Flashbacks: The Year in Movies

  • Harmony Korine's work is the ultimate triumph of the kid in the back of the class eating boogers in a desperate plea for attention. When is someone going to finally take his trust fund away and send him to bed without dinner? —Mike Rubin

  • Wouldn't it be fun to swap Julien Donkey-Boy and Jar Jar in their respective movies? I'd watch both films again. —David Edelstein

  • Best performance of the year: Om Puri in My Son the Fanatic—hands down, but not in a culture that only celebrates white actors. To pick Russell Crowe or Jim Carrey is not an aesthetic choice but a racial preference. —Armond White
    Sticks and stones: Blair Witch Directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick
    photo: Robin Holland
    Sticks and stones: Blair Witch Directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick

  • Thank heaven for the decline in the subgenre of "sweetie-pie" gay movies, in which an adorable trick from the boonies comes to the big city in search of Mr. Right. The new batch of good gay flicks—four of which made my top 10 this year (six if you include Beau Travail and Fight Club, as well you might)—has turned up with the genuine article, something resembling the real blood, sweat, cum, and tears of gay life. —Elliott Stein

  • Let's have a moment, shall we, to appreciate the irritating, cruel, and cartoonish portrait of middle-class families in American Beauty, portrayed as they were with all the latitude and respect that the Japanese received in The Sands of Iwo Jima. Certainly this year's Emperor's New Clothes, Sam Mendes's carpet-bomb plays like an outcast's childish act of revenge. Wes Bentley's enigmatic dealer aside, there wasn't a character in sight that didn't make the cast of South Park seem positively three-dimensional. —Michael Atkinson

  • Sam Mendes may be shooting fish in a barrel, but his aim is terrific, and so are the fish. —Brian Miller

  • After viewing Catherine Breillat's gynecologically graphic testament of orifice and Tsai Ming-liang's surprisingly touching squalid-tenement love story in consecutive days, my wife observed, "The Hole should have been called Romance, and Romance should have been called The Hole." —Mike Rubin

  • In 1965, Kenneth Tynan wrote this of his friends who were shell-shocked by the experience of seeing Lenny Bruce: "Some found him offensive—a reaction they smartly concealed by calling him boring." I thought of that line everytime I read some hapless reviewer dismissing Catherine Breillat's Romance as "talky," or, knowingly, "very French," or—my favorite—"pornographic and unarousing." It was painfully obvious that they didn't know what to do with a movie that was seething with sexual rage but in control enough to hone and direct that rage. Though journalists can call out their Guardian of Free Expression mantle when a director has trouble with the ratings board or the Catholic League decides it needs some ink, they couldn't deal with a movie whose exploration of sex includes actually showing people fucking. Actresses wearing the movie's great invention of post-coital apparel, the bedsheet breast turban, is natural to them. The sight of something all of us have done, removing a used condom from a softening cock, sends them atwitter. —Charles Taylor

  • Where was the summer of 1999? Where were the lumbering, patronizing bustblockers with 10-page scripts and publicity budgets that could keep Bangladesh fed on truffles? No comic-book sequels, no disaster epics, no Lethal Weapon or Batman parade float, nothing from Mel Gibson, James Cameron, Harrison Ford, Michael Bay, or Robert Zemeckis. Did Don Simpson die for nothing? Have things genuinely changed? Let's hope. Unless you're waiting on tenterhooks for Lethal Weapon 5 or Batman Again (Ben Stiller as The Bookworm?), it might be a real reason to pop a cork and sing hoi hoi and hoi polloi. —Michael Atkinson

  • A few nights back some talk-show type asked Atom Egoyan what his favorite movies of the year were, and without hesitation he replied, "I loved The Sixth Sense." The year might be summarized with the king of decon detachment professing love for a Bruce Willis blockbuster—spring and summer 1999 offered plenty of left-field American crowd-pleasers with agendas usually confined to the art house, whether it was cockeyed history lessons from The Iron Giant and Dick, scenes from the class struggle in Office Space and Election, or acid-bath satire from South Park, while the crux of The Sixth Sense wasn't Willis's sainted shrink but the ineffable anguish of a mother and child. Only the scary one did any real business, and that was the sole predictable aspect of a beautiful year. —Jessica Winter

  • You need a 10-worst list because some of us are more definite about what we hate than what we like. That's why we're critics. 20 Dates, for instance. I don't love any film this year as much as I hate 20 Dates. It gives a grossly distorted picture of obnoxious Jewish heterosexual men: Many of us have been working hard to overcome our narcissistic sense of entitlement and then this schmuck comes along and sets us back many decades. —David Edelstein

  • Best Minneapolis movie you probably never saw: Driver 23, Rolf Belgum's $700 Hi-8 doc about a metal-rocker's efforts to record his debut album despite a long history of leg problems, tension-related gastritis, clogged sinuses, chronic depression, apparent hypochondria, and abundant bad taste. Only Scorsese's The King of Comedy digs deeper into the flailing artist's delusions of grandeur. Coming soon to the Whitney Biennial and DVD. —Rob Nelson
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