Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Italy's Gomorra Snubbed. The Foreign Language Film Oscar Finalists

I'll be delving further into Oscar's Foreign Language Film race in a few days since I will have seen a few more of the finalists. The various foreign language committees (it's complicated) have narrowed the field of 67 films down to onto a shortlist of 9 films. I'll give you my perspective next week. But first things first. There's always a high profile snub (or three). I'm just glad it wasn't The Class, which I adore (see my Best Picture nominees) and which won the Palme D'Or in Cannes earlier this year. No, this year's most high profile snub is that other Cannes smash, Italy's Gomorra. The hyperlink mafia film didn't make their finalist pool so it's outta there. IFC was set to release Gomorra in conjunction with the Oscar run so it'll be interesting to see if they proceed or if they delay. Unfortunately many distributors get non-committal with the foreign films they've grabbed which don't receive nominations.

Snubs are never exactly "surprising" in this often head-scratching category, but if you're talking general profile as a contender, Italy certainly had it. What's more, Italy is arguably Oscar's favorite country in this category. They've won 10 Foreign Language Film Oscars. France, which has had more nominees over the years, is Italy's only real rival with 9 wins.

The Finalists

The films with asterisks have US distribution and you might see them in theaters between now and summer but you never know. Distribution is always so problematic with foreign films and distributors are strangely slow on the draw even when Oscar buzz is in play. The Japanese film, for example, isn't slated to play in US theaters till this summer.

Five of those nine films will be named as Oscar nominees on January 22nd. Israel's Waltz With Bashir (my interview with the director), which has been having a great awards run with BFCA and Globe wins and France's The Class are both eligible in all Oscar categories since they were released within the general US eligibility period. The others are only eligible in Foreign Film.
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36 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Italy snub is certainly surprising, but you got to admit that compared to last year, this is certainly a much better list. Most of the high profile films, especially the ones hitting the critical zeitgeist are here. Wanna bet that what happened here was that Israel, France, Germany, and Italy were all left out of the top six, thereby forcing the executive committee to cut at least one of them? Surprised they sacrified Italy, though.

- Adam

J.L said...

I Really hope "Everlasting Moments" will be nominated.

NATHANIEL R said...

adam -ha! could very well be.

i know people hate the rules in the category but i like the one film per country submission rule EXCEPT that i think they ought to bend the rules to honor films that actually were distributed.

I don't think France should be penalized for being so awesome every year ;)

Nick M. said...

I was waiting, rather nervously, for this announcement. I will certainly never forgive them for passing on both "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" and "Persepolis" last year (two of my top three from 2007), but I am so, so, so glad they didn't give "The Class" the shaft.
Coincidentally, I just had a brief conversation about over the phone just two minutes ago about the film (I must have sensed the Oscar's approval, even though my minor rant included, "unfortunately, it probably won't even make the finalists round since it's too layered and subtle for the Academy").

I haven't seen "Gomorrah" yet, although I plan to when it's released, which will hopefully still be at the IFC Center in February (Martin Scorses is assisting in the distribution, so it shouldn't get too caught up in lame-brained studio bureaucracy).

Marco said...

Very disappointed about Gomorrah being left out, partly because I'm Italian, but I also thought it was a really strong candidate for the win and certainly better than our most recent wins Life is Beautiful and Mediterraneo.
Have not seen some of the nominees, but certainly thought Baader Meinhof Complex was pretty poor.
Guess it's now Class vs Bashir?

Anonymous said...

I'm italian too and I'm sorry for GOMORRAH snub, because this year my country chose a really interesting film.
It's strange if you consider that Italy normally has fortune with Oscars. What a pity for Matteo Garrone, one of the most interesting italian young directors...
Let's just hope GOMORRAH had a small compensation with the adapted screenplay nomination...even if I'm not very confident.

at this point the nominations could be:
BAISHIR
THE CLASS
BAADER-MAINHOFF
EVERLASTING

AUSTRIA, MEXICO, CANADA and JAPAN will fight very hard for the fifth spot...

mirko

ps: despite my disappointment the list seems actually better than the one we had last year...still...

Anonymous said...

Yay for Ledger, Yay for Penn and Yay for Rourke - these are three A+ leading performances, and all in one year! This year is even better in this category than 2005 and 2003 were, and that's quite an achievement.
I hope Farrell gets in. He was my favourite win of Sunday's night, mostly because I didn't really believe he could.
Howler

Jose said...

Are these people insane? How can a "refurbished" Foreign committee go and snub "Gomorrah"? It's like they're systematically choosing to remove any films that might give old voters heart attacks or show them what the world outside of Hollywood looks like.
They only vote for political films if they're Disneyfied like "Baader" and "Arrancame la Vida" apparently...

