My first year watching all the nominees. No full-length reviews for any, but a page of capsule reviews is here.

WINNER: The Hurt Locker. A tremendous achievement in film-making, marred only by the last minute grafting-on of a bit of more traditional melodrama in the last half hour.

Avatar. Efficient, and a joy to look at, but hardly a work of art.

The Blind Side. Couldn’t bring myself to watch it, sorry.

District 9. Amazing and original science fiction satire with wonderful performances and eye-popping effects.

An Education. Dull TV movie inexplicably nominated for an Oscar.

Inglorious Basterds. Demented war movie with impressive moments and a star-making turn from Christoph Waltz.

Precious. Amazing debut from Lee Daniels, but he has so far failed to live up to the promise.

A Serious Man. Fairly typical Coen fare, but better plotted than some more recent efforts.

Up. Joyful Pixar fantasy, if not quite up there with their very best, but goodness that’s a high bar to clear.

Up in the Air. Fascinating near-miss, with an arresting premise that doesn’t quite give the film the energy it needs to get over the finish line.


A pretty strong year, although nothing quite as good as The Hurt Locker.

WINNER: The King’s Speech. Obvious Oscar-bait but very well done by all concerned. Included in round-up here.

127 Hours. The definition of an unfilmable story, made into pure cinema by a director at the top of his form. Included in round-up here.

Black Swan. Hysterical fantasy with some effective moments. Review here.

Inception. Perfect popcorn entertainment. Included in round-up here.

The Kids Are All Right. Dreary soapy drama, like an earnest version of Modern Family. Included in round-up here.

The Social Network. Very nifty biopic which with great script, smart directing and a terrific lead performance. Included in round-up here.

Toy Story 3. Obviously an animated sequel was never going to win, but it walked off with Best Animated Feature. Included in round-up here.

True Grit. Redundant but well-executed remake. Included in round-up here.

Winter’s Bone. Posterity now views this as “the film which discovered Jennifer Lawrence” but it holds little of interest for the Hunger Games fan. Included in round-up here.


A far less interesting year with some real clunkers in the nominees list.

WINNER The Artist. Nostalgia rules, because this is all tinsel and no substance. Review here.

The Descendants. My favourite film of the batch. Complex without being convoluted, truthful without being shapeless. Hardly a classic for the ages though. Review here.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Genuinely rotten. The first truly bad film I saw as part of this exercise (but not the last). Review here.

The Help. Coy and winsome treatment of race relations in America. The mix plays rather strangely. Review here.

Hugo. More Hollywood nostalgia, elegantly mounted, but ball-less. Review here.

Midnight in Paris. One good joke does not elevate this self-indulgent doodle to greatness. Review here.

Moneyball. Rather straightforward story, carried like Atlas on Brad Pitt’s movie star shoulders. Review here.

The Tree of Life. Bewilderingly dull coming-of-age drama inexplicably juxtaposed with the creation of the universe. It’s not exactly bad, but I didn’t enjoy it. Review here.

War Horse. As a piece of pure directing, it’s a triumph, but the story dances constantly on the verge of absurdity. Review here.


A very strong year, with some absolutely marvellous films nominated.

WINNER Argo. Perfect Hollywood mix of satire, melodrama, adventure and social comment. Review here.

Amour. Exquisitely painful, brutally honest, not without moments of beauty. Review here.

Beasts of the Southern Wild. Probably very good, but I didn’t quite get it. Review here.

Django Unchained. Badly flawed Tarantino nonsense with some moments of power. Review here.

Les Miserables. When it’s good (Anne Hathaway) it’s amazing, but when it’s bad (Russell Crowe) it’s diabolical. Hugh Jackman saves it but the production design of all things almost kills it again. Review here.

Life of Pi. Charming and eye-popping but not terribly deep. Review here.

Lincoln. Astonishing achievement, but never likely to capture a wide audience. Review here.

Silver Linings Playbook. For good or for ill, the David O Russell, Jennifer Lawrence awards machine starts here. Review here.

Zero Dark Thirty. – Alas, not a patch on The Hurt Locker, but a noble attempt. Review here.


