My father and I often have a debate on what year was the greatest year for film. He, being a man of his age, sticks to the classic 1939, and who is to say that 39′ wasn’t the greatest year for film. Of course in 1939 film buffs were blessed with films such as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, and my personal favorite, The Women. But even with classic films such as that, I do believe that 1999 was a year that shook the film world to its very core.As I begin to go through IMDB’s list of most popular films in 1999, I couldn’t help but catch myself going, “That’s a great film. That’s a great film.” I especially felt that way when I realized Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released that year. I’m kidding, of course. The point I’m trying to get to is, 1999 brought us films such as The Matrix, American Beauty, Fight Club, The Green Mile, Eyes Wide Shut, and The Sixth Sense. It has been 17 years since 1999. This is not a long time, but in this small time frame, these films have become staples in cinematic history.
The year of 1999 was full of original work. Though some of it was atrocious, the year wasn’t watered down by big studio remakes or big budget superhero films. As you look at the previous films I have mentioned, they were driven by A-list actors. Before 2000, this was a huge draw for films both big and independent. However, after the release of the Star Wars prequels, and the surprising rise of comic book films, most “money-making” films are either remakes or action films. In 1999 people had faith in the creativity of young directors such as, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, Spike Jonze, and Sam Mendes.
But it is perhaps the incredibly low budget films (Office Space, The Blair Witch Project) that help us to recognize how beautiful 1999 truly was. Office Space displayed the corporate world in such a poisonous way that all of us wish we could stand up to our bosses, only to be rewarded in some corporate belief of how great our “teamwork” skills are. And as silly as the Blair Witch Project is/was, this film was able to receive over 100 million dollars at the box office. I’m sure they laughed with all of us. All the way to the bank. But it is perhaps films such as The Matrix or Fight Club that exploded cinema, and represents 1999 all too well. Fight Club, much like Office Space in a weird way, takes on those big corporations. For example, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton smash up a Volkswagen Beetle. This was intentional, because both Pitt and Norton agreed that, The VW Beetle “was the primary symbol of 60s youth culture and freedom”. But now these 60s youth had become corporate big shots, and were now marketing this vehicle to another generation. Therefore, the Beetle had lost its meaning. This is exactly what Fight Club was against. Standing up to these corporations instead of being under their thumb. In The Matrix, The Wachowski Twins turned heads in this futuristic/dystopian/Alice in Wonderlandish film. Their use of the camera came to a peak when these directors decided to use several cameras in a circular position, in order to have the sequence perceived in slow motion.
In 1999, we screamed at the top of our lungs for the change we wanted to see. Life imitated art to the 10th degree. We stood up to everything that stood for us being a cookie-cutter person of society. We begged to be original in a culture that looked at us all the same. The movies were a sense of originality that we longed for. Now I can go on and on at how wonderful 1999 was, and how great it was to be in the audience watching those films. This is the year that made me fall in love with cinema. To see these peoples’ creativity, and love for movies, was brilliant. Sometimes I wish we could go back to basics. Somehow showcase, and take a chance on, young filmmakers. I believe they could set our hearts ablaze with our love for film all over again.
What are your thoughts on these films? What is your favorite year for film? Leave a comment!
I wrote this article to announce my upcoming February Challenge, #myloveforfilm. We all know that February is the month of love, so everyday in February, I will be showcasing some of my favorite films that give me that nice warm feeling about, well, film. Since I don’t plan to write 29 reviews in a month, this challenge will be taking place on my Instagram. I will give a brief description about every movie I watch, and why I love it so much. I plan on doing a few reviews here and there, but only for my personal favorites.