An echt American film, Blair Witch evoked the white settlers' fear of the primordial woods even as it dramatizedand, for its makers, fulfilledthe mad ambition of realizing one's fantasy. The "real" documentary American Movie (the runner-up in our documentaries category) put forth a happier version of the storyin which the obnoxious tyro filmmaker is rewarded rather than punished. As suggested by these two Sundance hitsplus movies as disparate as After Life, the Polish documentary Photographer, and Hollywood comedies like Bowfinger and The Musenothing exists outside the Reality Studio. Those critics who experienced Rosetta (#4) as a form of torture might have found her search for work more credible if the movie had been transposed to Hollywood and concerned the heroine's attempt to sell her screenplay. (Or maybe not. The Muse was one of the year's more underappreciated movies.) If nothing else, the movies remain the culture's supreme form of self-actualization.
A political metaphor waiting to happen, an allegory in search of a pundit, Being John Malkovich (#1) may not be about anything except itself. But this most-cited movie on the Voice's poll is nevertheless a riff on the future of cinemaand not just because it is demonstrably more popular with critics than with audiences. David Cronenberg's underrated eXistenZ (#26) and Tom Tykwer's overrated Run Lola Run (#15) both suggest a new form of movie based on interactivityor, at least, on the capacity to be customized. (The same is true, in its way, for Boys Don't Cry.) But only Being John Malkovich suggests the degree to which even this subjectivity will be based on commodified cults of personality. The more things change . . . Or rather, the movies are dead, long live the movies.