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2016 Oscar Winners


And here we go! The winners of the 88th Annual Academy Awards!

Spotlight pulls off the stunner! Meanwhile Mad Max: Fury Road won the most awards of the night by far with 6.

Personally I went 15 for 24 with my predictions. Not one of my better showings, for sure. But this has been a crazy unexpected wide open race the whole way. I’m not surprised I missed a number of awards, especially on the kind of night where a tiny indie film can Ex Machina win Visual Effects over 3 major Best Picture nominees (the first time that’s happened since Tora! Tora! Tora! beat Patton 45 years ago!) AND the single biggest blockbuster box office hit in history.

Check the winners against my predictions over here.

Best Picture – Spotlight!!!
Best Director – Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress – Brie Larson, Room
Best Supporting Actor – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Big Short
Best Original Screenplay – Spotlight
Best Film Editing – Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road!
Best Music (Original Score) – Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Best Music (Original Song) – “Writing’s On the Wall,” Spectre 
Best Sound Mixing –  Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound EditingMad Max: Fury Road!
Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant 
Best Costume DesignMad Max: Fury Road!!!
Best Makeup and HairstylingMad Max: Fury Road
Best Production DesignMad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual EffectsEx Machina!!! 
Best Animated FeatureInside Out
Best Foreign Language FilmSon of Saul
Best Documentary FeatureAmy
Best Short Film: AnimatedBear Story
Best Short Film: Live ActionStutterer
Best Short Film: DocumentaryA Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Winners by the numbers:

Mad Max: Fury Road – 6
The Revenant – 3
Spotlight – 2

Order of Oscar Awards Presentations

Straight Outta Compton

The Academy released the order in which their awards will be presented tonight. In the past they’ve usually started with a supporting performance. But It appears they’re switching things up this year, beginning with the both Screenplay awards before moving on to Supporting Actress.

One wonders if this move is in the hope that a win by Straight Outta Compton at the top of the show might help to soften some of the #oscarssowhite scandal. There is a slight chance it could pull through – it’s arguably in 2nd place –  but it will still be a major feat for that film to upset presumed, practically set-in-stone, frontrunner Spotlight.

In case you’re interested, here’s the order for the night:

Original Screenplay
Adapted Screenplay
Supporting Actress
Costume Design
Production Design
Makeup and Hairstyling
Film Editing
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing
Visual Effects
Animated Short Film
Animated Feature Film
Supporting Actor
Documentary Short Subject
Documentary Feature
Live Action Short Film
Foreign Language Film
Original Song
Original Score
Actress in a Leading Role
Actor in a Leading Role
Best Picture


Final Oscar Predictions


The Oscars are TOMORROW! I’ve updated my predictions for the last time. You can see them all on my predictions page over here. Or click on “OSCAR 2016” at the top of the page for more information on the show, including a printable ballot! Below I’ve spelled out my thinking in each of the races.

Best Picture

So let’s start at the top.  This may be the most up in-the-air, anything-can-happen year since GladiatorTraffic, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon duked it out for the top prize at the very turn of the century. The three biggest predictors of the Oscar for Best Picture – the PGA, the DGA, and the SAG ensemble award – all went to 3 different films. That is, respectively, The Big Short, The Revenant, and Spotlight.

All the buzz is surrounding The Revenant right now, because in addition to the DGA, it also won the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. But I don’t think it’s that strong for 3 reasons…

  1. Birdman, by the same director, won Best Picture and Director last year, and no director in history has ever had 2 Best Picture winners in a row. (The last consecutive Best Director winner was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in the 1940’s.)
  2. Those wins for the Globes and BAFTA’s? Last year they both went with Boyhood over Birdman, so this year’s awards for The Revenant are likely just making up for that.
  3. Most importantly, The Oscar for Best Picture (and only this category) now uses a weird “preferential” balloting system. This system is used by only one other group: the PGA. And in the 7 years since the PGA and Oscars have both been using this system, their winners have matched EVERY YEAR.

