Best Picture and Director - 1998

1998 through 2007

What are your picks for Best Picture and Director of 1998?

Life Is Beautiful
No votes
Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love
The Thin Red Line
Roberto Benigni - Life Is Beautiful
No votes
John Madden - Shakespeare in Love
No votes
Terrence Malick - The Thin Red Line
Steven Spielberg - Saving Private Ryan
Peter Weir - The Truman Show
Total votes: 71

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby HarryGoldfarb » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:08 pm

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Sabin » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:50 am

My two favorite films of the 1990s might be Rushmore and The Thin Red Line, and I can't help but find parallels between the Wes Anderson's romantic comedy and Terrence Malick's war epic with Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan. It's been ages since I saw Saving Private Ryan, but it's clearly a very good war movie. And yes, "movie" is the right way to put it. It's a bit interesting that Saving Private Ryan is probably the most beloved "Oscar Movie" (of the EW/IMDB crowd) after Schindler's List until the era of The Lord of the Rings, and it's the one to lose. I don't have much to say about it. It's a good movie.

Even if it doesn't get my vote, I'm glad Shakespeare in Love won. I'll never understand the hate, or even charges of mediocrity. I've seen it at least ten times since it's release and I grin every time. It's just a fun, witty lark. I've seen The Thin Red Line probably five times since its release and it's become for me a profoundly spiritual experience that I find difficult to be objective about. What once seemed compromised now seems the farthest thing from it. I have no qualms with giving it Best Picture and Director, although is it not the damned strangest choice the Academy has endorsed since what? Barry Lyndon? Part of me genuinely thinks they didn't so much cast their ballots for The Thin Red Line as not see The Thin Red Line but know it's about WWII, not see Gods and Monsters but know it's a gay movie and not likely to be nominated, dislike The Truman Show, and like Waking Ned Devine but die on the way to mailing out their ballots.
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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Heksagon » Mon Oct 28, 2013 3:24 am

For me, Shakespeare in Love is not only bad, but easily the worst Best Picture winner of the decade, and one of the worst all-time.

I just don't get this film. It isn't funny, it isn't dramatic, and the characters and the milieu are extremely artificial, polished and just don't feel real. The idea that the film is supposed to be set at a time when there is a plague going through the city emphasizes the absurdly unreal environment. John Madden, for his part, is probably the worst director to ever receive an Oscar nomination. Granted, there are a few clever ideas in the screenplay, as well as some memorable individual scenes and some good casting, but it just isn't enough for me.

The rest of the nominees are in the "good, but far from great" territory for me. My choice for the Best Picture is between Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. The former is visually great, but pretty mundane in terms of characters and ethics. I agree that the innovative and original point-of-view from the beginning somehow turns into a very traditional war film by the ending. Furthermore, for my taste, the film just glorifies war too much.

So after some thinking, I'll go with The Thin Red Line, even if I do feel that the ending drags on for too long. I agree with Tee's comments about the ending, although I don't feel quite so strongly about it.

As for the Best Director, I was a huge admirer of The Truman Show at the time, and back then I would easily have called Peter Weir as the most deserving person in this lineup. But my taste has changed since then, and after some thinking, I decided to vote for Terrence Malick in here.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Reza » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:57 am

Voted for Shakespeare and Spielberg.

My picks for 1998:

Best Picture
1. Shakespeare in Love
2. Gods and Monsters
3. Saving Private Ryan
4. Life is Beautiful
5. The Truman Show

The 6th Spot: Pleasantville

Best Director
1. Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
2. John Madden, Shakespeare in Love
3. Peter Weir, The Truman Show
4. Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
5. Bill Condon, Gods and Monsters

The 6th Spot: Gary Ross, Pleasantville

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Oct 21, 2013 10:40 pm

I voted a few days ago but finally have time to put my thoughts in.

I have to say, this is a pretty damn good year for movies...I love my entire Top 10 (many of which could place higher in most any other year), and looking at the also-rans is looking at a pretty great selection. Among the films not here that I heartily endorse are Taste of Cherry, A Simple Plan, Gods and Monsters, Pleasantville, The Big Lebowski and Primary Colors, along with the not-yet-mentioned Little Dieter Needs to Fly, perhaps Herzog's strongest documentary.

