Category Archives: 1999 Films

The Talented Mr. Ripley-1999

The Talented Mr. Ripley-1999

Director Anthony Minghella

Starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow

Scott’s Review #1,259

Reviewed May 27, 2022

Grade: A

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) is a psychological thriller that is Hitchcockian and would make the famous director, the esteemed Alfred Hitchcock, damned proud.

The film contains suspense, thrills, mystique, and great writing, and is an exceptional adaptation of the 1955 Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name.

A fun fact is that Highsmith also wrote the novel on which Hitchcock’s 1951 film Strangers on a Train was based.

In my opinion, the title role is the best of Matt Damon’s lengthy career, rivaling that of his debut in Good Will Hunting (1998), also a tremendous effort. His riveting portrayal showcases that he plays several layers simultaneously: calculating, sinister, vulnerable, jealous, and unhinged.

Sometimes all at once.

He shockingly was omitted from the Best Actor Oscar list which is unforgivable considering his great work. Instead, he was nominated in later years for lesser films like Invictus (2010) and The Martian (2016).

With his blonde clean-cut hairstyle, short and parted on the side, and big, studious glasses, he is half wholesome and half creepy.

The fact that the character is gay is icing on the cake and delicious for a film set in the 1950s when having an alternative lifestyle was strictly forbidden.

The setting is mainly lavish and sunny coastal Italy in the late 1950s. Tom Ripley (Damon) craves a lifestyle of luxury and manipulates his way into the life of wealthy playboy Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law).

When Dickie’s father asks Tom to bring his errant son back home to America, Dickie, and his beautiful expatriate girlfriend, Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow), never suspect the dangerous extremes to which Ripley will go to make their lifestyle his own.

The best part of The Talented Mr. Ripley is the compelling suspense and the twists and turns that result. It’s astounding how many layers of the plot exist without the experience being confusing or paced poorly.

Speaking of the pacing, this is another achievement of the film. Director Anthony Minghella wisely quickens the action from the snail’s pace of his earlier film The English Patient (1996) which I loved.

We immediately know much about Tom and how he makes his living by charming people and forging signatures to make ends meet. His innocent deceit soon turns fatal as he spirals downward and becomes a pathological liar and sociopath in addition to a cold-blooded murderer.

Law is tremendous as Dickie and the bold character is ambiguous in his sexuality while Tom’s is clearer. I love this about Law’s character. He is handsome and a lady’s man which would make him ripe for the picking for a closeted gay man in the 1950s to become enamored.

The key to ponder is whether the feeling is mutual or not. This remains ambiguous.

The acting, superior in every way, is made all the richer because the film is a character study, and the relationship between Tom and Dickie is cleverly dissected.

The best scene occurs on a small boat as tensions reach a crescendo between the two men. This results in dire activity.

Besides the action starting in New York, the rest of the story takes place in Italy and is mostly shot on location. This only enhances my enjoyment of the film because it showcases the Mediterranean and southern Italy more than the more familiar cities.

Not to disappoint, astounding sequences in Rome and Venice do occur.

Because of the cinematography and locales, the film has a glossy and polished look which is terrifically counterbalanced to the darkness of the story. Think American Psycho (2000) but more subdued with a larger budget.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) is one of the best to emerge from a decade in cinema that was terrific. It is not as well-remembered as some others but I strongly encourage a watch to uncover a series of riches led by bold storytelling.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role-Jude Law, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score



Director Alexander Payne

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick

Scott’s Review #1,225

Reviewed January 30, 2022

Grade: A

Election is a 1999 black comedy film directed by Alexander Payne. He co-wrote the screenplay with Jim Taylor, and it’s based on Tom Perrotta’s 1998 novel of the same name.

Anyone film fan who knows Payne’s work can attest that they are noted for their dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society. His best is About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), and Nebraska (2013).

And Election ranks among his finest works.

