Best Documentary Movies of 1998

1.

42 Up

4.1
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Director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born adults after a 7 year wait. The subjects are interviewed as to the changes that have occurred in their lives during the last seven years.
Starring: Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby
Directed by: Michael Apted
Release date: 1998-07-28
2.

The Cruise

4.0
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Affectionate portrait of Timothy "Speed" Levitch, a tour guide for Manhattan's Gray Line double-decker buses.
Starring: Timothy "Speed" Levitch
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Release date: 1998-10-23
3.

The Last Days

4.0
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Five Jewish Hungarians, now U.S. citizens, tell their stories: before March, 1944, when Nazis began to exterminate Hungarian Jews, months in concentration camps, and visiting childhood homes more than 50 years later. An historian, a Sonderkommando, a doctor who experimented on Auschwitz prisoners, and US soldiers who were part of the liberation in April, 1945.
Starring: Bill Basch, Martin Basch, Randolph Braham
Directed by: James Moll
Release date: 1998-10-23
4.

Meeting People Is Easy

3.9
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Meeting People Is Easy takes place during the promotion of Radiohead's 1997 release OK Computer, containing a collage of video clips, sound bites, and dialogue going behind the scenes with the band on their world tour, showing the eventual burn-out of the group as the world tour progresses. The inaugural show of the OK Computer tour began on 22 May 1997 in Barcelona, Spain.
Starring: Thom Yorke, Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Philip Selway
Directed by: Grant Gee
Release date: 1998-01-01
5.

Behind the Planet of the Apes

3.8
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This documentary was shown as part of the American Movie Classics (AMC) cable TV channel's celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of Planet of the Apes (1968). We learn how the original French novel was transformed into the first film.
Starring: Roddy McDowall, Charlton Heston, Richard D. Zanuck, John Chambers, Kim Hunter
Directed by: Kevin Burns, David Comtois
Release date: 1998-09-05
6.

The Fine Art of Separating People from Their Money

3.6
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An examination of the evolution of commercials as an artistic medium, featuring interviews with media luminaries who relate how the in-your-face stylistic conventions of commercials have influenced feature films and the visual arts. A documentary film talking about art and advertising divided in three parts: 1. Crossing Over - from cinema to ads from ads to cinema 2. Humour - How humour affects us in advertising 3. Shock - The way shock is used to sell
Starring: Dennis Hopper, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Dennis Hopper
Directed by: Hermann Vaske
Release date: 1998-01-01
7.

Fun Without Limits

3.4
An afternoon in the biggest fair of Germany.
Directed by: Ulrich Seidl
Release date: 1998-01-01
8.

Kiss The Second Coming

3.4
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For over a quarter century, KISS has shaped the face of popular music and rock culture. The KISS Alive Worldwide tour saw the rebirth of rock's most incredible band. Witness firsthand the amazing story of how after 17 years, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace frehley and Peter Criss's paths finally crossed, reuniting one of rock and roll's biggest success stories ever. This bombastic behind-the-scenes documentary details the events that led up to KISS's record-breaking Alive Worldwide tour of 1996-97. Come witness the story of how Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter reunited and strove to write a new chapter in the history of rock & roll. This is KISS - The Second Coming.
Starring: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Paul Daniel Frehley, Peter Criss, Matt Pinfield
Directed by: Tommy Thayer
Release date: 1998-11-24
9.

American Experience: A Midwife's Tale

3.3
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A docudrama adaptation of Ulrich's Pulitzer-winning book, which was based on thousands of entries in the journal of Martha Ballard, a Maine midwife, in the late 1700's and early 1800's. The movie intercuts between reenactments of Ballard doing her Maine midwifery and related tasks, and Ulrich in her eight years of research on her book; in the end, clear comparisons are made between the work of the two women.
Starring: Kaiulani Lee, Andrew Elvis Miller, J. Smith-Cameron
Directed by: Richard P. Rogers
Release date: 1998-01-19
10.

Divorce Iranian Style

3.3
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DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE unfolds inside an Iranian divorce court, providing a subtle and intimate look at the lives of women in a country stereotypically associated with fanaticism and oppression. Astute and beautifully observed, the film reveals the ingenuity and humour with which Iranian women negotiate the restrictions of their society.
Directed by: Kim Longinotto, Ziba Mir-Hosseini
Release date: 1998-08-01
11.

A Place Called Chiapas

3.3

On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army--made up of impoverished Mayan Indians from the state of Chiapas--took over five towns and 500 ranches in southern Mexico. The government deployed its troops, and at least 145 people died in the ensuing battle. Fighting for indigenous Mexicans to regain control over their lives and the land, the Zapatistas and their charismatic leader, guerilla poet Subcomandante Marcos, began sending their message to the world via the Internet. The result was what THE NEW YORK TIMES called "the world’s first postmodern revolution." Years into the uprising, filmmaker Nettie Wild traveled to the jungle canyons of southern Mexico to film the elusive and fragile life of the rebellion. Her camera effectively and movingly captures the personal stories behind a very public clash of traditional culture and globalization.

Starring: Subcommandante Marcos
Directed by: Nettie Wild
Release date: 1998-02-20
12.

Kurt & Courtney

3.2

After rocker Kurt Cobain's death, ruled a suicide, a film crew arrives in Seattle to make a documentary. Director Nick Broomfield talks to lots of people. Portraits emerge: a shy, slight Kurt, weary of touring, embarrassed by fame, hooked on heroin; an out-going Courtney, dramatic, controlling, moving from groupie to star.

