The Year In Film: 1999

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-There are some years in movies, music, and television that age better than others. For me, 1999 aged much better than I expected for film. While it isn't quite the year that 1995 was (it is impossible to be), it definitely has a lot of classic films and important films that were released throughout the year. Perhaps there is no film more important to this year than the genre bending classic The Matrix, which changed the way we saw special effects and action films in a way. Starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, it seemed as if The Matrix started a new trend in film for the cinematography and helped to give life to a brand new trilogy in film history. 

The year also gave us some other inventive and important films, like The Blair Witch Project, Dogma, Double Jeopardy, The Bone Collector, and the strange yet well put together American Beauty. Those are just a few of the films that made the year a lot of fun at the theater, but they are far from the only ones. Today, we take a look back at the year 1999 in film and discuss our favorites, as well as some of the films that may have missed the mark. Let's get into it. 

Here we are again talking another great year in movies which takes us to 1999, the year before the turn of the millennium and all the Y2K insanity. Hollywood set us up for a great run of film and while usually I can rank my choices easily, this year seemed to have so many films that were of equal quality. So in no particular order, these are the films I enjoyed the most. 

Probably the most thought provoking and well timed released ever was “The Matrix”. This started a whole heap of trends within movies, was the start of many conspiracy theories and was probably the most fascinating gravity-defying choreography and effects ever. If nothing else, the action and cinematography is enough to make this a favorite. For me, I liked the premise although some things had been seen before (like the good guys being beat to near death but magically finding a second wind and becoming victorious) but it looked good and entertained nevertheless. I also appreciated the concepts and possibilities that were introduced, like the whole concept of living in a controlled reality that doesn’t actually exist. If you think about it, when this movie was released there was nothing quite as bold and nothing that created such a stir. Years ahead of its time, The Matrix is still just as enjoyable and no other film has been able to rival the original. 

Another very interesting movie that took me a couple of times of watching to really understand and appreciate is “Fight Club”. It’s one of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt’s best performances. The whole movie is very weird and kind of difficult to follow at first, and the entire story is quite twisted and savage on some levels but is still enjoyable because the acting is fantastic. The 12-step meetings, the underground fighting and the weird cult like rules that come with it are a bit troubling but David Fincher is a great director and managed to put it together well. I also like the philosophy that is introduced through Edward Norton’s character (the narrator) as well as the challenges of living a mundane life. It is thought-provoking to those of us who can see through the extreme fighting and heavy testosterone infused scenes. Overall this was a good movie and one that makes 1999 memorable. 

One of my favorite movies and the reason this year stands out to me is “The Best Man”. I’ve ranked this movie at the number one spot every chance I get and this is no different. This one is easy to rank as my number one choice because everything about it is dope. From the characters to the storyline, the drama between the couples and even the soundtrack, this film did everything right. This was 2 hours of laughs, tears and “oh shit” moments as if we were watching a real life group of friends go through a reunion of sorts. I love everything about this, I can watch it infinitely and this will always rank on top lists for me. 

One movie I enjoyed and I was surprised that I did was “Brokedown Palace”. Although I wasn’t thrilled with the cast (Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale), I’m glad I watched it. The story is pretty standard and somewhat believable, as these two best friends go on a summer trip to Thailand together. One is a bit of a “rebel” with a somewhat unstable home, and the other is a total goody goody with a typical family unit. They lie about where they are going because the one friend’s dad wouldn’t be okay with it. They get to Thailand and things are going well until they meet an Australian guy who plays both of them and somehow gets them to become drug mules. Of course they get caught at the airport and the story develops from there. The series of events unravels one by one and the viewers realize they are actually equally to blame but in very different ways. What I love most about this and why it’s managed to stay on my “radar” for the last 18 years, is because no other movie shows the tests and challenges of friendship quite like this. Also the story is left open ended so the viewer can draw their own conclusions or perhaps they will come out with a sequel (I’m not holding my breath though).

I haven’t met many people who have seen the movie “Go”, but I appreciate this because of the way the story is told. Essentially, it’s about a drug deal between a girl and her group of friends and all of the obstacles that come along with it. Two of them get into trouble in Las Vegas where the deal is to go down, which causes a domino effect. While the story is pretty standard and we’ve seen it so many times before, what makes this a interesting is that is told from the perspectives of the friends. It has a very “Pulp Fiction”-like feel to it (and many scenes are reminiscent of the Tarantino masterpiece) but it unravels a little faster. Overall, this is more of a fun movie rather than one with substance but is definitely worth the watch. 

