Saturday, December 27, 2014

87th Academy Awards Foreign Language Films Shortlist

While traveling almost faint when the Academy announced the shortlist of nine films that advanced to get a nomination as there were some great selections but what shocked me is one film that was no better than a regular-average Venezuelan Telenovela advancing and occupying a spot that should belong one of the many out-of-the-ordinary films that were submitted to Oscar.

It is obvious that no one can control this category no matter how you modify the procedure as leaving out films like Cannes Palme d'Or winner Winter Sleep, Cannes Jury Prize winner Mommy, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne social drama Two Days, One Night or socially significant Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem or even edgy White God only shows that there is something NOT WORKING with their selection procedure.

We know that 83 films is a huge number that is impossible to watch by one individual so dividing films into watching groups only makes some of the movies "disappear" when Academy members prefer the more easy-to-watch films before the complete cinema experience ones. But well this edition will be again another controversial year for this category that seems does not escape controversy no matter what the Academy does.

Take a look at what the Academy says about the procedure (phase I) where the nine films were selected.

"The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members, screened the original submissions in the category between mid-October and December 15. The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist."

With all the bad feelings out in the open let's concentrate into what already happened and has become the shortlist of 9 that soon will become the five Oscar nominations in the foreign-language film category.

Out of the nine films there are excellent selections like everyone's favorite and category front-runner Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski -that unless something really odd happens, will win the Oscar this year-, great Ruben Östlund's latest master opus Force Majeure, the latest out-of-the-ordinary masterpiece by Andrey Zvyagintsev Leviathan and the surprising social relevant movie from 2014 Cannes, Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako. There is no doubt in my mind that these four movies deserve to be shortlisted and even nominated if they get a nomination.

There is a second level of movies that are good but not as great as the ones that the list did not include. To my surprise Estonia's Tangerines is entertaining, grabs your attention since the very beginning, holds it and releases you well after the end of the film. I am VERY curious about Georgia's submission Corn Island that believe will be very hard to watch but with outstanding cinematography. I know an omnibus is not for everyone but Argentina's submission Wild Tales seems that could be "dark" funny or at least that is what I hope. All three films had a successful run in the festival circuit.

A third level includes Paula van der Oest Lucia de B (Accused) a very Nordic style film that I enjoyed very much as a good old fashion entertaining moment -but not much else. The fourth level has one movie that should not be in the list as does not deserve the honor at all, not even as a Latin American cinema representative as believe even not-so-good Cantiflas, Mexico's Oscar entry, was superior to The Libertador. Sigh.

With no further comments to make and my interest for this category to the lower level possible, these are the nine films that made the infamous short list of nine.

Argentina: Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales), Damián Szifrón (Cannes)
Estonia: Mandariinid (Tangerines), Zaza Urushadze (Tallinn Black Nights)
Georgia: სიმინდის კუნძული Simindis kundzuli (Corn Island), George Ovashvili (Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe winner)
Mauritania: Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako (Cannes)
Netherlands: Lucia de B. (Accused), Paula van der Oest
Poland: Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski (London Film Festival)
Russia: Левиафан Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev (Cannes)
Sweden: Turist (Force Majeure), Ruben Östlund (Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner)
Venezuela: Libertador (The Liberator), Alberto Arvelo

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the category’s five nominees by specially invited committees in New York, Los Angeles and, for the first time, London. They will spend Friday, January 9, through Sunday, January 11, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots. The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

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