Sounds of Cinema

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Commentaries

1999 Retrospective

Aired on August 11, 2019 (Episode #761)

Sounds of Cinema took a look at the movies of 1999 with a series of commentaries about the trends and titles in American cinema from that year.

Contents:

I. Introduction

II. New Talents Rise, Old Talents Fade Away

III. Tom Cruise the Actor

IV. Masculinity and Capitalism at the Millennium

V. Class of 1999

VI. Satire at the Millennium

VII. GLBTQ and Women Filmmakers

VIII. The Fresh, the New, and the Extraordinary

 

I. Introduction

Appreciation of cinema can be a cycle of feast and famine especially for those of us who follow the industry year in and year out. There are always a handful of movies released each year that are exceptional and one or two titles might stand the test of time to become classics. But once or twice a decade there is a year that overflows with great and important movies. 1939 saw the release of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, The Women, The Rules of the Game, and Stagecoach. 1946 debuted enduring titles like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Notorious, The Best Years of Our Lives, and The Killers. Previous retrospectives on Sounds of Cinema have examined the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror pictures of 1982 which included Blade Runner, Star Trek II, E.T., and The Thing among others. And on another occasion I examined movies of 1994 such as Forrest Gump, Clerks, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, The Lion King, and Dumb and Dumber. Today’s episode of Sounds of Cinema will examine the movies of 1999.

The final year of the 1990s and of the twentieth century saw the culture gripped by anxiety and conflict. President Bill Clinton survived impeachment but not before putting the country through considerable stress. Over 10,000 people gathered in Seattle, Washington to protest the World Trade Organization and hundreds were arrested when demonstrators and police clashed violently. Two high school students went on a murderous shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado which punctuated a decade of handwringing about the state of America’s youth and set off a debate about the effects of violent media. The music festival Woodstock ’99 ended with riots and widespread reports of sexual assault. And in 1999 the culture was gripped by the Y2K scare that inspired wild predictions of chaos and social collapse on New Year’s Eve.

The late 1990s also found the culture on the verge of major shifts, with many of the impending changes driven by communication technology. The VHS market was giving way to DVD. Fox News debuted in 1996 and within a few years it would dominate cable news ratings and play a major hand in shaping not only American news coverage but also American politics. By far the most far reaching shift was the advent of the internet. The web had been around for years but it finally entered the homes of everyday computer users in the mid-90s and in 1999 high speed internet and Wi-Fi became available for home use. The mainstreaming of the internet occurred in tandem with the popularization of cellular phones. These devices had also been around for a while but the emergence of 2G devices in the mid-90s made them more accessible and added the ability to send and receive text messages.  

The mix of social unrest and rapidly changing technology was both exciting and unsettling and those feeling were reflected in the movies of 1999. Today’s show will take a look back at cinema from that year. Rather than examining a handful of movies, this episode will look at some of the trends in cinema from that year.

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II. New Talents Rise, Old Talents Fade Away

One of the ways in which 1999 was such a transitional year for cinema and the culture was the way it saw the fading of old voices and the rise of new ones. 1999 included the release of several movies by old guard filmmakers – directors who had ascended to the top of the movie industry in the 1970s and 80s – who either released their cinematic swan songs or revealed themselves out of step with a changing culture.

Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut was an underwhelming final project for one of cinema’s most unique and prestigious filmmakers. Bob Clark, who made such a mark in the 1970s and 80s with Black Christmas, Porky’s, and A Christmas Story released the forgettable Baby Geniuses. John McTeirnan, who was one of the great action directors, released The 13th Warrior and the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Both failed at the box office and McTeirnan—the director of Die Hard, Predator, and The Hunt for Red October—disappeared from Hollywood shortly thereafter.

A few old school directors went out gracefully. Milos Forman, director of Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest helmed the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon starring Jim Carrey. The movie was a financial disappointment but time has been kind to Man on the Moon. It’s an intelligent and playful movie and Carrey’s performance is a career high. Norman Jewison helmed The Hurricane which was the final high note in a directorial career that included In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, and Moonstruck. Oliver Stone released the 1999 football drama Any Given Sunday and the movie concluded a prolific decade for the filmmaker. Stone’s subsequent dramas would not be so well received but in the 2000s he became an interesting documentary filmmaker. And Alan Parker directed a well-received adaptation of Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes.

