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Best of the Year: 1999

First off, I haven't seen every movie made last year. There's only so much time for going to the movies and there were over 6000 movies released in 1999. Some of you sent me your best of lists (which were great to see) and some of your bests I haven't caught yet, (Dogma for example) but hopefully I will catch on video. So they won't appear here but may deserve a place.
There are many films I've read on other people's top 10 list that I honestly have no desire to see (Man on the Moon, Boys Don't Cry) Maybe late one night, bored out of my skull, I may pick one of these up at the video store and be pleasantly surprised, but until then they are also not making my list.
Finally, I didn't want to make a number 1 to 10 list, like this is the best of them all, cause each are trying to do different things. So the list appears in alphabetical order. But these are all films that I think you will enjoy if you haven't already! So without further ado...

American Beauty: I wanted to put this list in alphabetical order and not have to list the movies as a 1 to 10 list. It just so happens that my favorite film of the year is the first alphabetically. I'm not quite sure why, but I just loved this movie. One of those films that just spoke to me on a personal level. It's a comedy, drama and murder movie. The story is a simple examination of the American Dream as it looks at a suburban family. It doesn't sound too exciting does it. But I never really knew what was coming next which is a huge surprise with a story like this. The acting was amazing! Kevin Spacey Rocks in everything he's ever done. As his character says in the film "I Rule!" (classic line that you have to see) The humor in it is right on! I'm a little concerned to suggest this film to others cause I'm not sure if people will have the same reaction as it had on me, but this was it for me this year! (Since, I orginally wrote this, this film went on to win the Golden Globe for best Drama Movie. I must not be the only one who had the same reaction!)

Being John Malkovich: This was another one of those movie that was a complete surprise from begining to end. It's kind of an adult Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka with some adult situations. The film is about a young, married puppeteer who has to find a job to make a little more money. At his new office (that you have to see to believe) he finds a hole behind a file cabinet that leads to the inside of John Malkovich's head. For real, he can now see out of his eyes. This leads to questions of who we are, who we want to be, who other people really are? Quite interesting and completly orginal!

The Blair Witch Project: First off you have to take this movie for what it is and don't listen to the hype. I heard people come out of theaters hating this because every news program was telling them it was great. Well, with that attitude it's not gonna cut it. But if you realize this was a movie made for 30 thousand dollars and go only with the premise that this is actual film footage of 3 students it was quite chilling and like nothing seen on the big screen before. This isn't a great film by any means, but it was a great film experience! I was even one of those people who got motion sickness from the shaking camera. I don't plan on seeing this again any time soon but the last few images stayed with me for days.

Go: If you haven't seen this one pick it up on video! (or ask me for my copy) It's been called Pulp Fiction Jr. because it has a similiar non linear story. It follows a group of young (talented) kids in different storylines and you become transfixed as the stories begin to weave together till the finish. One of those big surprise movies that when your done you have a smile on your face and say, "That was a really good movie"

Magnolia: This is a very strange movie for me. I had heard different things from different people about this one and wasn't sure what to think. It was made by the same director who had made "Boogie Nights" and I didn't really care for that film. I ended up going late one night by myself to check it out. Afterwards, I intially thought, it was good but not deserving of the praise I had seen for it. But as days went by and I couldn't get it out of my mind, and things started to fit together, I am amazed! First, it's very difficult to explain this film. It has 8 different stories going on at the same time. Each are related in some way to each other and interconnact throughout the film. It was quite long (over 3 hours) and I can see people having a problem with its length. I tried to think which of the stories could be taken out to shorten it, but as I dropped one or the other, the whole film began to fall apart. The ideas of the film stems from chaos theory and how all things and action effect all other things. (The idea that a butterfly flapping it's wings can change the weather patterns on the other side of the globe) It also had many religious ideas to it; love, forgiveness, sins, etc. One of the things I found interesting was the Bible passage that was nicely hidden throughout the picture (look for the number 8.2 throughout the film). I looked it up when I got home and it deals with a major turning point near the end of the film. I don't want to give it away, but it freaked me out. Let's just say God was a key character of the film as well. But as you read this, don't think this is a religious picture either. To give you an idea, Tom Cruise is a sex guru teaching his male audience to respect the cock and tame the pussy. I'm still not sure if it will reach classic status with me, but compared with most fluff that comes out of Hollywood this is a wonderful puzzle for your mind. I look forward to catching it again on video.