The reason this balloting system matters it the way winners are selected in multiple steps, which tends to favor movies that are not just #1 but also #2 and #3 in most ballots. So a passionately well-beloved but divisive movie like The Revenant has more of an uphill battle. People either love it or hate it. It may get the most #1 votes, but if everyone else buts it in last place, then it won’t have enough steam to win.

The Big Short won the PGA and that’s why I think it will win Best Picture

Best Director

Usually Picture and Director match up. It’s dangerous to predict a split. But in the few years since the implementation of that preferential ballot for Best Picture, which isn’t used for Director or any other award, we’ve already had 2 splits. I’m inclined to think the difference in counting can more easily account for a difference in outcome.

One of the biggest hurdles for The Big Short is that director Adam McKay hasn’t won any precursor awards. Those have mostly gone to The Revenant‘s Alejandro Gonzales Iñarrítú (I hope I got all those accents right) and Mad Max‘s George Miller. As much as I want to believe Miller could win, his film missed out on all of those Big 3 main precursors. Meanwhile, Iñarrítú won the DGA (the Director’s Guild). While I still think it’s a tall order for him to win 2 years in a row, it’s much more likely than his film winning Picture. So I’m resigning myself to the probable fact that he will win again on Sunday, while secretly crossing my fingers hoping for a surprise.


These are all pretty much sewn up, though there’s a little wiggle room for surprises in the supporting categories. Don’t count on it though.

Screenplay and Animated Feature

These are the surest awards of the night. There may be some support for Straight Outta Compton‘s screenplay if they want to try to answer the #oscarssowhite scandal. But Spotlight is the only nominee in the Original category to have a chance at winning Best Picture. Same with The Big Short in the Adapted category. And while Anomalisa will have some fervent supporters, Inside Out is the best movie to date from what may be the single most successful (in terms of quality) movie studio ever. The Big Short, Spotlight and Inside Out have this in the bag.


The legendary Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight) has surprisingly never won an Oscar, despite being one of the most influential composers in history. The Academy won’t miss their opportunity to award him. Meanwhile Lady Gaga’s song “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground may have the deepest impact of that bunch. Some pundits are predicting the newest James Bond song, but it’s such an objectively bad piece of music I just can’t imagine it actually winning.

The Tech Categories

Here we’re looking at Editing, Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup & Hair, Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects. Most of these are down to a two-horse race between Mad Max and The Revenant, which are the only two nominated for every one of them as well as Director and Picture. Some are predicting a sweep by one or the other. It could be my personal bias leading me to believe Mad Max has that edge in most cases, but I actually think they might split votes in many cases, making room for an outsider. For one thing, I have a very strong suspicion that they won’t let the new Star Wars – the biggest and most successful sensation of the year – won’t go home empty-handed. But where to award it?

First off, The Revenant’s Emmanuel Lubezki will win his record breaking 3rd consecutive Cinematography award. It may sound crazy, but there’s no stopping that train at this point. Similarly, I think Mad Max has a pretty safe lead in Makeup and Production Design. But after that it get’s harder to call.

Editing should be Mad Max‘s, as it won the ACE guild. But so did even more likely Best Picture winner The Big Short. And even though it usually goes to a Best Picture nominee, if those two split, and with The Revenant siphoning off it’s fair share, this could be where Star Wars slips through.

Costumes should also be Mad Max‘s but this branch, more than any other, likes to go it’s own way, usually opting for bigger, puffier, gown-ier fare that often has no chance in any other category. Both Mad Max and The Danish Girl won their guild award earlier this week, which leads me to think the latter has the best chance here. But even one-nomination-wonder Cinderella could pull it off on the back of legendary designer Sandy Powell.

The two Sound categories are where I’m banking on Star Wars to prevail. It’s a tough call, but I think this is it’s best chance and the biggest split-vote situation. Could the two categories split different directions? It’s possible, but a dangerous thing to predict. For one, usually when they do split, it’s because one of the winners wasn’t nominated in the other category. But one-off’s Sicario and Bridge of Spies have the least chance I believe. And anyway, even they do split, if you predict the same film for both you’re more likely to get one of them right.

