Picks and Pans Review: American Beauty *

updated 03/27/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Insider
The Sixth Sense

American Beauty, a dark, corrosive satire about the rotting of the American dream, may not be a movie for the ages (its ending is too manipulative), but no other film in 1999 matched it for smarts, ambition and pure venal nastiness wrapped around a big soft heart. Its portrait of a marriage going to pot, literally, as Kevin Spacey sucks on a joint and Annette Bening sucks in her cheeks in disapproval, was vicious yet poignant. And nothing made me laugh harder all year than Spacey's middle-aged rebel, having quit his stultifying job at a trade magazine, blissfully flipping burgers at a fast-food joint. As for the other nominees, my second pick is The Insider, a thoughtful drama about how journalists seduce sources. The Cider House Rules is too sentimental, The Green Mile is bloated hooey and The Sixth Sense would be nowhere without...well, if you've seen it you know.

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