Grading the 9 Best Picture nominees

The Descendants B-
Hugo B+
War Horse B
The Help C-
Moneyball B+
Midnight In Paris B-
The Tree Of Life A
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Loud C-
The Artist N/A

Meh, one of those years where they really didn't pick the right ones. Extremely Loud? Really? Where's Drive? That practically made every top ten list and was as visionary piece of work as almost anything else in 2011. At least they had the guts to vote for Tree Of Life, which I'm sure will get many of the wrong people (we know who they are) renting it and having a WHAT THE FUCK reaction to it - now that's something I'm looking forward to more than the awards show itself. ps promise promise promise to watch The Artist very soon.

A note on "Shame"

I absolutely adored photographer turned director Steven Mcqueen's debut feature Hunger way back when I saw it in 2009. It was the kind of film that not only made you see the world in a new way but showcased the emergence of a bright new talent. So of course I was very much looking forward to his next effort Shame which again starred his Hunger lead actor Michael Fassbender as a sex addict. Dissapointed wouldn't even begin to explain what I felt while watching it. Shame pits Fassbender's sex addict in one deliriously uncomfortable sex scene after another along with slow, unending shots (a given for Mcqueen) yet it all doesn't add up in the end. What we get with Shame is a shallow exercise in style, done with no depth or sense of intimacy. Michael Fassbender is great as the main character but I found Mcqueen was concentrating more on style and less on the character himself. There's a great movie hidden somewhere here but I couldn't find it, even if some scenes did work and the actors got the best they could out of the material. I found it to be an unimportant and self-congratulatory film, the opposite of what Hunger was.

War Horse

What we are seeing lately with critics as much as audiences in 2011 is a kind of rebelling of safe entertainment. If released any other year Steven Spielberg's sappy, patriotic War Horse would be a shoo-in for Best Picture and make more than its fair share of money at the American Box Office. And so the story goes that the reviews were split for Spielberg's WW2 horse epic and its Box Office .. meh. I wouldn't call War Horse a bad film -far from it- its ambitiously epic and lush structure did wonders on me, even when some of its episodic nature could have been trimmed - I didn't need the maudlin story of the French Grandpa and his talkative Granddaughter. Nevertheless Spielberg hasn't lost his chops for great storytelling, he is a visionary and judging by the great movies he has released the last decade -Minority Report, AI, Munich - he hasn't lost much of his famous touch. There's a scene near the end of the film where our beloved Horse runs wild through WW2 wire ravaged fields. It's a horrific scene that hints at darkness and makes you feel the Horses pain as the wires skim through his skin. However, War Horse doesn't belong in the list of great Spielberg's because it feels too familiar, almost too facile an exercise. It feels like a movie that could have won the Oscar 15-20 years ago, yet the times are changing and the way we see movies even more so. Welcome to the new decade of cinema. 2011's best movies were not easily suckered into formula, we are seeing a kind of revolution happening - Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life and Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive are perfect examples of the new language being created. Spielberg is still stuck in his glory era, which is not to say it's a bad thing but more to say that he hasn't adapted to the times. War Horse is not a risk-taking film and the lack of Awards attention towards it shows just how far we've come and how reward now comes with a price- originality.

The 7 great PIXAR movies


2) Ratatouille

3) Finding Nemo

4) The Incredibles

5) Toy Story 3

6) Up

7) Toy Story 2

Best Gangster movies of the past 10 years

A kind of retrospective of the past decade's great Gangster/Crime movies. As much it can bother some people, Gangster movies are very much a part of the rich history of movies. Stuff like The Godfather movies, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, Casino, Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, Miller's Crossing, Carlito's Way, Pulp Fiction and Mean Streets have invigorated and tensed us up for years now. Each and every decade establishes new and inventive boundaries to this genre, the last one was no exception. This is an important genre for Cinema because some of the greatest movies have come from it and have established new and inventive ways in which we see violence.

1) The Departed
Leave it to Scorsese to make another Gangster classic. Scorsese ditches Italian mobsters for the Irish. Violent, repulsive and undeniably watchable, here's a movie that rightfully won the Best Picture Oscar that Scorsese's Goodfellas so badly deserved but lost back in the early 90's.

2) City Of God
Brazillian slum kids killing each other in Fernando Mereilles' brilliant, kinetic fever dream of a movie shot with an indelible poet's eye for detail. This is a movie that opened eyes up and made people pay attention to a brutal part of the world.

3) Un Prophete
Leave it to the french to make high art out of high violence. Jaques Audiard's mesmerizing gangster epic made my ten best list last year because of its incredible ambition, scope and eye popping nasty look into the French-Italian criminal underworld.

4) A Histroy Of Violence
A revisionist Gangster movie from David Cronenberg. Call it a Neo-Gangster. The way Unforgiven changed the western, this might have changed the gangster picture. Viggo Mortensen's simple, blue collar man -or so it seems- has secrets he has never even told his family. Trying to get out of the mob was never this hard.

5) American Gangster
Denzel Washington as Harry Osbourne, the first true black gangster. A soon to be classic for the hip-hop crowd, just like Scarface in the late 90's execpt this one has more substance and two killer performances from Washington and Russell Crowe.

6) Gangs Of New York
Scorsese again. This time it's the streets of New York circa the 1800's when there really was no rule of law and blood was coming out of every corner. Take away the love story involving a petty pickpocket played by Cameron Diaz and you have a perfect movie.

7) Road To Perdition
A sweet, passionate gangster movie that can turn violent at any moment. Just the way we want it. Sam Mendes' underrated gem came and went in the early aughts, yet I see it more and more striking a chord with people I talk to. It's aging like fine wine.

8) Public Enemies
John Dillinger didn't just steal banks, he became a celebrity out of it. Michael Mann uses his new muse -a digital camera- to get straight to the core of what Dillinger was all about. Johnny Depp is perfectly at home here, just like he was in Donnie Brasco.

9) Eastern Promises
Another one from Cronenberg and Mortensen, this time it's the russian mob. It might not reach the heights of A History Of Violence but is nevertheless so engrossing it deserves a spot on this list. Sheer, playful, nasty fun and wait until you see the hot bath scene.

10) Lord Of War
Maybe the most disliked of all the movies I've named thus far, yet it was such a kick to watch Nicolas Cage get into the crime business as a good man who just wanted to deal guns. Give it a look, it might surprise you.