The current consensus is that 2007 has come close to being another 1999 — an exceptionally rich and bountiful year in terms of sheer quality. The likelihood, however, is that the Best Picture elimination process that prevailed eight years ago will happen again this year — most of the truly great ones ignored, two or three good ones championed, and a couple of mediocrities working their way into the fold.

The best ’99 films were Election, The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, The Limey, The Sixth Sense, Magnolia, The Straight Story, The Cradle Will Rock, Run Lola Run, Any Given Sunday, The Hurricane, Three Kings, The Insider, Being John Malkovich, The Thin Red Line, Eyes Wide Shut, The Blair Witch Project, October Sky, Open Your Eyes and The Lovers on the Bridge — one of the all-time great cavalcades.

Out of this lot three were Best Picture nominees — American Beauty (which won), The Sixth Sense and The Insider. The other two were The Cider House Rules (pushed into Best Picture status by the legendary Harvey Weinstein promotion machine) and Frank Darabont‘s thoroughly detestable electric-chair drama The Green Mile — a movie I will never, ever see again.

This year we’ve had American Gangster, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, No Country for Old Men, Once, There Will Be Blood, Things We Lost in the Fire, Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, I’m Not There, The Bourne Ultimatum, Control, In The Valley of Elah, Ratatouille, Charlie Wilson’s War and Sweeney Todd. Not as many top-grade releases as we had in ’99, but some kind of banner year.

I don’t want to think too strenuously about the likely ’07 Best Picture nominees (there are some who actually want to see Enchantment among the five), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the ’99 strategem repeats itself.