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Friday
Dec202013

Foreign Film Frenzy... The Finalist List 

Though I love the constant excitement of December as much as anyone if there is one single element of awards season I could seize control of, it would be the annual Best Foreign Language Film race. Every year at about this time I've managed to procure 15 or so screeners from the 60+ entries and they're neatly stacked near my TV waiting for a marathon holiday watch & write session. And then most of them get the axe and they're never seen. I'm not proud of this -- you shouldn't skip a movie simply because Oscar isn't interested -- but I am also a human being who lives on planet earth and writes about the Oscars so my time is naturally extremely limited and compartmentalized and stretched thin every November through February. Would that the studios and AMPAS could spread out the timing a little. So my apologies to films from Latvia, Turkey, Croatia, India and the rest that I really had every intention of investigating. 

The other thing I would instantly change is Oscar's obsession with the number nine - ten is so much more symmetrical! Ten is a better number because it would also soften the blow to the eventual snubbees who wouldn't feel (correctly) like the majority of their peers got the part when they didn't. 

THE FINALISTS

 

  • The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
    currently in release in the States
  • An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
    from the director of the Oscar winner in this category for 2001, No Man's Land
  • The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
    unceremoniously dumped from the documentary finals, it now has a second shot at Oscar
  • The Hunt (Denmark)
    from the director of The Celebration which was one of Oscar's most infamous snubs in this always crowded category
  • Two Lives (Germany)
    Liv Ullman appears!
  • The Grandmaster (Hong Kong)
    Wong Kar Wai and his Asian superstar actors. 
  • The Notebook (Hungary)
    Hungary's best shot in ages to return to Oscar after a very long drought 
  • The Great Beauty (Italy)
    which just cleaned up at the European Film Awards 
  • Omar (Palestine)
    from the director of Paradise Now, nominated in this category in 2005

 

NOTICEABLY ABSENT
Saudia Arabia's Wadjda, which was a hit in arthouse theaters, widely tipped to be a frontrunner for the Oscar won't even be nominated now. That's got to hurt. It wasn't a good year for childhood narratives, actually, despite Oscar's tendency to reward that in foreign language films. They also passed on moving forward with Australia's The Rocket and Singapore's awards magnet Ilo Ilo. With all the other leading kids dropping out of contention this year, Hungary's tale of two boys will look singular. I'm also bummed that they skipped Nepal's entry here if only because I fear I'll never have the opportunity to see it now (no screener).

PERSONAL PET 
But the one I'm gutted bout is Chile's Gloria which is top ten list worthy in any language. I fully expected it to be nominated because it's just so delightful but with depth. Now it will be deprived of a much wider audience which is terribly sad. I don't know how committed the distributor is as it's due in January but I've seen it happen all too often that when a film fails to be nominated it suddenly disappears from future release scheds. IF you get a chance to see it, do!  (If Annette Bening or [insert name of any charming 50something movie star] isn't snapping up the remake rights, she's insane.)

MY PREDICTIONS

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Reader Comments (16)

The best thing that could possibly come from The Grandmaster's inclusion here is that more people see it and it thusly earns nominations for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Ziyi Zhang. Otherwise, it just feels like an apology to Wong for In The Mood for Love.

Or that people voted for it based on a different cut from the American one.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Please, don't encourage remakes. Specially of beautiful and unique movies like Gloria.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The Grandmaster Chinese cut is so superior. Was that cut and not Weinstein's cut submitted?

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

The submissions are based on country, not any American distributor so, yes, it would be the local Hong Kong cut. Likewise with THE MISSING PICTURE, which has an English-language track as well as, one presumes, a French and/or Cambodian one.

Basically I am just so happy for THE MISSING PICTURE. I'm sure it had to be saved by the committee, but I don't care. It now has an actual real chance. I'd almost say it could get nominated based on the tears that it can wrangle from audiences, but I unfortunately haven't seen all the films. At this stage I would be guessing THE HUNT (for the win, too), THE GREAT BEAUTY, OMAR, BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN, and maybe TWO LIVES, but who can really tell?

