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  •  TOP10: TOP 10 FILMS OF 1999

    Top 10 films of 1999


    By JOSHUA TANZER and DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    By now you're asking yourself, will "Pokemon" be on David's top 10 films of 1999? Did "Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo" make Joshua's top 13 movies of the year? Read on and find out.

    See David's list | See Joshua's list
    Other Top 10's: 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000




    If you rent only ten videos in Y2K, just make sure these are they:

    (In alphabetical order.)


      
  • American Beauty

    There are moments in "American Beauty" when you think to yourself "things are going to get ugly" before realizing that things have been interminable from the outset. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are marvelous in a dark and disturbing black comedy that revels in the decay and disharmony of suburbia. No-one said life was a bed of roses.

  • Arlington Road

    A slick, professional thriller from director Mark Pellington, with Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, and Joan Cusack all at the top of their game. The only sequence more shocking than the film's disturbing opener is the last. If you don't leave the theater visibly shaken then blood does not flow in your veins.


      
  • Being John Malkovich

    When a pregnant woman (Catherine Keener) in a ditch alongside the New Jersey turnpike screams to another (Cameron Diaz) that she's carrying her child, you snicker nervously, not just because of the absurdity of the situation but because, in the scheme of things, you believe it. That's the strength of Charlie Kaufman's brutally original screenplay, one that never lets up for an instant in its attempts to be truly different. Kudos to first-time feature director Spike Jonze, a wonderful cast (including John Cusack as a down-on-his-luck puppeteer) and, especially, to the eponymous J.M. for being such a terrific sport throughout. Easily the weirdest film of 1999, but also the best.

  • Drop Dead Gorgeous

    This skewering of beauty contests, with Denise Richards and Kirsten Dunst as pageant hopefuls and Kirstie Allie and Ellen Barkin as their feuding parents from opposite ends of the social strata, is the funniest film I have seen this, last, or any year come to think of it.

  • For Love of the Game

    After a lackluster turn in "Message in a Bottle," Kevin Costner is back doing what he does best. No wolves, no gills, no postal carriers, just an honest-to-goodness baseball movie. Director Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan") shows remarkable restraint in allowing Costner's passion for America's favorite pastime to shape the story, with Kelly Preston giving a delightful balance to the disillusioned ballplayer's "blonde of the week."

  • Hands on a Hardbody, the Documentary

    An absolutely fascinating documentary (what else did you expect from that title?) about the blood, sweat, and tears exuded during the annual "Hands on a Hardbody" contest in Longview, Texas. The last man (or woman) standing wins a fully-loaded, $15,000 Nissan pickup truck, but the real winner here is the audience.


      
  • Mansfield Park

    Not to be dismissed as Yet Another Jane Austen Movie, Canadian director Patricia Rozema's "Mansfield Park" showcases Austen's proficiency in developing characters so rich and vital you'll want to spend many more hours in their collective company. With Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, and the remarkable Frances O'Connor as "Mansfield Park"'s heroine Fanny Price.

  • The Matrix

    More down-the-rabbit-hole allusions (see: "Being John Malkovich"), this time in the form of the Wachowski brothers' visually stunning virtual reality. "The Matrix" stars a cool-looking Keanu Reeves as a befuddled and bewildered computer programmer being recruited to save the universe by an equally cool-looking Laurence Fishburne. What is The Matrix? It's a surreal, icky, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk hacker mind-trip of a movie. And a very good one at that.

      
  • Run Lola Run

    Tom Tykwer's exhilarating "Run Lola Run" reconsiders — and re-executes — the pitfalls, obstacles, and decisions its central character faces during the longest twenty minutes of her life. And it shows, with amazing dexterity and creativity, how a talented filmmaker can turn a simple storyline into an elaborate game of "what if . . .?"


      
  • Twin Falls Idaho

    Written and directed by, and starring identical twins Mark and Michael Polish, "Twin Falls Idaho" is an odd little film that uses empathy to push its cinematic experience beyond that of just another freakshow. It's a sad, fascinating, and profoundly moving portrait of two individuals who have learned, not by choice, to live together. A striking — and striking looking — feature debut.





  • I gave myself 13 choices because three of my 10 favorites are as-yet unreleased. Plus, one only played for a week. I used to hate it when the Village Voice issued its top-10 lists and they were mostly films nobody had ever heard of, and now here I am doing a bit of the same thing. Bad Josh! But after all, the whole philosophy of Offoffoff.com is that there are many great things going on in New York that people don't know about but should.

