Film 2010: the top 10

The wait is over. With The Social Network finally seen, it’s time to pick the ten movies I’ll remember most of 2010.

1. Mr Nobody

An ode to being unable to choose. Highly personal and good, that’s the way we like our films. Reviewed here.

2. Fish Story

The story of my solitude: if my solitude were a fish, it would be so militant a whale would fear it. A cruelly underrated film on how a flopped punk record will save the world in 2012. I’ll let you in on a secret if you swear you won’t tell: sometimes I watch back a couple of scenes to live through the film’s emotions. Technically probably underneath Inception, but here’s a film that managed to build a path to a great climax, so it stole the n°2 spot. Reviewed here.

3. Inception

Not the masterpiece it’s hailed to be and not as bad as the other critics say. A horrible waste of a climax and an unnecessary bow to commercialism. When oh when will directors learn that audiences are able to sit through a brainy finale? On the other hand, isn’t it fun to point out to people that their criticism on this “allegedly intelligent film” was wrong? The closest a popcorn movie has come to a mindfuck in ages. Reviewed here.

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No one knows about Persian cats

The nicest finds are always the films you never thought you’d come across. For example, No one knows about Persian cats. Behind the title lies the story of an Iranian couple, desperate to play rock music. Since their sort of music isn’t allowed in Iran, they dream of a visa that’ll take them to London – home of the indie rock scene. Cue a series of unsuccessful attempts to get a visa, clandestine concerts and meeting lots of other artists who live under the radar.

No one knows about Persian cats combines comedy and drama. The adventures of the young couple is as funny as it’ll warm your heart. Not everything deserves such praise, though: because the film couldn’t allow itself to become quite public, the cast doesn’t really have an equally high standard: some actors are quite good, but some lack the magic of being convincing. Nevertheless, this mix of social commentary, drama and a couple of Iranian songs deserves to be seen, so why don’t you make an effort and try to locate this film? The videos, made by indie bands from Iran, don’t always mix with the story, but they do give a good indication of what’s going on in Iran music-wise. “Indie,” an Iranian fan says, “I like… 50 Cent, Madonna.”

No no, none of that, genuine indie… with a heart as unstable as the singer-songwriters from London, the city the Iranian couple wants to end up in. Will they succeed? All the odds are against them, up to the farmyard cows who produce less milk when the band is rehearsing.

No one knows about Persian cats forces you to think of Iran for 100 minutes, but it’s a fresh point of view. You’ve heard a lot about Iran, but have you met the cool cats? High time to do so, as no one knows about them.


La Teta Asustada

Every now and then, a film introduces you to a character that remains with you for a considerable time. 2010 had a.o. the dreaming boy in Mr. Nobody and La Teta Asustada‘s Fausta, a young woman with a potato in her vagina. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, I’ll return to this unconventional plot element later, but first a question.

What are the ingredients of breast milk? According to an Argentinian tale, a suckling baby will get more than just milk, if a mother’s worried, the worries will pass onto the baby as well. And that is why the film’s title translates as “the frightened tit”, a title that could’ve limited the film’s release in a couple of countries (the US and Hungary, probably) and thus it was replaced by The Milk of Sorrow, a rather poetic title.

Fausta’s mother was raped and her subsequent unease is something young Fausta sucked in. To the extent where Fausta, now a young woman, has put a potato in her vagina, to scare off possible bad men. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that – unless you believe the folk’s tale – it is not the healthiest solution. The potato grows inside her body and frequently causes Fausta a lot of pain.

Things don’t get much better when Fausta’s mother dies and Fausta has to find a job. She takes up the position of a maid for an eccentric lady who just can’t (or rather won’t) remember her name. When Mrs. Aida has trouble with her necklace, the pearls fall on the floor and Fausta is promised a pearl for every song she sings. At first, Fausta refuses, but the need for money forces her to become more open. She even has to open the door for a man, the gardener, who to anyone else but Fausta seems like a very gentle man. But this is Fausta, who, when walking in open air with another girl, almost crawls behind her friend when passing a member of the male species.

