By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chris Packham
By John Anderson
By Nick Schager
By Anna Dimond
By Chris Klimek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
Bubbling right beneath these selections were the American productions Three Kings (David O. Russell), Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Pierce), The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella), The Iron Giant (Brad Bird), The Insider (Michael Mann), Office Space(Mike Judge), Where's Marlowe? (Daniel Pyne), and Titus (Julie Taymor), along with All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain), Leila (Dariush Mehrjui, Iran), and Bandits (Katja von Garnier, France). Best documentaries were Rabbit in the Moon (Emiko Omori, USA), The Brandon Teena Story (Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir, USA), Genghis Blues (Roko Belic, USA), and 42 Up (Michael Apted, UK).Ask me about Eyes Wide Shut in about ten years.
My Favorite Ten
By Jean Oppenheimer
1. The Cider House Rules No other film this year captures the complex, bittersweet nature of life so movingly. Michael Caine and Delroy Lindo are standouts in a terrific ensemble cast. Filled with grace, compassion, and humor, this is director Lasse Hallström's best work since My Life as a Dog. (read New Times' review)
2. The Insider Idealism and harsh reality -- and all the moral shades in-between -- collide in this hard-hitting exposé that features formidable performances by Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. Director Michael Mann marries his sense of outrage with his trademark powerhouse visual style in a fact-based story that casts a harsh light on journalistic ethics and the personal cost of telling the truth.
3. American Beauty As darkly comic as it is disturbing, this take-no-prisoners look at a dysfunctional American family marks an impressive directorial debut for theatrical director Sam Mendes (Cabaret). Kevin Spacey, arguably the greatest actor working today, is even more extraordinary than usual. (read New Times' review)
4. October Sky A small treasure from director Joe Johnston, based on the memoir by Homer H. Hickham, Jr., about making one's dreams come true despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Heartfelt and moving, without being the least bit sentimental. Exceptional family entertainment.
5. All About My Mother A richly textured film from Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, one of the few true auteurs working today. Merging the comic, tragic, and subversive, this beautifully acted screwball drama is Almodóvar's most mature film to date.
6. West Beirut In his directorial debut, Lebanese-born cinematographer Ziad Doueiri examines the chaos of a divided, war-torn city (Beirut, 1975) from the perspective of an adventurous teenager who gradually comes to appreciate the corrosive effect of the conflict. Rami Doueiri, the director's brother, is a complete natural in his acting debut.
7. Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl Chinese-born actress Joan Chen turns director in this stark but beautiful look at the failure of China's Cultural Revolution. Tibetan actor Lopsong brings heartwrenching dignity to his role of a peasant assigned to teach a naive city girl about herding horses. Magnificently shot by cinematographer Lu Yue, the film has an eloquent simplicity that proves emotionally devastating.
8. Grand Illusion One of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's 1937 antiwar masterpiece was rereleased this year in a pristine new print. Set during the World War I, the movie is as much about the death of Europe's prevailing class-conscious social order as it is about the tragedy and futility of war.
9. The Legend of 1900 Mesmerizingly beautiful to look at, this first English-language picture from director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) contains the most exquisite cinematography and production design of any film this year. A dreamlike fable about the precariousness of life, the film is suffused with an almost tangible sense of longing and sadness.
10. Twin Falls Idaho A modern-day Beauty and the Beast, this beautifully realized tale of love and intimacy marks the feature debut of acting/writing/directing twin brothers Mark and Michael Polish. The dramatic lighting, sense of composition, and use of rich colors give the film the feeling of an exquisite still photograph. (read New Times' review)
Ten Best of 1999
By Luke Y. Thompson
My favorite movies of the year, in ascending order, are:
10. Stir of Echoes Otherwise known as "the other movie about a kid who sees dead people." A release date about the time The Sixth Sense was becoming a national phenomenon effectively killed David Koepp's spookier ghost story, which is too bad: Kevin Bacon turns in a great performance as a man obsessed by delusions, Koepp's cinematic visualization of a hypnotic trance is stunning, and residential Chicago is effectively portrayed as a near-hell on earth. Genuine shivers are hard to find in mainstream fare nowadays, but Echoes, adapted from a novel by Richard Matheson, delivered. read New Times' review)
9. On the Ropes It's rare that a documentary comes along that can rival a dramatic treatment of the same subject, but this outstanding movie about inner-city boxers struggling to transcend their environment had me on the edge of my seat. Because the odds are stacked against our heroes, and this is real life rather than Rocky, you honestly don't know how things will work out until they do. The Academy has never shown a great deal of logic in its choices for Best Documentary, but in a fair world, this film would take not only that category but possibly even score a Best Picture nomination as well.
8. Earth An Indian answer to Gone With the Wind, Earth tells a powerful human story of love, class, and religion, set against the epic backdrop of India's civil war and the formation of Pakistan. Director Deepa Mehta had already proven that she could handle intimate drama with the lesbian-themed Fire, and now proves herself equally adept at making a "big" movie as well.
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