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Fall/Winter '99 in Review

Opening Commentary: For those unacquainted with the Hollywood system, there are unwritten rules about the season.  Winter/Fall is where studios release most of their award worthy films (usually dramas), Summer is the time for big budget high-grossing films (usually action/adventures), and Spring is the dumping point for the films that are unreleasable in the other months (usually comedies).  There are exceptions to the rules of course (the Coen Brothers prefer a Spring release; Patch Adams made its bow in the Winter) but for the most part, the studios follow these rules.

And so far this year, they have.  The Spring left me thinking that this was going to be a pretty bad year for films; the Summer made me a little happier; but the Fall/Winter brought me to the point of considering 1999 a magnificent year.  Sure there was a higher percentage of recommendations last season (46% to 42%), but the quality of the recommendations have been better this season.  In the first two trimesters of the year, I had given a mere two A+ and A ratings, but this single film season I have seen six of such ratings.  In fact the top three films so far this year come from this season.  Of course, this is no surprise considering the importance of the Fall/Winter season in the Oscar race (and I am crossing my fingers that my top three films this season, American Beauty, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Insider, will find luck at the Academy Award nominations come February). So here they are, the best and worst films of the Fall/Winter.  Keep in mind that this is not the year-end list, though many of my choices for this year will be holding their spots come year-end listing (due out in mid-February, after I have caught some high profile films like The Hurricane, Magnolia, Snow Falling on Cedars, and Boy's Don't Cry).  In the body of this week's column, I shall analyze the season by genre as well as my own personal awards for the season.  Then in the closing section, I shall give the 77 films that I saw between 1 September to 31 December in order of worth.


Yet another lackluster action adventure round-up.  There were fourteen actioners this season, and a feeble four received a recommendation.  But look at the four that did get recommendations:  David Fincher's high-octane blur Fight Club, Hayao Miyazaki's beautiful adult animated film Princess Mononoke, David O. Russell's often hilarious Three Kings, and Tim Burton's smart frightfest Sleepy Hollow.  And all four were pretty solid recommednations, nothing marginal.  The best of the genre, Fight Club, will probably stand as the most memorable for the year.  Yes I have spent more time talking about Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run from Summer and the Wachowski Brother's The Matrix from Spring, but Fight Club is easily the superior.  Its look and feel go beyond the great special effects of The MatrixFight Club is so good that it keeps me from being to dismayed that I saw ten bad action films (71%). Well, maybe all but Bats and The House on Haunted Hill.

Best: Fight Club followed by Princess Mononoke
Worst: Bats edging out The House on Haunted Hill


During the Summer I found it interesting that the comedies was the only genre that came off with more positive reviews than negative.  This season that title goes to the dramas.  Of the twenty-three dramas, thirteen garnered a recommendation (57%).  Dramas are also the main attractions of this season. My top three films of the season are dramas, something that cannot be said for any of the other seasons this year.  In fact those top three are putting up a very close race for their positions in this year's listing.  At this moment in time, I'm leaning towards American Beauty leading, with The Talented Mr. Ripley barely pushing back The Insider.  This may very well change by the time I do the year-in-review Golden Brando Awards in February, at which time I hope to have viewed all these films again.  As for the bad seeds in this year's drama pickings:  who cares if I saw Light It Up, I got to see The Insider.

Best: American Beauty followed by The Talented Mr. Ripley
Worst: Light It Up edging out Jakob the Liar


Much like previous season-in-review columns, the Winter/Fall season had only one documentary.  The Wim Wenders concert film titled after the Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club stands as the only new documentary I saw the entire season, and it was almost viewed in the Summer.  It was a good film, so it does deserve the placement as best of the season, but in all actuality, there was another concert film viewed this season that was better.  The rerelease of Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense on David Byrne's Talking Heads, served as the best documentary I saw all year.  The only thing is that it is ineligible for any of the year-end lists due to the fact that it was a simple rerelease, having seen its initial theatrical release in 1984.

