December 31, 1998

1998 Year-End Wrap-Up

My Top Five movies for 1998: A Bug's Life, Out Of Sight, Pleasantville, Shakespeare In Love, and The Truman Show.

December 19, 1998

You've Got Mail

Lots of grey, tan, and putty colored clothing!
STUB HUBBY Streaming Presents: You've Got Mail
It's been 15 years since You've Got Mail came out, and surprisingly, the most dated part is the 1990s color scheme of Ryan and Hanks' wardrobes: It's distracting when they both repeatedly wear pale tan and putty in the same scene! The tech is surprisingly unobtrusive. They chat online using laptops, just like we do today. Director Nora Ephron glosses over the fact that a day passes between each turn in the e-mail conversation. One conversation takes place over IM; made in 2013, the whole film would be over IM. (At one point Ryan quickly hides her laptop, exposing the cables sticking out of the back. Oh, right! No wireless!)
Meg Ryan is doing her Meg Ryan thing; eternally sunny, optimistic, and emotional. Tom Hanks has the much harder role; halfway through the movie, he has to begin rebuilding his relationship with Ryan. Hanks has to befriend Ryan in the hopes that she could someday love the guy that ran her out of business, but also not betray her trust as NY152, the man she loves over the Internet. He does a lot of thinking on his feet, playing both parts, almost like Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker.
Ephron (and her editor) put a lot of finesse into the scenes where Hanks and Ryan are typing while their voice-over narrates. Hanks and Ryan are terrific at composing letters extemporaneously; you see them very organically choosing their words; there are wonderful moments where the voice-over pauses while the character mulls over word selection. Tying together the film with the voice-over audio is hard work, and done well.
This winter I marveled over the all-star cast Steven Spielberg assembled for Lincoln; Ephron also has her pick of the best talent. Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey are our stars' not-quite-right boyfriend and girlfriend; their colleagues include Dave Chapelle, Dabney Coleman, Maureen Stapleton, and Steve Zahn.

NOTES: I watched You've Got Mail last night mostly to comfirm that Dave Chapelle really is Tom Hanks' buddy in the movie, not some group hallucination or fever dream.

When I first saw Mindy Kaling's sitcom The Mindy Project, I joked that she cast Chris Messina because Kaling is a big Nora Ephron fan, and Messina played Amy Adams's husband in Nora Ephron's last movie, Julie & Julia (2009). Turns out it's even more delicious than that; Kaling's character loves Ephron's You've Got Mail, and look! There's Chris Messina, age 24 and very skinny, playing a clerk in Joe Fox's bookstore, with two lines.
His AOL handle = NY152. So prosaic!

Joe Fox lives at 152 Riverside Drive; if his street (and forest green awning) look familiar, it may be because he's neighbors with television writer Elizabeth Cogsworthy Lemon!

THE Future Is NOW Notes: It's 2013, and I've been diving into free streaming movies from Amazon Prime Instant Video. I am already happy to pay $80/year for free 2-day shipping; all this free streaming content is all frosting.
The Amazon interface is already renowned; the streaming video interface works well too. I especially appreciate that the video player remembers where you left off in the movie when you close the browser.
Basically, I'm now living in the future where I can instantly watch any content anytime with one click. It's not quite that comprehensive, but it feels like it, especially when I was watching a random X-Files episode the other day.
I am using an N-band wireless router, in the same room as my laptop. Usually the image quality is great; occasionally the image will drop to a blurry-compressed quality for a few minutes.

November 27, 1998

A Bug's Life

bugsAn entertaining retelling of the Seven Samurai story, with a twist! I watched it again in 2011 on TV. It's not as wonderful as I remember, and despite the care taken with the botany, the computer animation looks so so primitive! (The day after Thanksgiving, with my family, at Assembly Square Cinema)

November 20, 1998

Meet Joe Black

MeetI want my three hours back! There's this one scene where Claire Forlani is swimming laps, and Brad Pitt enters the pool room to see her. He walks the length of the pool to meet her as she finishes a lap. This sequence, leading up to their lines of dialogue, is the problem with this movie. Long, unnecessary, interminable, boring nothingness...

November 6, 1998

The Wizard of Oz

wizardThis may have been the first time I had seen this movie on a big movie screen. If not, it might as well have been, as the restored print was a revelation. It was amazing what details I noticed. I could see the "straw lines" the makeup artists painted on the Scarecrow's cheeks. The opening Kansas scenes are in glorious sepia tones instead of ordinary black and white. (Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

November 1, 1998

Pleasantville

pleasantvilleI really enjoyed this anti-boomer look at the smothering conformism - slash - social fascism of white America in the 1950s.