While these titans of Hollywood were fading into the background, new talents were emerging to take their place. Some of these filmmakers already had a few movies under their belts but several directors made important contributions to their filmographies. Among them were David Fincher and David O. Russell who released Fight Club and Three Kings, respectively. Neither film did impressive business at the time but Fight Club and Three Kings found an audience on home video and these pictures solidified Fincher and Russell’s reputations as exciting new voices in American film, reputations both filmmakers have since secured.

Several other directors broke out in 1999 with movies that announced their arrival. M. Night Shyamalan had a major hit with The Sixth Sense, for which Newsweek dubbed him “The Next Spielberg.” Doug Liman helmed the Tarantino-esque crime drama Go while Spike Jonze directed and Charlie Kaufman wrote Being John Malkovich. Brad Bird directed the animated feature The Iron Giant which became a popular title among those who grew up in the 2000s. Sofia Coppola made her directorial debut with The Virgin Suicides, Alexander Payne adapted Tom Perrotta’s novel Election, and James Mangold helmed the mental health drama Girl, Interrupted. The subsequent films of these directors—which include Unbreakable, Lost in Translation, The Bourne Identity, Adaptation, The Incredibles, The Descendants, and Walk the Line—proved them to be major talents of the ensuing decades.

Perhaps the most complicated contrast of old and new filmmakers in 1999 was George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and the Wachowski sibling’s The Matrix. Lucas’ first Star Wars prequel was the most anticipated film ever made to that point and the movie was 1999’s highest grossing release. But The Phantom Menace also came across creaky and tired, a film that wasn’t just old fashioned but was also anachronistic. The Matrix’s fast-paced filmmaking, counter cultural ideas, and hip style pointed to the future, at least in the short term. But a few decades on, The Phantom Menace has the more visible legacy. The Star Wars prequel’s groundbreaking digital technology as well as its expansion of a familiar franchise presaged today’s cinema marketplace that is dominated by films such as the remake of The Lion King, Avatar, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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III. Tom Cruise the Actor

There is a difference between being an actor and a movie star. Actors are performers who inhabit their characters. The actor adjusts him or herself to fit inside the existence of someone who is not like themselves and give that character life from the inside out. A movie star is someone whose public persona becomes a commodity. It’s really a social and economic term and it doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic talent. Movie stars have marquee value and they command considerable influence and enormous salaries because attaching their names to a project assures that the movie will make money. Most actors are not movie stars but some movie stars are actors. 

In 1999 and even now one of the biggest movie stars in the world was Tom Cruise. He made a name for himself throughout the 1980s and 90s with hits such as Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, The Firm, and Mission: Impossible. But in the 1990s Tom Cruise was not just a movie star. He was also an actor. Cruise had starred in films such as Born on the Fourth of July and Rain Man and A Few Good Men and even Interview with the Vampire which, while using Cruise’s talents effectively, also required him to act. He took on challenging roles that required Cruise to expand his skill set. And in 1999 Cruise starred in two particularly challenging projects: Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut.

Magnolia was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson coming off his success with Boogie Nights. Magnolia was an ensemble piece that wove together the stories of various characters living in Los Angeles. Tom Cruise was cast as a self-help guru whose estranged father is dying. Cruise’s movie star persona is all about likability. His natural charm, confidence, and good looks make him agreeable and he’s had great success with roles that showcase those traits. Magnolia twisted Cruise’s movie star persona. His character was a misogynist whose slogan is “seduce and destroy.” Although Magnolia was an uneven movie with a lot of coincidences and a truly bizarre ending, Cruise was terrific in his part and he earned an Oscar nomination for his performance.

