Thursday, September 17, 2009

Foreign Film Oscar Submissions. The Story So Far

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...

Officially Announced
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.

Mexico?
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?
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31 comments:

Matt said...

LOVE your foreign film Oscar coverage. always so easy to navigate and learn.

I wouldn't think it would be that surprising to not see Deneuve or Bernal that often in their countries represented films. If the US had but one submission for awards consideration each year, we would rarely see some of our biggest stars as well.

...and probably no Ron Howard pictures...

Glenn said...

I haven't read most of the piece yet, but I wanted to say this before I forgot:

"the most dedicated and wealthy of cinephiles who can travel 'round the world chasing film festivals."

Except those dedicated and wealrth cinephiles would travel around the world to the festivals just to see An Education or Precious or The Informant! They wouldn't seek out an obscure Turkish movie about a man with no thumbs (or something like that).

CrazyCris said...

Well I for one am a Spaniard who is glad to see someone other than Almodovar get the chance to shine! He doesn't need the help anymore, he's his own world-recognised brand-name!

Although I might change my mind later since I'm going to see Abrazos Rotos this afternoon... :p

Glenn Dunks said...

Considering they didn't nominate Volver when they had the chance I'm sure Broken Embraces wouldn't have stood a chance at all.

Guy said...

I'm not convinced they'll nominate "The White Ribbon" ... I can easily imagine it being the annual "shock" snub that stirs up the annual outrage over the credibility of the category.

It'll obviously make the shortlist of nine, what with that executive committee safety net (though that didn't help "Gomorrah"), but I still think a nomination could be a reach. Isn't Haneke just a little too remote for their liking?

Fernando Moss said...

I hope that BAJO LA SAL ends up being Mexico's choice. It's pretty great, maybe not really Oscary but still.

I just wish they don't go with Rudo y Cursi or Backyard... I hate both films...

Iggy said...

I don't know if Almodóvar's love/hate relationship with the Spanish Academy is due to envy of his success or rather to not having many voting friends in the Academy. I'm inclined to think it's the latter.

If it's the first, one could say it's an early envy of his first big hit. After "Women on the Verge", which everybody loved at the time, as shown in the Goyas, his follow-up "Tie me Up! Tie Me Down!" received 15 nominations for the Goyas and went back home empty-handed. It was one of the biggest snubs I can remember.

"Ay, Carmela!" swept the Goyas that year. To be fair, and with the perspective of time, "Ay, Carmela" was at least as good as Almodóvar's and connected with a bigger audience. And let's not forget it was directed by Carlos Saura, another acclaimed director (check his profile on IMDB), that belonged to a previous generation. Curiously enough, "Ay, Carmela!" was also Carmen Maura's first big succesful vehicle after her breakup with Almodóvar (a sweet revenge? ha).

Whatever the case was, it caused Almodóvar to get mad at the Academy, and as Almodóvar won't shut up everybody became well aware of it.

He has left the Academy and gone back to them, depending on his mood or on who was the chairperson at the time (Marisa Paredes, one of her muses was the Chairperson of the Academy for some time). I don't know if right now he's still a member or not. I don't think he cares that much.

Seen with some perspective, I think the Academy is just not sold on whatever he does, and they don't take him for granted. And that's fine with me. If you ckech the Goya awards in his filmography, his major (except "Talk to Her" and "Bad Education") works have been recognised most of times. And they way I see those two cases, those snubs were more a way to avoid making him a default nominee/winner rather than related with their quality.

As for the 3 choices from which the final submission will be elected this year, I haven't seen any of them. My bet would be on Trueba's (unreleased yet, but that's another story). 2Gordos" ("Fats") opened just last weekend. I think chosing Coixet would be a mistake. I'm not sure AMPAS would buy as a "Foreign Language Film" a movie shot &0/40% (according to the producers) in Japanese/English. But last year I predicted two of the selected ones might have possibilities and the final choice was the third one I didn't even mention, so I'm not really reliable :) when talking about predictions.

(sorry for the lengthy monologue).

