Intermission: The Lost Year
It’s taken twenty-nine entries, but I’ve finally reached a point in this countdown I’ve somewhat dread yet suspected might be coming. I’ve reached 1998. A year for which I cannot for the life of me pick a film. Well, let me clarify that: I could probably pick a film just for the sake of picking one. It just wouldn’t be one that’s particularly resonant or meaningful for me. And it’s really my own fault.
You see, I set myself the goal of only one film per director or series. I knew as soon as I did so I was just asking for trouble, and ran into some early but manageable land mines. Taking Alien cost me taking James Cameron’s Aliens for 1986. Star Wars in 1977 knocked The Empire Strikes Back out of the 1980 spot. I managed a bit of a cheat by taking Terry Gillian twice, but he only co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I felt justified taking the more fuller expression of his style and ideas in Brazil. Small sacrifices that didn’t feel to painful at the time.
But I knew as soon as I pegged Raiders of the Lost Ark for 1981 that Saving Private Ryan would be forever closed to me. Now I’ve made my admiration for that film well known on this blog several times in the past. I consider it just as much a national monument as I do a piece of filmmaking. I ranked it as Spielberg’s #1 film when I did my ranking of all his movies. But as a life experience, Raiders won out. And since this list is just as much about the Me as the Cine, it felt like the right pick.
I just thought finding another film for 1998 wouldn’t be so difficult. But I go over the list of films from that year and nothing jumps out at me as definitive. There are films I liked well enough. There are films I have immature grudges against. But nothing that feels like it screams 1998 to me, or heralds some kind of milestone in my personal or cinematic development.
I’m not going to skip the year; I’m too stubborn for that. And there are other years coming where the lack of both retrospective distance and viable candidates are going to present further challenges. It’s just amazing to me that, when there are usually at least a hundred films released each year, I’m having trouble finding one that fits the bill here. Whether that means I’m a snob for whom nothing is good enough or a dilettante who’s missing the obvious remains to be seen.