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Best Movie and TV Show of 1998 227

Online, everybody is a critic, each opinion as good as any other. But geeks love pop culture as much or more as they love technology so you can't-- at least I can't -- let l998 go by without pausing to reflect on the really significant events of the year -- the best movies and TV shows. Here's my shot. Please take yours.

If geeks have anything in common - varying wildly as they do in personality, temperament, class, and degrees of technical obsession - it's likely to be popular culture. Pop culture is their universal language and common interest. Whatever else they might do on a given weekend, Monday usually finds most of them asking one another, online or off, what movie they saw over the weekend and what they thought of it.

Writing for another website, I started an occasional column called "Geek Screens." I got more e-mail about movies and TV shows than any other single subject with the possible exception of Bill Gates. Geeks are obsessive about screens, even the non-digital ones. In the public interest, I started not only writing about certain movies and TV shows but picking the best of the year, in my not-entirely- humble opinion. Then I quickly stood back so everybody else could chime in and offer theirs.

Geeks may champion Linux or prefer to wallow in Windows NT but almost everybody reading this has seen "Saving Private Ryan" and has an opinion about whether it is a cinematic breakthrough or more mush from America's most middle-brow director.

What better way to kick off l999, therefore, than to re-launch "Geek Screens" on /. Remember, the opinions expressed here are my own. They are no better or worse than yours which, I'm sure, you'll quickly offer below.

My pick for best movie of l998: "Happiness" by Todd Solondz. Best TV show: "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

1998 was a tricky year for picking movies. Most of the media hype went to "Private Ryan," which did, in fact, take special effects to an artful new level, bringing us as close to the experience of war as it's possible to get without actually having stormed Omaha Beach ourselves. Still, I was one of those who thought this movie was basically two extraordinary battle sequences; sandwiched in between the "Sands of Iwo Jima." The new standard for war movies seems to be that veterans must certify its accuracy down to the last sickening plop of a bullet through flesh.

But does this really leave enough to the imagination? Maybe war ought to be portrayed in realistically horrifying ways, but Hollywood movies aren't the same thing as documentaries and shouldn't be judged in the same way. They aren't supposed to be literal renderings of human experience. War can be conveyed in lots of different and non-literal ways. For me, one of the most haunting evocations of the insanity of war's insanity was Francis Ford Coppola's astonishing helicopter ballets in "Apocalypse Now," Wagner swelling in the background while gorgeous eruptions of napalm mushroomed from below, the most chilling evocation of Vietnam I've yet seen.

Spielberg is obviously a gifted filmmaker, and "Private Ryan" an amazing movie, but I had the sense he was hiding behind realism, rather than using it to make a great film. Effects are often the heart and soul of his movies, with the notable exception of "Schindler's List," where special effects would have been so tasteless he had no choice but to skip them and make a powerful film about human beings trying to survive hell.

"Happiness" was, for me, a much more daring, complex and powerful film, not only a taboo-breaker but a dare to consider humanity in a different way.

"Happiness" is emblematic of a new kind of brutally unsparing filmaking - critic Roger Ebert grumped recently that this genre ought to be called "geek cinema." Maybe so. Ebert uses the term in a freakish rather than technological way, but there's no doubt that alienation has become a mainstream movie theme.

Solondz made "Welcome To the Dollhouse" a few years ago, a comparatively primitive but already classic look at high school cruelty and the sometimes horrendous trials of adolescence for the individualistic young. He's on his way to becoming the Shakespeare of alienation. And alienation has been, and remains, a recurring geek theme.

"Happiness" tells the story of three sisters, their complex emotional lives,and the even more twisted tales of the people around them. A maniacal parable of despair, disconnection and sexual longing, Solondz did something I would have thought impossible to do in a single film - he makes you want to laugh, cringe, gag and cry, within moments.

American popular culture is riddled with taboos that keep artists and producers from approaching subjects like religion, sex or death. Solondz confront one of the deepest and last taboos: no figure in American life has been demonized as absolutely and relentlessly as the pedophile. Solondz chose to make one of his main characters a sexual predator of children, and while he doesn't come close to dismissing pedophilia or glamorizing, he did portray a pedophile (beautifully played by Dylan Baker) as an agonized human being, rather than a uni-dimensional monster. That we end up caring about him is in itself an amazing accomplishment. For this, Solondz's original distributor, October Films, declined to distribute his film. Fortunately for us, somebody else did.

Beyond that, "Happiness" makes us realize that it's not always possible to say exactly who the freaks are in our society. In "Happiness" we wind up feeling the most contempt for the people who see themselves as the most successful and "normal" and caring the most about people who initially repel and bewilder us.

Unlike "Private Ryan," which always does precisely what we expect, "Happiness" almost never does. It's hard to think of a movie as unnerving and exasperating as this one. Whenever we think a scene is going one way, it lurches in the other direction:

Helen: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you!"

Joy: "But I'm not laughing!"

Mixing the bizarre with the genuinely touching isn't an easy thing for any artist. Solondz pulls it off brilliantly.

Right up there alongside "Happiness" I'd put "Smoke Signals," the hilarious and touching movie from Sherman Alexie (based on stories in his collection, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" about two young Indian men who set out from an Idaho reservation to collect the ashes of one's father. It's another movie about alienation and family, but gentler, funnier, almost whimsical. Also near the top of my list: "Shakespeare In Love," a joyous tribute to the birth of show biz, and "The Truman Show," as biting (and timely) a bit of media criticism as anybody has presented in a long time. Watching the House impeachment hearings a couple of Saturdays ago, I more than half-expected the camera to cut away to a giant control room in the sky, where Ed Harris (the producer in the sky) was whispering into a mouthpiece that Henry Hyde ought to get up and make a speech.

As for television series, any TV show whose basic premise is that high school is the Hellmouth through which demons pass is off to a great start. Our heroine battles vampires, chases demons, fights with Mom, learns to drive, aches for a social life, and fends off bone-headed principals. Maybe it's all the same fight.

"Buffy" (on the WB Tuesdays) is one of the most consistent shows on the tube, offering good writing and acting, very funny writing and dialogue, and a biting, contemporary sensibility.

