Film: Critic's Choice: The Ten Best Films of 1998

1/ Shall We Dance?

Watch people's faces go blank when you tell them that the best film of 1998 was a comedy about Japanese ballroom dancing. But it's true! Recounting the tale of a melancholy stiff who finds he's got rhythm, Masayuki Suo's film beautifully contrasts the formality of Japanese manners with the secret yearning to cut a dash on the dance floor.

2/ Junk Mail

Norwegian Pal Sletaune's debut is a blackish comedy about a shifty postman named Roy who likes pinching other people's mail. By a combination of nosiness and bad luck he involves himself in a Hitchcockian nightmare of stalking and blackmail. The only film this year I paid to watch again.

3/ In the Company of Men

A gripping and fantastically unpleasant essay in male insecurity and competitiveness, Neil LaBute's debut focuses upon two white-collar executives who scheme to avenge themselves on the opposite sex. The film takes a jaundiced look at company men in the Nineties, and you fear it may be telling us something like the truth.

4/ The Wings of the Dove

lain Softley's adaptation of the Henry James novel is an extremely rare bird: a costume drama that values psychological complexity and emotional depth above the period props and folderol. It's not James, nor could it ever be, but it's certainly the most tragic exploration of answered prayers I saw all year.

5/ The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges plays "the Dude", a slightly dopey, mild-mannered drop-out, who crosses paths with a crippled billionaire and suddenly finds his life in danger - in short, it's another shaggy dog story from the Coen Brothers, who've dreamed up a scenario notable for its off-centre wit and complete absence of meaning.

6/ The Daytrippers

One of the best independent films to come out of America this year, Greg Mottola's delightful comedy about a family outing to Manhattan contained wintry humour, poignant truths and the world's shortest car chase.

7/ The Spanish Prisoner

David Mamet returns to the intricate layering of bluff and counter-bluff he finessed in his first movie, House of Games, all couched in that distinctively halting, rhetorical dialogue. Campbell Scott, the most underrated young actor in America, turns in a sterling performance as the duped nice guy.

8/ Antz (below)

Given his recent run of indifferent movies, this computer-animated comedy did at least remind us that Woody Allen is still capable of great timing, albeit in the guise of a worker ant. Top-drawer cast, blissfully funny script, and some of the spookiest animation you'll ever see.

9/ The Truman Show

Perhaps not as great as some made it out to be, Peter Weir's satire on our enslavement to television was nevertheless an inspired and ingenious piece of movie-making; Jim Carrey also seized the opportunity to show he's a lot more more than an irritating rubber-faced contortionist.

10/ Zero Effect

Uh? Don't worry; hardly anyone else saw this small, but engagingly droll comedy, directed by first-timer Jake Kasdan (son of The Big Chill Lawrence). Starring Bill Pullman as a wigged-out private eye and Ben Stiller as his sidekick, it had the affable charm and modest intentions of a good TV pilot.

Turkey of the Year

Henry Jaglom's Deja Vu, an improvised ensemble drama, was probably the most excruciating experience of the cinema year. His characters are the kind of awful chattering pseuds Woody Allen was satirising around 20 years ago, yet Jaglom for some bizarre reason takes them completely seriously. One nonsensical speech by Vanessa Redgrave concluded with the exhortation to "jump off the cliff of life", an option I would have willingly helped the whole cast fulfil.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?