In roughly one month's time Oscar's sharpest double edged sword falls. That would be the announcement of the official submission list for the Best Foreign Language Film competition. Why the double edge? On the one hand it's always a mouthwatering list of sixty-plus film titles from newbie directors and masters alike, starring actors from all over the globe and covering virtually every film genre. They're not all masterpieces but there's true gold in there. On the other hand, the majority of these possibly awesome titles will remain unavailable to all but the most dedicated and wealthy of cinephiles who can travel 'round the world chasing film festivals.
It's time for The Film Experience to dive in to the possibilities ahead. We've been bringing you the web's most comprehensive foreign chart for 9 years now.
Israel. Third Time Lucky?
Israel is an 8 time nominee in the foreign film race but they've never won. Israeli films were most popular with Oscar in the 1970s when The Policeman, I Love You Rosa, The House on Chelouche Street and Operation Thunderbolt were all nominated. After the dispiriting snub of Late Marriage in 2001 (one of the best films of the Aughts. Rent it now) Oscar suddenly started responding to Israel again. If they're nominated again this year, it'll be their 3rd consecutive competitor after 2007's Beaufort and 2008's trophy-magnet Waltz With Bashir (which had to have come close to winning last year) which would make the Aughts their second biggest Oscar decade ever. Last week Samuel Maoz's autobiographical Lebanon, a soldier's story set in a tank, won the Golden Lion at Venice. It seems likely that Israel will select it as their representative film. But it's only one of five Ophir nominees (Israel's Best Picture prize) so maybe not...
Twenty-one titles have been announced thus far (unless I missed something which is possible. More news arrives each day) which means we're just under a third of the way through the list of possibilities. The titles include: Cannes Palme D'Or winner Das weiße Band from Germany, a likely nominee given the hoopla and the upcoming stateside release, historical drama Prince of Tears from Hong Kong (which is actually set in Taiwan), Kazakshtan's intriguingly dialogue free (!!!) drama Kelin, African rescue mission drama Wit Lict from The Netherlands and father/daughter tearjerker No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti from Taiwan (poster to your left).
You can see more about these entries and more (cast, length, posters, miscellania) on the super comprehensive in progress charts at The Film Experience
Spain vs Almodóvar
Maybe the Spanish Academy resents Pedro's global success? Maybe they (justly) feel like other Spanish filmmakers can't get out from under his shadow if they don't promote them in this way, but whatever the reason, it's never entirely safe to bet on Pedro Almodóvar films being submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film race. This year they've passed on Broken Embraces starring Penelope Cruz. The most famous Spain/Pedro submission snub was Talk To Her and that snub probably helped the beloved auteur snag that extremely gratifying Best Director nomination and Screenplay win for the same film back in 2002. Instead of Broken Embraces, Spain will be represented by either Isabel Coixet's Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo's Fats or (my prediction) Fernando Trueba's The Dancer and the Thief. Trueba won the 1993 Oscar for Spain with Belle Epoque.
One of the joys of following the Foreign Film category each year is seeing which international film stars pop up frequently in their country's theoretical "best". How often is, say, Catherine Deneuve in the French submission? Does Gael García Bernal, everyone's favorite Mexican movie star, appear often in the Mexican submissions? The answer to the latter is a surprising no. Only two of his pictures have been submitted by Mexico, Amores Perros and The Crime of Father Amoro, and both were nominated. His biggest international Mexican hit, Y Tu Mamá También, was not submitted though it did win an Oscar nomination for Screenplay. This year he has another shot with Rudo Y Cursi. But that's one of only seven finalists competing for Mexico's submission. Read more on the submission chart...
And speak up in the comments if you love these charts and the foreign film race.
What do you see happening this year? Have you seen any of the films?