Saturday, December 1, 2012

Foreign Film Oscar Prediction 2012-2013, POLAND to VIETNAM

I was about to start a review of the year's race, but realized that my "P to Z" Post of predictions was somehow deleted....Not sure how that happened, so I'm reposting with no changes. Obviously I got a lot of these wrong!

79. POLAND’s most acclaimed film of the year is “Roza”, a story of the terrible violence committed against women living in the constantly shifting border regions of Germany, Poland and the USSR in 1945/6. It won Best Picture at the Polish Eagles (defeating Oscar nominee “In Darkness”) and has gotten universally positive reviews, making it an easy choice for the Polish Oscar submission. It should be able to beat “Totentanz: Scenes from the Warsaw Uprising”, a film premiering at the Moscow Film Festival, about the Polish capital immediately after the war. If they don’t want a movie about the end of WWII, they may try to go to back to the beginning with “The Secret of Westerplatte”, a controversial new film about a team of Polish soldiers trying unsuccessfully to fend off the 1939 German invasion. Films from this era have produced Poland’s two recent Oscar nominations. If they want more contemporary stories, they have “To Kill a Beaver”, a thriller about a man returning to his hometown for mysterious purposes and “Courage”, about a man mourning the death of his brother who was murdered after defending a woman from thugs while he stood idly by. Very dark horses: Juliette Binoche’s prostitute drama “Elles”, incest drama “Shameless”, and“Yuma”, about two friends who take divergent paths after the fall of Communism”. My Top Four: “Roza” with “Westerplatte” a close second, “Totentanz” in third (it may not open in time) and “To Kill A Beaver” in fourth.

80. PORTUGAL is hopeless in this category. Portugal holds the record for the most submitted films without a nomination (tied with Egypt) For the first time in many years, last year they had a genuine contender. “Mysteries of Lisbon” got a U.S. theatrical release, excellent reviews (despite a four-hour running time) and had lush production values. Portugal send a documentary about a local Nobel Literature laureate instead. Sigh. They simply don’t seem to know or care what Oscar likes. To that end, the most likely submission this year is the strange, arty B&W drama “Tabu”, which won two awards at Berlin. The plot is confusing…something about an old woman, multiple stories, Africa and crocodiles. It’s the sort of arthouse that the Portuguese send again and again, and the director has already been chosen once before (for “Our Beloved Month of August”). “Tabu”’s two chief challengers are box-office hits are family soap opera “Blood of My Blood” (the highest-grossing Portuguese film of 2011) and biodrama “Florbela” (the highest-grossing Portuguese film so far in 2012). “Blood of My Blood”, about a family in the slums of Lisbon, won Best Picture at this year’s Golden Globes, while “Florbela” is a popular melodrama about an early 20th century poetess. Reviews for both have been mixed in the West, which is normal for Portugal. If it’s released in time, “The Lines of Wellington” will be a strong contender. The war drama premieres at Venice and co-stars Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. Director Raul Ruiz died during filming and his wife completed the film. But I think it will premiere in Portugal next year as will 103-year old Manoel de Oliveira latest, “The Shadow of Gebu”. Other dark horse possibilities include “Hay Road”, about a man trying to avenge a murder and “A Woman’s Revenge”, about a 19th century Duchess who turns to prostitution to shame her husband.

81. PUERTO RICO was banned from the Oscar competition last year. I already ranted about how unfair and how stupid it is to exclude cine Boricua from the Oscars when Greenland, Hong Kong and Palestine are allowed to compete, despite similar status as culturally unique countries without statehood. When Palestine was admitted to the Foreign Oscar family, AMPAS noted that there was definitely a culture of distinctly Palestinian filmmakers. AMPAS correctly recognized this for Puerto Rico for 25 years before changing their mind. Hopefully, they will change the rules once again to re-admit Puerto Rico, but I doubt it. Still, I feel it is my responsibility to continue to include them. This year, film output was up (including the biggest-ever Puerto Rican box office success, “Que Joyitas!”) and, If allowed to send a film this year, I predict they would send “La Granja” (The Farm), a grim drama about three lives- a barren midwife, a failed boxer and a fat little boy- in a drug-addled Puerto Rican slum. They also would have considered “Los Condenados” (The Condemned) about a woman returning to her ancestral home, encountering townspeople and supernatural goings-on.

