Monday, October 27, 2014

For Your Consideration: Foreign-Language Film 2015 Oscar Category Predictions

Guessing the nine films that will make the category shortlist out of the 83 entries is no easy task especially when more than half the entries come from film festivals and many seem to be out of the ordinary films, some by outstanding established directors while others by just starting directors. Then if you think you guessed right from the buzz films have, you have seen some films and/or pundits claim films are good, you will discover that all you know might be wrong as you are NOT representative of the actual voters, the Academy members in the foreign-language committee that will select the nine films in the shortlist.

If you do not agree with me just take a look at category recent history to find that VERY good films did NOT make the shortlist with a few years having really BIG controversies, so large that the Academy had to change the selection process to allow at least three (3) films to come from well-known festivals and are films with impeccable cinematic credentials. Sigh. Still the selection process is not flawless as now some are lobbying to have two (2) categories: foreign-language feature film and foreign-language documentary (if done, doc regular category will be a lot less interesting) while many have been complaining for so long about sending only ONE film from countries with large cinema industry like France, India, Germany, and more.

Know that Oscars are American, United States of America, awards that celebrate American and/or English-language cinema as -lately- Academy members have been open to honor the work by British, Irish and Australian citizens. What the Academy is not willing to listen -many have been loudly voicing this- is that the annual Oscars and the foreign language category have become the TOP worldwide award that honors each country cinema in a way that no local or regional award can. Winning an Oscar -or being shortlisted, nominated- not only is a great honor to the Country cinema but, as happens with all Oscar categories, award winning films have a second life which for many of theses films increases their commercial success to a level unimaginable before winning the award.

I know, all this responsibility does not belong to an American award organization or academy. There should be a World Academy. A World Academy where members are cinema Academies from each country as well as regional Academies like for example the European Film Academy and APSA. Sigh. A great dream that no one wants to undertake.

After ventilating what every year I have to ventilate let's start the guessing game!

My Wish List

Haven't seen many of what I expect to be great films but from the few films I have seen there are two (2) that excel: Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski and Sorrow and Joy by Nils Malmros.

Poland's entry Ida is a true complete cinematic experience as not only story grabs you and makes you feel all kind of contradictory (or not) feelings -plus tech specs are impeccable- but also film is awesome visual poetry, a feast to your eyes. Bravo!

Denmark's entry Sorrow and Joy is an extraordinary representative of the kind of cinema storytelling that I highly enjoy, the one that is not about the destination but about the journey. From the very first scenes we will know the end which does not prepare us at all for the journey we will take to reach that end. Fantastic. Most outstanding is editing that eases watching the quite disturbing story told in perhaps a very cold way, with the style and manner of many other great Nordic films. As a matter of fact my best reference is that IF you enjoyed great Oscar nominated Jagten (The Hunt) by Thomas Vinterberg THEN there are high possibilities that you will also enjoy this film.

There is also another film that know will not make the list of nine but because its entertainment values will share with you all. I'm talking about Serbia's entry Montevideo, vidimo se! (See You in Montevideo) that has a look and feel that recalls great old fashion entertainment, European style of course.

From directors previous work there are two films that I'm "dying" to see, the Cannes Palme d'Or winner and the Cannes Best Screenplay winner. Yes I'm talking about the latest Nuri Bilge Ceylan master opus, Winter Sleep, and the fourth feature film by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan. Both directors have made films that absolutely blew my mind because the storytelling style and the awesome cinematography style. I have to say that both films HAVE TO make my shortlist of nine even when I know that both films are lengthy under Hollywood standards which could test the endurance of viewers as well as Academy members, but absolutely NOT mine.

The third Cannes film is by a director that I have enjoyed ALL of his previous four feature films and expect that his fifth, Mommy, will NOT be an exception. I'm talking about the Cannes Jury Prize winner (ex-aequo) Xavier Dolan and yes, I HAVE TO include his film in my shortlist of 9 even when I can estimate that audiences and Academy members are not prepared yet for Dolan's work as I believe his style is like an acquired taste.

