Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Pin It


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...

We begin with the lineup for Best Cinematography, starting with the #5 and counting down to the winner at #1:

5. American History X
Tony Kaye

4. The Truman Show
Peter Biziou

3. The Celebration
Anthony Dod Mantle

2. Saving Private Ryan
Janusz Kaminski

1. Beloved
Tak Fujimoto

The winner of Best Ensemble is The Celebration, awarded to casting directors Rie Hedegaard and Lene Seested. A large gathering of family, friends, and employees at a hotel-cum-vacation home comes together for a wealthy hotelier's birthday. They all have to believably react to the horrifying accusation that comes 1/3 through the film, expressing different levels of shock, denial, ignorance, and horror. Who already knows the truth, who never knew it, who kind of figured but buried it? Every performer gives you an idea of where their character stands. Impressively detailed performances.

The winner of Best Visual Effects was a tough choice for me, torn as I was between the obviously effects-heavy What Dreams May Come and the subtler, seamless work on Pleasantville. Well, I must go with What Dreams May Come (James Reedy, special effects supervisor; Ellen Somers, visual effects producer and supervisor; Nicholas Brooks, visual effects supervisor), not strictly because of the scale - the bulk of the film is VFX, predating (even if ever so briefly) the strictly bluescreen sets of the Star Wars prequels and the mocap wonders of The Lord of the Rings - but because of the integration of practical sets and makeup effects, the different forms of the personal heavens and how the effects work has to be realistic or purposely unrealistic depending on whose it is, etc.

The winner of Best Sound is Saving Private Ryan (Richard Hymns, supervising sound editor; Gary Rydstrom, re-recording mixer / sound designer; Andy Nelson / Gary Summers, re-recording mixers). Sure, the big battles book-ending the film, especially the 20-minute Omaha Beach opener, boom-boom-boom, bang-bang, flamethrowers, all that. We'd be remiss to forget how effective silence and atmosphere can be, such as in the chapel where our protagonists hole up for the night, a rare respite from the elements and war, the quiet of their whispers and sniffles amplified by the stillness of the setting. But especially, I award it for the whole scene with the sniper and the little French girl in the rain: I don't think I've ever heard rain the way I hear it in this movie, except on the porch of my mother's place in Florida. It sounds right is what I mean, and so does the shouting and shooting within the storm. 

I'll do two categories at once here, and that's because the winner is the same film, and for similar reasons. The winner of Best Makeup and Hairstyling and of Best Costume Design is Velvet Goldmine - makeup and hair designed by Peter Swords King, costumes designed by Sandy Powell. I did not even have to think twice about my winner for either; filling out the other four slots was the challenge. With both categories, I was impressed both by the film's capturing of the baroque stylizations of the Glam Rock period - makeup that is simultaneously ostentatious and breathtakingly beautiful, coiffures that are elegant and drenched with the sweat of performance, stage costumes that become daily wear to maintain the facade - and by the subtleties of aging and changing fads as it flashes forward ten years later. 

The winner of Best Editing is Enemy of the State, cut by Chris Lebenzon. It runs at a breakneck pace, slowing down sometimes to take a breath but never to relieve the tension, every cut to satellite or CCTV reminding us of how pervasive the surveillance state is - and how inescapable its main villain seems to be. Also, wow, the variety of recording devices - and this was 25 years ago!

Now the lineup for Best Original Song, starting with the #5 and counting down to the winner at #1:

5. The Wedding Singer - "Grow Old with You"
music and lyrics by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy
4. Mulan - "A Girl Worth Fighting For"
music by Matthew Wilder
lyrics by David Zippel
3. Mulan - "Honor To Us All"
music by Matthew Wilder
lyrics by David Zippel
2. The Prince of Egypt - "Through Heaven's Eyes"
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
1. Mulan - "Be a Man"
music by Matthew Wilder
lyrics by David Zippel

The winner of Best Production Design is Practical Magic - production design by Robin Standefer, set decoration by Claire Jenora Bowin. The star is the cozy New England cottage, isolated and perfect for two spinsters and their awesome nieces and grand-nieces, so inviting and realistic Barbra Streisand wanted to buy it (it's not real). That's just the exterior: the interior feels both immense and intimate, there's a, ahem, magic to it: the honeycomb flooring (perfect for the witches' circle), the spiral staircase to the tower, the earthy warmth of those kitchen wall tiles. And you know what I love most? Sandra Bullock's herbs, her all-natural supplements sold in the whitest, shiniest, tidiest store, the green and amber bottles arranged just right...versus the actual wild nature of the equally-white greenhouse where they're sourced. Perfect reflection of her character trying to have some non-witchy control in her life. It's great character work and you want to live in it. Isn't that the point?

