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Dear Valued Subscribers,

Disposable income. We all have it, although some have more than others. Some spend theirs on scotch, some on video games, and some on the girls at Deja Vu. Well in addition to some on the former and a lot on the latter, I spend my money on movies. Call me crazy, but I like going to the movies. I like drinking abnormally high quantities of soda in a two-hour period (because the signs tell me that 88 ounces give me my "Best Value"), I love eating over-priced, tooth-annihilating candy, and I really love the fact that the Internet will never be able to replicate the feeling of exhilaration you get while sitting in the dark with hundreds of other people collectively screaming or crying or clenching their jaws. When the house lights go down and the trailers begin to flicker on the screen, I'm a happy camper. Good movies, bad movies -- it doesn't really matter. Horror, action, chick flick, buddy movie -- these are just plot devices, secondary to the experience itself. But the point here is not to ramble on and on about the experience itself, it's to honor (and stone cold dis) the Best and Worst from Fiscal '98. So without further ado, I humbly present the 1999 Grahammy Film Awards...

Top Ten Films of 1998

Honorable Mentions: "Rushmore" (Wes Anderson), "Saving Private Ryan" (Steven Spielberg), "Two Girls And A Guy" (James Toback)

10) "
Can't Hardly Wait" (James Elfont & Deborah Kaplan) - Easily the best on-screen party since "Sixteen Candles." While no one character is quite as classic as Long Duck Dong, it is impossible not to want to watch this movie over and over again. It doesn't break any new ground in the teen film oeuvre, but it doesn't need to. It addresses all the requisite themes (nerd/jock bonding, beer as a social equalizer, nerds planning revenge with blueprints, etc.) with passion and humor. Good show.

9) "
A Simple Plan" (Sam Raimi) - Steering smartly away from Coen territory, Sam Raimi's first character driven effort is marvelous. What would you do if you found $4.4 million in a gymbag out in the middle of the woods? After seeing this film, you know damn well the answer is to leave it there.

8) "
High Art" (Lisa Cholodenko) - Ally Sheedy has been critically lauded for her comeback performance in this film, but the real star of the show is Patricia Clarkson as Gretel, a German smack addicted, ex-movie star girlfriend of Ally Sheedy's character. The film draws you into the seedy underbelly of the New York art scene convincingly and ruthlessly, with no holds barred. Asking (and not necessarily answering) difficult questions about ambition and addiction, love and commitment, this film takes you down low and leaves you there.

7) "
Shakespeare In Love" (John Madden) - Made me go down to my basement and pull out my old college Riverside. Gwyneth Paltrow is elegance personified in this, her first worthwhile starring performance. The most abysmal beginning in recent movie history is overcome by stellar peformances by the ensemble cast, and as the plot delightfully accelerates into the climactic Opening Night performance of "Romeo & Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter", you'll find yourself smiling and laughing and best of all, feeling intelligent.

6) "
Happiness" (Todd Solondz) - This guy obviously forgot to use his Brita pitcher when drinking the Jersey tap water. The crazed genius behind "Welcome To The Dollhouse" is back and badder than ever -- desperation is the currency of choice in his latest film. Let's see, we've got an incredibly sympathetic pedophile, a masturbating phone stalker, an odorous Russian adulterer/kleptomaniac/taxi driving lothario, a mammoth female murderer (or is it murderess?), and we're just getting started. This movie makes you feel like complete and total shit. Brilliant.

5) "
Mr. Jealousy" (Noah Baumbach) - Part of the reason I give this film so many props is it is an unofficial sequel to "Kicking and Screaming", the BEST comedy of the `90s. Some of the same principles return (Eric Stoltz, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott) and give typically brilliant performances. Stoltz and Annabella Sciorra have surprisingly strong chemistry in this charming tale of love and the inherent jealousy it causes in the `90s. Extra props for commissioning Luna to write the score.

