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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 1999


#10: The Sixth Sense

M. Night Shyamalan took everyone by surprise -- first and foremost with his twist ending, but also by delivering a mammoth word-of-mouth hit in August, and by delivering a genuinely creepy ghost story that also offered moments of profound sadness. That scene in the car, when Haley Joel Osment tells Toni Collette what his grandmother said to him, gets me every damn time.


#9: Man on the Moon

The poster is right: Jim Carrey is Andy Kaufman.


#8: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

The most volcanically profane and outrageous major-studio release in years -- and it's a musical, too.


#7: Election

Yay! A teen high-school movie that isn't moronic! In fact, it's pretty damn smart and sharp, using the corridors of high school as a metaphor for the corridors of power.


#6: American Beauty

Even if you didn't get (or care for) the plastic-bag metaphor, this wry take on suburbia is buoyed by incisive performances across the board, starting with the deservedly Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey.


#5: Run Lola Run

Takes off like a rocket, stays in orbit for 88 minutes, and in that short time speaks volumes about the randomness of life and the propulsive possibilities of film. The most purely fun foreign movie in ages.


#4: Boys Don't Cry

A shockingly powerful drama, this announced two bold talents to watch: director Kimberly Peirce, and star Hilary Swank.


#3: Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick's swan song was a victim of sky-high (and often false) expectations. Please do remember that many of the Kubrick films that many consider classics today -- Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and, yes, 2001 -- got similar mixed reception at first. Kubrick made films for the ages, not for 1999 or whatever year.


#2: The Straight Story

David Lynch (of all people) takes a hard left into G-rated Disney territory, and emerges with his most enthralling work since Blue Velvet. Who knew?


#1: Being John Malkovich

If you didn't like this, you're part of the problem with American movies.

Antonia Bird's weird, wild Ravenous ... Mel Gibson getting all bad-ass in Brian Helgeland's stylishly sadistic Payback ... Mike Judge's infectiously funny Office Space ... Doug Liman's entertaining Go ... David Cronenberg's playful eXistenZ ... Stephen Sommers' retro romp The Mummy ... De Niro getting goofy in Analyze This ... the amusing documentary Trekkies ... Kevin Smith's woolly Dogma ... Adam Rifkin's raunchy ode to KISS, Detroit Rock City ... Steve Martin and Albert Brooks taking on Hollywood in Bowfinger and The Muse, respectively ... Renny Harlin's agreeably trashy shark flick Deep Blue Sea ... Steven Soderbergh's unassailably cool The Limey ... Alec Baldwin rocking the house in Outside Providence ... Julia and Hugh matching up well in the surprisingly decent Notting Hill ... Michael Polish's fascinating Siamese-twin drama Twin Falls Idaho ... Jane Campion's endearingly wacky (up to a point) Holy Smoke ... Chris Smith's hilarious American Movie ... Sean Penn in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown ... Frank Darabont's overlong but sturdy The Green Mile ... Angelina Jolie working for her Oscar in Girl, Interrupted ... Errol Morris' disturbing documentary Mr. Death ... the terrific Trek spoof Galaxy Quest ... a smart group of actors acting stupid, wonderfully, in Mystery Men ... Al Pacino and Russell Crowe barking and stewing in The Insider ... Natasha Lyonne throwing audience sympathy to the wind in Confessions of a Trickbaby ... and the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, Seth Green and Elden Henson as the undead stoners in the tasteless, gross, stoopid, and cheerfully lowbrow Idle Hands, which entertained me anyway, so deal with it.


Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, whose brilliant parts are inextricable from its awful bits. Taken in pieces on home video -- preferably the better pieces -- and viewed as an anthology of Acting Moments, this is a wild tapestry of emotion, even if dramatically it doesn't even pretend to cohere. In a year of risk-taking in American film, this three-hour manic-depressive riff took the biggest risk -- and flopped. It went way, way out on a shaky limb, and fell off. It's a train wreck, but I have to applaud the effort.

Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 1999


#10: Any Given Sunday

Oliver Stone's blustering, lethally overlong piece of airhorn macho is redeemed in spots by the fulminating Al Pacino (no mean airhorn himself); dumbly entertaining for a while, but past a certain point it just head-butts you into a stupor, where, apparently, Stone wants you to be.


#9: The Blair Witch Project

The year's most overrated and incessantly overhyped movie was a Shaky-Cam novelty that, mercifully, was a casualty of its target audience's fickle attention span. If we'd been allowed to discover it for ourselves, without all the second-coming-of-John-Carpenter hype ... Naah, it still wouldn't have been scary.


#8: Stigmata

A luridly stupid religious thriller in which Patricia Arquette flips out publicly several times and nobody really notices there's anything wrong with her. Well, except for some priests who think she's channeling Christ himself. Brings back memories of the lamer Omen sequels, only without the highly amusing deaths.


#7: Teaching Mrs. Tingle

Three kids kidnap a wretched teacher after she threatens to flunk one of them. This watered-down "black comedy" is offensive in every way except the ways in which it should have been offensive -- it backs down from everything that might've given it teeth. Instead it just bites.


#6: Instinct

Evaporates from memory almost immediately. Anthony Hopkins' saintly wild man and Cuba Gooding's sincere shrink steer the movie towards an entirely unsurprising revelation. Mainly, that you just wasted $7 and 124 minutes.


#5: Random Hearts

It's Romance of the Living Dead as somnolent couple Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas heal each other after their respective unfaithful spouses have died. No, not of boredom, though you'd think so.


#4: Wild Wild West

"You'll see any piece of shit if Will Smith's in it," the studio smugly assured us. Oh, really? The movie inexplicably did clear $100 million or so in American ticket sales, but it cost much much more than that -- by some accounts, twice that -- all for a joyless summer romp whose most memorable character is a giant bionic spider.


#3: The General's Daughter

A convoluted and hateful mess, whose main raison d'etre appears to be its drooling flashbacks to a woman tied up, raped and murdered. The movie likewise drools over her predilection for bondage, sending the clear message: She asked for it. Possibly the most unpalatable thriller since William Friedkin's Cruising.


#2: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

George Lucas has lost all sense. Hasn't he? How else would you explain this thin, dull, sometimes painful attempt to recapture past glories? I submit that if it didn't have the Star Wars brand name -- if it were the same movie directed by Joe Blow and were introducing these characters for the first time -- it would've vacated theaters in a week.


#1: The Haunting

Hey, how about that -- Liam Neeson gets the dubious honor of starring in the #2 and #1 worst movies of the year! This (as usual) needless remake of a classic opted for cheesy CGI effects over the theater of the imagination, and suffered badly accordingly.

Joel Schumacher's repellent, ugly 8mm ... the laughless Ed TV and The Out-of-Towners ... Neil Jordan's staggeringly misbegotten In Dreams ... Ted Demme's Life, which felt that long ... Tim Robbins' over-ambitious, underwhelming Cradle Will Rock ... the entirely forgettable Mickey Blue Eyes ... Johnny Depp in the double non-whammy The Astronaut's Wife and The Ninth Gate ... Denzel Washington in the irritatingly PC The Hurricane ... Spike Lee's strenuously meaningless Summer of Sam ... Catherine Breillat's Romance, which proves a movie can be sexually explicit and still boring ... Lawrence Kasdan's sleeping pill Mumford ... David Fincher's accomplished but needless adaptation Fight Club ... Michael Radford's B. Monkey, so tedious I couldn't get through it (I tried, I really did) ... and the insanely overrated The Matrix.


And sometimes you just can't bring yourself to applaud the effort. Breakfast of Champions is the sort of agonizingly bad movie that you know was a labor of love by a bunch of talented people (Bruce Willis paid for the bulk of it out of his own pocket), making it all the sadder to watch. Some weird, risky movies turn out brilliant (Being John Malkovich); some have brilliant moments and horrid moments (Magnolia); and some are unwatchable abortions from head to toe. This falls into the third category.

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