Summary of Best Feminist Films of 1999
By Linda Lopez McAlister
(or at least the best of the ones I saw and reviewed)

1. American Beauty. The main focus of this film is on the male character, played by Kevin Spacey. However, the spectacular portrait of his striving-for-perfection wife created by Annette Benning gives more insight into a contemporary upper middle class woman in deep trouble than many other films whose main focus is women. Besides, it's a spectacularly good film all around.

2. Anna and the King. A Victorian widow who thinks she's the equal of the King of Siam. Now there's a liberated woman! Jody Foster and Chow Yun Fat are terrific in this megabudget epic treatment of the diaries of Anna Leonowens who finds herself teacher to practically the whole Siamese court.

3. Anywhere But Here. Anything that Susan Sarandon does usually ends up on one of my best 10 lists. Here she's a mother who has the gumption to up and leave her husband and move with her teenage daughter to Beverly Hills adjacent so that her daughter will not have her vision limited by small town life.

4. Dreamlife of Angels. Extraordinary story of two working class French women who share an apartment but not a life. Insightful and truthful and beautifully photographed with haunting images.

5. Hilary and Jackie. This biography of renowned cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and her sister is flawed but fascinating. Emily Watson pulls no punches in her portrayal of Jackie, but the one thing that gets short shrift is the brilliance of Du Pre's cello performances. They used a much less gifted musician on the soundtrack.

6. Mansfield Park. Canadian feminist filmmaker Patricia Rozema does the Jane Austen thing and she does it better than anyone else has so far. She based her screenplay not only on the novel but on Austen's own early letters and diaries so it's kind of a Jane Austen biopic!

7. Music of the Heart. Meryl Streep as a single mother and violinist who talks her way into a job teaching violin to East Harlem school children and turns it into a successful program that touches and changes the lives of many children and their families. A feel good film that really happened. The current batch of kids performed on the Kennedy Center Honors program just the other night.

8. Run, Lola, Run. Off beat contemporary German comedy in which Lola runs through Berlin. Three times. Doesn't sound like much fun, but it is.

9. Tea With Mussolini. I'm a sucker for films about little old British ladies, films with Cher, and films with Lily Tomlin. So imagine my delight with this one that includes not only Cher and Lily, but Maggie Smith and Joan Plowright as expatriates in Mussolini's Italy before and during WWII. Apparently based on director Franco Zefferellli's early life. Great fun.

10. Xiu Xiu The Sent Down Girl. I'm sure hardly anyone got to see this film when it was here which is a shame because it is a moving story about the silent love of a nomadic horse herder in western China for a teenage girl sent from the city to this remote place as part of the Cultural Revolution. Unforgettable ending and great acting.