82. ROMANIA, surprisingly enough, has never been nominated for an Oscar. This year’s Romanian race has two front-runners and two dark horses. Dramas “The Best Intentions” (Locarno, Best Director 2011) and “Beyond the Hills” (Cannes, Best Screenplay/Actress, 2012) are the favorites, while comedies “Everybody in Our Family” (Winner, Sarajevo 2012) and “The Phantom Father” are fairly strong challengers. “Beyond the Hills” is the third feature by Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”). It’s a two-and-a-half film about a frantic Romanian girl trying to get her childhood friend- now a nun at a remote monastery- to return with her to Germany. It doesn’t have the buzz of “4 Months”, but it will likely represent the Romanians if it’s released before September 30. The problem is that it doesn’t yet have a domestic release date, which leaves the door wide open for “The Best Intentions”, a “realism” drama (sounds a bit like “Mr. Lazarescu”) about a man and his reaction to his mother’s stroke. It lost Best Picture at the Romanian Gopo Awards to “Aurora”, which in turn lost last year’s Romanian Oscar race against “Morgen”. “Everybody in Our Family” has gotten mixed reviews, though some think it’s a brilliant black comedy about a divorced man trying to salvage a vacation to the seaside with his young daughter. “The Phantom Father” is a road movie featuring an American professor trying to track down his roots in Romania by visiting the birthplace of a Chicago mobster ancestor. There’s too much competition for comedy “The Last Corrupted Man in Romania” by elderly Sergei Nicolaescu (who repped Romania five times) and “Loverboy”, a trafficking drama about a charming, sweet-talking young man who sells girls into prostitution, though the latter did manage a Best Picture nom at the Gopos despite middling reviews, and reunites the cast of “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle”. My prediction: “Best Intentions” is Romania’s selection, with “Beyond the Hills” competing next year.

83. RUSSIA 83. created a big controversy last year when its selection committee chose a film a politically connected three-time Oscar nominee over two other more acclaimed productions. This year I predict that the Russians will send one of two frontrunners: either "The Conductor" (Shanghai, 2012), a spiritual music drama about a concert conductor haunted by the suicide of his son, who leads his company on a tour of Israel and "Siberia Mon Amour" (Moscow, 2011), the story of a seven-year old boy and his family living in the desolate Siberian taiga. The director of "Conductor", Pavel Lungin, has been passed over so many times, I wonder if they will feel he is due, or whether they just don't like him? Among the other films that shouldn't be counted out are "The Admirer" (which opened the Moscow Film Festival this year) which tells the story of a platonic love between Anton Chekhov and a married woman, "Dom: A Russian Family", about a man who returns to his dysfunctional family after years away, "The Horde", a beautiful epic period drama which shows the Russian resistance to the Mongol invasions, "Once Upon a Time There Lived a Simple Woman", which won the Nika for Best Picture about the daily miseries of a farmer and his wife living in early twentieth century Russia, and "White Tiger" directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, a fantasy-drama about a man who can talk to tanks during the Second World War. My prediction: "Siberia" will represent Russia, followed closely by "The Conductor" and "The Admirer" with "White Tiger" and "Dom: A Russian Family" completing the top five.