The subject matter at hand this time out is politics and education with the familiar Payne setting of Omaha, Nebraska. Right smack in the middle of the American Heartland.

Only his second film, Election stars Reese Witherspoon in her breakthrough role that built momentum toward her becoming a superstar. She is utterly fantastic and this would rank as one of her best roles, if not the best.

And, no, that is not a slight against her iconic portrayal of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001), which I love, but Tracy Flick gets my vote.

The film itself is a masterpiece and has become a cult classic. Payne takes a subject matter, a rivalry between a teacher and student, still considered somewhat taboo. He takes into question authority and tomfoolery and then spins everything around.

Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), is a straight-and-narrow, well-liked high school government teacher who notices that successful student Tracy Flick (Witherspoon) uses unethical tactics and manipulation to get exactly what she wants.

Since Jim believes that Tracy has ruined his friend’s marriage he already despises the girl. Though, could he also be in love with her?

When Tracy decides to run for school president, Jim feels that she will be a horrible influence on the student body. He convinces Paul (Chris Klein), a dull but popular student-athlete, to run against Tracy.

When she becomes aware of Jim’s secret involvement in the race, a bitter feud develops between teacher and student as they try to outsmart the other.

The writing in Election is brilliant. The audience may see Jim or Tracy as the villain or perhaps both. They resort to drastic machinations to get their way. Tracy wants to win at all costs while Jim becomes obsessed with ensuring that Tracy does not win.

I love the high school setting and the normal goodie two-shoes Jim resorting to ballot cheating and affairs to best his rival. Tracy is no better as she manipulates and conspires to win the election.

I also worry that the viewers who should see this film either won’t or won’t get the message that Payne is sending.

The editing is flawless and the quick cuts that allow each character a chance to narrate and share their perspective is a major win. We see each motivation and understand what makes each character tick-especially Jim and Tracy.

The acting is wonderful and enough praise cannot be reaped upon Witherspoon and Broderick for their sick and twisted performances. They each radiate desperation and dark comedy and delightful is the perkiness and drive that Witherspoon gives Tracy.

When she bakes cupcakes in the hopes of bribing her classmates for votes, this counterbalances Broderick’s angry and grizzled Jim. He is at war with a student and goes for the jugular instead of being the role model a teacher should be.

It’s delightfully fun though many high school teachers may not appreciate the deviousness.

There’s also a cool LGBTQ+ inclusion which is a positive.

I’d venture to compare Election to American Beauty (1999), made the same year and with a similar tone. Cynical and witty, they both question morality and ethics, especially with the sugar coating of a high school or small-town Americana.

Satire never looked finer in both films.

Made in 1999, how dubious the realization is that Election continues to have relevance as time goes by.

In the current state of United States politics where lying, cheating, and a blatant refusal to accept election results unless one side is the victor is running rampant, and shockingly tolerated by some, Payne’s message has never been more powerful.

Oscar Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 3 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Direction-Alexander Payne (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Female Lead-Reese Witherspoon, Best Debut Performance-Jessica Campbell

American Pie-1999

American Pie-1999

Director Paul Weitz

Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan

Scott’s Review #813

Reviewed September 23, 2018

Grade: B+

With each generation of film, there seems to be a gross-out comedy that speaks to a young, coming-of-age generation- of the mostly male and jock persuasion.

American Pie (1999) finishes the 1990s strongly with a raunchy story that feels fresh and genuinely funny with precarious situations facing the cast, specifically the protagonist and “everyman”, played by Jason Biggs.

The film is a teen sex comedy of the crudest nature yet engulfed with characters audiences like- not mean-spirited, but rather fun-loving and endearing.

An enormous box office hit at the time, the film was all the rage and brought tawdry new meaning to the Americana staples of apple pie and band camp.

Spawning several sequels throughout the next decade, the franchise successfully brought back the teen comedy genre with strong and highly recognizable characters.

American Pie also brought back the fun to R-rated films and put a nice cherry on top of a creative decade in cinema. The film is not high art, but what it aims to do, it does quite well.

