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Star Wars



Best/Worst of '98



news, magazines, webzines

SF in film and TV

SF/F/H Films Among Best, Worst of 1999

Being John Malkovich, Spike Jonze's film of Charlie Kaufman's script about a 'portal' into the mind of actor John Malkovich (and a scheme for cheating death by transmitting souls from one generation to the next) is the fantastic film most frequently cited, so far, among film critics' awards and top-10 lists for 1999.

The film has won best screenplay awards from the Los Angeles and Boston Film Critics; awards for best first film, supporting actor (John Malkovich himself), and supporting actress (Catherine Keener) from the New York Film Critics; and was 8th among the top ten films of the year named by the National Board of Review. It's been included on top-10 lists by critics in Slate, Entertainment Weekly, and People Weekly, among others. The film has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards presented by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: for best picture (comedy or musical), supporting actress (both Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener), and screenplay.

(Other films as frequently cited by critics so far this season are David Lynch's The Straight Story, Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother, Michael Mann's ''60-Minutes'' drama The Insider, Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry, Alexander Payne's Election, David O. Russell's Gulf War drama Three Kings, the animated South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, and Sam Mendes's American Beauty.)

Like last year, when The Truman Show was the class SF film that no one in the movie industry called science fiction (or sci-fi), Being John Malkovich is balanced this year by high-profile, often high-budget genre films (the ones that are labeled sci-fi, horror, etc.) derided as among the year's worst. In 1998 there was Armageddon and Godzilla; this year Wild Wild West, The Haunting, and Stigmata have so far been named worst of the year by critics in Entertainment Weekly and People Weekly.

But numerous SF/F/H films, in addition to Being John Malkovich, are among the critically lauded films of the year. Last month, the animated feature The Iron Giant won nine of 23 Annies, awards given for animated films. (Other nominees included South Park, Tarzan, and 1998's A Bug's Life and The Prince of Egypt.) The film has since won the Best Animation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics, and been named among the year's best by critics David Edelstein (Slate) and Michael Sragow (Salon).

Other science fiction, fantasy, and horror films of 1999 cited by critics include Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, winner of awards for production design (LA Critics) and cinematography (Boston Critics); Toy Story 2, cited so far on 4 best of the year lists; The Matrix (3 lists), The Blair Witch Project (3 lists), the animated Princess Mononoke (2 lists), The Green Mile (1 Golden Globe nomination, for supporting actor), In Dreams (1 list), Dogma (1 list), and The Sixth Sense (2 Golden Globe nominations, for screenplay and supporting actor).

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace has so far escaped mention by anyone, as either best or worst of the year, though as noted last month, it's a ''favorite motion picture'' nominee for a People's Choice Award, determined by a nationwide poll.

(Mon 20 Dec 1999)


© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.