One of the most controversial categories at the Oscars is the Best Foreign Film category. This small branch has the daunting task of screening the 50+ films that have been submitted to the Academy from their respective countries and determining which five are worthy of nominations. Every year there are always a few films that this branch leaves off their short list, causing angry outcries in the movie blogging community. The Academy’s Foreign Film branch does not seem to follow the festival circuit, nor do they always go along with the critical consensus. They are one of the few independently thinking branches of the Oscars which makes the category both fascinating and frustrating.
Yesterday the Academy’s Foreign Film branch narrowed down the 60 submitted films to nine finalists which will then be trimmed to five when Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday. This year’s crop of finalists was lacking some of this category’s powerhouses including France, Italy, and the Russia, which is sure to cause some mild disappointment among fans of those country’s submissions. However, all of that seems to be overshadowed by the fact that Greece’s critically acclaimed, but unusual submission Dogtooth has made the cut. The film from Yorgos Lanthimos has appeared on over 25 critics top ten lists and was one of the most acclaimed films at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, yet many Oscar watchers have thought the film to be too bizarre for this usually conservative branch.
The entire list of films that have made the short list is below:
Algeria, Hors la Loi (Outside the Law)
Denmark, In a Better World
South Africa, Life, Above All
Spain, Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain)
Sweden, Simple Simon
Several films that have been considered favorites for most of the year made their way onto the shortlist including Incendies and Biutiful. Incendies is from Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve who has had 4 of his films submitted into consideration for Best Foreign Film and is hoping for his first nomination. Biutiful was a Cannes Film Festival sensation last year and is from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who has had mainstream success in the U.S. and whose last film that was submitted by Mexico, Love’s a Bitch was nominated in 2000. Both Mexico and Canada seem like the strongest contenders for a nomination.
The Greece shortlisting surprise seems to imply that great success could be in store for Dogtooth. Although I have not yet seen it, movies like it are usually love it or hate it affairs and apparently members of the Academy’s Foreign Branch subscribe to the former. If they love it enough, there should be no reason it does not emerge as a nominee next Tuesday and potentially an emerging frontrunner.
Susanne Bier and Denmark were surprising winners last Sunday night at the Golden Globe awards when In a Better World beat out favorites like I Am Love and Biutiful to take home the Best Foreign Film Award. There is no cross-over between voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and voters in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, but it does indicate that some momentum may be swinging Denmark’s way. I would expect it to be a nominee next week.
Filling out the fifth spot is difficult. South Africa has had only two films ever get nominated and both have been in the last decade with their 2005 submission Tsotsi winning it all. This is the first film that they’ve submitted that has been in Northern Sotho rather than the more common Afrikaans and Zulu. It has been widely acclaimed by international critics and is a strong contender to earn South Africa its third nomination. Algeria is also in the spotlight with its submission Outside the Law from filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb who has earned the country two previous nominations. The film caused some controversy with its reported “anti-French” historical inaccuracies, which if nothing else will at least get people talking about it. I’m going to pick South Africa for the nominee and Algeria for the alternate.
Here is a recap of my predictions:
1) Canada – Incendies
2) Mexico – Beautiful
3) Greece – Dogtooth
4) Denmark – In a Better World
5) South Africa – Life, Above All
ALTERNATE: Algeria – Hors la Loi (Outside the Law)
What doÂ you think of the shortlisted films? What are your predictions?