Monday, January 7, 2013

FINAL 2013 PREDICTIONS

So, I predicted five out of nine right....I’m most surprised about the omission of "Lore", but there's always at least one surprise in this crazy category!
Even with this year’s race now narrowed down to a shortlist of nine films, predicting the five nominees is harder than usual. Last year was easy because there were three films that clearly were going to be nominated (“In Darkness”,“Monsieur Lazhar” and “A Separation”) and three films that clearly weren’t going to be nominated (the genre inappropriate “Pina”, the not universally loved “Seediq Bale” and the underwhelming comedy of “Superclasico”). That left us with three films, two of which would be nominated and one of which would be left out in the cold (I thought Belgium’s “Bullhead” would get burned but instead it wasMorocco’s“Omar Killed Me”).
This year I’ve had the opportunity to see 18 of this year’s international submissions (I’ll see two more this week, from Peru and Serbia), and six of this year’s nine finalists and frankly I haven’t been impressed. There are some good films to be sure, but overall a mediocre group to choose from.
This year, the only film I am 100% will be nominated on Thursday morning is Denmark’s “A Royal Affair” (which does not mean it will winthe Oscar) and the only film I am 100% sure willnot be nominated is (former Danish colony) Iceland’s “The Deep”.

My final predictions:

SAFE BETS:



 
1. DENMARK- “A Royal Affair”
2. AUSTRIA- “Amour”
3. CANADA- “War Witch” ( “Rebelle”)
DENMARK's “A Royal Affair”has everything going for it. It has been praised by the critics, it is accessible to audiences and is a technically beautiful film- a rare triple threat, assuring Denmark its third nomination in seven years. AUSTRIA's “Amour”- winner at Cannes and this year’s critical darling on the foreign film circuit- is not my favorite foreign film of the year (it’s not even my favorite Haneke), but despite being an exceptionally difficult film to watch, the superior filmmaking will give Haneke his second nod in four years (and his first for Austria). Like “A Royal Affair” (and unlike “Amour”), I haven’t heard a single negative review of CANADA's “War Witch” and this harrowing story of a pregnant child soldier in the Congo should easily achieve Canada’s third nomination in a row.

ON THE BUBBLE:
 

4. FRANCE- “Les Intouchables”
5. NORWAY- “Kon-Tiki”
6. CHILE- “No”
 
I keep jiggling these three films around…Each one is a very strong contender but at the same time each one is lacking a key element to get it to the Final Five. CHILE’s “No” has the critics behind it, but it’s an “ugly” film, shot (on purpose!) in a low-budget cinema verite style that may well turn off some voters. FRANCE’s “Les Intouchables” is a great film that everyone loves- but it’s clearly a commercial effort and not the sort of film that is typically honored here. NORWAY’s “Kon-Tiki” is a lush and expensive film with beautiful cinematography and an intriguing story (and yes, the Weinsteins are backing it)- but in the end it’s little more than a pretty road movie set at sea, with nothing impressive about the writing or acting.
 
With 72 countries participating this year, I would like so much for at least one country to get its first-ever Oscar nomination. I’m hoping Chile (or less likely, Romania) can pull that off since I don’t really think Norway deserves it...I (sort of) saw “Kon-Tiki” at Lincoln Center’s “Foreign Oscar Hopeful” series this weekend although they played a shell game with the audience by tricking us into paying to see the Weinstein-backed English-language version that was shot simultaneously alongside the Norwegian-language version that is up for an Oscar.
 
I’ve changed my mind a half-dozen times…..Final prediction: NORWAY (sadly) gets the final spot.
 
   UPHILL BATTLE:
 
7. ROMANIA- “Beyond the Hills”
8. SWITZERLAND- “Sister” (L’enfant en haut)
9. ICELAND- “The Deep”
 
I saw a screening of ICELAND’s “The Deep”in New York on Saturday night. Though it’s certainly a well-made film (with a brave performance by lead ├ôlafur Darri ├ôlafsson), most people in the audience, including me, did not love it and everyone seemed rather surprised that this story about the sole survivor of an icy shipwreck advanced has advanced as far as it did. I like Baltasar Kormakur (“The Sea” is one of my all-time favorites) and I like Icelandic films and would like to say that they’re in the running- but they’re not.

Unlike Iceland, ROMANIA and SWITZERLAND do have a shot at a nomination….but I don’t think they’re going to get it. Cristian Mungiu’s “Beyond the Hills”definitely has its fans but it is a divisive film and not everybody likes this two-hour-plus story of two friends (lesbians?), exorcisms, and more in a remote Romanian monastery. It almost definitely was placed on the shortlist by the elite committee. Its better than “Dogtooth”…will it get the “weird” slot? As for “Sister”, I know it also has its fans but I’m placing it low because I didn’t really like it this story of a young thief, his appalling sister and a big secret amidst a Swiss ski resort. I just don’t think it’s good enough (I said the same last year about “Bullhead”….Hmm…..Maybe I should rethink) Incidentally, Romania is in the race for the first time though they’ve been sending films since 1966, and the Swiss are hoping for their first nomination since their surprise win in 1991 for “Journey of Hope” (over favorite “Cyrano de Bergerac”).
 
We'll find out Thursday!