Like most here I am throwing Elizabeth out first. It is a dull history lesson.

Saving Private Ryan is one of Spielberg's weakest films, mostly because he takes such great strides at the top of the film only to fall back into his worst tendencies. Much has been written about the opening attack, and it is certainly among the most viscerally devastating sequences in mainstream American cinema. After that, though, Spielberg slowly turns an interesting morality play into a cliche filled war picture, until by the end the film just falls apart. There is stuff to like, but not enough to justify consideration here.

I fall right in the middle on Life is Beautiful; I don't find it offensive or trite, but I also don't find anything too transcendent in it. The first half of the film, especially, I found fairly magical, and while it doesn't make my Top 20 of the year, I can't gripe too much about it.

The Truman Show looks quaint in retrospect, a film that predicted the emergence of Reality TV (although it already had The Real World as inspiration), but couldn't anticipate the type of Reality TV we would want: it's not the nice, normal guys but the smarmy and sexy ones. I like the credit to Peter Weir here, and wish it could have snuck onto the Picture ballot.

I love the Shakespeare in Love victory, and if I won't vote for it, I heartily endorse it. I have a hard time believing that Harvey Weinstein bought this vote, any more than numerous films before it. A lot of the time voters go for the film they love the best, and this is the most loveable and watchable of all the nominees. The romance works, the comedy is sharp, the film is technically very tight and never loses a step. It might not "mean much," but I'd argue it has a lot more to say than decades worth of Best Picture winners.

I am voting for The Thin Red Line and Terrence Malick, though. It might not be Malick's best film, and I will certainly vote for him again, but this is the kind of film that wasn't supposed to be nominated in the 5 film era, and I have to endorse the fact that it snuck through the cut.

1. Taste of Cherry
2. A Simple Plan
3. Gods and Monsters
4. Little Dieter Needs to Fly
5. The Thin Red Line

1. Abbas Kiarostami, Taste of Cherry
2. Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line
3. Bill Condon, Gods and Monsters
4. Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan
5. Joel Coen, The Big Lebowski
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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:15 pm

Leeder, great to see your name; seems like it’s been a long time.

For the record, I WASN’T here for the 1998 discusssion; I only came upon the site in the aftermath of that year’s race. Though I’ve certainly heard plenty of opinions on these films in the years since.

Okri, I’m delighted to see you mention The Butcher Boy, which I thought I’d be alone in advocating. I indeed think it’s Neil Jordan’s finest work – directorial flair matched to a heartbreaking/scary story of childhood and its disappointments. For me it’s easily the year’s best film, and I’ve long been disappointed how few seemed to share my enthusiasm. (Though the film did run second with the LA critics that year)

I also think Solondz’s Happiness is pretty much a masterpiece, though one I feel creepy for admiring so much. And I was impressed by how well Mike Nichols’s translated Joe Klein’s Primary Colors to the screen…plumbing a somewhat sleazy book to create a genuinely complex, grown-up view of politics. And there are plenty of other movies from that year of which I’m fond – Pleasantville, Bulworth, Gods and Monsters, A Simple Plan. (Okri, would you agree that one reason the book falls short of the novel’s bleak power is the change/omission of one major event?)

On to the nominees. For me, Elizabeth is the first film to go from this bunch. I found it pitched pretty hysterically (albeit not as absurdly high as its sequel), and written at a shallow level – in dialogue terms, it wasn’t much above the Bette Davis version. The film was too restless to ever be boring, but I couldn’t take it at all seriously. My great affection for Blanchett as an actress all came subsequent to his film; I’ve never understood the love people have for her performance here.

Life is Beautiful has ambition to be a masterpiece, but not the full talent to achieve its goals. The first (pre-concentration camp) half feels like a bunch of two-reelers thrown together, each seemingly conceived around a pre-determined image – The Brightly Colored Horse, for example. This part of the film is minor but charming enough. The remainder of the film is very risky, and I see why many people find it completely offensive. I thought Benigni just barely held the film this side of tastelessness, but at the same time it felt like, artistically, he was over his head. And the overall film raises a problem for me. We’re presented with Benigni as this wonderful life force, who makes his wife’s drab existence a wonderland, and who entertains his son morning to night. How can it then be a happy (or at least happier) ending for him to give up his life so that these two can survive, when their lives seem to have little value without him in it?

