With just six days until Oscar nominations, the Academy has released the finalist list for Best Foreign Language Film. Iran's wondrous A Separation (see my top ten list) might just go all the way. While it's true that most pundits are already predicting just that, I've been more cautious. Masterpieces are often tripped up in this category by more heartwarming or traditonally baity mass-appeal films in the final heat. The biggest surprise here might be the omission of Lebanon's 'can't we all get along' musical Where Do We Go Now? which some pundits, including myself, had suspected might be a real threat given its populist pull. It won the People's Choice at Toronto which generally bodes well for Oscar traction. Not this time.
The Finalist List
- Belgium (5 noms) "Bullhead" Michael R. Roskam
- Canada (5 noms | 1 win) "Monsieur Lazhar" Philippe Falardeau
- Denmark (8 noms | 3 wins) "Superclásico" Ole Christian Madsen (I'm a fan)
- Germany (16 noms | 3 wins) "Pina," Wim Wenders
- Iran (1 nomination) "A Separation" Asghar Farhadi (#1 of the Year)
- Israel (9 nominations) "Footnote" Joseph Cedar
- Morocco (never nominated) "Omar Killed Me" Roschdy Zem
- Poland (8 nominations) "In Darkness" Agnieszka Holland
- Taiwan (3 noms | 1 win) "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale" Wei Te-sheng
Lebanon's entry is not the only high profile entry to be shown the door. France's amazing Declaration of War -- which obliterates 50/50 on the cancer dramedy battleground -- was probably too contemporary and eccentric for Oscar's foreign volunteer committees. Mexico's lauded Miss Bala about a would be beauty queen struggling to survive a drug war is probably the snub that will prompt the most anger from film buffs. I do wonder if Miss Bala had stuck to its original release plans (it was supposed to open in 2011) if it might have built up enough of a reputation to avoid being set aside here. Finally, there's at least three auteurist cinephile darlings on this cutting room floor: Finland's Le Havre, Turkey's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and Hungary's The Turin Horse.
Records To Be Broken
The dance documentary Pina is still gunning for a fascinating record. It might become the first film to ever be nominated in both the documentary and foreign language film categories... and though I'd have to triple check I believe it would be the first documentary every nominated for Best Foreign Film even if it loses out on the documentary shortlist.
Morocco is the only country that might be looking at a first time nomination.
Israel has been on a roll with Oscar. If Footnote is nominated it will be the fourth Israeli film in five years to score a nomination. Their previous best run was from 1971 through 1977 when they scored four nominations. Despite frequent nominations they've never won the gold making them the Deborah Kerr or Peter O'Toole of the foreign film Oscars.
If Taiwan is nominated a fourth time this year for their battle epic it will be the first time they've ever been nominated outside of the Ang Lee filmography.