Being John Malkovich
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, I was browsing the movie options on a cross-country flight and settled on Election, thinking it would be a fun, easy plane watch. Oh god, I was wrong. I had last seen Alexander Payne's quirky story of the downfalls of a plucky high school student and her popular teacher over a decade prior. Upon rewatch, this gut-wrenching exploration of democracy, political nihilism, and men's fear of losing control of their worlds to women struck a very different chord. The movie is just as funny as when it was first released, but the recent turn in American politics revealed to me how essential its unflinching truths about gender politics are, though this may have been obvious to others at the time.
SPOILER: Although Jim's attempts to ruin Tracey's political career are thwarted, the movie's dark message is communicated in the epilogue, when the lesson Jim has learned is to be suspicious of any young girl with ambition and to deny her the same opportunities provided to her male peers.
Do you mean best movie, or best American movie made by white dudes?
Where did you leave Claire Denis' best work (Beau Travail), or Almodóvar's best film (Todo Sobre Mi Madre)? And what about Lynne Ramsay's best movie (Ratcatcher) or the Dardenne's Rosetta?
Broaden out, guys; the choices you proposed are purely White-American movies.
Cinema is about exploration, I think you can do better.
Surprised more people aren't saying American Movie here. I feel like that's a fave of the filmspotting community, but only see one person touting it as their #1. Gonna continue the trend because Office Space is too leisurely sharp a satire to not top my list. It's fun that a comedy that's so character-focused and doesn't have many big setpieces has become such a cultural touchstone. That's because it's that good.
"How much more money does Joe have than Mike?" Alice schools her daughter Helena in how to succeed in a society where sex and salary are synonymous in Kubrick's haunting final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut.
Bringing Out the Dead not even on the list? Scorsese's second best of the decade and perhaps his best, and most underrated, of the last 25 years. It gets my pick for sure.
Isn't it interesting that none of these picks were nominated for Best Picture? Aside from The Sixth Sense, I do believe the Academy got it wrong that year. I say that being a big fan of American Beauty at the time, but having cooled on it since.
When I think of the best film of a year, I think about which film a) stood the test of time and b) was the most significant or influential. This is a great pack of films (Magnolia probably being the weakest of the bunch), but I think the edge goes to The Matrix. This film, on its own, is a perfect film and it greatly influenced film - for better or worse - for years to come. I think Being John Malkovich is 2nd only to this film. However, I don't think it had the degree of influence The Matrix had.
No shortage of excellent movies on this list, however Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT stands above the rest. It is complex and challenging and had more to unpack and contend with than any & all of the other films represented here.
It has also held up to re-watch more so than the likes of Matrix, Magnolia, Fight Club and the like as a result of its thematic density and Stanley Kubrick's signature immaculate cinematic aesthetic.
As with the majority Kubrick's other work, EYES takes us to places we may not be completely comfortable going. It affects us in ways and places that we were as yet unaware and stays with us long afterwards.
There has been nothing else like it neither before nor since.
Honestly, it's a tie between "The Matrix" and "Fight Club." Both films plunged you into worlds that made you feel like you're entering a new millennium. "The Matrix" achieved feats that changed filmmaking while presenting grandiose ideas that challenge the nature of life itself. "Fight Club" dove deep into the psyche twisting a narrative spiral that Dostoevsky would truly be astonished by, while also challenging the nature of our own humanity. Both films are thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking taking film into a new age. I love both films and if I taught a film class, they would be essential to tell the story of transformation of film throughout the decades.
What a year. MAGNOLIA and TOY STORY 2 are among my all time favorites. One made me unexpectedly bawl in front of the TV and the other made me turn to my friends in the movie theater and whisper in disbelief “It’s raining frogs”. It could go either way but I guess I’ll go with Magnolia because they’re not churning out a Magnolia 4 this year.
The thing about Fight Club is that it's the sweetest, least bro-y movie David Fincher has ever made. Two generations of bros and their detractors have been having the wrong argument. I mean, it ends with a confession – "You met me at a very strange time in my life" – that the whole story was a wrong turn, a screwed-up detour on the way to growing up. Marla's the real truth, and the rest is a subliminal dick-pic.
Ignore my comment. I thought it said “90s” not 1999
Other: Dark City!!! I mean sure the rest are excellent- and don’t forget pulp fiction ????
