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 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
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).
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.)