I just hope people don't start mouthing off as they always do about the films that are missing if they haven't actually seen the likes of IRON PICKER or THE NOTEBOOK. I wasn't a fan of WADJDA enough to be sad for its exclusion.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Glenn -- it's more complicated than that though about cuts. Because for example the Czech entry is an edit of itself and not the real thing. I hope i can get actual verification on the Grand Master but it would be nice if they would release the original cut to coinicide with the oscar nomination (if it comes)

Cal -- i'm just saying. If you're going to remake hit movies from other countries as Hollywood does ALL THE TIME why not stories about women ? at least it's somethign different from the norm

December 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm devastated.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I haven't seen The Notebook and Omar.

I'm very happy to see Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker and The Broken Circle Breakdown on the list.

I would be very happy to see these two nominated along with The Grandmaster, Jagten and La Grande Bellezza.

And as a Dutchman I'm rooting for Belgium.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

No Gloria? As they say in Chile, "puuuuuuuucha!" Major bummer.

The Past's absence also surprises me.

I've seen four-- The Great Beauty, which I love for its meditative quality; The hunt, which is beautiful and tense but requires some suspense of disbelief about human reason; The Broken Circle Breakdown, which has some subplots that strike sour notes; and Omar, which is too twisty for its own good.

Not too excited about another kids in the Holocaust film. When will those get tiresome to the Academy?

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Not to turn the spotlight on other film lovers sites, but The Dissolve just had an interesting conversation about English language remakes. They were all scratching their heads to come up with a list of American remakes that are far superior to their foreign originals. I, for one, just wish we had a better distribution system so I could see these films in the theater without moving to NYC or LA, or attending a festival.

Denny--I adore IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. Didn't know it was a contender in its release year.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Well, looks like The Hunt is taking this now. And I'm not one to make predictions in this particular category but I don't see any single major threat for it not to win and it's a movie they're probably gonna really dig. Chalk it up to solid-enough film-making and America's procedural obsession with horrid (would-be) crimes.

I thought Wadjda was a shoo-in, honestly. I mean, no film ever is here but that checked off a lot of marks and the statement of having it nominated seemed too good to pass up.

And I was just talking about how I need to see Gloria too and now I probably won't for a while, unless Netflix steps in.

The Grandmaster getting nominated would surely be cool encouragement for WKW but I had next to no interest in seeing that movie. May his next one force Maggie Cheung out of retirement and may it be good.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

Wadjda's snub hurts my heart: such a beauty of film with an inspirational backstory (first woman Saudi director) that went the respectable US theatrical release route. Adding to the bummer is the fact the two shortlisted film I've seen, The Grandmaster and The Hunt aren't very good, despite career-best performances by Zhang and Mikkelsen respectively.
Also I'm I the only one who thought The Hunt was a bit misogynist. I know it's a serious accusation but after every single woman in the film jumps to hysteria until a few sensible men bring the town to its senses, it made my skin crawl.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermoe

Pam - that's the thing: IT WASN'T.

I KNOW.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Ilo Ilo :(

December 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I want Julia Roberts to remake Gloria.

December 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbacio

I think it's worth noting, since Nat is currently predicting an all-Euro lineup, that it hasn't happened since 1987 (which coincidentally was a win for Denmark).

December 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ.D.

I really loved Gloria as well, but the repetitive dismissal of Romanian films is getting tiresome. No, I do not think a blender-full of animated prunes that do not have access to a wall socket are to blame . What I do believe is that in the current scenario, a significant batch of foreign films are not being seen and I don't think it is controversial to suggest that the films with the highest profile (and money to burn) have a much better chance to make it into the final scoop of poop. But, let me be clear---I think the majority of films picked (keep in mind I have seen only 3/4's at best) are not embarrassing Oscar-Nominated turd nuggets like Really Far and Totally Close or I Had My Bum Fucked in Kansas. Those films have their charms and delights. No question! But the reality is becoming more undefined in the Best Foreign Picture category. It seems that we are nipping at the heels of foreign film voters whom wish they could accelerate the meeting with their maker. I, for one, would like to help them in anyway I can. I think it is cruel to allow old people who have clearly become stupid and/or morally superior due to being old an undesirable; especially when we all know that in their youth they were fucking more rabbits and red-clothed short people than a circus tent could accommodate! But , unfortunately they are decrepit now and the thought of others getting to fuck and flaunt their naughty bits really pisses them of. The most surprising response that these unworthy ballot holders exhibit is to punish films and actors who play characters who are not repulsive (like many old Hollywood people seeking youth through nips, tucks and sandblasting). Hence films like Gloria are unwelcomed reminders of the folly and carelessness that these voters still rely on, especially when the money-maker is paralyzed. The persona that they maintain is a virtual doppelganger close to the bone. Virtual deniability is convenient and convincing . Morality is even more accessible.

