The Hidden Gems List (1998)
My Hidden Gems list is an in-depth look at all the films I feel are in some way, underseen, underappreciated, or just plain unknown, and they really shouldn’t be that way.
I have a lot of lists of films I really like on this blog. But there are a lot of films out there that I like, so it can be overwhelming for someone who just wants to find a few movies to watch. Plus, I assume that people reading this know enough about movies and have seen enough to where they know what big shit (Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, etc) they need to see. I don’t need to tell you that. Plus, everyone loves when you can find a movie that not a lot of people know about that’s really good that you can now show other people who don’t know about it.
So the idea was to write, in depth, about some movies that I love that I think people need to see. From each year. And what I’m gonna do is go very slowly go through all of them, and give them their time in the spotlight. And then you can read them and maybe find some to go, “All right, I should check that out,” and maybe add them to your Netflix queue.
The idea is to give you things to see (specifically ones I feel most people would ignore, have ignored, or would assume it wasn’t something they need to see, that I think are really good and worthwhile that not enough people know about), and to show some love to more stuff than the big things from each year. We get enough of that. The big stuff is always there, but it’s these ones that fill out a collection.
You can always buy a diamond, but isn’t it more fun to pan a gem from the rest of the dirt? Here are 1998′s gems.
- I was up on this movie from the moment it came out. This was one of those movies I was actually excited for before it came out. And funnily enough, I had no idea that the stars of it were the guys who did South Park. Nor did I know it was directed by the guys who made Airplane! and The Naked Gun. I went completely by trailers and shit. Which is kind of funny. But — I love this movie. I always have. It’s hilarious to me. I guess you can’t really put a price on shit you saw when you were young. But this movie is really funny to me. Plus the game itself is pretty great. I feel like people my age have seen this one, but I don’t know how much it’ll be seen by people younger. So, I’ll put it here.
2. Gods and Monsters
- Fucking terrific movie. I didn’t see this until I did the Oscar Quest. It’s about James Whale, the director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (and The Invisible Man, if we’re counting), and his last days. It’s — riveting. Ian McKellen should have won an Oscar this year, he’s that good. (Forget that Edward Norton stuff — Ian McKellen should have won.) It’s one of those movies that I feel people come across but don’t always see. So it’s that kind of gem. The one where you know it’s there, but you just sort of leave it sitting there because either it’s not sexy enough or you don’t think it’s interesting enough. But trust me — this is one of the best movies of 1998, and I know not enough people have actually seen this one.
3. Meet Joe Black
- It took me about 14 years to see this movie. I knew all about it, but had never seen it. In fact, when it came out, I was so not into movies that I couldn’t tell the difference between this and Good Will Hunting. They were basically the same thing to me for about three years, until I actually started differentiating between movies around high school. But, this movie — I just never had the need to saw it, mostly because, in those formative years, when you’re starting to become yourself, you just seem to form opinions about shit for no reason and they just stand. We all do it. There are certain movies we just have some innate dislike toward because, when we were in middle school, someone liked them, and we didn’t like that person, so we grew to fucking hate the movie, by extension. It’s just one of those things. I never really had a dislike of this movie, but I just never saw it. And then, when I did see it (which — I’m not really sure what got me to actually watch it. It certainly wasn’t any outside influence), I was blown away. It instantly became one of my favorite movies of the year and was one of those movies I wish I had seen sooner so I could have more time to have enjoyed it. This movie is so fucking good. I’m putting it here under the assumption of — if it took me this long to see this movie, there’s no way enough people have actually seen this. Because if there were, there would have been someone who recommended this to me, and not all the other bullshit people tell me I need to see. So I’m gonna recommend it. Highly. This is one of the absolute best films of 1998, and even the decade itself.