Amir said...

i believe if iran sends "about elly" they have a good shot at being nominated. the film won best director at berlin film festival and best film at tribeca film festival. (nathaniel, i told you about it back in the day, if you remember) too bad it's not screened in the US yet. the sympathy factor for artists in iran and how they're censored might help a little bit too.
if it was ever screened around you, don't miss it by the way.

Glenn Dunks said...

Ever since Germany chose The White Ribbon people have been screaming "LOCK! LOCK!" It is quite obvious, however, that they have not seen the movie. Just because the movie is in black and white and a "period piece" doesn't mean it's any more accessible than Code Unknown or Funny Games. It deals with sexual repression, violence, childhood abuse and all of those other familiar Haneke issues. It's long, it doesn't have an ending and it hasn't one single solitary mention of WWII.

I know that last one would be hard since this Ribbon is set before WWI, but it's a commonly known fact that WWII = nomination, so without it Haneke is already at a hindrance. Maybe if he's set the film at the onset of WWII he'd be better positioned for a nomination.

He can still get in, obviously - anything is possible in this category, almost - but it's no slam dunk just because it's from a high profile director that fanboys like.

Glenn Dunks said...

And by "fanboys" I mean the kind that like to predict Oscars. :)

John T said...

In defense of the Academy, I loathed Gomorrah last year-it was beautiful, yes, but other than that it was tedious and extremely difficult to follow.

I watched it back-to-back with The Class and clearly Cannes made the correct choice.

DJ said...

I'm really curious to see if Marion Cotillard's The Last Flight will get in... it's my most anticipated of the year, but I probably won't be able to see it for a while. Hear anything about it?

Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guy said...

"The Last Flight" would miss the eligibility dates in any case (its French release is only in November, apparently), but it's just been confirmed that the French have selected "A Prophet," just as everyone expected.

http://www.incontention.com/?p=14066

Anonymous said...

The No-Selected from Sweden

Let the Right One In
Men Who Hate Women

daniel said...

Brazil is gonna choose the picture for submission tomorrow! But I'm sure that we his are not be nominated this year (again), cause all the movies are very weak.

Ryan said...

So...the submission from Taiwan has a Spanish title, but it is in Mandarin? Or in Spanish? Color me confused about that, I guess I'll have to check that out.

Guy said...

Nope, there's nothing remotely Spanish about the film except the title, apparently. I hear the director resents the use of English for all international titles, so he used Spanish to make a point of that.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRV2-qK8p8w
no puedo vivir sin ti trailer

Styx said...

What is Spain's beef with Pedro all about? Don't they get that the Academy adores him, and his films are the best chances that Spain has in getting nominated for foreign language film? I don't get what the pettiness is all about. Helping new filmmakers is one thing, and that's a noble endeavor, but if they're not the best your country has to offer, then snub them and submit your big guns. It's happened now with "Volver", "Bad Education," and now "Broken Embraces." I'd be kinda pissed right now if I were Almodovar.

Kate_Sgulp! said...

Rudo y Cursi could be a different option for Best Foreign Film, I really like this movie, and Gael´s music video "Quiero que me quieras" it´s son funny!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtCIoW1xPlc

Yair Raveh said...

The Israeli entry will be announced next Saturday (Sept 26). In Israel the Best Picture winner of the Ophir Awards (Israel's Academy Award) is the automatic Oscar entry. And although it would've made sense to send in "Lebanon", making headlines in Toronto, en route to NYFF and the London FF after being the first Israeli film ever to win in Venice (or in any of the top 3 festivals, for that matter), the ballots closed on Sept 2nd, long before that win could influence voters. According to my survey, the likely winner will be "Ajami", a superb and gritty crime drama, that turns the Israeli-Arab conflict into a gangster shoot-em-up (think the Israeli "Gomorrah"). It's a fine movie, but it's hard me to imagine it getting nominated. (Actually, it seems the people behind "Lebanon" don't think they have a shot at winning because right now the film is due to be released in Israel only on October 15, two weeks after the Academy's September 30th deadline).

That said, the race between "Lebanon" and "Ajami" is so close, things could reverse, and a tie is not out of the question. Check on my blog next Saturday afternoon, to find out who won).

