Some people are the summer type, some like winter -- but my favourite season is Oscar season. And the 85th annual Academy Awards are finally here, Sunday, February 24, hosted by Seth MacFarlane.

Since 2009 the Academy has upped the ante for the Best Picture category, doubling the amount of nominees from five to 10 possible films in the category. This year, only nine were deemed worthy to battle for the most prestigious of the golden statuettes, each with its own unique story to tell.

Of those nine, there was a wide range of talent and entertainment on display, and all manner of genres to choose from. We watched history come alive during Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in Lincoln. We dealt with mental illness head-on through Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. We cringed during Django Unchained when slave owners enacted violent punishments, and sang along with Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables. (N.B.: I don't condone actually singing in the theatre -- shh!)

I think that's why I love Oscar season so much -- movies seem always to reach out and touch a part of you, to connect and become a part of your life, and this is the time to reflect on the films that touched us the most.

Learn a little bit more about each Best Picture nominee:



Amour Director: Michael Haneke Runtime: 127 minutes

"There is a certain indescribable manner in which Michael Haneke is able to lure you into his films that leaves you in a state of both shock and awe. ... Such is the case with Amour, a heart-wrenching and unflinching portrait of an elderly couple faced with the trials and tribulations of their own mortality when confronted with the inevitable demise we all face. In showcasing the intimate pain of watching someone you love slowly suffer, Haneke takes a departure from his usually emotionally-detached narrative tropes, offering his most humane film to date." - Raffi Asdourian, "Amour: Cannes 2012 Review"

Argo Director: Ben Affleck Run Time: 120 minutes

"This general ignorance about Canada exists in culture across the board, which is a sad reality, but it makes Ben Affleck's Argo all the more important in the grand scheme of things. For once (and I use the word "once" because I don't think this has ever happened before in a movie), Canada (and by extension, Canadians) comes across as clever, devious, innovative -- but most of all, awesome." - Chris Jancelewicz, "Argo makes Canada cool, for once"

Beasts of the Southern Wild Director: Benh Zeitlin Run Time: 93 minutes

"Cheap, amateurish and sometimes just plain hard to watch, Beasts enjoyed a wave of overwrought critical hosannas, going all the way back to when the film first was shown more than a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival (where it won the always-suspect grand-jury prize, frequently given to an all-but-unwatchable film). It then got a much-vaunted sneak preview at last year's New Directors/New Films series and, by the time it was released in June, was on track to be one of the best reviewed films of the year." - Marshall Fine, "Why Beasts of the Southern Wild doesn't deserve its Oscar nominations"

"Beasts of the Southern Wild is a powerful film about a young girl trying as best as she can to adapt to love, loss and abandonment amidst her ever-changing circumstance." - Vanessa Ciccone, "Beasts of the Southern Wild: A review"

Django Unchained Director: Quentin Tarantino Run Time: 165 minutes

"Simply put: slavery was shockingly despicable nearly beyond description and, as such, should it be the centerpiece of a movie with such a cheeky tone? That's the conundrum. However, it's becoming clear to me that Tarantino made something far deeper than a spaghetti western -- or at least deeper than the spaghetti westerns I've seen. I've come to realize that his chosen homage/genre was simply a launching point into a much more substantive story about an unlikely friendship, joined in a quest for an unlikely love story. But more than anything else, Tarantino has duped a lot of movie-goers into seeing a film about the monstrous, cancerous true nature of American slavery, and I'd wager that a considerable number of people who saw Django Unchained probably didn't see Spielberg's Amistad or The Color Purple or any other historical drama about slavery, many of which were sanitized for mass appeal." - Bob Cesca, "Why Django Unchained is one the most important movies of the year"

Les Miserables Director: Tom Hooper Run Time: 158 minutes

"How has it taken this long to bring "Les Miserables," in its beloved musical form, to the big screen? Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo and originally premiering on stage in France in 1980, the production was eventually translated for English-speaking audiences and, after a two-year run on Britain's West End, made its Broadway debut in 1987. Pro: Whether it's Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway cutting away all their hair or Russell Crowe going out on a limb with his big rock star baritone, the actors of "Les Mis" really commit to their roles wholeheartedly. Con: With a nearly three-hour runtime (and no intermission where you can retreat to the concession stand), "Les Miserables" wears on you. There's only so much costumed, big-screen opulence you can take (in song), and after about the second hour, things start to drag..." - Drew Taylor, "Les Miserables review: the pros and cons of the musical adaptation"

Life of Pi Director: Ang Lee Run Time: 127 minutes

"Director Ang Lee raises the bar on digital imagery, even as he puts it in service to his story. ... It is as though Lee is painting the film as you watch it. The colors swirl and blend, yet they also define an environment that is at once idyllic and hellish. Shooting on the water -- and underneath it, at times -- he makes Life of Pi a hallucinatory vision of a stark reality." - Marshall Fine, "Movie review: Life of Pi"

Lincoln Director: Steven Spielberg Run Time: 149 minutes

"Spielberg decided to sacrifice entertainment value for historical accuracy. Getting the votes to abolish slavery was tedious business, and the movie shows us that. There's very little action, and a lot of talking -- much of which will seem unfamiliar. The Tony Kushner-written screenplay relies heavily on the common word usage of the day. Daniel Day-Lewis spent a year studying Lincoln in order to give us an accurate portrayal. And he truly is amazing, after we get used to the stooped walk and the unimpressive voice. It's a film that's hard to fully absorb in a single viewing." - Leslie Sisman, "Popcorn preview: Lincoln"

Silver Linings Playbook Director: David O. Russell Run Time: 122 minutes

"David O. Russell has pulled off a tricky feat here, finding just the right tone in crafting a romantic comedy whose sweethearts suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. On paper alone, it sounds cringe-inducing. But he never condescends to his characters; Silver Linings Playbook isn't mawkish, nor is it wacky and crass in the opposite extreme." - Christy Lemire, "Silver Linings Playbook review: Jennifer Lawrence shines in new comedy"

Zero Dark Thirty Director: Kathryn Bigelow Run Time: 157 minutes

"Do yourself a favor, and don't go see this movie. Don't encourage film-making that at best offers ambiguity about torture, and at worst endorses it. Spend the two and a half hours and the $10 on something more valuable, and moral." - Dan Froomkin, "Zero Dark Thirty is a dispicable movie, even is Bigelow and Boal didn't intend it that way"

"Zero Dark Thirty is a disturbing, fantastically-made movie. It will make you hate torture. And it will make you happy you voted for a man who stopped all that barbarity -- and who asked that the people over at Langley, like him, use their brains." - Michael Moore, "In defense of Zero Dark Thirty" %VIRTUAL-MtGallery-236SLIDEEXPAND--281855%
categories Movies