In the most mainstream-ready news yet for this year's Best Foreign Language Film competition, China has submitted Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War. The movie has changed titles at least three times now (literally) but yes, that's the very expensive Christian Bale film based on Geling Yan's historical novel The 13 Flowers of Nanjing which is about the Nanjing massacre when Japanese soldiers slaughtered Chinese civilians in 1937. Bale will play a priest who is helping to save Chinese citizens. I believe previous titles included The 13 Women of Nanjing and Nanjing Heroes. After a very long production the movie will supposedly be opening this December.
Zhang Yimou is a superstar as auteurs go, having previously directed international hits and awards magnets like Ju Dou (Oscar nominee Foreign Film ), Raise the Red Lantern (Oscar nominee Foreign Film), To Live (Golden Globe Nominee Foreign Film), Shanghai Triad (Oscar nominee -cinematography), Hero (Oscar nominee -China), The House of Flying Daggers (Oscar nominee -cinematography) and Curse of the Golden Flower (Oscar nominee in costume design).
But with Bale in the lead (or prominent ensemble) role, one wonders how much of his new film is in English and whether that might not be a problem when the Oscar committee starts ruling about eligibility? Early reports suggested that 40% of the film would be in English though there's also dialogue in Mandarin, Japanese, and Chinese. Academy rules don't allow the majority of your dialogue to be in English in this category so we shall see. You know how finicky the Oscar committee can get about eligibility rulings. But one things for sure: this film won't have trouble winning attention with Yimou behind the camera and Bale in front of it.
IN OTHER NEWS...
Runar Runnarson's debut feature VOLCANO will represent Iceland for the Oscars. It's the story of a retiree rediscovering his life. The film already has achieved a small degree of fame for an old age sex scene. Reviews are strong and it's said to be quite moving.
Last year's winning country Denmark has gone with SuperClasico
Then we have two countries that share the distinction of several nominations without a win yet.
Israel will present FOOTNOTE, the story of combative father and son Talmud professors which won the screenplay prize at Cannes. Israel is the most nominated losing country ever having been up to bat for 9 Oscars thus far.
Mexico (tied with Poland, just behind Israel, at 8 nominations without a win) will go with MISS BALA as most cinephiles suspected. I will be seeing the acclaimed beauty-queen in distress drama Tuesday for the New York Film Festival. Can't wait after all the good things I've heard.
Here's the US trailer which I'm not watching so as to be surprised next week. The film opens in limited release next month after this final festival bow.
Imagine that. At least TWO of the contenders are actually opening in the States before the following calendar year! It's so rare these days. And lately when that's happened it's been on December 31st. Boo! So give Mexico's Miss Bala and China's The Flowers of War points for braving a real release and not banking on the lottery ticket of a future Oscar nomination before hitting the big screen.
Useful Useless Statistics!
Countries that submit regularly that still wait on virgin nominations:
Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Portugal, The Philippines, Serbia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela ...and current cinematic hotspots Romania and South Korea.
Oscar's favored countries *these past 10 years* (they tend to go in waves):
- Germany (6 nominations, 2 wins these past ten years)
- France (5 nominations or 50% of the lineups)
- Canada (3 nominations, 1 win these past ten years)
Most favored country (in history) that has had a rough run with Oscar lately: Spain is the third most honored country in the Academy's entire history (19 nominations and 4 wins) but they've only been nominated once in the past ten years. Of course they won that year (The Sea Inside) and two of Spain's biggest stars also won acting Oscars recently (marrieds Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz ... so, uh, never mind. I take it back. Not a rough run! It's ITALY that's smarting. Just one nomination for the country with the most competitive wins and second most nominations ever these past ten years. What's going on Italy?)
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