I'm not sure it's the best film of 1999, but the one that made the biggest impression on me when I saw it was "Magnolia." I had seen some great movies before that time, but I don't think I had ever seen a movie — or a filmmaker — take so many risks all at once, and it was exhilarating. Everything about it — the music, the cinematography, the performances — felt daring and larger than life, and to this day, I consider it the high point of P.T. Anderson's filmography. (Yes, I think it's better than both "There Will Be Blood" and "The Master." There, I said it.)
All that said, 20 years later, "Magnolia" isn't a film I return to all that often. I still think it's an incredible movie, but in terms of re-watchability, I have to give the advantage to either "Three Kings" — the best war movie of the '90s — or "The Iron Giant."
Dick directed by Andrew Flemming. The satirical/revisionist comedy that asks "what if the informant known as “Deep Throat,” who tipped off Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, was actually a pair of teenage girls?" Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are amazing and fun and so GOOD in the thick of the 1972 Watergate scandal. I've quoted it every day since 1999. "We have a very important school report on turquoise jewelry due in two days, and we can't find any books on it, and the President's having us followed. It's too much pressure!!!"
As others have said - The Iron Giant, Election, All About My Mother, Ghost Dog, or Galaxy Quest (my personal fave).
Not contenders for "best" but also interesting little numbers from '99 - Two Hands (one of Heath Ledger's earlier film roles and I think Rose Byrne's first worth mentioning), and Mansfield Park - a pretty great underseen Austen adaptation.
0verall just happy that Fight Club isn't winning so far, it's an overrated bro-film.
AL-MO-DO-VAR!!!! Nothing possesses the beauty, touches you deeply, makes you laugh and cry like the crazy amazing tale of All About my Mother, nothing!
If you would have asked in January 2000 to answer what I though was the best film of 1999 was, I would have replied American Beauty without hesitation. If asked what was the most influential, I would have answered The Matrix.. However, if asked those questions today, I would answer South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. to both. In 1999, I was a passive South Park viewer but I was curious to see what Parker and Stone could do without the constraints that come with television. I was not disappointed. While I went into the movie fully anticipating the boundaries of good taste to be tested like never before, what I did not expect was a classic movie musical. Unwittingly, I believe this movie as much as any other helped to usher in the current renaissance of the genre we are enjoying today. .More importantly, this film was certainly instrumental in paving the way for one of the most celebrated and successfully Broadway musicals of all time, The Book of Mormon.
I'm going to throw in a left-field vote for "The Talented Mr. Ripley". One of my all-time favorite films, it manages to be an unbelievably beautiful period travel picture and a starkly disturbing thriller at the same time. Plus, I think it's still Matt Damon's best-ever performance.
The vote is for The Matrix. If you can, remember (or imagine) what that film was at that time, and before any of the sequels had come out. It was in a league of it’s own... as was the Blair Witch Project. Okay, so I voted twice. Can those two just be tied in first and runner up automatically goes to Galaxy Quest? By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, [it must be so]!
From Dover, DE
As always another tough a difficult poll where I must choose between a variety of solid film options for best of 1999. I say that with Filmspotting Madness, the 1990s, looming in the near future, where you monsters will make me choose between some of my most treasured films. For this difficult decision though I went with a little known film, American Movie. From Chris Smith, it follows the lives of a bunch of low budget movie makers trying to finish a job. All #1 picks or any lists for that matter are personal in nature, as was this pick. It was the first movie I remember renting multiple times with my friends to watch from Blockbuster (RIP). We surely did not fully understand what we were watching, but we laughed and enjoyed the time with the films subjects. As far as film goes it opened me up to independent as well as documentary cinema, which is probably my favorite genre of film today. So there it is, American Movie for the top pick of 1999.
Guys, stop fooling. You know the best film of 1999 is Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher.
I got to mention to brilliant period piece films that came out in 1999 from directors known for very R-rated contemporary-set films: David Mamet's The Winslow Boy and Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy. Both are well-acted, well-written with unique perspectives on Edwardian and Victorian London life. Topsy Turvy is particularly witty and charming in it retelling of the creation of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. This movie is worth watching just for the moment where we see the twinkle in Jim Broadbent's eye when the eponymous opera comes to him a flash.