Fausta’s rather unusual anti-rape mechanism is shown quite tastefully. You only hear about in a dialogue between a doctor and Fausta’s uncle. Fausta sits quietly in the background as if the person they’re talking about was someone else. A bit more visual is the occasional scene where we see Fausta’s feet when she’s sitting on a bed. All of a sudden, a tiny root drops on the floor. The rest is left to the viewer’s imagination – though DV recommends not to think about it too much.

The film is sober, but not boring – unlike what some reviewers seem to think. We’re witnessing a frightened young woman who’s forced to become more social. She’s no longer a young girl who could hide in her safe home. What’s stronger, the folk’s tale or living in the real world? La Teta Asustada is a psychological process.
The film isn’t just about Fausta but also mentions Fausta’s family and the wedding receptions they host (this probably contradicting Fausta’s mourning). I’m not sure this needed as much screen time as it received, the film seems to want to visualize the contrast between life and death a bit too much (there’s even a shot of a blooming potato plant, as a contradiction to the potato inside Fausta’s body that causes decay and possibly even her death if Fausta doesn’t want to have it removed), but overall, The Milk of Sorrow is a really good film.

And because people seem to remember the end of a review better than what’s been written earlier and because she deserves it, Fausta was played by Magaly Solier.



Half a year after its release, Inception is probably still the most talked about movie of 2010. Which in itself is a good thing. Of course, the longer a movie exists the more people pop up who want to criticise the film. Surely it wasn’t as good as they said it was.

Of course not. I’ve discussed this phenomenon for the first time ages ago, when Blair Witch Project popped up. In this dark age of pre-broadband internet, movies still travelled over the ocean by boat (often even to do the peddling themselves). Thus the anticipation had become so unbearably high that Europeans were universally disappointed. Apart from those people who had stayed away from newspapers, magazines and television (older readers may remember this medium – it used to be quite popular in its days)… some of those viewers even fell for the hoax the film was built around.

In Inception‘s case it’s even worse. it may have helped that the movie premiered all over the world in roughly the same month, but these days people will be glued to their computers the minute  they’ve come home to blog about the film or look up things they didn’t get. Well, that is those who don’t have internet on their mobile. Some didn’t even bother to wait for the end of the film before they started twittering. Maybe that’s the future of cinema: at the bottom of the screen there’ll be a ticker tape displaying the latest tweets. If Inception is a dream, everyone has been Jung and Freud, over-analysing the film to death.

And then there’s the director Christopher Nolan, whose debut picture went by sadly unnoticed (it’s called Following, why don’t you have a look?) before Memento torpedoed him to fame. As the IMDb’s top list proves, the man was the most influential director of the ’00s. Heath Ledger‘s death made his Batman movie a hype long before it was released (so much so that by the time Terry Gilliam‘s film was released everyone seemed to have forgotten Ledger was in it).
So surely Inception, a brainy blockbuster, would be Nolan’s demise? No? The naysayers damned Nolan and came to a consensus: “It’s not as good as they say it is, but it ain’t bad.”

Fans of semantics should love that sentence: it’s almost a reluctant praise of the film. They’re not saying: “It’s not bad but not as good as they say it is.” But they’re saying it the other way round. This roughly translates as: I can’t diss the film as much as I would’ve liked. Damn you, Christopher Nolan and your talent!

Having been confronted with a lot of negativity around the film, my reaction became oddly dual: I found myself defending the film while, at the same time, wondering whether I really liked the film.

Defending the film wasn’t too awful: you need to go along with the film to understand it fully (not sure if I do, not sure if I care) and this helps to dismiss some of the criticism. A comment I often heard was that it was odd the kidnapped heir travelled without many bodyguards in real life but had loads of them in his dream world. Yes, this makes sense: he’s only interesting to those who are counterspies and they need him alive. To the rest of humanity, he has about as much chance of being shot as the rest of us (offer not valid if you live in a ghetto).
But I couldn’t believe the plot twist they suddenly just bought an entire airline, just for the sake of the mission. If you can do that, you could’ve staged an easier kidnapping, not?

