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The Quest Continues: The Blockbuster Jams Of 1998

I'm so weary about 1998. I mean, the purpose of this Quest for the Single Finest Film of Our Generation is to find the film whose nostalgia value equals its current re-watch value. These two requirements (nevermind the fact that the Quest officially ended months ago with Home Alone ultimately clinching the title, thanks to your votes) coupled in my mind with the films of 1998, a year when most of us started legally driving cars, either with or without parental supervision. This is a significant year (don't worry, we'll go back to the 80s next month, or you can vote for 1988 here, but I must air these grievances before they make my head explode) because either movies started sucking entertainment value-wise or my brain started idiotically maturing and craving pretentious artsy stuff. Case in point: Saving Private Ryan, A Bug's Life, The Waterboy, and Doctor Dolittle. These four films, all top ten box office grossers for the year in question, all sucked (full disclosure: I never saw A Bug's Life). Sure I gobbled up Spielberg's war epic like everyone else, but I don't think I ever had a desire to see it again or talk about the suspense-riddled battle sequences. Other than that though, I did not enjoy my time at the theater for any of these films. However, I was able to find five films in the top ten that did tickle my proverbial cinema pickle that year, and they are laid out (vote for your fave!) below...

Armageddon: My admiration for this atrocious film proves that I was not as smart as I wanted to be as a 15-year-old, and thus suggests that 1998 does deserve to be a year included on the journey of the Quest (redundant?) as I originally thought (1998 was considered in my original post that kicked off the Quest, but ultimately ignored as the Quest dwindled to its first close). Where's the proof? Well two things come to mind: 1) I once cried at the ending, when the courageous Bruce Willis gave his life so his daughter Liv Tyler could marry Ben Affleck (paging Dr. Freud) as I viewed it for the third or fourth time while sick from school my junior or possibly even senior year, and 2) it was presented in my first college film study class as "the worst movie ever made" with a lot of good arguments made, including the fact that no shot lasts for more than 2-3 seconds, providing a launchpad for the ADD generation that was to follow. Too bad that just made me like the film more. Thus, my official vote goes to Armageddon.

There's Something About Mary: I won't lie. I absolutely loved my first time seeing this movie. Saw it with my brother at the hometown theater on a hot summer weekday afternoon when there were approximately six other people in attendance. The movie had been out for a while at that point and I was excited to finally see that movie that critics both acclaimed and called "gross" simultaneously. A rare treat for teen film dweeb boys. Upon my first viewing (which I'm emphasizing multiple times here on purpose) I was geeking out alongside my brother at all the disgusting gags that (deservedly or undeservedly is up for debate) the Farrelly brothers got away with. That said, upon repeat viewings the only thing that stands up is the Brett Favre joke and Jonathan Richman as the town troubadour. Other than that, it's a big mess of a movie, lacking sympathetic characters and timeless humor, especially because it's the sad kind of funny that can easily get one-upped a couple years later by the next "breakout comedy" - cough cough The Hangover.

Rush Hour: Okay, get over it. I remember vaguely liking Rush Hour when I first saw it. I was one of those pre-teens that went to see those dubbed Jackie Chan movies, so when he finally got a starring role in a big-budget English-language flick, I was interested. Also, Chris Tucker's portrayal of DJ Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element is one of my favorite performance of all time; nostalgia doesn't even play a factor in that decision. So I just assumed I would think Rush Hour was a hilarious buddy action flick reviving the great tradition of Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop. Well, I was wrong, and I was also very wrong. But this grand illusion in my 15-year-old brain at least held strong through 1998, and I still have guiltily fond memories of the racist "Do you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?"-type moments as Chan and Tucker glazed through an uber-mediocre script and came out as two of the worst contributors to late-90s cinema. They shall never be forgiven. [Prediction: Tucker wins an Oscar in 2019.]

Deep Impact: Even as I google image search Deep Impact I swear some of the results are stills from Armageddon. It's too bad because while it doesn't have the laugh-a-minute re-watch value of its more successful competitor, as recent as two-ish years ago I probably would have told you it's the better movie. And in many ways, it is. It's more thoughtful (even if it's equally as saccharine), it's less tacky (even if its emotional manipulations are just as gaudy), and it has freaking Morgan Freeman as president. All that aside, I don't remember anything about this movie and I think I only watched it one additional time when it came out on video. However, I do remember being more touched by it (rather than, say, exclaiming "hellz yeah Amerika!" in my head) than its more brutal and star-studded counterpart.

Godzilla: This is a very bad movie. Very bad. I remember watching it on video a few times when putting together a music video project for my high school Radio & TV class (showing the Chrysler building exploding to stupidly 'symbolize' the lyric "A man drives a plane into the Chrysler building" from Soul Coughing's "Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago") and thinking to myself, I wish this was just a movie about Matthew Broderick's character, and no big monster destroying New York City. On the same token, it was the big event movie of the year and it was also the death knell of big event movies for the next couple years. In that way, it was kind of important I guess? Roland Emmerich went to the ends of the earth special effects-wise (oh the soundtrack too was a sort of death knell of event movie soundtracks, with the Puff Daddy rap over Led Zep's "Kashmir") and still came up short. Nevertheless, I remember being entertained in the theater much in the same way I was during Rush Hour and only harbor minor ill will toward it. As a blooming pretentious kid, I also thought the fact that two characters bearing the resemblance/nomenclature of Siskel and Ebert was clever at the time, although now I just see it as mean-spirited.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 7:52 AM |  

    Egads, this is a terrible year. I guess...I vote..."There's Something About Mary".

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 11:36 AM |  

    Agreed, Qualler. None of these movies venture even close to good. I'll vote for Deep Impact, just cuz I don't remember it at all (except that maybe Elijah Wood was in it) and therefore would want to see it again.

  3. Blogger Sean | 11:51 AM |  

    Armageddon wins.

  4. Anonymous .molly. | 9:52 AM |  

    I forget...am i supposed to base my vote on my personal emotional attachment to one of these films or what my current self does/could appreciate the most? Blarg. I'll go for the former, therefore casting my vote for "Deep Impact." That's the only one I actually watched in the vicinity of 1998. Bonus points for the inclusion of 1990s crush object: Elijah Wood (Adventures of Huck Finn! North!)

  5. Blogger Papa Thor | 7:56 AM |  

    Saving Private Ryan is a very good movie, especially within context as the middle film of his "Very Important Things" trilogy (with Shindler's List and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
    Actually, it is very good, Tarintino-esque in its episodic story-telling, interesting characters making a statistically overwhelming historical horror very real.
    So in protest I refuse to vote.

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