Reviews > Culture

The Oscars

Culture | The 5 nominees for the Academy Award for best picture of 1999

Issue: "The new slave trade," March 25, 2000
American Beauty
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening / Sam Mendes / Dreamworks SKG

PLOT
Ensemble drama featuring a middle-class dad who chases after a high-school cheerleader.

MESSAGE
Suburbia as existential nightmare; seemingly normal people live lives of quiet desperation.

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CAUTION
Rated R for bad language, nudity, sexual situations, drug use, and violence.

The Cider House Rules
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire / Lasse Halstrom / Miramax

PLOT
Adaptation of John Irving novel about an orphan raised by an abortionist.

MESSAGE
Abortions are a right and performing them is good and noble.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and violence.

The Green Mile
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan / Frank Darabont / Warner Bros.

PLOT
Adaptation of a non-horror Stephen King story about a prison guard on death row whose life is changed by a prisoner he must execute.

MESSAGE
Pop supernaturalism: Miracles happen in unexpected places.

CAUTION
Rated R for bad language, violence, and sexual situations.

The Insider
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Al Pacino, Russell Crowe / Michael Mann / Touchstone Pictures

PLOT
Adaptation of the story of Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco whistleblower who was manipulated by 60 Minutes.

MESSAGE
Big corporations play dirty and will chew people up to protect themselves.

CAUTION
Rated R for bad language.

The Sixth Sense
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment / M. Night Shyamalan / Hollywood Pictures

PLOT
Child psychologist must rescue a little boy who sees ghosts.

MESSAGE
Counseling doesn't help the boy, showing that secularism doesn't have a clue about dealing with spiritual issues.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for bad language, violent images, and gore, typically ghost-story ghouliness.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Get this: We're not just descended from apes. We're descended from ... Martians. That's what the astronauts in Mission To Mars (Touchstone; rated PG for bad language and violence) find out in this dismal space epic. Once upon a time, director Brian DePalma tried to follow Alfred Hitchcock, but this time he tries to emulate Stanley Kubrick in 2001, but with more dialogue. Mission starts off with the first manned mission to Mars, which is all but destroyed by a sandstorm generated by the mysterious face on the planet's surface. So a second group of astronauts (including ones played by Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins) launch a rescue mission to retrieve the one survivor (Don Cheadle) and find out what went wrong. After all sorts of problems, including one that kills off the Robbins character, the crew makes it to Mars and discovers the Martian face is actually benevolent. In fact, the Martians themselves blasted away millions of years ago to distant galaxies when their home planet was messed up, but they sent some genetic soup to Earth that evolved into life forms. In short, what Pathfinder supposedly inspired is really a celebration of crank mysticism and checkout-counter UFOology.

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