Movies really seem to be heading downhill…fast. When your average movie-goer heads to theatres these days, what they are usually greeted with is as follows:
30% comic-book adaptations.
15% romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Meg Ryan etc.
In other words, originality and quality films with lasting appeal have really gone out of fashion. Not that Hollywood ever really put that much stock into original quality films in the first place. For that kind of stuff, moviegoers have had to turn to independent cinema ever since Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh took independent cinema into the mainstream with “Pulp Fiction” and “Sex Lies & Videotape.”
To young people, bad movies are only the norm but I remember a time when movies were actually pretty good. One year in particular, 1999, stands out in my head. 1999 was a time when a glut of incredible films came out of Hollywood. The great movies were coming out so fast and furious it kind of spoiled me and many moviegoers of my age.
This article is going to chronicle a few choice films from that special, magical year, but first, I’ll list just the honourable mentions.
To really get a taste of how awesome 1999 was, just check out the movies that didn’t make the cut (any of these are worth a purchase):
The Sixth Sense
Everybody knows the line. No-one saw the ending coming. Haley Joel Osmont became a minor celebrity before vanishing into obscurity. Bruce Willis earned major acting credit for a subtle, low-key performance that only adds to the haunting, intensely creepy atmosphere of the film. You know, looking back, even without that classic ending, the film still holds up remarkably well. Too bad M. Night Shyamalan’s career didn’t!
Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me
Okay, so the first one is still the funniest. But this had Fat Bastard!
Denzel wuz robbed yo. But then again, he was robbed even harder for Malcolm X, still one of the best biopics ever and one of the true classics of the 1990s
Man on the Moon
Perhaps Jim Carrey’s one true great feat of acting -- a funny, moving film which tries to penetrate an impenetrable figure, fails to do so, but still comes out insightful and entertaining.
Boys Don’t Cry
Hilary Swank shot to the top with this now famous performance as Brandon Teena (or Teena Brandon), a transgendered person who was murdered for just being different. Absorbing and powerful.
Who can remember that before this lil’ 11 million dollar movie, gross-out teen sex comedies were represented basically by Porky’s and Meetballs? Still the funniest out of the series, the original American Pie can take credit for making stars out of Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Mena Suvari and perhaps most notably, for injecting the term “MILF” into popular culture.
A gruelling, three-hour-plus epic of intersecting plotlines, depressed characters and miracles. P.T. Anderson tries to aim a little too high for his young self and ends up with this flawed but still compelling character-based drama. Though an ensemble piece, Melora Walters, John C. Reilly and Jason Robards stand out with their performances, while Tom Cruise steals every scene he’s in with one of the most magnetic performances of his career.
10 Things I Hate About You
The Taming of the Shrew set in a high school, and one of the better teen romantic comedies of the era. Notable for Julia Stiles uber-cuteness and one of Heath Ledger’s earlier starring roles.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Garnering a ton of awards and praise upon release, I’ve always thought the movie gets somewhat convoluted towards the end. Despite that, it’s still quite enjoyable for the beauty of the lead actors, the Italian backdrops and for taut, well-crafted suspense sequences.
Angelina Jolie shot to stardom with this classic performance. A must-see for Jolie fans, and also notable for being one of director James Mangold’s earlier films. He would go on to direct the award-winning Walk the Line and this summer’s Knight & Day.
My personal favourite of 90s teen movies, a dark, twisted and totally enjoyable dramedy with amazing performances by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe. The movie is gorgeously shot in and around New York and just oozes sexiness, dark humour and chilling insight into the way some people like to manipulate others.
The Green Mile
Writer-director Frank Darabont’s highly-anticipated follow up to The Shawshank Redemption, one of the best films of the 1990s, if not ever. Flawed, over-long but still very watchable and stuffed with great actors giving great performances.
Run Lola Run
Fans adore this film. For the rest of you, check it out. Both director Tom Twyker and actress Franka Potente would go on to bigger things, but not better.
The Iron Giant
Before Brad Bird made the Incredibles or Ratatouille, he made the Iron Giant. When you watch this, you understand how much raw talent and genius the guy had from the beginning.
Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lee, written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) and featuring Christopher Walken as the Headless Horsemen?! Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe this movie.
The Messenger: Joan of Arc
A mostly forgotten but still entertaining medieval epic about France’s most famous martyr, starring Milla Jovovich (Resident: Evil) and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). Well-shot battle sequences and a strong depiction of religious and spiritual faith, as well as doubt. Kind of funny and random appearance by Dustin Hoffman towards the end.
The first of many. Remains mostly coherent though, and captures just enough of that Indiana Jones magic to be fun. Brendan Fraser is hardly believable as an action star but Rachel Weisz provides eye-candy and the mammoth special FX sequences keep things humming.
Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace
Jar Jar Binks. OK, now that I got that out of the way, Jake Lloyd. Oh man, yea, well this wasn’t exactly the best kick-off to a trilogy that fans had been waiting for 16 years, but despite some serious flaws, the pod race and especially the final lightsaber duel maintain their status as some of the most exciting action sequences ever shot.
Michael Mann’s low-key, sombre epic about a whistleblower played by Russell Crowe and his battle against the titanic forces of Big Tobacco. Al Pacino joins as the journalist who refuses to give up on his source. Intense performances and dazzlingly smart, the film remains proof that Michael Mann can make a great film without resorting to overly elaborate gunfights, or that Russell Crowe doesn’t need to yell and carry a sword to act.
Next week, the top 10!