Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942, Michael Curtiz)
James Cagney is loads of fun as songwriter/entrepreneur George M. Cohan, but the movie is annoyingly overzealous, self-serious (despite warm comedy throughout), and much too long. See it for Cagney and file it away.
The Year of Living Dangerously (1982, Peter Weir)
Right from the dazzling opening titles, Weir makes this action-packed journalism story about the 1965 Indonesian coup look remarkably good, even effortless in its realism. The screenplay, however (adapted from a novel by Christopher Koch), is torn between the political and the personal in a distracting, very evidently compromised fashion that foregrounds a haphazard love affair between attractive but clueless-looking actors Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver at the expense of any sense of insight into the failed Communist rebellion and its bloody aftermath. The story feels shapeless and lacks clarity, attaining momentum only when Linda Hunt’s unconventional characterization of the photographer Billy Kwan takes the reins of the narrative.
Yellowbeard (1983, Mel Damski) [NO]
* Just… don’t watch it, okay?
Yellow Submarine (1968, George Dunning) [A+]
Highly unconventional animated masterpiece, its dark satire offset by a haze of whimsy and the emotionally charged use of Beatles songs for shattering musical sequences. Highlights include “Eleanor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” and the tremendous “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a scene that turns an OK song into a kaleidoscope of romance.
Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa) [r]
The launching pad of every modern action film about a smarmy, wisecracking hero. It’s a very compelling story, building to one of Kurosawa’s most visually opulent and gripping climaxes, but like most of the films influenced by it, it seems more than a little cruel and flippant — with none of the sensitivity typical of the director, except in one kind of magic moment when Mifune briefly becomes the storyteller’s mouthpiece: “A long life eating porridge is better.” I don’t think Clint Eastwood ever said that.
You Can’t Take It with You (1938, Frank Capra) [r]
The two reasons to see this mothball of theatrical Americana are: the innocently unbridled pure sex of all of Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur’s verbose, nervous interactions; and Lionel Barrymore, taking all the fireworks and class-obsessed silliness in stride. Laughing dismissively at the absurdity of everything is not an unattractive life philosophy, though it may not pay all the bills this film suggests it will.
Young Adult (2011, Jason Reitman)
Pointlessly unpleasant “character study” sets up Charlize Theron, whose performance is terrific, as an overgrown child unable to get over her high school boyfriend and traversing through the hometown she sees as backward, and hinges on her inability to learn anything from her subsequent meltdown. Some people are shits, darling, and some people have better things to do than watch movies explaining that to us.
Young America (1932, Frank Borzage) [r]
Slightly grittier variant on Skippy, with an interesting performance by Ralph Bellamy as a juvenile court judge, a pretty tiresome one by Spencer Tracy as a grouchy druggist. The characters are defined well and the final product is extremely sentimental but breezily entertaining, at just 70 minutes. Borzage shows good eyes and ears for friendships between children, despite the maudlin stuff.
Young and Innocent (1937, Alfred Hitchcock) [hr]
Hitchcock’s stab at Capra-world, his naive characters escaping the hopeless claustrophobia of Sabotage… though the ambiance of the old country is darker than ever. Outstanding special effects, streamlined storytelling, and great entertainment in the vein of the director’s follow-up, The Lady Vanishes.
Young Doctors in Love (1982, Garry Marshall) [NO]
* Trashy soft porn that was good enough for a thirty-second trailer but not good enough to actually sit through.
Young Einstein (1988, Yahoo Serious) [r]
* Overwhelmingly likable Serious epic has amusingly senseless story, an enthusiastic lead performance, and decent music. It’s also a bit gross, but that’s all right.
Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks) [A+]
Nobody will ever make a movie like this again; its manic energy approaches the level of a peak-period Warner Bros. cartoon, except, of course, much dirtier. If one were to make a list of the funniest sequences ever to appear on film, this movie would have a small monopoly.
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939, John Ford) [r]
Fawning, cavity-inducingly sentimental depiction of Abraham Lincoln as an aw-shucks young attorney in the Illinois years. The courtroom scenes are engrossing, the stereotypical Ford ensemble stuff is fun in the usual lethargic fashion, and Henry Fonda is admittedly very inspired casting, but it isn’t exactly a revelation, nor the best use of its director’s energy, with a studio or producer’s interference unmistakable.
You Only Live Once (1937, Fritz Lang) [hr]
Lang’s second American film shares a cynical tone with its predecessor Fury, but finds time as well for a hard-earned romanticism that’s genuinely surprising given the source. Henry Fonda, monumental, stars as a hardened inmate finally set loose whose sole source of optimism is his relationship to his doggedly faithful wife (Sylvia Sidney). As in Fury, the story and its troubled hero back themselves into a seemingly inescapable moral corner, but what sticks most of all is how this gets across like few other films the pure recklessness of love at its headiest, most ill-advised, and most important.
You Only Live Twice (1967, Lewis Gilbert) [c]
Sole point of interest of this typically daft and silly (if iconic, thanks largely to Ken Adam) entry in the James Bond series is that Roald Dahl wrote the script, and apparently it got to the screen exactly as he intended and he was happier with it than with Willy Wonka or The Witches, which just indicates that sometimes the best artists have the shittiest taste. To me a “fun” movie is one whose stupidity I don’t constantly have to excuse to myself.
You’re a Big Boy Now (1966, Francis Ford Coppola) [hr]
Bernard Chanticleer is a lowly assistant at a big library run by his overbearing father who’s urged into consistent celibacy by his paranoid mom, and to top it all off he’s a virgin. Coppola’s master film thesis for UCLA finds Bernard torn between two women: the callous knockout who laughed at the gory horror pictures that terrified the other girls in school, and the nerdy ex-schoolmate who catches him in a porno shop and doesn’t care a bit. If this doesn’t sound like the sort of material you’d expect from the director of The Godfather, maybe it’s because this is much more a reflection of his truly subversive, energetic personality. Undeniably derivative of Lester and Godard, and very adolescent, but winning.
Your Friends and Neighbors (1998, Neil LaBute) [c]
LaBute’s obnoxious characters have petty arguments, with Catherine Keener and Ben Stiller hitting all the sour notes properly. It’s well-written, but what’s the freaking point? All that aside, one scene in a steam bath is wholly remarkable; try to catch it and change the channel.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010, Woody Allen) [hr]
The best fusion of bleak drama and dark comedy in Allen’s oeuvre since Crimes and Misdemeanors, this deadpan fable of two couples’ marital difficulties, one old and one young, features some of the director’s most fluid camerawork and very possibly the best cast he’s ever worked with, with Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, and Gemma Jones all terrific. Not for all tastes, it being a late-period Allen film and all, but immensely pleasurable if you’re in the right mindset.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001, Alfonso Cuarón) [A+]
What every other coming of age film wants to be, Cuarón’s opus of two boys and a much older woman traveling across Mexico is honest, witty, and overloaded with sumptuous detail. This more or less seals him as one of the most impressive filmmakers working today. Be sure to see the complete version, not the messy R-rated cut.