I really liked much of The Thin Red Line. The ride in to the beach offers the visceral sense of being transported over water. The climb to the top of the mountain, the final capture…all of it is both narratively and sensually satisfying. Had the movie stopped when the mountain-top was captured, I’d have counted myself a great fan. But it didn’t: it went on for what seemed like half an hour or more, with a bunch of guys hanging around some jungle river, and…well, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what they were doing that whole time. I don’t know I’ve ever had a movie lose me as much as the latter portion of this one did. I still honor the film, for its high points (it clearly should have won cinematography). But I couldn’t give it any votes. (Fortunately, I can vote enthusiastically for Malick later on)

I never saw this Twilight Zone episode that supposedly inspired The Truman Show. I liked the movie, quite a bit – considerably more than several of the films that made the best picture list. It was a clever, well-worked out script, splendidly acted by everyone in its cast. And I’m with BJ: it’s the one Peter Weir directing nomination of which I approve, as he brought the script to life, and made the difficult logistics of staging the TV show easily comprehensible. None of this is enough to get me to vote for Weir – there are options that appeal to me more. But it does provoke me to give him a mild salute, which is way more than I’ve been inclined to do in his previous nods.

I apparently saw a better version of Shakespeare in Love than Okri did. My memory is of incredible cleverness, in both plot turns and dialogue…to such a degree it made me re-evaluate just how far a work could travel purely on such cleverness. The story may have been thin in the end, but it didn’t feel that way as I was watching – I was buoyed by the romance and the literary allusions, to the point I said to a friend of mine that if this comedy couldn’t win best picture, then nothing would. This isn’t to say it was a landmark of any kind. John Madden came into the film an undistinguished director, and he left it an undistinguished director who’d somehow spun gold once in his life (much like Pollack did with Tootsie). But it was far from an ignoble best picture winner.

Of course I, like most, expected Saving Private Ryan to win in the end, and it wouldn’t have been a bad choice. I disagree with both the most enthusiastic takes on Ryan (that it was a masterpiece cruelly denied by Harvey Weinstein’s evil manipulations) and the most cynical (great opening half hour, following which it sucked). I think the movie is pretty great for well beyond the opening Normandy landing. I love the pilot whose plane has crashed because he didn’t allow for the extra weight he was carrying (you can feel from his tone and his eyes that he’ll never get over this tragedy); I love the gallows humor of the guys flipping cavalierly through the dog tags of the dead GIs; I like the false-alarm other Ryan. Truly, for more than half the film’s running time, I thought it was a stunningly honest and inventive take on life in wartime. But then that damn sniper arrived: I disliked almost everything about the character, from his humming Disney tunes to the fact they let him go and he turned lethal on them. I didn’t care for the way they found Matt Damon (I not only knew this was the scene where they’d locate him, but exactly where he’d be standing in the formation), nor for the utterly predictable fact that he’d not want to go with them (predictable because I, too, have seen The Searchers). And then that final barrage of bullets, for me, was not just numbingly boring, it negated the greatness of the opening slaughter – that opening had effectively communicated the utter randomness of wartime death; here, it existed to kill our hero, which put us firmly in the screenwriter’s command.

Bottom line: if all of Saving Private Ran had been up to the level of its best parts, it would have been my no-doubt choice for best picture. Even as it is, the mastery Spielberg showed in much of it rates my vote for best director. But because I felt as a totality it’s a stronger film, I echo the Academy’s split and vote for Shakespeare in Love as best film.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Eric » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:58 am

01. The Hole
02. Run Lola Run
03. Rushmore
04. Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy
05. The Idiots
06. Happiness
07. I Stand Alone
08. Babe: Pig in the City
09. Flowers of Shanghai
10. The Silence

It occurs to me (belatedly) that I should probably at least rank out the picture/director films too, since none of them this year figure into my top 10.

01. The Thin Red Line -- I'm not a monster, though The Tree of Life is far more to my tastes.
02. Saving Private Ryan
03. The Truman Show
04. Elizabeth
05. Shakespeare in Love -- I saw the version Okri saw.
06. Life is Beautiful
Last edited by Eric on Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:18 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Eric » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:47 am

Big Magilla wrote:Damien had to actually tell me that Condon wasn't black!

