But EW's David Hochman invites you to fight the year-end hype

By David Hochman
Updated November 15, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

”Blair Witch” and ”Friends” will make every ’99 hot list

It happened to ”The Blair Witch Project.” It’s plaguing David E. Kelley. It might even spell trouble for the unshakable Tom Hanks. It’s called hype, and it’s squeezing the magic out of many of pop culture’s worthiest phenomena.

If something even vaguely smacks of quality or originality — be it the new Fiona Apple album or Jennifer Lopez’s backside, a shroud of acclaim wraps around it like an oversize pashmina shawl. The enthusiasm usually involves cover stories in three or more national magazines, tête-à-têtes with Letterman, Charlie Rose, and/or Regis, and at least one live chat on AOL. And, yes, Entertainment Weekly usually gets into the act too.

The problem, though, is that too much adulation gets old fast and that praiseworthy achievement starts seeming about as fresh as last week’s foie gras (another overpraised sensation. It’s duck liver, people!). So as 1999 ticks down and everyone lets loose with their Best of the Year, Best of the Century, and Best of the Millennium lists, it’s time to look back on the year’s most overbaked, overinflated, overhyped successes. But PLEASE, hold your applause.

1. ”Blair Witch Project.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

2. All the critics called ”Three Kings” ”brilliant” and ”groundbreaking” and said it would do for the Gulf War what ”M*A*S*H” did for Korea. The only problem is, the Gulf war was no Vietnam, and nobody went to see ”Three Kings,” which probably means the Academy will overlook it too.

3. Last year at this time, all bets were on reclusive directors George Lucas and Stanley Kubrick to come out of hiding with two films GUARANTEED to rock our worlds. In January, Entertainment Weekly said the new ”Star Wars” movie was ”so highly anticipated, it just might sink a certain ill-fated ocean liner all over again.” Okay, so it didn’t. And the only thing sinking after ”Eyes Wide Shut” was the suspicion that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman really do have chemistry.

4. ”Friends.” Enough already.

5. Robert De Niro. Flawless? I don’t think so.

6. David E. Kelley. Sure, he won something like 400 Emmys this year, he’s married to Michelle Pfeiffer, and he’s so rich he doesn’t even have to comb his hair. But did anyone notice that Kelley made two movies this year — ”Mystery, Alaska” and ”Lake Placid.” No? Neither did I.

7. ”Fight Club”: the controversy, the spin, the editorials, not to mention Brad Pitt’s chipped-tooth mug showing up everywhere. All of it added up to… not that much at all. The movie, which reportedly cost $68 million to make, has so far taken in less than half that at the box office.

8. Jennifer Love Hewitt. She, too, is on every other magazine cover being hailed as the spokesgrrl of her generation; yet her new Fox TV show, ”Time of Your Life,” was ranked 87th overall last week.

9. Those swinging Gap commercials. They were hip and cool. The first 850 times.

10. The 1999 holiday movie season. It hasn’t happened yet, but already, ”Green Mile,” ”The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and ”Man on the Moon” are being plugged and touted so much, the only way to go is down.

So, what do you think? Do you agree? What’s on your list of the top overhyped phenoms of the year? Whoever sends in the greatest list gets an EW cover story, an interview with Diane Sawyer, and your very own talking action figure. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things a little.

The Blair Witch Project

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