Star Wars fans waited a long time for another episode and 1999 gave us “The Phantom Menace”. After a 16-year hiatus from George Lucas, fans were given the highly anticipated first episode in the prequel trilogy. This is where the gaps start to become clear. Although we are taken back to the very beginning of the story, it was easy to follow along because we were already familiar with the characters and how they tied together, we were well versed in the force and pretty much everything else. This episode revolves largely around Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi, the Planet of Naboo and Jar Jar Binks, who is always involved in Star Wars debates. I like Phantom Menace for this reason, as it allows fans to form “what if” scenarios and of course predicting what caused the series of events that led to all subsequent events that took place (ex. IMO, Qui Gon Jinn saving Jar Jar Binks is what ultimately puts Chancellor Palpatine in power which causes Anakin to embrace the dark side and so on). This would kick off the prequel trilogy and we have '99 to thank for that! 

“10 Things I Hate About You” was also released this year and while I didn’t like Julia Stiles much at the time, this film changed that…of course with the help of Heath Ledger. They were so young at the time and what they lacked in age, they made up for in acting because they both delivered a very good performance that made sure to keep viewers entertained. The storyline is so fun, as it’s about two sisters who are so different from one another. Their dad implements a rule that the younger daughter can’t date until her older sister does.... but the catch is, the older sister is heavily focused on school and thinks boys and dating are a waste of time – but enter Heath Ledger – who is paid to woo her. Yes, this is the typical movie about high school love and it’s wildly predictable but it’s incredibly lighthearted and keeps viewers engaged. Heath Ledger also does a whole song and dance on the bleachers which is still talked about and a highlight. This was surprisingly good and I like it just as much as I did when it came out. 

Another movie 1999 gave us was “The Wood”, which is a romantic comedy which is about a group of friends from Inglewood (hence the name) who have been friends forever and now it’s the wedding of one of the guys but he’s missing! Sure enough, he’s got “cold feet” and the rest of the friends are off to get him to the alter. This is exactly what you’d expect from a 90’s rom-com packed and parceled with the flashbacks and everything. I love the cast and I love how natural they are as friends and of course the fact that it centers around love. This is a movie I don’t talk about nearly as much as I should but it’s a highlight of the year. 

Lastly, 1999 gave us “The Green Mile”. I was not prepared for the emotion this movie took out of me. I was almost sick from crying. From the moment we see Tom Hanks in the penitentiary, we know he’s a very kind-hearted person who probably doesn’t belong in the “death row” unit and when John Coffey comes into the mix that’s where we are taken through a ton of emotion. The first exposure we get to how gifted he is, is when he cures Hanks’ character from the painful infection that has been troubling him for so long. We meet some officers along the way that we hate, and a group that we absolutely love. The character developments are done so well that we also grow attached to the inmates. We revel in their aspirations and enjoyment; and share in their victories. The Green Mile took viewers to a place that was dark and gloomy but whimsical. This was a fascinating film that is nothing short of a classic. 

Other films that were released this year that are worth mentioning are “Any Given Sunday” and  “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels”, which I also enjoyed a lot. We would see Hollywood decline in film quality in following years but 1999 definitely wouldn’t be one of them. 

1999 was one of the best years for film in my opinion. It had a lot of thrillers but kind of lacked in the type of horror I like, but that didn't lower the bar for the rest of the amazing films released. First, The Matrix was the movie that changed the film industry as far as action thrillers go and the greatest use of CGI came out this year . They created the "bullet time" special effect, as well as the red pill and blue pill wave. It also made the artificial intelligence and computer hacker centered films more appealing.

The Blair Witch Project was another film that changed the game with "found footage". A group of friends venture into the massive Maryland woods to uncover the mystery of the Blair Witch when terrifying events occur. I loved the slow creepy build of this film. The Green Mile starring Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan was a movie I didn't see until a few years ago but I loved it. The idea is a white prison guard and a supernatural black man set to die on death row who can actually heal people with ailments create a bond. In Stephen King fashion, there's so many questions unanswered about John Coffey.

American Pie wasn't the first of its kind with teenage boys trying to lose their virginity or get girls, but it definitely made that genre popular again and became an iconic movie with sequels. You had those teen movies that dealt with the popular kids who were bored so they played games or made some type of bets on the unpopular teens but somehow feelings get involved and plans go awry. Those films like "She's All That" starring Freddie Prinze Jr and Racheal Leigh Cook, "10 Things I Hate About You" starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, and finally "Cruel Intentions" starring Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe & Sarah Michelle Gellar, which goes a little darker with the manipulation.