My vote goes to "Other" for The Blair Witch Project. Aside from being the scariest horror film that I've ever seen and my personal favorite from that fantastic genre, Blair Witch is endlessly fascinating in every aspect of its presentation. The first thing that springs to mind is the brilliant marketing that, at the time, sowed actual doubt as to the film's potential legitimacy. Not only was Blair Witch filmed and shown in a manner that suggested an unstaged and horrifying reality, the entire marketing plan was patient and clever enough to back it up. For another thing, it's the rare monster flick that actually has a satisfyingly terrifying monster, mainly because the film is confident enough (or perhaps, more realistically, low-budgeted enough) to never actually show it. This makes the both the titular character and the film itself infinitely scarier, as whatever foul concoction brewing in our imaginations is allowed to lurk in every shadow and crouch behind every tree. The Blair Witch Project may not be the most important or technically proficient or even innovative film of 1999, but it's certainly my favorite, and one that I consider a true masterpiece.
I'd say FIGHT CLUB offers the best Audio Commentary of that list. Even back in '99 you have Edward Norton commenting about how '99 is a great year for movies and taking issue with contemporary critics calling it a terrible year for movies.
Other -> Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother)
The top of my personal "Movies I Do Not Get" list is The Matrix. Have never understood the fascination with it. Every watch (which is, admittedly only three) I try to see something, anything at all, to latch on to. Every watch I fail.
So, I voted for The Insider. Michael Mann's forgotten glory, I think. I was 15, turning 16 in 1999 and it was the first movie that showed me, as someone old enough to understand what lie ahead - somewhat - what news and journalism could be all about. I don't want to say a Michael Mann film was the inciting event that led to my 16-year career as a reporter, but I'm going to.
The New York Times recently called "Fight Club" " the defining cult movie of our time ," a compliment for sure, but I don't believe it should be shoved into the "cult" ghetto. It's too good on too many basic filmmaking levels to be lumped in with oddities and midnight movies. It'd be like calling "The Big Lebowski" a cult movie, which seems ridiculous.
Here are six reasons "Fight Club" is a bona-fide classic, period: 1. Quotability. "I am Jack's raging bile duct." My criteria for greatness demands memorable, pointed dialogue. "Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken." Screenwriter Jim Uhls channels author Chuck Palahniuk's words to the screen, and keeps their intensity and subtext intact. "With a gun barrel between your teeth, you speak only in vowels." There is not a wasted word in this script. "Marla... the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it, but you can't." The words are rife with wit and unconventional wisdom. 2. Subversiveness. In 1999, the rebellion against pointless political correctness was in its infancy, and I'd argue "Fight Club" helped fuel it further. The suggestion that people can find release and escape through violence is not popular -- I can understand moral apprehension to it -- but there's truth in it. 3. Direction. David Fincher is at the top of his game here, creating vivid set pieces, pacing the story perfectly and submerging us completely in the ugly, psychological grit of the Narrator. His approach to the material is controlled and accomplished, yet imbued with raw enthusiasm. 4. Performances. "Fight Club" has resulted in fans' enshrining Edward Norton with nigh-godhood. It's the performance most likely to define his career -- all guts. Same goes for Brad Pitt, who famously, admirably, waggishly sullied his prettyboy image for the role. And Helena Bonham-Carter, previously a goddess of tightly corseted English period pieces, showed a refreshingly deranged and modern side of herself as Marla. 5. Themes. Three words: Angry young men. Sometimes, it seems as if they (we) have no place to grind our axes. "Fight Club" is their (our) tough-guy revenge fantasy. It shows the bipolar nature of the male psyche, being torn between the sensitive, fashionable and demure qualities of the Narrator, and the macho, impulsive Tyler Durden. It nourishes our desire to break things, create havoc and revolt against perceived oppression. Yes, there's a mysoginist tone to Tyler, but like violence, moral apprehension against an idea doesn't mean it ceases to exist. The brain of man is a complicated, messy tangle, and "Fight Club" reflects it. So sayeth Tyler: "All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I (bleep) like you wanna (bleep), I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not." 6. It's smart. It's dumb. It's funny. It's serious. Frankly, it's everything a movie should be: invigorating, unsettling, intelligent, provocative, divisive, important. "This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time." Words to live by.
Looking at my letterboxd (oneinfinity) ratings for 1999, I have 5 films that I've given 5 stars to: Being John Malkovich, The Matrix, Toy Story 2, Galaxy Quest and Cookie's Fortune. I voted for Being John Malkovich for this poll, but The Matrix is such a close second, it's really more of a tie between these two films. The film I'm most surprised about not being a part of the discussion here at all is Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune. I mean, I guess I understand in the sense that it's definitely not as innovative as some of the year's other top films, but in the sense that it is a patient masterpiece of craftsmanship from one of our greatest directors, I'm saddened to see it absent from the conversation.