84. SERBIA can be proud that the top two films at the box office over the past eighteen months have been domestic Serbian features- black comedy “The Parade” (#3 in history) and 19th century dramedy “Professor Kosta Vujic’s Hat”. Serbia can also be embarrassed that the #3 film was “The Smurfs”. Oh well. Unlikely hit comedy “The Parade” is about a middle-aged, homophobic Serbian gangster who reluctantly agrees to protect a gay pride parade in Belgrade against neo-Nazis after a gay couple saves his dog from a bullet wound. How’s that for an original plot? “The Parade”’s director has been chosen twice before to rep Serbia, and the film has been a hit all over the former Yugoslavia. It has also forced the countries of the region to examine their poor record on LGBT human rights. Reviews have been mostly (but universally) positive but it’s one of the films I’m most looking forward to seeing this year. The Serbs have a talent for black comedies and frequently send them to the competition. The competition is not so strong. “Redemption Street” is a rare thriller that acknowledges Serbian war crimes, “Klip” is about a teenaged girl with a penchant for webcams, “Dr. Ray and his Devils”, about an American filmmaker living in Communist Yugoslavia, and the aforementioned box-office hit “Hat”, which examines a nineteenth century teacher’s relationship with his students who would go on to be important historical figures. All films have gotten middling reviews, although “Dr. Ray” and especially “Redemption Street” have a chance at bashing “The Parade” into second place. I’m interested in seeing a pair of black comedies “Death of a Man in the Balkans” (a man commits suicide on a webcam which is left on after his death, and which records his friend’s and neighbor’s reactions for 80 minutes) and “Loveless Zoritsa”, about a young woman whose lovers all meet a quick and untimely death, but neither has a chance to represent Serbia. The competition may be weak this year, but three of Serbia’s greatest modern-day directors have films scheduled to be released in late 2012. Next year will be extremely competitive due to new films by Srdan Golubovic (“The Trap”), Goran Markovic (“Tito and Me”, “Turneja”) and Goran Paskaljevic (“Powder Keg”), dealing with the Bosnian War, the break-up of Yugoslavia and the Holocaust respectively.

85. SINGAPORE has sent films four of the past seven years, since rejoining the Oscar race in 2005. Three of those four films were arthouse films directed by Eric Khoo, all of which competed at the Cannes Film Festival. Singapore cinema has been doing incredibly well at the local box office lately, but their slate of locally themed comedies and horror movies aren’t made for critics awards. I think Singapore will skip this year, but their most likely submission is “Imperfect”, an action-drama about local teens getting involved with triad violence. Sending a commercial local film like comedy “Already Famous” or “We Not Naughty” (by Jack Neo, who helped jump-start the Singapore film industry in the late 1990s), or a sentimental romance like “Timeless Love” would be surprising but not unheard of. They sent one commercial feature- musical “881”- in 2007.

86. SLOVAKIA’shighest-profile film of the year is “Made in Ash”, the debut film ofIveta Grofova. Like last year’s entry (“Gypsy”), this film focuses on the trials and tribulations of Slovakia’s Roma population (2% of the national population). In the documentary-style “Made in Ash”, we meet a Roma teenager who unwittingly enters the world of human trafficking while seeking work across the border. The question is whether the film will be released in Slovak cinemas before September 30. I don’t think it will, so I’m predicting the Slovaks send “The Confidant”, a thriller-comedy-drama about a man who becomes a police informant to protect his girlfriend. It’s by a previously submitted director (Juraj Nvota) and the highest-grossing Slovak film of 2012 so far. The two main challengers include “Visible World” which, like “Confidant” is a Czech co-production about surveillance (“World” focuses on a creepy, introverted Czech living in Bratislava who spies on the people around him), and “Tigers in the City”, a quirky romantic comedy about three twenty-somethings looking for love. “Miracle”, a drama about a 15-year old who is forced out of a love affair and into a rehab center, by the director of “Blind Loves”, could come into play if it’s released in time, or it may challenge “Made in Ash” next year. Probably out of their league: “Dance Between the Fragments”, an abstract drama about life an dance, “Love” (Slovak slang for money), a hit drama about a young man tempted by gangster life and “Immortalitas”, Slovak’s first attempt at 3D science-fiction.

