Fall Preview – 1999

Once again, the best time of year for film lovers has rolled around. The year has been rather unassuming up to this point. However, the final four months of the year are the time when the studios crank out their best bets for award consideration. Looking at the selection, things promise to be more interesting as Y2K approaches! Without more further ado, here are the top thirty films to which I am looking forward this season. As of mid-August, all of these films are scheduled to premiere sometime in the next few months…however, schedules are always subject to change. In addition, I’m sure there are a few good films I have missed (on last year’s list, I omitted my future top-10 entries: Life is Beautiful, Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love.) But, at this time, the following are the most promising prospects of the fall:

30. Jakob the Liar
Strangely, this Robin Williams led Holocaust drama has been sitting on the shelf for an entire year. Timing is everything, and this one may suffer from comparisions to Life is Beautiful.
29. Flawless
Robert De Niro showed he has great comic chops in this year’s Analyze This. Flawless should allow him room for his dramatic skills as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman has long been a talent worthy of recognition, and he may earn it in this film. However, writer-director Joel Schumacher is the wild card here, having botched most of his recent outings.
28. Breakfast of Champions
A great cast and a great book…but will it make a great movie? Both Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte have been having good streaks lately, and hopefully Breakfast of Champions will continue the trend.
27. Stir of Echoes
Supernatural horror is the ticket right now as millennium fever mounts. While Stir of Echoes borrows a bit too much from Poltergeist and Close Encounters, it manages to be consistently creepy in a way that The Sixth Sense never achieved.
26. Random Hearts
It’s time for Harrison Ford’s yearly project, but no, this isn’t an action-adventure. However, Kristen Scott Thomas may be the one to click with Ford as a romantic lead.
25. Anna and the King
Jodie Foster, Chow Yun Fat, and loads of gorgeous scenery. The story’s overly familiar, but those three factors may help to lift this one.
24. Ride With the Devil
Ang Lee doesn’t seem like the perfect director for a Western, at first. However, he didn’t seem likely for a ’70s coming-of-age film (The Ice Storm, or a Jane Austen adaptation (Sense and Sensibility), and he exceled in both cases.
23. The Insider
Michael Mann has always been a director to watch…but what is he doing directing this TV-movie material? Pacino and Crowe may liven things up, however.
22. Bicentennial Man
This one should please the touchy-feely Robin Williams crowd, but will Robin actually act in this one?
21. Angela’s Ashes
A strong cast, a moving memoir. However, this tale will need a strong marketing push to be heard in the crowded holiday season.
20. End of Days
What’s Arnold Schwarzenegger doing in a supernatural thriller? We can only hope the material will elevate his typical performance, rather than devolving into a Terminator vs. Satan brawl.
19. Toy Story 2
Yes, it’s a sequel. But, it’s a sequel to Toy Story! It will be hard to live up to the original, but at least it looks like better quality than the traditional Disney direct-to-video garbage.
18. Girl Interrupted
Director James Mangold was impressive with Cop Land, and he has a strong cast to work with here.
17. The Messenger
The Joan of Arc story doesn’t seem very fresh, but Luc Besson is a great director, and is gifted with a talented cast.
16. Mystery, Alaska
Finally, a feel-good hockey movie that doesn’t involve The Mighty Ducks!
15. Guinevere
Sarah Polley has been impressive in everything she’s done. Here’s a chance for her to really shine.
14. Dogma
The script is quirky, but not as strong as it should be. However, Kevin Smith’s offbeat casting choices may save the day.
13. Three Kings
Great buzz abounds on this apparently routine Gulf War story. Still, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube may have a chance to shine.
12. The Story of Us
This one has a moving trailer (that apparently shows all of the key moments, however), a good cast and a strong director.
11. Any Given Sunday
This football drama has a spectacular cast, but can Oliver Stone tone down his headache-inducing editing style?
10. Sleepy Hollow
It seems like the perfect adaptation for Tim Burton to work on (much more suited to Burton than Superman). However, this one has a weak script, and will come under fire for not following the Irving story at all. Still, Burton’s imagery and eccentric cast should still make this one worth a peek.
9. Being John Malkovich
Perhaps the strangest movie of the season. This one looks loopy but fun.
8. The Green Mile
There’s lots of buzz around The Green Mile, and any Tom Hanks film is going to attract attention. Frank Darabont worked wonders with The Shawshank Redemption, but now he’s buttonholed himself as the director of period prison movies based on the works of Stephen King.
7. American Beauty
Advance word has been terrific on this film, which may turn out to be the sleeper hit of the Fall. A great cast can’t hurt.
6. Magnolia
Paul Thomas Anderson moves from Boogie Nights to a strange film in the style of Short Cuts. This one promises to be interesting, if perplexing.
5. Man on the Moon
Jim Carrey may finally get his Oscar nod, according to the buzz surrounding this Andy Kaufman biopic.
4. Cradle Will Rock
In just his third outing as a director, Tim Robbins promises to deliver an interesting (and probably controversial) film. He’s lined up a terrific ensemble, and has a great premise to work with here.
3. Bringing Out the Dead
Martin Scorsese is back on the streets of New York. Nicolas Cage is back in a worthwhile drama. Does any more need to be said?
2. The Talented Mr. Ripley
Director Anthony Minghella has landed a trendy (and talented) cast for his follow up to The English Patient. He’s got good source material here, and may strike gold twice in a row.
1. Fight Club
David Fincher struck gold four years ago with Se7en. Fight Club brings him back to the same bleak style (as well as reuniting him with Brad Pitt). Edward Norton has enlivened every film he’s been in, and it looks like no exception here. But is the world ready for a filmed adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s anarchistic novel? I certainly am…
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