Although 1999 introduced us to some remarkable voices that have kept on giving in the twenty years since (Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola, Brad Bird, M. Night Shyamalan), I'm voting for Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson's third feature. Anderson had already kinda sorta established himself with Boogie Nights, but even at the time, I felt like it had too many markings of other established filmmakers, the most obvious being Scorsese's Goodfellas. I was worried that Magnolia would lead to more obvious comparisons, perhaps this time to Robert Altman's Short Cuts, with the ridiculously large cast and ridiculously long runtime. In the end, though, Magnolia felt simultaneously personal and epic. It was 1999's Magnolia that announced who our greatest director of the 21st Century would be.
The Iron Giant is the best film of 1999, and I can explain in just one word. "Superman". Is it getting dusty in here?
Can we talk about Carter Burwell's score in "Being John Malkovich," and especially his "Puppet Love" theme? That has got to be one of the most-influential two minutes of film score in the subsequent 20 years. I've heard multiple movie trailers using it.
It show up in other movies too. My favorite homage to it, is from Johan Johannsson's score in "The Theory of Everything." Try this out: First listen to "Puppet Love" :
And now here's "Daisy Daisy" from "The Theory of Everything" :
It's so fairy tale and beautiful and creepy. Just like Being John Malkovich.
1.Being John Malkovich (one of my favorite movies ever)
4. The Matrix
5. Boys Don't Cry
Best Comedy if you don't count Election: Bowfinger
Best Family Movie: October Sky
Flawed and Overly Sentimental But I Still Loved It: Cider House Rules
Best Loved Foreign Film: Autumn Tale (sorry Almodovar)
I understand the criticism about how American Beauty hasn't held up, especially with what's come out about Kevin Spacey in the past couple years and how it relates to this movie, but I still think it's my favorite and best movie of 1999 (close second being Eyes Wide Shut). I've always maintained that the most important thing a film can do is evoke strong feeling. Well that's just how American Beauty affects me. It manages to tap into that boring mediocrity of the "American dream", once we have what society tells us is what we want, is that enough? Of course not. Lester is a pathetic excuse for a man who realized he has spent his whole life striving for things he doesn't even want.
What Sam Mendes manages to do with the other characters to compliment this dynamic is nothing short of flawless. He finds the perfect puzzle pieces to fit with Kevin Spacey's oddly shaped center piece. This is truly an odd film though. I completely understand how people can be lukewarm or simply dislike it. My connection to it is more emotional than technical and of course emotion is extremely subjective.
Many great movies have examined the friction that occurs when a broadcast News department tries to exist independently within a profit-minded corporate structure (Network, The Post, etc.), but few have executed it as well as Michael Mann’s The Insider.
As much as it can be, this is a corporate thriller where darker motives push the tension effectively through to the anti-climatic end.
This is Mann’s most complex and best film of his career. Quite a thing for the director who made Heat.
The Matrix or the Insider for me. I love Fight Club but afraid it might not stand the test of time. Insider is super underrated!
My top 5 for 1999
1. Being John Malkovich
2. Iron Giant
3. Three Kings
" eXistenZ" is a much better sci-fi film than the "Matrix." It out shines "Matrix" without all those bullets, fancy camera tricks, and downloaded files into ones brain in order to explain quickly acquired new skills. IF it wasn't for those new skills, this would have not even been an action movie.
I'll take director David Cronenberg over the Wachowskis. Then there are the actors to consider. Jude Law, Jenniefer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe are all far better actors than Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss.
My top 5 from 1999:
1. The Matrix
2. The Thomas Crown affair
3. Office space
4. The straight story
5. Being John Malkovich
Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich! Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich.
When I was young my dad and I would go to the theater every Friday to see whatever movie piqued our interest that week. One fateful day when I was 11 we walked into the theater to see a movie that, despite my mom's protests that I was too young, my dad really wanted to see. This movie was the Matrix. My mind blown. I walked out of the theater with a completely new perspective on not only what a movie could be but what I should look for in film. This movie sparked an interest in film for me that has continued on to this day. While it may not be the best film ever made I consider it my favorite film and I am thrilled to be able to champion it among this list of very worthy competitors. Thank you Adam and Josh (or Josh and Adam, whoever is reading can choose the order) for provide me with hours of awesome film discussion and 45 funny minutes of Michael Phillips tearing down Indiana Jones. Also a thank you to Sam and Golden Joe because I hear that without them the show wouldn't go.
