The Ten Best Picture Nominees criticized, summoned, dissected and rated

The Social Network (PG-13)

A kind of critics darling for the new decade, David Fincher's film has the best script of the ten nominees. A critical depiction of our generation and the lack of communication that has happened in the process. A story about friendship, betrayal and connection. Was it the best picture of the year? I wouldn't say that but it sure is one hell of a triumph for all the artists that were on board this incredible picture. Jesse Eisenberg with his face that represents a whole generation and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, the true hero of the story. Aaron Sorkin's script is layered, so much so that with every viewing you find a new sentence or a new word that you didn't notice the first time around and that brings even more resonance to the story's structure and plotting. A-

Inception (PG-13)

You can certainly find flaws in the script or in the film's action but there's no denying that Christopher Nolan's hire wire act of a movie had guts and a vision that lacked in all other Hollywood pictures. All the better for us since the film represents something we haven't really seen before. A film that certainly demands attention and multiple viewings to fully grasp its puzzling intricacies. In going deep into the realm of dreams, Nolan single handedly invented a world from scratch and a flawed hero -Leonardo Dicaprio's Cobb- that remained haunted by the death of his wife. It all came down to that last frame, the spinning of a totem and the never ending conversations that followed afterwards. What more can you ask for in a movie? A-

Black Swan (R)

My favourite of the ten nominees. Darren Aronofsky's ballet nightmare is an intense film that had a hypnotic intensity which truly took my breath away. As Nina, Nathalie Portman gives the performance of the year in a role that demanded heart and soul. Paving the way is Matthew Libatique's breathtaking cinematography, the best of the year & a script that honors everything from Cronenberg to the classic Red Shoes. What Black Swan did for cinema in 2010 is revitalize our perceptions of it and make us believe again in the power of movies. Following his masterful The Wrestler, Aronofsky's film is yet another study of an artist pushing his or herself to their limits and potential. The final shots of both films are raw, haunting and similarly planned. So much so that they can easily be seen as companion pieces to one another. This is art. A-

The Fighter (PG-13)

Here is a film that is more about family than boxing. I could have done without the last 15 minutes or so but the first 2/3 of the film are dynamite and essential viewing for any movie fan. David O' Russell's film might look to be about Mark Whalberg's Mickey Ward but I saw it differently. It is Christian Bale's movie. It is Melissa Leo's movie. It is Amy Adams' movie. They all steal the show and give us good reason as to why they got nominated in the acting categories and Whalberg was left in the dust. Bale's Dickie is a rundown junkie that still thinks about that famous night where he knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard. He is a man that has run out his luck by hanging out in crack houses and bringing down his brother with him. It is Bale's movie and I'll be darned if he doesn't come out of it with an Oscar tonight. B+

Winter's Bone (R)

This is such a small movie with such a microscopically small budget that it was already surprising to see it get nominated in this category. All the better for it. We need more movies like this one. Director Debra Granik creates an atmosphere that is grim and darkly lit in nature. Her film is one in which its heroine -indelibly played by Jennifer Lawrence- goes through the wooden passages of the Ozarks to find her junkie father. Surprising consequences happen and the girl is transported into an underground world that left me both shaken and disturbed. Winter's Bone is all about the small moments the heroine endures. The biblical boat trip that climaxes the film, her capture to the hands of corrupt bloodless people and even the smallest of moments, such as the gutting of a squirrel and the way she handles herself so proudly and so courageously in spite of things. Great movie. B+

The Kids Are All Right (R)

I had problems with Lisa Cholodenko's film. Mostly in the way it climaxes itself. But through and through this is a solid effort from her and has some of the most spectacular performances of 2010. As a married couple, Annette Benning and Julianne Moore are incredible and show us the creation of a couple that experience the ups and downs of a marriage. Mark Ruffalo as their kids' sperm donor gives the performance of his life. With charisma to spare, he has become one of the great character actors of the last 10 years and for good reason, his natural way of acting is both a permanent fixture of his style and a freshly credible counter to Holywood. But for me the highlight of the film is Julianne Moore, who's smart and sexy performance is right up there with her very best. B+

