Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 7th 2019
1999, a year worth remembering - honestly
It's hard to imagine that 1999 was 20 years ago. I mean, I've already talked about my favourite songs of the year, but looking at the movies, and especially the big ones… no, it does not seem that long ago. But it is.
I feel old. So I'll nap now.
1999 was one of the last years when the big movies were ones I really enjoyed (Marvel Cinematic Universe films notwithstanding). After this year, I tended towards the smaller films or the really crappy ones (normally made for the Syfy channel). Okay, I've liked a number of films since, some big ones, I admit it. But all in the same year – that has not happened since, well, since 1999.
I guess that's why I look back so fondly on the films of 1999. It's like it's the last time I really bought what the studios were selling. Okay, I know I'm not the demographic they're aiming for, but still, I feel like I've been ignored on the whole. And it's only because of my life-long nerd-dom that I enjoy some of the recent films I do enjoy. But enough of that.
The films. Right. Now, I am going to make the assumption that Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was never made, and I am not a fan of the made-for-kids animated films in general. I mean, some are quite good, but they do nothing for me. And, being a dad, I have seen many of them over the years… oh so many… With that out of the way, my favourite films of 1999!
To start with, one of the first of the awful monster films that would later become such a staple of the Syfy channel was released. I have a love for these films. And Komodo was one of the first. It's about – surprise! – giant Komodo dragons, it was made in Australia, and its cheesy and I love it.
Okay, some "close to it" films. Analyze This is a Robert de Niro, Billy Crystal comedy that was later taken to a serious level with The Sopranos TV series. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the second in the Austin Powers series, is actually funny. The Blair Witch Project started the whole "found footage" genre of movies, and it is still the best of the lot. Dogma is an uneven comedy, but one I quite enjoyed. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a UK heist film from Guy Ritchie, is fun and convoluted and all that, with a classic use of the Hitchcockian McGuffin. Man On The Moon is a decent biopic of Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey, showing that he can actually act. Muppets From Space is a Muppets film, and is a bit of harmless fun (yes, I'm a sucker for the Muppets). Mystery Men is a comedy take on the superhero genre, that was probably ten years ahead of its time. Sleepy Hollow is another in the long line of Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaborations, with quite an interesting take on the old Washington Irving tale, but it doesn't match the comic. Still Crazy is one of those rock mockumentaries that is nice and fun. The World Is Not Enough, one of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films; not my favourite of his, but entertaining enough, and Robert Carlyle is an awesome villain.
That's some great films before we even reach our top ten!
Here's my top 10. They are presented here in alphabetical order, except for the last one, which is my favourite film of the year. By sheer coincidence, the first two on the list are two of the best documentaries I have seen. Then follows eight movies. So… the list!
Beyond The Mat
Written & Directed by Barry W. Blaustein
I've written about this one before, and there I described it as the best wrestling documentary ever. That still holds. It does depress me, it does paint wrestling in a slightly negative light, but it was done lovingly. And, surprisingly, as of me writing this column, the three main wrestlers featured – Terry Funk, Mick Foley and Jake Roberts – are all still alive. That this documentary still resonates 20 years later is something amazing. And it is still funny hearing Vince McMahon talk about WWE wanting to get into movies as its primary focus. What happened there? 😉
Buena Vista Social Club
Directed by Wim Wenders This is a straight-forward documentary about Ry Cooder putting together a group of Cuban musicians to make an album and then perform some shows. What makes this so incredible is twofold: the music and the likability of everyone involved. This is such a joyful celebration of music that it is almost impossible to not walk away with a smile on your face. And the album that was made is just as stunning.
Written by Chuck Palahniuk (original novel) & Jim Uhls (screenplay); Directed by David Fincher Like a number of films on this list, this movie has gone down as a part of the culture. Unfortunately, so many people who saw it misunderstood it. They used it as an excuse to form their own fight clubs, not realising the film was saying that this macho bullsh*t is not worth it. Oh well. The film is violent and over the top, but it actually has a message and the acting is quite magnificent. And that ending… wow.
Lots of directors and writers on this one!