Starring: Nick Broomfield, Dylan Carlson, Kurt Cobain, El Duce, Larry Flynt
Directed by: Nick Broomfield
Release date: 1998-02-27
13.

Brakhage

3.0
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BRAKHAGE explores the depth and breadth of the filmmaker’s genius, the exquisite splendor of his films, his magic personal charm, his aesthetic fellow travelers, and the influence his work has had on generations of other creators. While touching on significant moments in Brakhage’s biography, the film celebrates Brakhage’s visionary genius, and explores the extraordinary artistic possibilities of cinema, a medium mostly known only for its commercial applications in the form of narratives, cartoons, documentaries, and advertising. BRAKHAGE combines excerpts from Brakhage’s films and films of other avant-garde filmmakers (eg, George Kuchar, Jonas Mekas, Willie Varela, Bruce Elder, and others); interviews with Brakhage, his friends, family, colleagues, and critics; archival footage of Brakhage spanning the past thirty-five years; and location shooting in Boulder, Colorado and New York.
Starring: Jerry Aronson, Jane Brakhage, Marilyn Brakhage, Stan Brakhage, P. Adams Sitney
Directed by: Jim Shedden
Release date: 1998-09-17
14.

Strange Parallel

3.0
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Strange Parallel is a documentary/short film revolving around the American singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. The film features interviews with Elliott himself as well as fans, friends and other acquaintances of his (including Gus Van Sant, Larry Crane, and the members of Quasi). The film also includes snippets of Elliott Smith performing as well as footage of him recording an unreleased song, "Brand New Game". The film sometimes moves out of reality, with acted-out, metaphorical sequences that involve Elliott considering purchasing a mechanical hand (a "robot hand" ) to improve his music.
Starring: Elliott Smith, Gus Van Sant
Directed by: Steve Hanft
Release date: 1998-10-14
15.

The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist

3.0
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A behind-the-scenes retrospective made for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the classic horror film, The Exorcist. Includes interviews with Linda Blair and the other stars of the film, along with commentary from the director and writer on some of the deeper meanings behind the elements they used to terrify their audiences, and previously unreleased footage including make-up tests and deleted scenes.
Starring: Mark Kermode, Ellen Burstyn, William O'Malley, William Friedkin, Max von Sydow
Directed by: Mark Kermode
Release date: 1998-01-01
16.

Frank Lloyd Wright

3.0
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This film illustrates the life and work of the American architect. We follow the development of his work and his turbulent family life amidst scandal and tragedy. Despite all the difficulties of his personal life, Wright rises above all and beats all the odds to design some of the most famous buildings using brilliant and distinctively innovative designs that only his genius could create.
Release date: 1998-01-23
17.

The Decline of Western Civilization Part III

3.0
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The Decline of Western Civilization III is a 1998 documentary film directed by Penelope Spheeris that chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers. It is the third film of a trilogy by Spheeris depicting life in Los Angeles at various points in time. The first film dealt with the punk rock scene during 1980-1981. The second film covers the Los Angeles heavy metal movement of 1986-1988. The film involves hardcore street punks called "gutter punks" who take the anti-establishment message with extreme seriousness, and tune out society completely. Spheeris talks to homeless teenagers living on the street or squatting in abandoned buildings in Los Angeles, as well as an unstable mother, Los Angeles Police Department officer Gary Fredo, and a paralyzed youth living on a disability.
Starring: Rick Wilder, Flea, Stephen Chambers, Gary Fredo
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris
Release date: 1998-01-01
18.

Jackie Chan: My Story

2.8
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Jackie Chan is one of the world's biggest action stars, famed for his wacky sense of humor, remarkable martial arts techniques, and willingness to perform incredible stunts without the use of doubles -- or a net. This video takes a personal look at Chan as he works on screen projects in Hollywood and Beijing and candidly discusses his life and work.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Bruce Willis
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Release date: 1998-07-17
19.

Jefftowne

2.7
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jefftowne is a 1998 documentary shot and directed by Daniel Kraus and distributed by Troma Entertainment. It chronicles the life of Jeff Towne, a 40 year old Iowa City resident who suffers from Downs Syndrome, obesity, alcoholism, and circulation problems. Towne also enjoys pornography and lives with his 90-year-old adoptive grandmother.
Starring: Marcus Dunstan, Hulk Hogan, Daniel Kraus, Genevieve Lutgen, William Shatner
Directed by: Daniel Kraus
Release date: 1998-01-01
20.

Beefcake

2.7
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Thom Fitzgerald's (The Hanging Garden) provocative blending of fiction and documentary, tells the story of Bob Mizer, the pioneering founder of the Athletic Model Guild, a company which produced still photographs and short films extolling the beauty and chiseled physiques of men. The fiction story follows photographer and enterprising businessman Mizer, who teamed up with his mother in 1945 to film his beefy star-wannabes around his sun-drenched pool. It is here that Neil, a naive, right-off-the-bus teen is lured into using his handsome looks to become a model. The wide-eyed Neil soon learns about the world of sex and prostitution. But a police raid and ensuing criminal trial soon threaten both of the men's worlds. Interspersed with the story are rare archival footage and interviews with former co-workers, customers and models.
Starring: Daniel MacIvor, Carroll Godsman, Joe Dallesandro
Directed by: Thom Fitzgerald
Release date: 1998-09-01

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