When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1998, it gave its Best Picture award to a trifle called Shakespeare in Love. These are all better than that:
1. The Big Lebowski Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
"Fair? Who's the fucking nihilist here?"
2. Happiness Written and directed by Todd Solondz
Daniel Clowes drew this picture's poster, and the movie matches his sensibility. When I think back to the darkly funny final scene, my mind usually distorts the memory so that I'm imagining a Clowes comic, not a film.
3. After Life Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
My favorite Japanese movie of the '90s, and my favorite cinematic vision of the afterlife ever.
4. Rushmore Directed by Wes Anderson Written by Anderson and Owen Wilson
It has what may be Anderson and Wilson's best script, it has what may be Bill Murray's best performance, and it has what is definitely the best use of the Who on a motion picture soundtrack. Yes, that includes Tommy.
5. The Celebration Directed by Thomas Vinterberg Written by Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov
It would be a spoiler to reveal what this story is about. I'll just say that there are approximately 10,000 films on that particular subject, and that this is one of maybe five that are good.
6. Oz 2 Written by Tom Fontana with Sean Jablonski, Bradford Winters, and Debbie Sarjeant Directed by Nick Gomez, Uli Edel, Bob Balaban, Keith Samples, Kathy Bates, Alan Taylor, Mary Harron, and Jean De Segonza
Your reminder that the Golden Age of HBO was already underway before The Sopranos came along.
7. A Simple Plan Directed by Sam Raimi Written by Scott B. Smith, from his novel
Raimi's best movie.
8. Out of Sight Directed by Steven Soderbergh Written by Scott Frank, from a novel by Elmore Leonard
Part of a great run of Elmore Leonard adaptations in the mid/late '90s, along with Barry Sonnenfeld's Get Shorty and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.
9. Velvet Goldmine
Directed by Todd Haynes
Written by Haynes, from a story by Haynes and James Lyons
"According to legend, when Curt was 13 he was discovered by his mother in the family loo at the service of his older brother and promptly shipped off for 18 months of electric shock treatment. The doctors guaranteed the treatment would fry the fairy clean out of him, but all it did was make him bonkers every time he heard electric guitar."
10. High Art
Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko
"I haven't been deconstructed in a long time." "Yeah, I bet you hate that."
11. Pi (Darren Aronofsky)
12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2 (Joss Whedon)
13. O Night Without Objects (Jeanne C. Finley, John H. Muse)
14. There's Something About Mary (Bobby and Peter Farrelly)
15. Buffalo '66 (Vincent Gallo)
16. Dark City (Alex Proyas)
17. Billy's Balloon (Don Hertzfeldt)
18. The Truman Show (Peter Weir)
19. The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman)
20. Babe: Pig in the City (George Miller)
And a shout-out to Kurt and Courtney, which is brilliant if you take it as a mockumentary.
Of the films of 1998 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Apple and The Decline of Western Civilization III.