127 Hours (R)

Featuring one of the most memorable scenes of any movie from last year -the amputation of an arm and the freedom of a life- Danny Boyle's visionary true life tale brims with energy and the twitching speed of 10 red bulls. Sometimes he goes way overboard and infuses an overtly glamorized amount of style to his context but his movie is too damn good to be faulted for that. James Franco as Aaron Ralston is smashingly good, especially considering he's practically alone on screen for close to 90% of the time. It's a bold, daring performance that has garnered him a well deserved acting nomination and pushes what could have been a one trick film into a triumphant journey of hell and back. Don't listen to the naysayers, Don't look away in 127 Hours cause you might just miss the beginning of a new life B+

Toy Story 3 (G)

We have come to expect nothing but greatness from the wizards over at Pixar. What with the great streak they got going the last 10 years (Up, WALL-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo) This threequel to a popular film series is no exception. With its brightly popped out colors and resonant theme of growing up Lee Unkrich's film is designed to thrill you and that it does. I was on the edge of my seat as I saw a shade of darkness I never thought I'd see in the series, especially when the time comes for the toys to escape and for the brimmed out furnaces of fire to stop them. If that doesn't convince you that this isn't ordinary kiddie fare, I don't know exactly what will. B+

True Grit (PG-13)

I was underwhelmed by the Coen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne film. Nothing much was happening throughout and there was a certain deja vu feeling that kept popping out of my head. Not to say the performances weren't great, they most certainly were. What was lacking was a sense of boldness that appeared in the brothers' previous efforts, especially their Jewish nightmare 2009's A Serious Man. This film certainly has its fans but one can't help but think it might have more to do with the artists involved than by the actual movie itself. A true disappointment from major artists. C+

The King's Speech (PG-13)

Here's the film people say will win. A movie packaged and designed for the Oscars. Which doesn't mean it's a good thing. Listen, I know there have been many who believe this was in fact the best film of the year but -as The Social Network-ing people would write- IMHO there is no vision to Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, especially when comparing it to the incredible worlds the Nolans, Finchers and Aronofskys created this past year. If it in fact wins the big prize it will be the worse Best Picture winner since Crash's surprising victory in 2006. A huge backlash happened that year that caused Academy voters to rethink their priorities and start voting more smartly and artistically. The Kings Speech's win would bring it all back to square one. C+

Jordan's PRE-Oscar Rant & preview

Oh Oscar, where have you gone wrong this year? well let's see .. you forgot to nominate Christopher Nolan's Direction for Inception, which was a visionary balancing act from a man who still hasn't gotten the Academy's recognition. Inception was nominated for Best Picture yet omitting the man who created it all from scratch is completely silly and a big no no for an awards show that has in fact honored the right winners and films since 2005's embarrassing Best Picture win for Crash. In fact since that terrible night Best Picture has gone to masterworks such as No Country For Old Me, The Departed and The Hurt Locker. Nolan's lack of recognition will not got unnoticed as others have chimed in and complained about how ridiculous it is not to nominate THE director of the year. Love it or hate it, Inception is filled with ideas that dare and ambition that almost cannot contain itself (which is why it won't win anything come Sunday night).

Another note worthy absence is that of Lesley Manville, who's performance in Mike Leigh's Another Year was as good as any in 2010. Manville should feel robbed considering her award worthy work in the film is a career high for her as well as a memorable reminder of how important art can be if done right. The omissions in the acting category are glaring. I'm thinking of the incredible Julianne Moore not getting nominated for her sexually free work in The Kid Are All right, yet her co-star Annette Bening getting the nod. I'm not saying Bening doesn't deserve to get nominated, hell I even think she was spectacular but Moore was just as good if not edgier and riskier in Lisa Cholodenko's finely tuned film. Yet as time goes by and the days thin out before Sunday's ceremony you start to realize that there really are just 5 slots to get nominated by and that even a truly great performance can get left out of the mix.