But then come the rubs! A film like Child's Pose is tossed aside (outright), even though it is arguably one of the 10 best films of the year.

one excuse for this shocking snub is ageism. No one in the cult of Hollywood would ever deny otherwise. Sans that! Ignorance in regards to ageism is alive and flourishing like a plague in Hollywood. The motivation of both women and men(who consider themselves actors) has become indistinguishable. Employment has been reduced to a fight to the finish that only certain actors of a certain age, and a certain beauty need apply.

You would think there would eventually be a backlash to this kind of intellectual reductionism. HA! The old and housebound cronies with their Viagra animated dicks, and their counterparts sporting face-lift vaginas, are here (alive and limping) to scorn the zeitgeist, and remind us all how pure and abundant things were in the olden days. The days when the baby boomers accepted all of the benefits that were fought for by their parents before them, and, now (still alive and consuming), want to deny any future beings of having any services remotely similar to their soulless usurpation of everything within their reach. Give me the illusion of youth and I will reward your ignorance by exhausting all of your resources. And in this faux 30-something body, I will impart to you my 80 year old wisdom about movies and culture

Ageism is not a detriment in Hollywood to old people who rubbish, dismiss and undoubtedly avoid progressive art when it comes to the output of creative savants at the top of their game. Wobbly-kneed cronies should seriously be put out to pasture with the old horses and lame cows. There mind, too should be annexed in favor of judging doilies and wall-paper prints (hopefully without similar images of their miraculously forgotten naked debauchery that can conveniently be forgotten. These feeble headed people were never artists--they were/and remain detriments to growth and progressive thought. They are self-righteous and arrogant. They constantly are under the delusion that everyone thinks that they are equivalent in age to being sisters, mothers and fathers Clearly these specimens that make the aged exude authenticity while convinced that they are shadowing their moralistic and armored façade with phony outrage and credit less credibility. Liberace was positively adolescent compared to these schizophrenic old cranks . Unfortunately, they want the supposed authority which comes with age so they can flaunt their fake outrage and acceptance, but they also want to be mistaken for an undergrad who has never heard of Botox. These are the people that are, in large part, choosing the best foreign film nominees. They do not know how o spell nuance.

Alas.

Without question, I should back off! What I am propagating is unsubstantiated and, without a doubt, offensive. But, paradoxically, I feel stimulated by you folks with your pencils and ability to still post a letter with the myriad services to the Baby Boomers who have wrestled with the equivalence and strength as two unhinged thumbs. Doubtless the weaker thumb with the least amount of funds to subsidized this epic skirmish will succumb due to crows-feet or testicular omens.

I love clichés. But, surprisingly, I love authenticity quite a bunch more. That said, there are films in the short list that are worthy, no doubt. But there are films that should have been obvious in their quality, and advanced, especially by Boomers. But here comes the paradox. The Boomer Generation are convinced that they are forever young. They awarded Amour because they saw it as cautionary tale and also as a conundrum that they would be foolish-looking to ignore. The ride is smooth and least troublesome on a daily basis. Luckily their favorite day is Tuesday.

December 25, 2013 (Merry Demented Xmas :)

Please don't respond to this post. Clearly, it is Xmas morning and I am inebriated because my family prefers sleep over 24 hour blab fests. I apologize for making you all the recipients. For penance, I will kill myself before seeing the last episode of Glee's fifth season.

December 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIshmael

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