Film review: Another year (2010)

Among the best films I’ve seen so far in 2011. A contemporary drama about over 50s living in the UK, very different to anything I’ve seen in a while.

You get to know several of the characters up close and personal, their weaknesses and doubts are often on display. Probably the director wanted to make an intimate film about people his own age, heck Jim Broadbent even looks like Mike Leigh in the film!

Mike Leigh is back to the kitchen sink style, which he is famous for in such films as Secrets & Lies (1996) and others. The plot about aging is untraditional, it doesn’t really have a typical beginning, middle or end, it’s more like real life, and I’m not even sure the characters “grow” as they would in other films. Some will no doubt complain that not enough happens, I welcome filmmaking that doesn’t follow a set formula. Mary (Lesley Manville in a fine performance) is going through a mid life crisis of sorts, so maybe it can be compared to a film like Greenberg (2010), only with a British sensibility as opposed to an American.

It felt like a fly-on-the-wall experience. We observe an average family going about their daily business during a year of their life. Has some funny moments, not least the names of Jim Broadbent (Tom) and his wife (Gerri). Try and put an “and” between their names and you’ll see what I mean ( :

A weakness I found was the initial scene with Gerri talking to the unhappy woman at work, this part was never really resolved. You could also argue the film is a little bit black and white with the happy couple on the one side, and the unhappy friends on the other, which Alex at boycotting trends pointed out in his review. the director could have added more conflict in the relationship between Tom and Gerri, I agree, although I think it may be more of a tacit examination of their marriage.

You wonder if Tom and Gerri have enough or even too much time to just be happy by themselves, do they need more conflict from the outside to feel alive? I couldn’t help comparing their predicament a bit to It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and James Stewart’s struggle of trying to get away from his roots, and if in fact getting away would be more meaningful or not. Does comforting and helping their friends and family give Tom and Gerri the ultimate fulfilment? Or are they neglecting their own individual goals in order to assist their troubled friends? I think it's fairly realistic that Tom and Gerri are essentially one person, sharing a similar demeanour after many years of living together.

Gerri being a therapist and having a warm and inviting personality probably makes her think of others before herself, so in some ways it’s a portrait of a modern day therapist’s personal life.
Can Gerri distinguish between work and spare time? She and her husband have the allotment to escape to, and I almost feel this is a sanctuary from all the problems they face on a day to day basis, both work and demanding friends. What do Tom and Gerri really want is interesting to me. Do Tom and Gerri help others to avoid thinking about themselves, or are they simply kind? Now that their son has grown up, are their circle of friend's problems a substitute task to occupy them? The poster I like a lot, I think Tom and Gerri support their friends and family like a tree trunk supports its branches.

Mike Leigh talks about in an interview that the story is about the moral dilemma, of where do you draw the line if you are generous to somebody, and they over step the mark, do you close the door? Or do you try and be sympathetic?

Tom and Gerri are not prejudice, they have room in their hearts for others, their house is a safe haven, where friends can go and not be rejected.

Mary and Ken are ambiguous characters, is Mary's exhausting behaviour and Ken's heavy drinking and lack of self-respect the reason they are forever singletons, or have they just been dealt an unlucky hand of cards in life? Probably it’s a bit of both.

The final scene is open-ended, will Mary go with Ron up North, will she get her life together, or is there no hope? Is Ron quiet all the time, or just for the moment, is he really sad about his wife’s death, why is Ron's son so rude? In an interview the director says the film is both pessimistic and optimistic, whatever you decide to take away from the experience.

I can see myself returning to Another Year again and again to further delve into my questions posed above. Similar to bloggers jump_raven and Erin, I prefer Mike Leigh's films directed from Naked (1993) and onwards. I saw his work in the late 80s and early 90s, but was not my cup of tea.

I think Another Year proves Mike Leigh keeps getting better and better, and that is a rare thing for a director. Yes, he has had a few minor hiccups over the course of his career, but what filmmaker hasn’t?

I may be biased, as I love compassionate and heart-warming films like this. Overall, I think there is more to Another Year than meets the eye. I urge you to go and see it.



Readers, any thoughts on Another Year?

Songs for your iPod

(Beautiful dream pop, from 2010 EP, The Years. Also, check the band's myspace )

Caregiver – Memoryhouse

(Love the voice, something about the track reminds me of the Twin Peaks soundtrack)


Heirloom - Memoryhouse


When you sleep – Memoryhouse (My Bloody Valentine cover)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

I've joined twitter, care to follow me ?

On twitter, you can read and comment on what didn't make it onto moviesandsongs365. Films, music, books, you name it.

Oh, and you finally get my name.

