The Oscars have arrived.

Just watched the announcement of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture:

Black Swan – Haven’t seen it, not sure if I can take another two hours of Darren Aronofsky treating me like an idiot (and Natalie Portman crying).
The Fighter – Also haven’t seen it. Pretty much know what this has to offer, and I like my triumphs of the human spirit without screamy man speeches.
Inception – Mindblowing visuals. Headache-inducing story.
The Kids are All Right – A charming enough family drama that benefits greatly from the existence of Annette Bening.
The King’s Speech – A charming enough British period piece that benefits greatly from the existence of Geoffrey Rush.
127 Hours – My indifference to this one has resulted in me not having seen it. Crazy, huh?
The Social Network – A look at what megalomania looks like in the 21st century, propelled by fabulously constructed, rapid-fire dialogue.
Toy Story 3 – Missed the first and second parts of the series, and have heard from many folks that this installment will make me miserably sad. Maybe I’ll wait until summer to take in the trilogy.
True Grit – Jeff Bridges’ blustery performance is a treat, but the way the Coens make room for him in this simple adventure story is equally enthralling.
Winter’s Bone – Where Deliverance was gratuitous, these backwoods are stark, quietly frightening, and ultimately hopeful.

Franz List: Worst Pictures

How can you tell I’m not a real movie critic, beyond my lack of knowledge and questionable writing ability? I care about the Oscars. In 1992, when Silence of the Lambs cleaned house, I was watching the event for the first time. And considering that Silence of the Lambs was pretty much the greatest movie I’d ever seen, I thought this award show was pretty cool (despite Billy Crystal’s insufferable bullshit). Since then, however, I’ve felt like Clarice Starling – horrified and fumbling in the darkness.

With Oscar season upon us – nominations will be announced on January 25, with the ceremony set for February 27  – I figured why not relive some of those horrible moments? Here’s my list of the five worst movies to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in my lifetime.

5. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
What if Romeo & Juliet was autobiographical? This is the concept behind Shakespeare in Love, a movie that would be inane enough if it didn’t poison a grade A cast with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck. If whimsy’s what you’re after, there’s more than enough here to choke an ox.

What I was rooting for: The Thin Red Line. While I’m not one for war movies, and found Terence Malick’s meditative style a bit tedious, at least the thing was beautiful.

4. Crash (2005)
Do the Trite Thing.

What I was rooting for: Brokeback Mountain. Thought I’d actually be happy this time, as a movie I adored was the odds-on favorite. I hadn’t learned my lesson.

3. Titanic (1997)
There’s usually something moving about characters who carry flames for a lost lover, deep into old age. But when James Cameron tried to find a common thread between this type of romance and one of history’s most epic tragedies, the result was as unfeeling as the iciest of Arctic waters.

What I was rooting for: L.A. Confidential. Even though Russell Crowe is a walking cliché, it’s film noir done right.

2. American Beauty (1999)
In the real world, when a middle-aged man gets his mid-life crisis Corvette, it’s embarrassing. In American Beauty, when he does this times 100, he’s a hero. And beyond telling us to worship at the altar of the male ego, the movie teaches us a valuable lesson about closeted homosexuals: They will murder you!

What I was rooting for: The Sixth Sense. One of the most imaginative ghost stories I’ve ever seen; the best of a very weak field.

1. Forrest Gump (1994)
A man does whatever he’s told – including going to war – without once questioning if it’s in his best interests, and lives an impossibly exciting life. A woman fights for what she believes in, and dies of AIDS. I’m pretty sure Dick Cheney wrote this.

What I was rooting for: Pulp Fiction. Like, duh.

I Love You Phillip Morris finally breaks out.

America loves a good con man. And damn, does America love Jim Carrey (even Yes Man made $97 million domestically). So why was it so damn hard to find a U.S. distributor for Carrey’s whimsical con man romance I Love You Phillip Morris? Well, because America doesn’t exactly love gay people.

Carrey plays Steven Russell, a real-life shyster genius who broke out of prison four times, in increasingly imaginative fashion, for the express purpose of reuniting with his lover, Phillip Morris (played with Southern Belle-ish innocence by Ewan McGregor). It’s an outrageous true story, in the sense that Russell was outrageously sociopathic and the Texas authorities were outrageously stupid. But U.S. distributors found the romance to be the outrageous part, and as a result, a movie that was screened at Cannes in 2009 didn’t hit American screens until the end of 2010.