Number Two, for me: "The X-Files" (Sunday nights on Fox). Although Chris Carter's inventive creation, the first geek drama to become a mainstream TV hit, has wavered in quality over the past two years, it's seemed to steady itself since last Fall. Anybody who wonders why a program becomes a smash by portraying government and authority (and the middle-aged men who represent both) as remote, disconnected and evil, have only to watch the evening news on any given night.

But "The X-Files" isn't nearly as political as it sometimes pretends to be. For all of Mulder and Scully's mumbo-jumbo about strange men smoking cigarettes in dark rooms, or government conspiracies to join forces with aliens, "The X-Files" has come to terms with what it's really about: one of the great (albeit unrequited) love stories of contemporary culture. When all is said and done, it is Mulder's and Scully's unwavering affection for and loyalty to one another that made this show a hit and keeps it one.

Another favorite, and moving up fast: "That 70's Show." (It precedes" The X-Files Sunday nights on Fox. Sandwiched in between the chaotic 60's and the greedy, Yuppie-led 80's, the 70's were the lost decade. The kids on the "70's" show capture that strange time. They're a raffish, geeky, appealing counterpoint to their 90's counterparts, the earnest beautifuls of "Friends."

In these inter-active times, however, we are all critics. Weigh in yourself:

you can e-mail me at

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Best Movie and TV Show of 1998

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  • The movie of the year was cube...I loved it. People that think cool math rules. Reagrdless of how good you are, would like it. Everyone else would also! I highly suggest it. Search if you want more info.
  • by Crow- ( 35 )
    What the hell? Can't you write an article without saying the word "geek" at least 50 times?
  • the rambling about shaving ryan,, i mean saving ryans priv,, wait a second i mean saving private ryan almost maid me lose interest but i think buffy is cute and all but i think simpsons is the champion, it has light political humor and social jokes that are just plain wrong you got to love it
  • Much as I think Jon Katz adds little to no value to Slashdot, I've thus far taken the attitude of live and let live.
    But there now seems to be even less consideration of the international audience that a site like Slashdot caters to. This reads like the Life section of USA Today, with about as much relevance. Is this what Slashdot is now about?
  • This American recently saw a WW2 exhibit from the eyes of Russians. I was amazed (and shocked) at the enormous cost The Great Patriotic War was on the Russian people. I am now MUCH more appreciative of the price of that victory.

    For those that care, Russia's casualties topped 27 million (18 million were civilians!), more than everyone else combined.
  • Generally yes, Stalin was very good at removing his best generals from command and poorly using the men he had. But the fact is that most of those who died were not in the Russian army. Apparently, Hitler had ordered a purge of all Russian towns and villages (ethnic cleansing. hmmm. sounds familiar.). I saw photos of entire cities completely leveled with chimneys being the only exception.
  • by Alan ( 347 )
    Agreed... Katie Holmes can have me anytime :)
  • Christ Carter? I suppose some X-files fans could be considered fanatical enough to worship Chris Carter :P
  • Posted by Charles Bronson:

    I fucking LOVE Dawson's Creek, although nowhere near as much as Felicity. So not only am I a geek, I'm also a bigass loser.
  • Posted by Jeremy Witt:

    Movie: The Star Wars Episode 1 Trailer
    TV: Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast

  • Posted by MrTrick:

    I never thought I'd live to see the day that "Buffy" was referred to on /.

    But I did! Yahoo(.com)!!!

    Good job. This show is getting rave reviews all over the place, and now even on websites like this one. Bravo!

    And if any of you geeks are doubting this show without even watching one episode of it, you're idiots. Yep, idiots. Cause you know why?

    1) This show has one of the greatest casts on television. Sure, there's Buffy, but there's something to like in all the other characters. Willow uses the net to research her enemies, Oz is a brainiac, Xander is the heel of the school (and probably one of the greatest characters on TV), and Cordelia falls for the heel. THE GEEK GETS CORDELIA! How money is that??

    2) The best episode I've seen for any TV show was Buffy's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered". Xander throwing the curse to get back at Cordelia and the backfire of it is just classic. (note: The shot of him walking into the room where it starts at the floor is funny as hell....The s l o w m o t i o n shots of the chicks in the hallway kill me...)

    3) It's campy, but not too much camp that makes you wanna stick your finger down the back of your throat and bring up that pizza you had for lunch (ex. Xena and Hercules. Please I'd watch these if I were a lesbian or a fag, but not otherwise. These shows are the reason people have the +/- Channel buttons on their remotes. Click!) The camp on Buffy is actually probably more wit and good writing than anything....'Cept for that "bending of the rifle" part of the werewolf episode. That was kinda stupid...

    4) Even the supporting cast is great. My friends and I were so pissed that they offed Jenny Calendar. They shoulda done a Dawson's Creek type thing with that with Xander getting a piece of her....and what a piece she is/was.

    5) Joss is the man.

    So give the show a shot. And to all you kids that *are* watching, keep it up.....We can all moan about the Angel parts together, and cheer about the naughty Willow parts together. Remember Naughty Willow the other week? Hells yeah.


  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    Geeks like this geeks do that... blah blah blah. How can you make such a wild set of generalizations about a group? I've never seen private ryan, I never watch tv, and I think pop culture is full of shit and want no part of it. Your lack of taste is exceeded only by your lack of intelligence.
  • Buffy is one of the few remaining reasons to own a TV; that, and the occasional great flick on Turner Classic Movies (Lilies of the Field rescued me from the Merkin Mass Media Xma$$$ doldrums; TCM even devoted a month of Fridays to Bergman flicks - a miracle!) or American Movie Classics.


  • oh no, B5 has a plot and original story. I can't deal with it. Where's my mommy?
  • I love mathematics, go, and hallucinations but PI just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'm just too picky, but there was a flaw with the movie that was just too huge to ignore: the wierdness from the 216-digit number was supposed to stem from the fact that the hasidic numerologist was looking for a 216-character name of god, but the method of summing the hebrew characters of a 216 character word won't produce a 216-digit number. In fact, the resulting number is guaranteed to be very much smaller than 216 digits long. I suppose if I had been stoned I might have fallen prey to their handwaving and might have enjoyed it, but I kept thinking "you dolt, n-digits does not imply n-letters!"