Living a middle to upper-middle-class existence in the suburban USA (presumably Michigan), five high school seniors make a pact to lose their virginity by the time they graduate. Most of the group are nerdy, insecure, and sexually naive, the central character being Jim Levenstein (Biggs).

Most events are taken from his point of view and he is continually advised by his very nerdy father, Noah (Eugene Levy).

The setup is an age-old premise with lots of room for jokes and precarious situations in hilarious form. As Jim has the hots for a sexy foreign exchange student, Nadia, she is out of his league.

In a hilarious scene, a “warm apple pie” incident leads to a webcam setup attempt to watch Nadia change clothes. When events go amiss everyone gains access to the webcam link, and Nadia is sent back to Czechoslovakia in shame.

This leads to a new pursuit for Jim, in geeky band camp girl, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Surprisingly, they fall madly in love and have fantastic chemistry.

Some of the supporting characters add energy and sometimes hilarity. Jennifer Coolidge is great as the mother of Stifler (the jock of the group), who has eyes for younger men, specifically Finch.

As they finally consummate their relationship on a basement pool table, Stifler walks in at the worst time and faints in horror. These antics are genuine and fresh, with great acting by all principals.

Coolidge, Hannigan, and Levy are arguably the best secondary characters. Each, in a different way from the others, provides comic relief by crafting interesting nuances to the characters.

Levy, as Jim’s father, is well-meaning, yet bumbling. Every teen cringes at the thought of having a father like Noah, yet the pair share a close bond and a classic father-son relationship, so the character is therefore enamoring.

American Pie was successful at coining new pop-culture phrases such as “warm apple pie”, “milf”, and “this one time in band camp…” that the young generation of the time (myself included) enjoyed giggling over and repeating in glee.

The film set the tone for other similar genre films, but none of them lived up to the chemistry and the charm that American Pie had. This film was better than it ever should have been!

The turn-of-the-century version of Animal House, American Pie (1999) introduces a new generation of young people into the world of comedic, R-rated, raunchy fun. Films like this have been churned out by the numbers, but rarely any are as authentic as this film feels.

The franchise was able to sustain its popularity with well-written sequels, most notably American Pie 2 (2001), which developed the situations more, but the original is a fine blueprint for what good comedy can achieve.

Office Space-1999

Office Space-1999

Director Mike Judge

Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston

Scott’s Review #811

Reviewed September 16, 2018

Grade: B+

Having become somewhat of a cult classic since its theatrical release in 1999, Office Space is delightful to watch for anyone who works in a corporate environment- or ever has- they will undoubtedly “get” this movie.

The dark humor and antics may be lost on those who have not, but for the rest of us, the film is quite the treat.

One may never view a stapler or the common office cake party in the same manner. Yes, the story and characters are somewhat over-the-top but more than a few clever scenes ring with truth.

But over time will the film become dated?

Writer and Director, Mike Judge, tells a story about life within a 1990s software firm.

Reportedly, the story is based on Judge’s cartoon series Milton, and his first foray into live-action filmmaking. His first film was Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996) if this gives any indication of the type of humor that resounds. Fraternity boy-minded, yes, but the writing is crisp and oftentimes rife with fun.

The film was not a box-office smash at the time of release yet is well-regarded by critics.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a frustrated IT programmer who works for a company named Initech. Alongside two colleagues, one of whom is comically named Michael Bolton (not that Michael Bolton), they despise their sneaky boss, Lumbergh (Gary Cole).

The situation gets worse when two consultants are brought in to downsize the company, leaving everyone in panic mode.

After a failed hypnotherapy session Peter becomes relaxed and confident, even winning praise from the consultants and scoring a promotion. This puts him at odds with Lumbergh, especially after he begins dating a waitress, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), and assumes she has also slept with him.