The Matrix: It's hard to believe that this movie came out this year. It kind of seems imbedded into my movie conciousness already. It pushed the limits of Sci-Fi, special effects and action sequences to an extreme and incorporated it all around a great Sci-Fi story that gave bits and pieces of the mystery nice and slow. It will be talked about for years. One of the best!!!!

Run Lola Run: Here's a movie that some of you may not have heard of yet (cause it's from Germany) but it's at the video store now in both subtitle and dubbed, and it's a must see! It's one of those films that truely is a product of the 90's. The movie begins with Lola receiving a phone call from her boyfriend. He has just misplaced $100,000 of his mob bosses money. If he doesn't give it to him in 20 minutes he is going to die. Off runs Lola! The reason it is a product of the 90's is many; a pounding techno soundtrack, animation intertwined with live action, and the idea of a video game in the film. Cause as soon as the 20 minutes are up, if Lola doesn't like the outcome... she starts over again (in video game terms...hit the restart button, or get another life) It's quite fascinating seeing how a few seconds of any given day could change the whole outcome of your entire life. This includes bystanders Lola passes. The movie shows quick camera pictures of what happens in these otherwise non-important characters. Like few things you've seen before and very fun!

The Sixth Sense: This film is hanging on the fence between the best of list and the runner-up list. I truly enjoyed this film, but I don't think it's gonna have a huge effect on film at all. The story centers around a small boy who can supposedly see dead people. The little kid, Haley Joel Osment, really helps sell this movie and he will get a nomination for supporting actor if not win it! The film has some fun little scares in it and it's interesting to see this one next to the Blair Witch. Both are good horror films from completly different directions. The ending twist is excellent and if you haven't seen it yet don't listen to anyone talk about it.

Toy Story 2: There is nothing new here in the way of animation that we didn't see in the first movie, but the story is so wonderful. Everything flows so nicely, the drama, humor, suspense, morals etc. It was one of those films that you have a smile on your face the entire time you watch it flicker before your eyes!

Runner-Ups:

The next category are the runner-up movies. These are films that were a complete pleasure to watch. Mindless entertainment that takes you away from your problems for 90 minutes. These are the types of films that may get nominated for a special effects oscar or costumes, but that is the best they can hope for. But in 5 years down the road, when your flipping through your 600 channels on your high definition, flat, widescreen TV, hanging on your wall, you may stop and not have to flip any farther!

American Pie: A movie in the likes of Something about Mary and Porky's. Some of the jokes push the gross factor to an extreme but it has some great laughs on the trials of 4 boys trying to lose their virginity. Probably the funniest movie of the year (in a year with very few funny movies)

Cruel Intentions/10 Things I Hate About You: These are both similiar films, both were taken from classic literature, both have very good young casts and both are enjoyable each in their own way.

Election: One of the best high school films in a long time. Reese Witherspoon is just amazing in this film, especially if you view it with Cruel Intentions (from above) which she's also in. It's also fun to see Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller) as the teacher role. Some side stories were unneccessary, but the satire is great.

The Iron Giant: A great animated film with a totally unquie style all it's own. There are no Disney showtunes to wear it down and contains a great story for both young and old.

The Mummy: A "B" movie of an Indiana Jones wanna-be, but even a wanna-be can be very fun. Great special effects and good humor.

Notting Hill: This isn't Pretty Woman, but an enjoyable movie. A great supporting cast helps out a lot. But be forwarned, if you hate the cute and quirkiness of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, stay away!!!!

The Red Violin: This is my period peice of the year and one of the great object movies of all time. (what I mean by this is the main character of the film is really an inanimate object) The film follows the 300 year history of a violin, from its making in Italy, through France, England, China and present day America. Samuel L. Jackson stars as he tries to figure out the mystery behind the instrument. A couple things to look out for if your interesting in viewing; Don't rent this if your in the mood for an action or comedy, it is slow and is contains all the orginal languages of each country so there are lots of subtitles! It is also filled with a beautiful classic score, which might drive some poeple crazy.

Sleepy Hollow: Another "B" movie, but again very enjoyable. The visual atmosphere and characters Tim Burton creates are always wonderful!