    On the other hand, the spiral on the go board seemed stupid at first. Upon reflection, there was a group of 3 dead stones at the center of the spiral, where infitity lies. At least it was consistent with the infinity=death theme that appeared elsewere in the film.

  • Now that you mention it, I was struck by that line too. It's sad to see something that's ostensibly a tribute to mathematics, but employs no mathematical thought.
  • by Smack ( 977 )
    I have cable, and I don't get it. Who the hell moved it from the common Comedy Central to the uncommon Sci-fi Channel? What percentage of the country even has the ability to view this show anymore???
  • I guess my vote would be for Primary Colors. .

    Tv... hmmm The Simpsons still hangs in there as best (biting social commentary, or is that bite-me social commentary?), followed closely by X-files, and B5. Star Trek reruns on the Sci-fi channel actually rule.
  • I didn't see Dark City until it came out on DVD. So the best Theatre Movie of 1998 was Private Ryan.
    Dark City gets the Video Pick of the Year.

    B5 is heads and talls about Buffy. Not so sure about that strange B5 movie that was on TNT though...

    Oh and Metallica Garage Inc...oh yeah. I played "Am I Evil" and "Blitzkrieg" all day on Christmas.
  • I didn't see Dark City until it came out on DVD. So the best Theatre Movie of 1998 was Private Ryan.
    Dark City gets the Video Pick of the Year.

    B5 is heads and tails about Buffy. Not so sure about that strange B5 movie that was on TNT though...

    Oh and Metallica Garage Inc...oh yeah. I played "Am I Evil" and "Blitzkrieg" all day on Christmas.
  • I liked Avengers too. Unfortunately Insurrection had a bright sunny day look and feel that must have been annoying to the eyes used to dimlit rooms and monitors. They like migranes, ugly aliens, and lots of wires and lots of hoses, and funny green LED lights.

    Oh well. I'm going camping.

    When I see Prince of Egypt I might have to change that vote.

    ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have.
  • Uma did about as good a job as Timothy Dalton as Rhett Butler. As good as can be expected but there is no substitute. The same mannarisms don't look the same on a different body.

    I guess I'm a fan of the old series, and thought the Mother-Father thing was kind of dumb. BTW was that Patrick McKnee that played the invisible guy?

    However I did really like the movie. I wish they continued them.

    Other wishlist

    Remake of the Prisoner
    Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~~ ^~
    ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have.
  • ...doesn't make my stomach wrench and hurl like eating rusty razor blades either. (Dark City? Happiness? PI??!?)
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~~ ^~
    ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have.
  • Continuity across episodes and even seasons is what has made B5 so interesting for me. I have to remember the past. There are hints in shows not resolved until later (weeks or even years) after they're mostly forgotten. Each show does resolve a central issue every time but leaves consitant viewers something to come back for. There is a whole lot of development.
  • Best movie of the year: the Star Wars trilogy.

    With the exception of the militant Trekkers who boycotted them as a matter of principal, everyone on /. went and paid sixteen bux to go see three movies they could rent for $4.50.

    This is beacuse Star Wars is escapism. Technofetishists dig science fiction and fantasy because it can elevate them beyond their world and into a "real life" that actually interests them. By default such a "real life" deals with The Next Big Thing in technologies and science, or magic, which is technology by other means.

    Escapism isn't a bad thing. It's been driving the pace of technical innovation for the past hundred years or so: hard core coders do what they do with visions of Neuromancer and Snowcrash dancing in their heads. Since the technofetishist, as a "geek", lives in a dystopia by default the socio-political ramifications of cyberpunk don't register as much as jacking in to a unified network and cyborg chicks in leather. By the same token, the space program was feuled in america by the fecundity of pulps that doubtlessly influenced NASA engineers when they were young, and also the SF reneisance in the sixties that kept the wonder alive.

    Generation X and its follow on generations of slackers and technofetishists are also driven by escapist literature and film. The penultimate example of the genre is the Star Wars trilogy. It is a fairy-tale, pure and simple, with wizards, damsels in distress, rites of passage, knights errant, and heroic rogues. It is a fast-paced romp through wonder, with charachters that become real to the viewer, and events so poingiant they form a private history shared only with other technofetishists.

    Saving Private Ryan? Happiness? They were good movies, but they didn't epitomize all the hopes and aspirations the geek has for the cinema.

    As for TV shows: Buffy is a soap opera about all the people the average Technofetishist despised in highschool. It is only of interest because it offers a babe-fest for those who just can't stomach Baywatch and need to temper the onslaught of whiny beautiful people with gothic horror. (Gidget horror?)

    For a poingiant, intellectually stimulating and fiercely addictive television series, Babylon 5 has any other TV show beat. No any other genre TV show, but any other show, period. The simpsons, celebrating yet another year of unparraleled post-modern absurdist hilarity, comes in a close second.

    You're the media expert. I shouldn't have to be explaining this to you.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • Saturday Nights, 8:30. SBS are showing two episodes each week. Yeah, it's '99 already, but it hit Australian video stores a few months back, so could kinda qualify :-)

  • It would take too long to really explain why this was one of the best TV shows of '98, so I'll be quick: Complex characters and persistent story-lines.

    And Lucy Lawless really can sing.

  • This is a tricky one, as none of the TV shows I like (Sapphire & Steel, Doctor Who, Blake's 7) have been recorded for some considerable time.

    (Having said that, DW could be considered the best show of -any- year, given that it's about time travel. :)

    Best movie, IMHO, deserves to be Star Trek: Insurrection (a brilliant sci-fi movie in it's own right, and one of the best Star Trek movies I've seen). I'm probably one of the few humans on Earth to like The Avengers movie (although I'd not regard it as part of the series), which I'd argue ranks up there, whatever anyone else thinks.

    IMHO, you need to also ask: What'll be the best TV show/film of 1999? To that, I'll say "Bring Back Doctor Who - PROPERLY, this time - and see!"

  • Each to their own. I'm ok with you not liking it, but to me it was brilliant. People don't have to like the same movies, or appreciate the same details in the same way. In fact, it's inevitable that they won't.

