Monday, April 10, 2023

24 Hours of Movies: 1998

by Patrick Bromley
A year I didn't realize was a great year for movies was a really great year for movies.

On a recent special Patreon episode of our podcast, I floated a theory that 1997 was a great year for movies but a bad summer and 1998 was a good summer but not a great year. I would like to take that back. I've gone down a 1998 rabbit hole since that observation and I realize I'm totally wrong, still living off my 1998 impressions of the year in cinema and not taking the time to reflect on how many wonderful movies came out that year. This marathon should help start righting that wrong.

10 am - Out of Sight (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Let's kick things off with one of the year's best. There's so much to celebrate with Out of Sight: it's Steven Soderbergh's comeback movie, it's one of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations, it's the movie that cemented George Clooney as a bona fide movie star after a couple of false starts. What could have been more post-Tarantino nonsense in the hands of a lesser filmmaker instead has real '70s energy. This is also maybe the best movie Jennifer Lopez has ever made.

Noon - The Real Blonde (dir. Tom DiCillo)
We'll dial things back a little for our second movie, the major studio debut for writer/director (and former Jim Jarmusch cinematographer) Tom DiCillo. It's the kind of movie that Erika absolutely loves, all about people talking and having relationships in New York City, and I feel guilty that I rewatched it without her so we'll have to make sure she's here for this part of the marathon (she will be here for the whole marathon). The cast is great and DiCillo's writing is enjoyable even when it doesn't all come together the way I think it's supposed to. I love that studios were still taking chances on indie directors and putting these kinds of movies out into theaters in 1998. We didn't know how good we had it.

2 pm - Pleasantville (dir. Gary Ross)
One of my favorites of 1998 is Pleasantville, writer/director Gary Ross' dramatic fantasy about nostalgia and social change. I know the metaphor is heavy handed, but there's so much beauty and honesty in the film that I can't help but love it. There's a shot of Tobey Maguire opening a bag of chips and pouring a Coke that made me cry in 1998 and still makes me cry to this day. I don't have the space or energy to explain why. This would be a perfect matinee.

4 pm - Hard Rain (Mikael Salomon)
One of the year's most underrated action movies is Hard Rain, a Graham Yost-scripted western masquerading as a traditional '90s shoot-em-up. Christian Slater plays an armored truck driver who gets held up the night of a flood; Morgan Freeman plays one of the thieves. This was an expensive flop that deserved better than it got and speaks to a theory that Adam Riske and I have been developing that no movie about armored cars has ever been bad.

5:45 pm - The Last Days of Disco (dir. Whit Stillman)
Trying to balance studio-indies like this one with studio blockbusters (or would-be blockbusters) is part of the fun of programming a 1998 marathon because both were allowed to coexist together in the marketplace. This is my favorite Whit Stillman movie, maybe because of the period or the music or the fact that it has ChloĆ« Sevigny in the lead and Kate Beckinsale's best performance. It's funny, but it's also about something. Very few things say 1990s like Chris Eigeman being one of the leads of your movie.

7:45 pm - Twilight (dir. Robert Benton)
The hack in me (I'm all hack) is programming this because the sun is going down, but also because I just saw it about six months ago and really fell in love with this neo-noir for the older set. Paul Newman plays a private eye getting up there in years brought in to help a friend (Gene Hackman) who's sick and his wife, a former movie star played by Susan Sarandon. The cast also includes Reese Witherspoon, James Garner, Stockard Channing, Liev Schreiber, and Margo Martindale. It's insane how stacked it is. I love a movie like this that's full of great acting and writing but not in a hurry to get anywhere. It might be a little low-key for our prime time slot, but maybe that will help us digest our pizza.

9:30 pm - Dark City (dir. Alex Proyas)
Now it's night, so let's follow up one of 1998's great neo-noirs with arguably it's greatest neo-noir, Alex Proyas' Dark City. I remember seeing this in theaters in February 1998 and knowing I had just seen one of the year's best movies with 10 months still left to go in the year and then being a little bewildered when it seemed like no one outside of the late, great Roger Ebert talked about it at all. Knowing that he recorded a DVD commentary for it was one of the two major pushes I needed to upgrade from laserdisc to DVD later the same year. I'm actually totally fire with the theatrical cut on this one but I guess we'll watch the Director's Cut in order to hear Jennifer Connelly actually sing.

11:30 pm - Very Bad Things (Peter Berg)
I want to program this in the midnight slot because it's a good midnight movie even though I'm not sure it's a good movie. Like, I like it but is that enough? I wanted to see this more than most movie in 1998 and dragged my sister, with whom I could count the movies we've seen together on one hand, opening night instead of going with her to see A Bug's Life like she wanted to. It didn't go super well. This is an angry, shrill blacker-than-black comedy with a fantastic cast that kind of makes me wish writer/director Peter Berg had continued on this path rather than trying to be junior Michael Mann and then junior Michael Bay and then just his own kind of shitty brand.