And if all this dream stuff is so top secret, how come Ellen Page‘s character is so quick to learn all of it? Well, she’s an eager and intelligent student. That’s how eager and intelligent students are when they’re triggered. And – while we’re at it – yes, her role is vital: Cobb (di Caprio) needs someone who can shape a layout as good as him, but you’ll never force him to do that himself. That’s a psychological given: he has mentally blocked himself so much he’ll never build a layout himself. And he needs someone, preferably not too close to him, who is able to work around his inner demons if those pop up. Which they definitely will.
However, who felt the need to call her Ariadne? Am I the only one who found this cheap? Or should I shut up and is it appropriate?

As for the amount of violence… some of it could have been deleted, in favour of more psychology. Maybe it would’ve been such a blockbuster, but in its worst moments Inception is not unlike a Steven Seagal movie, only better filmed. I do get the function of the snow (a remote and cold area a.k.a. “do not trespass”) but by the time it arrived I wondered if we really needed another layer, especially one that came with the plot twist you always find in blockbusters: we can only save his life if… Yeah yeah, whatever.

I’m still not sure whether Inception should’ve been shorter or longer, but I do understand that a lot of the length was needed to make the many layers of the film come alive. You feel Nolan is building dimensions and a lot of people who are eager to say bad things about the film seem to have misunderstood some of those dimensions.
For me, the biggest problems were the couple of times Nolan opened a box of blockbuster clichés. I don’t think I’ve misunderstood a keg of the story if I say this. There’s excellent cinematography and Zimmer‘s score, including the fact it’s built on the Piaf song, is fitting.

Had Inception been globally released on the same day and everyone being forced to watch it that day, I’m sure more people would’ve liked it. The only shame is that it isn’t brave enough to delete the clichés. Unlike Jaco van Dormael‘s Mr. Nobody. But then again, fewer people seemed to like that film because it didn’t want to give in… the world is just not perfect.

Sweet dreams!


Leap Year

More proof if needed that this site has really gone downhill… next up for review: Leap Year, a – oh no, bleh – romantic comedy.

On the other hand, this may seem like a romantic comedy, but in order to make Ireland see as gorgeous and the sea seem so rough, a whole load of digital effects were needed, possibly even more than in that latest sci-fi flick you’ve just watched.

Leap Year is the story of a leap year and of an American classy lady (and a bit of a pain in the butt), played by Amy Adams. She’s been almost engaged for years, but her successful boyfriend is just way too successful to ask her to marry him. Which is what she wants. Desperately. So much even that she – who is quite traditional when it comes to marriage and wouldn’t even think of anything else but being proposed in a, preferably highly, romantic way – is quite keen to learn of an Irish myth. On 29 February, girls are allowed to ask their boys to marry them. And wouldn’t you know it? Her boyfriend is on a business trip in Ireland and it’s a leap year. Ain’t life dandy?

No, it isn’t. Because she ends up on the wrong side of Ireland because of bad weather (as if the film was meant to be released in 2010!) and there she is, stranded in a local pub full of local people with an ill-mannered barkeeper. Who promises to take her to her destination, but only because he needs the money.

Seems like romance coming up? You betcha, but of course she’s already virtually engaged and he’s an asshole. And she’s a bitch. You’ll never guess the ending.

The weird thing is that digital effects were needed to make the locations seem idyllic. In a way, this tells you something of our romantic dreams: there’s not a chance you’ll find them in real life. Now, there’s something to tell your girlfriend the next time she doesn’t want to watch a horror movie because of it all being unreal. So are your romcoms, dear. Now grow up and watch this zombie eat a civilian.

5/10 – because it ain’t half as bad if you think it would be

P.S. On behalf of myself, I’d like to send these apologies to Amy Adams. For years, I thought she and Amy Smart were the same person and I never felt like watching her movies for that reason. I now understand that the different surnames should have been a giveaway. Hence a slice of humble pie in the form of a Leap Year review on DV. Sorry Amy! (Adams, that is.)