Black and White was about privileged white kids who are infatuated with black hip hop culture. While it's real life for us, it's just a fad to the white kids as we see in real life. This had multiple interesting stories going on. The casting is pretty diverse with Bijou Phillips, Robert Downey Jr., Brooke Shields, Elijah Wood, Wu-Tang members, Ben Stiller, and many more. The Virgin Suicides is about a group of men who recall the infatuation they had as teens with 5 sheltered sisters who had strict and overprotective parents that caused the girls to act out. They all make a pact to kill themselves and no one knows why. It was a strange film.

I saw so many great films this year and I remember them all. Here's a list of those others I enjoyed:
The Sixth Sense
American Beauty
Ghost Dog
Girl Interrupted
In Too Deep
Light It Up
The Rage: Carrie 2
Varsity Blues
The Wood
Blue Streak
The Best Man

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, the black films on the year would end up being the most important to me, of course, but that didn't stop me for enjoying some others. For instance, I was definitely a fan of Toy Story 2, though I think it's the worst of the trilogy. Aside from that, I also found myself enjoying the Denzel Washington portrayal in The Hurricane, along with the chilling Bruce Willis classic The Sixth Sense. There was the Austin Powers sequel, which I can admittedly say I enjoyed at the time, along with Office Space, the actual hilarious Adam Sandler film Big Daddy, the surprising 10 Things I Hate About You, the raunchy comedy American Pie, another 007 film in The World Is Not Enough, and the football drama that was at the center of a Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J beef, Any Given Sunday. Those were some of the movies that I enjoyed (outside of the black movies), and before I get into the black films I loved, perhaps I can talk about some films that fell on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Now, as far as movies I wasn't too fond of? The awful Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise film Eyes Wide Shut showed me just how weird Cruise really was in real life, and I've only seen the film one time and nearly took my eyes out in protest. It was that awful. As big of a fan as I was of Will Smith at the time, the dreadful Wild Wild West was released this year, and I have to say, it was NOT a film that you go back and watch again and again. As a kid, I didn't hate it as much, but watching it as an adult is honestly depressing. That's how bad this film is. Aside from a yelling Samuel L. Jackson right before he dies, Deep Blue Sea is a laughable film about killer sharks, and despite some rave reviews, I extremely despise the Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy movie Bowfinger. It's cringe worthy comedy throughout, and it's one of the worst Eddie movies I've ever seen.

Speaking of Eddie, he was responsible for one of my all time favorite movies this year, Life, alongside Martin Lawrence. If I had to pick a favorite film from 1999, Life would be the one. It had everything I wanted in a film, from classic comedic moments, great chemistry between Eddie and Martin, along with solid smaller roles from the likes of Bernie Mac and more. Life is one of my favorite comedies ever, and it was the brightest highlight at the theater for me this year, but there were other highlights. This is where the black films come in that were important to me. While Life is the most important of them all, I actually found myself watching and enjoying (to an extent) Trippin, a lower budget film that hit theaters, but didn't make much noise. The next black film that I loved would have to be The Wood, a coming of age comedy that shows the story of three friends who grow up together and watch their lives change throughout the film. It stars Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones, Omar Epps, Tamala Jones, Lisa Raye, Sean Nelson, and more. It's a top 5 enjoyable film for me personally. Omar Epps would have a role in another solid black film for me alongside LL Cool J in the dark drama In Too Deep.

Martin Lawrence would release what I feel is his last great comedy in Blue Streak, which is a hilarious film from top to bottom, as it allows Martin to stay in his lane with a truly over exaggerated premise, but still a very entertaining one. A slept on  mostly black film is Light It Up, which features a predominately black cast of Usher Raymond, Forest Whitaker, Fredro Starr, Vanessa Williams, and more. While the film isn't seen as a black film to many, it certainly could fit in that category. The final black film on the year is the excellent romantic comedy The Best Man, which features smart and hilarious dialogue throughout alongside a great cast of Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, and more. This film is a borderline classic and one I've watched multiple times over the years.
While 1999 wasn't the greatest year in film, I think it definitely has a claim to be a top year in film through the decade. For all of the films that missed the mark, there are so many that connected and a lot of big movies that earned big dollars. When I look back at 1999 films, I have mostly fond memories, which makes this year good enough to earn praise. Here's to you, 1999.



Popular Posts