I’m just happy the thing got released at all. It’s the first comedy of Carrey’s career that isn’t dominated by the star’s rubber-faced gesticulating – a credit to first-time directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who clearly have a knack for black comedies with hearts of gold (they co-wrote Bad Santa as well). It would’ve been fun enough to just watch Russell commit insurance fraud, launder money and impersonate attorneys – when he recklessly improvises in a judge’s chambers, you really realize you’re rooting for him. But I Love You Phillip Morris is more generous than, say, Catch Me If You Can, giving us clever jabs at corporate America, warm and fuzzy memories of dong-shaped clouds, spirited middle fingers to the man, and brief, tender glimpses of two people in love.

Yes, Carrey’s lack of subtlety is problematic at times, if only because it triggers memories of talking assholes. But Steven Russell was anything but a subtle dude. If the opposite were true, he wouldn’t have gotten caught so easily, and the most outrageous thing about this story – an injustice of a life sentence – might have been avoided.

Top 20 Tracks of 2010

I wasn’t gonna do this list. But now I did it. You wanna fight about it?

20. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “In Pairs”

Life ain’t like Noah’s ark – human pairings are little more complicated. But this ragged little sing-a-long reminds you that it’s OK to smile, even if nobody’s there to see it.

19. M.I.A. – “XXXO”
This thunderous dose of electro-pop warns that bad sex leads to social media. M.I.A.’s narrator discovers that tweeted love notes are too easily tossed-off – just like those symbols for hugs and kisses.

18. The Body – “A Body”
A delicate choral passage reaches its crescendo, only to be mercilessly deconstructed, resulting in a 10-minute hurtle from heaven into hell.

17. Big Boi – “Shutterbugg”
Funky, buoyant and celebratory, Big Boi’s single didn’t just make for mandatory summer listening, it also showed that the talkbox might be about to give AutoTune a run for its money.

16. Eels – “Little Bird”
Nobody does melancholy quite like Eels. Here, their bandleader E is so hard up for affection, he bemoans his unrequited love to a bird that ho
ps onto his porch. How gorgeously pathetic.

15. Kanye West – “Runaway”
“You’ve been puttin’ up with my shit just way too long” – the closest thing to an apology you’re ever gonna get from a rock star.

14. She & Him – “I’m Gonna Make It Better”
Reassuring lyrics, floating on a bed of lightly twanging guitars. For fans of ’70s AM pop, it’s the cure for what ails you.

13. Vampire Weekend – “Diplomat’s Son”
I thought nostalgia trips resulted in some kind of sadness or regret. But when your memories are of lying around dressed in white, smoking joints with rich kids, they result in exhilarating synth-reggae songs.

12. The Roots – “Right On”
On a record about the power of positive attitudes, a beat that’ll make you feel invincible.

11. Rihanna – “What’s My Name”
How do you know you’re in love? When somebody gives you goosebumps, just by saying your name.

10. Sleigh Bells – “Crown on the Ground”
So. Damn. Loud.

9. Ke$ha – “Your Love is My Drug”
A melody that’s as tough to shake as lovesickness.

8. Jamey Johnson – “Heartache”
Heartache isn’t just a state of mind, it’s an evil entity. Johnson sings from the perspective of this grim reaper of relationships, breaking up everyone from caveman couples to Charles and Diana.

7. Janelle Monae – “Dance or Die”
Latin rhythms, undulating raps, soap opera organ – a lean, propulsive sonic assault unlike any other.

6. Antony & The Johnsons – “The Great White Ocean”
Spare, stunning chamber folk about family dynamics in the afterlife. Should be sung in church.

5. Gorillaz – “White Flag”
A Lebanese orchestra, a pair of imaginative British MCs, and Damon Albarn’s ever-expanding vision make for the most successfully eclectic track of 2010.

4. Bruno Mars – “Just the Way You Are”
The love song of the year, with a mighty catchy chorus to boot.

3. Cee Lo Green – “Fuck You”
The love child of “I Want You Back” and “Gold Digger,” brilliantly arranged and sung by the most expressive vocalist in R&B. Adorable.

2. Erykah Badu – “Window Seat”
An empowering anthem for both frustrated lovers and claustrophobic travelers, sung with the kind of quiet confidence we last heard on Baduizm.

1. Kanye West – “Monster”
The drums are huge, the personas even huger – a six-minute running time is barely enough to contain all the chest-beating rants and paranoid fantasies.
The year’s illest track, in both senses of the word.