And finally, Visual Effects is shaping up to be one of the toughest calls of the night. For most of the season, most people have felt this was an obvious win for Mad Max, and I still give it the slightest edge. But ever since The Revenant started pulling ahead in the major races, more are predicting it to get more votes. Others feel Star Wars‘ recent BAFTA win might be telling that it could win here. Unfortunately for Star Wars, Best Picture nominated films almost NEVER lose this to a film that isn’t. Still others feel that with such a split-vote situation, this could be the best opportunity for the universally well-loved The Martian to pull through.

Foreign and Documentary

Son of Saul and Amy have a pretty sizable lead. Dark horses are Mustang in Foreign and Cartel Land (which recently won the DGA) in Doc. But What Happened, Miss Simone? also might pull some Doc votes in a way that will probably favor the presumed frontrunner.

Short Films

My experience is that often my favorites actually do win. If that trend continues, look to Stutterer or Ave Maria to triumph in the Live Action category, and World of Tomorrow in Animation. The latter is by the great Don Hertzfeld; you may know him from a famous short that failed to win a couple decades ago, called Rejected. If voters realize that, in addition to being the clear best film here, World of Tomorrow could also benefit from a bit of “overdue” sentiment. (By the way, Word of Tomorrow is available to stream on Netflix. It’s under 20 minutes and well worth your time!)

I haven’t seen any of the Doc Shorts, so your guess is as good as mine.

Top 10 Films of 2006

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: You’ll notice some discrepancies between this Top 10 list below and the one in my separate Films of 2006 post. According to the file details on my computer, the these reviews were written about 2 months later than that list. In retrospect, I’d have to agree more with this later one: nearly a decade later, I remember United 93 far more vividly than I do Little Miss Sunshine.


  1. Pan’s Labyrinth

During the Spanish civil war, a little girl escapes the horrors of real life with her new step-father, a tyrannical Spanish captain, into a magical faerie world that could be just as dangerous. It leaves you wondering just haw much is supposed to be real. By far the best of the year. Beautiful, wondrous, terrifying, heart-wrenching: there aren’t enough “critics’ words” to explain how good it is. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. Word or warning: it’s not rated R for nothing – the real world can be a very scary place, and in a few scenes, gruesome and gory.

  1. United 93

Many people said too soon. I wonder what’s so important about the amount of time that has passed that makes an event like this more or less “safe” (for lack of a better word) to tell. If not now, when? (What year was it first OK to make a movie about the Holocaust?) If anything making it sooner, while memories are fresher, might make it more accurate. But I don’t believe the amount of time that has passed can or should mean anything. Regardless of when it was made, or your opinion on whether it was a good idea, I can’t imagine any film doing a better job of telling this story. Very stark and matter-of-fact; almost documentary-like. It avoided the sweeping score and the intentionally tear-jerky dialogue to tell you how you’re supposed to feel. It just told the story simply and all the emotions are your own. (This is one way I believe this movie honored the victims while “World Trade Center” did not.)

  1. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

I happen to be partial to movies that are original and have something new to offer the world of cinema. Borat does this while being one of the funniest movies I have seen …ever! But beware: you will cringe and contort your body into all sorts of strange and painful positions in order to escape the screen without leaving the room.

  1. Little Miss Sunshine

What really makes this quirky, hilarious road movie great is the characters. They are dark and very strange and yet very real. In the hands of lesser filmmakers this would be a handful of caricatures doing slapstick. In reality it’s always right on the edge of that line but never steps too far over it that it loses its humanity. It’s also got a great message about beauty, pageantry, and innocence (and the danger of losing it).

  1. Little Children

Little Children explores discontentment in suburbia. Young parents struggle with relationships, becoming responsible adults, and the presence of a recently released sex offender, who has his own demons to battle. Made by the same director as “In the Bedroom” and it shows.

  1. A Prairie Home Companion

Even the worst Robert Altman films are still better than most movies, and this is certainly not his worst. It’s not his best either, but it’s a very entertain movie with great performances all around. The presence of Garrison Keillor on the script as well as on-screen doesn’t hurt either. I think this is the perfect movie for Altman to go out on, and it takes on a somewhat new meaning since his death.