Pleasingly varied, with some very strong contenders.

WINNER 12 Years a Slave. Awkwardly paced and structured, but containing very powerful moments. Review here.

American Hustle. Superior popcorn fare, with a muddled middle redeemed by a more purposeful, if conventional final act. Review here.

Captain Phillips. Relentlessly focused thriller with an astounding central performance. Review here.

Dallas Buyers Club. Amazing turn from McConnaghey but the narrative doesn’t completely hang together. Review here.

Gravity. Amazing technical achievement, and heart-stopping thrill-ride, given a human centre by Sandra Bullock’s committed playing at the centre of all the pixels. Review here.

Her. Sweetly idiosyncratic fantasy that struggles slightly to find a focus. Review here.

Nebraska. Elderly road-trip tragi-comedy with several bright moments. Review here.

Philomena. Unambitious but heartfelt and poignant drama with marvellous performances. Review here.

The Wolf of Wall Street. Hilariously ghastly, a sort of hedonist’s nightmare. Scorsese at the top of his game. Review here.


Some good, some very good, some ghastly.

WINNER Birdman. Technically dazzling, strong performances and a very engaging storyline means it overcomes a couple of over-familiar scenes. Review here.

American Sniper. Uncertain telling of an uneasy story, which avoids excess but whose restraint makes it feel rather inconclusive. Review here.

Boyhood. An amazing achievement in movie making, but only a limited success in terms of narrative. Review here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel. Utterly charming, very funny and delightfully sure-foot fantasy. Capsule review here.

The Imitation Game. Chocolate box visuals smeared over a gibberish script. Horrible. Review here.

Selma. Powerful evocation of person, time and place which taught me a lot of history. Review here.

The Theory of Everything. Bland biopic which never catches fire. Review here.

Whiplash. Amazingly confident and often riveting battle of wills. Review here.


A slightly bland year, dominated by well-made films with small ambitions.

WINNER Spotlight. Probably a compromise choice. Well-made and engrossing but limited in scope and with no other compelling features. Review here.

The Big Short. Breezy sit-com which is fun to watch but doesn’t illuminate much. Review here.

Bridge of Spies. Spielberg, Hanks and Rylance are a formidable team. Maybe not an all-time classic but very, very well-made. Review here.

Brooklyn. Sweet and affecting but never remotely surprising. Review here.

The Martian. Well-executed adventure film with a lively guest cast, but nothing more than that. Review here.

The Revenant. Another well-executed adventure film, with a very different aesthetic and a bit more to say, or a few more pretensions, depending on your point of view. Review here.

Room. Probably my favourite this year, a genuinely unique story with a very specific point of view that never seems gimmicky. Review here.


Middle-of-the-road stuff for the most part, the eventual winner Moonlight standing out as genuinely original, and Manchester by the Sea most perfectly realising its ambitions.

WINNER Moonlight. Daring in both content and structure, beautifully shot and scored, a worthy winner if not quite my favourite. Review here.

Arrival. Science fiction whose linguistic invention is more novel than its causality loops, even if the twist is elegantly hidden. Review here.

Fences. Lumpen and stagey adaptation which bursts briefly into brilliant life towards the end. Review here.

Hacksaw Ridge. Well-staged but sadistic and surprisingly incoherent. A poor tribute to a brave man. Review here.

Hell or High Water. Rather run-of-the-mill modern Western with little new to say, but well enough done. Review here.

Hidden Figures. Passes the time and commemorates some brilliant women, but happy to operate at a sit-com level for most of the running time. Review here.

La La Land. Definitely a worthy nominee, although I remain unconvinced that the ending delivers the bitter-sweet irony it’s going for – but everything else worked for me. Review here.

Lion. Intensely moving, with a wonderful opening hour and a hammer-blow ending that almost makes up for a severe sag at the ninety minute mark. Review here.

Manchester by the Sea. A detailed exploration of tragic circumstances which manages to be heartfelt without being sentimental, powerful without being melodramatic, and is unafraid to be funny if that would help. Masterful. Review here.