So, go follow me at twitter, if you want. And maybe I'll follow you too, if you tweet ( :

Here's the link: twitter

I've also added my twitter updates to the sidebar, if you urgently need to read it every time you drop by this blog... ( :

I liked the soundtrack better than the movie!

Easy A (2010)
Pocketful of sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

(Made me think that all soundtracks are product placement, aren't they? this clip is also a kind of music video in a movie, which is cool.)


Up in the air (2009)
Up in the air - Kevin Renick


Away we go (2009)
All of my days - Alexi Murdoch


Garden State (2004)
In the waiting line – Zero 7


Somersault (2004)
More than scarlet - Decoder Ring


Last Night (1998)
(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All - 5th Dimension


In good company (2004)
Besame mucho - Diane Krall


Pieces of April (2003)
As you turn to go - The 6ths


Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Cities in Dust - Siouxsie and the Banshees


Almost Famous (2000)
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart


Stigmata (1999)
Identify - Natalie Imbruglia

Hopefully we can start a comment thread here, what are your favorite soundtracks? Any thoughts on the soundtracks I've selected? )

Film review: Match Point (2005)

Directed by Woody Allen, although doesn’t feel like an Allen film one bit. First thing you will notice is, he has left behind his beloved New York, and thank God he stays behind the camera.

Takes place in the UK with mostly a British cast. Very entertaining and rewards those who have knowledge of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime & Punishment. It’s a contemporary version of that story.

In the film, we see the main character Chris has read about 25% of Crime & Punishment, which is the crime part. We don’t know if he finishes the book. In what way has Chris been influenced by it? And is he not aware of the ensuing feeling of guilt? Or did he finish the book and is reliving the novel as a kind of experiment?

I love the river scene where the ring is thrown, it really sums up how random life is, and is a reference to earlier scenes I love where Chris speaks about how people hate how luck plays such an important part in life, and the restaurant scene where they discuss luck versus hard work. You can question whether the ring being found was lucky or unlucky for Chris based on his guilt.

A story about what drives us, love or lust? Greed or luck? Chris talks about how he would rather be lucky than good. The question is, when you get lucky and things go your way, is that always a good thing? How far are you prepared to go to ensure your own happiness? Chris lives a double life, he appears unable to choose between passion, or electing the safe bet and settling down. Perhaps Chris' problem is he thinks he can become happy without feeling love. Does he even know himself what he really wants?

Woody Allen analyzes the upper class system in Britain in an almost anthropological way, the film shows how Chris infiltrates a family, for example by working at a tennis club for wealthy members, and deciding to like Opera, becomes he wants to move up in the ranks.

Others have compared the film to George Stevens’ classic movie A Place in the Sun (1951) or Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction (1987).

The performance by Jonathan Rhys Meyers was very wooden I think, he speaks his lines like a bad actor, but then again he played someone a little bit cold, so this could have been intentional? His acting definitely improved in the last 15 minutes for me. I haven’t seen him in anything else to judge, if he is a good or bad actor, his appearance and mannerisms remind me a bit of Joaquin Phoenix.

And of course who could forget Scarlett Johansson, who is especially sexy here, and she lights up the screen everytime she's in a scene.

I love the title, Match Point, it’s about that important moment where you can win or loose, and have no control. If the ball hits the net and lands on your side it’s unlucky, but if it lands on the opponents side luck is on your side. The ring mentioned earlier becomes a metaphor for the tennis ball.

My favourite Woody Allen films are Match Point and Manhattan (1979), I can’t make up my mind which of those I like more right now.



Readers, any thoughts on the film?

Songs for your iPod

The Drying of the Lawns - The Tallest Man On Earth

(From his 2010 album “The Wild Hunt”. Memorable lyric for me: “I’m leaving because you don’t feel what you’re dreaming of”)


Little River - The Tallest Man On Earth

(Acoustic gem from his 2010 EP “Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird”. A very intimate song, which impressed me, he toned down his usual whiney voice, and guitar play excellent. )


The Hoopers of Hudspeth - Kaki King

(Vocal is so sexy on this acoustic track)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Songs for your iPod

Sunnyside - Kaki King

(Such a fragile and emotional vocal, from an underrated album of 2010)

Stilyagi - Puro Instinct (feat. Ariel Pink)

You should also check out Ariel Pink's 2010 hit; Round and Round)


Dancing Ghosts - Azure Ray

(Best song on the album for me)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Film review: Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (2005)

A beautiful and emotional Chinese film with English subtitles. It was directed by one of the most famous Asian directors Zhang Yimou.