  1. Marie Antoinette

All the critics said love it or hate it early on last year, and then everyone forgot about it. I almost didn’t even rent it, but I’m very glad I did. The “problem” for many was that it’s a period costume piece with contemporary music and style. Honestly I’ve had similar problems with other movies before: “A Knight’s Tale” and even to some extent “Moulin Rouge.” The difference here is that Marie Antoinette is not a period movie, but rather a very contemporary movie that just happens to be about an 18th century French queen. Maybe the only difference between the two is my own mind-set. But I found the film a very refreshing alternative to the type of stuffy historical dramas that this could’ve been. After this I’ll never again be able to understand why a movie set in the past need to feel like it was made in the past.

There’s another reason why I loved this movie, and it has to do with a big pet-peeve of mine: I can’t stand it when a movie with an English-speaking cast, about characters that would normally be speaking a different language, decides that the characters should speak English with the appropriate accent. Obviously the best choice would be native-speaking actors with subtitles, but otherwise the next best thing is what Marie Antoinette does, but I’ve never seen before in any other movie: all the actors retain their own natural accents. This means a lot of wildly different accents – from Scottish to Texan and everything in between – but it doesn’t really matter because the characters would all actually be speaking French anyway. If we’re going to watch it in English, we might as well let the actors do their best with their normal voices.

  1. Children of Men

About 30 (I think) years in the future, women have mysteriously stopped being able to conceive. At the beginning of the film the youngest person in the world (at 18 years old) is assassinated. Most of the world has devolved into chaos. Britain is the last nation to sustain a functioning government, and it’s become extremely oppressive. Clive Owen has to smuggle a pregnant teen off the island to a rumored research facility that might be able to help. Unfortunately all borders are closed and various factions want the child for political reasons. Made by Alfonso Cuaron (“Y tu Mama Tambien,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and my favorite “A Little Princess”), one of 3 Mexican film directors (all good friends and collectively known as The Three Amigos) who all had a big success this year – Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu (“Babel,” “Amores Perros”) and Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)

  1. Monster House

This was surprisingly good – excellent animation and top-notch acting. It wasn’t just vocal work: the actors wore motion capture suits and actually acted out their parts in front of specialized cameras, blue screens and wire frame props. They were then painted over with computer generated animation. That said, the movie’s real strength wasn’t in the technical stuff but the story, believe it or not. It did an excellent job of exploring that awkward part of adolescence when you feel too old to trick-or-treat, but you still really want to. Suddenly the opposite sex isn’t gross – just the opposite! – but you still want to play with your little kid toys. It’s hard being 13, especially when the house across the street wants the eat you! All the main characters, even the house, feel like very fleshed-out, complex, and real individuals by the end.

  1. Volver

Usually I don’t like Almodovar as much as the other critics. Don’t get me wrong; all his movies are good, but most are just a little too weird for me. And that’s saying something! But in Volver I think he has found just the right mix. Wildly original plot, some strange things happen, but it never falls into the surreal (like “Talk to Her”). And as always, Almodovar is still exploring his favorite and ever-present theme: women comforting women.” It’s a perfect little film without being flashy in any of the ways the previous nine on my Top 10 were.


The Films of 2006

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: You’ll notice some discrepancies between the Top 10 listed below and the separate reviewed Top 10 post. According to the file details on my computer, the reviews were written about 2 months later than this list. In retrospect, I’d have to agree more with the later list: nearly a decade later, I barely even remember The Science of Sleep.


After the Top 10, films are listed alphabetically using a 5-Star rating scale.
* Oscar Nominee

Top 10

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth*
  2. Little Miss Sunshine*
  3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan*
  4. United 93*
  5. Little Children*
  6. A Prairie Home Companion
  7. Marie Antoinette*
  8. Children of Men*
  9. Monster House*
  10. The Science of Sleep


The Departed*
Half Nelson*
Inside Man
Jesus Camp*
The Last King of Scotland*
Letters From Iwo Jima*
Nanny McPhee
Neil Young: Heart of Gold*
Night Watch
Notes on a Scandal*
The Queen*
Why We Fight

Akeelah and the Bee
Blood Diamond*
Catch a Fire
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
For Your Consideration
Friends With Money
The Good Shepherd*
The Painted Veil
The Proposition
A Scanner Darkly
Stranger Than Fiction
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Down in the Valley
Flags of Our Fathers*
Flushed Away
The Illusionist*
An Inconvenient Truth*
Kinky Boots
The Last Kiss
The Prestige*
Who Killed the Electric Car?