Office Space shines the most with the crackling dialogue and clever scenes that take place within the confines of the office. With stuffy cubicles for miles and the standard corporate jargon to make into witty lines, the subject matter is ripe for the picking.

With Cole’s sly requests for his employees to work weekends, Judge creates authenticity and freshness that is incredibly appealing to corporate workers. He successfully knocks down office politics with intelligent, wisely crafted, memorable satire.

In the supporting role of Milton Waddams, character actor Stephen Root is successful at stealing the show with his mumbling and bumbling character. Nearly invisible to all his colleagues, Milton is eventually moved to a basement desk and left out of the cake party.

When somebody borrows his prized red stapler, all hell breaks loose. Increasingly disgruntled, Milton’s fate is instrumental to the hilarious conclusion of the film and he ultimately gets his revenge satisfyingly to all.

The romantic element between Peter and Joanna is okay, but not at all the highlight of the film. The romance seems unnecessary to me but undoubtedly added since comedies of this sort usually require something heartfelt to appeal to mainstream audiences.

Aniston, popular at the time for her role on the television show Friends, was on her way to becoming a marquee movie star, but not quite yet, so she must be content with the standard “girlfriend” role.

She’s cute, but hardly anything more.

Office Space is a fun ride, but the film is not a groundbreaking experience in great film techniques, inventive ideas, or any other technical or story achievements.

What it offers to fans, it does very well and feels like a breath of fresh air in its genre.

The film is a comedy, but not a dumb comedy as a myriad of similar style offerings have been released since the beginning of cinema. With witty one-liners and comic gold, Office Space (1999) is a film to be remembered.



Director Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly

Scott’s Review #777

Reviewed June 21, 2018

Grade: A

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favorite modern directors. His best film in my opinion is Boogie Nights (1997) but has also created other dark offerings such as Phantom Thread (2017) and Inherent Vice (2014).

Arguably, his most peculiar effort might be Magnolia (1999), a cerebral film with themes of forgiveness and the meaning of life.

An ambitious effort with a stellar ensemble cast makes the film a fantastic experience.

Set in San Fernando Valley (a mountainous area of Los Angeles), the film resembles David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) in area and oddness alone with unusual dialogue and offbeat characters.

A narrator explains three situations of extreme coincidence and surmises that chance may not be the only responsible party. Anderson then carves an intricate tale involving numerous characters, intersecting lives, and a riveting final climax during one rainy California day (an oddity in itself!).

The plot begins when we meet Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a police officer who is called to investigate a disturbance.

After finding a woman’s body in an apartment closet, events turn bizarre as a children’s game show host (Philip Baker Hall), his estranged daughter (Melora Walters), the show’s former producer, Earl (Jason Robards), who is dying from cancer, his drug-addicted wife Linda (Julianne Moore), Earl’s male caretaker (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a former game show champion (William H. Macy), and finally, an intense motivational speaker (Tom Cruise).

Quite a bevy of talented actors!

As the plot moves along mysteriously, the connections of each of the characters are not only revealed, but their peculiar motivations start to take shape.

For example, Linda, who married Earl for his money, seems to have an epiphany and demands her lawyer change Earl’s will. Later, a character may have a connection to Earl and Linda, but is it all as it seems?

In the case of Magnolia, the film is so wonderfully strange that it leaves the audience guessing throughout most of its running time.

Bizarre scenes are commonplace throughout the film. My favorite one is a marvelously creative scene. Suddenly, frogs begin to fall out of nowhere from the Los Angeles sky with numerous consequences for the characters.

The incident causes a ripple effect, of sorts, as many of the character’s fates are determined. Though one may not be able to make heads or tails of this scene or take complete logic from it, it’s enthralling all the same.

Magnolia has an overall quirky tone- sometimes upbeat-sometimes melancholy- that I adore. Films that are tough to figure out and that add an interesting musical score are so rich with flavor.

Aimee Mann is responsible for composing many of the songs on the musical soundtrack, so much so that she received a title credit on the soundtrack itself. Mann infuses richness into her music that is moody and diverse with ambient essentials.