Tom Hooper's The King's Speech is the favourite to go home with both Best Picture and Best Actor (Colin Firth) yet the film doesn't ring true to me. It felt all too facile and predictable in its delivery of a monarch's rise out of Speech impediment hell. Let's put it this way. Ten years from now will we remember Hooper's film or the likely landmarks of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, David Fincher's The Social Network or even Nolan's Inception? Not hard to see why then people are fuming over The King's Speech impending win. In all its pre-packaged Oscar ready triteness, the film does contain great performances and an impeccable sense of a time period long gone yet when all is said and done this bon bon of a movie will likely evaporate faster than the very stammer that is at the center of the movie's dilemma.

If everything goes as planned Nathalie Portman and Annette Bening will be fighting it out till the last minute to get that Best Actress Oscar. Go with Portman, even though -shockingly enough- Bening has never won before and deserves it too. Colin Firth is fighting a one man battle as he will likely win Best Actor for The King's Speech, even though Mark Zuckerberg himself played by Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network deserves it just as much. Melissa Leo's portrayal of a loyal and destructive mom in The Fighter will duke it out with both Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech and Hallee Steinfeld's breakthrough role in True Grit. Go with Leo. Supporting Actor will be between Christian Bale's role as a junkie in The Fighter and Geoffrey Rush's predictably lovable speech therapist in The King's Speech. Bale deserves it and will win it, it's about time that one of the best actors of our generation finally gets his due and if Rush wins I Will surely be pulling my hair out of agony.

The one category I will be looking out for the most come Oscar night is that of Best Foreign film, where hometown favourite Montreal/Canada's Incendies will be vying for the top prize. I have seen most of the nominated films safe one and conclude that if voters have in fact taken the time to see all the nominated films they will likely find out that Incendies stands out above all the rest. It is a testament to our globalized times that Denis Villeneuve's masterwork of middle eastern dramatics was in fact the best movie of 2010. It is awaiting release in the states this April and will surely make as big a splash as it did in Canada this past year (or at least one hopes). The one true, epic crime Oscar would commit on Sunday night would be of not giving the foreign prize to Incendies.

Grading the 10 nominated films

Black Swan A-
Inception A-
The Social Network A-
Winter's Bone B+
The Fighter B+Toy Story 3 B+
127 Hours B+
The Kids Are All Right B+True Grit CThe King's Speech C

The Elephant Man and Lynch's obsessions

David Lynch’s The Elephant Man is as close to a crowd pleaser as a Lynch film can get, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a crowd pleaser. It has darkness that many filmmakers wouldn’t dare approach in their bodies of work and a story that demands attention with its impeccable layers of detail. The film is straightforward and impeccably acted but retains much of the dreamlike imagery that has infused most of Lynch’s films over his more than 35 year film career. No matter what people have said about The Elephant Man, it is a David Lynch film through and through, despite the unusual absence of a leading female figure troubled and in turmoil (a must for almost any Lynch film) or the California setting that Lynch so dearly loves to set his tales in; It is a singular masterpiece that puts the viewer in a dream-like state. It might not have the ambiguous, abstract nature of a Mulholland Drive or the mind bending non linearity of a Twin Peaks but The Elephant Man retains Lynch’s recurring themes of dreams, machinery and dark underbellies. All three of these themes are apparent throughout the film and are obsessions that have long fascinated Lynch throughout his career.

One of the key elemnts in David Lynch’s films is the usage of dreams and a dreamlike imagery that becomes surreal, infusing his work with the kind of hypnotic allure he has become famous for. This can be seen in John Merrick’s dreams in The Elephant Man and the opening montage which poses a series of fragmented images detailing his mother's incident with elephants, an episode that is horrific, enthralling and most importantly,one of the more stylized in regards to the film as a whole. Without ever showing the mother, albeit through Merrick's allusions and his sacred framed portrait of her, Lynch has given the viewer the luxury of understanding his deformation. One of the finest moments in the film is a dream sequence which is introduced directly by a swooping camera movement over Merrick's sleeping body, which then gives way to a mosaic of nightmarish images containing back-alley industrial workers and tons of smoke.

