Archive for February, 2010

The Week That Was (25-02-2010): Joanna Newsom; Liars; Roman Polanski; Pantha Du Prince; Devo

Last week it seemed like there was only one record release: Joanna Newsom’s third album’s triple extravaganza has taken the media by storm. Newsom has never been short of ambition and her former opus “Ys” became such a landmark that few thought it could be matched. But the first reactions to “Have One On Me” have been superlative. However, a couple of listenings have left us still unsure if three albums worth of material were necessary or “Have One On Me” would have been much better if shortened. Listen in full during this week at NPR and take your own conclusions.

Joanna Newsom casts a shadow over the rest of the week’s releases, among them ‘Similes’, the new record by Phil Elverum’s ambient project Eluvium and the rather lackluster posthumous sixth volume of Johnny Cash’ “American Recordings”.

Haiti and the many charitable musical causes to help with the earthquake’s aftermath were still generating news. After the devastating catastrophe the world had to suffer –for a good cause- reinterpretations of R.E.M.’ s ‘Everybody Hurts’ performed by Simon Cowell’s puppet factory next to some other British stars and in the US ‘We Are The World’ by a large list of A, B and even some C list artists that happen to be around on Grammy night; now its time for an all-star record that you may actually want to hear: Shane MacGowan and friends covering ‘I Put A Spell On You’. The Pogues’ frontman got Nick Cave, Johnny Depp, Mick Jones, Chrissy Hynde and a few other friends involved in the recording.

Primal Scream generated some headlines by announcing they will be touring in the autumn playing their seminal album “Screamadelica”. The band joins an illustrious list of artists that in recent times are following the trend of playing classic albums in full. More live news, Fleet Foxes’ frontman Robin Pecknold will be touring with Joanna Newsom in what’s likely to be one of the most talked-about double bills of the year and Fairport Convention veteran Richard Thompson will be the curator of London Southbank’s annual festival Meltdown.

Roman Polanski was the toast of the Berlinale after being awarded as best Director for his new film ‘The Ghost Writer‘. The filmmaker was not able to collect the prize as he’s still in house arrest waiting for new developments in his long-standing conflict with the US law. The winner of the Golden Bear was the Turkish film ‘Bal’ (Honey). More details about the rest of the festival’s winners here.

More movie news, Oren Moverman, whose striking debut ‘The Messenger’ has earned an Oscar nomination for best script, will be the director of a film about Kurt Kobain’s life. Moverman is no stranger to writing about music. He earned rave reviews for the imaginative script of Bob Dylan’s biopic ‘I’m Not There’. This week also saw the Oscar nominated shorts hit the American cinemas, a look at this year’s contenderds here.

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Pantha Du Prince offered an excellent show at Cargo, mostly based on the tracks of his magnificent recent album “Black Noise”. The project of Hamburg producer Hendrick Weber showcased his excellent melting pot of shoegaze; Detroit and minimal techno influences in front of an ecstatic audience.

Last week we finally finished watching all of this year’s Oscar nominated films, reaffirming our overall impression that 2009 won’t go down in history as a vintage year for movies. The last two films on hitting British cinemas are ‘Crazy Heart’, Scott Cooper’s debut as a director, which tells the story of a country singer whose career is fading. There’s nothing new or ground-breaking about it, but Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s performances elevate it from being just an average fare. At this state nobody doubts Bridges will grab the statuette on Oscar night.

Other film whose actors have scooped some nominations is Michael Hoffman’s ‘The Last Station’, a period drama about the last days of Russian writer Leon Tolstoi; the peculiar cult surrounding his ideals and the conflict they generate between him and his wife, played by the always excellent Helen Mirren. Both Mirren and Christopher Plummer are nominated and deservedly so, but the film shifts between comedy and drama, failing to feel truly accomplished as either.

New and noteworthy tracks of the week: Beach House, fresh from having released one of the best albums of the year, unveiled a new track “The Arrangement”, destined to be a B-side for an exclusive single the Baltimore couple is releasing for record day. This week also saw the return of the Canadian supergroups, with both The New Pornographers –‘Your Hands (Together)’ and Broken Social Scene ‘World Sick’ offering the first taster from their respective new projects. Bill Callahan was also in the news with the announcement of an imminent best live moments compilation. The anticipating track “Bowery” hit the blogs a few days ago.