    1. Being John Malkovich

    This wicked satire about the culture of celebrity has many laughs without a single obvious punch line, and it's painfully accurate about how mass culture shapes our consciousness. An obscure street performer wastes his life trying to develop his art and nobody notices, but when a famous star does the exact same act, it's hailed nationwide as brilliant and moving. Why? The answer lies not only in our stars but in ourselves — our acceptance of the narrow icon-worship that mass culture imposes. (Now ask yourself why shapely actress Jennifer Lopez is now considered a major musical talent and Andrew Lloyd Webber has 27 shows on Broadway.)

      
    2. After Life

    (Japan) The recently deceased arrive at a purgatorial office building where they are to choose the one memory they wish to keep with them for eternity. This may sound like a movie about death, but it's a very thoughtful movie about life. Afterwards, you'll find yourself thinking about what memory you'd choose and why; what gives your life its meaning and what brings you real happiness. (Too early in the year to be reviewed here, but here's a review by the British site 6degrees that does it justice.)


      
    3. Earth

    (India) Starts like a term paper on ethnic understanding, but builds in intensity as war begins to split people apart in an Indian-Pakistani border city. It's all a buildup to the devastating conclusion which makes sense of the whole film.

      
    4. Too Much Sleep

    (unreleased) Independent film by David Maquiling (general manager of the Anthology's New Filmmakers series). A security guard loses his gun and has to track down the lovely con-girl who took it. His friend's fast-talking uncle (played brilliantly by Pasquale Gaeta) joins the hunt through deepest, quirkiest, suburban New Jersey, warning people that as the former deputy county clerk he could make their lives miserable. Another comedy with many laughs and no blatant punch lines. (Showed once in 1999; reviewed during Oct. 2000 run.)

    5. Three Kings

    A war movie that turns the tables on its heroes. Four Americans venture behind Iraqi lines and quickly realize they have no idea what's really going on in the country. Cleverly translates what was an armchair skirmish for most Americans into shocking reality by putting our guys into the Iraqis' shoes. (A little too mainstream to be reviewed in Offoffoff, but here's David's review — he liked it too.)

      
    6. Last Night

    The world is ending at midnight, and everybody knows it. How do you spend your last six hours? Much of the film is subtly touching or humorous, including Genevieve Bujold with the year's funniest role. But like "Earth," this might be merely a likeable little exercise if not for a stunning conclusion that makes sense of the whole thing.

    7. The Blair Witch Project

    I know David disagrees with me strongly about this one, and I have to admit "Blair Witch Project" was whiny, jerky and repetitive. But the filmmakers used a few small devices to turn a $30,000 movie on the screen into a serious suspense film in your mind. I was totally caught up in it.

    8. The Matrix

    From the opening sequence on, it perfectly captures on film what cyberpunk writers have been putting in print for 15 years — the look, the feel, the attitude. (Not reviewed here, but Roger Ebert's review was right on the money, including his criticisms.)

    9. Fallout

    (unreleased — now out on video) Drama by Robert Palumbo in which four executives accidentally get locked in their building's forgotten fallout shelter and have to learn how to survive. A "Lord of the Flies" for the '90s that bares the sinister side of corporate man.

      
    10. El Chevrolé

    (Uruguay, unreleased, also titled "The Life Jacket is Under Your Seat") Magical things start happening on the day a charismatic Frank Zappa type is sprung mysteriously from jail under a cubist blue sky. Beautiful, exciting and sexy.


      
    11. La Ciudad

    David Riker collected stories from New York's Latin-American immigrant communities and turned them into four simple but moving vignettes. The non-actor cast adds an extra element of realism.

      
    12. La GenŹse (Genesis)

    (Mali) A surprise to me, "La Genese" is effective and fascinating, setting the biblical story of Jacob in ancient Mali. Every word of the Bible looks a little different after this film puts it in the context of desert culture.


      
    11. Run Lola Run

    (Germany) A style obviously lifted from music videos makes this film a wild, exciting ride. It's full of gimmicks, but they all work.

    The list was just a little too short for: Limbo, The Insider, Buena Vista Social Club, Election.



    DECEMBER 28, 1999
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


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