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Entries in foreign films (215)

Tuesday
Sep302014

Tomorrow is the Submission Deadline in Oscar's Foreign Film Race

At the moment of this typing 67 films have been announced by their home countries as Oscar submissions and our famous charts are all updated to tell you about them with posters, running times, languages spoken, official site links, synopsis and more. This year's race has three countries who've never submitted before (Kosovo, Mauritania, and Panama). That's not a record since that was also true last year. Can we attribute the continual growth of this category to the general democratization of film now that (nearly) everything is digital and filmmaking is (theoretically) more affordable? Or perhaps it's a sure sign that the Oscar is still one of the most significant icons around the world?

The most exciting news this past week was Russia daringly choosing Cannes hit LEVIATHAN - not the kind of film they normally would send.Other new additions to the chart include Egypt's FACTORY GIRL, India's LIAR'S DICE, and New Zealands THE DEAD LANDS

The most entries this category has ever had was 76 (just last year) but that record is frequently busted. What about this year? My guess is it won't be that many since the films are due tomorrow and we've only heard 66 of them. But, consider this: Ten regularly participating countries are as of yet unannounced. Usually there are a handful of submissions on the official list that weren't covered in the trades or here. And usually at least one previously announced title doesn't appear when all is said and done due to last minute switcheroos by the home country, disqualifications, or politicking of one sort of the other. So my guess is 70-72 competitors this year. I still maintain that the new system of the finalist list that Oscar announces in early January needs tinkering. At nine films it seems cruel so few films lose out on a nomination that was dangling right in front of them. A better and less sadistic and potentially humiliating finalist list would be something like 12 pictures so the majority were runners up. In a general sense though I'm in huge favor of their new culling process; the quality of the shortlist has inarguably improved with all the tinkering in recent years.

Two Biggies Remain Unannounced:

  • ARGENTINA - (5 nominations / 1 win)
    They haven't skipped the race since 1983. Will it be Wild Tales? UPDATE: YES, IT'S WILD TALES. WOOOO
  • CHINA - (2 nominations)
    They haven't skipped the race since 2001. Despite often high profile entries China has trouble getting nominated. Might they submit Coming Home? It does reteam the auteur Zhang Yimou with his original muse Gong Li and their films together have often won a single Oscar nomination whether that was for cinematography (Shanghai Triad), costumes (Curse of the Golden Flower), or foreign film (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern). Their other films together were probably near-misses since they won nominations elsewhere (To Live for the Golden Globes and The Story of Qi Ju for The Spirit Awards)

The following countries which semi-regularly submit have not yet announced:

CUBA has a great contender this year in "BEHAVIOR" but did they actually submit it? They sometimes don't bother.

  • ALBANIA (never nominated)
  • ALGERIA (5 nominations/1 win) - They have a strong record when they submit but they tend to drift in and out of interest in competing unless there's a Rachid Bouchareb film out (he's been their nominee three times: Dust of Life, Days of Glory, and Outside the Law)
  • AZERBAIJAN  (never nominated) - Submitting for almost a decade now
  • CUBA (1 nomination) -  They skipped the last two years but Behavior (reviewed) could be a legit contender for the statue if submitted. Their only nominee was the gay drama Strawberry & Chocolate from 1994
  • LEBANON (never nominated) - Submitting since the late 90s
  • SOUTH AFRICA (2 nominations/1 win) - Since they started submitting regularly in 2004 they've done very well with one nominee (Yesterday), one winner (Tsotsi), and one finalist that didn't quite make it (Life Above All)
  • VIETNAM (1 nomination) -The Scent of Green Papaya, their only nominee, was their very first entry into the category

The following countries which occasionally submit have not yet announced:

  • ARMENIA, AUSTRALIA, ECUADOR, IRAQ, KYRGYZSTAN, and CAMBODIA which was Cambodia nominated for the first time last year with the incredible documentary The Missing Picture. 

The following countries rarely submit but you never know:

  • Chad, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Fiji Islands, Greenland, Guatemala, Kenya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Tajikstan, and Tanzania 

EXPLORE THE CATEGORY AND SOUND OFF ON WHICH FILMS AND COUNTRIES YOU'D LIKE TO SEE MORE COVERAGE OF RIGHT HERE. 

Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 17 official submissions on this page
Pt. 2 Finland through Panama - 28 submissions on this page
Pt. 3 Peru through Vietnam  -21 submissions thus far

Monday
Sep222014

Unlikely Oscar Chances for Brazil and Venezuela with 'The Way He Looks' and 'The Liberator'

Glenn here to take a look at two of this year’s official foreign language film selections from South America. They couldn’t be more different if they tried: from Venezuela we have The Liberator, a historic epic, while Brazil has submitted the rather small-scale gay teenage romance The Way He Looks. The latter is a particularly interesting selection for Brazil, a country that hasn’t been nominated since the one-two punch of 1998-1999, yet it follows in the path of last year’s even more adventurous selection Neighbouring Sounds, which hadn’t a hope in hell, but kudos for that country’s committee choosing quality over what’s perhaps perceived as an easier sell to Oscar voters.