Video of the week goes for Vampire Weekend’s star-studded new promo in which the preppie New Yorkers have called their celebrity friends to be filmed during a strange tennis match. Jake Gyllenhaal; RZA; Lil Jon & Joe Jonas helped putting images to “Giving Up The Gun”.

Other interesting clips: Liars finally offered a video for “Scissor”, the first single from their imminent “Sisterworld”. Xiu Xiu’s “Death Grey” and Kanye West still releasing tracks from his tepidly received latest record “808’s & Heartbreak” brought us a disturbing video for “Coldest Winter

And the best free stuff of the week includes surprises such as a new track by Devo. The American new wave masters, after their successful return to the live circuit, announced their first studio album in two decades with the free download of the rather excellent new track “Fresh”. The band is also asking their fans for help choosing colours for their new art and image through a curious marketing research happening at their website.

Antifolk supergroup The Bundles, fronted by ex-Moldy Peaches Kymia Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis, introduced themselves by giving away one of their songs, ‘Pirates Declare War’.

And three top-notch mixtapes for your collection: The way for the imminent collaboration between Method Man; Ghostface Killah & Raekwon –finally under the name of Meth, Goth & Rae- is being paved with a mixtape full of both classic moments of the Wu-tang members and new track premieres. “Avenging Angels” can be downloaded here. Canadian electroclash purveyor Chilly Gonzales is back with his “Pianist Envy” mix; and for the lovers of nu-cumbia DJ Orion has compiled another scorcher called “Carajo Colombia” than can be downloaded on a pay as much as you like basis.

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Caribou Conquers The Loop With ‘Odessa’.


Caribou’s latest track ‘Odessa’ is the new number one in our loop. The first taster of the band’s new album “Swim” has climbed its way to the top after four weeks, beating up competition from the likes of Yeasayer and Pantha Du Prince.

New entries of the week include Goldfrapp’s poptastic ‘Believer’; Los Planetas new single featuring Spanish indie singer La Bien Querida and electronica sensation Gonjasufi, sampling an obscure number by Spanish achilifunk duo from the seventies Las Grecas on his ‘Kowboyz and Indians’.

Check the full loop here.

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2009 Film Review: 10 Worst Movies

As it has become tradition, we begin our annual film recap with those movies we disliked the most. This year we weren’t brave enough to go and see Transformers; Year Zero; Terminator IV or any romantic comedy, which surely saved us from a lot of unsavoury experiences. Not even one of the razzie nominees passed through the filters of our radar. However, there are always particularly vulnerable moments in which some unworthy film manages to fool the boundaries of our rigorous quality control and takes it to a close cinema. The following ten were the worst culprits:
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Film Review 2009

(Edit © Kees van Dijkhuizen, 2009)

2009 ended on a rather low note, finishing a decade in film with no shortage of ups and downs. It was a year that started with the omen of huge changes for the industry, the most significant among them was the adoption of 3-D by all Hollywood majors as the new reigning format. 3-D offers the advantage of successfully putting piracy at bay, as well as being the perfect excuse to raise the price of the admisión, with the alibi of the more expensive technological novelty.

The extra dimension has meant already a big push for popular genres such as animation (“Up”; “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”); horror and science-fiction. “Avatar” is now confirmed as the biggest grossing movie of all time. But its predictable boom was preceded by other excellent works still in the conventional two dimensions –“District 9”; “Star Trek” o “Moon”. Altogether they have put back in the map a long-time devalued genre, lately reduced to the realms of comic adaptation.

But if blockbusters and pop-corn consumption are in good health; art house and world movies gave worrying signs of creative draught, surrounded by alert voices against the narrative impoverishment 3-D is likely to brin. World cinematography has endured a particularly weak twelve months in which the emerging Asian and Latin-American productions seem to have lost part of its attraction in the western world.

