10) All About My Mother
Pedro Almodovar's insightful effort about a son's relationship with his mother, which turns out to focus more on her. The biggest star here is the relatively unknown at the time Penelope Cruz, who always brings a delectable mix of innocence and spice to her roles. Won an Academy Award for best foreign film.
Steve Martin is the creative force behind this vehicle about an obscure movie producer (Martin) who wants to make a film with a big action star (Eddie Murphy). But when Murphy's character won't agree, he decides to make the movie anyway, filming him in real life, having his actors interact with him, hoping he will react realistically. With Heather Graham as an actress in Martin's cast. A funny premise that is even funnier on screen.
8) Eyes Wide Shut
A much anticipated release, this movie lived up to its potential. The legendary Stanley Kubrick directed, and it wound up performing better at the box office than all of his other movies combined (Mr. Kubrick unfortunately passed on a few months before the film was released). Power Couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as successful, married New Yorkers. Their marraige seems decent enough, but Tom's character meets an old friend, who directs him to a party with very curious activities, mostly of a sexual nature. The mystery and secrecy kept me inexplicably hooked the whole way.
7) Man On The Moon
Jim Carrey becomes the legendary comic Andy Kaufman in this Milos Forman directed biography. Dramatizing famous (and everyday) events from Kaufman's life, we get a feeling for who he is and what makes him tick. Of course, some say that everything, to varying extents, is also an act.
6) South Park
Even though this is a cartoon, and the main characters are four eight-year-old buddies, this film is justifiably rated R. Based on the smash tv show from cable's Comedy Central, the film features satire galore. One of the better satirizations features the scenes where the children attempt to sneak into an R-rated film. Naturally, they are successful, and they exit spouting all of the profanities they heard within. Their parents are furious, which sparks the rest of the plot. Also noteworthy is that this is a musical, and most of the songs also parody current events and the entertainment industry.
5) Sixth Sense
Bruce Willis has a rare dramatic role in this tale of a 10-year-old boy who "sees dead people." An original spin on the supernatural genre, the legendary surprise ending works, and provokes plenty of thought. This was the most financially successful film of the year.
4) American Beauty
Beginning as a typical Classic White Middle-Class Suburban Fable, we soon see that there is more to this tale than the comforts of predictability. This is most evident with the father (Kevin Spacey). He is commencing a mid-life crisis, exhibiting symptoms such as working out, buying a new car, and paying too much attention to his daughter's friend. Speaking of his daughter and her friend (Thora Birch and Mena Suvari), they steal their scenes. They are rising young actresses, and this is a great showcase for their talents.
The 4th feature from indie filmaker Kevin Smith, this film has been billed as a comedy, a satire of Catholicism, and dramatic. While it is all of the above, which makes it rather controversial, it is so much more than that. It makes you think. It is an original story containing religious elements, yet we can all relate to it to an extent. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck star as wisecracking angels who have been banned from heaven. After discovering a loophole to get back in, we are introduced to an all-star cast of characters who are trying to stop them and save existence. Due to the unfortunate controversy, which was heaped upon it mostly by religious zealots, most of whom haven't seen the film and apparently have a small, shallow sense of humor, this film did not receive the acclaim it deserves.
2) Boys Don't Cry
Teena Brandon was born a girl. However, she thought she should have been male. So, at 20, she made several drastic changes in her appearance, and set out to try life as a man. The reactions of the people she encountered ranged from predictable to acceptance to fright. Based on the true story of Brandon Teena, Hillary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal.
1) Being John Malkovich
One of the more creative and original movies of the year, the premise has an office worker (John Cusack) discovering a pathway into the brain of John Malkovich. He, and anyone else who traverses this portal, can then experience (and soon influence) being John Malkovich! Admittedly, Malkovich may not be a superstar, but for those of us familiar with his work (Dangerous Liasons, In The Line of Fire, and countless local productions with his Steppenwolf Theater Company), it is most gratifying.