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Foreign Oscar Race Officially Kicks Off; Final Five Big Unknown

by Anthony Kaufman
October 18, 2007 2:02 AM
2 Comments
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And so the official list of foreign-language Oscar submissions is finally out, in what could have been one of the most contentious run-ups in years. Delayed by a few days because of the dust-up over "The Band's Visit" and a review of "Lust, Caution" -- as I had suggested last week in indieWIRE, it was dubiously Taiwanese -- the record-breaking 63 entries is now firmed up and ready to unleash on weary (and often elderly) Oscar foreign-language voters with enough time on their hands to watch over 20 movies in the next few weeks. (The 63 films are divided into three groups.)

With those aforementioned heavy-hitters out of the race, this year's final five should have a couple of surprises, perhaps more so than ever before. "Persepolis" (France) and "The Counterfeiters" (Austria) are shoo-ins, at this point, and both have the backing of Sony Classics. But I'm not so sure anymore about the remaining three spots. Picturehouse is gunning hard for "The Orphanage" (Spain) and "Mongol" (Kazahkstan), but the former is horror -- and a lot straight up scarier than last year's "Pan's Labyrinth" -- a genre which the Academy doesn't have a strong record of supporting; and the latter, while beautifully photographed, fits squarely, and perhaps too awkwardly, between love story and battle epic that voters could get confused.

That leaves spots for Lebanese crowd-pleaser "Caramel," that could come from behind as a Hollywood liberal's favorite underdog, Iceland's accessible psychological thriller "Jar City," or stranger things have happened, a veritable bona fide foreign art movie that actually deserves a spot, such as Lee Chang Dong's exquisite "Secret Sunshine" (South Korea) or Romania's unrelenting Cannes winner "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."

I have my doubts that first-time entry Azerbaijan (with Farid Gumbatov's "Caucasia") has a chance, but you got to give them credit for trying.

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2 Comments

  • Yair Raveh | October 18, 2007 4:59 AMReply

    I've been covering "The Band's Visit"'s rough ride at the Oscars since May, when first doubts about the quantity of English were first voiced over here. In all my years covering the movie beat here in Israel I've yet to see a film so internationally loved as "Band", not since the glory days of Israeli cinema in the Seventies (before my time).

    BUT-

    Don't rule out a possible nomination for Israel's runner-up, "Beaufort". Although after winning best director at the Berlin Film Festival the film disappointed on the international front (while becoming a box office smash locally), I think that when academy voters see it they will be blown away by this somber elegy of a war film, at once surprisingly grandiose and movingly intimate. Thus, this banner year for Israeli cinema will wind up with two deserving laureates: "The Band's Visit" will no doubt be nominated for a Golden Globe and could become Israel's top international grosser ever, while "Beaufort" will be nominated for the Oscar (but will lose to Persepolis).

  • john | October 18, 2007 4:04 AMReply

    When you mention the chances of art houses movies you miss silent light. This movie has strong supporters and it often is called a masterpiece and best of the decade. I think it has more chances than Korea┬┤s entry and might beat also 4 weeks as it did last sunday at the Chicago film festival

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