Europe offered two of the year’s biggest surpirses: “Let The Right One In” and “A Prophet”, but it didn’t shine exactly for the quantity of its output. The year for reputable authors was rather mixed: For every masterpiece (Haneke impressed with “The White Ribbon”; The Coens achieved at last their long-time pursued great comedy in “A Serious Man”; Kathryn Bigelow’s raw vision of war in Irak caused enormous impact; Gus Van Sant was in charge to take to the big screen the iconic life of gay politician Harvey Milk and Charlie Kauffman debuted as director with the peak of his already verified unique imagination, “Synecdoche, New York”) we also found multiple flops (New works by Frears; Almodóvar; Eastwood; Amenabar and many others didn’t reach their expected high standards). All of it was underlined by notably popular movies such as “500 Days Of Summer”, irrefutable evidence of the ethos and esthetic values of the American independent filmmaking being totally swallowed by the mainstream, without having found anything that replaces them –the mumblecore trend is still in its embryonic phase and cannot considered a true heir.

And finally, the disturbing impression that the film industry is confining the most serious and adult cinema for the months surrounding the awards season; leaving the rest of the year just for blockbusters and a few minor titles that didn’t achieve much luck in terms of nominations or honors. This reduces the diversity of the cinematic offer and does not bring much joy to those who conceive cinema as an art able to transcend mere entertainment.

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The Week In News (17-02-2010): Berlinale; Primavera; ATP New York; Prince; The Knack…

Although winter is still causing havoc, the festival season is getting closer and some of the big players are wrapping up their bills. The biggest news of the week came from Barcelona, where the Primavera Sound festival has announced the last batch of artists completing a superb line up for its tenth anniversary. To the already confirmed headliners Pavement; Pixies; Wilco and Orbital, the organizers have added eighties electro-pop favorites The Pet Shop Boys; Gary Numan and Marc Almond; current British sensations Florence + The Machine and The XX; Low and The Charlatans will perform their respective classic albums “The Great Destroyer” and “Some Friendly”. All of it balanced with the best new music around: Beach House; Surfer Blood; Sleigh Bells; The Drums; Owen Pallett, etc. have also been added. More details are available at the festival’s website.

Meanwhile, ATP – which also curates one of the stages at Primavera – has announced that Jim Jarmusch will be choosing the artists to perform in one the days of the festival’s New York branch. The independent filmmaker is no stranger to pop music. Many rock and hip-hop artists have featured on his movies. Among his first confirmed choices: the live return of Wu-Tang member Chief Raekwon.

The obituary of the week is for The Knack’s singer Doug Fieger, who died from cancer at the age of 57. He will always be remembered for the all-time favourite “My Sharona.” More sad news of a completely different kind, Google’s war on blogs has been quite pro-active, taking a number of notorious victims during the past weeks. In what looks rather like another pathetic industry attempt to control freedom in new media.

Some internet archeology led to some precious findings in the shape of some amazing homemade videos of Prince & The Revolution’s rehearsals for their 1984 tour. We also discovered the clues for an unsolved mistery, a viral video named iamamiwhoami that’s supposed to hint at a high profile new release from a well known female artist. Cristina Aguilera? Amy Winehouse? Goldfrapp?

In the nostalgia department, the Dirty Projectors have announced they will perform their 2005 album “The Getty Address” live; in the meantime, a recent gig got them together with Beyoncé’s sister Solange, who made an impressive cover of the band’s single “Stillness is the move”. Meanwhile, The Bird & The Bee, the quirky pop-duo signed by Blue Note, has given details of a new album full of Hall & Oates covers.

Nick Cave & Bad Seeds herald a second batch of remasters, including those for “Tender Prey” and “The Good Son”. The cavernous singer, next to Rober award nominee actor Andy Serkis, is also involved on a motion capture of Bertol Bretch anti-capitalist opus “Threepenny Opera”; and last, but not least, Cave is one of the guests in Shane McGowan’s charity cover of “I put the spell on you”, whose proceeds will be destined to Haiti. Johnny Depp and other rock icons are also meant to feature.

Movie wise, The Berlin Film Festival has been monopolizing the headlines, with the returns of Scorsese and his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel “Shutter Island” and Polanski with “The Ghost Writer”; plus films by Yimou; Vinterberg and Chlodenko enjoying a warm reception. Follow the daily reviews here.

