1999, Spokane, Washington, at the one and only AMC Riverpark Square 20 theatre, located in the mall on levels 3, 4, and 5: This was when and where my passion for film blossomed and movies themselves superseded all expectations on a universal level. My best friend, Preston, and I attended Gonzaga University by day and would soak up 3 to 4 movies a week by night. Little did we know that revolutionary cinema was exploding right in front of us. We were just having a good time swimming through John Malkovich’s head, sifting through found footage from Black Hills Forest, Maryland, and dodging anti-consumerist punches from Brad Pitt (and the occasional frog falling from the sky).
It was in 1999 when I also dipped into movie criticism and wrote reviews for the Gonzaga Bulletin. To me, the reviews justified my movie-loving nerdom and time spent in the dark. I followed the greatest movie critic of all time – Roger Ebert – who maintained the first prominent movie review website, which was a big deal back then. He taught America that “good movies made good moviegoers, and bad movies made bad moviegoers.” It became natural for me to distinguish the fresh, self-conscious look at cubical life in Office Space from the drab, vulgar, and unfunny lack of life in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Three Kings proposed a postmodern perspective of war we had never seen before. My middle brother and I walked out of The Blair Witch Project premiere thinking the so-called “found footage” was really real! The Sixth Sense had an ending so twisted that a second and third viewing was a must. And, Magnolia was so breathtaking for me that a fourth and fifth viewing with new friends each time was more of a must. There are so many more: Bringing Out the Dead, Run Lola Run, The Matrix, Fight Club, American Movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Eyes Wide Shut, etc.
A few months ago, my friend and coworker, Ryan, texted me about an upcoming book that celebrates the movies of 1999.
That very day, I literally dug through all my memory boxes and old Gonzaga Bulletin reviews clippings and found the article above. I knew I was on to something then. Old timer critic, David Denby, blasted the movies of the 1990s and probably had no idea the creativity and brazenness of 1999 would blast him right back. This little article is by no means anything exceptional. But, through it, I can still re-feel the excitement and shuddering of the movie ground breaking that was occurring at that time.
Other than 2007 (No Country for Old Men, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, King of Kong, and Paranormal Activity to name a few), no other year stands out more than 1999 when it comes to cinematic audacity. And, that’s kind of why I’m writing this blog – I want to use it to find that next great year. So far, 2019 it ain’t, but that’s okay. “Good movies make good moviegoers, and bad movies make bad moviegoers.” We are still learning (and watching).