Up - B+
Still not the best of Pixar's films, it is a heart-tugging adventure that gets underway quickly and never bores. Should win Best Animated Feature easily.
A Serious Man - B+
The Coen Brothers strike again! Quirky humor, an opening that seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of the film and an ending that left most of the audience grumbling (I was laughing). Following the life of a put-upon Jewish man, his bizarre family and comically failing marriage, the laughs come easily and, like many Coen films, don't look for dramatic payoff.
The Hurt Locker - B
The military/war film formula hasn't altered much over the decades. The wars and technology change, but themes of alienation, brotherhood, finding oneself in life-or-death situations and soldiers unable to reaclimate don't. The Hurt Locker doesn't add anything new to the formula, but it's tense, well-directed and quickly paced.
An Education - A-
Probably the most surprising of the Best Picture nominees, this movie shouldn't be pigeon-holed with a simple English girl coming-of-age tag. It's remarkably witty, thanks to strong performances by fresh-faced Carey Mulligan and seasoned Alfred Molina. Mulligan plays a teenage girl compelled to choose between her intellect and the affections of a charming playboy (Peter Sarsgaard).
District 9 - A-
I admit to being shocked this was nominated (one of the perks of the expanded field of nominees), but the sci-fi premise is only the means to tell a gritty, action-filled allegory of apartheid and racial tension.
If you're watching the awards tonight, enjoy and if you want a drinking game, take a shot every time someone thanks their agent, a nominee obviously fakes a smile after losing and someone cracks a painful Avatar joke.