Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The 1998 Retro Hollmann Awards Winners!

It has been difficult to actually sit down and write my personal winners for 1998. Familiarity is, I think, partly to blame: many of the past retrospectives have been treasure troves of discoveries, whereas 1998 was a year I actually experienced, so there were a lot of rewatches this time around. Shouldn't that make me more ready to write about films I've loved and enjoyed for years? Well, I guess it should, but knowing much of my readership has already heard me wax on about many of these films in real life or on social media, there's a feeling of redundancy. 

Still, winners I promised, and winners I shall deliver. To reacquaint yourself with all the parties involved: my Top Ten of the Year, and the full list of nominees

Now, on with the show...

Sunday, November 5, 2023

My Top Ten of 1998

I watched 75 films, whittled that down to a list of 21 favorites, came to a final 13, and now - with apologies to the three almost-made-its, The Last Days of DiscoPleasantville, and Spice World - I present my Top Ten Films of 1998:

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

1998: Best Picture

Nothing was more certain in 1998 than Saving Private Ryan's Best Picture Oscar. It had nearly swept all the "precursors," it was the second-highest-grossing film of the year, it was Spielberg - it was inevitable. But those in the know already heard the buzz going about. Saving Private Ryan is uneven, it was six months ago, what about a movie that makes you happy to be alive? And so came the surprise winner of the night:

And people still debate the two. Are you for Private Ryan or Shakespeare? The Greatest Generation or the Elizabethan Age? "Earn this" or "It is a new world"? 

Here's where I stand:

Monday, October 30, 2023

1998: Best Director

Of course, the big story in 1998 was the return of Terrence Malick.

I'm going by Oscar Wars (incredible work by Michael Schulman) and Inside Oscar 2 (incredibly bitchy work by Damien Bona) when I give these details. Malick was beloved by critics, artists, and cinephiles for his 1970s releases Badlands and Days of Heaven. Then he left for Paris, just dropped out, doing the odd uncredited rewrite here and there but otherwise kept out of the whole Hollywood thing. Producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau coaxed him out after 19 years, and The Thin Red Line is the result. It would be another 13 before he would follow up with The Tree of Life, and now the man can't stop churning them out! By his standards, anyway.

Malick's return was a triumph critically and Oscarally - nominations-wise, at any rate. Because, at least in Best Director, there was no stopping the inevitable:

Was the inevitable the right choice, though?

Friday, October 27, 2023

1998: The Screenplays

Was it last year or earlier this year when Kyle Turner asked whether people who discuss/nominate/award screenplays actually read the screenplays, or do they just go off the vibes of the finished film? 

Anyway, ask this he did, and I felt directly indicted because, while I tried in 2007 and 2008 to only nominate screenplays I'd read, I stopped this because...well, mostly, it's difficult to find them the further back you go, but also because, ugh, the time and the energy. But he's right. If we're going to discuss screenwriting, we can't just look at the finished product with all the edits, rewrites, performances, etc, that interpret the work. We have to look at the source of all this, the blueprint. Is it a 1:1 transfer? Did the final product let down the promise of the written word; did it improve on it? Are script and film completely different? How much could the actors, crafts artists, director work from?

These are the questions I asked as I went through these nominees and reflected on how much reading determined the wins for Shakespeare in Love and Gods and Monsters:

Where available, I've linked to the available drafts (and for the real students of all film craft, Ian McKellen's official site has his Gods and Monsters script scanned page by page - with his notes!).

We start with Adapted Screenplay:

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

1998: Best Actress

Best Actress 1998 is a heated one. The winner was Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love:

And it's a win that's gone through all the phases of backlash, backlash-to-the-backlash, mild "not a bad performance but shouldn't have won" criticism, etc. And to be fair, even at the time there was no guarantee that Paltrow would triumph. Yes, she won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Musical/Comedy Globe, but Elizabeth's Cate Blanchett won the BAFTA and the Drama Globe and had genuine "a star is born" notices, while Central Station's Fernanda Montenegro was lauded by the National Board of Review and the LA Film Critics (the New York Critics went for...Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary). 

Even today, the conversation continues: when Fritz And The Oscars polled "Film Twitter," Montenegro was the overwhelming favorite, and just three years ago Glenn Close brought it all up, concurring with the chorus of Montenegro support. Still others (including the Guest GMs on the 1998 Mini-Mega episode of Screen Drafts) rhapsodize over Blanchett's "a star is born!" performance. Few stick up for Paltrow, and has essentially become a much-debated, three-way race.

Which side do I fall on? I was surprised...