Many actors make frequent appearances in Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. Magnolia alone seems almost like a Boogie Nights reunion with Moore, Walters, Macy, Baker Hall, and Philip Seymour-Hoffman to name just a handful.

The amazing aspect is that all of the aforementioned actors play vastly different, and arguably even more complex roles than they did in Boogie Nights.

Similar to Quentin Tarantino’s actors appearing in many of his films, what a creative treat this must be for them.

There is no doubt that Magnolia (1999) is a complex, dream-like, film. Open to interpretation and reflection, I find it to be a film that feels brilliant and that I would like to revisit and dive into even more and more with further viewings, for hopefully a better understanding and an even deeper appreciation.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Tom Cruise, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Original Song-“Save Me”

The Blair Witch Project-1999

The Blair Witch Project-1999

Director Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Starring Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael Williams

Scott’s Review #761

Reviewed May 22, 2018

Grade: A

When a horror film “scares the viewer to death” then that film has superseded what it has intended to do since horror films are a dime a dozen these days.

Fondly remembering sitting in a crowded and very dark movie theater to see The Blair Witch Project (1999), I was left both mesmerized and clutching my seat for dear life. This film had an enormous impact on me.

The film wisely uses hand-held cameras (black and white 16mm film) and Hi-8 video, manipulating the audience into using their imaginations leading to terrifying results making the film one of the scariest horror films of the 1990s.

Sometimes what you don’t see is much more frightening than what is seen on screen.

In 1994 three college-aged amateur filmmakers (Heather, Michael, and Joshua) decided to hike to Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary about a legend known as the “Blair Witch”.

The witch is reportedly responsible for mysterious deaths and disappearances over the past two hundred years. They interview, wander, and joke around with each other as a sense of dread begins to develop.

According to the film, the trio themselves disappear, but a year later their equipment is uncovered fully intact with the film footage able to be viewed.

The 1999 film is professed to be the footage left behind by the group.

Throughout the film we watch the individuals conduct interviews with the townspeople and eventually get lost in the woods at nightfall, forced to stay the night as a mysterious entity terrorizes them.

Numerous creepy noises and rustlings scare the group.

In retrospect, with more insight and knowledge about the film, it may be easy for critics to dismiss The Blair Witch Project as either a hoax or a complete manipulation, but in 1999 audiences flocked to the theaters in droves as word of mouth spread.

I saw the film twice on the big screen and was frightened equally with each viewing. More importantly, with the onset of the reality television craze, the film was clever in capitalizing on this trend, so it is to be championed.

Timing is everything!

In the film genre, The Blair Witch Project used buzz and word of mouth to elicit interest before the film was even released- and then the craze began.

The film was highly influential to subsequent releases that also chose to utilize camcorders as their method of storytelling- think 2007’s Paranormal Activity and 2008’s Cloverfield.

The Blair Witch Project is similar in tone to older masterpieces such as 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 1968’s Night of the Living Dead- independent releases made on a shoestring budget that became enormously successful.

As with these films, the camerawork was tremendously important in eliciting necessary realism.

What makes The Blair Witch Project enormously authentic is the tricks used not only on the audience but also on the cast. Reportedly the film was almost entirely improvised including dialogue and situations that the characters faced.

The actors began to feel as if the events they were supposed to act were happening- their map disappeared and noises were created to frighten them.

This clever approach to Method acting elicited the perfect responses from all involved- especially as they got colder, hungrier, and more desperate.

My concern is how well 1999’s The Blair Witch Project will hold up as the years pass. Phenomenally effective and tremendously profitable at the time, dozens of imitations have arisen since the idea of the film was novel. So much so that it makes the original idea seem dated.