Some striking offerings, and no outright disasters, but many efforts are easily bettered by their own directors.

WINNER The Shape of Water. Brilliantly original fantasy with luminous performances, but try not to think about how silly it all is. Review here.

Call Me By Your Name. Light on plot, but heavy on beautiful character moments, this lags only briefly towards the end, and Timothee Chalamet is a revelation. Review here.

Darkest Hour. Animated history lesson, with some scenes of real power, and some of utter silliness. Review here.

Dunkirk. Efficiently mounted period epic, with novel structure, but lacking a real feeling for pace or character.

Get Out. Wonderfully well-made and hugely ambitious horror/social satire with good jokes. A huge achievement.

Lady Bird. Excellent as far as it goes, but somewhat limited in its scope. Review here.

Phantom Thread. Divisively twisted love story which didn’t quite work for me, despite excellent performances. Review here.

The Post. Well-made and brilliantly-acted, but straining for relevance in ways that don’t always convince. Review here.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Surprisingly optimistic comedy drama, brilliantly conceived and handled by McDonagh, marred only by some occasionally awkward plotting. Review here.


Rather a thin year overall, with one or two stand-out films, one outright disaster and a slurry of crowd-pleasing, feelgood efforts with little to say.

WINNER Green Book. The apotheosis of this approach – apparently tackling the subject of race, but aiming to reassure rather than confront. Review here.

Black Panther. Well made film, in the usual Marvel style, but not markedly better or worse than half a dozen others. Included in round-up here.

BlacKkKlansman. Very effective procedural, with powerful performances and a hammer-blow ending. Review here.

Bohemian Rhapsody. Generic musical biopic that makes very little sense even if judged only by the inaccurate scenes presented. Would be entirely worthless if not for the sound track and Rami Malek. Review here.

The Favourite. Delirious fever-dream of a movie, but manages to be accessible as well as quirky. A fine achievement from all involved. Review here.

Roma. A staggering achievement from a genius director. One of my favourite films of the decade. See it on the big screen if you can. Review here.

A Star is Born. Remarkably, Bradley Cooper and co. do find something new-ish to do with this perennial tale, even if it doesn’t all quite gel. Review here.

Vice. As usual, Adam McKay throws everything he can at the subject matter. Some of it sticks, but not all. Review here.


An extraordinary year which saw a remarkable film triumph, while – as usual – some splendid efforts were entirely unnoticed and unrewarded.

WINNER Parasite. Immaculately conceived and executed thriller/satire/horror/farce. If you can swallow the tonal shift at the half-way mark, this will have you. I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Roma though – as Bong achieved what Cuaron could not. Review here.

Ford v Ferrari. Only here to make up the numbers. Damon and especially Bale are fine, but honestly, why bother? Review here.

The Irishman. Scorsese’s more-of-the-same is actually anything but, if you have the patience to get to that quiet revelation at the end. Review here.

JoJo Rabbit. Amusing and occasionally very powerful film with a stellar turn from ScarJo but I nevertheless was left a little queasy at the juxtaposition of broad comedy and the Final Solution. Review here.

Joker. Ugh. Review here.

Little Women. Remarkable adaptation, well-played by an excellent cast and superbly handled by Gerwig. Review here.

1917. A big, ambitious film from a big ambitious director. Mendes lazily swats aside Scorsese, Mangold and the rest, but somehow couldn’t stand up to the onslaught of Bong. Review here.

Marriage Story. A fine film with no less than five star turns as well as some delightful cameos, but there’s an untapped seam of weirdness which goes unexplored. Review here.


After a year spent indoors, the Best Picture nominees are mainly small intimate dramas. Some very fine films here, but I could have done with a bit more variety in approach.

WINNER Nomadland. Oddly peaceful depiction of the human cost of unfettered capitalism in which Frances McDormand perfectly integrates into a cast of non-professional actors. Not my favourite, but I can’t imagine a better version of this material. Review here.

The Father. Brilliantly-acted and unpredictable drama which doesn’t lose anything in the transition from stage to screen but doesn’t really gain much either. Review here.

