CATEGORIES Features, Oscars, Awards

We're breaking down all the Oscar contenders for you, so that you can decide whether you want to see them -- or at the very least, be able to hold your own at cocktail parties. Next up: 'Biutiful,' an engrossing tale about a man tormented by the conflicting facets of his life.

Nominated for: Best Actor (Javier Bardem), Best Foreign Language Film

What It's About: Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu ('Babel,' 'Amores Perros'), 'Biutiful' tells the story of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a father of two living off of corrupt dealings with criminal groups in Barcelona. Unable to turn a blind eye and erase the guilt of his immoral lifestyle, he offers his mystical connection to the afterlife, the ability to see deceased people, as a service to those mourning a loss and willing to pay a fee. When he's suddenly faced with a devastating health prognosis, followed by a horrifying accident, Uxbal must grapple with the consequences of his choices.

Why You Should See It: Known for his fearless, complex approach to filmmaking, Iñárritu stays true to form (and then some) with 'Biutiful.' He weaves together haunting themes, like mortality, spirituality and guilt, in very provocative ways, earning a very polarized critical reception. But while the film's bleak overtones and dramatic turns can be overwhelming -- the Guardian aptly refers to it as "verging on misery-porn chic" -- there's no denying it's a mesmerizing work of art. Contributing enormously to that distinction is Bardem, whose inner turmoil is so palpable, we find ourselves sympathizing with Uxbal despite his questionable ways. It's no wonder his performance earned him the Best Actor prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

It's Kind of Like: 'Babel' meets 'Ghost'

How You Can See It: In Theaters Now