Friday, October 14, 2011

Oscar Update: 63 Foreign Language Submissions

Some readers may have noticed that I'm not really writing much of anything about this year's Oscar race yet. The reason is simple - I have gotten tired of getting caught up in the prognosticating well before we've actually seen many of the movies coming out. So I have taken a step back this year - and you know? I like it. I will do my annual predictions, but not until closer to Oscar time.

But I am always interested in seeing what countries submit for the Foreign Language Film Oscar. I am on record as not being a fan of the current process - thinking you should actually have to release your film in North America to be considered, and that as long as it is released, then it should be eligible, instead of having some political panel select their countries "best" film. But no matter. The Academy won't change it, and I'm tired of tilting at windmills.

What strikes me about the 63 films that were selected this year is how few of them I have heard of. Hell, I hadn't even heard of my own country's selection - Monsieur Lazhar by Phillip Falardeau (a brief read of the synopsis has me thinking Canada will not be getting nominated two years in a row). Below, I have highlighted some of the title that did stand out for me though. I'm not going to bother making predictions now - until the shortlist of 9 titles is announced, it's a fool's errand.

The Flowers of War (Zhang Yimou, China) - The people you picked Zhang Yimou's Ju Dou (1990) for China selection were fired for picking a supposedly anti-Chinese film. Now, 21 years later, Yimou seems to be one of their go to guys. I don't know what to make of that. Christian Bale stars in this one, and it is about Chinese sex workers who volunteer to take over as escorts for occuoying Japanese soliders in 1937. No clue what it's like.

Le Havre (Aki Kariusmaki, Finland) - Famed Finnish director Kariusmaki's latest has been on the Festival circuit since Cannes in May - and has generated some mixed reviews - some saying it's a return to form for Aki, some insisting it's more of the same. This is about a shoe shiner, who tries to save a refugee. I seem to remember Aki pulling his last films, Lights in the Dusk, from consideration after Finald selected it - so we'll see what happens.

Pina (Wim Wenders, Germany) - Wenders is one of the important filmmakers of the German New Wave movement of the 1970s. But for many, his last great film was 1987's Wings of Desire, and he's been coasting ever since. I'm not necessarily one of them, but it's true it's been a while since Wenders was truly great. This is apparently a 3-D dance documentary. Who knew that Wenders would direct that, or it would be the best a major film producing country like Germany produced in a year? The reviews have been good so far.

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, Hungary) - I can all but guarntee you two things - the Academy is never going to nominate a Bela Tarr film for anything, and cinephiles will decry them for it. I'm ashamed to admit that he is a filmmaker I have avoided so far - apparently his film are long and slow, but brilliant.

Footnote (Joseph Cedar, Israel) - He got nominated for Beaufort a few years ago, and he is probably a good bet again. I missed Beaufort, and what I heard about Footnote from Cannes did not fill me with desire to see it.

In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland, Poland) - Another WWII film from director Holland, most likely means another nomination.

Burnt By the Sun 2 (Nikia Mikhalov, Russia) - The original won this award way back in 1994, so although I haven't heard great things about this one, don't count it out.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Blige Ceylon, Turkey) - Turkey's premiere filmmaker has been put up for this award before by his home country, but never been nominated. The review for this have been strong, so maybe it's his year.

Below is the complete list of films, countries and their directors:

AlbaniaAmnestyBujar Alimani
ArgentinaAballayFernando Spiner
AustriaBreathingKarl Markovics
BelgiumBullheadMichael R. Roskam
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBelvedereAhmed Imamovic
BrazilElite Squad: The Enemy WithinJosé Padilha
BulgariaTiltViktor Chouchkov
CanadaMonsieur LazharPhilippe Falardeau
ChileVioleta Went to HeavenAndrés Wood
ChinaThe Flowers of WarZhang Yimou
ColombiaThe Colors of the MountainCarlos César Arbeláez
Croatia72 DaysDanilo Serbedzija
CubaHavanastationIan Padrón
Czech RepublicAlois NebelTomás Lunák
DenmarkSuperclásicoOle Christian Madsen
Dominican RepublicLove ChildLeticia Tonos
EgyptLustKhaled el Hagar
EstoniaLetters to AngelSulev Keedus
FinlandLe HavreAki Kaurismäki
FranceDeclaration of WarValérie Donzelli
GeorgiaChantrapasOtar Iosseliani
GermanyPinaWim Wenders
GreeceAttenbergAthina Rachel Tsangari
Hong KongA Simple LifeAnn Hui
HungaryThe Turin HorseBéla Tarr
IcelandVolcanoRúnar Rúnarsson
IndiaAbu, Son of AdamSalim Ahamed
IndonesiaUnder the Protection of Ka’BahHanny R. Saputra
IranA SeparationAsghar Farhadi
IrelandAs If I Am Not ThereJuanita Wilson
IsraelFootnoteJoseph Cedar
ItalyTerrafermaEmanuele Crialese
JapanPostcardKaneto Shindo
KazakhstanReturning to the ‘AEgor Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky
LebanonWhere Do We Go Now?Nadine Labaki
LithuaniaBack to Your ArmsKristijonas Vildziunas
MacedoniaPunk Is Not DeadVladimir Blazevski
MexicoMiss BalaGerardo Naranjo
MoroccoOmar Killed MeRoschdy Zem
NetherlandsSonny BoyMaria Peters
New ZealandThe OratorTusi Tamasese
NorwayHappy, HappyAnne Sewitsky
PeruOctoberDiego Vega and Daniel Vega
PhilippinesThe Woman in the Septic TankMarlon N. Rivera
PolandIn DarknessAgnieszka Holland
PortugalJosé and PilarMiguel Gonçalves Mendes
RomaniaMorgenMarian Crisan
RussiaBurnt by the Sun 2: The CitadelNikita Mikhalkov
SerbiaMontevideo: Taste of a DreamDragan Bjelogrlic
SingaporeTatsumiEric Khoo
Slovak RepublicGypsyMartin Sulík
South AfricaBeautyOliver Hermanus
South KoreaThe Front LineJang Hun
SpainBlack BreadAgusti Villaronga
SwedenBeyondPernilla August
SwitzerlandSummer GamesRolando Colla
TaiwanWarriors of the Rainbow: Seediq BaleWei Te-sheng
ThailandKon KhonSarunyu Wongkrachang
TurkeyOnce upon a Time in AnatoliaNuri Bilge Ceylan
United KingdomPatagoniaMarc Evans
UruguayThe Silent HouseGustavo Hernández
VenezuelaRumble of the StonesAlejandro Bellame Palacios
VietnamThe Prince and the Pagoda BoyLuu Trong Ninh

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