‘Life, Above All,’ ‘Uncle Boonmee’ enter Oscar race

Posted by · 12:54 pm · September 13th, 2010

I lost track of the foreign-language Oscar submissions while I was away in Venice, so the entry of my own favored horse into the race seems like a good occasion to catch up. If you kept up with my Cannes coverage, you might remember that I made a slightly off-center prediction while reviewing the South African AIDS drama “Life, Above All” — that it would secure a Best Foreign Language Film nod next year, and could even be the film to beat for the Oscar.

I stand by that call, and it remains on track: South Africa, seeking its third nomination and second win in the category since 2004, has predictably submitted Oliver Schmitz’s film to the Academy. (Thanks to Bianca Jacobsohn for notifying me.) The film recently had its North American premiere at the Toronto fest, where it seems to have been warmly received, and has already been adopted by Sony Pictures Classics — the studio that dominated last year’s foreign-language race with three of the five nominees, including the eventual winner.

I maintain that the film’s child’s-eye focus and heart-tugging issue drama place it squarely in the Academy’s wheelhouse — that it’s also a strong film only helps matters.

Meanwhile, two more high-profile Cannes titles have also entered the race, including Thailand’s avant-garde Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” I’m one of the few people not enthralled by Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s slow-burn meditation on family, afterlife and monkey ghosts, but even if I were with the majority, I’d have a hard time imagining that voting branch warming to something this esoteric. It’s a brave choice — the first time the Thai selectors have opted for a Weerasethakul title — but unless the Academy’s executive committee really takes a shine to it and shoehorns it into the nine-film shortlist, I’d say it’s a non-factor in the race.

Less acclaimed, but possibly more of a threat, is Algeria’s entry, Rachid Bouchareb’s “Outside the Law,” an elegantly crafted, slightly speechy period political drama that I admired more than most critics on the Croisette. It’s another unsurprising selection: the country has entered four of Bouchareb’s previous films into the Oscar race, and got lucky last time round, as “Days of Glory” managed a nomination in 2006. The sturdy, old-fashioned storytelling of “Outside the Law” could well appeal to the same voters that came through for the director then.

Also new to the race since my last update are the following: Austria’s “La Pivellina” (an Italian-language film, interestingly), Estonia’s “The Temptation of St. Tony,” Hungary’s “Bibliothèque Pascal,” Japan’s “Confessions,” The Netherlands’s “Tirza,” Peru’s “Undertow,” Poland’s “All That I Love,” Russia’s “The Edge,” South Korea’s “A Barefoot Dream,” Sweden’s “Simple Simon” and Venezuela’s “Hermano.” Aside from the Peruvian entry, I’m unfamiliar with all these films, so feel free to chime in with any insights you may have.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the South Korean entry rather surprisingly bested Lee Chang-dong’s Cannes prizewinner “Poetry,” which I thought might have found fans among the Academy’s older voters. There are no safe calls in this game.

By my count (and I could well be missing a few), that brings the number of submissions up to 17, with many more to come before the October deadline. We’ll have a separate page listing the contenders soon.

[Photo: Sony Pictures Classics]

→ 13 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

13 responses so far

  • 1 9-13-2010 at 2:12 pm

    Rafael said...

    I´m from Brazil and I think every year people responsible for the selection choose the worst choice possible to represent the country. We have some interesting films coming out this year, but I´m sure any of them will be picked. It´s always so frustrating.

  • 2 9-13-2010 at 2:13 pm

    McAllister said...

    Curious to see what Israel’s entry will be and if they can secure a fourth nomination in a row, further extending their lead of being the most nominated country without a win (or maybe, hopefully, win).

  • 3 9-13-2010 at 2:42 pm

    Roger said...

    Hi Guy. This might seem out of nowhere but do you know what film is the Portuguese Entry for Foreign Language? The only reason i’m asking is that when i saw the BFI’s London Film Fest Line up, “Mysteries of Lisbon” showed up and looks to be a well received, even though not many people saw. Showing up at LFF may not mean anything, but being Portuguese i was wondering if it was the chosen one.

    P.S. What are your thoughts on the BFI’s LFF line up?

  • 4 9-13-2010 at 2:50 pm

    Mr. F said...

    Guy, if France or Italy were to choose Certified Copy, how well do you think it would go with the Academy?

  • 5 9-13-2010 at 3:27 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Roger: To the best of my knowledge, Portugal hasn’t announced its selection yet. As for the LFF lineup, I think it’s a typically good bit of cherry-picking through the rest of the fests, though I’m a little disappointed they haven’t managed to secure any significant world premieres this year.

    Mr F: It could feasibly be Iran’s pick too — I don’t it has a sufficiently French pedigree to be France’s entry. Either way, I think it would be too cerebral and ambiguous for the Academy’s liking.

  • 6 9-13-2010 at 8:14 pm

    jen said...

    So Rabbit Hole first tweet is a very positive one. Praises Kidman and Wiest. I knew the latter would shine in this role, the former still faces lots of competition in the lead category.

  • 7 9-14-2010 at 1:40 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yes, that has everything to do with the foreign-language race.

  • 8 9-14-2010 at 4:18 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    McAllister: As usual, Israel’s entry will be whichever film wins the top prize at their national film awards ceremony: the five contenders are “Mabul,” “The Human Resources Manager,” “Intimate Grammar,” “Once I Was” and “Revolution 101.”

  • 9 9-14-2010 at 5:50 am

    Manuel L. said...

    Guy, do you think France has a real shot if they submit “Of Gods and Men”?
    I read there was talk of “The Concert” being their selection, but I really don’t think they will go for that. What are the other legitimate possibilities? Amalric’s “Tournée” maybe, but I can’t think of anything else.

  • 10 9-14-2010 at 5:52 am

    Manuel L. said...

    And by a “real shot”, I mean a shot at the actual win, since getting a nomination is pretty much a routine for France.

  • 11 9-14-2010 at 6:09 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’d need to complete my viewing of “Of Gods and Men” to say for sure, but I would say it’s too slow and too remote for the win. “The Concert” is much more in the Academy wheelhouse, and would be a major threat if submitted — but it’s a terrible film.

    The Academy wouldn’t touch “Tournee” with a bargepole.

  • 12 9-15-2010 at 6:54 am

    Moisés said...

    The spanish preselection is: Cell 211 (Daniel Monzón); Lope (Andrucha Waddington) and Even the Rain (Icíar Bollain). The favorite is Even the Rain because Icíar Bollaín is the vicepresident of the spanish academy.
    The answer in 28 September.

  • 13 9-15-2010 at 7:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Thanks for the info. I had an opportunity to see Lope at the Venice fest, but since it was on the last day, I sadly couldn’t fit it in.