Best Genre of the Year:

This is a new category, but there was one genre that just pushed itself into new areas so much this year I had to include it. And that is Animation. Starting with "Prince of Egypt" which came out the end of 98, and including "Tarzan", "The Iron Giant", "South Park", "Princess Monokee" and "Toy Story 2". One or more of these films appeared on almost every top 10 list of the year and studios have finally figured out that animation isn't just for kids. Except for one huge strike (Pokomon: the Movie) this genre hit every ball out of the park. And if anyone has seen previews for Disney's new "Dinosaur" movie they are mind blowing.

Best Direct to Video/Movie you've never heard of:

Figure I'd throw this one in in case you couldn't find anything at the video store. I don't think this had a theater release, maybe in England or it was just direct to video. Someone else introduced me to this one and it was quite interesting. "Twice upon a Yesterday". The idea of the story is about a man who is caught cheating on his girlfriend. They break up and he's destroyed. Months later through magical means he is able to go back and try again and it doesn't turn out the way you think. Makes you wonder if everything happens for a reason. It also features an unknown (beautiful actress) Penelope Cruz, who is set to star in 3 Hollywood movies this year.

Most Overrated Movie:

The Insider: I keep hearing all this Oscar buzz about this movie and seeing it on Best of Lists from other critics and I can't understand why. It was a very well made film, don't get me wrong, with some great acting, but it was NOT a great movie. There were a few times during the film when I thought, this would be a good place for a nap (unfortunately, I didn't take it. A few of the people I went with did!) Now if I think back, "English Patient" was like this and it won best picture, but at least I had something to look at in that film with the actors and scenery, not here! As you can tell by the best of list, story is very important to me. I like being surprised and not really knowing what's going on. I knew the entire story on this one and nothing new was seen!

Analyze This: This movie made tons of money. Everyone was telling me I had to see it. I finally caught it on video and didn't get it. I had a couple of chuckles but no burst out laughing. It is a comedy right? A movie which will fade away if it hasn't already.

Worst of the Year/Biggest Disappointment:

This catergory is not really a worst of the year because most of the truly terrible films you can tell just by the title and don't even bother going. (Case in point Deuce Bigalo, American Gigilo) This list is also not a list of bad films. Most the films on the list are here cause a year ago you just couldn't wait for this movie. You heard the reports, saw the trailers, stood in line on opening week, saw the movie and left saying huh! Maybe it's the hype factor, maybe your just not in the right mood and another viewing would be different, but you left the theater a little disappointed. Here's the list:

Star Wars-The Phantom Meanace: Here's a perfect example. Yes this picture was visually amazing. It's one of those movies where you can turn the sound down and freeze frame images to just look at. And there are sequences where your jaw drops and you just take it all in (the lightsaber duel at the end, music and all) But Lucas is missing something in his story. It doesn't have the mystery of the first 2 films. He keeps talking about playing to the younger kids, but kids are smarter then that. (When are filmmakers gonna learn that lesson) The truly great kids films are the ones that are smart, scary and don't dumb down/joke down to kids (Willy Wonka, Wizard of Oz, Toy Story). Rumor has it that the next one is going to be very dark. Lets hope it's not dumb down dark!

Eyes Wide Shut: Again not a terrible film. But a little too much hype. It had all the makings of too much hype. Two huge stars, that are married in real life, getting naked on screen, a master director in Kubricks who hasn't made a film in years and then dieing a day after finishing the film, the issues of human sexual pushed to an extreme, and finally a movie studio that promised in a contract to not change the film in any way, digitally censoring the film once the director had passed on. Well, the film was interesting but could have been cut a lot shorter. It will put many people to sleep, especially audiences that are use to having everything spelled out to them! Sets some things out on the table without saying much about them, but I guess Kubrick was never one to give a final answer.

Pokomon: The Movie: Holy raking-in-the-kiddie-cash Batman. An absolutely terrible animated film riding on the success of a kiddie fad. With all the great animated films made this year it's a shame this made the second highest gross.

Wild, Wild West: The Godzilla of 1999. I was a little worried about this one when I saw the giant mechnical spider. And when a movie has a huge opening weekend and then is never heard from again it means lots of people went to see it cause of the hype and then told everyone else it sucked!


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