    You know what? I'm glad you have a different opinion - the world would get very boring if everyone agreed with each other all the time.

  • Do it yourself. :)

    I'm working on a project for creating and developing "free" (GPLed) films, drama, etc. (I've mentioned this before, but it deserves repeating. :) To go along with this, I'm writing, and looking for contributions of, GPLed software which will help people to create such works.

    I've got the web pages for the Free Film Project [] over at Geocities at the moment. They're in for some heavy re-writing, just as soon as the net behaves itself & I can connect to Geocities' web-server.

    The way I see it, if nobody is really happy with what is being produced, and the "free software" community can produce commercial-grade tools in a relatively short time, there's no reason why we can't just produce our own stuff. Even existing "independents" do very well at producing good films, but add in the whole "free" philosophy and you should end up with something that'll blow the socks off what's being done commercially now.

  • We drove all over town finding a place to see it, got in fifteen minutes late, and it was worth it.
    Agree on Private Ryan--it was well done, but what was the *point*?
  • Yes, I agree B5 series 5 was ... disappointing except the last episode. But, what do you folks think of "a call to arms". Don't know if it'll not be lacking depth -- less continuity between episodes. Hope it does not degenerate into Star Trek Voyager.
  • I had to laugh at Chris Carter's apparent promotion.

    "E's not the Messiah! E's a very naughty boy!"

  • Gotta agree regarding "Homicide: Life on the Streets". Though, I found the camera work the first season: rough jump cuts, and just-a-bit-too-quick pans, a far better counterpart for the story lines, than the smother stuff that came in the seasons that followed.

    Guess you can only push the masses so far.
  • "a bag of crack bigger than his head"

    Damn that was funny. I laughed so hard that I got those little drops of spit on my monitor that magnify the screen so you can see the pixels.
  • I think most people, including the one writing the above review, get too caught up in the special effects of Saving private Ryan. It would have been a great movie even withough the effects or even if it had tamer battle sequences. Now, I haven't seen "Happiness", but "Saving Private Ryan" is certainly one of the best movies I have ever seen, and you're making a mistake if you think it is a special effects movie or if you think people liked it just for the special effects.

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is definatly awsome. Not only is it brilliantly drawn but it has a thick plot and incredible psychological themes. I love it to death!!!!

    --- I love rei Ayanami
  • Pi should have been mentioned more. I found it fascinating. I think it has to be either number 1 or really really close on my list of favorite movies. Excellent choice.

  • The most moving flick _I_ saw last year was American History X. It wasa damn good thing it was a matinee and I got to walk into the light of day afterwards, otherwise, would have really hit s nasty mood after it.
  • ...goes to the 70's show.

    IT SUCKS!!

  • Well, I remember the 70s myself, and they were a load of rubbish!!!!!!!!! So I'm dreading this particular series over here in the UK (We're actually going to be getting a special UK version with the US producers wacthing over it!!!!), because you can be pretty sure it's going be the usual fantasy-based "Oh the 70's were really hip and stuff weren't they?!?!?!" type nonsense written by people who weren't old enough to remmeber that it was really a load of rubbish, and just rely on some Pulp or Oasis video for 70s fashions or whatever!!!! It's going to be like "Velvet Goldmine" only worse!!!!!! And even worse than that, it's going to be on ITV!!!!! As everyone knows, the phrase "ITV situation comedy" is a contradiction in terms!!! And remember the last time ITV tried importing a US comedy over here?!?!?! Any remember "The Brighton Belles"?!?!? (A remake of "The Golden Girls", believe it or not!!!!!!) Exactly!!!!

    So there!!!!

  • Now I will have to ask you step outside!!!!!!!!!!

    This sort of "Oh, it'll teach our kids to speak funny" bollox happened early on in the UK as well, and it's been proved completely wrong, as it's been demonstrated to help it's target audience (2-3 year olds) learn how to talk!!!!!!! The script is actually written by a qualified linguist, believe it or not!!!! There's a really helpful page [] by the Beeb with all the info....

    As for "stoned teenagers", that's just because the UK seems to be really great at making really wierd childrens programs that people seem to read lots of differe nt meanings [] into!!!!! (eg the Magic Roundabout, Button Moon, Captain Pugwash, etc.) In terms of content, the prog is actually pretty similar to the 1970s pre-school kids show Playschool, and that was considered the epitome of education TV in the UK!!!!!!!

    Old Fart!

  • Boy, everyone on here keeps talking about this movie, yet I haven't seen it anywhere in the theaters around here. I guess our theaters were too hooked for 4 months on titanic that they passed it by. does anyone know if it is out on video yet?
  • I agree totally on the pick of VH1's Behind the Music, it's actually getting me to watch again. I wouldn't go with South Park as a selection though. It has some good points, but it definitely wouldn't be in my top 10. And for Best album of the year.. Metallica's Garage Inc wouldn't be one of my selections. Mabye it's because I already had most of the songs from their previous Garage CDs.
  • Law and order remains as one of the best TV shows to watch, IMHO. The characters develop throughout the series, but the arch of the story isn't as solid as B5 where you need to have watched almost every episode. A&E gets Kudos for playing the old episodes too.
  • by Troy ( 3118 )
    It's hard to pick the best TV show of the year, since I only watch three or four, and skip everything else.

    Despite my best efforts, Buffy certainly has won me over. Believe it or not, I rate it alongside B5. While the plot isn't as strongly arced as B5's, there is a good flow from episode to episode and you get the feeling of "something more" than the immediate plot unfolding before you...and the acting and writing it great. I find lots of similarities between the two, though I can see how one would be turned off by Buffy's premise.

    I've also become a huge fan of Ally McBeal, and the old mainstay, Simpsons, which is making me wonder if the series will ever end. It just seems to never get old.

    I'm also a fan of MTV's Real World, which also won me over despite my efforts. The premise of simply throwing people into a house and watching them interact is great, and it really does a good job of reflecting "normal" young adults in our culture.

    As far as films, I'm torn. Looking back through 12 months of haze, the two films that stand out most in my mind is Prince of Egypt, and Pleasantville. The Truman Show certainly was interesting, and proved to me that Jim Carrey is a legit actor, but it just didn't have any depth.