Casino Royale
Clerks II
The Fountain
Happy Feet*
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible III
The Notorious Bettie Page
The Pursuit of Happyness*
V for Vendetta

American Dreamz
The Big White
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada*
Farce of the Penguins
Lady in the Water
Lucky # Slevin
Over the Hedge
Sketches of Frank Gehry
Strangers With Candy
Superman Returns*
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Thank You For Smoking
When Do We Eat?

All the King’s Men
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest*
Running With Scissors
School for Scoundrels
Snakes on a Plane
World Trade Center
X-Men: The Last Stand

Art School Confidential
The Black Dahlia*
Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One for the Road
The DaVinci Code
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
The Libertine

Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys
The Night Listener
Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny

Scary Movie 4

1/2 Star
The Ant Bully
Curious George
The Pink Panther

Zero Stars
Aeon Flux
Nacho Libre

2009 Film Year Review

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: I did things a bit different this year. This article is more of a ‘quick-bites’ review of the year as a whole, without any rankings or ratings. But it refers to my  regular ranked list, which includes my Top 10, and which you can find over here

* The reviews referred to with the asterisk were originally published as Notes on my Facebook page. Eventually I plan to add them to the Reviews section of this blog.


The Disclaimers
Every year when I put out this list, I look at it and worry what readers will think about the disproportionate number of films I consider good versus the bad. For all you first time readers, here’s my stock excuse: I do my best to research the films I watch so as not to waste my time and money on a bad experience. Naturally a few slip through. Those of you who have followed me in previous years will notice that my list is about half as long as usual. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve become even more discerning. I’d like to believe it’s because I have a better social life. The reality is likely a mix of the two, plus a lack of funds and just a dash of laziness.

As usual, I stuck to fairly literal definitions of the ratings: 5 Stars = Outstanding, 4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Poor. Anything with 4 or greater is highly recommended; 2 or lower is a waste of your time. [see the complete ranked list here]

The Titles
Usually I write out full reviews for all my top rated films. This year I noticed some (purely coincidental) patterns cropping up in movie titles – the number 9, for instance – and thought: “Why not organize a year-end summary around these arbitrary and abstract connections?” Why not, indeed. This will leave out some of my favorites, but just trust me: if it’s in my Top 10, I loved it, and you should watch it.

So, where better to start than number one. That way there’s nowhere to go but up, both sequentially and in terms of quality. Year One has the distinction of being the very worst movie I watched all year. And really that’s saying quite a lot, especially given how much I like Michael Cera and Jack Black and David Cross. But their presences are completely wasted. This film has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. Avoid at all costs. And if you’ve already watched it, you have my sincerest condolences for the loss of your time and money.

Moving ever so slightly up the quality scale, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is an entertaining bit of fluff from Tony Scott. Say what you will about Scott, but he knows his niche. He is a master of using lots of quick edits and a super-fast pace to keep his audiences entertained and distracted enough to not notice all the plot holes and ridiculous contrivances in the script. Still, there’s no good reason to remake a movie, unless you can improve upon the original. This one does not.

(500) Days of Summer on the other hand is hugely entertaining and excellently crafted. It’s funny, heartbreaking and keeps you surprised and guessing. Quality romantic comedies are a breed on the brink of extinction; rare gems like this should be protected.

Three big films with the number nine seems like it should be an omen of some kind. As Richard Dreyfus would say: “this means something. This is important.” Or not. 9, Nine, and District 9 were, respectively, very good (though the original short film was better), terrible (see my Jan 3 review*), and excellent (see my Aug 15 review*). District 9 has actually grown on me since I first saw it. I still have the same few complaints, but they are so minor compared to everything that’s great about it.

