Beautiful but doomed: Greece submits ‘Dogtooth’ for Oscars

Posted by · 4:44 am · September 17th, 2010

Last year, I was erroneously notified that Greece had submitted Yorgos Lanthimos’s boundary-pushing festival hit “Dogtooth” as their entry for the 2009 foreign-language Oscar. As it turned out, they hadn’t — and the film wouldn’t have qualified under the Academy’s release date requirements anyway.

Well, one year later, and here we are again. Except this time, “Dogtooth” has officially been submitted by the Greek selectors, after taking top honors at the country’s own national film awards.

All of which immediately positions it as one of the best films in the running for the Academy Award, as well as one of the longest shots to be nominated — unless the bluehair voters who thought “The Secret in Their Eyes” superior to “A Prophet” have suddenly acquired a taste for pitch-black adult fairy tales of sexual repression, incest and feline mutilation. But here’s hoping.

In its favor, “Dogtooth” — which has traveled some way in the 16 months since it took the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes — arrives in the race with a higher profile than it had a year ago, having already been released Stateside to a raft of admiring reviews. (I reviewed it out of the London Film Festival last year, and wound up placing it on my Best of 2009 list — rather too low, in hindsight.)

It’s precisely the kind of challenging, significant work that the foreign-language branch’s executive committee was designed to assist in the race. (In case you’ve forgotten the system, this smaller, more discerning committee selects three titles to add to the six voted in by the foreign-language branch to make up the pre-nomination shortlist.) I fear “Dogtooth” will prove too avant-garde even for their sensibilities, but if any critical groups come through for it at the year’s end, there’s a slim chance the committee may feel suitably compelled. Either way, bravo to Greece for choosing so fearlessly.

Meanwhile, other countries that have entered the race since my last update include Finland (“Steam of Life”), Azerbaijan (“The Precinct”) and Croatia (“The Blacks”). If you know anything about these, enlighten us in the comments section.

[Photo: Kino International]

→ 24 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

24 responses so far

  • 1 9-17-2010 at 5:06 am

    James D. said...

    I have been looking forward to this one for awhile. A Netflix release in the next month or so, I believe. Anyway, it is probably too good to be nominated.

  • 2 9-17-2010 at 5:16 am

    Ali E. said...

    Dogtooth is an excellent film and I believe it will at least be shortlisted by the Academy too. Or so I hope, given the race doesn’t look extremely strong so far.

  • 3 9-17-2010 at 5:22 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ali: I wish I could share your optimism. As for the strength of the race, give it time! We only know a fraction of the contender slate at this point.

  • 4 9-17-2010 at 5:58 am

    Michael said...

    I think this movie is absolutely brilliant and should be nominated in other categories besides just Best Foreign Language film. However, I am a realist and do not expect it to even be shortlisted. I will say though that I was pretty shocked that The Milk Of Sorrow made it into the main five nominees last year. That movie was not the easiest film to watch and definitely was a pretty cuh-razy concept that I can’t help but be impressed that it was even nominated by the generally bland Foreign Language committee (as of late at least). They tend to go for much safer material but every year there are at least 2 or sometimes 3 films nominated that definitely deserve to be and add a balance to the field. Although it is early yet, I can’t help but echo the above sentiments that right now Dogtooth is one of the most transgressive films in the mix and would definitely be a bold (and memorable) choice if it were to somehow get in.

  • 5 9-17-2010 at 6:45 am

    red_wine said...

    Dogtooth is a borderline masterpiece. Holy shit the film shakes you badly. It begins in a “really? wtf?” kind of way and doesn’t let up its perverse hold on the audience until the last unresolved shot. The screenplay is certainly a masterpiece, no epithet required before it. I was actually hoping for it to be nominated for Original Screenplay if the writers get adventurous and start looking in other directions rather than conventionally written (though supposedly nicely done) dramas like The King’s Speech or The Fighter.

    The actors are extremely bold and take to the challenging material fearlessly. The entire drama plays out like some kind of domestic dystopia. There was atleast one scene which made me wince.

    There is no way the foreign committee will pick this up. It features graphic nudity, sex and violence and can be fairly shocking and disturbing. But a glorious movie indeed.

    But I fear it will not win many prizes at the critics awards. They will definitely (and deservedly) be looking at A Prophet for Best Foreign Film (and hopefully other) honors.

  • 6 9-17-2010 at 7:13 am

    Jim T said...

    To be fair, it wasn’t that brave of us to submit Dogtooth. It’s not like we had anything better or something that we knew it would be admired by at least some people.

    And most of our movies are crap.

    There was A Woman’s Way, which was a success with the critics and maybe one or two that were worth consideration, but Dogtooth’s international success, for me, made it an obvious choice.