I really liked the story and it didn't matter it was from China, as I felt the story about son and father was universal. The story is about how we are broken by hiding feelings and how we break loved ones in the process. Essentially, the film is how we communicate, and the longing to connect.

The English title “Riding alone for thousands of miles” is misleading, I think. You might think it was a story about someone travelling by himself, but the characters are rarely alone.

Gorgeously photographed, as you can see from the screenshots I’ve selected. I was left feeling China is a very beautiful country. There is a kind of peacefulness about the images, which I liked. The tranquil movie poster gives a good indication of this.

According to my DVD, the setting is widely believed to be the inspiration for the magical land of Shangri-la in James Hilton's classic novel Lost Horizon.

The story was a moving emotional journey, I think it would spoil your enjoyment to say too much.

The main character playing the father felt slightly like the quiet main character in About Schmidt (2002), if that means anything to you. It may also have been the old man's voice-overs and hat that convinced me of this.

The conversations between the daughter-in-law and father were some of the most powerful, emotional and psychologically interesting scenes in the movie in my opinion. The scenes in the prison are also intriguing seen by someone living outside of Asia.

I agree with these other reviewers, who calls it "one man's journey both into the world and into himself." And that the movie “makes you think about yourself and your own life”. I agree with the assessment of a third reviewer, who writes: "Director has chosen locations (and colours) to reflect character's moods."

I might have liked it even more, if it had more back story about the main characters.
There are no martial arts. It's a warm and moving Asian drama with several emotionally powerful scenes that stayed with me.

I give it an 8/10




Readers, any thoughts on the film?

Documentary review: Home (2009)

One of my favourites. An environmental documentary to go with the growing number of them in recent years. Directed by photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, 'Home' is similar to Al Gore's 'An inconvenient truth', or Leonardo Dicaprio's 'The 11th hour'. It’s probably unwise to see these three films all at once, as they cover some of the same ground.

I was moved more by 'Home' than 'An inconvenient truth', I think it was due to the amazing images in 'Home' and heartfelt voice-over by Glenn Close. I cannot describe how exquisite the cinematography is, you need to see it to appreciate it.

Like those other documentaries, 'Home' plays on your guilt and emotions with powerful narrative and music. The astonishing visuals are obviously a way of showing what we might be without in the future. Most of the shots were filmed from above and they visited 54 countries in the making of the film.

For me it is a little frustrating in a way to watch. I cannot stop the rise in deforestation and cow farms and so on. The film doesn't say how the general public can make a difference, which I think might have made the film even better. I remember 'An inconvenient truth' attempted this.

Probably 'Home' can create more awareness of environmental issues, but just because you become a vegetarian or drive an electric car, it doesn't stop the greedy multi-national corporations. Another problem I see with these kind of movies is they are stating the obvious, which nearly everyone agrees on. How can you not agree on saving the planet? And in that way the film loses some of its persuasiveness for me.

I liked that it at the end summed up the many threads it presented and also offered some solutions to the environmental problems. But I think it like other environmental films raises more questions than it answers.

The filmmakers decided to distribute the film both in cinemas and for free on YouTube on June the 5th 2009 to mark the UN's world environmental day. I see it's been watched by 14 million so far. Also available in other languages.

If you are interested in the films subject matter you should also check out the Home (2009) informative official website.

Appears to be a pacifist movie, as it criticizes the military and suggests this money should be spent on aid.

Probably people will find mistakes or exaggerations in the script, and some may even attack the filmmakers for not practicing what they preach like they did following the opening of 'An inconvenient truth'. These attacks may spoil some of the initial praise the movie receives. But nothing can take away from the overall message of the film that we have to look after our planet.

A thoughtful and unbelievably beautiful film.




Readers, any thoughts on the documentary?

Songs for your iPod

Continuing my top songs of 2010...

The Curse - Josh Ritter

(Such a beautiful album cover. The use of piano reminds me of a Cat Power song I love; Maybe Not )


Another New World - Josh Ritter

(Love the lyrics: "There's another new world, at the top of the world, for whoever can break through the ice" & "Pretend that the search for another new world was well worth the burning of mine")


Highway Slipper Jam - Broken Social Scene

(A lot is going on in this dream pop kind of song, I like the many layers of sound. And holy cow, I just noticed there's a ship on this album sleeve too!)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Documentary review: Exit through the gift shop (2010)

I enjoyed the playful Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop". I wasn't quite sure what to make of it afterwards. Certainly lingers in your mind.

About how we define art. What is art? Who should be allowed to create it? Who owns it? What is the purpose of art? Can anything be considered art, and has the word become meaningless? Has hype triumphed over talent in the art world? Is art more intriguing, the less (or more) you know about the artist? All these philosophical questions are indicated tacitly, we get to think for ourselves.