NATHANIEL R said...

well what i try to keep in mind here is that most of us don't ever get to see even half of the films so there's always the (admittedly) small chance that the most beloved high profile pictures are not the best ones at all.

but i guess that's easy for me to say this year because I thought Gomorra was solid but not much more and last year I was piping mad because i think 4 MONTHS is genius.

Bernardo S said...

I think people should consider Mexico's entry... It is a romantic costume drama epic and that appeals to Oscar. And...it is actually quite good!

BeRightBack said...

For the curious, the IMDB page for the Japanese movie is here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1069238/

Arkaan said...

Guys.

Mexico's is a historical epic. It's in

Canada's has an orphan boy and a dying man. It's in

Germany's is also a historical epic, with recongizable people and bonus points for relevance (it has terrorists, right?). It's in

So those final two slots are between France, Israel and Sweden, with Sweden and France ultimately taking it over the arty-farty-animated documentary. I haven't actually seen it, I'm just saying that I believe that's what the perception will be.

rosengje said...

I am also disappointed about the Gomorrah snub, because Italy also had the great "Il Divo" this year. Either one of those films should have been nominated and would have been great winners.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm mexican and I didn't like "Arrancame la vida". The film is a historical piece of "soup opera" with a beautiful art direction but inconsistent performances. Where're the REAL best Mexican Films like "parpados azules", "lake Tahoe" or "Burn the Bridges"?

If the film did it (With the nomination) is like "we sorry for Pan's labyrinth surprising turn and Silent Light snub". Why did they snub "leonera" (one of the most realistic films I ever seen) or "Last Stop 174" a lot better latinamerican films instead the most disapotting and expensive mexican film of the year?

My Predictions:
FRANCE: "The Class" - Did they do the same mistake a la 4M3W2D AGAIN?
ISRAEL: "Waltz With Bashir" - This is Israel's only big time for take it...
CANADA: "The Necessities of Life" - They awfully snubbed C.R.A.Z.Y.
GERMANY: "The Baader-Meinhoff Complex" - Golden Globe and BAFTA Nominee
SWEDEN: "Everlasting Moments" - The Classic Epic Film of the year.

Alt: Reinvindication for Asia. Between Turkey (Maybe too arty) and Japan (Too minimalistic)

Glenn said...

Did Gamorrah get a qaulifying run last year? As in, could it pull a City of God and show up in 2010's Oscar nominations?

Kaifu said...

Gomorrah had an Oscar-qualifying run in LA (http://www.laemmle.com/filmrundatehistory.php?mid=4558) last year.

I personally wasn't that impressed by Gomorrah. I wished Italy had submitted Il Divo, which I really enjoyed, instead.

NATHANIEL R said...

But wasn't Il Divo a little less accessible internationally? Isn't it about Italian politics?

Lorenzo said...

Yes Il divo is less accessible internationally as it deals with italian politics. But it has a very smart direction and a flattering visual style. While I liked it more than Gomorrah I understand the italian committee's reasons to select Garrone's film instead. Gomorrah, while being more accessible to international audiences, is nonetheless very political in its depiction of the "camorra", the mafia of the city of Naples. It's a true pity it didn't make the final five, cause, besides its cinematic values, the film simbolizes the fight against the mob going on in our country. The film's inclusion would have been very significant for the debate going on here, where some idiotic italian authorities and public personalities criticized the film claiming that it gives too harsh and negative an imagine of Italy. When you talk about hypocrisy! If one thinks that Roberto Saviano, the writer whose book the movie is based on, is still forced to live a hidden life cause he has received many death threats by these gangsters!!

Styx said...

No "Gomorrah"? Scandalous! Is this on the level of the "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days" snub last year, which practically forced the rules committee to change their entire process up, which didn't seem to even work? I haven't seen any of these films yet, b/c middle America isn't allowed to until way after the Oscars, but many people were predicting that one to win outright. Can "Waltz With Bashir" really take this? An animated, foreign language documentary? That's a killer hat trick.

Ali Arikan said...

I'd like Three Monkeys to get nominated, but that's because I'm Turkish. I like the film fine, have my problems with it, but it's nice to imagine a Turkish film up there, you know.

Cengiz said...

I agree with Ali. I am Turkish too and I would like to see Three Monkeys get in. It would be the first nomination for Turkey in the Foreign Language race.

NATHANIEL R said...

i was surprised that made the shortlist. I haven't watched it yet (must get to that screener) but I didn't think Ceylan would be to their liking.