    Okay, so that's a little more than two cents. :-)
  • While there wasn't many movies that sounded enticing enough to drag my ass to a theater, my vote goes to The Mask of Zorro. A simple, fun, action film - truly a lost art to Hollywood these days.

    As for best television show, it's gotta be South Park. Honorable mention goes to VH1's Behind the Music series for being able to hook me into watching biographies of musical entertainers I otherwise didn't care about (not to say that I do now, but I couldn't resist watching the show whenever it was on).

    And for best album of the year? Metallica's Garage, Inc.. It's been damn near impossible to get either CD out of my player.
  • Does Mr. Rollins do VO's for all the shows?

    No, it's different for different groups. For example, Steven Tyler did the narration for Led Zeppelin. Was that William Burroughs who did The Who?
  • There are six Americans for every (little) Englander; Taco is American and the servers are located in America. What were you expecting, BBC News []?

    It never promised every article to be relevant to you personally. I guess they didn't know how important you were.

    a) If you don't like it, make a better one. If you can't make a better one, do you have any kind of right to be moaning in the first place?
    b) You don't have to read articles you find uninteresting.

    thus far taken the attitude of live and let live ... can we expect to see you on top of a water tower with a rifle now?
  • I have cable, and I don't get it. Who the hell moved it from the common Comedy Central to the uncommon Sci-fi Channel? What percentage of the country even has the ability to view this show anymore???

    Damm near 100% (assuming you mean the USA). Check out DishNetwork (, or USSB/DirectTV, or one of the other Satalite TV services. Now that the FCC has (IMHO, illegally) invalidated even more private contracts, not only can homeowners slip out of restrictave covenents and put up dishes, so can renters! Even if the owner (or covenent) says you can't. The FCC has voided it.

    As to whether it's worth the money or not, well that depends on how much your local cable pusdomonopoly sucks, and how expensiave they are, and whate you manage to do to recieve the "broadcast networks". For me it's a big step up from cable. YMMV

  • I just started watching B5 a few monts ago... I'm so mad I didn't start watching it 5 years ago :(. I don't watch much TV, but that is one show I try to never miss. Is there going to be a new season? The thing I like most about it is that it has a kick ass continuing story line. I like this style of show a lot more than those that have a small story in each episode. B5 has an over arching very good story line and mini story lines in bettween. It's funny/exiting/action packed/cool/etc/etc :).

    As for best movie I don't know what to pick. But B5 is the best show by far. In second I pick the Simpsons once again :).

  • On Buffy, that is. But you must not forget mst3k. It is as relevant today as it has ever been.
  • Goes to B5 of course...
  • Drew Carey Show, hands down. Everyone else is wrong. They gave Joe Walsh a job and he wrote "Funk 49". End of Story.

    Best movie? Hmm... George Romero's "The Flaming Death of Ally McBeal"


    Citizen Kane.

  • B5 is the best thing to happen to TV since power switches. But only if you've watched the whole series in order. I started with a couple in season 3 and 4, and they made no sense at all, JMS's hopes to the contrary. Then I watched starting with The Gathering and moving on through s4 (everything except ep. 10 in season 1) and MY GOD it was amazing.

    I can't seem to get hold of season 5. Does anyone know if I can get it on tape?

    Cheers :)
  • You know something's gang agley when practically all you know of TV shows and movies is from satires of them. The satires are better. ( Still pretty bad, though. )
  • Yes yes yes! I don't think it was trippy so much as very well-written live-action anime, or something. I loved it. Very neat and thought-provoking.

    Are we more than the sum of our memories? I'd like to think so. :)
  • "That 90's Show". My worst nightmare. 'Nuff said.
  • B5 was a smash this season...

    However i don't think there have been any real good movies this year. Alot of producers are so caught up in this big "special effects" fad, that they fail to make movies with real content. Its a shame, i hope this sort of thing stops before it gets out of hand. There is nothing wrong with special effects, but if the entire movie is just based on it, then you don't have a movie, you have crap.
    Maybe its me, i hope not....
  • I was rather disappointed with Happiness... It's pretty fucked up. It was an "objective" view of child molesters and perverts. How is this artful? I mean, it was pretty nasty to see a movie where part of it revolved around a middle school child learning how to masturbate and his father fucks his friends when they are over.

    I didn't "care" or "sympathize" for the child molester, I mean, he was a pretty messed up guy who needed help (or a gunshot to the head).

    Why glorify perversity and why call it "art". I could urinate on a block of wood and call it "art".

    I enjoyed welcome to the dollhouse, I found it "daring" but Happiness was just beyond the limits of good taste. I felt like leaving as soon as that 12 year old boy spit up sperm at the breakfast table.

    Who am I to judge someone's *art* though huh?

    If that movie is art, the "Meet The Feebles" (a funny muppet porno movie) is the greatest piece of art ever.

    I just think these movies are degrading to humanity, should we say it's okay to be a pervert and to like children? Is that the message we are trying to get across?
  • I will have to vote on Babylon 5 as the TV show. I mean who has ever stuck us with a 5 year storyline that can wrench your guts and make you laugh all in one show. You get more than you can ever wish for. But as for movies.. I saw nothing really oscar worthy or a 10 in my book. So I will allow the movie to go unanswered!
  • "I can't -- let l998 go by without pausing to reflect on the really significant events of the year " Or let two seconds go by without doing same.
    Let's see, national elections of Senators and representatives, impeachment, MS anti-trust trial and momentum gain of Linux and Open Source, Netscape-AOL merger, et cetera, and "really significant events"--Buffy and that 70's show.

  • Babylon 5 was the best TV show this year. Period. I'm looking forward to Crusade.

    I also like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    The X Files, of course, continues to be a mainstay, esp. with its recent tendency to ruthlessly make fun of itself and all its characters.

    I also agree that That 70's Show is brilliant and inspired, esp. for a sit-com.

    And finally, while I don't generally like cop shows, Homicide: Life on the Streets is one of the best all-around general dramas on TV.

    Chris Wright
  • I noticed in your column that you typed the years 1998 and 1999 with a lowercase 'L' rather than a '1'. The only people I know who still make that mistake are those who learned how to type on old manual typewriters (where the '1' key more often than not didn't exist), and never fully converted over...