The S Men
A Single Man and A Serious Man are actually two different movies. No really! I thought they were the same film at first, especially when they were never referred to in the same article. Upon seeing them, the similarities go beyond just title: amazing, unique visual styles and superb career-making performances by both leads, playing men unable to reconcile life in mid-century Americana.

Up, Up and Away
A couple of films took to the skies, flying high above the usual cinematic dreck. Up in the Air proves that Jason Reitman is no fluke. He is a serious talent who has gotten better and better with each film. Up proves that even an average Pixar movie is still far and away superior to pretty much everything else.

The Heart of the Matter
Paper Heart is a pseudo-documentary about and awkward hipster who doesn’t believe in love. Crazy Heart can’t be summed up so easily, except to say it’s definitely not that. They have nothing in common besides greatness.

There’s no connection, coincidental or otherwise, between the rest of these, but the following needs to be said:

Food, Inc. should be required viewing in every public school in the country. I lost 55 lbs in 5 months after watching it and deciding to change my eating habits.

Inglourious Basterds is a good movie, but it’s nowhere near as good as everybody else is saying. In fact, I would go so far as to call it Tarantino’s second worst film to date (slightly above Death Proof). (See my Sept 7 review*.)

And finally, you might have noticed in my list that I classified Antichrist as “unrateable.” Again I will direct you to my earlier review (this one from Nov 13*), but for now I will give a brief explanation. It is a very complex work, one of those arthouse films that take several viewings to even begin to unravel. One time through is not enough to give it a fair assessment. The problem is that it is so visually shocking and disturbing, I don’t see how anyone could stand to sit through the whole film and want to go back and watch it again. No one would willingly put themselves through that a second time. So I label it unrateable, except to say: do yourself a favor, don’t even try to watch it.

Instead, go treat yourself to Where the Wild Things Are.

* The reviews referred to with the asterisk were originally published as Notes on my Facebook page. Eventually I plan to add them to the Reviews section of this blog.

The Films – Including the Top 10 – of 2009

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: I also wrote up a ‘quick-bites’ style review of 2009 as a whole, without any rankings or ratings. Check it out over here.


After the Top 10, films are listed alphabetically using a 5-Star rating scale:
1 Star = Bad; 2 Stars = Fair; 3 Stars = Good; 4 Stars = Excellent; 5 Stars = Outstanding.
* Best Picture Nominee

Top 10 (5 Stars)
1. Food, Inc.
2. Where the Wild Things Are
3. (500) Days of Summer
4. Up In The Air *
5. In The Loop
6. The Hurt Locker *
7. Away We Go
8. Paper Heart
9. Crazy Heart
10. (tie) Coraline
10. (tie) Up *

4 1/2 Stars
The Cove
District 9 *
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Informant!
Mia and the Migoo
Precious *
A Serious Man *
Sherlock Holmes
A Single Man

4 Stars
An Education *
Drag Me To Hell
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Public Enemies
Star Trek
Whatever Works
Youth In Revolt

3 1/2 Stars
Avatar *
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
Inglourious Basterds *
Julie & Julia

3 Stars
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Road

2 1/2 Stars
Funny People
The Hangover
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

2 Stars
Angels & Demons
Terminator Salvation

1 Star
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Zero Stars
Year One


Top 10 Films of 2011, and the Rest

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: In retrospect, I would now put Take Shelter clearly over the rest as my #1 film of the year. That movie has stuck with me far more than the others. Also the first Captain America movie would have made it into my top 10.


I have not seen nearly as many new movies this year as I have in the past. Every year this list seems to get smaller and smaller. I’m also gettting lazier in ranking them. I’ve got fewer and simpler categories, and everything is in alphabetical order except for the Top 10. (And even that has a 4-way tie for #1 – I just can’t decide!) All the films in this year’s middle category, “OK Movies,” actually are good movies that I would consider recommendable, except for one or two issues that irk me enough to lower them. I imagine these will be my most controversial choices; please feel free to tell me why I’m wrong, so I can explain to you why I’m not.