    Any way, thanks for the information. Fingers crossed.

  • 7 9-17-2010 at 7:16 am

    Mike_M said...

    Been dying to see this, I missed the run in NYC. It is playing out on Long Island 1 night in October, but it is a Wed so I doubt I swing it. Hopefully it will be on on DVD Oct/Nov (which you think it would be if it wants to be a contender).

  • 8 9-17-2010 at 7:47 am

    JJ said...

    I’m no blue haired AMPAS voter, and I much preferred The Secret in Their Eyes to A Prophet. Having said that, I’d have voted for White Ribbon (liked it a smidge more).

  • 9 9-17-2010 at 8:14 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’ll allow you that one. But if you also think Departures was better than The Class, Revanche and Waltz With Bashir, we’ll have to have words. ;)

  • 10 9-17-2010 at 9:50 am

    James D. said...

    Ugh, Departures. The Class was so robbed, as was Revanche to a lesser degree. I had no patience for Waltz with Bashir.

  • 11 9-17-2010 at 10:08 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m not crazy about Waltz With Bashir, either — or Revanche, for that matter. But both exhibit infinitely more artistry than Departures.

  • 12 9-17-2010 at 10:34 am

    Jeremy said...

    I also preferred “The Secret in Their Eyes” to “A Prophet”. Also, I haven’t seen “Departures”, but I thought “Waltz with Bashir” was better than “The Class”. Am I still allowed to call myself a knowledgeable filmgoer?

  • 13 9-17-2010 at 12:06 pm

    caleb roth said...

    I also preferred “The Secret in They Eyes” to “A Prophet”, but they both were worthy nominees.

  • 14 9-17-2010 at 12:12 pm

    Filmoholic said...

    Heh. Dogtooth is one the best films of the past few years. It’s brave, harrowing with some of best jet black humor I’ve seen in a long time. But does anyone really think the academy is going to vote for a film like this. Either Greece doesn’t care about the nomination or they just want show that they’ve got balls. I really can’t think of another reason for the submission. Seriously, this is like expecting Antichrist to get a best picture nomination or something.

  • 15 9-17-2010 at 2:32 pm

    slayton said...

    I love Dogtooth, great film. Aggeliki Papoulia is downright legendary in this… can’t imagine anyone dethroning her as my Supporting Actress winner for 2010.

  • 16 9-17-2010 at 4:13 pm

    Ali E. said...

    Turkey chose the Berlinale winner Honey, by the way. And we can make the shortlist, I guess.

    While Germany chose When We Leave, which tells the story of a Turkish woman in Germany. It’s not a very good movie, if you ask me, shouting its feminist messages way too loud, and with a lot of irrational points regarding the plot and the characters (some of them may not be obvious to western audiences, unfortunately).

  • 17 9-17-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “I really can’t think of another reason for the submission.”

    Because they felt, quite rightly, that it was the best film they had to offer? Strategy be damned — I’m all for integrity in these matters. Good for them.

  • 18 9-17-2010 at 5:02 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oh god, I saw “When We Leave” in Berlin. It was dreary as all get-out. Thanks for the info, Ali.

  • 19 9-17-2010 at 6:07 pm

    Glenn said...

    I walked out of “Dogtooth” when I saw it in 2009 at a local film fest. It didn’t help that I had the flu (which I think was of the swine variety), but good gawd, how many arthouse cliches could they shove into that movie? Haaated it.

  • 20 9-17-2010 at 6:40 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I was waiting for you to pipe up, Glenn — I think we all know how much you hate the film by now. ;)

    It’s obviously not to all tastes; I can totally see where, how and why the film could be a turn-off. But I fail to see cliché — indeed, I think the film’s reconfiguration of family and coming-of-age structures is pretty radical.

    I’d be interested to hear if you have a similar reaction to “Attenberg,” which bears a tonal resemblance to “Dogtooth” but is significantly gentler.

  • 21 9-18-2010 at 10:06 am

    slayton said...

    RE: arthouse “cliches”, I didn’t really notice anything. I’m really, really interested in the way children raised in captivity develop language and behaviour. What impressed me the most was how the siblings’ behaviour in regards to the dynamics of the compound was clearly researched quite deeply.

  • 22 1-09-2011 at 1:10 pm

    Aris said...

    Bad film. Very bad film.

  • 23 1-25-2011 at 1:22 pm

    panayotis ioannidis said...

    nonplussed about this – and delighted you had spotted it early on

    together with the very different though equally ‘controversial’ “strella” (by panos koutras, same vintage year), one of the best movies to have come out of greece in a rather long time