  • film of the year by far.
  • Best show: Upright Citizens Brigade

    It's been a long time since America came up with anything even approaching the genius of Monty Python's Flying Circus, but UCB comes close. They're hysterical, smart and completely unafraid to take chances. So what if some episodes fall flat? The successes- the "hole in the sheet" episode, the Little Donny Foundation, "New Brain!"- these make it the best thing on television.

    Best movie: A Bug's Life.
    OK, so it was Disney. And a kids' movie. (I'm 28.) But nothing kept me consistently as entertained in my seat. My jaw hit the floor in the first few seconds and stayed there. Don't be snobs! It was awesome. Happiness was also great, but not nearly as enjoyable an experience.
  • How could anyone forget Homicide?

    In any given week, there are 4 shows I'm guaranteed to watch : The Simpsons, X-Files, ST : DS9 [An excellent show, IMO. And nice to see that Vic Fontaine guy actually being given a purpose with Nog...], and Homicide. Of all those, I look forward to Homicide like nothing else.

    Sadly, this season has been weak -- the departure of Frank and Mikey, and all this who-likes-who stuff has weakened it. The best ep, of course, was the 2-parter where Mikey came back. To see himself go to the brink of redemption and still pull back was possibly the most frustrating thing I've seen on TV in a long time. He's so obviously a good guy deep down, but he's got all these damn psychological roadblocks keeping him from doing the right thing.

    As for not liking most cop shows, well, that's understandable. The rest of them suck. Formulaic crap -- here's a good measure : Do they always get their guy? Do the good guys always win? Are the characters complex and, above all, human? Homicide is unique in that the characters all have this depth to them, a sort of recognizable humanity that seems lacking in most TV shows... Not all their cases are solved -- look at all the names in red on the board! I mean, Adena Watkins' murderer is still loose, and that murder was ~5(?) years ago... Look at The Subway episode, the girlfriend has no idea at the end that her boyfriend just spent the last hour of his life in agony trapped between the train and the platform, she just jogs past all the police cars and ambulances...

    Look at the whole Luther Mahoney shooting -- a cop shoots a glorified drug dealer down in cold blood -- how many shows have the guts to show the real problems that brings up? Sure, good guy shoots bad man, but is it that simple? Hell, I cheered when Mahoney bit it, but I sure as hell learned to regret it. Look at all the problems : Kellerman and Stivers and Lewis are all caught up in the lie of a murder by murder police... All the moral, ethical and legal consequences on what is an unjustified police shooting of a murderer... All the complexity and depth -- no other show reaches this level...

    See what you did? You HAD to get me started, didn't you...
  • B5 is the only show that I can think of on TV that allowed an entire sub-plot about multi-planetary corporations as a direct threat to democracy and individual rights. Bet that gives the advertisers a warm fuzzy. B5, Homicide, and Law & Order do well to allow for the heroes to be "fallen angels"/anti-heroes. The X-Files has lost something, but every once in a while it can still make me go, "BLEEP". And Frontline continues to throw enough stuff in my face that I have to think about doing the right thing.
  • I guess I didnt see "Buffy TVS" this year on tv, must be on WB or something, however That 70's Show [] should be the best TV flick of the Year. Get this, the Dad is _NOT_ an idot. What a fun twist! The "pot smoking" scenes are the best though. On episode they audio taped themselves and played it back after they lost their "high". Its just funny guys! Watch it!
  • I think that my movies go: Saving Private Ryan, Happiness, and American History X. Avery Brooks plays a terrific "authority" character. Edward Norton was awesome. Great story... I left the theatre feeling dirty tho :)
  • The Larry Sanders Show had the best farewell of any show last year, hands down. It will be sadly missed. Biting, irreverent comedy with no laugh track (hello, Sports Night) is something rarely, if ever, done well on a sitcom.

    It's too bad Garry Shandling has decided to write lousy books as Larry Sanders in his spare time.

    Not to slight Babylon 5/Star Trek/etc...them shows just ain't my thing. My apologies.

  • UCB is a little too cute, what with their little outfits and control center. It has its moments, but Mr. Show blows them away.

    "That 70's Show" _is_ a complete waste of time, though. You'd be better off renting "Dazed and Confused" and seeing it once a week. Which isn't saying much.

  • It was better before it got slicker. It used to have _Ned Beatty_ as a regular on the show, for crying out loud. Now we have prettier actors who are starring in a parody of the former HLOTS. The producers are obviously spending more of their time working on Oz and less time making Homicide the refreshingly original show that it was. Now it's "music video" a show, a few jumpy edits here and there, repeat a couple of lines, and you have yourself an episode of Homicide.

    There are exceptions (like last season's "Subway" episode) but, generally, when it isn't ripping itself off HLOTS turns into an "artistic" StrokeFest, much like Oz does when rapes and murders are not occuring. No thanks.

    Bayliss and Munch are still super cool, though.
  • Please say yes.

    I'm praying for you, jd.
  • The flaw was in the schmaltz. The ending was intended to jerk tears out of the viewers, much like the invented scene with Schindler at the end of Schindler's List. Spielberg doesn't know when to let up - the three hours of gut-wrenching cinema which preceded the ending were more than enough on their own to upset most moviegoers. But noooo, Stevie has to bang the stupid movie-going public over the head just to be sure they get it. It was completely shameless and the cloying bg music just made it worse.

    Which brings me to your gripe. The movie was based on the story of American soldiers landing on a particular beach at Normandy. The film then follows these Americans around until the finale. Why must people of other nationalities pop up? This is ridiculousness fed by lingering bitterness over the Americans' late entry to the war. Let it go, dude. If you want a multi-national Normandy movie, make it yourself. Spielberg doesn't have to do things to appease hypersensitive foreigners.

    Inserting token soldiers would NOT have made the movie better. "We're gonna make the krauts pay for Dieppe, eh!"...give me a break.

  • Lots of people are e-mailing me about Babylon 5 -- they like it a lot.
  • I thought I saw a documentary once which said that, as the Germans were pushing towards Moscow, the retreating Russian army was burning the crops and food stocks ahead of them, to prevent the Germans from gaining new supplies. The resulting starvation was responsible for a large percentage of the Russian civilian deaths.

