Six foreign films films picked by several hundred Los Angeles Academy voters --members from various branches who see the requisite number of movies submitted for Oscar consideration--as well as three added by an executive committee hand-picked by producer Mark Johnson--make up the shortlist of nine foreign films that will be narrowed down to five nominees.
Some expected films made the cut, including Belgium crowdpleaser "Broken Circle Breakdown," Cannes best-Actor-winner "The Hunt," starring Denmark's Mads Mikkelsen, Germany's period drama "Two Lives," starring Liv Ullmann, Cambodia's festival circuit hit "The Missing Picture," Italy's visually stunning European Film Awards-winner "The Great Beauty," starring Paolo Sorrentino favorite Toni Servillo, and "Omar," from Palestine.
More surprising was Weinstein Co.'s "The Grandmaster," an ambitious martial arts film from auteur Wong kar-wai; Bosnia and Herzegovina's "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker," from Best Foreign film winner Danis Tanovic, and "The Notebook," from Hungary. It's always a sport in the industry to guess which pictures came from which group.
Clearly "Broken Circle Breakdown," "The Hunt," "The Great Beauty," "The Notebook" and "Two Lives" played well for many voters. Likely adds were "Grandmaster," "Omar" and "The Missing Picture."
Left off the list are several high-profile contenders, including Sony Pictures Classics' entry from Iran, Asghar Farhadi's "The Past," which opens this weekend, whose French star Berenice Bejo was nominated for the Supporting Actress Oscar for "The Artist" and won Best Actress this year at Cannes. The sense among the voters was that "The Past" did not measure up to Farhadi's Oscar-winning "A Separation." Also left off was SPC's "Wadjda," Saudi Arabia's historic first Oscar submission, from woman director Haifaa Al Monsour. Roadside Attractions' "Gloria," a well-liked drama from Chile starring widely hailed actress Paulina Garcia was also overlooked.
The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:
Belgium, "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Felix van Groeningen, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker," Danis Tanovic, director;
Cambodia, "The Missing Picture," Rithy Panh, director;
Denmark, "The Hunt," Thomas Vinterberg, director;
Germany, "Two Lives," Georg Maas, director;
Hong Kong, "The Grandmaster," Wong Kar-wai, director;
Hungary, "The Notebook," Janos Szasz, director;
Italy, "The Great Beauty," Paolo Sorrentino, director;
Palestine, "Omar," Hany Abu-Assad, director.
The shortlist will be winnowed down to the five nominees by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. They will spend Friday, January 10, through Sunday, January 12, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots. The 86th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at 5:30 a.m. PT, four days after the Golden Globe awards show and the same day that the Sundance Film Festival begins.