The first season of Veronica Mars was all about the murder of Lilly Kane. Forget that the series went downhill every episode, this is why back in time when the show was “teen noir” rather than an Veronica Mars went incredibly downhill, but it did launch the careers of Kirsten Bell (Veronica) and Amanda Seyfried.

Seyfried’s distinctive looks have now been used by Atom Egoyan. Since Egoyan went Almodovar (that’s movie lingo for apeshit) on his earlier movies, I paid less attention. I liked his older stuff too much.
Chloe, the latest Egoyan, is a remake of Nathalie, a French film from 2003. This may come as a shock to ardent Eyogan fans as it’s the first time he didn’t write the script for his movie.

Chloe (Seyfried) is a prostitute and she’s hired by Catherine (Julianne Moore) to go up to her husband David, a professor played by Liam Neeson, to check if he’d flirt with her. Catherine, you see, is convinced her husband is having affairs with younger women and she’s convinced that any young girl who’ll go near him will be seduced and bedded.
Apparently not… according to Chloe, who then seems to be seduced herself… by Catherine. Oh, and Michael (Max Thierot) also meets Chloe and falls for her as well. Michael is the son of David and Catherine.

For a while, every twist made me enjoy the movie more and more, but once we get to the climax, we’re presented with something I couldn’t believe. To me, it was a scriptwriter’s way of inventing something that would give some ending to the film. Fingers crossed and hope we’ll get away with it. I did like the final scene, but it couldn’t wash down the bad feeling.

Family Viewing and Exotica are still my two prime examples of how Egoyan can uncover a film, peeling a story layer by layer. Chloe is like a Kinder Surprise chocolate: the chocolate is tasty and you leave one final bit when you open the egg… only it’s not a mini-car you have to build but a stupid toy. Then you’re left with only one bit of chocolate and – wouldn’t you know it – that just tastes as wonderful as the earlier bites.


P.S. We end, for once, not with the trailer but with a clip…


When Capt. Cahill (Tobey Maguire) goes missing in action, his brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) helps out his sister-in-law (Natalie Portman) and children. After being presumed dead, Cahill pops up again and has a tough time adapting.

It was nice to see Mare Cunningham again (as the mother of the Cahills) and it isn’t a badly made film (by Jim Sheridan of In the Name of the Father and My Left Foot fame), but you can’t shake the feeling that this film needs half an hour to explain what Kathryn Bigelow could do in one single scene and overall it’s less effective than The Hurt Locker. Also, some scenes are hardly convincing and take out the punch of the entire film. Other scenes are so evidently directed to make you feel emotional, Brothers achieves the completely opposite effect.

Originally a Danish film called Brødre (which was released in 2004), the original version was directed by Susanne Bier. Once again, the remake can’t stand up to the original.


The Disapperance of Alice Creed

In my local cinema there’s room for two giant posters between the cashiers and the staircase. This past fortnight those posters announced two movies, Tamara Drewe and The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Officially it hasn’t been announced, but let’s face it… with two films debuting on the same day, it would only be fair to call this Gemma Arterton week.

Disappearance is the film worthier of a lengthy DV review. Certain reviewers have compared it to Danny Boyle‘s Shallow Grave, which – as far as comparisons go – is quite a bit of a compliment. Alice Creed, portrayed by the omnipresent Gemma, is a young woman who’s suddenly abducted by two men. The abduction has been carefully planned: the room she’ll be staying in is soundproof, the inside of the van she’ll be abducted in is layered, circumstantial evidence like clothes and mobile phones will be destroyed or discarded as waste, several blocks from the crime scene. The result is one disappeared Alice and one question for both the viewer and Alice herself: why Alice Creed?

You’ll never guess it, but I don’t feel like revealing the plot, so don’t expect me to answer this question. Alice is suddenly grabbed from the street, taken to an empty room, stripped off all her clothes and left… tied to a bed, naked with only a ballgag and a bag over her head. And here’s the good news… Disappearance manages to showcase this in a dignified fashion. Sure, you’ll see the occasional bit of naked flesh, but the film doesn’t abuse the nudity of the victim.