Eyes Wide Shut was the last film of director Stanley Kubrick. The filmmaker was known for his exacting style, ordering take after take of even mundane shots. According to Amy Nicholson, who has written extensively about Tom Cruise and his career, Kubrick once had Cruise do ninety-five takes of the actor coming through a door. The Eyes Wide Shut shoot was long and arduous, even by Kubrick’s standards. The average film is shot in about six to eight weeks but filming Eyes Wide Shut went on for fifteen months, allegedly the longest continuous film shoot in history. Tom Cruise starred in the film with his then-wife Nicole Kidman and the couple was put through unconventional methods that strained their relationship. Eyes Wide Shut was not well received and, as is often the case with movie stars, Cruise took the blame for the film’s failures.

In the years since Tom Cruise’s 1999 double feature of Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut, the actor has retreated from challenging roles. He has instead doubled down on his movie star brand and alternated Mission: Impossible sequels with other action movies that are frequently Mission: Impossible knockoffs. 2010’s Knight and Day was Mission: Impossible as a romantic comedy and 2017’s The Mummy was Mission: Impossible via supernatural horror. Even 2008’s Valkyrie, a thriller about the German plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, could be read as Mission: Impossible as a historical drama. The Mission: Impossible pictures are a terrific series of action movies but Cruise’s career has become a pattern of safe choices in which he remakes the same film over and over again.

1999 was the year Tom Cruise stopped being an actor and prioritized movie stardom. We could speculate on the reasons why but that would just be conjecture. And Tom Cruise is not Adam Sandler. His choices have been safe but the Mission: Impossible sequels have consistently been of high quality with Cruise doing his best to give the audience their money’s worth. But as an actor, Cruise has sold himself short for almost two decades. He’s still a movie star and remains one of the screen’s biggest and most reliable attractions. But he could be more than that.

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IV. Masculinity and Capitalism at the Millennium

Three films were released in 1999 that didn’t initially appear related but absolutely are: Fight Club, Office Space and American Beauty. While telling very different stories with widely divergent tones, Fight Club, Office Space and American Beauty were critical portraits of American life with a sardonic regard for capitalism and masculinity.

The common thread through all three movies is the way in which middle class white men are emasculated by contemporary society. The narrator of Fight Club (Edward Norton) is a man who is so bored by his life and all of his consumerist possessions that he resorts to fist fights and later to domestic terrorism as a means of reclaiming his manhood. Office Space presents a similar scenario as a cubical worker (Ron Livingston) has an awakening from his nine-to-five existence and treats his office job with contempt and later masterminds a scheme to steal from the company. American Beauty is the story of a middle class family coming apart as the father (Kevin Spacey) works through a midlife crisis. In each film a white collar worker is disillusioned with his life and lashes out at social expectations, traditional family structures, and the corporate capitalist system.

Another common thread throughout Fight Club, Office Space and American Beauty is the centrality of male relationships. The soft spoken narrator of Fight Club befriends a hyper-masculine acquaintance (Brad Pitt) and the two of them begin an underground movement that attracts a fraternity of other disillusioned men. The lead character of Office Space is close with two of his coworkers (David Herman and Ajay Naidu) and they bond over their shared frustrations with the workplace. The father of American Beauty is alienated from virtually everyone but he finds common ground with the teenage boy (Wes Bentley) who lives next door. It is no coincidence that the men’s interest in careerist and materialist ideals decreases as they bond with other men. As these films have it, men recover what capitalist society has taken from them through masculine camaraderie.

Women are mostly excluded from these pictures and the female roles are more story functions than actual people. The women of American Beauty are generally one dimensional. The mother of the family (Annette Benning) is a careerist shrew who belittles her husband when he fails to live up to social expectations and their teenage daughter (Thora Birch) is a latchkey child who isn’t well defined. The female employees of Office Space mostly reside in the background while the male protagonist has a romantic relationship with a waitress (Jennifer Aniston). The treatment of the female love interest in Office Space is a notable weakness in an otherwise smart and well written movie. Of these three pictures, Fight Club has the most pronounced and most interesting female character (Helena Bonham Carter). She’s one of only a handful of women in the entire picture but the female lead of Fight Club has agency and a complex inner life.

Fight Club and Office Space are further linked by their endings. In each film the men rebel against their corporate overlords. In Office Space the disgruntled employees plot a cybercrime while the men of Fight Club engage in an escalating series of terrorist acts. Each film ends with mass destruction and, reduced to their essence, the finales of Fight Club and Office Space are remarkably similar. And furthermore the implications of the two films are quite consistent – men are at war with a corporate system that has belittled and exploited them.