The winner of Best Adapted Screenplay is You've Got Mail by Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron. I do think great dialogue is a large part of this category, just as much as plotting, just as much as the actual text of the screenplay itself. High marks all around. Details on environment for gags both visual and audial, lines that are amusing ("I tried cybersex once but I kept getting a busy signal") and truthful ("Whatever anything else is, it ought to begin by being personal") and romantic ("I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address") and specific, a plot that is simultaneously contemporary and nostalgic and aware that modernization and progress are unstoppable, that it won't stop with email but, gosh, however you get it, nothing beats the written word...

The winner of Best Original Screenplay is The Big Lebowski by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. Like I said: great dialogue, great plot, well-written screenplay. A pulp riff with the laziest gumshoe you've ever seen. All The Dude wanted was a rug, and instead, he must go up against self-deceiving exploiters and crooks who believe they are better than him merely because he has the audacity to be content. The literary conceit of much of The Dude's conversation being phrases repeated from TV, radio, and other people in previous conversations is pretty genius, a stoner barely participating grasping at something to express himself. Also, "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass."

The winner of Best Supporting Actress is Thandiwe Newton for the titular role in Beloved. What is she: infant? demon? tortured spirit or malevolent succubus? A physical manifestation of trauma, yes, but also a genuinely upset grown spirit of a dead child, her presence the reminder of the desperation of slaves. Newton is tragic and terrifying, her role a symbol but her character fully-formed, her voice a chilling croak, her dislocated physicality painful to see. Unforgettable.

The winner of Best Supporting Actor is Dylan Baker for playing family man, psychoanalyst, and pedophile Bill Maplewood in Happiness. "Fearless" and "brave" are labels often put upon performances for things like nudity or playing a gender/sexuality not their own. Baker's pathetically human, calculatingly monstrous Bill is a genuinely courageous performance. Who dares to portray a character so openly hateful of his peers, who fantasizes about committing a mass shooting, who drugs his son's friends so he can more easily seduce them - and be so unapologetic about it? Skip the movie, I understand if you do, it's shocking that it exists...but this performance! No one else this year comes close, few in other years do.

Now the lineup for Best Score, starting with the #5 and counting down to the winner at #1:

5. Rush Hour
Lalo Schifrin
4. Gods and Monsters
Carter Burwell
3. Ever After
George Fenton
2. Wild Things
George S. Clinton
1. Mulan
Jerry Goldsmith

The winner of Best Actor is Jeff Bridges for playing Jeffrey Lebowski, better known as The Dude, in The Big Lebowski. A role and performance so tied to Bridges that it gradually yet permanently influenced public perception of him (the openness with which interviewers asked him about smoking weed in 2009 and 2010 has always fascinated me; don't think such convos were taking place in 2000 - and too, his TRON: Legacy role has more in common with The Dude than his character from the original). Even without the benefit of hindsight, it is a beautifully crafted performance: the rapid blinking, the high-pitched screams, the slow processing of information, the relaxed posture, the joyous expression in his dreams, and more, and more, and more - it's all so perfect.

The winner of Best Actress is Oprah Winfrey for playing Sethe in Beloved. A generous scene partner, first of all - it's shocking how she can actually seem to shrink the more Sethe gives herself over to Beloved's influence. Never overplays the horror or the sorrow or even the joy - though she does know the difference between an almost delirious escape like when she and Beloved redecorate the house vs. the genuine pride of feeling in remembering Baby Suggs' sermons. Or the relief when she can give herself over to Paul D. The moment I saw this movie, I wondered how anyone could vote for any other performance.

The winner of Best Director is Todd Solondz for Happiness. As I wrote with Baker above, it's an uncompromising, shocking but empathic film. Yes, yes, he also wrote it, but the skill to actually pull it off in the final product - the darkly comic tone, the relatable melancholy, those performances! - and to present such ambitions so understatedly...that's masterful.

And what is my favorite film of 1998, my pick for Best Motion Picture of the Year? I would love to be respectable and say Beloved or cool and say Happiness, but it's...

Wild Things
produced by Steven A. Jones / Rodney Liber
2. Beloved; 3. Happiness; 4. Mulan; 5. Ever After
6. The Celebration; 7. You've Got Mail; 8. The Big Lebowski; 9. There's Something About Mary; 10. Saving Private Ryan

Wild Things becomes only the second film in Hollmann Awards history to win Best Picture and nothing else - the first being Night of the Living Dead. Beloved won the most awards with three. Of the 36 nominated films, 12 went home winners  

You May Also Enjoy:
Like us on Facebook

No comments: