Ten movies we liked in 1999, in no particular order. Something we didn't like is how Hollywood movies are still overwhelmingly white. We are calling on Hollywood film producers to at least pretend they aren't completely racist next year.
1. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Vulgar and crude, South Park was, without a doubt, one of the funniest, most brilliant movies of the year. It took on censorship, pop-culture, and the media in one fell swoop, and did it with dead-on Disney- and Broadway-style show tunes. We also appreciate its thankfully unromantic portrayal of children and for giving something intelligent to adults who love cartoons.
2. All About My Mother
With slick, postmodern references to All About Eve and Streetcar Named Desire, how could this film not be a winner? Pedro Almodovar's signature use of bright, colorful backgrounds contrasts nicely with what is sometimes a tragic film. However, Almodovar's use of melodramatic conventions is nothing like that in Stepmom or One True Thing. The Spanish filmmaker doesn't want his audience manipulated into producing tears. All About My Mother succeeds because it not only depicts various images of women, but also celebrates the complexities in women.
3. Being John Malkovich
This success of this film, when considered alongside the popularity of The Sixth Sense, demonstrates just how much audiences in the States are starving for some original and inventive writing. And how great was it to be at a movie where audience members could conceive of a world in which a woman could impregnate another woman and not even bat an eyelash.
4. The Sixth Sense
It's nice to be surprised once in a while. Especially by a film as beautifully filmed and gracefully executed as this one.
A laugh-out-loud funny take on the Watergate scandal with a great cast, all of whom seemed to be having loads of fun (and wearing great costumes!). Funniest if you recall the ins and outs of Watergate or, better yet, if you have seen All the President's Men often enough.
6. My Son the Fanatic
It's shame more people didn't see this smart, witty movie about family, national identity, race, and religion. Om Puri gives a superb performance as Parvez, a taxi cab driver in England juggling familial, political, and personal crises. Udayan Prasad's film revises popular representations of prostitutes, fundamentalists, and South Asians, producing a refreshingly different movie.
7. The Matrix
This movie came out of nowhere, right after Oscar season and right before the summer blockbusters. We weren't expecting much, but then Carrie-Anne Moss came on with that catsuit and started running on walls and we knew this was going to be so much more than Johnny Mnemonic. The fight choreography, particularly in the scene when Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) goes toe to toe with Neo (Keanu Reeves) in their virtual reality dojo, was amazing.
8. Boys Don't Cry
A brutal, must-see movie (with a stand-out performance by Hilary Swank) about what it takes to be a man, and what it means not to be one.
9. American Beauty
Although much has been made of the fantastic performance by Kevin Spacey, the young actors in this film more than hold their own among the more mature thespians. Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari should be applauded for avoiding the easy, cliche-ridden fodder that actors like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. thrive on. American Beauty is an unsettling, dark, and funny film about suburban dysfunction and the posturing of insecure white, bourgeois people.
Another smart movie that investigates suburban dysfunction, this one features perfect and fearless performances from Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. Election lets no one off the hook, including the audience.