Category Archives: 1998

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. No… not the artful postures of love, not playful and poetical games of love for the amusement of an evening, but love that… over-throws life. Unbiddable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love – like there has never been in a play.

— Viola de Lesseps

During my senior year, my high school put on a disastrous modernized retelling on Romeo and Juliet. Around the same time, Shakespeare in Love just opened in theaters and it was an assignment to watch the movie for some extra credit. At first, I didn’t know that it was supposed to be a comedy. That aspect of the film went completely over my head. When I owned the movie on video, I paid attention to the comedy and I loved it. I still do.

This movie fictionally retells the life of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) when he was exiled from his former life circa 1593. Times in his new home, London, are not faring so well. The plague rages across the land. Any public forums are closed including the theaters, which is not good for writers like Will or actors or the theater owners like Mr. Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush).

Henslowe owes a lot of money to Mr. Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson), who is like an investor for new plays in England. Will has to take small acting jobs when he can and other professional actors have to travel to other lands to perform.

Henslowe wants Will to write a new play that could be successful to pay off his debts. There is a problem. Will has no inspirations, no muse to let the words flow. He thought he had a muse with a loose woman, Rosaline (Sandra Reinton), but not.

With the advice of the country’s number playwright at time, Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett) plants the idea of Romeo and Juliet to Will. Henslowe has auditions for the men who will plays all the parts. At the time, women were not allowed by law to be on the stage.

One privileged woman, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) dreamed about being an actor. She is helped by her nurse (Imelda Staunton) to masquerade as a man, Thomas Kent, to audition to be in William Shakespeare’s new play. Will is taken by Thomas Kent that he wants him as his Romeo.

Their love blossoms at a chance encounter at a party at the de Lessep’s, but there is a wrench in the plan with Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) attends to make Viola his bride and bring her to the New World. Having only two weeks together, Viola and William begin a forbidden love affair that mirror the greatest love story ever told.

This is a love letter to the works of Shakespeare. I thought that it was ironic that at the time Marlowe was a bigger “celebrity” that he was. Shakespeare’s works are still revived today, but Marlowe is almost lost in time. The intertwining of our modern day catch phrase and the Elizabethan language is more hilarious every time I see it.

This movie was controversial when it won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Should it have won? In some ways, yes. The problem with Ryan is that there are too many endings. Spielberg tacked on a happy ending that doesn’t need to be there. To me, Shakespeare in Love was more heart wrenching and sweeping that Ryan. That’s just my opinion.

Judgment: Revisit this movie if you haven’t seen this movie since it won the Oscar.

Rating: ****1/2

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Blade (1998)

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You give Frost a message from me. You tell him it’s open season on all suckheads.

— Blade

Blade was probably the first movie that I ever seen with a Black man as the hero—more of an anti-hero. Having seen the entire trilogy, it follows the same progression. Everybody enjoys the first movie, loves the second movie and wishes that the third doesn’t exist. This movie is a decade old and it is showing its long in the tooth.

Based on Marvel comic book series, the tale of the half-human/half-vampire begins with a mysterious woman, Racquel (Traci Lords) leads a date into an underground club where he discovers that it is filled with vampires

Blade (Wesley Snipes) shows up the place to lay waste to the vamps that are in there. He runs into an old lackey, Quinn (Donal Logue) that he tortures by pinning him up and setting him on fire.

Quinn’s body is brought to the hospital where hematologist, Karen Henson (N’Bushe Wright) is performing an autopsy on the charred remains with Curtis (Tim Guinee). What they don’t know that vampires could regenerate themselves. Quinn comes back to un-life to bite Curtis dead and Karen.

Blade comes to the rescue again to save Karen as Quinn gets away. He brings her back to his abandoned warehouse to his handler, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). Whistler examines her to determine that she doesn’t have very long before she turns. He tries to slow down the progressions, but they need a remedy.

The underground club owner, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is the thorn on the side of Dragonetti (Udo Kier) who is the leader of the vampire brood that thinks he shouldn’t be a part of the group because is not a pure vampire.

Whistler urges Karen to end herself before she turns. They let her go on her way. Back at her apartment, Officer Krieger (Kevin Patrick Walls), a familiar aka a human wannabe vampire that is an errand boy to Frost tries to kill her. Blade saves her again.

Their steps led to the underground vampire archives where Deacon wants to translate ancient text to fulfill a prophecy to sacrifice the spirit of twelve to awaken the Blood God, La Magra. The after effects would lead to a vampire apocalypse.

I still had a good time with this film. The side gags are still good. The action is solid, but over time, the film has not aged well. The CG is wonky. The acting from some of the supporting, especially from Arly Jover who plays Frost’s moll, Mercury is not good.

Judgment: A campy good time with a kick ass action anti-hero.

Rating: ***1/2

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Goddamn you Walter! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?

— The Dude

The #158 Movie of All Time on IMDb: The Big Lebowski has been a divisive film since its release in 1998. Some people have since it and dismissed as garbage, upon a second viewing they loved it. This is the first time that I have seen it. I am tittering between it being pure genius and pretentious bullshit.

The unemployed bum simply known as “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) becomes the anti-hero of this story. Being mistaken for a millionaire that share his real name Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston), a pair of thugs rough him up. During the encounter, one of the thugs pees on his “prized” rug.