1:15 am - Urban Legend (dir. Jamie Blanks)
I'm not sure how much real thought I put into programming the overnight section of our 1998 marathon, because I'm pretty sure there are horror movies that came out this year I liked better than Urban Legend but none that I'd rather watch at this point in the night. My affection for this movie has risen over the years mostly because director Jamie Blanks seems like the nicest person and it's hard not to root for his movies. This one has a good hook, a solid and deep cast (a real theme of 1998), memorable kills, and stylish direction. That it felt a little generic in '98 is probably just the post-Scream in me talking, but with some distance I've been able to appreciate it for the pretty good slasher it is.

3 am - Deep Rising (dir. Stephen Sommers)
I think I saw most movies in 1998 either a) with Erika and some friends because it was the first summer we were hanging out or b) alone. This is one I for sure saw alone, and while there's still stuff in it I'm not crazy about (like the wonky '98 CGI or the number of times characters say some variation on "What the hell is that?") I like that there was a giant monster movie released in theaters that year that wasn't the Godzilla remake and I like the spirit of the whole thing. Stephen Sommers writes and directs like a 10-year old hopped up on Monster Energy drinks and Pop Rocks, which is the right approach for this energetic and gleefully fun B-movie that pits Treat Williams and a bunch of mercenaries against an aquatic monster. No one's falling asleep during this one.

5 am - Bride of Chucky (dir. Ronny Yu)
It's a bummer that there's really only space for one more 1998 horror movie in our lineup because that means leaving a few out that I'd really like to include. I'm putting Bride of Chucky here instead of the others because it's silly and lively enough to give us a second wind should we need it at this point in the marathon. I've grown to appreciate the movie more in the years since it came out (when I thought it was just ok), mostly for how hard director Ronny Yu leans into the Universal monsters influence. Of course, there's really only Child's Play/Chucky movie I don't like (it's 3), so maybe my endorsement doesn't mean much.

6:30 am - Dirty Work (dir. Bob Saget)
A comedy is a great way to wake up (for those of us who might have fallen asleep during the horror stretch overnight), and this is one 1998's sneaky best comedies. The late, great Norm Macdonald plays a fuck-up who starts a Revenge for Hire business; hijinks ensue. Not everything works in the movie, but it's got a ton of great absurdist gags and it's like 80 minutes long. It will go great with some donuts.

8 am - Clay Pigeons (dir. David Dobkin)
Truth be told, my recent revisit of this movie is what inspired this marathon in the first place. Like a lot of what I've programmed so far, it perfectly walks the line between a studio movie and an indie in both its casting and its execution. Joaquin Phoenix plays a well-meaning dummy who gets mixed up with serial killer Vince Vaughn; Janeane Garofalo shows up from the FBI to investigate. You're telling me you wouldn't stay up all night to watch a movie in which Janeane Garofalo as a fed goes up against a '98 Vince Vaughn serial killer? I miss VV from this period. He's still got the goods when he needs it (his collaborations with S. Craig Zahler are excellent), but most of the 2000s were wasted on frat comedies that failed to make use of his very specific energy. Clay Pigeons gets to be dark and weird and funny and represents 1998 better than most of the other movies in this lineup.

9:45 am - Can't Hardly Wait (dir. Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont)
It's important to end these marathons with a banger, and Can't Hardly Wait fits that bill. I still think the movie is kind of a mess (too many ratings edits, too many cliches) but the entertainment value is undeniable. Another insane cast -- it has a Jason Segel, a Selma Blair, a Sara Rue to burn -- spend all night at a graduation party as new relationships are formed and old ones die out. It's lively, it's wall to wall music (Multiple Smashmouth songs! 1998!), it's someone you're happy to see show up every few minutes. The teen movie resurgence wouldn't really kick off until She's All That the following year, but this one deserves credit for being first out of the gate. It might not be one of the best of the year, but it's at least capturing the fashion, the music, the attitudes in a way that other movies don't.

And with that, we rest.


  1. I'm surprised there's not a Dark City Super Cool Awesome Edition from Arrow or Shout yet. I know the actual release is very good, but we all know this is their kind of movie

  2. I love this marathon so much!!! There are 3 movies I haven't seen but the rest are ones I have seen and either love or have nostalgia for them.

    If I could program a sequel to this awesome marathon, I might include these 1998 movies:
    Enemy of the State
    Slums of Beverly Hills
    Ever After
    The Impostors
    The Mask of Zorro
    Dead Man on Campus
    Run Lola Run
    Man in the Iron Mask
    SLC Punk
    Waking Ned Devine
    Who Am I?

    That's probably more than 24 hours of movies... shit! I should leave this to Patrick, haha.

    1. Gotta have The Mask of Zorro! :)

    2. I just rewatched my favorite movie from 1998, Don McKellar’s end of the world dramas Last Night. I think I’m the only person who loves this and wishes that he got to write & direct a dozen movies.
      But now I’m putting Pleasantville at the top of my rewatch list and Twilight at the top of my “how the hell have I never even heard of this one” watch list. Thanks!

  3. woah woah woah...hold is Hard Rain COMPLETELY off my radar!?! this will not stand!