Korea selects ‘Mother’ for Oscars, bypasses ‘Thirst’

Posted by · 4:30 pm · August 12th, 2009

MotherThanks to The Film Experience for pointing out this news nugget: a month after Sri Lanka kicked off the convoluted, multi-tiered contest for Best Foreign Language Film by selecting their official entry, we have our first relatively high-profile submission, as Korea has entered Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother” into the race.

Some might be surprised that the country’s selectors passed over Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst” — which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and has received an interesting Stateside promotional push from Focus Features — but they shouldn’t be.

For one thing, the Koreans are probably as aware as any Oscar-watcher that the chances of the Academy blue-hairs going for an erotic vampire flick with healthy lashings of gore are, to put it gently, minimal. (It appears that “Thirst” was one of six films considered, however.)

“Mother,” meanwhile, seems to fit more in the Academy’s wheelhouse: a thriller-ish melodrama about a devoted mother trying to prove her mentally disabled son’s innocence in a murder investigation, it drew very warm reviews in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, where several critics opined that it had been unjustly omitted from the main competition lineup in favor of “Thirst.”

(In his Screen International review, likening the film to the work of Pedro Almodovar, Mike Goodridge presciently wrote that “it should comfortably beat “Thirst” to the Korean Oscar submission.”)

Bong Joon-ho is a rising auteur in his own right: best known in the U.S. for the crossover horror smash “The Host” and his contribution to this year’s undervalued portmanteau film “Tokyo!,” he really impressed me with his elusive, blackly comic neo-noir “Memories of Murder” in 2004. Here’s hoping “Mother” is on that level — check out the trailer below.

By the way, try as I might to keep up with the vast stream of entries into the foreign-language Oscar derby, some information does occasionally slip through the net. So if any international readers know of an official submission that we haven’t mentioned yet, do let me know.

→ 12 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

12 responses so far

  • 1 8-12-2009 at 5:17 pm

    Ryan Griffin said...

    Yet more evidence that the foreign-language Oscar category rules need a complete revamp.

  • 2 8-12-2009 at 5:30 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ryan: I agree with you that the category needs a drastic overhaul, but why is this evidence of that? I don’t quite understand.

    Unless you’re advocating that countries should be allowed more than one submission, in which case I’m totally with you.

  • 3 8-12-2009 at 7:22 pm

    Georgie said...

    I haven’t seen Thirst, but I did see Let the Right One In last year… I imagine this is similar [on the surface it is, at least] and this is probably the one place where I disagree with the anti-vampire sentiment. I agree that countries should be allowed more than one submission.

    Because LTROI was one of the best films I saw last year, and certainly the best vampire film I’ve ever seen.

  • 4 8-12-2009 at 7:34 pm

    Brooke said...

    Having seen both of these movies at the NZFF, I can say that Mother is securely the better film. Although I did quite thoroughly enjoy Thirst.

  • 5 8-12-2009 at 7:56 pm

    Glenn said...

    Yeah, “Thirst” is getting the fanboy love, but I think “Mother” is the one more people think is the better film.

  • 6 8-12-2009 at 10:37 pm

    Ryan Griffin said...

    Guy, I don’t think countries should be allowed to enter a film for consideration themselves at all, because often times you get a country passing over a film that is actually great and deserving (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days or Let the Right One In being passed over) for a film they feel appeals to what they think American’s will like or has a “good” chance of winning (House of Flying Daggers being put forward by China, based solely on the success of Hero). I haven’t seen Thirst, but I feel that may be a situation here. Or perhaps both films are deserving, and if they are, why shouldn’t they both be deserving of consideration? I’d like a foreign films category that actually reflects the best foreign cinema has to offer throughout the year, not simply the best of the small selection of single films put forward by each country.

    While we’re at it, I don’t think it should be foreign language either, but simply foreign film. It seems to me there are many films from the UK that get overlooked, and a situation like The Band’s Visit, which apparently wasn’t foreign enough due to the use of English as a common language between two groups who didn’t understand their native languages.

  • 7 8-13-2009 at 12:06 am

    ivich said...

    Loved The Host and Memories of Murder is one of the finest crime films I have ever seen. I remember that while watching Zodiac all I could think of was how superd MoM was.

  • 8 8-13-2009 at 2:18 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ryan: I do agree with you that letting countries choose the films can be problematic. You’re incorrect, however, with the examples you use. “4 Months” WAS submitted by Romania — it was the Academy who passed it over.

    And “Let the Right One In” sadly wasn’t eligible for selection last year, as it missed the requisite release deadline in its home country. (which just points to different problems in the system.)

    As for your point about changing the category to Best Foreign Film, we had a similar discussion recently in one of John’s threads. While I can see your point in principle (it’d certainly benefit specialist English-language fare, like “Hunger” or Lantana,” that hasn’t a shot in hell elsewhere in the race), I’m afraid the idea simply wouldn’t work in practice, as I think it would give English-language cinema an unfair advantage.

    By your rationale, major British productions like “The Queen,” “Atonement” or “Slumdog Millionaire” would be eligible for Best Foreign Film, which is hardly fair on less publicised subtitled fare fighting for a place at the table. Where would one draw the line in determining eligibility? The language requirement may be an irrelevant one in terms of cinematic value, but I fear it’s necessary to help give foreign-language fare some profile in the season. It has to fight hard enough for an audience in the first place.

  • 9 8-13-2009 at 3:49 am

    PJ said...

    You could defend the one film per country requirement with a similar rationale to the foreign language requirement Guy, in supposing that films from established cinematic cultures (France, Germany etc) would dominate , but I’m not sure that was the Academy’s original intention. Maybe allowing multiple submissions and having a not more than 50% of the nominees (i.e. up to two nominees) per country would work better, but whatever the case, there needs to be a serious rethink on the category.

  • 10 8-13-2009 at 6:43 am

    Michael said...

    I honestly wish there were like 3 categories for best foreign film for different regions of the world or that since the academy increased the best film to 10 films why not the best foreign film as well. I just hate how so few foreign films are recognized when I think they deserve much more attention.

    I do really want to see Mother though as well as Thirst and I don’t understand why a country can’t submit as many movies as they want. I mean do studios have a limit for how many movies they can submit? It does not make any sense at all…

  • 11 8-13-2009 at 7:03 am

    Cde. said...

    Mother is not only more Oscar friendly…it’s also the far-better film. Still won’t win anything, though. Aspects of the film are probably too out-there for the Academy’s taste.
    ‘…he really impressed me with his elusive, blackly comic neo-noir “Memories of Murder” in 2004. Here’s hoping “Mother” is on that level…’
    I’d say it’s on the same level.

  • 12 8-13-2009 at 12:22 pm

    Edward L. said...

    I agree with Michael: they could consider having 10 nominees in this category. It would simply let more films compete. They could allow each country to enter up to two films, and they could say that both films from the same country could be among the 10 nominees if they were to garner enough votes.