My Fave Movies Of 1999 - 01.10.00

I used to write movie reviews on my site way back when it was on Geocities (only about 6 months ago). When I re-designed everything and bought an actual domain name, I kind of threw that part of my site out the window to focus on my music reviews and other writing. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy doing it, but with everything else that I was doing with the site (especially now), I just didn't have time anymore to sit down and write critiques of films as well. That said, I saw a ton of films this year, and I must say that 1999 was quite a good year in terms of quality pictures. Since I couldn't completely give up the film reviews, I present you with a list of my favorite 15 films of 1999. As always, feel free to e-mail me with your comments (good or bad).

1. American Beauty
I know that this one has already made a ton of critics lists and might (hopefully) do really well at the Oscars this year, but there's a reason for it. The plot is fairly simple, but it's the acting of everyone involved in this film that makes it what it is. Kevin Spacey turns in his best performance since Usual Suspects, but everyone else in the film does a remarkable job as well. No special effects (unless you think they had to do something to get that plastic sack to float around like that), just solid acting, cinematography, and characters that you really feel for. In one word, beautiful.

2. Being John Malcovich
When I read about the script for this film some time ago, I wondered both how in the hell it would make it to the screen, and just what Malcovich himself would think of it. Not only did he go for it, but seemed to gleefully parody himself in the process. Spike Jonze proves that he can direct a lot more than just music videos with the stylish, but not over-the-top viewpoint and Charlie Kaufman's script not only shows a razor-sharp sense of humour, but has a lot of great social commentary in it as well. Looking for more from everyone involved in the future.

3. Run Lola Run
In terms of pure excitement, I don't think that there was another movie that I saw this year that had me so pumped while I was watching it. The plot isn't exactly deep, but this film makes up for it with a heaping helping of style, both visually and aurally. Even though it was kind of like an 80 or so minute music video, it could kick the crap out of nearly any Hollywood action movie that's come out in quite some time simply with pure gusto. Not only that, but this time around it was time for the girl to save the guy's ass. Gotta love that.

4. The Matrix
After seeing cool looking trailers for this flick months before its release, I was there on opening night, hoping that the Keanu factor wouldn't drag down a good thing. Fortunately it didn't, and this was one sci-fi action flick that actually worked on all levels, and actually even probably raised the bar for films in the same genre for the future. Critics can try to pick it apart all they want to (quick, name a sci-fi flick with a bulletproof script), but what it comes down to is that this was one of those films that just made you say "cool!" several times while watching it. Plus, it had another tough, sexy female in it. Rawk.

5. Magnolia
What a tangled web we weave. Amongst other things, that's what I was reminded as I watched this film. After seeing Boogie Nights, I knew that P.T. Anderson was a director to watch, and this film showed why. Although it's marathon viewing (well over three hours), there is so much emotion poured out on the screen that by the time the end of the movie rolls around, the conclusion (no matter what some people say, I think it was great) is needed. After the continual build of everything that goes on, it's kind of a release valve both for the characters in the movie, and the audience that is watching. I laughed, I welled-up, and best of all, I cared.

6. Fight Club
A lot of people didn't like this one at all, and it didn't end up fairing too well at the box office, but I thought that it was simply great. David Fincher again stamped in my head that he's one of the best visual stylists out there, and Ed Norton re-afirmed my belief that he's one of the best young actors out there. Brad Pitt was back again in full 12 Monkeys mode, but that's when he's the most fun to watch anyway. The most interesting part to me was that it showed how even the most subversive groups can swell out of control and fall into self parody before they even realize it. Sure, some of the other social commentary was layered on pretty heavily, but it needs to be for some people to hear it (note to self: the one's that needed to hear it still haven't).

7. The Blair Witch Project
When I first read about this film in November of 1998, it scared the crap out of me. At that time, there was only the Haxan website on the web about it and not much else. For nearly a week, I was going crazy trying to figure out whether or not it was a true story or not. Finally, I found out that it wasn't, and joined the mailing list, hoping to see the film get picked up by someone at Sundance so it would get distribution and I'd be able to see it. It did, and the rest is history. I don't care what anybody else says about the film, it got me quite frightened, and it's probably the only time I've ever heard a completely packed theater so quiet. Even if you didn't care for it, this is an important release on so many levels because it proves that so much can be done with a great concept and a lot of heart.

8. The Iron Giant
This is one of those movies that just makes me sad. It wasn't because it I didn't like it, but rather because nobody went to see it. While Pokemon raked in over 100 million at the box office, this one barely scraped by 20 million. This wasn't even a film that only kids could enjoy, either. The story was well-written with a great message, and even though it was animated, the characters were more real than 80% of the films that come out over the course of the year. It's out on video now, so you don't have an excuse. Go see it already.

9. Toy Story 2
That's right. Two animated films in my top 10, but who cares? Like Iron Giant, this is a film that anyone can see and enjoy because even though the characters aren't human, they have more personality than most others on the big screen. Like the original, this one is well written, nicely animated (much better than the first), and has enough interesting points to hold nearly anyones interest. Like the Babe series (don't get me started), it's not just a film for kids, but a good film.