October 10, 1998

Holy Man

holyTotally dispensable comedy with Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum.

September 20, 1998

Ronin

roninGreat car chases from director John Frankenheimer, but the international cast are all making up their bad accents as they go along, especially Jonathan Pryce and Natascha McElhone as Irishmen. Yikes! At least De Niro is playing an American.

Blade

bladeFantastic. Wesley finally gets a great action franchise. I saw Blade in Disney World, Orlando, Florida, in one of those THX-certified theaters: it was the best sound system I have ever experienced. Crisp, clear, loud sound.

July 24, 1998

Saving Private Ryan

savingA moving and powerful story, with unforgivable plot holes.

July 3, 1998

Moviegoing by the Numbers

Exactly how often do I go to the movies?
My Daddy Years are in purple.
I have been out to the movies 762 times in 23 years. At two hours apiece, that's over 15 days straight (with no bathroom breaks)! Over the last decade I've averaged almost two movies per month.
Since my first son was born in 2009 my pace has slowed a tad- except for 2012, when I saw five movies in one weekend at South By Southwest, I have not seen more than twenty movies in a year since I became a dad. I have gone to the movies with my older son twice - as a newborn baby my wife and I took him to see Fantastic Mr Fox at a Baby Friendly screening on MLK Day 2010; and we went to see Shaun The Sheep The Movie when he was five.

NOTES

  • I saw so many movies in 1995 because I was on, well, I guess you could call them "business trips" every weekend? It's a long, embarrassing story. Lots of my life choices in the 90s are embarrassing;
  • I was a member of the Brattle Theatre for a few years in the early 2000s, which included free passes, and discounted admission, which is reflected in my numbers in those years.
  • I was unemployed for all of 2001 and only working part time for half of 2002, and I went to a lot of movies in that era too.
  • I saw five movies in one weekend at South by Southwest 2012.
  • I only managed to see 16 movies in 2015 because I saw three movies in three days while my family was out of town between Christmas and New Years'.
  • August 2016 Update: I've only seen eight movies in the theater so far, which puts me on pace to my lowest annual total on record.


Mulan

mulanUnremarkable. (July 3rd & 11th, 1998 at Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

June 19, 1998

The X Files: Fight The Future

xfilesAn ambitious attempt to advance the main conspiracy plotline. We learn all the major pieces of the ongoing worldwide conspiracy, but, as usual, Mulder and Scully cannot make any headway towards exposing the truth. (Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

June 13, 1998

Deep Impact

deepThe trailer for this movie is where the studios first started spoiling their films in a desperate move to get people to buy tickets. All the best parts of the movie are in the trailer. It was around this time where I would watch trailers and say "well, I don't need to see that movie now!" This movie also holds the distinction of having a happy ending, despite the deaths of millions, possibly billions of people. As long as Elijah Wood and his girlfriend survive, right? The other movie which fits that description is Steven Spielberg's preposterous War of the Worlds: A billion people are killed by the Martians, yet everything's OK because Tom Cruise's son survives? Now that I think of it, Morgan Freeman narrates both of these movies. Odd...

June 9, 1998

The Truman Show

trumanI truly enjoyed this film on many levels. Easily Jim Carrey's finest role to date. One of the great endings in movie history. (Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

May 23, 1998

Godzilla (1998)

godzilla98The teaser trailer for this remake pokes fun at the Jurassic Park movies, crushing a dusty (and relatively tiny) Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton under Godzilla's towering foot. How ironic then, that this new Godzilla has been 'reimagined' to closely resemble one of Spielberg's velociraptors. This film also takes great pleasure at inviting disaster upon Manhattan, a scenario which isn't as playful as it used to be. Godzilla 1998 is an odd beast; the human cast mostly comes from a comedy background (Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Kevin Dunn, Vicki Lewis - Doug Savant is practically playing a cartoon doofus), and the tone they set is too broad for an action movie, and not quite broad enough for camp or parody. I am convinced there's a much funnier movie in the edit room- if not funnier, at least "more fun".
The military seeking to stop Godzilla are so bloodthirsty, dumb, and indifferent to Godzilla, and so ham-handed in their attempts to kill the lizard, that it was easy to root for Godzilla and his quick and cunning dodges and escapes, even when an entire attack submarine sinks in the Hudson River. Godzilla is practically martyred in his death scene, whimpering pathetically while strung up on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Most of the third act is a cheap remake of Aliens and Jurassic Park: baby Godzillas chase the cast through Madison Square Garden with some very dated late 1990s CGI. Considering the first Jurassic Park movie was made five years earlier, it's a testament to the shoddy workmanship of this film that it looks so much worse than Jurassic Park with so much more computing power at their disposal. (Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

Also On Memorial Day, Through The Years

I have been to the movies on Memorial Day Monday 13 times in 24 years, but it's not a great track record. 

