I Found It At the Movies: 1999–The Insider (Michael Mann)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1999: The Insider (Michael Mann)

Starting with The Insider, Michael Mann, already a masterful stylist by this point in his career, began going in a new direction. His films became more abstract, less rooted in cinematic realism and more concerned with forging something completely modern, perhaps even without precedent. Mann has always been interested in filmic vocabulary, but with this next stage he put his experimentation fearlessly at the forefront of his work. Although I still struggle with this later chapter in his career, I can’t deny my love for this film.

Not only is The Insider, for me, one of the most formally bold and interesting works of this entire period, it merges form and content in a way that makes me want to pack my bags and go pursue something else. I can’t think of many films that are this avant garde in their formal approach while still remaining completely compelling in a narrative and emotional sense. Mann has always straddled classical/modern, genre/personal and real/surreal. And, whereas Heat feels like the most classically balanced of all his work, The Insider is the most balanced when it comes to his more modern side.

One more thing of note: The film’s ensemble cast, which is as meticulously put together as any movie I can remember. Russell Crowe is awesomely vulnerable; I completely connect with Pacino’s character; and Christopher Plummer, Michael Gambon, Bruce McGill and Colm Feore were all perfectly cast.

I know there are people who don’t love this one nearly as much I do, but I’ve always marveled at it. In fact, I consider it one of the greatest accomplishments of the nineties.

What moviemakers can learn: It is my opinion that Russell Crowe is one of the two or three greatest actors of his generation. Look at how he internalizes his performance and conveys so much through restraint. It’s an extraordinary performance by an excellent actor.

Other contenders for 1999: From this year I still have some titles to see. These include: Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead, Suwa Nobuhiro’s M/Other, Julio Medem’s Lovers of the Arctic Circle and Frederick Wiseman’s Public Housing. At some point I need to revisit Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Rosetta, as I struggled with both the one time I saw them. From this year, though, I really like Alexander Payne’s Election, Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy, Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix, David O. Russell’s Three Kings and Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey. I love Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité, Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro and Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. And my closest runner-up is Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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