Harry's Top 30 Films Of 1999!!!
Some people do drugs, I do movies. My uppers are films like TOY STORY 2, THE
IRON GIANT, RUN LOLA RUN or MAN OF THE CENTURY. My downers are
MAGNOLIA, AMERICAN BEAUTY or THE STRAIGHT STORY. My LSD is
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH or my PCP is FIGHT CLUB. The chemicals I take are
projected before my eyes, the emulsion on celluloid my heroin upon a spoon. And this
year, the assortment has been fantastic. So much so that I’ve decided to list my top thirty
films on 1999. A year that has been one big lost weekend for a film addict like me. Now
the funny thing about cinematic drugs is this... depending upon your personal body
chemistry you may have an allergic reaction to one of these.... however, I did not. And
unlike drug drugs... you can mix and match and achieve all types of different states of
bliss. I hope you enjoy my list as much as I hated putting it together.
#1. TOY STORY 2
A film of flawless craftsmanship created by magical elves in the Northern California
vicinity. This is not the most significant film of the year... Frankly, that would probably
belong to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (see Blair Witch below for explanation)... nor
is it the most artistically refreshing film... For me that would be LOLA RENNT or BEING
JOHN MALKOVICH... What TOY STORY 2 is to me... is a perfect studio film. It’s
that perfect GENE KELLY musical.... That CASABLANCA type of thing. It is the film
that most will simply look past as being just some sort of cartoon manufactured
somewhere by ‘those people’ that put out them toons. It’s this same sort of attitude that
plagues the memory of Michael Curtiz... a director that didn’t have a fingerprint style...
but he happened to make the best movies ever made (in my opinion.) Lasseter and the
many other artists at Pixar are currently making films on an entirely different level of
existence from the rest of humankind. This film is, for me, as flawless and miraculous as
they ever come.
As the first live action film on the list I have to sit here and ponder the futility in even
comparing a MAGNOLIA with a TOY STORY 2. It is absolutely ludicrous that I’m
supposed to rank these films. But this is the way we are supposed to do things so I’ll just
play along here. I have not written a full review for this film because... frankly.... I’m still
wrestling with my review. It’s not that I feel conflicted about the quality of the film, I
don’t. It’s just that I feel that I should take quite a bit of time in putting into words what
it is this film means to me. Paul Thomas Anderson has created a movie that is just
breathless in it’s construction, pacing and... well, the film is so brave in not playing to the
obvious... It’s a movie of intersections and happenstance’s.... yet for so many the movie is
about nothing, yet for me there is not one accident of chance encounter in the entire film.
Everything is deliberate and with meaning. This is a movie that will be dissected.
#3. LOLA RENNT (Run Lola Run)
If there is such a thing as fresh air in a cinema, then LOLA RENNT is a lung full. The
movie is existential... it’s poignant... it was completely unlike any other film that came out
this year. Of all the trick ponies of the year (MATRIX, FIGHT CLUB and BLAIR
WITCH) I found RUN LOLA RUN the most refreshing. The use of editing, sound
effects, score and a never static camera... this is the film that most makes me want to make
a film this year. We have those types of films from time to time, but rarely do you see a
movie that mixes so much so well to make something so fresh. In a very fun way it
reminds me of DUEL, when Spielberg was lean and mean... when he could make a drive
feel like the worst thing in the world. Amazing filmmaking.
#4. THE IRON GIANT
Well.... With all that I have written this year about this film, I believe this will come as no
surprise to anyone, with the possible exception of why it isn’t even higher on my list.
When I saw the film earlier this year, it was hard to conceive that I would like any film
more than this one... But the above 3 movies are such films. Many people have asked me
what the big deal is concerning THE IRON GIANT. Why do I like it so? “It’s just an
animated E.T.” While the film has much in common with E.T. it is my feeling that THE
IRON GIANT is better than E.T. at every turn save for SCORE. It’s vastly more
cinematic. E.T. has always felt a bit dated.... whereas IRON GIANT exists in an era not
of my own lifetime. Thus making it completely timeless. With this film, Brad Bird has
emerged as the single best new feature talent in the business. Now hopefully with his next
film, either CURIOUS GEORGE or a new animated film at Warner Brothers.... he’ll have
the deserved marketing for his genius.
#5. THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY
I don’t know where this film will place on Moriarty’s list, but damn this is a powerful
work of film. For me, I have never quite been 100% satisfied with Hitchcock’s PSYCHO
because at the end of the film... they placed Norman Bates in the psycho ward. While that
is never the case with young Mr Ripley, I ultimately found the resolution of the film more
to my tastes. There is punishment, but it is neither the hand of God smite of THE BAD
SEED nor the condemning by society. I love the fact that evil is sometimes punished by
the fact that evil is merely evil and is by nature never truly satisfied. As a result this movie
is not for everyone... but it is for me. One of the best travelogues for a country ever...