May 15, 1998

The Horse Whisperer

horseI liked the book OK and found the movie to be only OK too. This is the first movie where I felt like Robert Redford was kidding himself about how handsome he still is. If he is going to continue acting in the movies (he's now semi-retired from the acting business) he ought to take a part which strips away his iconic handsomeness, like Jack Nicholson did with About Schmidt. (Hoyt's Falmouth Cinemas)

April 11, 1998

Lost In Space

lostinspaceDid the producers think that people would flock to see William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, "Joey" from Friends, and the kid from Party Of Five in a movie which is totally dissimliar from a television show which had been cancelled in 1968? It's almost like the studio approved the idea of the movie before they knew how to execute it, and when the studio decided not to hire stars, it was too late to stop the movie from being made. Sometimes I think some movies just get cranked out even though no one thinks it's a good idea. Almost as if the studios are so desparate to offer moviegoers some product that they'll throw anything into production, just to make sure they offer a movie in theaters every week of the year. The movie is not 100% without merit- there are some cool ideas about space travel and time travel, but not enough to support an entire movie.
ALSO by Gary Oldman on STUB HUBBY:

March 17, 1998

The Big Lebowski

I was so bored and displeased by this snooze-fest, I wanted to walk out. I should have asked my wife if she was bored too, but instead, I assumed she liked the movie, so I stewed in silence. Lebowski has become a cult favorite. I have not seen it again to test if my first instinct was on target. Sometimes life is too short to give a bad movie a second chance? (Hoyt's Cinemas South Portland)
2016 Update: I honestly don't understand the cult appeal of this movie. It's full of oddball characters, eccentric fantasy sequences, and the dialog is quotable, but the meandering self-indulgence is maddening. I appreciate the concept of a Chandler-style detective noir but remade as a San Fernando stoner epic, but the movie lost my patience around the time the Dude and his friends attend the dance recital with the little guy prancing around like a wood nymph.
lebowskiWhat is the point of Jesus? He contributes zero to the movie. His whole character, voice, costume, and backstory feel like they let John Tuturro make up a flamboyant caricature turned up to 11 with all the subtlety of a bowling ball to the gut.
God, I could go on with a half-dozen other tertiary roles that could be cut out completely with zero impact on the film. My complaints make me sound like some kind of ascetic who insists films focus like a laser on plot plot plot but that's not the case- For example, Boogie Nights (released four months earlier) is another self-indulgent epic set in San Fernando Valley, also with a retro vibe and a hundred minor characters (both with Phillip Seymour Hoffman), but Boogie Nights is fascinating, powerful, and focused. Lebowski is just a goof, and a waste of time for everyone involved. I'd love to cut 30 minutes out of this movie (which would be easy, by the way) just to see if the result were any better or worse.
I really enjoyed all the previous Coen brothers' films, so it was a real letdown when I first saw it in 1998. When the Coen brothers' next feature was released, O' Brother, Where Art Thou?, I skipped it. Too bad for me: when I finally saw O' Brother on home video in 2001, it was one of my favorite films of the year.

Les Miserables

lesThe leads in this French story are played by an Irishman (Liam Neeson), an Australian (Geoffrey Rush), and two Americans (Uma Thurman and Claire Danes).

March 6, 1998

Twilight

twilightA fine old-school yet contemporary L.A. noir. Great score from Elmer Bernstein, and a real pleasure watching a wonderful cast: Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, and Susan Sarandon, with supporting performances from Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, John Spencer, and M. Emmet Walsh. Did I mention that 22-year-old Reese Witherspoon is in it and she's naked?