Partially because of the well-chosen camera standpoints. In fact, for a movie that spends at least half of its time in one apartment all the camera angles are excellenty chosen. For obvious reasons, there aren’t too many wide angles, but every shot – from room-filling to extreme close-up – seems to be carefully picked.
In a lot of scenes Arterton doesn’t look sexy as damsels in distress tend to do in most thrillers or horror movies: she looks like a scared and confused victim. Violence is not glorified here.

Similarly, DV is now able to mention the entire cast of the film. There’s Alice (Arterton) and her abductors Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan). And, erm, that’s it. What makes this film so effective is that there’s nothing outside this small cast. There’s two abductors, one abductee and their mutual relationships. You’ll be as close to the characters as you are in a play.

The film provides a couple of twists, some a bit more original than you can expect in thrillers. Often there’s only one giant twist at the end, but in The Disappearance the relationship between the characters changes more than once. Let’s thank J. Blakeson for this, the director but also the screenwriter of this film. Is this the most original film of the past decade? We think not. But is it an excellent example of “less is more”? Oh yes. Sure, the final half of the film is less exciting, but this is only natural: there are only three people present and rather than revealing the plot (as would happen in most movies), the plot is now revealed and the viewer is left with the equally essential question: now that this has been established, what’ll happen next? It’s not revelation here, it’s elaboration.

Then again, it’s the sort of film – and poster! – you’d see more often in the 1970s than in the 21st century, so no wonder DV likes it. And it’s like going to a play, without the discomfort of having to spend 100 minutes around obnoxious people. That’s gotta be worth something…


Another batch of 2010 movies

Lately the site’s been swamped with underwear spam. You have no idea how many variants there are: we get links to teen underwear, brand underwear (name a brand and we’ve seen it), boys underwear, girls underwear, sexy underwear, gay teen underwear and – quite the twist here – Britney Spears without underwear. Don’t know if this means the spammers think the Avenue is pants. Definitely not okay is the amount we’ve spent reviewing recent films. So here, provided you’ll accept our apologies, is a round-up of some of the recent films we never got round to…

First up, a movie I never got round to seeing. I’d heard it was bad, that the 3D was awful and that the actual film didn’t resemble the director’s original idea of the film, but still Clash of the Titans was a movie I was prepared to give a chance. That is until I watched the trailer. Trailers can be misleading, but overall they do give some idea of what the film will look like. Absolute pants in this case, so I gave it a miss. Not the worst decision of the year, it seems: Lauren Laverne gave this review of the film after having endured the first hour: “So far: Part Duran Duran video, part “Flash” out-takes. The most ridiculous film since Avatar.” Her opinion hadn’t changed after the film was over, so let’s be glad we didn’t “treat” ourselves to this one. (Weirdly enough, it managed to achieve a staggering 6.0/10 on the IMDb.)

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER is a delicious indie comedy we mention here because a) it was the first film of 2010 I watched (sure, it was released in 2009, but who’s hurrying us?). Here’s a film which had an awful trailer: it made the film seem tacky Hollywood fodder, but this was nice and melancholic. The film jumps up and down the 500 days the main character (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was with a girl called Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The film opens with the lamenting phase you’re in after being dumped, so you do know from the start it won’t end good. In a rare thing for the Avenue, I’ll tell you the final scene of the film (because it doesn’t spoil anything): the guy meets a girl and her name is… Autumn. Right there and then, the film dropped a few points. 7/10 is the final verdict.


