Another Year (2010) is a character-driven, kitchen-sink drama written and directed by Mike Leigh. “Kitchen-sink drama” is described by Wikipedia as movies or plays that concern domestic situations of working class Britons living in cramped rented accommodations and spending their off-hours drinking in grimy pubs, to explore social issues and political controversies, typically from a leftist or socialist perspective. Kitchen-sink is the specialty of Leigh, and he received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Kitchen-sink is the opposite of glamourous, and Leigh regularly draws from a stable of ordinary-looking, homely stars. This movie stars the following actors, with their number of appearances in Leigh movies – Leslie Manville (9), Ruth Sheen (6), Peter Wight (6), and Jim Broadbent (4).
The critics loved Another Year (92%), but the audience was not quite as enthused (74%). I split the difference and give it a strong three stars out of four because the characters and their ordinary lives were quite interesting, but the solid couple (Sheen and Broadbent) can’t fully carry their two lamentable, almost worthless, pathetic friends (Manville and Wight).
Babel (2006) is another artsy movie by the director who won this year’s directing Oscar, Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu. The movie is artsy because it intertwines three seemingly different stories in different countries that turn out to be interrelated. Too bad that none of the characters, including, Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett, are engaging, nor are the disparate lifestyles in Morocco, Japan, and border San Diego/Tijuana. If the director wants me to think that ordinary lives throughout the world have the ability to affect my ordinary life, he has failed to intrigue me. The Rotten Tomato Critics approve the movie at 69% and the audience is a bit more favorable at 77%. I give it only two stars out of four.