The Battle for L.A.: Footsoldiers, Vol. 1

The culture of hip-hop has been so corrupted and co-opted by the mainstream that it is not so much a culture as a commodity. Of course, this is nothing new. It's the same problem that has plagued all forms of creative musical expression: Once it finds acceptance within the humdrum, workaday world of conventional society, it loses the passion from which it was born. And when that happens--whether it's jazz, rock or hip-hop--you need to go underground to find what you desire in its purest form. In the documentary The Battle for L.A., director Darren Doane explores the underground hip-hop community, where the culture--not the commodity--still lives and breathes. MCs, break-dancers and DJs battle for respect and supremacy both in clubs and on the streets of Los Angeles, in this engaging reminder of what makes hip-hop beautiful. The genius of a dope freestyle, the acrobatic grace of backspin, the kinetic energy of turntable mixing--Doane captures it all at its most raw. And like the artists the film profiles, The Battle for L.A. can be raw. The sound isn't always the best, and sometimes the camera jumps around too much. But where these aesthetics might be negative distractions in other films, they only lend to the straight-off-the-streets energy that can barely be contained, let alone captured. Diehard fans of hip-hop need to watch this film, if for no other reason than to see that their beloved artform is still capable of doing more than hawking fast food.

Place Your Bets: Oscar Winners Picked

This is the time of year when pretty much everyone and their mother asks me what I think about the Oscar nominations. Year after year, I say the same thing: "Until I get nominated, I don't give a crap about the Oscars." And still, people want to know what I think. With that in mind, here is my list of who and what I'm betting will win Academy Awards this year (but if I'm wrong, don't feel compelled to contact me to rub my face in it).

Best Picture: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Best Director: Peter Jackson for Lord of the Rings. Best Actor: Bill Murray for Lost in Translation (although it should be Peter Dinklage for The Station Agent, but he wasn't nominated). Best Actress: Charlize Theron for Monster. Best Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins for Mystic River. Best Supporting Actress: Renée Zellweger for Cold Mountain. Best Original Screenplay: Lost in Translation. Best Adapted screenplay: Mystic River.