Best: Buena Vista Social Club

Foreign Language Film

Once again, I'm only able to report on a small handful of foreign films. But one of the nice things about having only a small amount of foreign films is that it they are usually all good.  It takes quite a bit of money to import a film and then get it all the way to my neck of the woods, so it is no surprise that the only ones that make it to me are the good ones.  The best part of this season's foreign films was After Life from Hirokazu Kore-eda.  The film is a valid nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Golden Brandos (its biggest competitor is easily Run Lola Run). I also enjoyed viewing what is probably the last true French New Wave film, Eric Rohmer's Autumn Tale, and the return of Blake Edwards-esque zany comedies, Francis Veber's The Dinner Game.  The only sore spot in the bunch was the Chinese film The King of Masks by Wu Tianming.  Though a good film in its own right, I found the film rather sappy at the end.

Best: After Life followed by Autumn Tale


What a season for comedies.  Usually this period is filled with dramas, but thanks to good old platform releasing, most of the dramas of the season have gone unseen by me as of press time.   So the twenty-three dramas of the season are overshadowed by the thirty-two comedies.  Of course, one must keep in mind that the dramas had a 57% success rate, while the comedies had a 31%.  But some of the year's best films were comedies, unlike many previous years.  I happen to adore American Beauty, the season's best film. But like the Golden Globes, I am counting American Beauty as a drama, so its magnitude is not actually counting towards the genre's success rate.   And that is not the only comedy that happened to cross genres, other notables include Fight Club (action/adventure), The Dinner Game (foreign language), The Straight Story (drama), and Three Kings (action/adventure).  But let's not discount the greats that were actually counted as comedies.  Being John Malkovich is one of the most original films I have ever seen, a sure bet to be on my year-end top ten list.  Toy Story 2 went well beyond expectations, dethroning the original as the best animated film of the last five years. Then there is Milos Forman's magnificent biopic on Andy Kaufman Man on the Moon.  But there were also some pretty bad comedies, including the choice for worst film of the season.  Relax ... It's Just Sex and Love Stinks were two of the worst films of the decade, especially Relax, which would go on a listing of nominees for worst films of all time.

Best: Being John Malkovich followed by Toy Story 2

Worst: Existo edging out Relax ... It's Just Sex


I'm simply going to reuse the categories from the annual Golden Brando awards while adding a worse category for each (hence no Ed Wood Humanitarian award this time around).

Best Sound Effects Editing: Fight Club
Worst: Bats
Best Visual Effects: Fight Club
Worst: Bats
Best Original Song: "When Somebody Loved Me" (Toy Story 2)
Worst: "Any Given Sunday" (Any Given Sunday)
Best Sound: Fight Club
Worst: Bats
Best Comedic Score: Being John Malkovich (Carter Burwell)
Worst: Love Stinks
Best Dramatic Score: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Gabriel Yared)
Worst: The Omega Code
Best Film Editing: The Insider
Worst: Bats
Best Makeup: Sleepy Hollow
Worst: Bats
Best Cinematography: The Talented Mr. Ripley (John Seale)
Worst: Bats
Best Costume Design: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Worst: Existo
Best Art Direction: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Worst: Existo
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (The Insider)
Worst: Robert Ri'chard (Light It Up)
Best Supporting Actress: Cameron Diaz (Being John Malkovich)
Worst: Catherine Oxenberg (The Omega Code)
Best Actor: Kevin Spacey (American Beauty)
Worst: Lou Diamond Phillips (Bats)
Best Actress: Annette Bening (American Beauty)
Worst: Dina Meyer (Bats)
Best Comedic Acting Ensemble: Being John Malkovich
Worst: Existo
Best Dramatic Acting Ensemble: American Beauty
Worst: Light It Up
Best Original Screenplay: Being John Malkovich (Charlie Kaufman)
Worst: Bats
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella)
Worst: The House on Haunted Hill
Best Director: Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley)
Worst: Coke Sams (Existo)
Best Picture: American Beauty
Worst: Existo

