365 Days, 463 Movies: The Best of 1999

As we lurch into the Brave New Millennium, I wish to correct a careless statement I made at a New Year’s Eve party after my second vodka and tonic. In the self-pitying tones of a supposedly overworked movie reviewer, I complained that 500 films had been released in 1999. So how were we sentinels of the cinema supposed to see, much less review, all these alleged pieces of time? Actually, only 463 movies were released in New York in 1999, which still means that I will not have a firm fin de siècle grasp on what happened last year until the dawn of 2001, if then.

In the meantime, I feel honorbound to provide, albeit belatedly, a more formal set of lists of screen delights from the past year (parts of which were divulged in the Dec. 27-Jan.3 issue). After all, I have been doing so since 1958. Unlike some of my more ruthlessly Darwinian colleagues, I do not make up 10-worst lists simply because I cannot be sure I have probed deeply enough into the depths of artistic dysfunction to be sure I had not missed a disastrous mangling of the medium. After all, even in the supposedly Good Old Days and Golden Ages of yore, bad films were the norm, and good films were the rare exceptions.

So proceeding upward rather than downward with the art of the motion picture, here are my carefully weighed choices to ring out the old year, the old decade, the old millennium, and ring in the new.

Best English-Language Films

1. The End of the Affair.

2. The Straight Story.

3. Topsy-Turvy.

4. My Name Is Joe.

5. Election.

6. The Insider.

7. Titus.

8. Bringing Out the Dead.

9. The Winslow Boy.

10. The Sixth Sense.

Honorable Mentions: American Beauty; The Talented Mr. Ripley ; The Minus Man ; Bedrooms and Hallways ; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels ; Three Kings ; Onegin ; Tumbleweeds ; Another Day in Paradise ; Mansfield Park .

Best Foreign-Language Films

1. Run, Lola, Run .

2. Autumn Tale .

3. The Dinner Game .

4. L’Ennui .

5. Late August, Early September .

6. All About My Mother .

7. After Life .

8. Rien Sur Robert .

9. The Emperor and the Assassin .

10. The Same Old Song .

Honorable Mentions: The School of Flesh , Dr. Akagi , Dry Cleaning , The Trio , The Dreamlife of Angels , The King of Masks , Love Etc. , Children of Heaven , Show Me Love , Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl .

Best Actresses

1. Kate Winslet in Holy Smoke and Hideous Kinky .

2. Sarah Polley in Guinevere , Go and Last Night .

3. Julianne Moore in The End of the Affair , An Ideal Husband and Magnolia .

Best Actors

1. Russell Crowe in The Insider and Mystery, Alaska .

2. Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story .

3. Ralph Fiennes in The End of the Affair and Onegin .

Best Supporting Actresses

1. Sissy Spacek in The Straight Story .

2. Chloe Sevigny in Boys Don’t Cry .

3. A four-way tie between Vanessa Redgrave in Girl, Interrupted , Gina Gershon in The Insider and Guinevere , Cherry Jones in Cradle Will Rock and Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown and Dreaming of Joseph Lees .

Honorable Mentions: Louise Goodall in My Name Is Joe ; Janeane Garofalo in The Minus Man ; Annette Bening in American Beauty ; Jessica Lange in Titus ; Isabelle Huppert in The School of Flesh ; Élodie Bouchez in The Dream Life of Angels ; Janet McTeer in Tumbleweeds ; Reese Witherspoon in Election ; Sophie Guillemin in L ‘ Ennui ; Franka Potente in Run, Lola, Run .

Best Supporting Actors

1. Christopher Plummer in The Insider .

2. Stephen Rea in The End of the Affair and Guinevere .

3. Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley and eXistenZ .

Honorable Mentions: Peter Mullan in My Name Is Joe ; Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense ; Hugh Grant in Notting Hill ; Jim Broadbent in Topsy-Turvy ; Fabrice Luchini in Rien Sur Robert ; Kevin Spacey in American Beauty ; Matthew Broderick in Election ; Rupert Everett in An Ideal Husband ; Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead and Harry J. Lennix in Titus .

All this goes to prove is that there are more good performers around than good pictures. Happy New Moviegoing Millennium!