That said, there is a notable difference between Fight Club and Office Space and American Beauty. Fight Club and to a lesser extent Office Space are aware of the character’s ridiculousness. The rebellion of Fight Club becomes as totalitarian and dehumanizing as mainstream corporate culture and the narrator finds himself in a vain effort to prevent further destruction. That realization is directly linked to the narrator’s romantic relationship. It isn’t that she saves him or vice versa but rather the two of them forge a genuine human connection that neither the corporate world nor the violent rebellion can provide. It’s a much more nuanced epiphany than is found in either Office Space or American Beauty and the climax of Fight Club is perfectly suited to the tone and themes of the film. The finale of Office Space isn’t quite as penetrating but its deus ex machina ending is played for irony and it works for the film. American Beauty builds toward a similar conclusion but irrationally zigzags into a forced optimistic denouement that is completely out of step with the rest of the movie.

Fight Club and Office Space were box office failures in 1999 while American Beauty was a critical and commercial success that won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. But a couple of decades on, Fight Club and Office Space have vibrant fan followings and remain interesting and subversive while American Beauty comes across as a belabored melodrama whose social critique is superficial and obvious. But with hindsight these three films collectively portray a simmering rage against consumerist lifestyles and corporate power structures that would boil over a few years later.

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V. Class of 1999

One of the most prolific motifs in cinema of 1999 was teenager movies. These films cut across a variety of genres including romantic comedies, coming of age tales, and horror but they revisited familiar themes with a new edginess and a few of them were quite daring.

By far the largest share of teenage movies was romantic comedies. Pictures like She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Drive Me Crazy, and 10 Things I Hate About You descended from the teen formulas perfected a decade earlier by John Hughes. Most of these movies were rated PG-13 and were intended for adolescent audiences. However, the most successful teenage film of 1999 was the R-rated American Pie. The film was the story of a group of teenage boys who plot to lose their virginity on or before prom night. The picture was, for its day, extraordinarily crude but it was also very funny. American Pie echoed 1980s sex comedies like The Last American Virgin but it was better hearted than those films.

The 1990s were distinguished by a lot of anxiety about teenagers. Fears of drug abuse and the effects of media and violent antisocial behavior inspired a lot of handwringing about American youth. This fear made its way into the movies and 1996’s Scream had turned those fears into box office profits; a lot of filmmakers tried to replicate its success. Idle Hands was a supernatural horror picture starring Seth Green and Jessica Alba and Jawbreaker featured Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and Julie Benz as popular high schoolers who accidentally kill a classmate. Scream writer Kevin Wiliamson directed Teaching Mrs. Tingle, about a would-be valedictorian who kidnaps a teacher in order to make the grade. The fear of adolescence reflected on the screen came full circle in 1999 after the mass school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In the aftermath of the shooting, pundits and opinion makers blamed the shooting on violent media and the bad press derailed the release of several of these films.

1999 also had a crop of edgy teen dramas that simultaneously channeled America’s fears of its youth while also subversively critiquing the very culture that raised them. Varsity Blues was an R-rated story of high school football players coping with the pressures of their Texas community and the film punched a hole in the mythology of high school football glory. Varsity Blues makes an interesting companion piece with Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides novel The Virgin Suicides. A quietly distressing story of sexual repression, The Virgin Suicides was the story of sisters growing up in a strict religious home.

Teen movies have declined since 1999. The genre was an important part of Hollywood’s release slate for about two decades but since then movies of this sort have fallen into disfavor. If Hollywood makes stories about teenagers today it is usually part of a young adult franchise like Twilight and The Hunger Games. This has been the case with a lot of mid-budget projects. Viewers have spurned theatrical releases of mid-budget movies in favor of big budget special effects shows and most adolescent stories have found a new home on platforms like Netflix where titles like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before have found success.