Not sure how both The Sixth Sense and American Beauty don't make the list. I voted other and for The Sixth Sense. Of those listed, I thought Magnolia was great. And The Matrix is just a lot of fun and easy to watch multiple times.
Three way tie between Election, Matrix, and Talented Mr Ripley. My latest fan fic: Tracy Flick has to bring Dickie Greenleaf back from Europe, Tom Ripley has to win a school election, only to realize it’s a glitch in the Matrix. Layers, man!
This was a really good list. While I am a huge fan of Fight Club and The Matrix to name a few, I ultimately have to go with Being John Malkovich. It is a film that I found to be masterfully crafted by Spike Jonze as well as powerfully acted by John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and of course, John Malkovich. It is a film that effectively stands out for being vastly original as well as subversively pushing the boundaries of imagination.
99 had 15 of the best movies of the entire 1990s. Adam and Josh should skip the boring Sixth Sense and review Dogma instead! Or Office Space. Or South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut. Or A Stir of Echoes. Or Mystery Men.
I am Jack’s Popcorn ulcer.
PS RESPECT THE COCK!!!
There are many thought provoking movies in this poll, Eyes Wide Shut and The Matrix are two of my favorites. Being John Malkovich and Magnolia following close behind.
Fight Club, though, blew my mind. In the semi-fantastical world of the Narrator/Tyler Durden, Palhniuk is able to expertly weave social issues, philosophy, group think, and social norms in such a way that sets the bar high for cerebral cinema moving forward. While seemly unlikely to happen in the "real world," this film was incredibly relatable. It would not surprise me if this film was the key that unlocked the mind of a generation with regards to how they would choose to live life, and pick careers, in the years to follow.
I love all of the options except The Virgin Suicides, and The Insider is probably my true top choice, but at any given time I'd much rather watch South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It's the year's best comedy and musical, qualities that remain potent today.
Also hoping to see some love for The Limey, my second favorite Soderbergh behind Ocean's 11.
This is by far one of the hardest polls in a long time for me. 1999 was truly one of best years~ Then again, for me it straddles that line of "nostalgia" pics and young adulthood when I really started getting into film analysis and appreciation.
Festival release vs. commercial release dates are a quagmire that even the most pedant of pedants can fall prey to.
A best of 99 list including The Virgin Suicides is like a best of 2017 list including First Reformed.
1999 was a great year for comedies. South Park, Galaxy Quest, and Office Space are all-timers, plus Malkovich, Go, Dogma, and Election for sheer absurdity.
I’m shocked “American Beauty,” “Office Space,” “Election” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” aren’t on your ballot!
MAGNOLIA and EYES WIDE SHUT are both long overdue for a revisit, so I'm defaulting to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, a movie I still think is as hilarious, weird, and moving as it was when I saw it on the big screen back in '99. I'm also partial to a few other underdog choices like GHOST DOG, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, and RAVENOUS, a surprising and quirky horror-comedy about cannibals starring Guy Pierce. It's also very very important to me that FIGHT CLUB not win this poll.
The Talented Mr. Ripley remains severely underrated. Do I sense some anti-Minghella bias in not including it in this poll? ;)
Choosing between The Matrix and Fight Club almost gave me a stroke. Judging from the early results, a lot of others are enduring the same struggle. Fight! Fight! Fight!
I chose Eyes Wide Shut. I only saw it once, but I love discussing and ruminating on that movie, so I'm thrilled it's a part of the 9 from '99 series. To the Filmspotting team, it would make my day if you could group 9 from '99 with the marathons. That series could use a little shake-up. Instead of focusing on auteurs or national cinemas like usual, you could expand the possibilities by experimenting with what qualifies as a Filmspotting Marathon.
I picked Matrix, but did so by imagining a reality where the sequels never came about. Watching those tend to sully even the quality of the first, which is masterful and fun with the exception of Trinity's role as primarily muse.
My top three films of that year were Alexander Payne’s Election, American Movie (still one of the best documentaries of the past few decades) and the French film The Girl On the Bridge with Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteuil.
It was hard to choose one from that list but Election keeps coming up for me. It may not be Payne’s masterpiece but it will always be my personal favorite. To me, it is a flawless film.
Let's see Dogma, The Iron Giant, October Sky and Three Kings all top your list and that's just off the top of my head. Try again