1999 in Review

One Notable Film from 1999

One thing I’ve always enjoyed is documentaries that explore unique subcultures in-depth, the ones that have their own interesting little worlds but are often either unknown or overlooked by the public at large. One of the best examples of this kind of movie is the film I’m talking about today-Barry Blaustein’s inside look at the world of professional wrestling, Beyond the Mat.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been a wrestling fan, as a wonderfully unique combination of athleticism and theater that you can’t really compare to anything else. In one way, Beyond the Mat serves a wonderful time capsule of the biggest boom period in the history of American wrestling: the Attitude Era from 1998-2001. For pretty much the only time in the history of the company, an outsider actually got backstage access to document things going on the road and it really captures the flavor of the wrestling business and its carny roots (in the U.S. anyway) that never went away. Beyond just the glamour of being at the top of the wrestling business in the WWF and Mick Foley’s story (which has a lot of darkness to it as well), it also documents both the ups and downs-from Koko B. Ware scraping by at indie shows, to the renegade and sometimes downright scary ECW, to Terry Funk’s inability to finally hang up the boots even though his wife desperately wants him to retire, and finally to Jake Roberts and his issues with drug addiction and his estranged daughter. I think it does a better job giving a fair assessment of the industry as it was (most of which is still accurate) and gives a glimpse into the lives of the crazy stuntmen and entertainers we call professional wrestlers than any other film, except for maybe Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, a film heavily inspired by Beyond the Mat (with Randy the Ram basically being a combination of Jake Roberts and Terry Funk).

Other Notables from 1999

The Matrix

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Toy Story 2

All About My Mother

Boys Don’t Cry

Magnolia

American Pie

Being John Malkovich

Audition

The Boondock Saints

Election

Eyes Wide Shut

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Fight Club

The Iron Giant

Office Space

Three Kings

1999 in Review

The Insider: A-

The Sixth Sense: B

American Beauty: B- (Won Best Picture)

The Green Mile: B-

The Cider House Rules: C

1999 is one of the strongest years in terms of IMDB ratings (4 of the five being rated at 7.9 or above), but for me it was just a really good year instead of a great one because I didn’t like American Beauty or The Green Mile as much as most people. It was also an odd year, in that it was the last where only two of the five nominees actually won any awards (American Beauty and The Cider House Rules). Instead of American Beauty, I would have given Best Picture to The Insider, a film that has aged infinitely better; the only major group that agreed with me without the benefit of hindsight was the L.A. Film Critics Association, who’s voting in general looks sterling compared to the Oscars: in the 90s alone, they gave Best Picture to Goodfellas over Dances with Wolves, Pulp Fiction over Forrest Gump, Leaving Las Vegas over Braveheart, Secrets & Lies over The English Patient, L.A. Confidential over Titanic, Saving Private Ryan over Shakespeare in Love and The Insider over American Beauty. I think they deserve a round of applause and a lot of respect.

Well, the 90s have come and gone, with the most significant development Oscar wise being the rise of Miramax as a powerhouse indie studio-they had a Best Picture nominee every year from 1993-2004, which not coincidentally was the last year the Weinsteins were at Miramax. This was due in part not only to the studio’s highbrow leanings, but also to Harvey Weinstein revolutionizing Oscar campaigning. On the whole, the 90s was definitely a better decade than the 80s as far as nominees go. I’m not sure what the 2000s have in store exactly, although there are some clear highlights including a trilogy I have somehow avoided seeing before.

For 2000: Miramax’s Oscar campaigning prowess get another unexceptional Lasse Hallstrom film nominated for Best Picture; the high grossing foreign language film in U.S. history and the one nominated for the most Oscars; Steven Soderbergh becomes the most recent director to have multiple Best Picture nominees in the same year; and the only Best Picture winner that Roger Ebert and his co-host (at this point, Richard Roeper) both gave a thumbs down to.

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