Sunday, May 08, 2011

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Ten. Y to Z

Welcome to the tenth and final part of my entirely subjective and drawn out reflection on a decade in cinematic exploits. Click here to see Parts One to Nine.

Y is for Yam
 Ewan McGregor chose to mix his noughties Alec Guiness impressons in the Star Wars prequels with the odd appearance in far more subtle fayre. In 2003 he took the role of mysterious drifter Joe in Young Adam, a bleak and downbeat film that showcased his considerable acting chops. The elder statesman of the Coppolla clan shyly offered up his odd but striking meditation on time and love Youth Without Youth (07) to somewhat mixed critical reception. While Francis Ford makes some bold choices and the source material throws up some fascinating possibilites, the film was terminally dull. Also in 2007 Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (the intensity levels on set could probably have powered Michigan for a month) starred in a remake of classic 1957 western 3:10 to Yuma. Bale was especially good in the role of disabled rancher Dan Evans and Crowe clearly revelled in the chance to play a proper bad guy. Erstwhile comedy cult leader Danny Wallace spent an extended period of time saying 'Yes' to everything and recorded the ensuing shenanigans in a book. Hollywood couldn't resist such a quirky concept and proceeded to turn it into big, shiny, sugary Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man (08). Surprisingly, it turned out to be a rather sweet and genuinely amusing tale helped significantly by a tuned-down Carrey and a luminously quirky Zooey Deschanel.

Z is for Zoetrope
Ben Stiller lit up 2001 as a really really ridiculously good looking male model in the comic tale Zoolander. Featuring Owen Wilson as a fellow dopey supermodel and a magnificently silly turn from Will Ferrell as the dastardly Mugatu, Zoolander was riotously entertaining. From the ridiculous to the sublime with Takeshi Kitano's 2003 epic Zatoichi which was based on a series of 26 classic Japanese TV and film dramas (imagine Inspector Morse crossed with Robin Hood - with samurai swords). The film unashamedly plunders elements from the great Japanese directors of the past and is as equally comfortable with comedy slapstick as with blood spurting violence as it follows the adventures of a blind swordsman committed to helping the poor and weak.  Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (06) is a leftfield choice as the vast majority of football films are dire (When Saturday Comes, Escape to Victory, Goal, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble are best avoided). However, Portrait focuses it's attention entirely on Zinedine Zidane's performance in real time in a single game for Real Madrid as captured by 17 different cameras. With a soundtrack provided by Scottish musical wizards Mogwai, the film stands as the perfect record of the man's peerless talent and penchant for self destructive on-field misbehaviour.  David Fincher has made a career out of showing the dark and often horrifying results of men's obsessions in films like Seven and Fight Club. In Zodiac (06) he explores the effect of Robert Graysmith's (an excellent Jake Gyllenhal) obsession with cracking the unsolved Zodiac killings of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fincher expertly marshals a stellar cast and delivers a slow-burning masterpiece of modern cinema.
And that's the end.  Begun back in the mists of January 2010 it has been over a year in the writing; the 9/10ths Full of Penguins review of cinema in the Noughties is finished.  It's spectacularly arbitrary and almost completely useless.  I've enjoyed every minute of doing it and rediscovered some great movies (and some terrible ones) along the way.

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