James Hansen said...

I realize I'm chiming in late here, but am I the only one who thinks that the snubs of this year are not nearly as bad as years past? I know some people were excited about CAPTAIN ABU RAED (which I haven't seen) but not nominating that film isn't quite the same as skipping over an already-wildly-acclaimed-critical-hit like 4 MONTHS, PERSEPOLIS, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN, L'ENFANT, etc. If you look back at the films that have been submitted by their countries and never nominated, it is astonishing that the majority of the major modern works have been overlooked. I'm not saying the case is somewhat the same this year, but Oscar is showing some balls putting Turkey's film (directed by the thus-far completely non-commercial Nuri Bilge Ceylan) even thogh I hear it is Ceylan's weakest film. Go figure, but I'm happy to see that risk nonetheless. It's something that has not been seen in the past decade or so. It's still not perfect, but I'll take it over what we've seen the past few years.

Spartak said...

First of all I am very happy that Gomorrah didn't make it to the short list,because I think that it is an awful film,becuase:

Cruelty "does not frighten" (as it was in American History X and Klass (last year's Estonian entry), and causes bewilderment, and distrustfulness and as heroes are badly enough written, and I don't fell empathize to them, film is very difficult for tracing and understanding, and into the account of last lines, a film does not display gravity of a situation which the director and a script writer have decided to display, fairly I do not understand for what it so praise!!!


Secondly,I watched about 20+ films from 65 and I am proud to say that I guesed 4 films of 9,when I didn't watch the other 5 (Austria,Israel,France and Turkey)... :)

I am sorry that Russia didn't make it this year,because I think it was on of the best.Also I am surprised about Polish entry,which seemed to me to be nominated.

Lorenzo said...

Spartak I don't know if I get the point of your discussion, but you're not meant to empathize with Gomorrah's characters. The movie is conceived as a cold description of a world without hope, a hell you can only relate to with horror. There's no place for emotivity or identification with any of the characters.

Anonymous said...

"3 Monkeys" is a masterpiece which deserves to compete for the Academy Award...

uyuyang said...

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the greatest director in Turkey. He achived the come Oscar. I Hope Three Monkey will win the Oscar

Anonymous said...

I think the rivals will be Mexica and Turkey. Both great movies... Especially 'the monkey'.

NATHANIEL R said...

spartak i really liked the Russian entry, too. It was definitely a little quirky for Oscar and I wonder if it had too many Tarkovsky references for them?

deniz said...

three monkeys will be nominated, and it not just hope, it is the reality of nuri bilge's real good movies

Anonymous said...

I hope “3 Monkeys” will get The Oscar

gamze said...

I hope “3 Monkeys” will get The Oscar

Spartak said...

Lorenzo,yes you got it right.But still I don't want to be only an observer,but to feel together with the characters...About "you can only relate to with horror",as I told before,I hadn't felt this kind of horror you are talking about during the movie.
Another entries that is worth to watch:
Denmark (Worlds Apart) - Exellent movie about religion.Makes you think a lot about it.
Estonia - (I was here) - Last year,I thought that their entry was one of the best (even maybe the best),this year they have another good movie,not so good like last years',but still worth to watch.
India - (Stars on Earth) I don't think that this movie deserved to be in shortlist and I am not a fan of Bollywood,but still this is another kind of movie and it is touching.
And as I told you before Russia (Mermeid) and Poland (Tricks).

the_mephisto said...

3 monkeys is a super film everybody should watch it all scenes are like goergeous pictures...

Paolo said...

As an Italian, I was very disappointed by the exclusion of Gomorrah from the shortlist. I definitely think it's a very good film, I can't rememeber any Italian movie with such visual power in the last decade. In my opinion the force of the images more than compensate for the difficulties in following the story-line. Of course it's a demanding movie, also because it is a beautifully crafted description of a repulsive and appalling world. One might suppose that such a violent, and what's more, desperate movie did not suit the taste of the selecting committe which seems to be made up of seniors with a preference for more uplifting stories. The saddest thing about it is that many conservative critics and journalists took advantage of this snub to deny the value of this movie. Some of them went as far as saying that it was better for Italy not be represented by a movie which gives the world such a "shameful" image of our country. Just think that the same accusation was also addressed 60 years ago to Italy's great neorealists pictures. I hope time will amend this little injustice and public will appreciate the greatness of this movie.
BTW I consider "The Class" a good movie, but really nothing outstanding, and I found "Baader Meinhof" a forgettable movie. Unluckily I haven't seen the other movies in the shortlist.

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