    Of course, Stalin's evil, and questionable military tactics, does not diminish the tremendous sacrifices made by the Russian people in order to defeat Hitler's army. And, to be fair, the German people and footsoldiers were mostly victims as well. It is interesting to ask how much each individual citizen is responsible when their society is gripped by evil. What would you do? Would you recognize it in your own society, and work to defeat it? Is it happening to some degree right now?
  • The first 30 minutes of Private Ryan didn't even phase me. I don't really know if it was because there was so much going on or, I really am that jaded but it really didn't get to me. I liked the realism of the first few seconds where the door drops on the landing craft and just about everybody dies, but the movie as a whole just wasn't all that. I walked out of the movie, everybody else was silent or crying, but it didn't really reach me.

    Having said all that there was one scene in it that reached me like no other has in a good while. When the Panzers role into ville but before you can see them come out of the smoke/haze, and all you get is that low rumbleing and see the ground shake. Man that really got me in the pit of my stomach, way better than any horror movie where I always find myself sitting there totally detached saying to person on screen, "ok here comes the killer and if you weren't so fucking stupid you know it too!"
  • You are the idoit... the dude is just expressing an opinion... if you like to be a hermit, fine... but some of us (a lot actualy) enojoy to do some other things once in a while.. U ever try SEX?.. its not bad, might help ya out in your views of the world

  • well, unless there's a new breed of geeks? Most geeks I've known have been into very alternative forms of entertainment (like coding esp, rockets, HAM radio -- not the everyday run-of-the-mill interests)

    I haven't been in a theatre in like two years -- never liked it much (too big of a gamble that it'd be a waste of time); and I'm usually doing something else while watching one of the few TV shows I like (xena -- guess that is sort of "pop culture")

    but for the most part, when people talk about the latest/greatest "pop" stuff, I'm clueless. I've never even seen ERrrrr, yet I hear people talking about it *in* *depth*.

    hey... guess I'm not a 'geek'! (oh god -- that makes me a NERD =:-0
  • I consider myself a fairly easy going guy, but I couldn't help but notice my finger was hovering over the FLAME button after reading that "geeks love pop culture".

    I asked the nearest slashdotter to me whether he had read this article, he replied "oh I saw that, I didn't read it though, being a geek I'm not that interested in pop culture"

    That sums it up pretty nicely for me.
  • B5 was an awesome show and ill miss it but i think that the best part was that it was hard to figure out the plot arc. I mean the shadow wars ended way before the end of the series(where a regular network would have put it) and the story still had a lot of life left in it afterwards... "A Call to Arms" looked like a really predicable lead in to an new series (i mean geez a 5 year mission to find new life forms, blah, blah blah)
  • My personal favorite TV show (though it is in reruns) is SailorMoon. For those of you that've never seen it, if you're in the US (Possibly other NA countries and parts of Europe? I dunno how far it reaches...), you can currently catch it on the Cartoon Network (at 4PM in EST (GMT -5), check your local listings).

    Just my $.02.

    "In the name of the Moon... I will punish you!" -- Sailor Moon


  • I thought Life Is Beautiful was one of the best movies of the year. It was an italian film, with sub-titles. Don't let that throw you off, the whole film was pretty funny. It was a comedy about the nazi death camps. I thought it was very touching. (yuck did I use the word touching?!?) I saw it over thanksgiving, you might be able to find it some places I would definitely recomend it.

    As far as tv goes I only watch three shows, Simpson's, X-Files (skipping that's lame-ass show, uhh I mean that 70's show) and occasionally Law & Order. Take those in any order.
  • I sat through "Private Ryan" just fine, but as soon as I got outside, I felt felt a wave of sickness ... I broke down in tears 1 block away from the theatre. I thanked the higher powers above that I never had to go to war. I hugged my wife and told how much I loved her. Never has a movie had such a mental impact on me.

    Yes, the special effects had their else can the sheer magnitude of human brutality be portrayed. The FX weren't for show. They were to recreate human experience. I don't believe that they were there to "fill in gaps in the plot", like most techno-fluff" that we've been subjected to (need I name them ??) Otherwise, "Ryan" would have end up just another "yee-haw Wayne" movie.

    Our generation is so desensitized to violence, that most theatre goes didn't even get the point. We see body parts flying, blood-spurting and people hacked-hacked in movies all the time and think nothing of it.....

    When was the last time you were actually MORTIFIED AND DISCUSTED at the sight of someone getting their head blown off ?? This time I WAS.

    There was no avoiding it in "Ryan". You have to realize that millions of men died like that. They didn't just fall over w/ a sigh ... they were killed in some of the most horrific circumstances possible.

    For the first time (in a long while it seem) the technology of special effects were used RIGHT.

    My hats off to the makers of "Ryan" as well as all those unfortunate enough to have had to serve on the front lines in any war.

  • Yeah, the Russians were the big losers of WWII,
    but they weren't at Normandie and that's what
    the film was about. I always have to shake my
    head though at the 6 million jews who died by
    execution. It almost compares to the Russians.

    Kinda explains the Russian penchant for paranoia
    doesnt it?

  • This is the kind of thing geeks need to vote on. Something like:

    Favorite show (in alphabetical order):

      • Babylon 5
      • Buffy
      • Mystery Science Theater 3000
      • Star Trek: Deep Space 9
      • The X-Files
    Etc. etc. and see how the poll results come in. Seems like a good idea to me.
  • MST is the ultimate geek show. In my opinion, nothing else comes close. :) (That is, of course, just an opinion.)

  • It did not really air in '98 but I saq it this year as well. You are correct Evangelion is the best example of heroic literature to come out of the 20th century. Starman, the Golden Age, and the original Animal Man from DC comics were good reads as well as the Madman from Dark Horse (I know it did not start there) were all good examples. However, this series really summed up in my opinion the heroic ideal in 20th century man.

