ear pounding soundtrack, impenetrable conversations, pseudo-quantum mechanics; a confusing pinball-like journey thru cosmic debris, and plenty of brusque shouted dialogue. This movie was amazingly successful at the box office.
The Truman Show – is creepy voyeurism captured on video for a TV show that does not age well and would be stale after one season.
Run, Lola, Run – It is painful to watch a bright girl fall for a semi-retard criminal. She deserves so much better. This odd flick is criminal glorification in a flashy student film school sort of way.
The Thin Red Line - There are some interesting scenes in this disjointed, overrated flick, but the art house existentialism is miles out of place for a WWII movie. Almost every G.I. fighting in that war knew why they were fighting, and they understood the stakes. The Korean or Vietnam Wars would be the correct settings for the introspective, confused soldier boys depicted in this movie. The movie gets off to a painfully slow start, and rarely picks up the pace. I thought the war would be over before these guys stopped chatting. Eventually we do get to some remote Pacific island and find the Japanese Army– ready and willing to fight.
The Red Violin - Spanning three centuries, the movie traces the history of a musical instrument. Did I lose you? Hey guys, still there? Actually the movie is a very entertaining series of short stories jumping through time from the 1600s to the present. This film has one fatal flaw: The main character (Samuel Jackson) is a modern day art expert who turns out to be a sneaky crook. He lies to his employers, and steals the Red Violin from them.