Blatant Opinion: As the dust clears, 77 1999 films were seen for the first time between 1 September and 31 December.  In addition are multiple viewings like four of American Beauty, three of Toy Story 2, and two of Three Kings (and I hope many more viewings of The Talented Mr. Ripley).  So here it is, the complete listing of 1999 Fall/Winter films with ratings:

1 American Beauty ( A+ / **** )
2 Talented Mr. Ripley, The ( A+ / **** )
3 Insider, The ( A+ / **** )
4 Being John Malkovich ( A / **** )
5 Toy Story 2 ( A / **** )
6 Fight Club ( A / **** )
7 After Life ( A- / ***1/2 )
8 Straight Story, The ( B+ / ***1/2 )
9 Limey, The ( B+ / ***1/2 )
10 Bringing Out the Dead ( B+ / ***1/2 )
11 Man on the Moon ( B+ / ***1/2 )
12 Minus Man, The ( B+ / ***1/2 )
13 Princess Mononoke ( B+ / ***1/2 )
14 Three Kings ( B / *** )
15 Cider House Rules, The ( B / *** )
16 Buena Vista Social Club ( B / *** )
17 Dogma ( B / *** )
18 Autumn Tale ( B / *** )
19 Sleepy Hollow ( B / *** )
20 Dinner Game, The ( B / *** )
21 Green Mile, The ( B / *** )
22 Guinevere ( B / *** )
23 Anywhere But Here ( B / *** )
24 King of Masks, The ( B- / *** )
25 Mumford ( B- / *** )
26 Flawless ( B- / *** )
27 Random Hearts ( B- / *** )
28 Galaxy Quest ( B- / *** )
29 Breakfast of Champions ( B- / *** )
30 My Life So Far ( B- / *** )
31 Sugar Town ( B- / *** )
32 Music of the Heart ( B- / *** )


33 Twin Falls Idaho ( C + / **1/2 )
34 Mansfield Park ( C+ / **1/2 )
35 Best Man, The ( C + / **1/2 )
36 Bachelor, The ( C + / **1/2 )
37 Bicentennial Man ( C + / **1/2 )
38 Drive Me Crazy ( C + / **1/2 )
39 Blue Streak ( C + / **1/2 )
40 Legend of 1900, The ( C / ** )
41 Last Night ( C / ** )
42 Messenger, The:  The Story of Joan of Arc ( C / ** )
43 Double Jeopardy ( C / ** )
44 Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The ( C / ** )
45 Happy, Texas ( C / ** )
46 Three to Tango ( C / ** )
47 Ride with the Devil ( C- / ** )
48 World is Not Enough, The ( C- / ** )
49 Stigmata ( C- / ** )
50 Any Given Sunday ( C- / ** )
51 Pokémon the First Movie:  Mewtwo Strikes Back ( C- / ** )
52 Plunkett & Macleane ( C- / ** )
53 Stuart Little ( C- / ** )
54 For Love of the Game ( C- / ** )
55 Crazy in Alabama ( C- / ** )
56 Deuce Bigalow:  Male Gigolo ( C- / ** )
57 Body Shots ( C- / ** )
58 Story of Us, The ( D+ / *1/2 )
59 Anna and the King ( D+ / *1/2 )
60 End of Days ( D+ / *1/2 )
61 Mystery, Alaska ( D+ / *1/2 )
62 Dog Park ( D+ / *1/2 )
63 Better Than Chocolate ( D+ / *1/2 )
64 Grizzly Falls ( D+ / *1/2 )
65 Outside Providence ( D+ / *1/2 )
66 Jakob the Liar ( D / * )
67 trick ( D / * )
68 Bone Collector, The ( D / * )
69 Omega Code, The ( D- / 1/2 )
70 Chill Factor ( D- / 1/2 )
71 Superstar ( D- / 1/2 )
72 House on Haunted Hill, The ( D- / 1/2 )
73 Light It Up ( D- / 1/2 )
74 Love Stinks ( D- / 1/2 )
75 Relax ... It's Just Sex ( D- / 1/2 )
76 Bats ( F / NO STARS )
77 Existo ( F / NO STARS )

Analysis by:
David Perry