87. SLOVENIA was disqualified last year, reportedly because their secretary forgot to actually send their film to Los Angeles (they had officially selected odd silent drama “Circus Fantastictus”). Hopefully they’ll remember to go to the post office this year. Seven of the past eight years, Slovenia has selected the Best Picture winner at the Festival of Slovenian Film, held every autumn. That should theoretically make last year’s winner- abstract drama “Archeo”- the frontrunner, but I’m guessing this story of a nameless man, woman and child existing in the wilderness is going to be a bit too weird to send in. Like last year’s nominee, “Archeo” has no dialogue. More likely is “The Trip”, a road movie about three best friends (a straight guy, gay guy and straight girl) who reunite for a road trip and discover how much they have grown apart. It won five awards (including Actor, Actress and Screenplay and the Slovenian Critics Award) at the Festival and seems much more accessible. “Bread and Circuses” (winner of the Audience Award), a nostalgic family comedy about a luckless family in pre-independence Slovenia who are selected to appear on a game show, should be a considered a dark horse but it is clearly more for local audiences than international ones. “Shanghai Gypsy”, about a Roma family, is scheduled to premiere in October and may be competitive for next year’s race.

88. SOUTH AFRICA’s multi-lingual film industry makes finding an eligible film difficult, since most of their movies (like much of their population) switch languages back and forth between English, Afrikaans and one or more African languages. To be eligible for the Academy Award, films must be more than 50% in a language other than English. I predict this year’s nominee from South Africa will be “Lucky”, the story of a cranky (and borderline racist) Indian South African woman and a 10-year old AIDS orphan. The film, in Hindi, Zulu and English, has gotten good reviews and Oscar just loves a story about old people bonding with small children. The main problem is that its Anglo-Indian director is not a South African, but I’m predicting it anyway. Another contender is “Man on Ground” (in Zulu, Sotho, English and the Yoruba language of Nigeria) a mystery-thriller about two Nigerians living in South Africa which, if chosen, would be the first time a black director has repped South Africa at the Oscars (which is ironic because its director is not a local, but a naturalized South African citizen from Nigeria). The low-budget “Otelo Burning” (in Zulu), was filmed with a handheld camera through extensive workshops with local kids….Directed by a white South African woman raised in NYC, it’s about young black surfers from the townships in apartheid-era 1989. It’s unlikely but possible. Hit romantic comedy “Semi-Sweet” (basically “The Proposal” in Afrikaans) made a lot of money but isn’t supposed to be that good…..

89. SPAIN has four favorites and only three places on its annual shortlist. All four are thrillers and three of them are set in the past....Which one will Spain choose and which one will be ignored in the final Three? Starting chronologically, in the 1880s we have "Holmes & Watson: Madrid Days", the latest film from four-time Oscar-nominee (and one-time winner) Jose Luis Garci. Garci has not been selected by the Spanish Academy in ten years, but each of his productions has been a finalist. This latest production finds Sherlock Holmes up against English serial killer Jack the Ripper in Madrid. Set in the 1950s we "Miel de naranjas" (Honey Orange), another film about the Spanish Civil War, this time a historical thriller about a young man who changes sides during the conflict. From the 1980s we have "Grupo 7" (Unit 7) a corrupt cop thriller. This film has been acquired by HBO for a US release. Finally, we have "No habrá paz para los malvados" (No Rest for the Wicked), a thriller about a crazed cop who kills several innocent people while pursuing an Islamic fundamentalist group. This rare film noir won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor at the Spanish Goya Awards. My prediction: "Wicked" will represent Spain with "Group 7" and "Holmes & Watson" being the other finalists.

90. SRI LANKA (last submitted 2009) has sent films twice- one arthouse film in 2003, and one somewhat political film in 2009 about the recently ended civil war. This year, I predict the Sri Lankans will send “Matha”, a somewhat controversial film about two Tamil youths (a girl and boy) who are conscripted by the LTTE terrorists who are waging war against the Sri Lankan government. The film is by a respected director and fits nicely with the Government’s point of view on the civil war, which they are actively trying to promote abroad. It also sounds like quite an interesting film. If they want to go arthouse instead, they have “August Drizzle”, a slow and poorly reviewed film about the life of a lady mortician. The Sri Lankans have never chosen a period film, but they also have “Kusa Paba”, a colorful Bollywood-style period fairy tale set 2500 years ago.

91. SWEDEN has four main contenders. From 2011, we have “Play” and “Simon & the Oaks”, which competed against each other for Best Picture at this year’s Guldbagge Awards (they both lost to “She-Monkeys”, which was eligible last year). Best Director winner “Play” is a challenging film that looks at racial issues in modern-day Swedish society, in which a group of black kids bully and rob a Swedish classmate (but it’s a bit more complicated than that). “Simon & the Oaks”, a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of WWII in neutral Sweden, got the most nominations at this year’s Guldbagges, although in the end it only won two acting awards. (Like in “Simple Simon”, Bill Skarsgard plays the title character of “Simon”). Oscar nominee Patrick Eklund has “Flicker”, which won Best Picture at the Gothenborg Film Festival. It revolves around a number of quirky characters enduring a power blackout in their small Swedish town. Eklund got an Oscar nomination for his comic short film “Instead of Abracadabra” in 2010 (it lost but deserved to win). The final contender is “The Hypnotist” by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Halstrom. While he has received Oscar nominations for Best Director (twice) and Best Screenplay, his films have never been selected to represent his native Sweden. “The Hypnotist” is a thriller about a police detective and a psychologist trying to unravel a mystery with the help of a traumatized young witness. It’s Halstrom’s first Swedish-language film in 25 years. Dark horse: “Big Boys Gone Bananas”, a documentary about the efforts of the Dole Corporation trying to prevent a Swedish documentary about the company from being released. I think this will come down to a two-way race between “Play” and “Flicker”. My prediction: “Flicker” represents Sweden, with “Play” in second and “Simon and the Oaks” in third.

92. SWITZERLAND made things easy this year by setting an early deadline for submissions, and announcing in mid-July that five films were competing for the award. The frontrunner has to be “Someone Like Me” by 1991 Foreign Oscar winner Xavier Koller (“Journey of Hope”), in what is only Koller’s second Swiss film in the past two decades. The Swiss German-language “Someone Like Me” is a period piece based on a famous novel about a young barber with a harelip who falls in love with a village girl whose parents oppose the union. It lost Best Picture at the Swiss Film Awards to last year’s Swiss Oscar submission (the unloved “Summer Games”) but should manage to represent Switzerland this year. Challenger Ursula Meier (“Home”) is hoping for an upset for her film, “Sister” (Berlin), a French-language film about a 12-year old thief and his older sister trying to make ends meet at a ski resort town. In third place: Swiss German drama “The Foster Boy”, about a teenager without parents forced to work for an abusive village family. It was also nominated for Best Picture at the Swiss Film Awards this year. It’s difficult to see them choosing either of the other two films, namely the upcoming “Lullaby Ride” (in German), about a middle-aged couple trying to chase down the two punks who stole their car with their sleeping toddler inside, or “Operation Libertad” (in French), a docudrama about 70s leftists which has gotten universally negative reviews. Surprisingly missing from the shortlist: post-apocalyptic thriller “Hell”, about a world parched by the Sun, which I predicted last year, but which actually opened in Switzerland in October 2011. It is executive produced by Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) and got a Best Picture nomination at the German Lolas.

93. TAIWAN made the Oscar shortlist last year for the first time since Ang Lee went to Hollywood, although they probably got some help from the Executive Committee for their four-hour aboriginal action film. This year, I predict Taiwan will send “GF*BF” (aka “Girlfriend Boyfriend”), a love triangle drama set against the backdrop of three decades of political turmoil in Taiwan in the 60s, 70s and 80s. It opened the Taipei Film Festival in July and will premiere in cinemas in September. In second place: Zero Chou’s new costume drama “Ripples of Desire” (a.k.a. “Lovers are Gamblers”, “Hua Yang” or “Scarlet”) which opens this summer and has something to do with pirates. The problem with predicting two films that haven’t opened is if both films flop or fail with critics. In that case, the nomination will probably go to “Starry Starry Night”, a visually impressive film fantasy-drama about two teens fleeing family dysfunction. Less likely: “Four Hands”, about an old man looking back on his long life, and “Return to Burma”, about a Burmese immigrant in Taiwan who returns to his home country. Successful lightweight local films like “Din Tao”, about a band of teen drummers, or popular romantic comedies “Love” or “Soul of Bread” may entertain, but won’t be able to compete here. Some may predict “Eat Drink Man Woman 2”, the sequel to Taiwan’s second Oscar nominee, but reviews have not been good.

94. TAJIKISTAN (last submitted 2005) rarely produces feature films although the ones I have seen have been among the best from Central Asia (Luna Papa, Sex & Philosophy). This year, Tajikistan got a nomination for Best CIS-Baltic Film at the Russian Nika Awards for the first time since the award was introduced in 2006. The nominee “Presumed Consent” is a majority Russian production by a Tajik director about the discrimination faced by the Uzbek community in Moscow. It’s their most likely choice. There’s also fully Tajik film “Suicider” (Самоубийца), a low-budget fairy tale about a proud father who is given disturbing news by a fortune teller. It looks interesting, but pretty amateur.

95. TANZANIA’s (last submitted 2001) most likely submission this year is “Zamora”, a mystical Swahili-language romance filmed on the formerly independent island of Zanzibar, featuring a love story between an African man and a mysterious Arab-Omani girl who encourages him to settle down on the island. I doubt the film will inspire Tanzania to rejoin the Oscar race though, which they only entered once in 2001.

96. THAILAND usually sends quirky and entertaining films to the Oscars (except when they feel international pressure to send, for example, a dreadful Cannes winner like “Uncle Boonmee”) but they’ve never managed to make the next round. Last year, they selected a “pretty film” about a Thai dance troupe with poor reviews, admitting that they chose films in large part to promote Thai culture abroad. Thai audiences love gross-out comedy, ghosts and “omnibus” films that feature interlocking stories. This year, there are five leading contenders: “Four Stations” is a low-budget anthology co-funded by the Thai Culture Ministry (I think they choose the Thai nominee!) featuring four stories- one from each of Thailand’s traditional regions; “Headshot”, directed by Pen-ek Ratunaruang (who represented Thailand at the Oscars three times between 2000 and 2003) is a thriller, made largely for international audiences, about a corrupt cop who sees the world upside down after a gunshot wound; “Home”, directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul (“Love of Siam”, the charming 2008 Thai candidate), is a three-story drama about love and friendship set in Chiang Mai, including another (possibly) gay teen love story; “King Naresuan 5” is the latest film in the big-budget royalist franchise (the noble-born director just declared bankruptcy) whose second part repped Thailand in 2007; and “Shambala”, a long-awaited road movie set in Tibet and starring local heartthrob Ananda Everingham. The Thais are unpredictable and could really go for any of these, or even “P-047”, a quirky but divisive indie about burglars “who steal memories” that has been visible on the film festival circuit, “It Gets Better”, a well-received local film about a transgender woman in love, or”Mother’s Milk”, a morality drama like Thailand used to send in the 80s and 90s. “Naresuan” and “Stations” would best rep Thai culture, but I’m going to predict “Home” based on its reviews, with “Headshot” in second place and “King Naresuan” in third.

97. TUNISIA (last submitted 2002)’s political transition has effectively slowed down their filmmaking industry, with mostly documentaries and shorts being produced since the Tunisians sparked the Arab Spring in 2011. The Tunisians haven’t sent a film in a decade, so they’ll probably sit this year out as well, until the cameras get rolling again. If they do decide to re-enter the race, the most likely option would be “Rouge Parole”, probably the best documentary about the Arab Spring made this year. It focuses on the nationwide fervor to overthrown President Ben Ali outside the major cities seen on international news. If they want to send a fiction film, they could send “Tunisian Stories”, about the lives of three modern Tunisian women or, less likely, “Always Brando”, a bizarre film (half in English) about Hollywood morality and a Marlon Brando-lookalike. It’s directed by Ridha Behi, who helmed Tunisia’s last submission in 2002