Good times!

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:31 am

ksrymy wrote:Shouldn't this be posted under The 8th Decade?

Yes, fixed. Thanks.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 21, 2013 1:58 am

I thought this was a very strong year. My top four favorites were all nominated in either Picture and/or Director, but it would be tough to narrow down either category to five. My favorite alts would be Pleasantville (which was seen by many as Truman Show-lite, but which I thought was nearly as visually dazzling, inventive, and emotionally resonant), Gods and Monsters (how come Oscar's fascination with biographies never extended to Bill Condon?), and Happiness (which obviously was too out there for the top category, but too bad it became a total shut-out).

But there were a lot of other movies I fully enjoyed: The Opposite of Sex, A Simple Plan, Primary Colors, Out of Sight, Rushmore, A Bug's Life, Live Flesh. And there were others -- Taste of Cherry, Beloved, Bulworth, Dark City -- which I didn't feel entirely worked, but which had a ton of pleasing ambition. Most of these movies I caught up with later, but I imagine it must have been a very rewarding year to experience in real time. (I guess at some point I'll probably give Mister Tee's beloved The Butcher Boy another try. I found it to be a film of interesting elements that didn't quite cohere for me into a major movie.)

Elizabeth is my least favorite of this crop of Best Picture nominees, and a pretty curious candidate. It's decently mounted and features a commanding performance by Cate Blanchett, but there's very little in the way of narrative or filmmaking invention. (No surprise BOTH the writers and directors passed.) I don't think it's BAD, but as dws said, it's a pretty humorless affair, and I can only conclude that there's just a portion of the Academy that favors these types of musty costume dramas, even in the face of many more exciting options.

Last year, some of us discussed that some of the nominees fell under "bad concept, improved by execution." Life is Beautiful strikes me as having the opposite problem. I think its setup -- the story of a man who tried to use humor and fantasy to shield his child from the horrors of the Holocaust -- is very compelling, and could have been the foundation for a film of both overwhelming power and cruel irony. But I think Roberto Benigni really miscalculates some things. To begin with, a good portion of the film's first half is charming and romantic -- providing a solid contrast to the horrors of the second chunk -- but then there's that scene where Benigni rides in on the green horse, and I just thought, now this is completely ridiculous. And that feeling kept rearing its head as the movie went on. When Benigni mis-translates the concentration camp guard's instructions, the scene is played for laughs, but all I could think was, this is important information that everyone around him needs to know TO STAY ALIVE, and he's completely disregarding that. And yes, it's a nice romantic gesture when he sneaks into the office and puts on the opera piece his wife so adores, but in reality land, that very well could have gotten him and his whole family obliterated. This isn't to say the movie doesn't have moments of power -- when Benigni stumbles on the pile of bodies, it's hard not to feel a chill -- but ultimately it asks the audience to view as a hero someone who I thought was positively INSANE, and whose actions endangered the people around him about far more than they saved them. I don't think the movie can be quickly dismissed -- the subject matter alone makes it worthy of debate -- but overall I find the movie to be too divorced from reality to choose in either category.

Had The Truman Show been an option under Best Picture, it would have received my vote. This was the only movie on the ballot I saw in real time, and I thought for sure it would be a Best Picture nominee -- the reviews were excellent, the box office big, and the "movie of the moment" think pieces were too numerous to count. Generally that combination would be an easy ticket to an Oscar nod -- it really irks me that MY favorite could check off all those boxes and still miss. I think it's a splendid movie, that tapped into the reality tv craze right on the cusp of it, and explored a lot of fascinating questions -- What is the worth of one man's ordinary life to the world? Why do people crave watching the lives of others, and how does our reception of their "realities" affect our own? How do all real-life stories, even down to the news, shape stories to create easily-digestible narratives when they don't often exist? Andrew Niccol's script is the best kind of high concept material -- an outsize premise, but one that he treats with great wit and emotional power. And though I have very mixed feelings towards Peter Weir's career overall, this film is his finest hour, and one that definitely relies on the strength of its direction. Visually, the movie is a great marvel, with terrific squeaky-clean production design, imaginative camerawork that captures the tv show's action from every angle, and exquisite choreography among the ensemble to really sell just how well-oiled The Truman Show's machine really is...and yet just how real and not infallible it is as well. I'd be tempted to throw a vote his way just to honor the movie...but I think in strictly Best Director terms, he won't ever really be at the level of some of the other filmmakers available.

