The Year of Being John Malkovich
Top 10 Films of the Year, Decade, and Eternity
1999 was, indeed, a good year for movies. The big studios released an amazing number of smaller-scaled, unpredictable movies such as The Straight Story, The Limey, Rushmore, Election, and Summer of Sam. The certainty of "sure things" like Wild Wild West and Eyes Wide Shut failed to become summer blockbusters, while such small-budgeted films as The Blair Witch Project and American Pie packed in audiences throughout the summer and the galloping success of films like The Mummy and The Sixth Sense surprised even their distributors.
It was also a good year for narrative experimentation as demonstrated by such films as Being John Malkovich, Go, The Limey, and Run Lola Run. With South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, we saw the most daring musical to come out of Hollywood in many a year. Horror films received a breath of fresh life with The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project, which reminded us that there is nothing scarier than what we can imagine in our own minds. Blair Witch also gave us a glimpse of the future of movies in terms of marketing strategies and digital technology. Animation had one of its best years ever with the releases of The Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, Tarzan, Toy Story 2, and, yes, South Park. All are deserving of year-end kudos and praise for their appeal to adult audiences.
Ultimately, 1999 was a year of the unexpected. It included such things as the visual intoxication of The Matrix and the unconventional heroics of Three Kings; the big box-office success of not one, but two Julia Roberts' vehicles, Notting Hill and Runaway Bride, and the continued broad appeal of Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, while such stars as Kevin Costner in For Love of the Game, Harrison Ford in Random Hearts, and Will Smith in Wild Wild West all raked in disappointing returns. If unpredictability turns out to be the legacy of 1999, then the future of movies looks very good indeed.
Some notes about the tabulating: A total of six reviewers submitted Top 10 lists. Individual entries on each list were assigned numerical values. Each first choice received 10 points, the second film nine points and so on. Films classified as "near misses" were not assigned any numerical value. The points were then tallied to find the cumulative Chronicle Top 10 Films of 1999. All genres of film were equally eligible -- narrative, documentary, foreign, etc. -- as long as they opened for a theatrical run in Austin during the calendar year 1999.
This strictly local definition of "the calendar year 1999" creates a list that is exclusive to Austin. This means that such films as Magnolia, The Hurricane, All About My Mother, Snow Falling on Cedars, and Angela's Ashes -- all of which were released during the last few day of 1999 but will not open in Austin until the early weeks of January 2000 -- are out of the running. It also means that numerous 1998 movies that similarly arrived in Austin in 1999 were eligible for consideration. Thus, many of the titles that figured prominently in these lists, including Rushmore, Affliction, Gods and Monsters, and The Thin Red Line were, technically, 1998 films. We don't believe it matters though. Clearly the time lag doesn't diminish these films' greatness or freshness. To view the entire list of eligible films that opened in Austin during 1999, turn to the "Screens" section of our Web site (http://www.auschron.com).
Following the Top 10 lists are yet more lists: best of the decade and desert island movies. These are presented as the individual reviewers' lists, but no effort was made to tabulate these into combined totals. Their purpose is twofold: to drive our reviewers stark-raving mad and provide food for thought for the readers. We encourage you to have fun making your own lists -- of Top 10s, movies to catch on video, and things to watch for on the screen. And resolve to see even more movies in the new century.