Italy has never looked more beautiful. The entire cast is dead on perfect. An amazing
#6. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
I’ve treated myself to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH three times now, and in each viewing
I find myself falling just a little bit harder in love. I feel such joy for having seen this film
because it’s like getting a new pair of Coen Brothers or a new Terry Gilliam. A new
wacky from out of left field filmmaker that just enjoys confounding his audience with
insanity. Probably the movie with the most.... ‘Classic Scenes’ created this year. It’s sad
and beautiful, funny and tragic. I get giggly just thinking about it.
#7. AMERICAN BEAUTY
What a year! From number 7 up.... All of these movies equally succeed. If any of these
films were to win Best Picture or any critic awards... I would be pleased as punch.
AMERICAN BEAUTY is like these others.... a perfect film. I have not one flaw with any
of the above movies. If there is a reason for having this movie be #7 and not higher, it’s
that the movie is so draining for me. It takes so much emotion to watch, plays with my
hopes so viciously that I find the movie a bit exhausting. One of my criteria for my best
films of the year happens to be my ability to watch it over and over again. AMERICAN
BEAUTY hurts a bit much for me. But baby, it hurts so good.
#8. SOUTH PARK BIGGER LONGER AND UNCUT
I’ve been listening to my father getting very upset at me for the inclusion of this movie in
my top ten, but frankly... this movie is a brilliant satire. A look at where our society is,
how we treat our children, what an animated film is and what an insane trivial thing the
MPAA is. I really don’t care for the television show much, but this movie is something
quite special. The songs, score and even the bizarre collage cut-out paste here and there
form of animation just comes together to be a complete assault on the senses. The film
was also completely misunderstood by so many that could only hear the foul language and
couldn’t see beyond it. It’s kinda funny that the very hypocrisy that they were parodying
came into play when examining the film. More subversive than FIGHT CLUB....
#9. THE RED VIOLIN
Here is a film that seems to be falling into alot of the ‘also rans’ or ‘honorable mentions’
this year, but I was completely swept up in the tale of this Red Violin... In my opinion this
is one of the great OBJECT films. Those movies where we must possess.... this thing, this
whatchamacallsit! I couldn’t help but wonder what a MALTESE FALCON movie would
be like that actually traced the Falcon from it’s origin... all of the curious and insane twists
and turns that the immaculate fowl took to never to this day be found. A brilliant score
that it seems will go unappreciated by awards folks... In fact the score for this film is an
extra character that is just chilling. I love that each country the Violin visits speaks it’s
native tongue... One of the best films of 1999.
#10. THE GREEN MILE
I’ve seen this one 3 times now & it is as good as I have always wanted it to be. But I
think that by the end of the year... these other stories are just a bit grander and sweeping.
With all of these films, I feel lucky to be covering films to find them. THE GREEN MILE
is a wonderful movie filled with wonderful performances with wonderful writing. The
only spot in the film that I wanted to be a bit more... was the score. It’s only ok... and not
sweeping or evocative to me. For me, it’s a oh so slight flaw in an otherwise fantastic
movie. Between Coffey and Wetmore... wow... what a duo of acting in this movie. I
love them guys!
#11. THE STRAIGHT STORY
This is a film that I am absolutely convinced will gain more resonance the longer I live.
Breathtaking cinematography, stunning performance by Farnsworth and I am saddened
that it seems inevitable that Sissy Spacek will be thoroughly screwed by awards folks for
her brilliant supporting role in this movie... It’s just an epic film about a small journey with
soul wrenching decisions throughout. With the exception of ELEPHANT MAN, this is
my favorite Lynch film.
#12. MAN OF THE CENTURY
This is a perfect.... small film. Gigantic issues are not at stake here. It’s not about the
current human condition. Instead it’s just a story of one guy out of time, making himself
at home. A film that was just buried by an amazingly strong year. Hopefully, with enough
time... the movie will worm it’s way into screenlovers’ hearts like it has in mine.
#13. THE SIXTH SENSE
I believe everyone knows where I stand on this film.
#14. FIGHT CLUB
And This film.
#15. THE MATRIX
And this film.
However, you might have very well missed my review on this one, which I discovered in a
screening room up in Chicago upon my first jaunt to the balcony. ELECTION is a great
scary look at the strange double standards that rule our lives. Hypocrisy knows no bounds
here. And.... Reese Witherspoon... you so rock in this movie. And you too Matthew!
