1999 was a great year for movies...one of the best in recent memory. By my recollection, I saw over 50 movies in the theatre this year, and a lot of them were really very good. I really don't know enough about film to pick the *best* movies of the year, so I picked my *favorite* movies of the year instead. If you're interested, here's my criteria for which films were eligible and which weren't.
Also, if you have a Best of 1999 movies list up on the Web somewhere, send me the URL and I'll link it in the Other Best Of 1999 Lists below.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite 12 films of the year (in no particular order), as well as some that almost made the list, and some that should or could have, but didn't. Enjoy.
My Favorite 12
I didn't rank these because it was too hard. They all tied. If I absolutely had to choose, Run Lola Run would be my number one.
Rushmore - Technically a 1998 movie, I first saw this film in January and have since seen it two or three more times on DVD. Great stuff, all the way around.
Trekkies - Probably the funniest movie of the year...from my standpoint. There's this scene near the end that almost made me wet my pants the first time I saw it. I haven't laughed that hard at a movie in a long time. Nice look at the nature of being seriously involved in something as well.
Princess Mononoke - Between this movie, Run Lola Run, and Being John Malkovich, I'm hard pressed to remember when I've been this amazed by a movie-going experience. Although the Americanized voice overs royally sucked, the rest of the film was a visual wonder with no easy answers at the conclusion. Especially noteworthy was the excellent use of sound (or lack thereof) throughout the film; no Disneyesque Elton John/Peabo Bryson crap.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Hands down the most anticipated film of 1999. I waited in line for more than two hours to get into this movie on opening night...and I wasn't disappointed. Sure, the movie was hokey, with mediocre acting, and contained Jar Jar, but I wouldn't have missed the opening night event for anything. A guy in a perfect Darth Maul costume, a Stormtrooper, and thousands of crazed fans. A movie event that overshadowed the actual movie by far. As silly as it sounds, when the opening Star Wars logo filled the screen to the opening sounds of the Star Wars theme song, a chill ran up and down my spine. Hey, give me a break, I grew up on this stuff.
Run Lola Run - My favorite movie of the year (shhh...don't tell the other movies). I had no idea what this film was about when I sat down in the theatre to see it. Walking out, I felt as if I'd just watched 90 minutes of good MTV (if there is such a thing). The casino scene is deliberately obvious, but you're rooting so hard for Lola at that point that you don't care. This movie is now out on DVD and video; do yourself a favor and go rent it.
Election - Everyone has their secrets, quirks, and odd character traits. Most movies exploit these traits in characters, making them into caricatures of themselves, which is one-dimensional and boring. Election shows us that everybody has their odd traits....and that's perfectly normal. The folks in the movie lust, hate, seek revenge, are mean-spirited, act irrationally, and that's just fine. Reese Witherspoon in another very fine performance.
Being John Malkovich - There's not much to say here that hasn't been said better elsewhere. This movie was weird, different, and wonderful. Of course, after the puppetry at the beginning of the film, the rest of the movie could have sucked and I would have loved it.
American Beauty - Not much to say about this one either. Probably one of the best three or four films of the year. Kevin Spacey is a marvelous actor. And the plastic bag thing seems so cheesy when the kid starts explaining it, but dammit, as you watch, it *is* beautiful.
Iron Giant - I talked a lot about this movie on my Web site. I bugged people to go see it in the theatre. A few people took me up on my advice, but more often than not, people generally seemed disinterested in one of the better animated movies ever. Parents could not have asked for a better kids movie (a giant robot, heroes, villains, a great, great moral to the story, and something for the parents as well), but families stayed away in droves. Hell, I'm 26 years old and by the end of the movie, *I* wanted a giant robot of my own. Super great.
The Matrix - I've seen better special effects than those in The Matrix, but I've not seen special effects used in a more creative manner than in this movie. And unlike most sci-fi, the plot and acting weren't too incredibly annoying.
Magnolia - By the rules I made for myself about this list, this film shouldn't be on here...but I just couldn't help myself; it was just too good. I'm not going to recommend this film to anyone though...just go see for yourself. You'll either love it or you'll hate it. I can't wait for Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, whatever that might be.
Eyes Wide Shut - I like Stanley Kubrick movies. There is a control and attention to detail about them that you just don't find anywhere else. Eyes Wide Shut was widely panned for not living up to the promise of the pre-opening hype; people wanted a movie dripping with sex and got, well, a typically well-done Kubrick film. His movies are never about what they seem to be; EWS was about sex as much as Full Metal Jacket was about war or Dr. Strangelove was about the Cold War. Forget the hype and give it a chance. In 5-10 years, people will regard this film as highly as any of his others.
Almost Another 3
For whatever reason, I just didn't enjoy these excellent films as much as I did the ones listed above.
Toy Story 2 - Another excellent animated film. The first 3/4 of the movie was excellent, but I was disappointed at the ending a little. Kind of a letdown after such a great start.
Three Kings - A very good movie, but just didn't have the impact on me that a lot of the above films did.
The Green Mile - A good film to be sure, but The Shawshank Redemption was better. It will probably do well around Oscar time, but there was more creativity and better performances in Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, and American Beauty.
Before seeing each of these films, I figured they would be among my favorites for the year. I was wrong.
Fight Club - American Beauty + The Sixth Sense + Se7en, but not up to the standards of any of those films. I already knew that I'm not my khakis. I am Jack's sense of disappointment.
The Sixth Sense - Really good movie, but 3/4 of the way through, I wanted my money back. Then, came the payoff. Looking back on it, the movie seems a little more empty than it seemed at the time.
The Blair Witch Project - The marketing was the story here...I walked out of the theatre feeling a little cheated. Not the scariest thing I've ever seen. And if I can talk to the makers of the film for a second: this film does not need a sequel. Or a prequel. Don't beat a dead horse. I don't want to Know What You Did Two Summers Ago. You did something halfway unique and made a lot of money. It's time to move on.
Summer of Sam - Spike, Spike, Spike. A talking dog? Come on, man. This movie was all atmosphere and no plot....and was about 35 minutes too long. Put a plot in this puppy, and it could have been great.
Dogma - Kevin Smith is letting me down. He may be a great screenwriter, but he's just not learning the craft of directing too quickly. Kevin, find yourself a director that can take your vision of what the movie should be and allow him or her to do their thing. Dogma should have been great, but it was just pretty good.
Movies I Didn't See But Might Have Made My Favorites List
Magnolia (reviewed above anyway), The Straight Story, Man on the Moon, October Sky, The Insider, The Cider House Rules, and many others...
Other Best of 1999 Lists
A Special Mention
May I just say how pleased I am with some of the writers and directors that are injecting new life into film. I look forward to watching many more films featuring the talents of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Three Kings), Alexander Payne (Election, Citizen Ruth), Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket), Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights), and Brad Bird (Iron Giant).
Any first-run movie in theatres from January 1, 1999 to December 31, 1999 was eligible for inclusion on this list. Six notable items: