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Review

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.

#2. MAGNOLIA

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 film.

#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.... wonderful.

#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.

#16. ELECTION

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 Coens.

#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 we know.

#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!

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