By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
1. The Blair Witch Project Both the hype and the inevitable backlash have died down, and what remains is still quite a movie -- the horror film reinvented, and the faux documentary brought of age as a legitimate nonparody genre.
2. The Limey A standard revenge melodrama charged up with stunningly assured direction by Steven Soderbergh and passionate performances by Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, and Barry Newman.
3. Boys Don't Cry Brandon Teena fights for his God-given right to be a brawling, beer-swilling, chicken-playing, dare-taking Nebraska redneck. Harsh and harrowing, it's sort of Romeo and Juliet for the transgendered. Hilary Swank's performance has been justly celebrated; Chloe Sevigny, though less flamboyant, is no less excellent as Brandon's true love.
4. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut Maybe the most systematically obscene, profane movie ever to come out of a Hollywood studio, it's also an epic-scale satire and the feel-good musical of the year. Even those of us who aren't fans of the show were won over by this.
5. Toy Story 2 This sequel to the superb 1995 computer-animated feature is, if anything, superior to the original -- funny, exciting, touching, and, in a light, unpretentious way, allegorically provocative.
6. American Beauty Kevin Spacey is first liberated, then destroyed, by his midlife crisis in this good, but not quite great, suburban-grotesque tragicomedy. There's some truth and some banality in the writing, but the caricatured performances are splendid and the compositions beautiful.
7. The Sixth Sense It moves a little slowly, but it has amazing performances by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, and one of the most cunningly constructed twist endings ever. It improves on repeat viewings.
8. The Straight Story Richard Farnsworth gives a beautiful, simple performance -- maybe the year's best -- in David Lynch's soulful, imaginatively directed Midwestern odyssey.
9. The Insider It's porn for journalists, and it has a windy speech or two more than it needs, but this melodrama about corporate censorship is wonderfully absorbing. Al Pacino is at his hammy, voluble best, but the real power comes from the controlled intensity of Russell Crowe.
10. The Iron Giant One of the best children's movies in years. Ted Hughes' sci-fi parable, Americanized and lightened, retains its heart. It also proves that animated features can be visually beautiful without being heavy and fussy.
Honorable mention: Cookie's Fortune, Mumford, Metroland, Being John Malkovich, Sleepy Hollow, Jerome, An Ideal Husband, The 24 Hour Woman, Office Space, Twin Falls, Idaho, Stir of Echoes, Bowfinger, and Go.
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