Everything, from the sound design to the more expressionistic camerawork, tells us we are viewing a dream. This is something we rarely receive in Lynch's work, that privilege to engage without constantly wondering where reality and allusion intersect. That runs throughout the film all the way up to its shattering climax which ends with Merrick living his dream of going to the theatre (1:44’56- 1:49’09) and getting accepted by society. That very night (1:49’10-1:55’42) he goes to sleep and dies in his dreams as stars appear on screen and the haunting face of his mother is shown one last time before the images fades out. It ends being the most surreal and dream-like sequence of the entire film and a reminder that Lynch has never played by the rules but has always followed his own musings by staying true to his own thoughts and feelings.

At the end, Merrick’s mother is smiling beautifully, staring at the camera, reminding Merrick,called “John” in the film, and reminding us that nothing will die. Death is not an ending. It is a change. We have moved from a nightmare to a dream. Any other Hollywood filmmaker might have ended the film with Merrick in bed or a funeral process following right after his death but Lynch decides to end it with an ambiguous touch of artfulness, he makes the viewer travel to space and puts images on the screen that suggest an other-worldliness to his eccentric, strangely beautiful fairy tale. It wouldn’t be a Lynch film if there wasn’t a resolution as visionary and provoking as the one that ends The Elephant Man.

While Scorsese obsessed over societal violence, Hitchcock over blondes and Von Sternberg over Dietrich, Lynch’s focus and obsession was always with dreams. Agent Cooper’s dreams of the red room in Twin Peaks , the "dreamlike logic" of the narrative found in Eraserhead’s abstracts. Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and Inland Empire’s main characters dreaming throughout the entire film, to which the audience is asked to figure out what is real and what is not. Discussing his attitude to dreams, Lynch explains to Rodley that "Waking dreams are the ones that are important, the ones that come when I'm quietly sitting in a chair, letting my mind wander. When you sleep, you don't control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I've made or discovered; a world I choose… [You can't really get others to experience it, but] right there is the power of cinema.”

If his consistent use of dreams in his films is a step out of realism, Lynch has always been fascinated by the real world and the real emotions that come with it. His interest in Machinery and Industrialism is apparent in much of The Elephant Man. The factories we see in the film are those existing in a Victorian London era, where industrialism has just started and taken a heavy toll on society.

Every once in a while Lynch will include shots of wafting Smoke that these factories produce, he also sets his camera out to get the constant ramblings of these industrial machines. The sound is upped a notch so that the audience can hear the unpleasantness of the noise. Lynch's agenda is to make us aware of the era and the people living in it. Industrialism is portrayed in an ugly fashion, as if Lynch is telling us that it's the fall of our hands and the rise of the machines- something Chaplin did quite so eloquently in Modern Times. It is also no coincidence that at some point in the film , Anthony Hopkins' Doctor Treves operates on a victim of machinery, a victim that is surely one of many. John Merrick represents the anti-machinery, a man with heart and soul that wants be seen as human instead of monster. He lives in a society that has all but been taken over by industrialism and has neglected his voice as a human being in the process.

Lynch was not a fan of Industrialism and is showing his audience how it was slowly taking over the world and setting its ugly face with machinery. As Lynch stated in 1980 "I'm flipped out over industry and factories – sounds as well as images ... The Elephant Man takes place when industrialization was still starting. It was the beginning of Eraserhead’s times. I was hoping that the Victorians would have had more machinery around. There wasn't a lot, but what they did have made a lot noise and a lot of smoke." It is that very noise and smoke that Lynch concentrates on in the film. With beautiful Black and White cinematography by Freddie Francis,the smoke Lynch focuses on turns into a kind of artful dread on screen, a metaphor for what Lynch calls the "dimness of industrialization" (Rodley) and why wouldn't he be right, it obscures the sun, traps humans, and spawns claustrophobia, grime, and death. Surely large industry did wonders for the comfort and well-being of humanity, but, in Lynch’s mind, the trade-off is sizable. He shows large hissing engines, boiler rooms, and damp, rusty corners. Lynch seems to be indicating that the world is simultaneously opening and closing. As implied by the Tennyson quote in the film, "nothing is dying, things are merely changing..

