Friday, October 15, 2010

Oscar Update: Foreign, Documentaries and Animated

I don’t have all that much to talk about this week, so I thought I’d take my first look at the three other “Best Picture” categories – Foreign Language Film, Documentary and Animated.

For the Foreign Language entries, we have 65 films that have entered the race. In December, a shortlist of 9 films will be announced. But until then, we have the 65. Let’s take a look at some of the higher profile films.

Aftershock (China) – It seems like a while since China got in, but this movie about the time period between two huge earthquakes in China – and the treatment of women during that time – could get them back into the race. A huge hit in China.

Biutiful (Mexico) – Likely the highest profile film on the list, this is from Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Babel, Amores Perros, 21 Grams) and stars Javier Bardem. A likely nominee, but then again, the Academy has shied away from some high profile ones in recent years (Volver anyone?)

Carancho (Argentina) – I have heard great things about this thriller, and am sorry I missed it at TIFF this year. It stars Ricardo Darin, who headlined The Secret of Their Eyes which won last year. Perhaps Argentina can repeat?

Cirkus Columbia (Bosnia & Herzegovina) – Director Danes Anodic won this award for No Man’s Land a while ago now – and it was his country’s only foray into being nominating. I have heard this isn’t as good as that one, but perhaps the Academy will look favorably on it.

Dogtooth (Greece) – A big hit with critics, but I highly doubt that apparently very strange film about a man who home schools his children, and teaches them all the wrong words, will find love with the Academy. Good on Greece for selecting it though.

Incendies (Canada) – It’s been a few years since Canada got into this race, but I think Denis Villenueve’s film about twins who travel to the Middle East will end that streak. Got great reviews out of the Toronto, and the man is one of the most talented filmmakers in Canada right now.

In a Better World (Denmark) – Susanne Bier makes intense, unforgettable films like Brothers, Things We Lost in the Fire and After the Wedding (which was nominated a few years ago). Certainly one of the more high profile directors in the running this year.

Of Gods and Men (France) – France always seems to be in the running, no matter what they nominate. Now that they have selected a highly acclaimed film (and one that one the Grand Prize at Cannes), I think that Xavier Beauvois can book his ticket to the ceremony.

Outside the Law (Algeria) – Director Rachid Bouchereb hopes to get his second nomination, following Days of Glory a few years ago. The reaction has been mixed, but it is a political drama, centered on a family during Algeria’s fight for independence. It could find favor with the Academy.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand) – This weird,
wonderful film has found more support than most of director Apichatpong Weerathesakul’s films in the past – including the Palme D’Or. I think the executive committee may put it on the shortlist, since it has generated such a profile, but I really do.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say your nominees are Of Gods and Men (France), Incidenies (Canada), In a Better World (Denmark), Biutiful (Mexico) and Aftershock (China). But until we have the shortlist, we don’t really know.

We have to wait until November to get the list of 15 films shortlisted for this prize. As always happens, I expect some big snubs and some films we’ve never heard of to make the list. Regardless, these are the 15 films I would predict to make the cut.

1. Inside Job – Already getting great reviews, and solid box office. I think Charles Ferguson’s doc is the frontrunner to win because its timely, and he was a frontrunner a few years ago for No End in Sight, but ended up losing.
2. Restrepo – A critical hit about the filmmakers embedded with soldiers in Afghanstan. Sizable box office for a doc as well.
3. The Tillman Story – Many though Amir Bar Levy’s first doc, My Kid Could Paint That, should have gotten in. I think this doc, about the NFL player turned soldier killed by friendly fire, should land him in the race.
4. Waiting for Superman – Davis Guggenehim won a few years ago for An Inconvient Truth, and they have often not given noms to previous winners, but this is getting talked about so much, I doubt they’ll overlook it.
5. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer – Like Guggenheim, Alex Gibney is a former winner (Taxi to the Dark Side), so a win is unlikely – but critical reaction has been strong for this one. Could also get in for Casino Jack and the United States of Money.
6. A Film Unfinished – In the 1990s, they loved Holocaust docs. This one about a Nazi propaganda film, that was unfinished of course, should get shortlisted, and could easily crack the top five.
7. Gasland – A timely documentary about the environment, and how oil companies are destroying people’s land through leases. Has some buzz, but it hasn’t translated into box office yet.
8. The Oath – An insider’s view of Al Qaeda. Has been popular with the critics, but not so much at the box office. But they do like important subject matter.
9. Enemies of the People – Enemies of the People offers and inside view into the Khmer Rouge, by a reporter who spent years gaining the trust of those of perpetrated the massacres. Not as timely as some of the docs, but weighty subject matter will help.
10. Exit Through the Giftshop – A very popular movie at the box office, by doc standards that is, and critically acclaimed as well. But it doesn’t have the weighty subject matter that assures a shortlist citation.
11. 12th and Delaware – The filmmakers behind Jesus Camp return with this documentary about abortion. They obviously like the filmmakers, but abortion is touchy for many.
12. Last Train Home – A documentary that takes you across China, as families travel to reunite. Been a huge hit with critics, and just hitting theater now. I think this one could move up.
13. My Perestroika – A look at the last generation of Russians born behind the Iron Curtain. Weighty subject matter helps, but it isn’t as timely as some.
14. A Small Act – A Kenyan whose life is changed when a anonymous Swede gives money for his education decides to start a scholarship fund of his own. This is the type of inspirational doc that often sneaks in.
15. Waste Land – A modern artist decides to turn the people who live in the world largest trash dump into art – and all the proceeds go to helping them out after. Will be competing with A Small Act for the inspirational prize.

It looks like there will only be 12 or 13 films in the running this year – which means there will only be 3 nominees – not five like in some years (like last year). The films listed below look like your contenders.

1. Toy Story 3 – Slam dunk to get nominated and most likely win.
2. How to Train Your Dragon – Popular early year entry that is going to get a big campaign.
3. The Illusionist – The latest from Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) will likely get the “adult” spot.
4. Despicable Me – A Huge hit, but not as popular with critics as Dragon.
5. Tangled – Disney will push hard to try and get this in.
6. Megamind – Without knowing the quality, cannot really say.
7. Legend of the Guardians – Got some good reviews, but bombed at the box office.
8. Shrek Forever After – Been there, done that.
9. Idiots and Angels – The latest from Bill Plympton, may not have actually submitted, and unlikely to get in even if it did.
10. Alpha and Omega – A huge bomb at the box office.
11. My Dog Tulip – Will have to work hard to convince people even to watch it.
12. Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue – Disney trying to up the number of contenders to try and get Tangled nominated.
13. Yogi Bear – Alvin and the Chipmunks has been eligible in the past, so this could be as well.

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