One thing remains true- the film gave the horror genre a much-needed breath of fresh air and influenced many films to come.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best First Feature (Under $500,000) (won)

Eyes Wide Shut-1999

Eyes Wide Shut-1999

Director Stanley Kubrick

Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Top 100 Films #99

Scott’s Review #464


Reviewed August 14, 2016

Grade: A

Eyes Wide Shut is a film that I saw in theaters upon its release in 1999 and found fascinating, to say the least. I have watched the film twice more in the years following and it is even more fascinating today- it gets better and more nuanced with each viewing.

It is not an easy film to follow or explain but is rich in mystery and psychologically challenging.

A huge Stanley Kubrick fan, this film is an eerie, plodding, cerebral psychological/sexual thriller.

The creepy piano score is very effective, and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are both excellent as affluent, yet restless, thirtysomethings living in New York City.

Cruise plays Bill, a successful doctor, and Kidman his gorgeous wife, both sexually restless and escaping into fantasy and otherwise real dalliances with other partners as they bicker about fidelity and jealousy as they lounge in their underwear and smoke pot.

It’s a film about relationships, temptation, and desire, and does not always make perfect sense, but boy will it leave you thinking.

The supporting characters are some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen as they compel and mystify and one wonders how they fit with the main characters.

The naughty Long Island orgy is as bizarre and surreal as one can imagine.

The movie reminds me somewhat of The Ice Storm (1997), Magnolia (1999), and Mulholland Drive (1992), which is the ultimate compliment as the aforementioned are film masterpieces.

Girl, Interrupted-1999

Girl, Interrupted-1999

Director James Mangold

Starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie

Scott’s Review #461


Reviewed August 8, 2016

Grade: B+

Girl, Interrupted is a film that I had viewed twice when it came out (1999) and recently viewed again in 2013.

The film is a star-making performance for Angelina Jolie (unknown before this) and warrants a watch just for that alone. Jolie completely steals the show as she portrays a damaged mental patient during the 1960s.

The film itself is interesting as its intended star is Winona Ryder, at this point in her heyday, but completely usurped by Jolie- glaringly so.

Ryder was in prime form when she was the “it” girl during the 1990s. Sadly, her star has since faded.

Besides the “who is the real star of Girl, Interrupted” saga, the film itself is very good, though it has a glossy, happily ever after, Hollywood, vibe to it.

It is not as gritty as it could have been.

Throughout, the film has a very safe feel- even in moments of peril, as when one girl commits suicide, or another suffers from burns, it feels light.

I did not buy Whoopi Goldberg as the kindhearted nurse. Her performance was okay, but nothing special.

Ryder and Jolie are tops.

Despite the subject matter, the film suffers from a chick-flick, cliché, happy ending sort of style, but despite all of this, I still immensely enjoy the film.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Supporting Actress-Angelina Jolie (won)

Boys Don’t Cry-1999

Boys Don’t Cry-1999

Director Kimberly Peirce

Starring Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny

Top 100 Films #73     Top 10 Disturbing Films #10

Scott’s Review #340


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) is a fitting tribute to real-life figure Brandon Teena, a transgender man from Nebraska, who adopts a male identity and attempts to find love with Lana, played by Chloe Sevigny. Brandon is played by Hilary Swank.

Sadly, Brandon was brutally raped and murdered at the hands of some local men- a fact that the film does not gloss over.

Boys Don’t Cry is a heartbreaking and tragic film that will disturb some with its shocking and violent content- sadly it is a true story.

Swank deservedly walked away with the Best Actress Oscar statuette.

Set in working-class Nebraska and in the heartland, Brandon has the cards stacked against him from the start. Not exactly the most open-minded of areas, the film also sets a working-class environment for Brandon as most of his friends are poor factory or bar workers.

Born as Teena Brandon and female, Brandon (Swank) is a drifter and in trouble with the law for various unpaid tickets. He befriends ex-convicts John and Tom and becomes part of their crowd, falling in love with Lana- they are all unaware of Brandon being a female.