Lynch's focus on Industrialism in The Elephant Man is a theme that has followed him throughout his cinematic periods. Twin Peaks' opening credits start off with images of oil drills, machinery and a parkyard sawmill that becomes one of the key locations of the show & film, in The Straight Story a man goes cross country in his lawnmower to reconnect with his ill brother and in Eraserhead, industrial waste is put into good use as a married couple gets surrounded by it throughout. Eraserhead’s concept is about a man's struggle with industrialization and the evil inherent in the human condition. Our main protagonist fears his head being used to make erasers because he's constantly surrounded by these emotionless machines and feels dehumanized by the outside world. That is in essence what Lynch’s characters look for in his films, a way out of that dehumanization and a way back into their humanization. John Merrick’s journey from freak of society to celebrated human being is part of the transformation Lynch constantly looks for his characters to get out of. Mulholland Drive’s Rita tries to get out of her nightmare which has dehumanized her personality and made her switch identity with Betty. According to Leblanc and Odell “industrial growth is viewed with abject horror yet at the same time with fascination” (31). They parallel in his other films, even the seemingly most un-Lynch Lynch film The Straight Story makes reference to industrialization. But Alvin Straight's world is one where “machinery (and dehumanization) is devoid of its menacing aspect” (107)

If dehumanization and machinery collide hand in hand they can result in people rebelling against the system and looking for another way out. The dark underbellies filled with criminals and violence that populate Lynch’s films are filled with these people that are looking to get re- humanized. Lynch has a seedy eye for the darkness that is present in middle America and most notably Hollywood, Blue velvet is a perfect example of that. It is about the dark side of picture perfect suburbia and hints at a dark underbelly of an idyllic setting. In it, Frank Booth is a product of the criminal underground. His presence is menacing yet it looks like no one in that society knows about this psychopath or his gang of thugs, in Wild At Heart Sailor is threatened by numerous eccentric figures including hired gangster Marcelles in a film that Lynch has called “Love In Hell”.

In The Elephant Man, Lynch’s focus is on a society of Victorian freak show performers that reveals the cruelty and malfunctions of the scenery. Merrick’s “boss” or “slave owner” is named Bytes (Freddie Jones) a man that has taken control over Merrick’s life and treated him as such like a slave. He is from London’s lowest of underbellies, a place where money is short and greed is high. Merrick is his golden ticket and pension in life as people all across middle and lower class London pay to see Merrick’s grotesque features on display. Bytes dehumanizes Merrick by exposing him to the general public as a freak and stealing Merrick’s own life away for the sake of his own well being.

The underbelly of London is portrayed as a kind of place where there are no rules and much cruelty. The people living in this underbelly are money hungry and ready to do anything to get cash, such as what Bytes does in his treatment of Merrick. Bytes has convinced him, by years of dehumanization, to believe that he is a monster. He is the artist who makes John think that he is an animal. Bytes does not only convince John that he is an animal,but the world too. At first, John’s show is closed because the underbelly crowd could not handle John’s ugliness. At this point Merrick is sub-human.

Although the world begins to realize that he is human while in the care of Treves, when Bytes steals Merrick back and returns him to the underbelly freak show, he again creates him into a monster. The world views him as a monster again and still persecutes him for his ugliness. Their prejudice has not changed. Merrick is aided by the freaks of the underbelly circus show in an undisclosed location and escapes back into town and away from Bytes. In the subway, John bumps into a little girl and she cries. A crowd builds and chases John down. As they begin to approach, John shouts, “I am not an animal!” Although Mr. Bytes has again brought the ugliness out in John, he has failed this time to dehumanize him. John has learned that he is not an animal. It is this constant struggle between the underbelly and the societal world that Merrick is stuck against throughout the movie. As Serge Daney further explains “The underbelly has taken him down and dehumanized him, whereas the societal world has made him human and given back the voice that had been taken away from him.”