#17. THREE KINGS
This film gets better everytime I see it. The first time I saw it I went in expecting the new
M*A*S*H, but instead got THREE KINGS... I let that get in the way of my first review,
which if you go back and read, it sounds as though I’m trying to find a reason to not like
the movie. I was wrong. THREE KINGS is a fantastic movie, and for a second year in a
row, George Clooney has found himself in one of the coolest films of the year. EXPECT
HIM to again appear in next year’s list for OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU for the
#18. TODO SOBRE MI MADRE (aka ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER)
Strive to see this movie. A film about complete and total love by a director for his
characters. No matter who they are or what they are doing, the camera and the film does
not judge them. Beautiful story about the most messed up guy characters I’ve seen
assembled into a film, but by the end of this thing... they are all just beautiful. The movie
doesn’t pull it’s punches at all. Also, watch how the movie plays with distinctively
American icons by simply making them be Spanish. Makes me look sideways at ALL
ABOUT EVE and STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Fantastic film.
#19. NOTTING HILL
Completely underestimated by nearly everyone as being ‘just another of those romantic
comedies with Julia Roberts,’ but this one is something special. Hugh Grant and Julia
Roberts bring so much extra baggage with them in this movie that I can’t help but
completely fall for this film. There are so many strange and wonderful character actors
that give life to the Nottinghill area of London that I was completely delighted. Before
you start screaming at me.... see it.
#20. EYES WIDE SHUT
Kubrick did not disappoint me in the least with this film. It’s just that this year has been a
remarkable year. A film for an older crowd, but there is quite a bit of nuance to the
movie. Much more than I think most care to look for. I suppose we never would be sated
by Kubrick’s last film... he always left me wanting for a bit more. But this last supper was
a delight... it just wasn’t the film most were expecting. Wonderful work.
#21. THE LIMEY
Here’s a movie that it seems noone saw. THE LIMEY is one of the best films this year
and it’s hard for me to find anyone who saw it. Come on geeks, get out there and see this
one! Stamp is just waaaaaay too cool in this movie. Great use of non-linear storytelling.
The following on this film will grow with time, and deservedly so.
#22. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
Probably the most significant film of the year in terms of influence this film will project
upon the industry. Not in terms of imitation, but rather in marketing. And frankly I
believe this is a film where you can not separate the film and it’s marketing. In a world of
traditional narrative storytelling... this is something different. I love the film. But it’s a
movie that asks you to scare yourself and to run with the concept. But... I think along
with a lot of STAR WARS burn outs, there are a bunch of folks that the sheer hype
around this movie left a bit scorched. Meanwhile, I believe the DVD kicks ass on this one
and that the performances by the three leads are wonderful.
#23. THE INSIDER
When I walked out of the theater from THE INSIDER, I was fully set to perhaps name
this to my top 5 films of the year. Since watching it though, I went back and rewatched
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN and frankly... THE INSIDER doesn’t really get there.
Michael Mann has made perhaps his best narrative film, but emotionally... I still get caught
up more with LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Russell Crowe is amazing in the film, as is
Christopher Plummer in his scene opposite Gina Gershon
#24. BEYOND THE MAT
A wonderful documentary about the flipside to the wrestling ring. This movie just got to
me. From time to time, a screener will land in my lap that just surprises the hell out of me.
This was one of them. When I’ve been at friends’ houses that have cable, and we’re
flipping through channels... I’ll stop on TNT wrestling and just wonder about all the back
stories... all the human stories behind these cartoon characters that throw each other from
here to there.
#25. MAN ON THE MOON
An absolutely amazing performance from Jim Carrey makes this a wonderful film, and
fully worthy of the inevitable Academy nomination that I hope he receives... But after
watching around 5 hours of Andy Kaufman material, I feel a little disappointed that the
movie didn’t dig a bit deeper into Andy. Of course, perhaps it’s a bit like THE MAN
WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.... sometimes you just stop digging and print what
#26. SLEEPY HOLLOW
Damn I love this movie.
#27. STAR WARS EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE
And this one too.
#28 LIBERTY HEIGHTS
The best Neil Simon movie that he had nothing to do with. This might very well end up
being my fave Barry film... I’ll need to see it 3 or 4 more times to say for sure, but man...
This movie just has so much cool going for it. It’ll be interesting to see what this cast is
doing in 10 years.
#29. OCTOBER SKY
I’m holding a hope that ol Chris Cooper will pull out a nomination for best supporting
actor for his part in this movie. This film and LIBERTY HEIGHTS have soooo much in
common it isn’t even funny.
#30. SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS
This is a film that I imagine some people might just end up hating and gagging on, but for
me... it was just a film to disappear into... kind of like when you read a book. You close
out your surroundings... the noises of the street below... the sound of the fan in the corner
and you just become a part of the film. AMAZING CINEMATOGRAPHY!
FANTASTIC SCORE! A beautiful movie.
And that my friends is my top 30 list. Tune in later for my article on the top 20 projects
coming this year that I’m dying to see!