The Critics' Awards 1998: Film - The good, the bad, and the really, really bad

When habitual, recidivist, and even paid filmgoers come to look back on a year just past, there is a temptation to be solemn, whether or not the millennium is now like the iceberg waiting for Titanic. It's easy to pronounce that things are not as they were - above all, I fear, in the sparse range and quality of foreign-language films. It's possible to surmise that 10 or so years into the next century, there may be far more ice than navigable ships on the water. Nevertheless, I had a good time in 1998 - even if that paints me as blithely shacked up in a first- class stateroom as the ice loomed.

Like anyone in Britain this year, I was entertained by the absurd vainglory of Titanic itself - and I can recall, at an LA screening late in 1997, trying to cheer up some studio executives, saying it wasn't as bad as all that, and might do well enough in the long run - like six weeks! Beyond that, I liked, loved, or just looked forward to another chance of seeing Wings of the Dove, Boogie Nights, The Ice Storm, Jackie Brown, Deconstructing Harry, The General, The Apostle, Love and Death on Long Island (from the novel by the IoS's Gilbert Adair), Wild Things, The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan and There's Something About Mary. That's a dozen movies, and there are likely a few more I've forgotten about.

I'd like to stress that I don't approach these annual round-ups with monumental earnestness. Still, to find a dozen remarkable new paintings, pieces of music, or even books in any year - let alone a dozen new people who might rearrange your life - would be more than most of us could handle. I know the author of this essay is expected to pick one film above all others - the great one, if you like - and I'll stick with The Truman Show, if only because it got at one of our most patient, if not eager, forms of slavery with wit, cunning and a kind of gentle outrage. But if you want the most neglected film of the year - everywhere - I'd go for The Ice Storm, and its droll but fearsome confrontation of demoralised parents and dismayed teens.

On the other hand, I can easily come up with a dozen disasters or travesties, films so taken with mistake or pretension that the fun of the debacle is irresistible. Some of them, alas, were by very good directors - Kundun, Amistad - and some were by people with inflated reputations - U-Turn, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Rainmaker. Then there were the fatuous colossi, pictures for which the equation of entertainment found to money spent would bring tears to the parched eyes of starving nations - Godzilla, Armageddon, The X-Files, A Perfect Murder, The Postman, The Avengers, The Horse Whisperer, Mad City and Red Corner. You see - that's more than a dozen.

Trends? You know, after a hundred years of demented trendiness, I don't think there is a reliable trend, except maybe for all the stupid old rules - look, a new star; look, the same old stuff done differently; look - why did they ever make that? And if we're really lucky, well, look, there's someone new, trying something. There are new people: there's Harmony Korine with Gummo; there's Neil LaBute, whose In The Company of Men doesn't quite prepare you for the smoother, more nihilistic shock of his next one, Your Friends and Neighbours. There's Paul Thomas Anderson, whose Boogie Nights was good, yet not as daring or cool as his best film, Hard Eight. And there was John Boorman - that indispensable figure, fierce guard of his own unpredictability - coming out with a clever young man's film, The General, in nothing less than black-and-white CinemaScope!

What were the performances of the year? Well, I've been flat-out unkind to Helena Bonham Carter in the past (and I will be again for the inane Theory of Flight), but she was depressed, erotic and stealthy in Wings of the Dove, and her skin shone like death. I admired Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, but I think Ed Harris gave the great performance. I liked Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight in The General, and I enjoy hunting down all the supporting roles Voight is doing these days. Tom Sizemore was quiet but seething in Saving Private Ryan. Bridget Fonda deserved raves for Jackie Brown, along with Samuel L Jackson, who was also good in The Negotiator. Robert Duvall only did The Apostle, I'd guess, because he longed to go off on the guy's great rants. But why not? Cameron Diaz is going to be something. Sigourney Weaver may be on the edge of becoming a great, cranky "old" lady.

Predictions? 1999 will be better still. I do not encourage film buffs to hold out much hope for The Thin Red Line - but Eyes Wide Shut is another matter. While you're waiting for that, get ready for Happiness, Affliction, One True Thing, Gods and Monsters, Celebrity, and the movie that could win Best Picture for 1999, Shakespeare in Love.

t Film of 1998: `The Truman Show'

Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
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.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible