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Foreign Oscars Offer Little Surprises

by Anthony Kaufman
January 31, 2006 2:51 AM
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After a few years of inexplicable nominations in the Oscar category for best foreign language film, this year's list of five is mostly to be expected (if not necessarily appreciated). The French-German-UK co-production "Joyeux Noel" is the kind of feel-good WWII drama that sends the Academy aflutter and was pushed hard by distributor Sony Pictures Classics; the empathetic Palestinian drama "Paradise Now" is a political favorite that has also benefited from the support of distributor Warner Independent Pictures; "Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days," the staid anti-Nazi drama is another familiar genre, with Zeitgeist Films hoping for a repeat when their German entry "Nowhere in Africa" won a couple years ago; and "Tsotsi," Miramax's South African morality tale, was pretty much guarenteed a slot. The only surprise is Italy's "Don't Tell" (aka "La bestia nel cuore"), a melodrama that has no U.S. distributor and stole the remaining position from a number of more estimable films. I would have loved to see the Dardenne brothers' "The Child" as the wild-card pick, but I stopped putting faith in Oscar years ago.

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