NATHANIEL R said...

well than Yair, it would be Oscar disqualified anyway since it was required to open before September in its home country to qualify. (unless it had a qualifying run to compete for the Ophir itself?)

Ron Cruz said...

from: http://filmacademyphil.org/?p=1645

An eight-man committee of the Film Academy of the Philippines began reviewing a short list of for the country’s entry to the best foreign language film category of the 82nd Oscar Awards scheduled next year.

Scheduled for showing on Wednesday, Sept. 9 are the films Pitik Bulag of ALV Entertainment and The Last Viewing of Davis Entertainment.

Aside from these two films, seven other films were recommended by the selection committee members for review while screening for three other films was requested by their producers.

These local films were exhibited in theaters for at least seven consecutive days within the period of October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009.

Included in the short list are the following films: Kamoteng Kahoy (APT Entertainment); The Last Viewing (David Enertainment); Concerto (Solito Arts Productions and Seiko Films); Ded na si Lolo (APT Entertainment); Baler (Viva Films); Jay (Pasion para Pelikula Productions); Bente (APT Enterainment) and 100 (Martinez-Rivera Films).

The films whose producers requested the committee to review are Lola (Centerstage productions); Manila (MJM Productions and Bicycle Pictures); and Adela (Bicycle Pictures).

The FAP Oscar committee is composed of the following; National Artist for Film Eddie Romero, senior adviser of the Academy and also the chairman of the selection committee; Actor/Director Robert Arevalo, FAP adviser; Director Jose Carreon of the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI); Johnny Delgado of the Actors Workshop Foundation; Director William Mayo of the Philippine Motion Picture Directors’ Association (PMPDA); Manny Morfe of the Production Designers Guild of the Philippines (PDGP); Jess Navarro of the United Film Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (UFEG); and Director Elwood Perez, PMPDA.

The list of committee members had been forwarded before the August 3, 2009 deadline to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which conducts the Oscar Award.

Ryan said...

I got to study abroad in Spain last year. As a big Almodovar fan, I definitely brought him up whenever a teacher asked about what we knew about Spanish popular culture. While some did enjoy him a lot, especially a few of his earlier efforts, others were much more ambivalent. My host mom and sister were not really fans at all. Interestingly, they were fans of American culture offerings. My host mom's favorite movie was even Bridge on the River Kwai (although I believe that is from the UK)

Agustin said...

Argentina's El Secreto de Sus Ojos is a safe bet for the 9 films list, maybe a nomination.
It's directed by the last nominee from Argentina, Campanella, but another genre and style entirely.
It's also showing at Toronto.

Spartak said...

"who can travel 'round the world chasing film festivals."

You don't have to do such a thing...You can watch some of the films in your own country festivals (even in a small country as Israel,there are about 4-5 films from the list) and also there are a big shots like "White Ribbon"...And what about the rest?You can download them from the internet,I know it is illegal and so on,but it is better then nothing?!

I wanted to write about Israel,but Yair made it before...And as I understood (from his survey) that "A Matter of Size" has also a chance for winning...

Júlia said...

Just an update... Brazil just announced his submission: Salve Geral.

You can watch the trailer here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymCQQiIRnrk

Just watch out for the weird looking subtitles...

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Another incomprehensible Portuguese submission for Oscar...

I don't know why we have so much trouble in producing a good movie... Every year we submit something and every year we don't get nominated. It should make the Portuguese Cinema Association wonder what is wrong with our cinema and why people don't like it.


Oh well... 27 submissions and 0 nominations, that must be THE record.

Yair Raveh said...

Nathaniel, the funny thing is you don't need an "Ophir qualifying release" to be nominated for an Ophir. The Israeli award is handed-out between films PRODUCED not RELEASED in a given year. Don't get me started. It's silly and backwards.
The deadline for the American Academy is to be released locally by October, not September as you wrote. So my guess is that "Lebanon" will be released on one screen in Israel this coming weekend, or that it was quietly released for a qualifying run out-of-town somewhere, otherwise it's nothing but utter mishandling (and again: most chances are the winner will ultimately be "Ajami", not "Lebanon").

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