4. The Negotiator
- Another one of those fun movies I love. This movie is entertaining as hell. And TNT/TBS used to always play this, so I’d always end up watching it a bunch because it’s so goddamn watchable. It’s a great setup — Samuel L. Jackson is a skilled hostage negotiator who stumbles onto some shit and is framed and stuck in a building himself with hostages. So he has to outsmart the other hostage negotiator (Kevin Spacey) and figure out who’s framing him. It’s terrific. It’s tense, it’s engaging, and you get two great actors going against one another. What more can you ask for in a movie. Entertaining as hell, and more people should see this one if they haven’t.
5. Out of Sight
- This has a nice following, but I feel like it can use a better following. In terms of Elmore Leonard adaptations, there are really like five good ones. The 3:10 to Yuma pair from 1957 and 2007, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty and this. This one is very Soderbergh. You can see Soderbergh all over it. But it’s fun, and clearly sets the tone for those Ocean’s movies he’d start making three years after this. This is the movie that kept Clooney’s career on track after Batman and Robin and pretty much made Jennifer Lopez a movie star. Plus it’s just great. It’s entertaining as shit and terrific all the way through. If by some chance you haven’t seen this, you should go do it right now.
- Seriously one of the best movies of 1998. I imagine a lot of people have seen this, but I don’t care. I love this movie so much I need to make sure everyone sees this movie. It’s so great. Everything about this movie is perfect, and everyone needs to see it. That is all.
- One of those movies I think everyone’s probably seen, but doesn’t really remember as being great. Hell, I tend to forget about this for long stretches of time. This movie is spectacular. Every time I watch it, I’m reminded how good this is. I think this tends to get forgotten more than it ought to, so I think that qualifies it as a hidden gem.
8. A Simple Plan
- I didn’t know anything about this movie until around when I started the Oscar Quest, and even when I started it, I wasn’t expecting much. But it was really engaging, and like I’d heard, Billy Bob Thornton was spectacular in this. I can honestly say, this deserves the title of hidden gem. I know not enough people have seen this, and I know it’s good enough to deserve to be seen by everyone. The setup is — three guys randomly find a downed plane with a lot of money in it. They take the money, figuring no one will know, and plan to not do anything with it for an agreed upon period of time just in case someone comes looking for it. Only things don’t go exactly as planned. Trust me on this one, if you haven’t seen it. It’s really solid. (And, since this might help some of you make up your minds — even though it almost kept me from seeing it — it was directed by Sam Raimi. So there’s that.)
9. Snake Eyes
- One of my favorite movies. I love this. I saw it in theaters. And I’d always watch this when it was on TV. I fucking love this movie. It’s so entertaining. Basically the first act is Cage as this rockstar cop who feels like he owns Atlantic City. He goes around, getting free tables and drinks and shit, ringside seats at a boxing match. And we follow him and a bunch of other people as this big boxing match is about to happen, and basically, by the end of the fight, the champion goes down (to a dude he’s not supposed to be losing to), and the secretary of defense (I believe) is shot and killed. And most of it seems clear cut, but Cage (who had a lot of money riding on the fight), starts to look into it, and slowly uncovers some serious shit going on. It’s — really entertaining. De Palma makes some great stylistic choices with this. Just the scenes at the beginning of everyone interacting — if you did see this and don’t remember it, give it another shot. It’s really great. And if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely see this one, because it’s so goddamn entertaining. This might actually be my favorite Brian De Palma film. (All right, it’s not. That’s probably The Untouchables, but this is up there. I really love this. I can watch this movie at any time, it’s so watchable.)