My favourite Walt Disney film is Fantasia. I have fond memories of seeing it with Cathy when they did one of their cinematic re-releases of the film (back in the days before DVD). Walt Disney used to release their films on video cassette for a very limited time, so when Fantasia came out, I actually lined up to make sure I got it. Anyway, then came Fantasia 2000. I saw it with a group of friends at an IMAX theatre and it blew me away. Some of them hated it, but I really enjoyed it. It's got nice visuals, the Donald Duck bit as Noah to 'Pomp And Circumstance' is great, the 'Rhapsody In Blue' bit is stunning, and… look, I can't say enough good things about this film. It is under-rated and often forgotten, but shouldn't be.
Written by David Howard (original story, screenplay) & Robert Gordon (screenplay); Directed by Dean Parisot
This comedy is a thinly veiled look at the Star Trek (original series) cast and their internal conflicts, plus the fans at conventions and the convention organisers and what they go through. But, even ignoring that, it is a fine comedy/sci-fi film. The way the characters come to the fore makes sense, and the aliens (both sets, good guys and bad guys) work surprisingly well. Then that final ending is just so perfect. It is the feel-good moment Trekkies (Trekkers? I never get that right) never got. It is funny and action-filled and the film is stolen by Alan Rickman.
Written & Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
The first and, by far, the best of the films in the trilogy, this strange cyberpunk tale that questions the nature of reality is well written and actually nicely acted (even from Keanu Reeves, who I do not have a lot of time for generally). The concept was well executed and, in the context of the movie, it actually made sense… a lot of which was undone by the subsequent films in the series. I actually haven't seen it for a few years, so I am going by a lot of memory, but the memory is good.
The Sixth Sense
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
When I first saw this film, at the cinema, I had no idea of the twist ending, and I just never saw it coming. I went back a week later to see if I could see any signs. It was not until I got it on DVD that I started to pick out the "tells". It is a fine bit of film-making, a supernatural thriller that just hits all the right notes. I've seen a few of Shyamalan's films since, and he is yet to match this one. Bruce Willis is in fine acting form, and for a change there is a child actor (Haley Joel Osment) who can actually act. This is a wonderful film, and "I see dead people" has become a part of the culture, a living meme.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut NSFW!!
Written by Matt Stone, Trey Parker & Pam Brady; Directed by Trey Parker
At the cinema, this film was fantastic. See, I was a fan of South Park and I have loved all the Parker/Stone movies (and, yes, I've seen them all) (but I have yet to see The Book Of Mormon on stage). The gags come thick and fast, the songs are funny, and Satan and Saddam Hussein together were the oddest couple in films in, like, forever. It is NOT for everyone, and the language is pretty awful, but I like it and still find it funny in that puerile sort of way males tend to go for. "Blame Canada…" indeed.
Written & Directed by Gregor Jordan
An Australian heist film starring Heath Ledger and Bryan Brown, this is actually one of my favourite Australian movies ever. My (then) wife and I saw it together at the cinema and it was all we could talk about for days afterwards. It is so well-written and superbly acted that you forget it was done on a shoestring budget (less than $5 million… and I can't believe I am claiming that as a 'shoestring'). It is one of those films where it seems like everyone making it had a good time, and that really rubs off onto an audience.
Written by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle & Kevin Jarre; Directed by Stephen Sommers
Okay, this is my favourite film of 1999. Brendan Fraser is superb as the hero (though some of the sexism probably wouldn't fly today), and Rachel Weisz plays the heroine as a smart female whose knowledge is what saves the day. This film is what Tom Cruise wished his version could have been. And, truth be told, apart from some of the dodgiest CGI ever, the sequel is not that bad either! But this one is non-stop. The action just does not let up and the special effects of the mummy itself are amazing. Great film, with a tight script and good acting and, more importantly, it does not take itself seriously. I am, in fact, watching this film as I am typing this column. Thoroughly recommended.
Go on, tell me this didn't give you nightmares back in the day.
And there you have my favourite films from a particularly good year for films. Notice how many were written and directed by the same person? I wonder if there's something to that – this modern film-making by committee is sucking the spark out of what we see on the big screen. Anyway, that's a conversation for someone far more knowledgeable than me. In the meantime, I hope I've inspired someone to hunt something here out and have a good night in.
So… what did I get wrong? What did I miss? Any suggestions for future columns? Please, leave a message below!