Here's what I've covered so far:
Intro: My Year at "Film School"
The (sorta) Forgettable Films
The Films That Just Don't Hold Up
When Bad Movies Happen to Good Directors
The Forgotten Gems of 1999:
The War Zone (Tim Roth)
Sunshine (István Szabó)
Beyond the Mat (Barry W. Blaustein)
Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot)
Mumford (Lawrence Kasdan)
Bowfinger (Frank Oz)
Cookie's Fortune (Robert Altman)
Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton)
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird)
October Sky (Joe Johnston)
Election (Alexander Payne)
So, here we are. Finally we’re at the end of this long journey. Yeah, it’s been long, but so worth it. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting these titles from 1999 (I did re-watch all but a few of them that weren’t available on DVD), and this project has only cemented the fact that I think 1999 is the best year for film that I’ve ever experienced. Almost all of these movies I got to see in the theater, and whenever you have a year where movies by the likes of Sydney Pollack (Random Hearts), David Fincher (Fight Club), and Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut) range from terrible to forgettable, then that’s a strong year. Now I know I’m in the minority on the Kubrick, but my hope is that you’ll share your lists for the best films of 1999 in the comments section. I am obviously inspired here by my good friends Sam Juliano and his partner in crime Allan Fish of the phenomenal blog Wonders in the Dark, and Ric Burke who also has had great success compiling lists from fellow bloggers with his wonderfully entertaining Counting Down the Zeroes project. So…see what’s on my mind after the jump…
I’m curious what your list is for the ten best films of 1999, and what you think of this particular year in film in general. Just go ahead and post your lists in the comments section, and go tell all your friends to participate too…it should be a lot of fun.
Here’s where things get tricky as they tend to be with any year-end list…I’m talking about release dates. Go by whatever criteria you go by. I tend to think of masterpieces like The Thin Red Line, Rushmore and Gods and Monsters, which are sometimes thought of as 1999 films, as 1998 films. Other great films associated with 1999 like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and The Virgin Suicides I consider 2000 films. So, my list may look a lot different than yours, but that could also be due to the fact that I live in a rather small city, so we don’t get smaller films until they’re well into their theatrical runs.
I’ve explained already why this year resonates so much with me, but I think it’s more than just the amount of quality films that were released…this is the year I attribute to me becoming a really serious filmgoer…a cinephile if you will. This is where the seeds were planted and my passion for film has been growing ever since. I’m always learning something new, and when I re-watch these films for the second or third, or sometimes tenth, time in the next month I am sure that I will look back with great fondness, because the films that occupy my top 10 list are the perfect metaphor for the beginning stages of my cinephilia.
1999 saw fresh young faces in Hollywood, young directors like: David O. Russell (Three Kings), Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich); faces that weren’t necessarily fresh, but were relatively new like Steven Soderbergh (The Limey) and the Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta); and old masters like Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead), Paul Schrader (Affliction), Michael Mann (The Insider), and Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley); and finally Chris Smith (American Movie), who made one of the most memorable documentaries about the passion needed to accomplish your dreams.
All of these filmmakers are the perfect metaphor for what I’m talking about…and what do I mean by that? Well, the young filmmakers were offering up something different, something Hollywood hasn’t seen since the glory days in the 60’s and 70’s when directors were given creative control. Hollywood's output had become banal (with exception of some of the older names on this list like Scorsese, Schrader, and Mann), and people were seeking the Indies to give them what they wanted; however, in 1999 filmmakers like David Russell and Paul Thomas Anderson were all working within the studio system, infiltrating that system with the Indie mentality, and by doing so were creating some of the most innovative and memorable films that I’ve ever seen.
I had just started becoming a cinephile, and as a senior in high school it only seemed apt that my new found passion for studying film – I mean really looking at what film says and how it can make us look at our world differently – coincided with this resurgence in Hollywood. That is why I look back at 1999 so fondly – not just because there are insane amounts of brilliant films, but for nostalgic reasons too – for reasons that are totally subjective, and thus make my whole journey here selfish. I just hope that you’ve enjoyed these reviews and re-thinking about some of these films as much as I have. Now the hard part begins…
This is where the whole ranking thing becomes so arbitrary…I mean how in the hell do I justify placing Magnolia, a film that speaks to my soul like few films have, over Bringing Out the Dead, a misunderstood masterpiece from a master of American cinema? How do I place one of the best films from one of my favorite filmmakers, The Insider, over the Palm d’Or winning Rosetta?
I could go on with example after example from this incredible year in film. It’s impossible to justify any of these choices being above the others, so just know that I would gladly take these ten with me to a desert island. Forget the numbers, in fact, and focus on the sheer amount of Quality found in each of these films, and stop and think and see if you conjure up another year in cinema within the last 20 years that compares to 1999. Also, all of these films hold such a special place in my heart – it’s almost impossible to think that I could pick one as being better than another.
But so it is with list-making…yes, it’s an arbitrary exercise, but a fun one. So what will follow starting at the end of August will be the same formula that I used for the “forgotten films” project. Every Monday I will post a new entry in my top 10. I am really excited about re-watching these films, and I hope you’ll share my excitement as perhaps a film I highlight here will prompt you to revisit some of these modern classics.
Here’s a list of other films that I liked from 1999 that I haven’t yet mentioned in this project: All About My Mother, The Big Kahuna, In Dreams, The Matrix, Office Space, Run Lola Run, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, The Straight Story, The Thirteenth Floor, Topsy-Turvy, The Winslow Boy.
In case you didn’t notice, I strategically named 10 films (plus one for fun which was Burton’s Sleepy Hollow) as the “Forgotten Gems”. These are ten films I would consider a worthy addendum to the list I’m about unveil over the next couple of months: Beyond the Mat, Bowfinger, Cookie’s Fortune, Election, Galaxy Quest, The Iron Giant, Mumford, October Sky, Sunshine, The War Zone.
So...Starting August 24th I will post the first entry for my top 10…I hope you all stop by for that. As for now…what are your thoughts on the year 1999? What are your top 10 films for 1999?