Top movies of 1999

Action, comedy, romance: In a tight seven-day schedule,1999's slate of films had it all. The list that follows recaps the best of the best, the motion pictures we'll still all be talking about 348 days from now.

"My Best Friend's Wedding" Not the 1997 Julia Roberts vehicle, but the Hi-8 movies of my best friend Larry's August nuptials, finally back from the developer's and worth every minute of the wait we endured before their screen debut. I laughed. I cried. When the picture was over, I felt I actually knew these people.

"Rush Hour" Technically a 1998 entry, but I didn't get around to seeing it until 1999, when its second-run release brought it to the Aloma Twin Cinema Grill. Lo and behold, it was worth every penny of the $1.50 I spent.

"Not Without My Adopted Vietnamese War Baby" No film this year tugged more insistently at our heartstrings than this Lifetime network made-for-cable production, a roller-coaster ride of completely unpredictable, tissue-shredding emotional turns. I was taken totally by surprise when the heroine's husband died of cancer halfway through the picture; stunned speechless when the system sought to separate her from the daughter she loved so dearly; shocked into catatonia when our plucky protagonist was finally reunited with what remained of her family after delivering an impassioned speech on the witness stand at a federal hearing. Why can't they make more movies like this?

"Sabrina" Network TV was no slouch this year, either (where oh where were the traditional studios in this unprecedented Olympics of cinematic excellence? Guess they just couldn't measure up). Taking the concept of the director's cut one step further, the CBS broadcast of the Harrison Ford charmer was reformatted both for content and to fit your screen. A movie the way movies were meant to be seen.

"Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" The world's most talked-about two minutes of film, this trailer's theatrical run almost inspired me to leave my house in the midst of the freezing cold. But I would have had to stay and watch "Enemy of the State" after the "coming attractions" portion ended, so I just downloaded the sucker from its official website instead. Didn't even need to use a credit card, either.

"The Wizard of Oz" I've seen it, you've seen it. But have you ever seen it on a big screen at midnight, in the company of a crowd of juiced-up Garland-heads you just met at the Parliament House? An interactive experience far beyond "Rocky Horror". Sample interjection: "Are those BENNIES in her hand?"

"If You Had Wings" Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot remake of Disney's seminal, 360-degree travel opus was lambasted by some as unnecessary, while lauded by others as a knowing tip of the hat to Uncle Walt's mastery. I fell somewhere in between, but found Parker Posey's uncredited role as a narcoleptic flight attendant to be the year's most riveting portrayal.

"That Tidy Cat Commercial Where the Kitties Talk Just Like People" Short subjects totally rock.

"Beloved" As the holiday doldrums set in, I finally found three extra hours to spend in the company of Oprah Winfrey's ill-fated, universally lambasted vanity project. Not a movie for the ages, to be sure, but with unlimited Big Gulp refills thrown in to sweeten the deal, who am I to complain?

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