When Brandon’s secret is revealed, Lana is accepting and the pair decide to run away together, but Tom and John decide to murder Brandon.

Swank’s portrayal of Brandon is brilliant and believable and very few actresses could successfully pull this off. Swank has angular, androgynous features to begin with, but her drastic physical transformation is jaw-dropping.

Having closed-cropped hair and a male swagger, Swank immerses herself in the role, so much so, that as I watched the film I completely forgot that Brandon was not physically male.

Her physical transformation is not the sole reason for the fantastic performance though- Swank is emotionally there in the role and in a heartbreaking scene, after being beaten and raped, is treated poorly by a sheriff handling the accusations- just when Brandon could use an understanding ear.

What a cold world it can be for someone different from most others as Boys Don’t Cry reveals in a brutal, honest fashion.

Anyone who knows the true story of Brandon Teena knows he led a painful, tragic life, but was also filled with life and love- mainly for Lana.

Worth mentioning is Sevigny’s performance as Lana- in love with the person that was Brandon, not so much the gender. Sevigny portrays Lana as supportive, confused, and loving.

Director, Kimberly Peirce, became obsessed with the real-life case and does a fantastic job at tackling the film in a true, compelling way. To say nothing of the writing and the acting, Peirce also successfully uses a hand-held camera during Brandon’s strip scene and a surreal, muted light to portray the gloomy mid-west and the cold, hard lives that most of the characters lived.

Impressively, Peirce accomplished all of this on a shoe-string budget and took a wealth of inspiration from independent film legend John Cassavetes, who proved that gorgeous films can be made for very little money.

Many scenes take place in bars as Lana, a devoted karaoke singer, croons one tune after another, the highlight being Restless Heart’s 1988 country hit, “The Bluest Eyes In Texas”, which Lana sings in Brandon’s presence.

The use of somber songs gives the film a tragic soundtrack.

Famed film critic, Roger Ebert, described Boys Don’t Cry as “Romeo and Juliet set in a Nebraska trailer park”.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) is an enormous victory in film for the LGBT community and, along with Brokeback Mountain (2006), is a perfect double-feature, as both are similar films, only one featuring males, the other females.

Both are tragic, bleak and all too real.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actress-Hilary Swank (won), Best Supporting Actress-Chloe Sevigny

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 2 wins-Best First Feature (Over $500,000), Best Female Lead-Hilary Swank (won), Best Supporting Female-Chloe Sevigny (won), Best First Screenplay, Producers Award

The Sixth Sense-1999

The Sixth Sense-1999

Director M. Night Shyamalan

Starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment

Top 100 Films #56     Top 20 Horror Films #15

Scott’s Review #182


Reviewed October 8, 2014

Grade: A

The Sixth Sense is a psychological thriller/horror film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, made in 1999, about ghosts, that was an incredible box-office and critical success at its time of release and made the line, “I see dead people” universally imitated.

Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a successful and admired child psychologist, who lives a perfect life with his wife Anna in Philadelphia.

Enjoying a romantic night at home, Malcolm and Anna are interrupted by a deranged former patient- played by an unrecognizable Donnie Walhberg.

Malcolm is shot by the patient, who also shoots himself, and the story picks up a year later as Malcolm takes an interest in Cole, a troubled 9-year-old boy, played by Haley Joel Osment. Cole is a peculiar boy- an outcast taunted at school, who can see the dead.

He’s worried, over-worked mother, Lynn, is played by Toni Collette. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Anna appear to be going through marital problems and lack any meaningful communication with each other.

Anna begins to be pursued by a new beau much to Malcolm’s chagrin. Malcolm and Cole develop a special bond as Malcolm convinces Cole to speak to and help the ghosts that he sees rather than be terrified of them.

As the plot slowly unfolds, Cole helps a recently deceased girl named Kyra Collins, who is around his age. Kyra gives Cole a videotape that reveals she was murdered and proves who killed her.

The subsequent scene is my favorite- there is a haunting quality to it and the camera follows the events interestingly- slowly and sedately.