The mind-blowing imagination of Spike Jonze has produced a new fruit, a 30 min short film called “I’m here” whose trailer has just seen the light of day. In the notorious soundtracks wagon, James Murphy will provide the music for the next Noah Baumbach opus “Greenberg”. As he did with Jack Black, the director is giving Ben Stiller a chance to shine in a complete different register, away from his usual comic roles. We hope the results are better than the ones achieved with Black. In the Meantime, Murphy’s longtime music partner Tim Goldsworthy has announced his departure from their co-created DFA label.

Our weekly date with free stuff was on hiatus last week, but one more time we’ve found plenty of free material worthy of your time, including this new single by promising indie-pop band from Berkeley, California, The Morning Benders; a first taster from forthcoming second album “Echo Sky” that is been offered as a free download. German electronica masters To Rococo Rot are back and they are also giving away the track “Working against time” from their new album “Speculation”.

More returns with single giveaway. Archie Bronson’s Outfit launch “Coconut” – their third album after a four-year gap – with “Shark’s teeth”.

In the mixtapes department, Ngunzunguzu offered their 80-looking “Moments In Love”, named after the Art of Noise track of the same title. Autechre is the latest act to join Fact magazine series of “Fact mixes” and British drone master Forest Swords has done the same for the highly regarded blog Gorilla Vs. Bear.

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The Week That Was (17-02-2010): Strange Boys; Ganja Sufi; Los Punsetes; Johnny Cash…

With the impression that this was at last a quieter week for new albums, we begin our look at the music that’s made an impact over the last seven days with the Spanish band Los Punsetes – part of the new indie scene from Madrid. Their simply titled “LP2” is about to hit the Iberian shops, anticipated by this as comic as graphic video for the first single “Tus Amigos (Your Friends)”.

More European music, the Danish orchestral-pop collective Efterklang is streaming “Music Chairs” -their third studio album and first for 4AD- in Myspace. Vinnie Reilly’s Durutti Column return with a tribute to the late factory records’ honcho Tony Wilson in “A Paean To Wilson” that’s earning rave reviews, hailed as the Column’s best work in many years; and Field Music finally unveiled their awaited double album “Measure”.

In the US, Kentucky musicians Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore have made a benefit album packed with gorgeous acoustic melodies, “Dear Companion”, aiming at drawing attention to the problem of mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia. Meanwhile, Xiu Xiu returns with is chamber pop drenched in drama and emotional overload with “Dear God, I Hate Myself”, and highly regarded garage revivalists The Strange Boys got their second album ready .

In the songs department, Johnny Cash‘s record label unveiled the title track and first taster for the sixth volume of American Recordings. Rick Rubin may have found enough material as to put together a new album in the series, but overally it doesn’t look like a match for the former volumes, which meant a second coming for the late legend.

Other highlights of the week were the return of cyber-soul singer Janelle Monae next to Outkast’s Big Boi in “Tightrope”; Robyn teaming up with Diplo and getting soaked in Caribbean dancehall with “No hassle”; and Diplo again launching a new Major Lazer EP with the standout track “Sound Of Siren” featuring M.I.A. and Busy Signal.

Oxford combo Stornoway -highly tipped for glory in the British isles this year- offered a new slice of their pleasant folk-pop called “I Saw You Blink”. Our favourite American lo-fi purveyors, Woods, released a new single “I was gone” while revealing another track, “I’m Not Gone”, through the blogosphere. Energetic guitar fuzz duo Japandroids announced a series of five 7”, beginning with their new track “Art Czars” and the James Mercer-Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells, kept on rationing the content of their imminent album, and unleash the second taster “Vaporize”.

But the surprise of the week, though, was new Warp signee Gonja Sufi, who unveiled several tracks of his debut “A sufi and a killer” to huge acclaim. Everyone from Pitchfork to Thom Yorke is currently digging his music. In the player below, you can listen to the a few songs, including “Ancestors” produced by Flying Lotus and “KowboyzandIndians” which samples “Bella Kali” an obscure gem from Spanish Achilifunk duo from the 70’s Las Grecas.

