Tuesday, July 06, 2010

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Four. J to L

Welcome to Part Four of my entirely subjective reflection on a decade in cinematic exploits. Click here to see Parts One to Three. Please do chip in with any obvious omissions or disagreements.

J is for Jigsaw Puzzles
Weirdly, there seemed to be a paucity of decent movies beginning with J during the Noughties. There was plenty of dross - Jackass 1-3 , Johnny English, Jersey Girl anyone? Thought not. 2001 saw Steven Spielberg returning to improbable science and large teeth with the third in the Jurassic Park series. The dinosaurs were bigger, Sam Neill was back and William H Macy (yay!) made the best of a terrible moustache. In 2005 the war movie got all confusing and two-sided in Sam Mendes' film version of Anthony Swofford's biographical account of the Gulf War Jarhead. I really wanted to like it but despite stunning cinematography it seemed to lack something important. According to women's magazine everywhere, late 2007 belonged to Diablo Cody and her all-conquering Juno. Apparently, the world was astonished that a woman who used to be a stripper was capable of stringing a few words together in a screenplay. As it happens, that screenplay turned out to be rather good and combined with excellent performances made Juno a worthy entrant into the movies of the noughties.

K is for Kaleidoscope
Looking back from the dizzying heights of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, it's hard to believe that Robert Downey Junior's stock used to be so low. Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) in 2000 began the revival in many ways. It was ludicrously entertaining particularly when Val Kilmer's immensely camp Gay Perry is on screen. Tarentino split one film into two with Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2 (03 & 04)with stylish and verbose yet curiously empty results. In 2004 Stephen Chow made us laugh and whistle appreciatively at his utterly bonkers Kung Fu Hustle in which the fight scenes were astonishing, the visuals spectacular and spirit of the movie completely insane. The cartoonish chase scenes especially were reminiscent of Looney Tunes but fitted perfectly into the Hong Kong lunacy. The king of the modern epic returned to the history trough with Kingdom of Heaven (05). Ridley Scott shot the Crusade story with his customary gorgeousness but it did lack a convincing hero (Orlando Bloom - really?) and is much better in it's longer Director's Cut version. The other king to return in 2005 was Kong in Peter Jackson's punishingly lengthy retooling of King Kong. While at least an hour too long it was still a magical movie experience (Kong fighting Tyrannosaurs!!).

L is for Lemons

The Coppola clan found a new star in Sofia and her bittersweet tale of a pair of lonely Americans in Lost in Translation (2003). Bill Murray as the down-at-heel actor and an idealised Tokyo were the two standouts in a touching and funny story. In 2004 the talented Anderson (Wes as opposed to Paul WS) brought us the almost too whimsical Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, also tempting a stellar turn from a be-whiskered Bill Murray. Continuing the theme of comics turning in good dramatic performances, Steve Carell showed us that he was capable of more than shouting and falling over in the surprisingly dark yet affecting Little Miss Sunshine (06). The same year saw three movies tackle some of the darker periods in world history in the Last King of Scotland, The Lives of Others and Letters from Iwo Jima. Ulrich Mühe and Forest Whitaker turned in contrasting Oscar worthy turns as a Stasi operative and Idi Amin respectively. Clint Eastwood also drew a marvellous performance from Ken Watanabe in the stronger of his two Pacific war movies. The end of the decade saw possibly the best horror movie of the whole ten years and certainly the best film of 2009 in Let the Right One In. Ignore the upcoming US remake and revel in the unique vampire movie premise and unsettling atmosphere of the Swedish original. It couldn't be further away from the teenage nonsense of the Twilight series which makes it a Good Thing.

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