Somewhere between all the stories of his sexual past, Roman Polanski managed to release a film. The Ghost Writer sees Pierce Brosnan as a thinly disguised clone of Tony Blair in this adaptation of a Robert Harris novel. Ewan McGregor is freshly appointed as ghost writer of Prime Minister Lang and, luck’ll have it, it’s just about the time a scandal concerning Lang breaks loose. Due to the scandal around Polanski, people started seeing the film in a different light, but even without these similarities, The Ghost Writer is a thriller with depth and drama. During the film, I even noticed myself thinking I wouldn’t say no to going with friends to another showing. That never happened – we are busy, busy people – but I still think this film will hold up to multiple viewings. 8/10

Well, at least we know which movie will get the Worst Title award of 2010, come December 31. A dispute between director Werner Herzog and a producer who wanted to start a Bad Lieutenant movie franchise (oh, and Worst Idea 2010) led to the film having to carry around Herzog’s title after the producer’s title. Compromising can be shit. It also led to Herzog having to explain 7429 times that this wasn’t a remake, but a transportation. What would happen if you took the Bad Lieutenant from New York to New Orleans? This sort of idea is often more interesting on paper than on screen. Hal Hartley did it in 1995 with Flirt, which gave three couples in New York, Berlin and Tokyo the same dilemma. It’s one of Hartley’s lesser accessible films, but easily beats the Herzog film. Part of that is because I’ve seen enough of Nicolas Cage‘s schtick for the moment. Remember how Kevin Spacey was always the baddie fifteen years ago? Well, that’s how Cage’s washed-out cops feel to me. The direction is good and the iguana scenes are brilliant, but for me the film didn’t stick. Worse even, I had to endure this one in the cinema with a couple of a**holes who acted like they were watching the latest Ta****ino. Even I am not sure whether the film is a comedy or a tragedy. 5/10 because Herzog is a good director and, if you’re paying attention, you even see it in this film.

George Clooney

It’s already August and there haven’t been too many updates in our Film 2010 section: apparently there wasn’t enough time to go to the cinema as well as write about the films. Let’s make up for lost time by combining a couple of smaller reviews. Today two films starring George Clooney.

Like it or not, Clooney is the James Stewart or Cary Grant of our times. Well, I never spotted Stewart or Grant doing a commercial for Nespresso or that drink that gets you into parties. But other than that, he’s the hunk of our times. Which is why it’s such a great pleasure to see Clooney in dirtier movies. Clooney seems to have a thing for the Middle East. After Three Kings and Syriana he returns for Men who stare at goats. “Men” seems to be an update of Three Kings, but this time it’s not about soldiers looking for a treasure, but about a journalist looking for a remarkable story. And what can be more remarkable than the military technique of staring at goats till they have a heart attack or staring at walls so you can walk through them? It’s a great technique that comes in handy if you don’t want to open a door to murder a goat that’s at the other side of the wall.
Men who stare at goats combines wackiness with social criticism, but the pace isn’t always right and sometimes the film tries to be cleverer than it is. But it’s daft and you’ll like it for as long as it lasts. Stare all you like, but this one won’t get more than 6.5/10.

Next up, Clooney in Up in the air, the latest offering by Jason Reitman (who became a household name after Juno). More social awareness here: in these times of global recession, Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham  has a lucrative job: he goes up to workplaces and tells people they’re fired if their boss doesn’t have the courage. Ryan has a verbal showdown with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) who wants to change the profession to firing people over the internet and has a fling with Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), who seems to be as much of a loner traveller as Ryan is. Meanwhile Ryan has to drag a cardboard cutting of his sister and future brother-in-law around the US, an idea for a wedding gimmick Ryan’s sister picked up from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (or “that French film”, as it’s known in Up in the Air). Jason Bateman returns, only this time he’s not the adoptive father who teaches Juno the kinks of old rock and Suspiria, now he’s Ryan’s boss. The internal loneliness of Bateman has gone over to Clooney for this film.

All in all, Up in the air is a comedy, it’s a sign of our social times (in twenty years people look at this as “that comedy from the economic depression”) and it’s a tale about travelling and loneliness. I did find the film occasionally dragging on in the second third, but bear in mind that Juno had a slow start too (if you find my old review, you’ll find I hated that film for the first fifteen minutes). Remain seated for the credits as there’s a fitting song for the soundtrack. Up in the Air ends up with a firm 7/10.