I like the remaining three Best Picture nominees an awful lot, and because of this, the great Ryan/Shakespeare death match doesn't really hold much interest for me. Had Ryan prevailed, as many -- me included -- assumed it would, I would have been perfectly happy...but I also don't think its loss is any great outrage either. The film is a very strong achievement, and I would absolutely argue that the movie is a lot more than just two superbly helmed battle sequences. Of course, those set pieces are magnificently handled by Steven Spielberg -- evocatively shot, tensely cut, and harrowing in their brutal force. But thematically, the middle chunk of the movie holds a lot of weight as well, and I find its central question -- is it worth risking the lives of a bunch of men to save another? -- completely fascinating. I also think, tonally, Spielberg injects a lot of uncharacteristic-for-him black humor into the story, so that as the film goes on, it really starts to feel like these guys are just on a ludicrous search to find a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, the movie does ultimately betray its most exciting instincts at the conclusion, partly because of the cheap "gotcha!" of the reveal, which seems completely inappropriate for the moment (a key scene in Lincoln gets tripped up in the same way), but also because the "have I lived a good life?" speech basically provides a clear answer ("yes, the mission WAS worth it") to a question that I'd have preferred be left ambiguous. Plus, the scene is just so mawkish. So, as I said, a perfectly acceptable winner for me, but not so flawless that it would get my Best Picture vote. Spielberg comes closer to Best Director -- it's really a mammoth undertaking -- but he'll fall to another favorite of mine who I haven't had a chance to choose yet.

For all the griping from certain quarters about Oscar hating comedy (usually in reference to junk like The Hangover not getting nominations), it's a shame that such a gloriously inventive comedy as Shakespeare in Love could win Best Picture and then be victim to all sorts of brickbats for being too lightweight. I find Shakespeare to be a completely winning romantic comedy, with a pair of delightful leads at its center, and a wonderful ensemble of character actors supporting them. The plot is so knowingly clever, in a way that I imagine would have thrilled Shakespeare himself, and the dialogue just sparkles with perfect lines ("The show know..." / "Go on..." and "That woman is a woman!" are favorites.) John Madden definitely doesn't get Director consideration -- he's a very modest filmmaker, without much of a sense of style, and his work mostly services the cast and terrific screenplay. But, he definitely struck gold this time, so he gets my respect if not my vote. Ultimately, the movie doesn't get my vote either, probably because I, too, might decide it's a bit frothy. But if you pressed me, I'd probably say I prefer it to Ryan.

The Thin Red Line is a movie that has reached almost legendary status in some circles. I might not be as high on it as that crowd -- I still think Days of Heaven is Malick's peak -- but it's clearly such an ambitious, exciting piece of moviemaking it's almost unbelievable the Academy managed to nominate it at all. In terms of visual beauty, it just completely outclasses the lineup (and that's saying a lot because Private Ryan looks pretty awesome too), with images of nature so eye-poppingly gorgeous that the weight of one of Malick's favorite themes -- the destruction of the natural world by man -- lands with overwhelming power. Also, tempo-wise, it's a bit unique among the director's films -- sure, some sections of the film rely on the director's trademark delicate shots of the environment, but the excellently staged battle sequences show that he can go toe to toe with Spielberg in this department. As a result, I find the movie to be completely engrossing as narrative even though the plot seems to be, as usual, not remotely the point at all. And the score? Heaven. I understand why the movie has its detractors -- it's certainly a mysterious film, and the canvas of its ideas seems to be so large I'd have difficulty pinpointing exactly what some portions of the movie are "about" -- but I find it to be a pretty major achievement, a staggering return to the movies after a twenty year (!!!) absence for one of my favorite living auteurs, a director who has such a natural gift for the craft aspects of film form, as well as such a humble worldview. I give Best Director to Malick, and Best Picture to The Thin Red Line.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby ksrymy » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:54 pm

Shouldn't this be posted under The 8th Decade?

