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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 1998


#10: Out of Sight

Everything about it is modest, including its box-office grosses, but this Elmore Leonard adaptation -- the best yet -- reminds us what real entertainment for grown-ups looks (and sounds) like. George Clooney finally comes into his own as a plausible movie star; as for Jennifer Lopez, the world is hers. And my CD of David Holmes' soundtrack is just about worn out from excess spin.


#9: Pleasantville

This is the movie The Truman Show should have been -- a fable of reawakening, with some lovely, lyrical moments and yet another great Joan Allen performance.


#8: Apt Pupil

Stephen King's oddest fiction is brought to scary life by the great actor Ian McKellen, who shows us the monstrosity and humanity co-existing in an old Nazi.


#7: Ronin

A beautifully engineered piece of pulp that reminds you of the deep pleasure to be derived from clean, focused craftsmanship. Top-notch of its kind.


#6: The Big Lebowski

This scruffy, disorganized Coen comedy -- with belly-laugh performances by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and (too briefly) John Turturro -- is to Raymond Chandler what Blood Simple was to James M. Cain and Miller's Crossing was to Hammett. A lot of people were mystified: "Hey, this isn't Fargo!" It's The Big Lebowski. Deal with it.


#5: The Opposite of Sex

Aside from its many other pleasures, this will go down as the movie in which Lisa Kudrow proved she can play something besides Phoebe types.


#4: The Butcher Boy

A chillingly hearty and rambunctious portrait of an Irish boy (Eamonn Owens) who's losing his mind, this black comedy invites -- and earns -- comparisons with A Clockwork Orange. A ferocious work of art that secures Neil Jordan's status in the top rank of filmmakers.


#3: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The year's most misunderstood comedy. Terry Gilliam nails the manic highs, debauched lows, and social commentary of Hunter Thompson's classic Gonzo work, and Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro turn themselves into lively cartoons of excess.


#2: Happiness

The most shocking aspect of this grimly funny (and sometimes just grim) study of suburban dysfunction is its unexpected flashes of compassion. With a uniformly great cast, especially the Oscar-worthy Dylan Baker, who will not be nominated.


#1: Rushmore

Not remotely like anything else out there right now -- you probably have to go back to the early '70s to find points of comparison -- Wes Anderson's bittersweet comedy illustrates the folly of ambition, unrequited love, and unfounded perseverance while gently acknowledging their importance. This will gain status as a classic, or I don't know classics.

The darkly funny Very Bad Things and Suicide Kings ... the English-major romance Shakespeare in Love ... the witty Celebrity ... the consistently charming Antz and Babe: Pig in the City ... the disturbing Kurt and Courtney ... the convulsively funny There's Something About Mary ... the spiritual fantasy What Dreams May Come, recommended only for its eye-candy ... John Waters' affectionate Pecker ... the grim Monument Ave ... the intricate Spanish Prisoner ... the moving He Got Game and 4 Little Girls, marking a banner year for Spike Lee ... the honorable and humanly funny Primary Colors ... John Carpenter's beer-and-pizza romp Vampires ... the overlong but intriguing Meet Joe Black ... and HBO's four-month repeat of the 1997 and 1998 seasons of Oz, the greatest 16-hour epic not playing at a theater near you.


Warren Beatty's Bulworth, which often flailed about clumsily (especially in the home stretch), overreached wildly, risked seeming out-of-it, and pissed off a lot of commentators. The last attribute is what earns it this rarefied spot: in the summer of Godzilla and Armageddon, here was a Hollywood movie that mattered.

Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 1998


#10: Dark City

This has some sincere admirers. I wish I knew why. The idea had potential, but Alex Proyas wouldn't know good storytelling if he tripped over it, and no matter how much Roger Ebert raves about the visionary imagery, the script is pathetic. They should've just called it Bald Guys Rearrange Stuff.


#9: Six Days, Seven Nights

How can you take two appealing actors (Harrison Ford and Anne Heche) and end up with an entirely annoying movie? Ivan Reitman proves it can be done.


#8: The Horse Whisperer

Along about the seventeenth hour of this, I began to wonder whether getting dragged to it by one's girlfriend or wife would be grounds for separation.


#7: Sphere

So much build-up, so little pay-off -- the Starr Report of sci-fi movies.


#6: Deep Armageddon Impact

Since they were basically the same movie, or at least two sides of the same dumb coin: One was an inept and earnest touchy-feely disaster flick; the other was an inept and gung-ho disaster flick. The mass audience didn't seem to mind.


#5: The Big Hit

The rancid flip side of the new Hollywood interest in Hong Kong action cinema is that we now get the American video-store-geek version of it. All those who yearn for the days when John Woo, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, and Jet Li were known only to Asian moviegoers and a handful of American buffs, raise your hands...


#4: 54

Miramax took this shallow disco-era drama away from its director and cut about a half hour. They should have kept cutting.


#3: Godzilla

I've seen Godzilla TV cartoons from the '70s that were more entertaining than this sluggish, overlong wet fart.


#2: The Avengers

Everyone involved with this piece of soft log-shaped stuff has to make at least three good movies before I respect them again. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery have their work cut out for them; director Jeremiah Chechik may be beyond redemption. Come back, Joel Schumacher, all is forgiven.


#1: Patch Adams

Once upon a time, in a small village, there was a little boy with a very special gift. He had a big red pimple on his ass, and he could make the pimple talk and sing and tell jokes. If they made a movie about the pimple, it couldn't be any worse than Patch Adams.

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, which wrapped 40 minutes of steel-hard combat shock around two hours of derivative anecdotes ... the lackluster Man in the Iron Mask and Prince of Egypt ... the annoying Object of My Affection and You've Got Mail ... the sappy City of Angels ... the empty Lost in Space ... the pretentious American History X ... the amazingly unfunny Almost Heroes ... the lugubrious The Thin Red Line ... the well-intentioned but flat Wilde, despite a terrific turn by Stephen Fry ... Gus Van Sant's shockingly misguided Psycho remake ... Andrew Davis' equally useless Hitchcock remake, A Perfect Murder ... the drag-ass Lethal Weapon 4 ... the flatulent piece of Irish whimsy Waking Ned Devine ... and the yawn-inducing Replacement Killers, which pulled off the staggering feat of starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino and generating no excitement whatsoever.


Roberto Benigni had the Brobdingnagian balls to make a whimsical fable about the Holocaust. If only it had worked. I mean, it obviously works for some people, but for the rest of us, Life Is Beautiful is a benign (no pun intended) form of Holocaust denial: Nothing, no matter how evil, can conquer love. Tell that to the six million dead.

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