Venezuela would have been wise to do the same. While the exquisite Bad Hair probably wouldn’t have made the Oscar cut even if it had been selected, passing it up in favor of the transparent and flat filmmaking of Alberto Arvelo’s The Liberator disappoints. The cynic in me from my early days of Oscar-watching would have thought this film a shoe-in given its grand war sequences, low-heat romance and exotic vistas, but doesn’t it feel like we’ve somewhat moved away from this sort of film with Oscar voters showing unique bravery in recent years of this category. Maybe the Venezuelan selection committee thought the sight of handsome Édgar Ramirez floating above a swath of flag-waving revolutionaries on the poster would pique AMPAS interest.

VENEZUELA'S THE LIBERATOR
Arvelo’s film is the story of Simon Bolivar, a man whom the opening credits tell us fought in over 100 battles and traversed 70,000 miles, twice the terrain of Alexander the Great. “His army never conquered – it liberated.” An early scene of Bolivar returning to his home in Venezuela with his new wife even shows that the  slaves on his plantation all think of him as a wonderful, noble man and he joins them in a late night dance by a bonfire. He’s basically a perfect human being. A man of the people. That doesn’t exactly make for the most interesting character. Nor does it make for a believable one.

More The Liberator and Brazil's gay romance The Way He Looks after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep192014

Foreign Film Oscar Watch: 43 Submissions and Counting!

With the expected announcements today from Belgium (Two Days One Night) and Canada (Mommy), forty-three countries have already announced their Oscar submissions which means we have 2/3rds of the list already (It's usually around 65-70 films). Okay, technically we have 42 at this writing but Canada will have announced by the time you read this (I'm offline for a few hours travelling hence publishing without that news) which we hope is the incredible Mommy. Every submission chart has been updated to reflect all the recent announcements.

I'm illustrating this news update with the striking poster from Colombia's entry Mateo which is about a teenager who is asked by his crime boss Uncle to infiltrate a local theater group and tell him everything about their political activities...

I haven't seen the film but from the looks of the poster he's enjoying his time with theater friends and might not want to betray them. Thus, DRAMA to come.

Of the 43 official submissions I have seen only five and I'd rank them in this order (links go to reviews or capsules if they exist here already):

  1. Force Majeure (Sweden)
  2. Mommy (Canada)
  3. Ida (Poland)
    the top three are basically tied. the number will change depending on my mood - they're all deeply impressive
  4. Beloved Sisters (Germany) - review next week
  5. 1001 Grams (Norway) 

But I've seen another handful of assumed submissions or viable threats for submission that we're still waiting on official word about... 

And now an amusing coincidence!
Both Germany's submission (Beloved Sisters) and Greece's submission (Little England) which appear side by side on the alphabetical chart are dramas about two sisters in love with the same man! I haven't seen the Greek film but in the German entry the sisters are totally okay with sharing. Or at least they plan to be in this feverish plunge into three hours of hopeless romanticism. It opens in the US on December 24th.

a very memorable scene from Germany's "Beloved Sisters"

Here are the charts. Explore and share with friend!

Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 14 official submissions thus far
Pt. 2 Finland through Panama - 18 official submissions thus far including the first ever submission from Panama called Invasión
Pt. 3 Peru through Vietnam  -11 submissions thus far

Wednesday
Sep172014

TIFF Jury of One: Nathaniel

Channing & Chastain hit TIFFAnd now, a superfluous but fun-to-write "awards" wrap of the 25 films I saw at TIFF to close out the coverage. I did a little wrap post for Towleroad as well, focused on the LGBT content and the celebs, but if you're a TFE regular I know what you like: awards and lists!

I had intended to see 40 films but with only 8 days of actual screening time (travelling the other 2 days) that proved ridiculous to even try for, impossible really. Especially since I was planning to AND DID write up everything I saw before the festival actually ended. I've never written this quickly so excuse the typos (yeesh).

If you were reading along the whole time this might feel redundant but who doesn't love to box their experiences up in list format? In a festival with hundreds of films everyone has a different experience so this was mine... with nominations only. Don't even ask me to pick winners because I like things to marinate. It's good to get a little distance before bold decrees of "THE BEST!"

BEST PICTURE
links go to the reviews 

Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval on the set of "Mommy"

  • Force Majeure (Sweden) -Magnolia Pictures. Opens October 24th
  • Mommy (Canada) - Roadside Attractions will release. When though? Unfortunately they aren't exactly a swift distributor. (A headscratcher addendum: Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm, which debuted last year at TIFF is still without a US distributor. US audiences just can't jump on the Dolan train without hitting festivals. Maybe that will change with all three of his first features currently winning new fans on Netflix Instant now)
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden) - Currently without US distributor
  • Wild (USA) - Fox Searchlight. Opens December 5th
  • Wild Tales (Argentina) - Sony Pictures Classics will release. When though?