Judas and the Black Messiah. Powerful character study which sensibly distances itself from its most famous historical figure – a star-making turn from Daniel Kaluuya. Review here.

Mank. Thoroughly lousy and immensely smug biopic which apes Citizen Kane without understanding anything about its history or its technique. Review here.

Minari. Simply-told and very effective spin on the American dream. The family dynamic is expertly captured and on its own small scale it’s pretty perfect. Review here.

Promising Young Woman. Startling feature debut from major talent Emerald Fennell, this had me almost – but not quite – to the very end. Review here.

Sound of Metal. Fierce, stripped back personal drama, showing us a very unfamiliar world and anchored by an astounding performance from Riz Ahmed. Probably my favourite of the crop. Review here.

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Vastly entertaining and sometimes shocking true life tale expertly assembled by Sorkin but looking almost too polished and glossy in this company. Review here.


Back to normal for the ceremony, and a decent spread of Best Picture nominees.

WINNER CODA. After-school special with powerhouse but unstarry cast. I enjoyed watching it but have no particular desire to see it again. Review here.

Belfast. Blandly inoffensive confection buoyed by strong performances and given an extra bit of grit by the background of The Troubles, but again intended to reassure and not to challenge. Review here.

Don’t Look Up. Anything-for-a-laugh, scattershot satire which didn’t once have me thinking “Oh that’s so true,” but often had me thinking “How much more of this is there?” Included in round-up.

Drive My Car. Spellbinding multi-lingual drama in which everyone has a story to tell. Review here.

Dune. Handsome adaptation of half a weighty book, which avoids most (but not all) of the traps of the genre and balances a strong cast with some eye-popping visuals. Included in round-up.

King Richard. Simplistic ABC of tennis meglomaniac, whose star was the only good thing about it before he demonstrated that he’s just a child with anger management issues. Review here.

Licorice Pizza. Blazingly original love-across-the-generations tale which only Paul Thomas Anderson could have made. Review here.

Nightmare Alley. Glossy fantasy with a star turn from Bradley Cooper, but a synthetic feel which robs it of deeper connection. Review here.

The Power of the Dog. Maddening, ugly, entrancing, beautiful, complex drama about toxic masculinity which maybe only a woman could have brought to the screen. I didn’t always enjoy watching it, but I’m very keen to see it again – the exact opposite of my feelings about Coda. Included in round-up.

West Side Story. Improves on the 1961 film in some respects, but flubs others. A great showcase for Zegler, Faist and DeBose but maybe doesn’t quite justify its existence in the way Spielberg hoped – and I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Robbins/Wise version. Included in round-up.


Exciting year with tremendous breadth, billion-dollar blockbusters rubbing shoulders with tiny psycho-dramas.

American Fiction. Biting satire with warmth (as opposed to the rat-tat-tat yuck-fest it was sold as). Review here.

Anatomy of a Fall. Engrossing and highly unusual courtroom drama, where even the lead actor didn’t know if she dunnit or or not. Review here.

Barbie. Bonkers fantasy which manges to consume the hand that’s feeding it, practically up to the shoulder. Included in round-up here.

The Holdovers. Over-familiar comedy-drama, with lovely period feel and strong performances, but what’s it for? Review here.

Killers of the Flower Moon. Scorsese marshalls the material as impressively as ever, although the length is an issue, as it both rushes the ending and goes on for a fortnight. Review here.

Maestro. Formless biopic which reeks of behind-the-camera effort rather than any particular insights into a career or a life. Included in round-up here.

Oppenheimer. Nolan’s achievement is extraordinary in many ways, but it’s hard to keep building after you’ve exploded the world’s first atom bomb. Included in round-up here.

Past Lives. Quiet, unhurried exploration of paths not taken and those not loved, in a beautiful debut from Celine Song. Included in round-up here.

Poor Things. Thrillingly loopy riff on Frankenstein, and Emma Stone is astonishing, but its feminist credentials are undermined by all the nudity. Review here.

The Zone of Interest. The holocaust happens when you aren’t looking. Bizarre and compelling Nazi drama, but not what I’d call entertainment. Review here.