Besides being art about art, the doc also works as a glimpse into the world of street art and graffiti artists, and how they create, think and operate.

I think Mr. Brainwash's (Thierry Guetta’s) actions raised some interesting questions. If you mainly make art for money, is that always bad, if people like it? Art doesn't need to be original or even good, for some it's all about what's hot. Can good art be created out of this system?

But I doubt his art will have a lasting value, so in that way I think he will lose in the long run, but you never know, art is a fickle thing. Just look at Andy Warhol, he could get away with anything just by adding his name to it ( :

I recently read a youtube-thread about a singer's voice, although technically good, was emotionally boring. If there's no passion, or a feeling of rip-off, it will kill some of the audience. Kind of the same thing with Mr. Brainwash, who is clearly mass-producing imitations of Warhol. Although, as art is always subjective, some meaning can always be attributed to something.

The doc has also sparked a debate about the enigmatic and reclusive artist Bansky, who maybe, or maybe not directed this film as a hoax. I would have to see it again, to make my mind up about that. Probably only he knows himself. Bansky definitely keeps the mystique surrounding his identity alive. You can no doubt compare it to Joaquin Phoenix's I’m still here (2010), but something tells me we won’t get a definitive answer anytime soon considering Bansky’s record. As it might be a mockumentary, we are not sure Mr. Brainwash even exists! This obviously adds to the recent hype of the documentary. You could argue it doesn’t matter if its true or not, as the film either way is rewarding. Then again, as my blogging buddy the audient points out, every documentary ever made editorializes. Merely the act of choosing what footage to show is distorting reality.

I recommend reading the message board on IMDB for more on the ambiguities.

Highly recommended, and good luck at the Oscars! It may be too controversial to win? Who knows.

By the way, if you’re interested in the nature of art and mainstream entertainment, you should check out my review of Torture the artist
After watching Exit through the gift shop, the line between art and vandalism has definitely become blurred for me!



Readers, any thoughts?

Songs for your iPod

Shadows – Warpaint

(Dream pop/acoustic. For me, best song on the album. You either love or hate the vocals. I also liked the first part of their song Undertow)


Senior Living - Röyksopp

(Beautiful wordless soundscape)


Coming Through - The War On Drugs

(Indie music at its best. Holds up well to repeat listening. I like the lyrics, too)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Film review: After the Wedding (2006)

An acclaimed Danish film I love directed by Susanne Bier. Poses some interesting questions about self-sacrifice, liberty, and duty. For instance do you have the right to keep important things a secret from your own family?

If you are not familiar with Scandinavian cinema, this to me is one of the very best of the 2000s. Nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film (it should have won!)

It’s genius going from poverty in the opening scene to a wealthy family environment in the next; it really illustrates the huge difference between the Western world and the poor countries.

Some may have issues with the coincidences in the film, it does border on being too crazy to be true sometimes, but I found the story plausible.

It’s a story of secrets, and twists and turns, about doing what’s best for yourself, and what’s best for others. And what money can turn you into. Money, family and emotions are a dangerous cocktail.

The use of animals is interesting, are they a symbol of fear? Luxury? Unspoiled creatures? Probably depends on each scene they appear in.

My favourite quote is uttered by Helene: “You don’t have to be poor to have good intentions. Rich people can also have high ideals”

You don’t see films this powerful and with characters so well-crafted very often. The acting is superb, especially Jorgen played by Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard, who for me stole the show.

Easily holds up to several viewings. In an interview on the DVD, director Bier talks about how Jorgen is a man who does what his feelings tell him to. Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) isn’t like that. Jacob does around 60% of what he feels like doing. And the remaining 40% is still his responsibility. Isn’t a person responsible for living his own life? The director asks. And how do we, using these ethical values, embrace the world? We ought to begin by appreciating how privileged we are.

Jorgen claims he didn’t know Jacob was his wife’s former boyfriend, and this is interesting to look out for on the second viewing. Maybe Jorgen and his wife are not so close, and does the wife know about Jorgen’s plans? Has Jorgen been playing a psychological game the whole time since Jacob arrived? and is the title of the film after the wedding a clue?

Jorgen’s wife Helene is just one of a fascinating group of characters, has she married for the money? Another layer in the story is how Helene and her daughter Anna’s lives appear to mirror each other.

Do yourself a favor, skip Susanne Bier’s Things we lost in the fire (2007), it’s basically an inferior American remake, and for me didn’t have the same emotional impact.

If you like thoughtful dramas with layered characters, you won’t be disappointed by After The Wedding.




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