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Entries in Oscars (12) (289)


"Fill The Void", "The Clown" and "After Lucia" Join the Very Crowded Foreign Race

Brazil, Israel, and Mexico -- three countries that have yet to produce an Oscar Foreign Film champ despite a small handful or two of previous nominees -- have now joined the fast-growing list of Oscar's subtitled contenders.

The tally now stands at 35...42 films 44 films and 4 finalist lists!

 Which means we've only got about 20 films left to hear about officially before the list is complete. October 1st is the deadline for submissions and in mid October Oscar will provide us with the official list which will usually contain a few surprises -- either a last minute film switcheroo, a disqualification, or a country that hadn't publicly announced suddenly surfacing on the list. Let's look at our new contenders and their countries nominee history after the jump.

Israel's New Contender: FILL THE VOID by Rama Burshtein which gives us an intimate look at the Hasidic community in Tel Aviv.

Israel's Nominee History - 10 noms / 0 wins
with links to Netflix pages -- all but one available for rental!
1964 Sallah
1971 The Policeman
1972 I Love You Rosa
1973 The House on Chelouche Street (instant watch!)
1977 Operation Thunderbolt
1986 Beyond The Walls
2007 Beaufort (instant watch!)
2008 Waltz With Bashir
2009 Ajami (instant watch!)
2011 Footnote 

Brazil's New Contender: THE CLOWN is about a father (Paulo José) and son (Selton Mello, also the director) who work together as clowns in the circus. The son no longer thinks himself funny and wants to settle down. 

Brazil's Nominee History - 4 noms / 0 wins
with links to Netflix pages if available
1962 Keeper of Promises
1995 O Quatrilho
1997 Four Days in September
1998 Central Station is by far the most universally beloved of Brazilian Oscar contenders even netting a well deserved Best Actress nomination for Fernanda Montenegro. In any other year it would surely have been a winning entry but it had the timing misfortune of going up against Life is Beautiful which was that year's even bigger foreign crossover hit, winning 3 Oscars on the big night (Actor, Foreign Film and Original Score) from its hefty 7 nomination tally which included Best Picture and Best Director nods.

Mexico's New Contender: AFTER LUCIA by Michel Franco is about high school bullying and was a hit at Cannes where it won the Un Certain Regard sidebar

Mexico's Nominee History - 8 noms / 0 wins
with links to Netflix pages -- unfortunately spotty
1960 Macario
1961 The Important Man 
1962 The Pearl of Tlayucan 
1975 Letters from Marusia 
2000 Amores Perros (instant watch!)
2002 The Crime of Father Amaro
2006 Pan's Labyrinth 
2010 Biutiful (instant watch!) 



Plenty of countries in South America and Asia as well as three European biggies. The three countries with the mightiest Oscar stats that have yet to announce this year are...

 Denmark everyone assumes it will be the festival hit costume drama A Royal Affair... which has won acting awards and critical favor. So why haven't they announced that yet? Rumor has it they're announcing today so perhaps it's a done deal by the time you read this.  YEP. IT'S A ROYAL AFFAIR
Italy Reality had some buzz but NYFF is playing Caesar Must Die so it would sure be convenient... for me ;) ... if it were the latter.
Spain announces next Friday though they've already narrowed it down to three contenders. I'm hoping it's the silent black and white Snow White picture starring the internationally recognized Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Pan's Labyrinth, etcetera) because I like annual themes, don't you? See we're drowning in Snow White movies in 2012 -- you'd think this ancient story had just hit the public domain or something? -- so let's finally get a good one in the mix!


Hitchcock Arrives Early

Hitchcock, which was formerly known by the very expositional title Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho will now open Friday November 23rd says Fox Searchlight. The Oscar game board was already quite crowded but Searchlight isn't exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to their own chess pieces. With The Sessions opening in October, and Hitchcock ideally positioned a month later for Thanksgiving weekend, they're clearly feeling confident.


2012 was already so crowded (particularly in Best Actor!) but what the hell, right? It's not like anyone will have an easier time being invited to Oscar dinner again than Anthony Hopkins if he nails the mimicry. While it's absurd to suggest that an Oscar for someone playing Alfred Hitchcock is like an Oscar for Alfred Hitchcock, who AMPAS is consistently flogged for not honoring properly, but... well you know how people love a proxy.

And the man himself was always particular about timing. If Fox Searchlight, really wanted to go all out with this movie they'd get really fussy about the screenings, too, to further the Psycho for Psycho homaging.

Imagine everyone being forced to sit down before a movie starts in 2012! Although this might constitute cruel and unusual punishment rather than a savvy marketing ploy; in 1960 they didn't play 25 minutes of commercials before movies began. (In 1960 they still understood that 'no commercials' was a major pro for the movies, something TV could never offer you.) 

Sacha Gervasi, who previously directed the very winning documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil! helms his first traditional feature but if he can bring the humor and pathos of that documentary to this biographical comic/drama than this might be a winner. The all star cast includes Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Toni Collette plays Hitchcock's longtime personal assistant Peggy Robertson. Might we have new Supporting Actress candidates to consider too? Even leads if the story thread about Hitchcock's marriage gets lots of screentime.

Time to update the charts again. I just did and this news and the new Oscar dates have already made them seem so out of date and long ago. And now we've even got a new "live singing!" Les Miz video to enjoy. This Oscar race? It's on.

P.S. My weirdly persistent flu -- which you've seen reflected here in erratic posting -- turns out to actually be pneumonia. Boo. So I am a mess and must stay in bed rather than attend my NYFF screenings.... [weeping]! But perhaps I'll be a blogging maniac as I mend. Laptops were invented for bed rest.


Naked Gold Man: Les Miz Slows Down, Oscar Speeds Up

As surely as the weather cools and kids go back to school en masse, we begin to shift gears towards Phase One of Awards Season. That's the pre-nomination time frame when all the hype and guessing gives way to actual buzz (or not) and more educated guessing as the films arrive and are met with shrugs, boos, huzzahs, and precursor nominations . On nomination morning, Oscar gets the last word. Phase One happens to be my favorite part of awards season and today we learn that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has shortened my joy by two whole weeks!

I've had to adjust our side bar widget. That was a quick two weeks we lost! Nominations will now come early on January 10th. That's just 112ish days from now and every 24 hours will count. Which means that instead of the usual month between nominations and Hollywood's High Holy Night we'll have a painful six weeks of running on fumes with the narrower range of people and films to talk about. People are going to be so sick of the chosen few by Oscar night!

This early nomination news arrived on the heels of the news of a delay:  Les Misérables has abandoned its December 14th release date and will try its luck with everything else come Christmas time. Voters won't have much time to see that particular movie -- or many others. This might mean that the precursors will be more influential than ever, essentially filling out voter ballots for them by narrowing their focus when they're losing it in a sea of screeners --all of which they're expected to watch over their holiday breaks. Since the studios simply refuse to give up their beloved December 18th-31st strategy -- the only one they have implicit trust in -- the best thing that could ever happen in Oscar world is two consecutive years of voters enjoying their family over the holidays instead and burning their screeners and only nominating films they'd seen earlier in the year.

Shut up --  I'm allowed to fantasize! It would just be seismic for the enjoyment of serious films all year round because the industry would have to rethink. But that's another topic and a broken record round these parts! 

With so little time for the buzz to settle in December before voting  I suspect we'll have a less volatile season than usual with fewer surprises on nomination morning and the studios will have more say in what gets nominated since they can control the dialogue better before people see the movies.

Important Dates to Know
Dec 1st Governors Awards
Dec 13th Golden Globe Nominations
Dec 17th Oscar Nomination Voting Begins
Jan 3rd Oscar Nomination Voting Ends and PGA Nominees Announced
Jan 8th DGA Nominees Announced
Jan 10th Oscar Nominations Announced
Feb 4th Oscar Luncheon
Feb 8th Final Voting Begins
Feb 19th Final Voting Ends

Which brings me to another question that's been needling me...

Fantine prays for God's forgiveness. And Oscar traction

You may recall that when they first announced the new voting strategy for Best Picture (the one in which the number of nominees would change each year depending on how many films muster up enough votes) we were told that they had run the numbers on the past several years of 5 nominees only and found that there would have been years with 5,6,7,8, and 9 nominees (but never 10 though the rules allow for it). But here's the catch that no one discussed at the time. The numbers were run on past ceremonies in which every voter was fully aware that only 5 films would be nominated. Many pundits and casual Oscar watchers were surprised last year -- i know I was -- to see 9 nominees in the inaugural year of the new rule. I just didn't see the support for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but lately I've been wondering... 

Does the knowledge that the rules are different fundamentally change the way Oscar members vote?

Think it over. If, in years past, your favorite film of the year was one which had zero traction, would you have thrown your vote to your second favorite instead since everyone agreed that one was a legit spoiler possibility for Best Picture? Now that members are fully aware that up to 10 films can be nominated if they can find enough ardent fans, it seems likely that a 5 wide Best Picture year is a thing of the past. Why would anyone abandon their favorites in this new more permissive climate?



Foreign Oscar Updates. Will France Finally Win Again?

With France's official announcement that the blockbuster The Intouchables will be their Official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, is the race already over? Its global tally currently rests at an astounding $364 million dollars, most of that from overseas bank. The film hasn't been ignored in American arthouse theaters exactly but it's $9 million gross and mainstream appeal (it's even in the IMDb top 100) qualifies it as a major arthouse hit but no crossover slam dunk; roughly speaking it's a hit the way last year's foreign film winner, the instant classic A Separation, was or the way Beasts of the Southern Wild is.

