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Oscar Watch: Foreign Branch Narrows Contenders to Nine, Cuts France's Of Gods and Men

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 19, 2011 at 5:39AM

Sony Pictures Classics is happy that three of their four films vying for a foreign Oscar slot have landed in the Academy foreign branch's short list of nine: Susanne Bier's In a Better World (Denmark), Denis Villeneuve's Incendies (Canada) and Oliver Schmitz's Life Above All (South Africa), fest favorites all. The film that shockingly did not make the cut has received raves around the world, France's spiritual faith drama Of Gods and Men. SPC does well with its foreign picks, but they also offer filmmakers a Sony release in multiple territories, and over the years have demonstrated that, as one Oscar publicist says, "they're good at this."
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Thompson on Hollywood

Sony Pictures Classics is happy that three of their four films vying for a foreign Oscar slot have landed in the Academy foreign branch's short list of nine: Susanne Bier's In a Better World (Denmark), Denis Villeneuve's Incendies (Canada) and Oliver Schmitz's Life Above All (South Africa), fest favorites all. The film that shockingly did not make the cut has received raves around the world, France's spiritual faith drama Of Gods and Men. SPC does well with its foreign picks, but they also offer filmmakers a Sony release in multiple territories, and over the years have demonstrated that, as one Oscar publicist says, "they're good at this."

The foreign executive committee added three to the top six that nabbed the most votes from the several hundred voters screening 66 entries. Now another committee (selected in New York and Los Angeles by branch chief Mark Johnson, who wields a lot of power in this process) will screen the nine films to winnow them to five for Oscar nominations morning January 25. It is unlikely that the larger voting group included critics' fave Dogtooth, Greece's controversial taboo-breaking entry that has sent sensitive festgoers around the world fleeing for the doors.

The nine films are listed below.
    

The exec committee changed the voting process after the foreign branch did not nominate Cannes Palme d'Or winner Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days. This year they did not add last year's Palme d'Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand). Many countries whose films did screen well---such as Egypt, Germany, Italy, India, China, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Iraq---are probably wondering, then, "Why not me?"


Algeria, “Hors la Loi” (“Outside the Law”), Rachid Bouchareb, director;
            
Canada, “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve, director;                   
             
Denmark, “In a Better World,” Susanne Bier, director;
             
Greece, “Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos, director;
             
Japan, “Confessions,” Tetsuya Nakashima, director;
             
Mexico, “Biutiful,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director;                    
             
South Africa, “Life, above All,” Oliver Schmitz, director; 
             
Spain, “Tambien la Lluvia” (“Even the Rain”), Iciar Bollain, director; 
             
Sweden, “Simple Simon,” Andreas Ohman, director. 


  

This article is related to: Awards, Oscars


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.