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1999: A Look Back, Pt. 5

11.27.2009

So far this week, we’ve looked at the many notable films that came out in 1999, including the blockbusters, the sleepers, the prestige films, and the more unconventional releases. Today, in the final installment of my look back, I’m going to take a look at two films that came out that year that, in my view, should be regarded as classics.

THREE KINGS

Initial reaction: In many ways, THREE KINGS was a landmark film for me. For one thing, it happened to come out a week after my eighteenth birthday, and it had been a film I had been looking forward to seeing for months. The trailers, with their bizarre mixture of humor, violence, and early nineties pop culture references (love the shot of the Bart Simpson doll on the grill of the Humvee) really worked for me.

Leading up to THREE KINGS’ release, there was a lot of talk about the supposedly numerous problems behind the scenes, with star George Clooney, and the abrasive David O’Russell tangling repeatedly, and slinging mud at each other in the press (for a good look at the troubled production, check out Sharon Waxman’s REBELS ON THE BACKLOT). In the end, the behind the scenes drama might have actually helped the film, as it ended up being a pretty spectacular piece of work. It was an honest, harrowing, and occasionally funny look at Operation Desert Storm. Years later, Sam Mendes, in the shadow of the new, far more costly war in Iraq, tried to do his own Desert Storm film, JARHEAD, but that paled next to THREE KINGS.

Upon its release, THREE KINGS ended up being a successful, well-received, but controversial film. Supposedly, Russell used real cadavers for the numerous internal shots of bullet wounds destroying organs, and this got him into a whole heap of trouble. Still the film was a success, grossing a decent $60 Million domestically, which was solid for such a risky film, especially considering that neither Clooney, nor Mark Wahlberg were considered big box office draws at the time. Surprisingly, the film didn’t land a single Oscar nomination, although many acknowledged its shameful admission (even Harvey Weinstein- who had nothing to do with it, claimed it was his favorite film of the year).

Legacy: As well all know now, Desert Storm ended up being the tip of the tentacle as far as war in Iraq went, and less than four years after THREE KINGS came out, another, far more costly war in the region began, and continues to this day. History ended up making THREE KINGS a far more relevant film than we could have imagined in ’99, and I think the film holds up as a classic.

Another thing that should be mentioned is the intriguing bleached look of the film, that’s been copied many times since (notably in the following year’s TRAFFIC). While Clooney’s gone on to great things on both sides of the camera, and Wahlberg’s ended up becoming a star in his own right, David O’Rusell has yet to live up to the promise of THREE KINGS. His follow-up, I HEART HUCKABEES, was panned by many (although I enjoyed it), and his reputation as a tyrant behind the scenes seems to have hindered his success somewhat (that leaked Lily Tomlin tape from HUCKABEES certainly didn’t help matters any). He’s currently working on the intriguing sounding FIGHTER with Wahlberg, and Christian Bale; so hopefully that will show people that, tyrant or not, Russell remains one hell of a director.

Read JoBlo's original review

FIGHT CLUB

Initial Reaction: A few weeks after THREE KINGS opened, I got my first taste of FIGHT CLUB. At the time, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I loved David Fincher’s last two films, SE7EN, and THE GAME, and Edward Norton had really impressed me the year before with AMERICAN HISTORY X. Still, having never (at the time) read the novel, or really been plugged into much movie buzz over the net, I hadn’t the faintest idea what I’d be seeing the night I walked into a local theater. It was 18+ in Quebec, which was very rare, as our censors tend to be open minded with films (earlier that year, we got the original, unrated version of EYES WIDE SHUT, and while it was enough to get an NC-17 in the States, it only got a 13 rating here).

Still, FIGHT CLUB got a lot of people nervous, coming so soon after Columbine, and critics of the day excoriated the film. However, most online critics (including Joblo), LOVED it. As for me; it totally rocked my world. I was experiencing some major growing pains at the time, and FIGHT CLUB spoke to me in a way few other films had at the time.

Obviously I wasn’t alone.

You see, while FIGHT CLUB underperformed domestically (bringing in $37 million, although it grossed over $100 Million overseas) - it took off in a major way once it hit DVD. In only a few months, FIGHT CLUB went from a high-profile flop to a major cult sensation.

Legacy: Nowadays, FIGHT CLUB is rightly regarded as a classic. It’s one of my favorite films, and one of the few films that I can literally watch over, and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s perfection. The fact that so many critics lashed out at it is disgraceful, as is the fact that it got totally ignored at the Oscars. I’d wager FIGHT CLUB truly is the modern equivalent to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and years from now, while many Oscar-wining modern films will be forgotten, FIGHT CLUB will still be taught in film schools.

Afterwards, everyone involved with FIGHT CLUB seemed to go on to have brilliant careers. Pre- FIGHT CLUB, Brad Pitt was mainly seen as a pretty boy, but this, alongside SNATCH gave him major credibility, and to this day he remains one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

As for Edward Norton, he continued to prove himself as one of the most talented actors of his generation. In 2002, he starred in one of the best films of the decade, THE 25TH HOUR.

As for Fincher, his follow up, PANIC ROOM, was an entertaining thriller, but was a tad underwhelming compared to FIGHT CLUB and SE7EN. Luckily, ZODIAC once again proved what a brilliant filmmaker he is, and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON was well received both critically, and financially.

Read JoBlo's original review
Source: JoBlo.com

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