After my two recent blog posts about the darkness and cynicism in films over the last several years, particularly 2007, I’ve been asked to recommend some movies that would dissipate the bad taste from last year. As I started to look for some of those films, I was intrigued to discover how many amazing films were released in one particular calendar year: 1998.
Why 1998? Perhaps the penultimate year of the last millennium ushered in the promise of our humanity. Whatever the cosmic reason, 1998 may indeed have been the high water mark for a year in which so many films asked the big questions about who we are as a humanity and why we are here.
1) “The Truman Show” was truly visionary about our obsession today with so-called “reality TV” and is also a beautiful and poignant metaphor for how we choose to live this illusion we call life.
2) “Sliding Doors” is a clever, romantic, and witty look at what turning the right corner (or descending the right staircase) at the right moment can mean in our lives. The film also has a very hopeful and empowering perspective on how destined soul mates truly are to find each other.
3) “City of Angels”. Ok, yes, it’s sad at the end. I know. Still, it’s a deliriously passionate look at life and a powerful reminder of what a gift being human truly is; moreover, Dennis Franz’s character of Nathaniel rivals the character of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” for most engaging angel ever in a “supporting” role.
4) “Meet Joe Black” is a beautiful, if at times slow-paced, meditation on the meaning of life and love. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of a man who, at sixty-five, meets death head on (in the persona of Brad Pitt) is one of his best performances ever. Maybe it’s because I’m now in my sixties as well, maybe it’s because I so feel his love for his daughters, or maybe it’s because I just love a film that is a throwback to the glamour of a bygone era.
5) “Déjà Vu” (not the Denzel Washington thriller), brilliantly directed by Henry Jaglom, is an engrossing and wildly provocative look at the conflict that can arise between our sense of commitment on the one hand and destiny on the other.
7) “What Dreams May Come”. I produced this film so I certainly can’t be objective, but I would be remiss not to include it here.
8) “Practical Magic”. I had forgotten how much fun this film is and how much it has to say about the magic in all of us.
9) “Sphere” is a fascinating look at the interaction between meeting an alien race and our human subconscious.
10) & 11) “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” have the same basic plot point: an asteroid hurtling toward earth, heralding the end of all life on the planet. Both films also illuminate how we came together to avoid extinction, and also illustrate a commitment that I believe we have all made to spare our planet this time from the cataclysms of the past.
12) “You’ve Got Mail”. For me, almost ANY love story is spiritual and any teaming between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is worth watching again and again. (Well, maybe not “Joe vs. The Volcano”).
Here’s hoping that maybe these things move in ten-year cycles!