June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Some among us — say, the President of the United States — agonize over what the meaning of is is. Here at Entertainment Weekly, we prefer to parse the definition of another two-letter word: It. While this unpretentious pronoun may seem straightforward enough (hey, it is what it is, isn’t it?), It actually has all sorts of subtle shades of interpretation. It can mean innovative (like the digital brainiac behind the special effects in The Matrix). It can mean irreverent (like the guy who gave the finger to Star Wars with his Thumb Wars parody on UPN). It can even mean knuckle-bitingly gorgeous (at least when applied to cover girl Heather Graham, Mike Myers’ new shag interest in the Austin Powers sequel). Flip through the magazine in your hands — our third annual It List issue — and you’ll find dozens of other definitions for this versatile little word (along the way, you’ll also learn who choreographed those spiffy Gap ads, who animated the cool new Tarzan ‘toon, what the narrator of VH1’s Behind the Music actually looks like, and why a Greek philosopher born in 384 b.c. is currently the hottest script doctor in Hollywood). Because even when we can’t quite define It, we know it when we see it.

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