Saturday, October 6, 2007

Official list out! Contenders from Latin America


Well, the official list finally came out in mid-October, and 63 countries have been officially accepted as official candidates for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

I did pretty good on my predictions....Now let's see if we can figure out which of the national submissions will make the 9-film shortlist in January.

Today, let's look at 12 contenders from North and South America.

First, the statistics:

Number of countries invited: 17

Number of countries submitting films: 12

Number of countries opting out: 5 (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua) Three of these countries have not sent a film to the Academy in over ten years.

Number of countries with a realistic chance at making the shortlist: Only 3

Number of Languages Represented: 4: Spanish (9 films), French (1 film- Canada), German (1 film- Mexico), Portuguese (1 film Brazil)

Country with the Best Shot at a Nomination: Brazil
Country with the Least Shot at a Nomination: Bolivia, which was disqualified for some unknown reason. Even when it was in the running, I had it ranked 11th out of 12 films.

Number of Comedies: 4: Canada, Chile, Puerto Rico and Uruguay, though most are fairly "dramatic comedies"

Oscar History: Canada's Denys Arcand has been nominated in this category three times, with one win.

Number of Female Directors: 2 (Argentina and Venezuela)

Tough Choices:
Brazil and Mexico both faced the same dilemma....Should they choose the film that had been the best received at home? Or the film that had the best chance to win an Oscar nomination? Brazil wisely chose Oscar-friendly "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation" over popular local favorite "Tropa de Elite", which probably would not have satisfied Oscar voters.....Mexico went the opposite route, choosing critical darling "Silent Light" over the baity "La Misma Luna".
Argentina had a great film year....To a lesser extent, so did Cuba.

Familiar Faces: Ricardo Darin stars as the father in Argentina's "XXY", Cecilia Roth co-stars as a dying man's daughter-in-law in the Chilean "Padre Nuestro", USA TV comedian Luis Guzman stars in Puerto Rico's "Maldeamores", (which is executive produced by Benicio del Toro), American singer Rufus Wainwright and German actress Diane Kruger co-star in Canada's French-language "Days of Darkness".

Number of countries I predicted correctly: 6 (Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Uruguay, and Venezuela.....For Mexico and Puerto Rico, I had the winner in 2nd place)

Film I'm most looking forward to seeing: Chile's "Padre Nuestro"

Now the analysis....Remember, just because a film isn't likely to get nominated by Oscar, doesn't mean it's not a great film! I try and see as many as possible.

No realistic chance at a nomination:
12. Bolivia (Los Andes no creen en Dios) Official Site
11. Peru (Una Sombra al Frente) Official Site

Both of these period dramas (both set in the early 20th century) are said to be very well-photographed, but somewhat lacking in what we in America might call "oomph". In another words, a tad slow and maybe a little dull.....In "Los Andes", a young Bolivian emigre who has been living in France returns to his native country and moves to a small mining town. "Sombra" is a biography of a leading Peruvian engineer (and grandfather of the director). Neither film has managed to get reviews indicative of an Oscar nominee, nor win awards internationally. Still, I applaud countries like Peru and Bolivia for entering the competition year after year because it does get their films seen by a wider audience. Last year, the Bolivian entry ("American Visa") was one of my favorites of the competition.
UPDATE: Bolivia's "Los Andes no Creen en Dios" was disqualified by the Academy. Anybody know why?

10. Colombia (Satanas) Official Site
9. Venezuela (Postcards From Leningrad) Official Site
8. Puerto Rico (Maldeamores) No official site
7, Chile (Padre Nuestro) Official Site

These four Spanish-language films will probably all have some fans, but problems of genre and style will keep them from getting very far in this competition, especially with so many more high-profile European films pitted against them. From Chile, comes "Padre Nuestro" a black comedy/farce about a family trying to find their dying father, who has just escaped from his hospita room. The trailer looks hilarious and the films looks like great fun. From Colombia, comes the well-reviewed, multi-character "Satanas", a 1980s-set crime drama whose graphic violence will likely be too much for Oscar. From Puerto Rico, comes "Maldeamores" (Lovesickness), a comedy-drama telling three stories about love....between children, between adults and between the elderly. It's been well-received but, like Chile, its subject is probably much too lightweight to be nominated. Last is Venezuela's stylish but political "Postcards From Leningrad", about children growing up in he 1960s among revolutionary guerillas. Cute children and a weighty subject matter are definitely a draw, but I'm guessing the film may be a little too political to appeal to this committee. All four of them are real long-shots.

Dark Horses:
6. Uruguay- "The Pope's Toilet" No official Site
5. Mexico- "Silent Light" Official Site
4. Canada- "L'age des Tenebres" (Days of Darkness) Official Site
Don't kill the messenger, but "Silent Light" (Stellet Licht) is probably not going to get nominated. I know this film has some extremely vocal people behind it, and I know that a lot of people are pulling for it. That said (and I have not seen the movie), this German-language story about forbidden love in a Mennonite religious community in Mexico is, by all accounts, too inaccessible and divisive to be recognized for an Oscar. With the way the voting is done, "love-it-or-hate-it" films don't stand a chance.....You have to have a high "average rating", and too many people dislike the film and Carlos Reygadas' style in general. "The Pope's Toilet" (El Bano del Papa), from Uruguay, is more difficult to categorize. It's a tragi-comedy about an impoverished and fervently Catholic town whipped into a frenzy when they find out the Pope will be coming to visit. This kind of a comic drama can often score points with Oscar, and Uruguay has come close to a nomination before....I'm not confident the film is good enough, but it should not be counted out entirely. As for Canada, Denys Arcand has had his films submitted to the Academy three times- and racked up an impressive three nominations (and one win for "The Barbarian Invasions") However, his latest intellectual comedy, a fantasy about a bored civil servant and his vivid imagination, is simply not supposed to be up to the same standard as his earlier films. Thus all three of these films have an uphill climb to reach a spot on the short-list.

Shortlist Possibilities:
3. ARGENTINA- XXY Official Site
2. CUBA- The Silly Age (La Edad de la Peseta) Official Site

Now we get to the real contenders...."La edad de la Peseta"
stars an acclaimed Spanish actress as a Cuban grandmother who is suddenly tasked with taking care of her 10-year grandson in 1950s Cuba. Good reviews, good actors, light period drama, and a "Kolya"-type relationship are well-known to charm Oscar voters and could see this small film sneak into the Top Nine. Cuba has not been nominated since 1995. "XXY" is less traditional Oscar fare, but its supposed to be very good and Argentina (not nominated since 2002) is always a serious contender. The difficult life of a 15-year old hermaphrodite and her relationship with her parents is handled deftly with humor, sentiment and serious drama in this film, which has won a number of awards internationally. This may not be a subject this committee is necessarily comfortable with, but the film definitely has a shot at the shortlist.

Major Contender: 1. BRAZIL, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias) Official Site

There is no stronger candidate from the Americas this year than Brazil's "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation". Set against the background of the 1970 World Cup and the Brazilian military dictatorship, a 10-year old boy is left alone by his parents for reasons he does not understand. Besides critical acclaim, this movie has everything that the Oscar committee likes- it's heartwarming and sentimental, it has young children, its historical, it has excitement, music, an ethnic factor Americans can relate to, and it doesn't run too long....Negatives? Well, it probably isn't the best film in the running....But as for Oscar bait, it's 110%. It's not a lock for a nomination, but it's close to being one for the shortlist.
But I could be completely wrong since I haven't seen any of these films yet! I'm going solely by buzz and reviews (which I think makes me more neutral!).....
Feel free to comment to agree or disagree....Happy viewing.
Next we will review the contenders from Western Europe.

1 comment:

upennpostdoc said...

Hey dzong

I really enjoy your posts. I almost agree on everything you wrote here but I would trade positions between the silly age and maldeamores. I havent seen any but maldeamores has great reviews and an 8.8 score at IMDB, the second highest of all submitted movies. Also I would place the pope´s toilet second after brazil´s entry, this is a very well reviewed movie with some audience awards in its pocket. On the other hand, XXY is considered an artsy slow movie and it is as divisive as silent light is, but the people that liked it are not as impressed. It only has a 7 at IMDB. This said, silent light and XXY are my most expected movies, and nominations to both of them would make me very happy.