Lynch’s cinema has always been about the forgotten underbelly members of society. Going back to Frank Booth, a man that personifies evil but has been all but forgotten from society and enrages hell in the underbelly of picture perfect suburban America. The same thing can be said of Bytes in The Elephant Man, Mr. Eddy in Lost Highway, Marcelles Santos in Wild At Heart and Jacques in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. In fact The Bang Bang Bar in Twin Peaks is populated by perverts, a sex room called The Pink Room and a French Canadian owner (Jacques) that deals drugs and turns Laura into a sexual object. David Lynch’s underbellies are populated by such characters and involve drugs, kinky sex and weird Violence in the mix. They are also the backbone of what makes Lynch’s worlds so fascinating.

The fascinating part about a David Lynch film is the way he brings all three of these themes together to make something both hypnotic and incredible to dissect. Each scene is carefully planned and if frozen, each frame looks like a dreamy painting. It is then no surprise that Lynch has a background as painter and through this talent can bring out darkly dream-like images that haunt your dreams. Some of the best paintings out there conjure up dreamy thoughts and feelings that can only be expressed through paint. Think of Monet, who’s every painting had a feeling of popping into a subjective dream. The same can be said of Lynch whose obsession with them has been a major part of his work. Underbellies and Industrial settings are used as a background to the dream he is conjuring up on screen. A perfect setting considering underbellies have a mystery to them that not many people know about and a darkness that can be so overwhelming you wished you were dreaming it all ditto the industrial setting with its overwhelming smoke, empty buildings and an isolative feeling that can sometimes only come when dreaming a dream. It is In dreams that Lynch ends up blending the rest of his obsessive themes and elements and in Them dreams he will likely continue to pursue the other-worldliness that has fascinated both he and his audience for close to 4 decades.


✭✭✭ 1/2

The Tree Of Life
Uncle Boonmee
A Separation
The Skin I Live In


Source Code
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Take Shelter
The Lincoln Lawyer
Attack The Block
A Better Life
Meek's Cutoff
Like Crazy
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Cafe De Flore
Certified Copy
Super 8
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
War Horse
Martha Marcy May Marlene
30 Minutes Or Less
Sleeping Beauty
Bad Teacher
Win Win
Margin Call
The Devil's Double
The Conspirator
The Sitter
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Midnight In Paris

✭✭ 1/2

Scream 4
The Way Back
Drive Angry
The Hangover 2
X-Men First Class
The Perfect Host
Another Earth
The Ides Of March
The Big Year
J Edgar
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Muppets


Hobo With A Shotgun
The Adjustment Bureau
Cedar Rapids
Hall Pass
In A Better World
Water For Elephants
Fast Five
Everything Must Go
Horrible Bosses
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
Captain America
Friends With Benefits
Crazy Stupid Love
The Help
Our Idiot Brother
Higher Ground
Straw Dogs
Tower Heist
A Dangerous Method
Young Adult
The Adventures Of Tin Tin

The Dillema
Barney's Version
No Strings Attached
The Mechanic
The Roommate
Your Highness
Cars 2
Cowboys And Aliens
The Change-Up


The Green lantern
Transformers Dark Of The Moon

Best Of 2010 ...

So I was waiting long enough to make a Best Of 2010 yet I just had a really hard time finding some worthy candidates. Last year I had more than 20 great films in my list but alas this year I wouldn't even call 10 of these great. This was probably the worst movie year I've experienced since I started doing these annual lists back in 1999. There are a few more movies to watch or re-watch but the list won't change drastically in the months to come. I have added small comments cause I guess I was too lazy to do more than that and the movies speak for themselves really, I will -at some point- post my review for each of these films. So without further ado here's the good stuff of 2010.