Among the videos of the week Matthew Cooper’s ambient project Eluvium with this strangely compelling moving shot of tall buildings; Erykah Badu kept her media frenzy for her second instalment of Nu Amerykah with a new kaleidoscopic video featuring Lil Wayne as shown in her website and the British eccentric Female collective Gaggle was introduced to the world with their drinking anthem “I Hear Flies

Barbadian superstar Rihanna demonstrated that imitation is the best form of flattery by copying M.I.A.’s saturated visual style in her new video “Rude Boy”. The similarity is so obvious that Diplo himself has made a mash-up between the song and M.I.A.’s ”Boyz”. Long time no see Brit urban star Ms. Dynamite returns as feature vocalist in DJ Zinc’s club stormer “Wale Out”; Brit newcomers Gentle Friendly and and experimental Dj Jonah Reindhart also provided some visual excitement during the past seven days.

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Hot Chip Take In The Loop.


British electropop greats Hot Chip are taking in our loop this week. Until now, they had been regarded mostly as a singles band, but their fourth record “One Life Stand” has been universally saluted as their more compact album to date.

The band will have to endure strong competition from The Magnetic Fields, Caribou and Yeasayer in order to maintain the peak position.

New entries include glo-fi duo Toro & Moi; Arcade Fire’s string arranger Owen Pallett and Sigur Rós’ lead singer gone solo Jonsi.

Check The Loop here.


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The Films Of Haneke; Bigelow & Alfredson favorites for the Robers.

This year’s most nominated film in the Rober Awards poll is a triple tie-up between Michael Haneke’s astonishing vision of the elements in German society which led to the origin of Nazism, “The White Ribbon”; Kathryn Bigelow’s impressive Iraq war movie “The Hurt Locker” and Thomas Alfredson poetic take on the vampire myth in “Let The Right One In”. Each of them has been nominated in eight categories.

A Prophet; District 9; Milk and Synecdoche, New York all follow closely with six nominations apiece.

Popular favourites such as Avatar; Slumdog Millionaire and An Education are also featured in different categories. The new mid-February deadline, put in place to avoid the gap between the US and Europe different release dates, means that for a year only titles belonging to two different award seasons are in the race. 2009’s Oscar contenders such as Slumdog Millionaire; Doubt and The Wrestler are in contention next to this year’s candidates such as Precious or Up In The Air.

You can enter our poll here.
Check the full nominations tally after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »


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The Week That Was (10-02-2010): Toro Y Moi; A Single Man; Efterklang; The Soft Pack; Electrik Six…

Another busy week packed with good records, it began with promising duo’s Toro Y Moi –one of the purveyors of the trendy glo-fi sound- launching their debut album “Causers Of This”, which amply fulfils all the expectations surrounding them.

From Austin, Texas, Shearwater the side, folk-tinged project of some Okkervil River members are previewing their sixth album “The Golden Archipelago” through the usual NPR first listening page.

Back in the UK, the former singer from Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion, is streaming his second opus “Life Is Sweet, Nice To Meet You” through my Space.

The band formerly known as The Muslims finally released their long awaited first work under their new name The Soft Pack. Their eponymous debut comes full of garage rock pills as energetic as their new single “C’mon”. More name changes, two members of Supergrass have reformed as The Hot Rats. The first work under their new moniker, “Turn Ons”, also hit the shops. Both are available in Spotify.

On the veterans front, Sade returned after a decade of absence with their sixth album “Soldier Of Love”, which doesn’t offer a big departure from Sade Adu’s trademark silky sound, but is collecting rave reviews, maybe due to that long hiatus they like to leave in between records. You can also listen to it in spotify. Another music legend, Peter Gabriel, after offering different teasers over the past few weeks, has also made available to listen in full “Scratch my back”, his covers album that includes tracks by Radiohead, Bon Iver and Arcade Fire among others.