    I know that I am getting awfully deep over a anime series. However, this series was moving, symbolic and powerful in a way that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5 or even the hallowed Star Trek TNG can never be. I know I will get flamed for that but I am a fan of at least Star Trek TNG and for awhile Babylon 5 and I can say that while being VERY entertaining they did not have the beauty or depth of Evangelion or even Ghost in the Shell for another example. Hit me hard guys I can take it. :->

  • > and you might as well
    > see Fear & Loathing too at the same time,
    > then go rent Naked Lunch.

    okay, just gotta insert a personal gripe here
    ( what, on /. ???? ).

    the film version of The Naked Lunch was a miserable, pathetic, watered down piece of crap. now, for your everyday Gen-Xer who's never read any Burroughs, it was probably a decent stoner flick. lots of nice flickering tracers, but...

    personally, i'd love to see a decent adaptation of ANY of the late, great Old Man's work, but (if done truly in the spirit of Willy B) i can't think of any "civilized" country on the planet that wouldn't ban the bugger on the spot.

    i forget the exact date, but do you realize how long The Naked Lunch was banned in the US?

    hehe - is it just me, or does the subject of this thread:

    Happiness? Try Lolita

    ...sound sound kinda sick ;)
  • How bout a /. feature on MST3K?
    Ex Machina "From the Machine" []
  • Holy cripes on toast. What does this have to do with geekness in any way? Pretty much everything outlined in that article is gosh darned NORMAL. And, BLAND. Particularly the TV review.

    Now, this being for "geeks", one might *think* it might touch on some of the exceptional things that have been on the air. Babylon5, for one... as for x-files, well the story's over, so all the series can do now is waffle and have monster of the week episodes. And maybe throw in some "muldar and scully.. will they do it?" subtext. Which is itself quite a shame, since part of the strength (imho) of the show and what set it apart was that it had a male and female character in a relationship that *wasn't* a romantic/sexual one.

    Of course, thanks to the braying of the LCD, that's been washed away as well.

    But, no mention of Babylon 5, no mention of Mr. Show, no mention of Upright Citizens Brigade, no mention of the movie _pi_ (hey. the math might've been screwy, the technology might've been equally silly, but.. well.. umm.. it had math and technology in *some* form. i'd think it would at least get an honorable mention), no mention of ... well, anything *interesting* (with the possible exception of _Happiness_), out of the ordinary, intelligent, or otherwise related to anything "geek".

    And. Um. That 70's Show? A SITCOM! A piece of crap, marketing-demongraphic-spawned retro SITCOM!

    Pop culture isn't the glue that holds together geek society, pop culture is NOISE that steals our time and insures we buy the right things.
  • I have wanted to see Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, but movies aren't as high a priority (40 minute trip to the movie store and 3 y.o. keep my movie watching to QT-fests between Sesame Street). I did see Something about Mary and hoped it would be second. The Farrelly (?) Brothers are the best team since The Coen Brothers (Blood Simple was their first). There is nothing too taboo for them. I heard an interview on NPR and they talked about their writing style... almost as funny as their movies. They take the opposite of the 80s formula... make it look like something bad will happen, but it doesn't.. thats funny! Well these guess setup the bad and let it happen... I am probably one of the few who saw Kingpin and loved it... "Milking the cow" had to be one of the funniest lines I can remember...

    Buffy... well, here I admit my tv viewing habits... This is a great teenage show that keeps it up week after week (unlike Felecity that follows it). The start of this season was flat, but it has picked up... With Angel back, things are interesting. And the Other Slayer in teh mix works... It doesn't try to handle the issues of the early BH90210 (which did one of the best anti-drug shows when Brandon is unknowing dosed by a girlfriend). That hooked me on 20210 early, but not for long... Once Sharon Dougherty left, so did the writing...

    I waited for Katz's new column, and was happy as usual.
  • Am I the only one who disagrees with the assertion that pop culture is the common thread that ties all geeks? I'm pretty sure that one of the defining characteristics of a geek is their disdain for pop culture. Most will pick 2 or 3 favorites out of the handfull of shows already mentioned in this thread... and otherwise ignore TV all together. Someone said in an earlier post that "Hollywood == crap"; I think that sums up the general geek sentiment.

    Having said all that, can we stop talking about geeks now? No offense, Jon Katz... I've enjoyed many of your writings, but on this geek business, I think you're falling into the old media trap of attempting to artificially create and define a sub-culture in a way that is most convenient for writing about. Isn't that what fiction is for? We all know the media loves to rant about pop culture. This looks more like a media rant about pop culture that is being falsely attributed to a particular sub-culture.

  • My vote for best show this year... or at least best new show. It's the only one I make a definite point of watching these days.
  • This is just my opinion, but I didn't like Dark City. The plot was interesting, but I felt the execution and some of the acting was horrible.

    Some parts of the movie were just dumb. The ending comes to mind. I almost bust a gut laughing when "they" put everyone to sleep at the Police Station.

    The theatre I was in started clapping at the end, but it wasn't out of appreciation :)

    I'd say the best movie IMHO was The Truman Show, but it had a couple serious flaws of it's own so don't jump on this...

    Oh well, just my $0.02
  • What, no mention of Celebrity Deathmatch ???

    and no BASEketBall???


    My pics: Fragging Private Ryan (the low-profile sequel)and Discovery Channel

  • OK, I admit this is solely from a techno/sci-fi standpoint.

    Babylon 5 has stood out as my favorite TV show since it started (excluding the pilot which went over like a lead baloon with me). This show had the most amitious view of the future I've ever seen. Too bad this was it's last year. Let's hope for the best with "Crusade" when it starts in '99.

    Deep Impact was horribly overshadowed by Armagedon, but was the clear winner in technical merit. No spinning Russian junk piles in space (that thing made Mir look brand new) or chain gun accessorised moon rovers. It went after the political, social, and personal impacts of such a doomsday event.

  • Definetly a hilarious show. Far better than any other show they have stuck between The Simpsons and The X-Files, even King of the Hill.

    After they moved the X-Files from Friday evening it was all downhill, they sold out. So for months the only good thing on Sundays was the Simpsons.. (Remember when it was on Wed, then Thur, then Wed? hehe). the Simpsons rocks, best show of all time, and it only gets better.

    "Me speak bad english? That's unpossible!"


"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham