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Nine foreign films make the Oscars short list

January 20, 2010 |  1:30 pm

The Oscars named the following movies as semi-finalists in the race for best foreign film:

The white ribbon oscars foreign films

Argentina, "El Secreto de Sus Ojos," Juan Jose Campanella, director;
Australia, "Samson & Delilah," Warwick Thornton, director;
Bulgaria, "The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner," Stephan Komandarev, director;
France, "Un Prophète," Jacques Audiard, director;
Germany, "The White Ribbon," Michael Haneke, director;
Israel, "Ajami," Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, directors;
Kazakhstan, "Kelin," Ermek Tursunov, director;
The Netherlands, "Winter in Wartime," Martin Koolhoven, director;
Peru, "The Milk of Sorrow," Claudia Llosa, director.

These films were whittled down from 65 entries. Six were chosen by academy members divided into four color-coded screening groups. Three other movies were chosen by the academy's Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. Now committees will meet in New York and Los Angeles the last few days of January to view the semi-finalists and choose five nominees.

There were no shocking omissions from the academy's list, but these movies were also considered top contenders:

Chile, "Dawson, Isla 10," Miguel Littin, director
Belgium, "The Misfortunates," Felix van Groeningen, director
Canada, "I Killed My Mother," Xavier Dolan, director
Denmark, "Terribly Happy," Henrik Ruben Genz, director
Finland, "Letters to Father Jacob," Klaus Haro, director
Iran, "About Elly," Asghar Farhadi, director
Italy, "Baaria," Giuseppe Tornatore, director
Korea, "Mother," Joon-ho Bong, director
Mexico, "Backyard," Carlos Carrera, director
Romania, "Police, Adjective," Corneliu Porumboiu, director


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Comments

I have seen 6 out of the 9.

EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS didn't screen at the Palm Springs Festival and I missed WORLD IS BIG and KELIN there.

Does anyone know where to get screener DVDs of them? I know Sony Pictures Classics bought SECRETO for distribution and the Argentines have probably put it out on DVD already.

Anyway, I can tell you AJAMI and WINTER IN WARTIME are really strong contenders, just like the more well-known PROPHET and WHITE RIBBON.

If there's any justice within the Academy, those four will make the final five.

AJAMI is a tough TRAFFIC or CRASH-style ensemble drama about the problems of Palestinian citizens in Israel. It won big at the Israeli Academy Awards. I watched it with a sold-out auditorium of mostly elderly Jews in Palm Springs who were riveted for two hours. AJAMI has the same location, ethnic conflicts, Jewish interest and even more timeliness than WALTZ WITH BASHIR, so it has a good chance of making the Oscar nominees. (Although BASHIR certainly had more notoriety, festival/critics awards and the novelty of experimental animation).

WINTER IN WARTIME was by far the best World War II film submitted for the Foreign Oscar this year. It's a smart thriller about a Dutch boy who tries to save a downed English pilot during Nazi occupation. Taut, logical, exciting; it has a shocking twist at the end. It's really challenging to watch all the sacrifices the boy has to make in order to save the pilot. Everyone should see it!

SAMSON AND DELILAH and MILK OF SORROW are very weak entries, in my opinion.

SAMSON has good cinematography for a low-budget indie and feature directing debut; that's why it was honored at Cannes. But there's almost no dialogue, no unified plot, it's boring, its characters are somewhat unsympathetic and their problems are cliché.

MILK OF SORROW is also boring with no plot unity. It may have won an honor at Berlin, but that festival probably has the least clout of all the major film fests. MILK OF SORROW has one or two unfortunate predicaments; one or two scenes of mild conflict and a girl who mopes around for far too many weeks with a potato growing out of her vagina. What's worse is that there seems to be no reason why the girl doesn't have her vaginal operation in the first place. The result is weird, boring, meandering and pathetic. This film has no place on the shortlist with plenty of stronger, plot-savvy films left out.

My big worry now is which film will the corny, old farts in the Academy give the Oscar to?

Because the Academy requires those who vote for Best Foreign Language Film to see all five nominees in order to participate in that category, the voters end up being older, unemployed Academy members with time on their hands, conservative taste and a preference for sentimental melodramas (DEPARTURES).

I'm definitely rooting for WHITE RIBBON to win and it seems to be the frontrunner.

But I fear the stuffy Academy voters won't understand it. Even half the people with GOOD taste who saw WHITE RIBBON didn't understand it.

So I'll have to see what makes the final five before I can make a prediction.

I've watched the Bulgarian movie "The World is Big..." and it's really outstanding! It depends at least a nomination...


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