98. TURKEY’s Academy has gone arthouse four of the past five years, perhaps heartened by their shortlist spot for “Three Monkeys”. They don’t have any long, boring Ceylan/Kaplanoglu films this year so the Turkish spot is up for the grabs and I see four main contenders. If they want to go “big”, they’ll choose “Conquest 1453”, an expensive 15th century period epic/action movie that screened for the Prime Minister, and has sold more tickets than any Turkish film in history. If they want to go a bit lighter, they’ll choose comedy “Ecotopia”, about a group of intellectual environmentalists who move to a small village to be closer with nature. It dominated the awards at the Ankara Film Festival (one of Turkey’s three main festivals). If they want something more sentimental, they’ll choose “My Grandfather’s People”, a popular, mainstream drama about the wave of 2 million Turks who left Greece in the 1920s. If they want something a bit more arthouse, they could easily choose “Night of Silence”, which won a Crystal Bear in Berlin, about a child bride trying to avoid consummating her marriage on her wedding night. A strong fifth option is “Inside”, an acclaimed but dark film about a singularly unpleasant antihero (based on a Dostoevsky story) which won a number of awards in Istanbul (though it lost Best Picture). I suppose this year’s winners of Best Turkish Film at Anatalya (multi-strand drama “To Better Days”) and Istanbul (psychological horror film “Beyond the Hill”) are also in with a shot, while controversial gay-themed drama “Zenne Dancer” (which has won lots of awards but caused lots of controversy) is probably out of luck. Either melodrama “Can” or socialist youth drama “Love and Revolution” may join the above eight films on the shortlist but won’t come into play. My predictions: the gentle drama of “My Grandfather’s People” will get the better of the popular spectacle of “Conquest 1453”, with “Night of Silence” a distant third.

99. UKRAINE (last submitted 2008) hasn’t entered the race in four years. They have however usually made an announcement that their official national committee did convene and determined that qualified/eligible films weren’t available. So they theoretically seem to want to enter. This year’s clear front-runner is “Firecrosser”, a patriotic true story of a heroic Ukrainian Soviet soldier whose amazing life including combat in WWII, capture by the Nazis, imprisonment in a Soviet gulag and emigration to Canada where he apparently became a Mohawk Indian chief. It has won numerous awards in the former USSR, it was co-financed by a government ministry and it was released in Ukrainian cinemas in January (unlike some art films) so it appears to qualify. “Land of Oblivion” (Venice 2011), the story of a number of Chernobyl survivors over the years, is more high-profile but this French majority co-production with an Israeli director may not be considered Ukrainian enough by the Film Academy. It premiered in Ukrainian cinemas in April. In third place: Karlovy Vary “East of the West” winner “House with a Turret”, a B&W drama about a boy orphaned during a journey with his sick mother in 1945. Ukrainian cinema seems to be slowly waking up from a long slumber with a number of diverse productions including teen drama (“Gamer”), family comedies (“Rock n Ball”), horror (“Synevir”) and even a co-production with Nigeria (“Feathered Dreams”) but these won’t be of interest to Oscar.

100. The UNITED KINGDOM doesn’t appear to have any Welsh-language films this year, meaning they’ll have to look further afield to their immigrant communities or, more likely, not to send a film at all. The only options I can see available to them are the Hindi-language Bollywood-style musical “Naachle London!” or Persian-language action-thriller “Black Day”. I doubt the UK will send anything this year, but “Naachle London”, directed by a Kolkata-born Brit, is the more likely of the two. Filled with singing and dancing, this romantic comedy-drama has cheerfully billed itself as the first-ever “Bolly-Brit” film, “with its heart in Bollywood, head in Hollywood but made entirely in Britain!” The Brits have said in the past that they will only send a film if it has a realistic chance of competing for the Oscar, but if they want to promote British cinema, it would be nice to have them in the race.

101. URUGUAY had films at Berlin and Cannes this year, and it’s possible they may dump them both for an unheralded comedy. They’ve done it before…When “Gigante” won the Silver Bear in Berlin in 2009, they ignored it for “A Bad Day to Go Fishing”. No Oscar nomination, but it was a smart move. “Bad Day” was the better film. “Three”, a minimalist dysfunctional family comedy by the director of “Whisky”, played at Director’s Fortnight at Cannes but hasn’t gotten great reviews. “The Delay” (“La Demora”) tells the sad story of an overwhelmed single mother who, in a moment of stress, abandons her elderly father in a park. It won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin 2012 and takes place in Uruguay, but the director is Mexican and the Uruguayans may still be stung from when they picked a movie by an Argentinian director, got nominated and were disqualified a few weeks before the Oscars. I’m guessing they choose “La Culpa del Cordero” (Lamb’s Fault), a dramedy about a retired couple who invite their four children for a weekend in the country where unexpected secrets are revealed. A fourth option is “Solo”, a droll comedy about a man whose wife leaves him and who soon finds himself being sent to Antarctica. It’s the sort of droll comedy that the Uruguayan’s have a habit of sending. My prediction: “La Culpa del Cordero” is the surprise pick for the Oscars, followed by “La Demora” and “Solo”.