My picks

Best Picture
1. The Thin Red Line
2. Life is Beautiful
3. The Truman Show
4. Saving Private Ryan
5. Shakespeare in Love

6. Out of Sight

Best Director
1. Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line
2. Peter Weir, The Truman Show
3. Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
4. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful
5. Bill Condon, Gods and Monsters

6. Steven Soderbergh, Out of Sight
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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Okri » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:10 pm

You know, I don't even remember when I first joined the boards. I took my current name after an author I admired but I don't recall if I had earlier incarnations. So I don't remember much of the discussion surrounding this year. But checking the critics awards and examining the year from this retrospective point of view is rather interesting.

For me, my favourite films were Out of Sight, Festen and The Butcher Boy. I loved the latter two during 1998 but the Leonard crime film really worked it's magic over repeated viewings since then (I've easily seen it ten or twelve times). Also worthy of mention were A Simple Plan (which didn't match the corrosive power of the book, but was still enthralling), Rushmore and Living Out Loud.

I don't get The Thin Red Line. I love the music ("Journey to the Line" remains one of the single most haunting cinematic compositions ever), admire the cinematography, but I don't get it. I've seen in three times in an effort to do so, and whatever power it has just goes over my head (it was my first Malick and remains my least favourite of his films, without having seen the most recent one). I love Tom Stoppard, but find Shakespeare in Love just depressingly wan and trite. It's quippy without being witty. Goes down easily enough, I suppose, but just entirely unmemorable. I don't get much from Life is Beautiful.

I do like the remaining three films though.

The Truman Show remains such an intriguing film. There's a lot of really cool choices throughout (the camera placement before Truman catches on is just delightful), the writing is spot on, and the acting is exceptional (I adore Linney's performance). Given what we know about reality television now and how artificial it actually is, it seems woefully naive instead of prescient, though, but I can forgive a film for not telling the future. Peter Weir's direction is atypically strong here and he's a good runner up.

But Spielberg gets my vote. Again. Tee's written superbly on Spielberg's Oscar history before and how this race really shines a light on it (if you haven't read it, do yourself a favour and get on that) definitely reflects badly (and I'll admit to being part of that cohort that year), but there's nothing else that really works here.

Elizabeth is ludicrous, but it's easily the most rewatchable film of the line-up and gets my vote in what is generally a dispiriting contest.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Leeder » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:45 pm

Just sticking my head in to say... this was certainly when I joined the old board, and I remember blowout fights over The Thin Red Line, especially.

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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby Precious Doll » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:53 pm

I'm passing on this year.
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Re: Best Picture and Director - 1998

Postby dws1982 » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:47 pm

I'm not a fan of Life is Beautiful. A reviewer for (I think) CNN nicely summed up most of my issues with it, but I'm not going to link to it. That's just not an argument I wish to get into. Elizabeth was dumb, and not even all that entertaining. The humorless performance by Cate Blanchett (and most of the others) isn't much help. The Truman Show was never a movie I cared for all that much. Like so many of Weir's other films, it goes down easily, but there's not much that sticks with you. The one question that Shakespeare in Love leaves me with is this: Whatever happened to Marc Norman? He wrote a very popular Best Picture winner, and then he hasn't had a single credit since. Even though I suspect that most of the pleasures and wit from the film come from Stoppard, I still find it pretty strange. Like The Truman Show, it goes down easily, and John Madden does his usual professional but not quite inspired job, but it doesn't get any consideration from me.

I do think Saving Private Ryan is a pretty major work. I always felt people misunderstood the opening and closing shots of the flag--the flag is so desaturated and drained of color that it clearly (to me) gives a sense of an elegy; the idea of something lost forever. If War Horse is Spielberg's John Ford film, then Private Ryan is his Sam Fuller film. It's clunky and awkward at times, but overall I think it's a very well-done examination of whether or not we're worthy of the sacrifices that have been made for us. (It's really an examination of the whole idea of "earning it" and what that means.) In many other years, it would get my Picture/Director votes. But I've voted for Spielberg once before in those categories, and I'll vote for him more than once in both of those categories in the upcoming years. So I'll take a pass this year.

I think The Thin Red Line is one of the best movies ever nominated by the Academy. I've written about the movie extensively in the past, and I don't really have the time to go into details right now, but I really do think it's one of the major achievements of American cinema--an easy choice for Picture and Director.

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