I do not have enjoyed all Bertrand Bonello films but lately he has done some remarkable movies with interesting stories plus beautiful cinematography like in L'Apollonide. I'm looking forward to watch his take of Saint Laurent as, according to trailer and clips, film looks and feels like French cinema of the late 60's early 70's; plus, who can resist the casting? Not me. Will the film make the shortlist probably not, but IF Bonello's latest has similar cinematic values as L'Apollonide then definitively will make my shortlist of nine.

Ruben Östlund's 2008 Involuntary is outstanding but cannot say the same about his 2011 Play. Will Turist (Force Majeure) be similar to Involuntary or to Play I cannot say but only hope that will use the storytelling style of his great second feature film. What concerns me is that film seems to have "general" audiences acceptance, which is good business but not necessarily great cinema. Still this Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner is a must be seen for me and definitively makes my shortlist from what I have seen in trailers and clips.

There is one movie that I am highly curious, the Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe winner that is Georgia's entry, Corn Island by George Ovashvili. Imagine a not easy to watch story told with spectacular cinematography. This is my expectative and if is met then I can guess that film will be in my shortlist of nine.

I watch everything with Ricardo Darín so know that have to see Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) even when he appears only in one segment. This Pedro Almodovar produced omnibus with six segments that explore losing control is labeled as a comedy (which I usually dislike) and even when I have no high hopes or expectations film has good credentials which could make it a good entertaining experience that could please many audiences types, including Academy members and well, yes, me.

With Argentina's entry my shortlist of nine is complete; now that I take a second look at list, I notice that looks more like the Cannes Film Festival Official Selection than the Oscars foreign-language shortlist or nominations! (LOL) Yes, I do have a strong bias toward films from Cannes and the other big film festivals, so when there are films that did NOT traveled the big festivals route and are extraordinary, like Poland's entry Ida, then you know that film deserves the highest world accolades.

My Wish List Summary

List of Nine: Poland, Denmark, Turkey, Russia, Canada, France, Sweden, Georgia, Argentina
Haven't Seen them but are contenders to my list: Belgium, Mauritania, Hungary, Norway, Hong Kong, Germany, Israel.
Very curious about: Ecuador, Panama, Switzerland, China, Iceland, Austria, Luxembourg.
Know will not like them and if I do will be a HUGE surprise: Venezuela and Mexico

My Best Guess for what Academy Members could Select

With Academy members average age of 63-years-old, most being men, white men; most living in Los Angeles area -where Hollywood Industry resides- and with previous years selections surprises in the short list of nine, my best non-educated guess for the month of October is as follows.  By December probably my guesses could change as hope pundits and me will have seen more films and our crystal balls will become less foggy.

The Contenders
First Level (best bets): Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia), Winter Sleep (Turkey), Wild Tales (Argentina), Two Days, One Night (Belgium), Mommy (Canada)
Second Level (also in contention): Saint Laurent (France), Timbuktu (Mauritania), White God (Hungary), Force Majeure (Sweden), 1001 Grams (Norway), The Dark Valley (Austria), Beloved Sisters (Germany)
Third Level (big surprises): Cantinflas (Mexico), The Golden Era (Hong Kong), Norte, The End of History (Philippines), The Libertador (Venezuela)
Fourth Level (have seen them, did not like them, but have possibilities): Human Capital (Italy), Concrete Night (Finland), To Kill A Man (Chile), Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Spain)

Deep inside me wish/hope that in January 2015 when the shortlist of nine is unveil there will be films that will surprise me in a positive way, will try to see them and will find that I overlooked a fantastic film. Unfortunately that hasn't been the tradition in past editions where some unexpected films appeared in list, watched them only to find that they were horrendous! All right that is a strong word, so let's say that were not worth of being shortlisted, much less of being nominated. Sigh. 

So I played the game, what do you think? Agree with my predictions? If you wish to play the guessing game then you are welcome to post your list. I'm positive that some of you will guess a lot more better than me what Academy members will select.

I know I posted here more the names of the submitting country than of the film, so if you can't recall the country Oscar entry you can check the post with all the countries film and director that is here.

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