One more quick word: I always worry people will question why such a huge percentage of my opinions skew positive, especially in the face of so many bad movies in the theaters these days. I can answer that with one word: RESEARCH. Seriously, in this economy, with such high ticket prices, why take the risk of watching bad movies? Just a little time on the internet, and maybe just a dash of common sense, will tell you that maybe you can wait for Cars 2 to come out on DVD. That’s why, with few exceptions, I just don’t watch bad movies anymore. It’s just not worth it.

Top 10
-tie- The Artist
-tie- Midnight in Paris
-tie- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
-tie- Take Shelter
5. 50/50
6. Hugo
7. Rango
8. Hanna
9. Moneyball
10. Super 8

Good Movies
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter 7.5
The Help
Source Code
Win Win
X-Men: First Class

OK Movies
30 Minutes or Less
The Green Hornet
Hobo with a Shotgun
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Muppets
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The Tree of Life
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Bad Movies
Battle Los Angeles
Cowboys & Aliens
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Your Highness

The Films of 2008

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: I can’t believe how many movies I was able to catch in 2008. 80 films, and that’s not even counting the shorts! Compare that to 2015’s mere 32.
Glory days, I tell ya…


After the Top 20, films are listed alphabetically using a 5-Star rating scale:
1 Star = Bad; 2 Stars = Fair; 3 Stars = Good; 4 Stars = Excellent; 5 Stars = Outstanding.
* Oscar Nominee; + Best Picture Nominee

Top 5 *****
1. WALL-E *
2. The Visitor *
-tie- The Dark Knight *
-tie- Frost/Nixon *+
-tie- Slumdog Millionaire *+

Top 20 ****1/2
6. The Wrestler *
7. I’ve Loved You So Long
8. Synecdoche, NY
9. Happy-Go-Lucky *
10. Let the Right One In
11. Encounters at the End of the World *
12. Revolutionary Road *
13. Milk *+
14. In Bruges *
15. Rachel Getting Married *
16. Hellboy II: The Golden Army *
17. Che
18. Charlie Bartlett
19. Cassandra’s Dream
20. Vicky Cristina Barcelona *

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Burn After Reading
Doubt *
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Frozen River *
Gran Torino
Iron Man *
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Son of Rambow
Wendy and Lucy

Changeling *
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button *+
The Duchess *
The Fall
Fear(s) of the Dark
Hamlet 2
Man On Wire *
Pineapple Express

Australia *
Be Kind Rewind
Defiance *
The Foot Fist Way
Funny Games
The Reader *+
Tropic Thunder *
The Wackness

The Bank Job
Ghost Town
Horton Hears a Who
The Incredible Hulk (’08)
Kung Fu Panda *
Pride & Glory
Smart People
Then She Found Me
Zach & Miri Make a Porno

The Forbidden Kingdom
Get Smart
Quantum of Solace
Young @ Heart

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Chapter 27
The Onion Movie
Wanted *

1/2 Star
Speed Racer
The Spirit

Zero Stars
The Day the Earth Stood Still

(Listed in order of quality; recommended films in italics)

La Maison en Petits Cubes *
Presto *
John and Karen
Oktapodi *
Lavatory-Lovestory *

Hot Dog
This Way Up *

The Pig *
On the Line *
The Real Son
Memphis Calling
Just One of the Gynos
I Kicked Luis Guzman in the Face

Manon On the Asphalt *
New Boy *
Second Guessing Grandma
Toyland *
Irish Twins
Al’s Beef
Arafat & I

(I honestly don’t remember anything about these other Live-Action shorts…)
3 Stories About Evil
Anatomy of Numbers
The Consequences of Absolute Freedom
Horsefingers 3: Starfucker
The Perfect Match
Side Effects

Top 5 Films of 2008

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!


Last year I started out by saying, “2007 was a remarkably good year for film.” I still stand by that. I only mention it to emphasize this: 2008 was not. This is not to say there weren’t any good movies – there were. But the average is lower. Many of my favorites still have inescapable flaws. (Though they’re still worth watching despite them.) Whereas last year I saw 22 films that I felt merited a 5-Star rating, this year there are 5. And only one of them would be at place among last years Top 10.