My favorites at the fest turned out to be this eclectic mix of two Swedish comedies, one hyperstylized the other realistic and intellectually provocative, one Canadian melodrama about a bad seed and his wild mommy, one Oscar bound US solo hiking trip, and an exciting Argentian anthology mixing revenge, thrills and comedy.

Favorite Scenes and Performances After the Jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep162014

Amir Sat on a Branch Reflecting on TIFF

Amir here, looking back at the Toronto Film Festival that recently wrapped up.

"Girlhood," superior to Boyhood and one of the best of TIFF 14

You may have noticed that after a few years of covering the festival to various degrees for The Film Experience, I was completely absent from this space for the past ten days, mostly because of a personal decision to enjoy the films without sweating over writing. TIFF is a big festival, maybe the most frantic and hectic in the world, with more choices than one can physically experience over ten days. Nathaniel and I shared so few films from the program’s sprawling lineup, we could have each written about every single thing we saw and you’d never know we attended the same festival. It’s this overwhelming scale that made me want to take a break from reporting, and yet, I feel unsure about how that affected my festival experience.

Writing about films for me is a passion born out of the necessity to articulate my thoughts on the things I watch. Maybe that process of writing makes the films more memorable? Isn’t it so that writing, even about bad films, makes us appreciate good cinema all the more? Without recording my memories, details about this year’s films have fled my mind quicker than ever. My feelings about some of them have been diluted a bit, too. There is something missing, even though I had the best festival experience of my life, meeting more people than ever and watching some terrific films. Maybe this pessimism is just a withdrawal symptom. Let’s stay positive!

As has become something of an unplanned tradition for me – with precedents including Oslo, August 31st and Closed Curtain – my favorite film of the festival came my way on the last day.

MORE...

"The Look of Silence" will be in theaters next summer

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep132014

TIFF: The New Girlfriend

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF continued

 François Ozon remains one of France's most prolific directors. Like most prolific auteurs this means an uneven filmography. Even the very good films can feel ever-so-slightly underrealized. Is it the rush or just the nature of the artistry of the prolific, all first draft energies, favorite or borrowed styles structures and themes, and just warming-up ideas with the occasional lightning-strike perfections?

Like many fans I'm still waiting for another of those lightning strike perfections like certain moments in Under the Sand or 8 Women in full but his not-quite-there efforts can still be highly appealing: Potiche anyone?

The New Girlfriend turns out to be all of the above with grand moments, messy ones, energetic diversions, familiar tropes and half formed ideas... which as it turns out is just fine for a movie about embryonic searches for new identities. It begins with a funereal yet beautiful opening sequence that recalls an Almodóvarian trance, and quickly moves into an Up-like backstory prelude detailing the very intimate friendship of Laura and Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) from childhood to Laura's early death. When we begin our actual story Claire and her husband Gilles (Raphael Personnaez, who also starred in The Gate at this festival) along with Laura's widowed husband David (Romain Duris) and his infant daughter Lucie are all still reeling from Laura's demise. One day on a guilty whim, Laura jogs to David's house to check in on Lucie only to make a startling discovery when no one answers the door and she lets herself in: there's David, in full drag, tenderly feeding Lucie with a bottle like a good mother. Claire can't believe what she's seeing and to cover her tracks for where she was that day with her husband she says she was with "Virginia... a girlfriend, someone you don't know." And thus begins our subject matter with the title taking on multiple meanings. Is David more Virginia than David? Which of them is Claire befriending? How desperate are both of them to recreate Laura in her vacuum? And what kind of a girlfriend can Virginia even be since she has a visible penis? 

The rest of the film is largely devoted to both farcical and dramatic consequences of this new secret in Claire's life with delightfully surprising beats amply peppered across the character arcs. Demoustier proves rather masterful in delineating Claire's internal confusions and hypocrisies, especially and most amusingly her illicit hypocritial thrills in having a new girlfriend at all (the prelude makes amply obvious that Laura and Claire were so devoted and happy together that they didn't cultivate other friendships). But full warning: the film is way too comically provocative and politically incorrect to please the easily offended which many in the LGBT community seem to be of late. Claire for example thinks 'gays are fine, trannys are not!' in one joke that goes over well in context but will surely offend out of it and calls David "sick" while still encouraging him to do it. David isn't as certain of what his gender fluidity means to be a role model for any political agenda. And Gilles ignores ambiguities and is convinced that David is just gay, always has been.

Though Romain Duris has long since proved his worth as a leading man, his screen attraction is entirely masculine, so I'll admit that it was easy to wonder what the film would have been like had the more beautiful Personnaez considered his inner woman instead. Would it have dulled the surprise or the comedy or made Claire's confusing situation between the two men in her life and this new girlfriend more believable?  Who can say? The time jumped epilogue leaves things both tied neatly up and slightly ambiguous as to what went down between the climax and the credits roll but by that time we know the characters well enough to draw our own conclusions. B

previously at TIFF


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