French cinema has had a complex intermittently passionate long-distance relationship with Hollywood since cinema began and that is reflected in their Oscar success over the years both in this category and others. France leads all countries in most Foreign Film nominations by a wide margin (36 nominees to Italy's 26) but surprisingly they have not won since the Catherine Deneuve drama Indochine rocked US arthouses twenty years ago. Will this Gallic sort-of variation on Driving Miss Daisy (is that too dismissive?) be a lock for Oscar love or will last year's swerve towards critically prestigious international cinema signal a sea change to new glory days for the category? (Yes, I still have impromptu ecstatic flashbacks to A Separation's win)

OFFICIAL SUBMISSION CHARTS 2012 -- everything in one place as we do: posters, trailers, info. Pass it on.

Current Predictions - Australia, Austria, Denmark, France and Romania 
Albania through Iran - 15 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)
Italy through Venezuala - 16 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)

Amelie netflix illustration by Tim Hodge (click for original source)A collection of France's biggest Oscar hits if you'd like to catch up with a movie marathon at home... after the jump

Click to read more ...


TIFF: Oscar Talking Points and Personal Favourites

Amir here, wrapping up my coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

I have to apologize for my absence yesterday on TIFF's closing weekend. A broken laptop charger prevented me any access to the internet. As you already know, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook snatched the coveted People's Choice Award. In keeping with my tradition of not watching films with set public release dates at the festival, I passed on the film in my original planning. And yesterday, when people lined up for the film’s honorary additional screening, I was in a different theatre watching my favourite actress Julianne Moore playing a rock star in What Maisie Knew

More including Oscar buzz and a Festival jury of one after the jump...

Click to read more ...


TIFF: Four Short Takes

Amir reporting from Toronto.

The Place beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to his marriage drama Blue Valentine is a three-part genre piece about a stunt motorcycle rider (Ryan Gosling) who enters a life of crime when he realizes that a short fling in the past with Romina (Eva Mendes) has resulted in a son. When a young cop (Bradley Cooper) gets involved with his case, his criminal activities take an abrupt turn.

Fans of Cianfrance's previous film and also those who were expecting "Drive redux" based on the minimal promotional material available are in for a surprise, though in my case the surprise was a very happy one. This robust story of complex morality and corruption is told with grace and gravitas. It is intermittently both a white-knuckle action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and a dense drama that explores father-son relationships. Think of it as a crime thriller with the emotional punch of Blue Valentine

Gosling gives yet another superbly intense performance but it's Cooper, and arguably Dane DeHaan, who steal the show with their surprising depth.

Prospects: Given the presence of two major stars and the potential to market the hell out of the genre elements, it could be a big hit, but the rumoured early 2013 release affirms my conviction that no one is expecting awards for this one.

Three more movies after the jump... 

Click to read more ...


Chart Updates: Actors and Foreign Films

The Oscar chart updates were temporarily stalled by my thwarted Toronto plans so just fixin' things up now. Enjoy the updates while I jaunt off to Fire Island for a 24 hour getaway. I've just seen The Impossible -- more on that soon -- so I'm accidentally living a rather perverse combo: tsunami picture then beach getaway.  

As always predictions are for entertainment purposes only. They should never be interpreted as endorsements though occassionally deserve has something to do with it.

The big story here is a common one. There are enough buzzing performances to fill out an entire Golden Globe nominee pool, 10-wide, which means there are twice as many contenders as Oscar voters will be able to choose. Am I crazy to wonder if even Daniel Day-Lewis is safe for Lincoln? The trailer does not impress.

Alan Arkin makes huge gains as he's singled out in many Argo reactions. Ewan McGregor's wounded father in The Impossible also rises though I have to wonder if this isn't wishful thinking. He's one of the world's best and most endearing screen actors but he never quite wins Oscar hearts. Still, nomination-less or not, come what may... we will love him, until our dying day.

Finally, add Kiki's new man Garrett Hedlund to your For Your Consideration fields for On The Road. He's the focal point of the film's considerable libido which might work against him (this is one of the most sexually-charged performances since, say, Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley) but they're campaigning him as supporting which will definitely work for him given his enormous amount of screen time.

Garrett Hedlund is "On the Road" with cinematography by Eric Gautier

Gains for TIFF buzzing Cloud Atlas, On the Road and The Impossible.

You can add Romania's Beyond the Hills which is from Cristian Mungui, the director of the magnificent 4 Weeks 3 Months and 2 Days (better luck this time!) and Portugal's Blood of My Blood to the list of submitted contenders. May the best five films win nominations.


Which buzzing fall film are you desperate to get your eyeballs on? I chose the beach over The Master (perverse I know given the rarity of P.T. Anderson pictures) but I'll get to that one Sunday...