The setting is a service at Kyra’s house where family and friends are gathered to pay respects and support Kyra’s parents. Malcolm and Cole arrive and present Kyra’s father with the plain videotape.

The entire scene is powerful in its simplicity yet high emotional value. It is slow, but devastating in its climax and reveals. Small nuances are revealed- why is Kyra’s mother wearing bright red when the other guests are all wearing black? Will Kyra’s younger sister be the next victim?

Superlative filmmaking.

A scene involving Cole’s teacher is riveting- being able to sense aspects of people’s pasts Cole realizes his teacher had a stuttering problem as a child. When his teacher is condescending towards Cole, the young boy explodes with rage and begins a chant of “Stuttering Stanley” which reduces the teacher to childhood traumas.

Yet another powerful scene involves Cole and his mother sitting in a car caught in traffic- Cole admits the truth of his skill of seeing dead people to her and introduces an emotional story to her as proof.

This is a scene where Toni Collette shines brightly.

Well over a decade since The Sixth Sense was released, most people know the twist and subsequent surprise ending and it is such a joy to go back, see the manipulations in the story and individual scenes, add them all up, and revel in the clever way that Shyamalan puts them all together.

The Sixth Sense is not dated and is quite fresh, holding up tremendously, and I personally still get chills during the big reveal all these years later.

But more than this pleasure, the film is written beautifully. Somewhere between horror and psychological thriller, it successfully tells a ghost story with interesting characters and jumps-out-of-your-seat thrills that are not contrived and predictable in the traditional horror film way.

From an acting perspective, Bruce Willis is amazing and under-appreciated as Malcolm- he is calm, cool, and collected and his performance is quite understated as the inquisitive and pensive psychologist.

More praise should have been reaped on Willis.

Haley Joel Osment gives an astounding performance of a lifetime- he emits an image to the audience of being strange yet sympathetic and he relays his very frightening fear of the ghosts so well that the pain and conflict he endures is evident on his face.

Toni Collette is effective as the scared, concerned, haggard mother. Collette and Osment were rewarded with Academy award nominations- sadly Willis was not.

Shyamalan was subsequently ridiculed for his later films (The Village-2001, and Unbreakable-2001) – perhaps the manipulation and trickery from The Sixth Sense angered some people.

The Sixth Sense (1999) is a film that remains with you for days, weeks, even years and can be revisited and rediscovered for an intelligent, chilling good time.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-M. Night Shyamalan, Best Supporting Actor-Haley Joel Osment, Best Supporting Actress-Toni Collette, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Film Editing

American Beauty-1999

American Beauty-1999

Director Sam Mendes

Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

Top 100 Films #65

Scott’s Review #70


Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: A

American Beauty is a film that holds up magnificently well and packs the same punch as it did when I originally saw it premiered in 1999.

The film won the Best Picture Oscar in 1999, surprisingly so, as it is not a mainstream film and is edgy, artistic, and poetic.

The film is a thought-provoking story of the American Dream gone wrong and how most people live ordinary, humdrum, on the surface, happy lives, but ultimately are unhappy, damaged, or otherwise unfulfilled.

It is a truthful film and reminds me quite a bit of The Ice Storm, a film from 1997.

American Beauty is not a downer but rather is witty, dark-humored, and filled with dry sarcasm.

Kevin Spacey is tremendous as the central character going through a mid-life crisis and Annette Bening is frighteningly good as his neurotic, controlling wife.

Their daughter, played by Thora Birch, has her teenage angst and falls in love with a neighborhood misfit. Every character, even small and supporting, is troubled in some way.

American Beauty (1999) is a film that was loved or hated at the time of its release; some did not get it or did not want to invest in the thought it requires, but, to me, it’s a work of art, which has achieved a timeless quality.

Oscar Nominations: 5 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Sam Mendes (won), Best Actor-Kevin Spacey (won), Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing