Every time I watch American Beauty, it makes me step back and look at my life in a different way. It makes me remember that there is far more to people than meets the eye, and that we need to appreciate the small things in life. Its insistence that we “look closer” and the aesthetically beautiful way it portrays the flaws, secrets, and struggles of an American family transcends most films for me and wakes me up in a way that deeply matters. It’s a powerful film that has stood as one of my absolute favorites since its release in 1999, and I teach it every year in my film class as an amazing example of just about every element of filmmaking. Everything about the movie is exemplary of what can be achieved in cinema, but after having watched it at least twice a year since 1999, I’m convinced that it never could have worked without Kevin Spacey’s Oscar winning performance as Lester Burnham.