10. Three Kings
This is one of those movies that kind of came out of nowhere for me and totally surprised me. Although a lot of people don't think he can hold his own on the big screen, George Clooney has now been in a very cool flick two years (check last years Out Of Sight as well) in a row and showed considerable charisma. Not only that, but Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and Spike Jonze (he's a double threat, look out!) play their parts just as well and make this a big studio film that doesn't stink it up by seeming like a big studio film. It's smart and funny and has just the right amount of serious bits to work.

11. The Green Mile
I was hoping that this wouldn't end up being The Shawshank Redemption Part 2 (even though I really liked that film) and fortunately it wasn't. With another collaboration between director Frank Darabont and writer Stephen King, this one took on a bit more of a fantastical edge, but didn't manage to feel hokey about it in the process. An all-around great cast and a steady pace made this film feel like one of those old classics in style. Kind of a throwback, but definitely not throw-away.

12. The Sixth Sense
Bruce Willis and little kids usually spells disaster, but this one escaped that formula with a great script and even more solid acting. Between all the great performances this year, I think that the Oscars are going to actually be quite interesting to see the outcome of. One of several smart films this year that proved if smart, scary movies are made, people will go to see them (number 3 at the box office for 1999 says something). A wakeup call to all those out there making follow-ups to I Know What You Did Last Summer.

13. Election
This was another movie that totally threw me for a loop when I went to see it. After a bad marketing campaign and being sponsored by MTV productions, I didn't have a lot of hope for this one, but it ended up being a very sharp, dark comedy about life in high-school and many other things. Matthew Broderick absorbed his role as a bitter teacher and went from being the tormentor (in Ferris Buellers Day Off) to the tormented. Reese Witherspoon was also dead-on in her portrayal of the coniving well-liked student who will stop at nothing, and did I mention that it was really freaking funny?

14. eXistenZ
Nearly everyone I know bagged on this film a great deal, but I personally thought that it was great. Instead of going the traditional sleek route for its cyber-story, David Cronenberg instead took things the opposite direction and made a dark, visceral film that twists and turns, but all makes sense in the end. It's just one of those movies that totally shakes you down and does things differently than you've seen. It will either leave you feeling refreshed or just plain bored and I was the former.

15. Eyes Wide Shut
This was yet another film that you either liked or disliked, and there really wasn't a whole lot in between. Of course, that's how it was for nearly all of Stanley Kubricks films, so that wasn't the real surprise. The real surprise with the film was that after all the brouha about the nude scenes and sex, Kubrick made a film that actually had love at the heart of things. It showed that even the seemingly most perfect couple with perfect kids and a perfect life has problems, and despite all those problems, things can work out if you want them to. Sure, it took 3 hours and several completely bizarre situations to say that, but what else were you expecting from Kubrick anyway?

Despite seeing quite a few movies this year, there were still several that I just didn't get around to for some reason or another (in case you're wondering why they're not on the list). I'll check them out as soon as I can, though, and maybe add an addendum at some point. Those three (and there's probably even more I'm missing right now) were The Straight Story, The Insider, and The Limey.

Finally, before I go, I have to admit that I have a weak spot for films that aren't necessarily good, but I had a good time watching. In fact, I saw 5 films (probably more) that stick out in my mind as what I like to call "guilty pleasures." For the most part, they're either overblown studio offerings, or completely goofy flicks that I just had a good time at (sometimes a combination of both). I've listed them below.

1. Galaxy Quest
I had no hope going into this movie, but it really did surprise the hell out of me. I actually laughed more at this film than I did at nearly any other film I went to this year. A funny concept that actually works.

2. Sleepy Hollow
I've liked Tim Burton for quite some time now, but I knew that this film wouldn't exactly be a deep-thought fest. It delivered what I wanted to, though, and although I tend to favor his work like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, everyone needs to cut loose once in awhile.

3. South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut
Although I've only seen a few episodes of the show (and they were really only funny for a couple minutes before the schtick grew tiresome), the big screen treatment cracked me up many a times. Not only that, but it managed to offend nearly every race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc that any movie possibly could. Everyone needs to be offended once in awhile.

4. Deep Blue Sea
What's that you say? Killer sharks with brains that can outwit humans? L.L. Cool J? Lots of explosions? OK, I'll pay my matinee price and laugh at loud at this unintentionally (most of the time) funny film. Sometimes I need to see a completely throw-away 70 million dollar film just to remind myself why I like the films that I do and this was one of them.

5. The Mummy
Really people, you need to stop taking things so seriously. If you went into this film thinking it was going to be anything other than camp, I'm sorry. Some nice special effects and one scene where a wicker chair is thrown at a person to stop them from running kept me entertained and not drooling on myself too much. It's not brain surgery, just a kick back popcorn film.

And so I'm finally finished. I do feel like I need to add that I felt 1999 was probably the best year in terms of film that I've every been alive to witness. Not only did I see a lot of good films, but there were a lot of others that I saw that were pretty decent as well (Bringing Out The Dead, Dogma, The Talented Mr. Ripley). In any other year, they probably would have made it into the top 15 list, or even the top 10. If 2000 is half that good, I'll be a happy camper.

Oh, and if you're really bored, check out my favorite recordings of the year over in the music review section.