In the world music front an excellent look at the French Caribbean music during the sixties and early seventies, somehow outshined by the better known offer coming from neighbours Cuba and Jamaica. The album “Tumbelé: Bigine, Afro & Sounds From The French Caribbean, 1963-74” is one of the most enjoyable compilations of the moment. Elsewhere, two African giants, Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate join forces again in the critically acclaimed “Ali & Toumani

Among the most notable songs of the week we have to mention “Compass”, Jamie Lidell’s first taster from his star-studded new album. Retro-soul queen Sharon Jones returns with her Dap-Kings –who have been busy becoming the backing band for many pop artists going for that old-fashioned soulful sound. “I Learned The Hard Way” is another slice of their typical classic vibe. Last, but not least, ex-Beta Band frontman Steve Mason has also offered a first glance into his solo project, “Boys Outside”, a surprising collaboration with electro-pop producer Richard X.

Steve Mason – All Come Down by DominoRecordCo

And while the week was busy for new releases, it has been on the quiet front for free stuff. Among the most recommendable, “Modern Drift” by Danish reverb lovers Efterklang, who celebrated being signed by 4AD by giving away the first single taken from ther imminent work for the iconic label “Magic Chairs”.

Many live sessions of bands plugging their latest albums were also up for grabs: Midlake made available, first to the Guardian readers and then to all their fans, their “Denton Sessions”, a live showcase of songs taken from their recent “The Courage Of Others”; Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, keep on building up the expectations surrounding their forthcoming “The Brutalist Bricks” with a whole live for NPR internet radio. Vampire Weekend visited “La Blogotheque” for one of their “Soirees De Poche“. And everybody’s favourite live sessions website “Daytrotter” had two new guests: Beach House – on an hyperactive stride promoting their very fine “Teen Dream” album- and lo-fi LA punk duo No Age, previewing some new material on their set. All of them available free for your own listening pleasure.

This week the toast among film buffs was divided between the first trailer of “Toy Story 3”; the announcement of the full Berlinale program; news about a documentary about Stephen Merritt and The Magnetic fields called “Strange Powers” and rumours of Penelope Cruz joining both the cast of Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 and the long and illustrious list of female leads of Lars Von Trier’s films –the Spanish actress is rumoured to be the star of “Melancholia”, in which the controversial Danish director tackles the catastrophe genre after trying luck with horror, through a story about the Earth being about to collide with Planet Melancholia.

Other than that, we’ve only watched a new movie this week; but it fully deserved the title of “Movie of the week”. “A Single Man” is the much talked-about debut as a film director of fashion guru Tom Ford. What was expected to be a mere exercise of style have turned out to be a finely balanced, emotional work for which Colin Firth has been nominated for an Oscar. Ford adapts a short story by Christopher Isherwood exploring the feelings of loss and grief that an expat British professor, based in 60’s California, goes through after losing his male partner of 16 years in an accident. Colin Firth’s career best performance is nicely complemented by a cast that includes Julianne Moore in the role of his ex-flame and closest friend –we still in shock by the fact she was snubbed from this year’s Oscar nominations- Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoyt. A simple, yet very elegant cinematography, that subtly changes trying to underline the emotional ups and downs of the main character, complements an effective screenplay and gives shape to Ford’s more than promising first feature.

And the return of Electrik Six – fresh from winning the Rober award for Best R&B artist- with “I’m that chick” is our video of the week. The all-female four piece leaves behind their collection of winks to Prince & TLC’s contemporary brand of soul and embarks on a new, ultra modern direction for the second volume of “How to be a lady”, hoping this time they won’t be as criminally overlooked as they were with the first instalment.

Other interesting videos were provided courtesy of acclaimed Brits Wild Beasts; Swedish pop-folkies First Aid Kid; Veteran US bands Eels and Spoon and Brooklyn singer-songwriter St. Vincent.

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…And The Nominees Are:

(Un Profeta)
Jacques Audiard DISTRICT 9
(Sector 9)
Neill Blomkamp

(Dejamé Entrar)
Thomas Alfredson

(Mi Nombre Es Harvey Milk)
Gus Van Sant

Charlie Kaufman

(La Clase)
Laurent Cantet

(En Tierra Hostil)
Kathryn Bigelow THE WHITE RIBBON
(La Cinta Blanca)
Michael Haneke

Vote Here!!!

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…And The Nominees Are:
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…And The Nominees Are:
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…And The Nominees Are:
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…And The Nominees Are:
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