102. VENEZUELA’s major national film festival is the Festival del Cine Venezolano. This year, two films- “Brecha en el silencio” (Pit of Silence) and “Patas Arriba” (Upside Down)- won nearly all the awards. I’m going to make things easy and predict they go with “Patas Arriba”, a family drama about a grandfather and granddaughter who escape their dysfunctional family to the countryside in order to fulfill a promise to the man’s late wife. It won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actor and so should be considered the frontrunner. Other films that did well at the festival, “Brecha en el silencio”, a gritty drama about a hearing-impaired woman living in a slum, won the Audience Award plus five others and “Memories of a Soldier”, a costume drama set in the early years of Venezuelan independence, which won three technical prizes. Dark horses include “The Blue Apple” about a spoiled city kid bonding with his elderly grandfather in the countryside, “The Two Faces of Caracas”, another film about slum life, and “Eternal Ashes”, about a woman stranded in the Amazon jungle, where she encounters an isolated tribe. I predict they send “Patas”, with “Brecha” in second and “Ashes” in third.

103. VIETNAM is still the only Southeast Asian country to get an Oscar nomination (in 1993 for the dull “Scent of Green Papaya”). This year’s four main competitors include two films by the national film studio- “Scent of Burning Grass” and “Mother’s Heart”, and two films from the independent film studios that are churning out more popular films, “Blood Letter” and “Lost in Paradise”. The gay love story at the center of “Lost in Paradise” has caused controversy in conservative Vietnam, but the film has been an unexpected critical and financial success. It got a local release in fall 2011, as did martial-arts-epic-cum-costume-drama (Vietnam sent one last year) “Blood Letter”, directed by Vietnamese-American Victor Vu. “Scent of Burning Grass”, a Vietnam War drama (they sent one in 2009), won the top award at the Vietnamese Golden Kite Awards, but it has not managed to get a local release yet, nor has “Mother’s Heart”. “Heart”, about a single mother and her daughter in the countryside, is a quiet outsider, co-funded by the Global Film Initiative. I think it will come down to “Burning Grass” vs. “Blood Letter”, although I’m rooting for “Lost in Paradise”. Since neither film from the national studio has made it to cinemas, I predict “Blood Letter” gets chosen.


Other than South Africa, only seven films from sub-Saharan Africa have ever been submitted for this award. That’s a shame because Africa produces some good films. This year’s most likely debutante from Africa is clearly SENEGAL, which had a banner year, competing for the Golden Bear in Berlin (for “Today”) and also in Cannes Un Certain Regard competition (for “The Pirogue”). Senegal really should send one of the films but, alas, they probably won’t. “Le Pirogue”, a drama about tensions aboard a small, overcrowded boat ferrying Senegalese and Guinean illegal immigrants to Spain, is the more likely of the two to get Senegal into the race. The UNITED ARAB EMIRATES has been dedicating ample funds to film and film development and one of these days, they’ll become a regular participant at the Oscars. This year I think they may send “Sea Shadow”, about teenage love/flirting in conservative Emirati society. It premiered at the Abu Dhabi film festival and got a theatrical release in 2012. I don’t really think we’ll see a debutante from the Asia-Pacific region this year, but the most likely ones are UZBEKISTAN for “Hanaan”, a depressing drama that played in Locarno, about disenfranchised youth from the country’s large Korean community.

1 comment:

Spartak said...

You better hurry up, you have only about 3 weeks untill the academy publish their 9 shortlist. ;)