Film Faves: 1999
Last year, I counted down the previous decade with my favorites from each year (2009 - 2000). This month, I'll continue the year-by-year march into the 1990s, starting with the year 1999.
The top grossing film of the year was Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, quite possibly the most anticipated film of the entire decade, which also turned out to be its biggest disappointment.
The foreign film to see that year was Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother, which gave the beloved auteur his first Oscar.
Disney also continued its climb out of the trenches of previous years with its take on Tarzan.
The roster of films from 1999 is full of so many notable and worthwhile films that it was very difficult for me to watch every movie I wanted to for this article, let alone create a list of just twelve favorites. This roster includes one of the biggest lists of successful comedies in one year, including:
10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, Analyze This, Blast from the Past, Bowfinger, Election, Galaxy Quest, Mumford, Rushmore, and South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.
It also includes one of the longest lists of notable dramas and thrillers in one year:
Any Given Sunday, Boys Don't Cry, Buena Vista Social Club, The Cider House Rules, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Go, The Green Mile, The Hurricane, The Insider, Man on the Moon, October Sky, Ride with the Devil, The Straight Story, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Thomas Crown Affair remake, Three Kings, and Varsity Blues
And there was still room enough for twelve more notable films, which I'll get to soon.
But no year is perfect and 1999 had its share of crap films:
The 13th Warrior, Bicentennial Man, Chill Factor, Cruel Intentions, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Dudley Do-Right, End of Days, Entrapment, The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, Inspector Gadget, The Mod Squad, My Favorite Martian, The Other Sister, Stigmata, Three to Tango, Wild Wild West, Wing Commander, and The World is not Enough were all released that year.
But what matters isn't whether or not a year was impervious to dreck, it's whether or not the quality films outweighed the crap. And 1999 is definitely best remembered for quality.
Without further ado, here are my favorites from the year...
This film may be remembered as being annoying for anyone who doesn’t like their characters to bicker so much – no matter how distressing the situation – but The Blair Witch Project is a precursor to an era now dominated by reality TV, pseudo-documentaries, and “found footage” films that often fight comparisons with it. Not only that, but The Blair Witch Project’s marketing campaign was quite the monster that effectively convinced many moviegoers of the film’s authenticity. As an entry into the horror genre, the film actually got a few things right: convincing characters, effective tension-building, and that rare (but highly effective) element of never actually showing us what the characters see. Despite your feelings on this film, these are the elements of a great horror movie.
American Beauty was the winner for Best Picture and out of those films that weren’t overlooked (The Insider, The Sixth Sense, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile), it was definitely the superior film. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really the best film of the year and has since become one of those Oscar winners that fail to resonate years later. That said, I contend it was the superior film of those nominated because it had the best-written script, best performances, and a direction that was rivaled only by M. Night Shyamalan (more on his film soon). Kevin Spacey gave one of the best performances of his career as a go-nowhere loser who has lost whatever magic existed in his relationships with his daughter and wife and is stuck in a telemarketing job where even people he doesn’t know hates him the moment he opens his mouth. Annette Bening reminds us why we like her with her performance as one of the film’s most despicable and unlikable characters, a woman who has become embittered by the disappointments of life. I could go on about the cast, but I won’t. It’s unfortunate that most of the supporting players have since entered “Where are they now?” status. But don’t hold that against this film. Look closer.
This sweet romantic comedy from the king of sentimental romances, screenwriter Richard Curtis, wonderfully taps into the Fantasy Encounter we all imagine with celebrities and became an underrated addition to its genre. Julia Roberts, in a perfect bit of casting, stars as superstar actress Anna Scott, who drops by the struggling little book shop owned by Hugh Grant. What follows could only happen in our dreams (not those kinds of dreams!). Notting Hill is disarming, charming, magical, and witty.