NYT movie critic A.O. Scott, in an article about the movies of 1962, writes
Searching beyond the dozen at the Brooklyn Academy you find enough riches to support the contention of Armond White, the current chairman of the Critics Circle, that 1962 was as bountiful a cinematic year as 1939. Or maybe 1999, or for all we know 2010.
I'm not on the film geek memo distribution list, so I wouldn't have heard if this were the case, but: is there some consensus that 1999 was an especially great year in movie history? I can't say that it felt that way to me at the time; it seemed like the indie/ Miramax wave of creativity had crested and become a new kind of routine. See: Holy Smoke, starring Kate "naked again!" Winslett and Harvey Keitel; combine ingredients, press play.
The Matrix, of course, was epoch-making in its way. Toy Story 2 seems to be many people's choice for the best Pixar movie ever, or until the last three years. And The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, and Being John Malkovich do make for a pretty impressive trio of creativity.
But that was the year of the greatest anticlimax in anticipated-blockbuster history (Star Wars Episode 1); a bunch of award-bait that I think are in retrospect agreed to have been overrated at best and really quite bad at worst (American Beauty, Cider House Rules, The End of the Affair, Eyes Wide Shut); some truly awful mass-market stuff (Wild Wild West); and I guess a couple of things that still inspire love-it-or-hate-it arguments (Magnolia, Three Kings, Talented Mr. Ripley).
And then it's the year of Runaway Bride, Never Been Kissed, The Mummy, Notting Hill, and Analyze This. Doesn't come any more ordinary than that, no matter how many "new classics" Turner anoints. I've never seen Notting Hill or Analyze This, and I do think The Mummy was a terrific ordinary movie, but I still think the overall judgment is sound.
Looking at the list, it turns out I can assemble a list to get enthusiastic about:
Being John Malkovich, Sixth Sense, Election, ExistenZ, Run Lola Run, South Park, Pushing Tin, The Matrix, Iron Giant, Dogma, Girl Interrupted, 200 Cigarettes, Better Than Chocolate. That seems like an impressive list, and maybe I'm letting my distaste for American Beauty carry too much weight.
But that's just my list, my tastes. Does that list make film geeks' hearts go a-twitter? Does it really tower over any other year of the 90s-- say, 1994, the year of Pulp Fiction, Clerks, Ed Wood, Muriel's Wedding, Reality Bites, two of the Three Colors movies, and Barcelona?
Or are American Beauty and Eyes Wide Shut really remembered as movies for the ages?