oscarLast weekend, I profiled 15 films that had a lot of heat ahead of the Foreign Language Oscar shortlist unveiling today. Of those 15 (plus a handful of wildcards), seven have ended up among the Academy’s nine selections that will move on to the second round of voting. As with many of the Oscar categories this year, this was a field jam-packed with strong contenders and the ultimate shortlist reflects that. Among the films that were roundly expected to make the cut, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty out of Italy, and Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt from Denmark, are both in. But in one of the biggest surprises, 2011 Foreign Language Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi did not make the cut with this year’s The Past. That film, as with the other two above, has a Golden Globe nomination, and it won the Best Actress prize for Bérénice Bejo this year in Cannes. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia did not benefit from beginner’s luck. The first entry from the kingdom, the roundly lauded Wadjda, is not on the list. Both of those films are with Sony Pictures Classics which had last year’s winner, Amour. Another shocking omission is Gloria, Sebastien Lelio’s Chilean feature about a 58-year-old divorcée looking for love. That had received tons of advance buzz. Of the other pics chosen to advance by the Academy, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster probably has the highest profile, and is the most profitable of the bunch, and Belgium’s Broken Circle Breakdown was a prize winner in Berlin, Tribeca and at the recent European Film Awards.

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The Academy’s shortlist was whittled down from a record 76 entries. The next heat will see an uber-committee of 30 high-profile members choose the ultimate five nominees after viewing the finalists over the weekend of January 10-12. They will be unveiled with the rest of the nominees on January 16th. Here are the titles that advanced to the next stage:

Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen
Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Danis Tanovic
Cambodia, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh
Denmark, The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg
Germany, Two Lives, Georg Maas
Hong Kong, The Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai
Hungary, The Notebook, Janos Szasz
Italy, The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino
Palestine, Omar, Hany Abu-Assad