(1) Black Swan

Taking a cue from Kanye West's latest record, this is Director Darren Aronofksy's Beautiful, Dark, twisted fantasy. Natalie Portman gives the performance of the year in a film that's more than just about ballet but about the boundaries an artist has in order to push his or herself to the limit. A campy, visionary, extraordinary mess that turns into the movie experience of the year.

(2) Shutter Island

A detective investigates a missing patient at a mental asylum for the criminally insane but ends up getting lost in the darkness that looms between the cracked corners. Leonardo Dicaprio's performance in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island is astounding, ditto the film. Scorsese with the help of cinematographer Robert Richardson, conjures up dream-like images that stayed with you for weeks.

(3) Enter The Void

Gaspar Noe's follow-up to the controversial Irreversible did not disappoint. Its trippiness far exceeded any other film in 2010 in terms of originality, guts and madness. Here Noe is concerned with the co-existence between body, life and the after-life by giving us the story of a dead man who's presence roams around the crowded, mob ruled streets of Tokyo. You have never seen the crowed Oriental city shot like this before.

(4) The Ghost Writer

 Roman Polanski's best thriller in years had the taut, tense, irresistibly grim mood we have come to expect from the director of Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby. The atmosphere is that of dread and the dark, unknown mysteries that lie around every corner. Nothing that happens is expected, which makes this one hell of a political thriller (loosely based on Tony Blair's stay as British prime minister).

(5) Un Prophete

This French import is the best gangster movie since Scorsese's The Departed. An angry, muscled look at the French prison system and the imprisoned Mobster that controls every move and word uttered in the cells, up until an Arabic inmate shows up and changes things around. An overlong but madly fascinating movie.

(6) Inception

A madly ambitious story, director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to The Dark Knight was concerned with the metaphysics of dreams. For close to two and a half hours, we got ideas spun at us faster than a spinning totem and were forced to re-watch it to better understand Nolan's creative world. the final image will surely become one of the great ones in movie history.

(7) Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich) 

 Toy Story 3's brilliance lies in its dreamy images of a darkened toy world and our main protagonist having the choice of growing up or staying young. Its themes are adult and its images match those very themes. A special gift wrapped on the outside with vibrant colors that pop out and stun your eyes but layered in the deep inside with a darkness that cannot be shaken.

(8) Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos) 

 Director Lanthimos is an absurdist and he has made an absurdly brilliant film. You have to see it to believe it here. This is way too hard to explain but suffice to say that this is as truthful a depiction of dictatorship as we'll ever get in modern cinema. Except the dictatorship here is happening at a family home. Lots of divisive, opinionated debate surrounding this one but as you can see I dug it quite a bit.

(9) Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)

Arnold spotted Katie Jarvis at a train station after drawing a blank with casting agencies. "She was on one platform arguing with her boyfriend on another platform, giving him grief." However the performance is achieved, Jarvis is electrifying. If Arnold wanted a 'real' person for the role, this seventeen-year-old takes over the screen with raw adolescent power. Fish Tank will lift you out of your seat and on an unstoppable flight, ricocheting against confines of circumstance and imploding a dysfunctional family with its head of hormonal steam.

(10) Winter's Bone (Debra Granik) 

Debra Granik's second feature film Winter's Bone is the kind of movie that gets progressively better & better as you delve deeper and deeper on it. It is filled with humane, real characterizations of a society that is rooted in evil and people that have lost all hope in life and succumbed to shadiness & drug dealing. There are memorable scenes that linger.

11. You Don't Know Jack, Barry Levinson

12. 127 Hours, Danny Boyle

13. I'm Still Here, Casey Affleck

14. Le Illusioniste, Sylvain Chomet

15.  The Kids Are All Right, Lisa Cholodenko

16. Cyrus, Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass

17. How To Train Your Dragon, Dean Deblois, Chris Sanders

18. Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn

19. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Niels Arden Oplev
19. The Girl Who Played With Fire, Daniel Alfredson

20. Salt, Phillip Noyce