Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Short List

We now know the short-list from which the five nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar will be drawn. The Academy announced the short list – nine films – last Friday. It is a strong list.

Of course it is always anyone’s guess as to the actual nominees, but I will be very surprised if The Intouchables, from France, is not one of them. I also think it has a very good chance of winning the Oscar. It is an international hit doing huge box office - $414 Million worldwide. It is a comedy-drama with wonderful performances and a very mainstream feel that will make it easy to vote for. France has not won a Foreign Language Film Oscar in twenty years.

Another likely nominee is Amour from Austria. It too has been getting a lot of buzz and very positive reviews. It also has an impressive cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert and Immanuelle Riva. It deals with the family strains on an elderly couple and their daughter when the mother becomes partially paralyzed and then suffers a stroke and is in terrible pain.

A Royal Affair is my third pick to be nominated. It is a historical drama from Denmark (it played in Denver earlier this month). The story is set in the 18th century. It is about a love triangle among a German doctor, a young queen and her husband, who may be insane, the Danish King. The film is stylish with sympathetic portrayals and has already been nominated for a Golden Globe.

Sister, from Switzerland, is a film I like very much and I am hopeful that it will receive a nomination. It played this past November during the Starz Denver Film Festival. It is a very disturbing but absorbing film.

I am undecided about a fifth possible nomination but I think it will be from among these three films:

No, from Chile, depicts the 1988 referendum to decide whether dictator Augusto Pinochet would continue in office or not. It centers on a young advertising executive who returns to the country to lead the campaign against Pinochet. The film won at the latest Director’s Fortnight in Cannes. It has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for US distribution.

Beyond the Hills, from Romania. It touches on dark, depressing, difficult subject matter, telling the story of 25-year-old woman, who reunites and is clearly in love with her childhood friend now a fledgling nun in a sparse Orthodox convent in Romania. The film won best screenplay and best actress awards at Cannes this year.

War Witch, a Canadian film tells the story of a young girl whose life is anything but normal. Kidnapped by African rebels at the age of 12, she was forced at gunpoint to slaughter her own parents and fight as a child soldier against the government in the jungles. It is a viscerally and emotionally powerful film.

Two other films are on the short list: Kon Tiki from Norway about Thor Heyerdahl’s journey across the Pacific on a Balsa raft; The Deep, from Iceland, is based on actual events. A fisherman tries to survive in the freezing ocean after his boat capsizes off the south coast of Iceland.

Seventy-one countries submitted films for consideration this year. The shortlist was determined by a committee of several hundred Academy members which chose six titles. The Academy's Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee then chose three more titles to create the shortlist of nine films. Specially-invited committees in New York and Los Angeles will now view the nine films, from which the five nominees will be selected.

All the Oscar nominations will be announced January 10, 2013. The Oscar ceremonies are February 24.

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