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20 Before. 20 After. 20 Since.
by Jon Schuller

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We seem to be surprised that years apparently fly by with amazing speed, but in actuality, they don't. I think it's just our penchant for counting time and every so often we realize that, no, the years go by as they always have: 1 year at a time. I enjoy recounting how long it's been since a certain memorable film premiered and what's happened in the intervening years. 40 years ago, 1978 was a banner year for movies and several of those became instant classics. Here are the Top 10 grossing films: 1. Grease $159,978,870
2.Superman $134,218,018
3.National Lampoon's Animal House $120,091,123. 4. Every Which Way but Loose $85,196,485
5.Heaven Can Wait $81,640,278
6.Hooper $78,000,000
7.Jaws 2 $77,737,272
8.Revenge of the Pink Panther
9.The Deer Hunter $48,979,328
10.Halloween $47,000,000

awards were given for these movies and their actors. As we see again, the diversity of subjects and plots is there and not just with these few films. Coming Home with Jon Voight and Jane Fonda touched on the post-Vietnam War problems of returning vets. Heaven Can Wait wins Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Picture. A young Gary Busey brings Buddy Holly to life with famous songs and real-life problems. Burt Reynolds pays homage to all of the stuntmen in Hollywood who performed dangerous gags (there's an amazing one in this film) throughout the years; he himself did stunt work as well. Sylvester Stallone's premier film as a director was Paradise Alley, set in the 1940s world of professional wrestling, with a splendid cast. Force 10 from Navarone, premiers in December, 1978, and doesn't come anywhere close to the original, The Guns of Navarone. Some sleepers turn out to be memorable ones:
The Brinks Job with Peter Falk
California Suite with Alan Alda
Midnight Express with Brad Davis
Same Time Next Year with Alan Alda
Superman with Christopher Reeves
An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh

The list of actors' film debuts in 1978 is quite long but the names are all recognizable and many of whom are still working today: Billy Crystal, Liam Neeson, John Malkovich, Michael Keaton and James Remar.

Let's jump ahead 20 years to
1998. An entirely new crop of movies emerges and they are, to be sure, quite different in all ways from their predecessors in 1978. The top grossing films are:
1.Armageddon $553,709,788
2.Saving Private Ryan
3.Godzilla $379,014,294
4.There's Something About Mary
5.A Bug's Life $363,398,565
6.Deep Impact $349,464,664
7.Mulan $304,320,254
8.Dr. Dolittle $294,456,605
9.Shakespeare in Love $289,317,794
10.Lethal Weapon 4 $285,444,603

Awards abound in 1998 and many of these movies broke ground that hadn't been shown before. Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan was brutally honest about World War II and the men who served. Shakespeare in Love captured the Elizabethan Era in so many ways, visually plus dialogue. One of my all-time favorites, Life Is Beautiful, portrayed a peaceful time, then a brutal, time in Italy and how the lives of its people were changed forever. The main music theme is simply marvelous. Wag the Dog exposed the nastier sides of political advertising campaigns. The Blues Brothers 2000, though not
quite up to the 1980 original, had some the best musicians around at the time. Fallen is a detective thriller with supernatural overtones that stars Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, James Gandolfini and Elias Koteas. Everyone knows The Big Lebowski starring Jeff Bridges and a great supporting cast. It's become a cult film with a character called The Dude known around the world. Remaking a classic story and a marvelous 1939 movie starring Louis Hayward, 1998's The Man in the Iron Mask stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gérard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne and Anne Parillaud. It shows us all of the intriques, wealth and dangers of 18th Century France under King Louis XIV.

Here are just a few of the other great movies from 1998: Bulworth, Les Misérables, Armageddon, The Negotiator, Rounders, Ronin (featuring 2 heart-stopping car chases), Pleasantville, The Siege (predicting anti-immigrant responses all-too-familiar today), Patch Adams (one of Robin Williams' best). There are many more, of course.

Here we are in 2018 and new movies are being released every week, some already breaking records and some becoming instant classics. There are so many movies - 40 years old or 20 years old – to revisit and watch, there's barely enough time. But if you're like me, your favorites never become old, stale or boring.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Sitzen machen!

50 Years of Marriage and Movies

The Best Christmas Carol Redux

When Is It Leaving? Where Is It Going?

I'd Forgotten About That Completely

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

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