Due to the sharp difference in quality, I have changed up this year’s format somewhat. Instead of a Top 10 followed by sever other 5-star films, I have created a Top 20 that includes everything with a 4 1/2 rating or higher.

As usual, I stuck to fairly literal definitions of the ratings: 5 Stars = Outstanding, 4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Poor. Anything with 4 or greater is highly recommended, but even some of the 2’s are worth checking out, despite their flaws.

Top 5 (*****)
2. The Visitor
-tie- The Dark Knight
-tie- Frost/Nixon
-tie- Slumdog Millionaire

WALL-E – I said before that one film from this year would be at place among last year’s Top 10. Not only would WALL-E be very near the top of that list, it is perhaps one of the greatest films of this decade. It is certainly the best animated film, and it should rank with 2001 among the greatest space movies of all time. Yes I realize how crazy that sounds, not least because at heart it’s really a romantic comedy (of all things!). It’s also a thrilling adventure, a cautionary tale, a technical marvel, and the most skilled storytelling I’ve seen in a long time. And gutsy: it dares to be a family film with no dialogue for the first 30 minutes, and pulls it off. I don’t want to oversell it, but this is required viewing for… well, everybody.

The Visitor – Lonely widower Richard Jenkins (in an Oscar nominated role) on a business trip returns to the New York apartment he hasn’t set foot in for years, only to discover an illegal immigrant couple who have been scammed into renting it. They become friends and live and learn from each other in a plot that in other hands would be predictable and boring. The hands behind this one however, are those of Thomas McCarthy, the skillful writer/director behind 2003’s The Station Agent. In those hands The Visitor becomes a vibrant, life-affirming masterwork. That is, until the horrific 2nd half involving near Brazil-like government bureaucracy. I can’t say more without giving away too much. Suffice it to say there’s a reason this film holds my #2 spot.

(The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, and Slumdog Millionaire are tied for third and listed in alphabetical order. I just couldn’t figure out how to rank one higher than either of the other two.)

The Dark Knight – This is no fantasy adventure comic book story about a superhero. Instead Christopher Nolan has created genre-bending crime drama that serves as a treatise on modern society’s glorification of chaos, crime and vigilantism. From the earliest westerns, we have always thrilled to see the black-hats ransack the village so that we can cheer when the white-hat rides in and saves the day. But now the white-hat (a.k.a. The Dark Knight) has been transplanted into a world where there are no easy answers even for a gunslinger-with-a-heart-of-gold. Our world. Or near enough that we can easily imagine it’s ours. Forget about Heath Ledger’s amazing Loki-esque God-of-Chaos turn as the Joker. Forget about the guy in the cape. This is an ensemble piece acted and directed with precision. It is also a modern fable destined to be a classic of cinema history.

Frost/Nixon – The movie adaptation of the stage play recreating the 1977 interviews between David Frost and Richard Nixon. This is a career best for probably everyone involved in this film, including diector Ron Howard who’s potential behind the camera of his good-not-great films Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind is finally realized. It seems he has finally learned the importance of subtlety. For the most part it appears that he has decided to sit back and let the actors do all the work (and incredible work they do!), but the whole story comes together with a technical precision that could only be attributed first-rate director. I’m young enough that I never knew about these interviews before. Now that I see the movie, it plays not like a history lesson, but rather a poignant allegory for the Bush years: “I’m saying when the President does it, that means it’s NOT illegal!”

Slumdog Millionaire – This is actually a deceptively simple love story that has probably been told hundreds of times in as many different ways. In the hands of the brilliant Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later), however, it becomes a vibrant thrilling work of art that feels as fresh and original as anything. Jamal goes on India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Miraculously question relates to a part of his life growing up in the slums of Mumbai. The majority of the film is told in flashbacks to that childhood, where he meets and eventually falls in love with Latika but always loses her at the last minute. The story’s reliance on the theme of destiny threatened to be a turn-off, but the beauty and energy with which it’s told (strangely reminding me of the great Amelie) made me fall in love with it.