10. What Dreams May Come
- Oh, this movie. I didn’t know anything about this, really, until my sophomore year of college. I think I’d seen part of it once and remembered the moment of Robin Williams running around the paint or whatever. But I never gave much though to it. Then I took a class on Dante that semester and we were reading “The Inferno” (which I’ve always loved as an idea). And I guess I rediscovered this through that. So I rented it and was watching it with a friend who wanted to see it. And by the end, I was just crying, I loved this movie so much. This movie is so beautiful. Not even just visually — everything about it is just beautiful. To me, this movie is perfect. (I know it has problems, but I love it, so I overlook them for all the great things this movie is regardless.) I’ll always love this movie. And I know not enough people have seen this. I know it. I don’t care if people don’t like it (like most of these hidden gems), I just want more people to see it. Feel about these films however you want, just give them the respect of seeing them. They just need the opportunity to be liked. It’s too easy to watch all the big shit. It’s these films that need the love, and are the ones that we tend to love more, the way people adopt a stray, abandoned puppy and find they love it more than a well-bred show dog they bought and had bred specifically for them. There’s more love there because you want to make up for the love it didn’t get from others. So anyway, I love this movie a lot. In case you want the general idea — Robin Williams is a doctor, and we see him meet his wife and fall in love. And they live this great life, until one day, their kids die in a car accident. And they’re very sad. And then Williams ends up dying in a freak car accident as well. So he wakes up in this version of heaven that’s basically what he wants it to be. He wakes up in one of his wife’s paintings. And at first he’s living in this world of paint. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s beautiful what they did with the visuals. And he learns how to live in this world, and starts to shape it — it’s his own personal paradise. And he starts living there, until he finds out that his wife, after he did, got so melancholy that she killed herself, and will be unable to join him in this place. So he decides to risk everything to go down into Hell to save her and bring her back. It’s so beautiful. And the visuals are beyond breathtaking. (It won the Oscar for Visual Effects this year.) Everyone needs to see this movie. I think there’s a chance some people might be as touched by this movie as I was (and continue to be).
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- Bulworth — I love the setup of this movie. A politician is so disillusioned that he hires a hitman to take him out, and while he’s waiting to be killed, he starts speaking his mind, which gets the people on his side and is when he finally starts to ge somewhere. It’s hilarious. Of course, it’s very 90s, and there’s a bit too much rap and that kind of culture in the movie (mostly it’s awkward watching Warren Beatty do that stuff), but the movie’s hilarious and I don’t know how “out there” this movie is, still. I’m sure people remember it, but what are the odds that people will continue to see this movie? So I’ll keep it out there, to remind people that this movie is hilarious and needs to be seen.
- A Civil Action — I have to say… there was a five year period after Pulp Fiction where Travolta made almost entirely great choices. This year in particular. He made two movies that I can only describe as being very “70s.” They’re not particularly uplifting and they don’t necessarily end happily, either. I love that. This one more so than Primary Colors. I love how this film is structured. How it overshoots the happy ending and shows you what happens past it. It’s terrific. Very, very underrated movie. And a trial movie, and those are always interesting.
- Primary Colors — I never saw this until the Oscar Quest, since I knew it was basically about Clinton, so I figured it wouldn’t be as good, ten years later. But I was wrong. It’s actually a really solid film, and you forget about the Clinton comparisons pretty early, even though it’s really clear Travolta is playing Clinton and Emma Thompson is Hilary. But the film is engaging. It’s about this guy, and how he’ll sacrifice all his integrity and idealism just to get into office. It’s absolutely terrific. And I think people might avoid this nowadays because it seems so clearly about Clinton (while not actually being Clinton). But it’s Mike Nichols, and that should tell you the quality you’re going to get.
- The Thin Red Line — Just in case people don’t know the genius of Terrence Malick and have only seen The Tree of Life. I feel like, of all the Malick films, this is probably the one the least amount of people have seen. Mostly because Badlands and Days of Heaven have become classics and stuff, and… well, this and The New World are the two, probably. But yeah, just in case people haven’t seen this — I’ll leave it here. Better this than something I’m not so passionate about.
- Very Bad Things — I remember seeing this in theater and thinking how fucked up it all was. I remember this being a really dark comedy, with a lot of fucked up shit happening. I honestly haven’t seen this in over a decade, but I remember liking how strange it was, and I am almost 100% sure that no one remembers this movie now, so I felt it was okay to stick over here, just because it does stand out to me as being particularly interesting
that I saw this shit in theaters at age tenin terms of how much of an outlier it is.