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VI. Satire at the Millennium

Another trend among movies of 1999 was satire. Two decades on, in a culture that is saturated with cable news and social media, it seems quaint to think that moviegoers of 1999 were overwhelmed with political content and disgusted by their elected officials. But these things are relative and at a time when media options were more limited it was nearly impossible to avoid the water cooler topic of the day. Throughout the 1990s the news media compromised itself, engaging in ambulance chasing and reporting tabloid stories as through it was serious news. In 1999 news outlets were enamored with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the Y2K scare on top of the regular cycle of cultural debates about political corruption, gun control, abortion, media violence, and the like. Filmmakers picked up on the daily nonsense, stretched it into absurd dimensions, and made some very entertaining movies.

Reese Witherspoon starred in two well regarded satires of 1999. In Election she was cast as the overzealous candidate for high school government opposite Matthew Broderick as an ethically compromised social studies teacher. Adapted from Tom Perrotta’s novel, Election was whip smart and wickedly funny but it also had the unusual feature of shifting points of view. Election included voice over from several characters which allowed it a level of nuance that satires rarely achieve. Reese Witherspoon also starred in Cruel Intentions alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Selma Blair. Based on Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, the film was a frankly sexual story of seduction and manipulation at a private prep school. Its satirical qualities are obvious now but they weren’t necessarily so evident to viewers of 1999.

Other satires of 1999 sent up the entertainment industry. Reality television was just getting started and EdTV was ahead of the curve with its story of an everyman who is followed twenty-four hours a day by a camera crew. (EdTV was actually a remake of a 1994 Canadian film.) The same year saw the release of Bowfinger starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy. This was a very funny take on Hollywood with an independent filmmaker getting his movie made by any means necessary. Also released in 1999 was Galaxy Quest, a Star Trek satire that starred Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman.

Some of the better satires of 1999 were underappreciated at the time, among them Dick. The film lampooned the Watergate scandal with the story of two dimwitted young women (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who are hired to be Richard Nixon’s dog walkers and they eventually expose the thirty-seventh President’s misdeeds and lead to his resignation. Another teenage satire of 1999 was Drop Dead Gorgeous. This picture was a pseudo-documentary about a Midwest beauty pageant gone awry. Drop Dead Gorgeous was not well received at the time but it has developed a cult following.

Of all the satires released in 1999 none was more outrageous or more cutting than South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The feature film spinoff of the Comedy Central animated program took advantage of the freedom afforded by the screen. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut contains 399 swear words, 128 offensive gestures, and 221 acts of violence inside of its 81-minute running time. But in typical South Park fashion, Bigger, Longer & Uncut was as smart was it was lewd. American culture of the 1990s was preoccupied with the impact of media on children and South Park contorted that moral panic into a violent and vulgar and hysterical farce.

Satires don’t typically age well because they are usually too embedded in the specific cultural moment in which they were made. The satirical movies of 1999 are effective time capsules of their era but they have enjoyed a long afterlife including those that weren’t successful at the time. That’s partly due to the way these films got at deeper issues that weren’t exclusive to 1999 but the longevity of these movies is also a testament to their excellence.

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VII. GLBTQ and Women Filmmakers

In 1999 stories about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities were considered a niche market. That’s changed considerably in the following decades as seen in television shows like Modern Family and motion pictures like Love, Simon. There were quite a few films and television shows that paved the way and two particularly important titles were released in 1999.

But I’m a Cheerleader was a satire of a high school student whose parents send her to gay conversion therapy. The teenage girl doesn’t believe she’s actually gay but her parents and others insist that she is and while at therapy she has a sexual awakening. But I’m a Cheerleader poked fun at homophobia and also redrew conceptions of what a lesbian might look like. Natasha Lyonne was cast in the lead role and her appearance was far from the butch stereotype. But I’m a Cheerleader also drew attention to the phenomenon of gay conversion therapy which mental health professionals have since come out against. In more recent years, gay conversion therapy has been the subject of straightforward dramas like Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post and those films descend, at least in some small way, from But I’m a Cheerleader.