4) "
Buffalo 66" (Vincent Gallo) - In a year where lame and predictable films were the standard, out of nowhere came Vincent Gallo and "Buffalo 66". Gallo pulls no punches. Sure, he's cocky and self-centered and tends to accuse people of being gay far too much, but c'mon. He's got integrity (he refused to do a Nike commercial due to problems with the script!), he's got 9,000 videotapes (his favorite films are Robby Benson made-for-TV movies!!), and he's wrote, produced, directed, scored and starred in this movie (and he shot it on reversal stock film that he wasn't even sure would develop!!!). Aside from the fact that Gallo rules, his film is simply incredible. Pathos doesn't begin to describe the life of Billy Brown. To say much more would ruin the experience. Stop reading this email and rent this NOW!

3) "
Zero Effect" (Jake Kasdan) - The most overlooked film of 1998. It opened in January to about $2 million in box office receipts, and died a quick death. People missed a script that was fresh, funny, smart, and original. Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) and his partner Arlo (Ben Stiller) are a `90s version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, respectively. Only now, Zero is, on top of being the most brilliant detective in the world, a recluse millionaire speed-freak who only eats tuna direct from the can and drinks Tab. His case? "The Man Who Lost His Keys". Zero travels to Portland to recover the man's keys (what sounds quite simple is actually delightfully complex). This film is acted, paced, and directed with pitch-perfect excellence by rookie director Kasdan (son of Larry Kasdan, of "Big Chill" and "Grand Canyon" fame). This one of the better potential movie franchises out there, and it's tragic that another film will never see the light of day.

2) "
Out of Sight" (Steven Soderbergh) - After Steven Soderbergh won the Palmes D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for "Sex, Lies, And Videotape", he was quoted as saying "It's all downhill from here." He was wrong. This movie is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Soderbergh's schtick has never been to compromise style for substance, but what makes this movie work is the delicate balance he achieves between the two. George Clooney will never be better, and Jennifer Lopez just shines. Great character performances from indy heavy hitters such as Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener, Ving Rhames, Dennis Farina, and Don Cheadle add to the mix, but Clooney and Lopez are the irresistable forces that keep you enthralled in this smoldering, seductive game of cops & robbers. Featuring a Tarantino-esque timeline structure, the plot "Out of Sight" slowly unravels, building characters, angles, and romantic tensions with the most subtle ease. Hopefully the team of Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott B. Frank will pair again and bring more Elmore Leonard tales to the big screen.

1) "
The Thin Red Line" (Terrence Malick) - Everyone has heard the term "Ahead Of Their Time." I think Terrence Malick is the complete opposite, but in the best possible sense. He thinks and writes and directs in some sort of time warp -- that time warp being the hey-day of American film, the late 1970s. While the best known directors of that day have slipped from top of their respective games (Coppola's "Jack", Spielberg's "Lost World", Scorsese's "Kundun", anyone remember Bogdanovich's "Storyville"???), Malick came back in 1998 better than ever. "The Thin Red Line" is an opus that was destined not to be appreciated, or probably even understood. Malick's story, loosely based on the James Jones novel of the same name, is anything but a war movie in the ilk of the vastly overrated "Saving Private Ryan." Malick's film is a meditation on heaven and earth, nature and man, war and peace. If this sounds unbelievably pretentious, it just may be. But it is undenaibley the most unique and thought-provoking and thoughted film in years. The cinematography is unparalleled, the battle scenes ominous and intense, the score both moody and tense, the acting is superb. In particular, Jim Caviezel's Private Witt and Sean Penn's Seargeant Welsh stand out, but the real star of the film is the mood and thoughts Malick's direction conjures up. Every shot was meticulously constructed, as if Malick had spent the last twenty years envisioning every shot. Where "Saving Private Ryan" left the viewer shell-shocked (initially covering up the heavily cliched tactics of the film), "The Thin Red Line" leaves you physically wrought and mentally drained. Best ever.

Yes, yes...I see where you are going with this. I would LOVE to read more