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Awards Roundup: Oscar’s Foreign Finalists

By | Wednesday January 18, 2012 @ 3:20pm PST
Pete Hammond

NEWS, NOTES AND ANALYSIS FROM AWARDS SEASON:

Today’s narrowing to nine finalists out of 63 entries puts the Academy’s Foreign Language process back inOscars Foreign Film 2012 the spotlight. Although there were surprising omissions — notably Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki’s brilliant and clever Le Havre, one of several Cannes competition entries snubbed by the Acad’s foreign-language committee (perhaps its position as the first of the 63 films shown back in October kept it out of mind in the end) — there likely won’t be any raging controversy over these mostly admirable choices. Controversy was the reason the Academy switched to its new system a few years ago where the larger, mostly older and more mainstream volunteer committee would get their six top vote-getters in and the Acad’s Foreign Language executive committee — headed by Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson —  would get to choose three more generally edgier movies with strong international reputations whose omissions might have caused an outcry. That was the case in the past when movies like City Of God were bypassed in favor of more conventional fare.

This year’s list generally jibes with what I had heard coming out of the committee over the past three months and in conversations with some exec committee members. The entries from Canada, Denmark, Germany,  Iran, Israel and Poland were all much-buzzed-about contenders. Belgium’s Bullhead, Morocco’s Omar Killed Me and Taiwan’s 4 1/2-hour epic Warriors Of The Rainbow: Seediq Bale all played in the final 10 days of the three-month screening process, likely to much smaller groups of voters who ranked them very high. In fact, I heard Warriors’ Saturday morning screening January 7 was sparsely attended but enthusiastically received. It causes a problem for this weekend’s final nine screenings (to a committee of 20 members in LA and another 10 in New York) who will be blurry-eyed at the end of the process of viewing all these contenders. Poland’s In Darkness is just under 2 1/2 hours itself. Read More »

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OSCAR: Analyzing Foreign Language Race

This season, 63 countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards. The 2011 submissions are vying to be among the 9 long-listed by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences before the 5 finalists are announced with Oscar nominations on January 24. Here are the films that AwardsLine London Contributor Tim Adler believes will make the semifinal round:

Declaration Of War (France)
Sundance Selects, U.S. release date: January 27
Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration Of War has been a huge hit with critics and the public alike. The movie, which opened Cannes Critics’ Week this  year, has sold to more than 30 territories and has already generated over 810,000 admissions in France for distributor-sales agent Wild Bunch. Declaration Of War is based on Donzelli’s own life story. She and her former partner Jérémie Elkaïm play themselves in the film, which charts their fight to save the baby they had together after he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The film’s success with audiences is largely attributed to its happy ending: the baby survives. Donzelli tells me, “The audience is confronted with the worst thing you can imagine, and yet they see people overcoming the situation. It’s not about the anguish of death but passion for life.”

The Flowers Of War (China)
Wrekin Hill, U.S. Release: 2012

Flowers marks a return to high drama for China’s favorite director Zhang Yimou and represents his fourth attempt at an Academy Award,
following defeats for Hero (2003), Raise the Red Lantern (1992) and Ju Dou (1991). With a budget of nearly $100 million, The Flowers of War – starring Christian Bale – is Zhang’s most expensive film ever. Zhang’s problem: Judges of the Best Foreign-Language Film category don’t really go for blockbusters. The film is based on events in the former Chinese capital of Nanjing when the Japanese occupied it during the Second World War. Bale plays a mortician who goes to collect the body of an American priest from Nanjing Cathedral, where he discovers local schoolgirls hiding from the carnage outside. Pledging to protect them, he dresses up as a priest and also shelters a group of prostitutes who have arrived at the cathedral. The Flowers of War ran for seven days in a 22-seat Beijing cinema to meet entry standards for the Oscars, which requires films to be  shown in domestic theatres for at least a week. (It’s reportedly 40% English-language and 60% Mandarin, which lets it squeak by one of the Academy’s rules.) Despite little promotion and tickets costing 200 yuan ($30), double the normal price, Zhang’s latest sold out within 40 minutes of its box office opening. Chinese producer New Pictures Films  handled U.S. rights with exec producers Chaoying Deng and David Linde and Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb. Wrekin Hill has acquired for U.S. distribution and releases on December 23.
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European Film Awards Nominations Set

The European Film Academy unveiled its nominations this morning for the European Film Awards. Winners will be announced during a December 3 ceremony in Berlin. Here are the noms:

EUROPEAN FILM 2011
THE ARTIST, France
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Michel Hazanavicius
PRODUCED BY: Thomas Langmann & Emmanuel Montamat

LE GAMIN AU VELO (The Kid with a Bike), Belgium/France/Italy
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
PRODUCED BY: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd & Andrea Occhipinti

HÆVNEN (In a Better World), Denmark
DIRECTED BY: Susanne Bier
WRITTEN BY: Anders Thomas Jensen
PRODUCED BY: Sisse Graum Jørgensen

THE KING’S SPEECH, UK
DIRECTED BY: Tom Hooper
WRITTEN BY: David Seidler
PRODUCED BY: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin

LE HAVRE, Finland/France/Germany
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Aki Kaurismäki
PRODUCED BY: Aki Kaurismäki & Karl Baumgartner

MELANCHOLIA, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Lars von Trier
PRODUCED BY: Meta Louise Foldager & Louise Vesth

EUROPEAN DIRECTOR 2011
Susanne Bier for HÆVNEN (In a Better World)
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne for LE GAMIN AU VELO (The Kid with a Bike)
Aki Kaurismäki for LE HAVRE
Béla Tarr for A TORINOI LO (The Turin Horse)
Lars von Trier for MELANCHOLIA

EUROPEAN ACTRESS 2011:
Kirsten Dunst in MELANCHOLIA
Cécile de France in LE GAMIN AU VELO (The Kid with a Bike)
Charlotte Gainsbourg in MELANCHOLIA
Nadezhda Markina in ELENA
Tilda Swinton in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

EUROPEAN ACTOR 2011:
Jean Dujardin in THE ARTIST
Colin Firth in THE KING’S SPEECH
Mikael Persbrandt in HÆVNEN (In a Better World)
Michel Piccoli in HABEMUS PAPAM
André Wilms in LE HAVRE

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