February 1, 1998

48: I Don't Care Anymore

An appropriate title for this collection, as this would be the last numbered cassette music mix I would record. I could check my records, but I must have changed jobs around this time and I no longer had hours to kill on the overnight shift.
SIDE A
  1. If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free, Sting
  2. Sanctify Yourself, Simple Minds. This album Once Upon A Time, was the moment where they had the most potential to be the Next U2. The production quality is the cleanest and rockingest, and the songs were the strongest.
  3. Blame it on Cain, On his debut My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello was backed by most of Huey Lewis' band Clover (someday to become The News.) Listen for Elvis's vocal to distort during the loud parts.
  4. What I Am, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
  5. 32 Flavors, Alana Davis was a one-hit wonder around the turn of the century. She charted with this Ani DiFranco cover.
  6. Song For The Dumped, This Ben Folds Five album, Whatever and Ever Amen, was the one playing on the stereo at Newbiy Comics in South Portland. It was the cliche'd moment where I asked the clerk "who is this awesome artist?" That never happens to me!
  7. Get Out of This House, Shawn Colvin's most rocking song!
  8. Darkness on the Edge Of Town, Bruce Springsteen
  9. Time Of Your Life (Good Riddance), This Green Day song has become their crossover hit. In 2011 it still gets played on every type of radio station!
  10. Girl, The Beatles
  11. Happy, The Rolling Stones
  12. Hooked on a Feeling, Blue Swede
SIDE B
  1. Rain King, Counting Crows
  2. Without Expression, John Mellencamp
  3. Surrounded, Chantal Kreviazuk
  4. Three Marlenas, The Wallflowers
  5. Positively Fourth Street, Bob Dylan
  6. Somewhere Down The Crazy River, Robbie Robertson
  7. Adios Hermanos, Paul Simon
  8. No Cheap Thrill, Suzanne Vega
  9. (Everybody's Else's) Girl, Tori Amos
  10. I Don't Care Anymore, Phil Collins
Between 1999 and 2001, I collected MP3s from Napster onto my home PC and assembled music mix playlists with Winamp. My PC did not allow me to rip or burn CDs, so I downloaded all the tracks from Napster, including songs which I owned on CD but I could not rip them to my hard drive. In the spring of 2001 I bought a new PC with a CD-R drive, and the new era began.

January 31, 1998

Titanic

Bad dialogue, great drama. It's difficult to remember that in the fall of 1997, all the rumors and advance gossip was that Titanic was going to flop- the movie was over budget and behind schedule. All the extraordinary lengths James Cameron went to to build a full-scale ship set in Mexico? Half the reason I went to see it the first time was to see how big a disaster it really was. (Flagship Falmouth Cinemas)

Tuesday Discount at Hoyt's Cinemas, Falmouth ME

For a brief period in late 1997 and early 1998, the Hoyt's multiplex on Route 1 in Falmouth, ME, offered matinee-price tickets ($4.50) all day on Tuesdays- a $2 savings! Here are the five movies I saw during this special offer period.
  • The Little Mermaid • Tuesday, November 11, 1997, 7:15pm • The last of the old-school Disney movies, and the beginning of the 1990s renaissance.
  • Anastasia • Tuesday, November 25, 1997, 7:30pm • Completely forgettable non-Disney hand-drawn animated film.
  • Alien: Resurrection • Tuesday, December 2, 1997, 7:20pm • Better than the third Alien movie. Some inventive ideas, and frankly, the best idea ever for bringing back a dead character. But overall, these nice touches are not enough to distract from the well-traveled ground this batch of misfits treads. Winona Ryder is miscast as a android.
  • As Good As It Gets • Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 6:30pm • I really disliked this movie, especially in contrast with James Brooks's far superior Broadcast News. None of the characters were likeable. Jack Nicholson plays a smug bastard with an obsessive-compulsive glaze on top, as if that makes his self-involvement entertaining. Helen Hunt won the "Best Newcomer" Oscar for her terminally grating waitress character. (She beat out Julie Christie, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Helena Bonham Carter for the statuette.) Note the incredibly condescending lower-class accent she so badly applies. Greg Kinnear's gay artist is just pitiful.
  • Scream 2 • Tuesday, January 13, 1998, 6:50pm • Uck. The beginning of the end of the post-modern horror flick.

January 26, 1998

Wag The Dog

wagGood political satire, but not a memorable movie. (Flagship Falmouth Cinemas)

January 18, 1998

Good Will Hunting

Good accents, faithful to Boston, good script, nice performances.

Stub Hubby Reviews The Depressing Boston Film Festival

I never ate at The Tasty, but I greatly enjoyed the sandwiches at The Greenhouse,
whose sign is just visible behind the traffic light in this shot from the movie.
I ate lunch there (with the ferns and the painted mirrors, rude hostess,
and ever-rotating wait staff) many times in the mid 1990s.

January 1, 1998

Amistad

amistadI don't remember a lot about this movie, honestly.