Also released in 1999 was the drama Boys Don’t Cry. Based on a real life incident, Hilary Swank plays a transgender man who navigates life in rural Nebraska. Up to this point, transgender characters in Hollywood were consistently portrayed as buffoons or as violent psychopaths and movies about people in the GLBTQ community were usually produced outside the studio system. Boys Don’t Cry offered an empathetic view of a transgender character and the movie was produced by Fox Searchlight, a specialty division of one of Hollywood’s major studios. The film found an audience and was a major critical victory and Boys Don’t Cry had a part in laying the groundwork of the future success of films like Brokeback Mountain and Milk.

But I’m a Cheerleader and especially Boys Don’t Cry should have been major breakthroughs for directors Jamie Babbit and Kimberly Peirce. They’ve both continued to work, mostly in television, but Peirce should have had a bigger career. For that matter, women filmmakers had a pretty good year in 1999. Quite a number of female directors released notable films that year including Julie Taymor’s Titus, Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Catherine Breillat’s Romance, Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, Anne Wheeler’s Better Than Chocolate, Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke, and Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher. Unfortunately, the status of women directors has changed little since 1999 but many of these filmmakers are still working.

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VIII. The Fresh, the New, and the Extraordinary

1999 was one of the great years in American motion pictures because it was distinguished by a plethora of filmmakers with distinct creative voices producing unique movies. David Fincher made Fight Club, David O. Russell directed Three Kings, Sofia Coppola adapted The Virgin Suicides, and M. Night Shyamalan hit it big with The Sixth Sense. These were well made, original pictures that gave the audience something fresh, new, and extraordinary.

A few movies of 1999 were particularly strange or experimental. Among them was David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. Cronenberg had long been fascinated by the intersection of technology and the human body as seen in Shivers, Videodrome, and his remake of The Fly. The director’s 1999 film was about characters stuck in a virtual reality program and it reflected the changes in digital technology and the excitement and anxiety those changes provoked. eXistenZ was well reviewed and considered one of Cronenberg’s better films but it was released less than a month after The Matrix and got lost.

Another unique and technologically driven film of 1999 was Being John Malkovich. Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich had a wacky conceit: a puppeteer discovers a portal that puts travelers into the mind of actor John Malkovich. Despite its unusual premise, the movie was a major success. Being John Malkovich was nominated for three Oscars and Roger Ebert named it the best movie of the year.

Also released in 1999 was Kevin Smith’s religious comedy Dogma. Even before the movie was released it was subject to protest. The Catholic League organized a campaign against Dogma and Miramax, which was owned by Disney at the time, buckled to the pressure and relinquished the distribution rights to Lionsgate. But Dogma was no mere act of provocation. Kevin Smith’s films are so well loved because they mix humor with sincerity and Dogma was genuinely interested in matters of faith and theology.

1999 included one of the most influential horror pictures of the last twenty years. The Blair Witch Project was a pseudo-documentary of filmmakers encountering spooky phenomena while investigating a local legend. This movie did not invent the pseudo-documentary genre but The Blair Witch Project did it very well and popularized the format. Produced for a mere $60,000, The Blair Witch Project made over $140 million domestically. The movie’s success was partly due to its marketing campaign which played up the illusion of reality and a lot of moviegoers watched The Blair Witch Project believing that it was real.

Julie Taymor released her directorial debut in 1999 with Titus. Based on the play Titus Andronicus, this film was one of the most bizarre Shakespeare adaptations ever. The movie is severely stylized with outrageous costumes, unusual cinematography and production design, a soundtrack that includes different genres of music, and a wild performance by Anthony Hopkins.

A number of other unusual films were released in 1999. Ravenous was a story of cannibalism on the American frontier that balanced horror with black comedy. Frank Darabont followed up The Shawshank Redemption with The Green Mile and it’s an underappreciated Stephen King adaptation (which is a strange thing to say about a movie that was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards). Also released in 1999 was Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai in which Forrest Whitaker plays a hitman who styles himself as a samurai and Mike Figgis’ The Loss of Sexual Innocence was an ambitious, nonlinear film that intercuts the story of a boy becoming a man with a retelling of the Adam and Eve myth.

These films may not be to everyone’s taste but they perhaps best exemplify why 1999 was such a rich year for American cinema. From eXistenZ and Dogma to The Blair Witch Project and Titus, films of 1999 offered a plethora of talented filmmakers making bold choices.

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