2010

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.

2011

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.

2012

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.

2013

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.

2014

Pleasing 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.

2015

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.

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.

2016

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.

2017

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 it’s 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.