The Dude seeks out the other Lebowski to get him to pay for the rug. This action leads to chain of events that spiral out of control. Lebowski and his manservant, Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want to get Lebowski’s young wife, Bunny (Tara Reid) back who has been kidnapped.

The Dude is mixed up with a trio of nihilists (Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges), a pornographer, Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), Lebowski’s feminist daughter, Maude (Julianne Moore) who all want something from him. There is also his bowling buddies, Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) that want to occupy his time.

This movie is a mind fuck. You wonder when the ending credits start; did the Coens take LSD when they conceived of the movie? In the beginning, the characters carried on some inane conversations that go around in circles. It infuriated me. “We get it! Move on.”

The sequences go from dark to slapstick to tripped out. I had no idea what I was watching. I tried to make some sense out of it. I concluded with this.

At the core of this movie, you have to understand that every character is living in their own universe. They are self-absorbed, needy, and selfish. The only way the monotonous conversations make any sense is that nobody is listening to each other. Perhaps for a split second before they launch into their polemics about urine soaked rugs, mistaken identity and bowling etiquette.

My mind needs time to digest what I seen.

Judgment: This movie should be watched more than once to understand it fully.

Rating: ***1/2 (with wiggle room)

American History X (1998)

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We’re so hung up on this notion that we have some obligation to help the struggling black man, you know. Cut him some slack until he can overcome these historical injustices. It’s crap. I mean, Christ, Lincoln freed the slaves, like, what? 130 years ago. How long does it take to get your act together?

— Derek Vinyard

It has been years since I have seen Edward Norton’s Oscar nominated role in American History X. I owned this movie on videocassette and played it to death before I had to sell it. It is nice to revisit a movie that has a powerful message to say. It is currently #38 of Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It still resonates with me.

All of the action takes place in a 24-hour period, starting with an incident with Derek’s younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong) turning in a paper on the book, “Mein Kampf.” This action gets him in hot water with his principal, Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks). Sweeney decides to be his history teacher and have Danny write a new paper about his brother getting out of prison that is due the next day.

Norton plays Derek, a former Skinhead that is let out of prison after three years for voluntary manslaughter. When he gets out, he wants to usher Danny of the sect that put him in Chino with the hate, brainwashing from the leader of the group, Cameron (Stacy Keach). Some of the other lost youth like Derek’s friend, Seth (Ethan Suplee) and girlfriend (Fairuza Balk) are too far gone to be helped.

Derek’s journey from being second lieutenant in Cameron’s army to having a semblance of a normal life in told in black and white flashbacks. This is director Tony Kaye’s way of expressing Derek’s viewpoint at that time was only in black and white. The life that he wants to have with family, including his mother, Doris (Beverly D’Angelo), sister Davina (Jennifer Lien) is in focus.

The movie is preachy with its message about hate and choosing to not associate with that. This is a good movie will leave an indelible impression on you when you view it.

Judgment: If you want to have some concept of how to stop hate, watch this film.

Rating: ****1/2

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)

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I hate to say this, but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear.

— Dr. Gonzo

This is my first foray into the directing style of Terry Gilliam. I saw the Criterion version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Wow. This movie is twisted mind fuck.

I am not saying that this is a bad movie. It’s not the kind of movie that pulls me in.

On a road trip to Las Vegas, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benincio del Toro) encounter strange characters and situations as they migrate their way throughout the city of pure fantasy.

Being high on copious amounts of drugs, the duo doesn’t know what is real and what is not.

This movie makes me think what an empty life drug addicts have.

Its very straightforward in its approach. I wasn’t compelled by the movie. Johnny Depp was a little “Jack Sparrow” in this movie with a receding hairline.

Judgment: If you want to see a fantastical film about drug, this film’s for you.

Rating: ***1/2

Happiness (1998)

I’m gonna fuck you so hard, you’ll be coming out of your ears. Fuck you…

— Allen

I watched Todd Solondz’s Happiness last night. People were praising this movie about the subversiveness of suburban life and controversial topics. I was bored out of my mind. I wasn’t as disgusted as I was with Towelhead. This movie is an easier pill to swallow.

The story centers around the Jordan family. It’s an ensemble piece about this particular family trying to find “happiness” in their lives. Some people’s versions of happiness differs from others. It’s weird, because this people are miserable in their lives.

It starts out with Joy (Jane Adams) dumping Andy Kornbluth (Jon Lovitz), because of his looks. It’s ironic that Joy is not exactly a bombshell herself. She is very plain, boring recently turned thirty-year-old woman that has no ambitions in her life. Andy eventually places a curse on her.

The next storyline centers around Joy’s older sister, Trish Maplewood (Cynthia Stevenson) and her psychiatrist husband, Bill (Dylan Baker). They are living in a sexless marriage, where both parties are content with it. Bill develops feelings for his young son, Billy’s (Rufus Read), classmates. He masturbates to teenybopper magazines in the back of his car. He also has fantasies about going on a mass shooting rampage.

A deviation to this subplot is another one involving Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that is obsessed with the last Jordan sister, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle). He wants to have nasty, freaky-deaky sex with her. He searches throughout the phone book to speak to her.

There is also the subplot with the disillusion of the marriage between Lenny and Mona (Ben Gazzara, Louise Lassar), the parents.

Judgment: I would suggest this movie more than Towelhead. It deals with taboo subject matter but it doesn’t donkey punch you with it.

Rating: **1/2

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