Greece makes foreign Oscar shortlist, France snubbed

Posted by · 9:42 am · January 19th, 2011

“Dogtooth.” That’s the title an every Oscar pundit’s lips right now, as Greece’s critically beloved but super-outré submission — which includes inter-sibling sex and feline homicide in its curious bag of tricks — stunned pretty much everyone by showing up on the nine-title shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. I can hardly believe I’m typing this myself.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that this is the work of the Academy’s executive committee, which was set up two years ago to give more challenging fare a leg up in the Oscar race by hand-picking an extra three titles to go on the shortlist compiled by general voters in the category. They’ve certainly done their job on this occasion — bravo, guys. (Japan’s reportedly edgy “Confessions” appears to be the second film they saved; the third is open to question.)

As it turned out, I predicted only four of the nine — not hard in the case of Denmark’s Golden Globe winner “In a Better World,” Canada’s “Incendies” and Mexico’s “Biutiful,” which have been installed as favorites for weeks now.

The film I’ve been betting on for the win since May, South Africa’s “Life, Above All,” also made the cut. Foolishly, I panicked and dropped Algeria’s “Outside the Law” at the last minute despite it currently featuring in my nomination predictions — I should have trusted my first instinct.

Still, I’ll give myself some bonus points for correctly calling the morning’s “surprise” snub: despite the film’s critical kudos and Cannes pedigree, I figured France’s “Of Gods and Men” would prove too staid and remote for the general voters, and not adventurous enough for the executive committee. Looks like I was right. Anyway, with three potential winners still in the race, Sony Pictures Classics can’t shed too many tears over this.

If any inclusion here surprises me, it’s Sweden’s “Simple Simon,” a perilously slight and artistically negligible comedy about Asperger’s syndrome that I described in my review last week as “gratingly whimsical… tonally wearying and scored like a Tampax commercial.” But I hear general committee members responded well to it cheeriness — it certainly sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise very sombre shortlist.

What are our five nominees, then? Canada and Denmark appear to be close to locked as it’s possibly to be in this ever-tricky race, and while I’ve held out on predicting “Biutiful” due to its divisive nature, there appears to be a surge of goodwill for it in the industry. (Don’t assume, however, that Javier Bardem’s Best Actor buzz is a decisive factor here: four years ago, the shortlisted “Volver” couldn’t crack the final five despite scoring a Best Actress nom for Penelope Cruz.)

Meanwhile, I remain confident that “Life, Above All” is on track to become the category’s third South African nominee in seven years, but that fifth spot is puzzling me. “Outside the Law,” with its polished production values and solid, old-fashioned storytelling, seems a likely choice — director Rachid Bouchareb previously scored here in 1995 and 2006, after all. And the Spanish entry could coast in on the star power of Gael Garcia Bernal.

But this category is always ripe for shockers. Last year, nobody expected “The Milk of Sorrow” to show up in the final five, given that it was so obviously one of the executive committee’s orphans — and yet there it was on nomination morning. This time next week, could we be talking about “Academy Award nominee ‘Dogtooth?’” Fingers crossed.

Here’s the shortlist:

Algeria (“Outside the Law”)

Canada (“Incendies”)

Denmark (“In a Better World”)

Greece (“Dogtooth”)

Japan (“Confessions”)

Mexico (“Biutiful”)

South Africa (“Life Above All”)

Spain (“Even the Rain”)

Sweden (“Simple Simon”)

→ 45 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

45 responses so far

  • 1 1-19-2011 at 9:47 am

    Graysmith said...

    Sweden getting on this list is flabbergasting.

  • 2 1-19-2011 at 9:47 am

    Ibbs said...

    So…Algeria, Canada, Denmark, Mexico and South Africa?

  • 3 1-19-2011 at 9:49 am

    RyanT said...

    I wonder if Biutiful making it in is any indication of Javier Bardem’s chances of getting a nomination.

    Also, at the moment, what is the frontrunner(s) for the win?

  • 4 1-19-2011 at 9:51 am

    Mr. F said...

    Simple Simon, eh? I guess that the producer of the movie and the committee didn’t see Tropic Thunder.

  • 5 1-19-2011 at 9:51 am

    SC said...

    Canada’s nominee has some of the most aggressive partisans.

  • 6 1-19-2011 at 9:52 am

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    Go, “Incendies”!

  • 7 1-19-2011 at 9:56 am

    Gabriel D. said...

    I think Incendies has a good chance to actually win the award, with the momentum and Sony campaign.
    I really loved that film and it is one of the best Quebec film since Les Invasions barbares.
    As a Quebecker myself, I would be so happy to see that happens.

    I guess the five are going to be Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Denmark and Sweden…

  • 8 1-19-2011 at 9:57 am

    Andrej said...

    I guess Greece’s in? If they went as far as to preselect this movie despite of how ‘outside’ of their tastes it was… not to mention that it’s probably the most well-liked by critics out of that bunch, so I think they’ll try to avoid a major snub for the third year in a row.

    I’d say…

    – Mexico, Biutiful.
    – Greece, Dogtooth.
    – Denmark, In a Better World.
    – Canada, Incendies.
    – South Africa, Life, Above All.

  • 9 1-19-2011 at 10:02 am

    Robert said...

    I’m really interested to see Japan on this list – the trailer for “Confessions” looked fascinating.

  • 10 1-19-2011 at 10:23 am

    Michael said...

    HOLY SHIT Dogtooth got in!!! :^D

    Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. And I know this is just the shortlist and not the final nomination but this is already way further than I ever thought possible. I don’t care what else is nominated in any other category this year – if Dogtooth gets nominated nothing else will make me happier in the world.

  • 11 1-19-2011 at 10:32 am

    Ali E. said...

    I’ve always been sure that Dogtooth would make the shortlist. Not really surprised for France’s snub, since I was so bored by that film.

  • 12 1-19-2011 at 10:40 am

    Anita said...

    Glad to see “Even the Rain” on the list. Does it have any momentum to pull an upset?

  • 13 1-19-2011 at 10:49 am

    El Duderino said...

    I saw Confessions at TIFF. It was an overly stylized, but interesting film.

  • 14 1-19-2011 at 11:01 am

    han said...

    Incendies is gonna win.

  • 15 1-19-2011 at 11:05 am

    Gabriel D. said...

    I am not so sure Simple Simon will be cut off. It is not the kind of movie to get in this category easily (comedies are not popular in the foreign film slot), but it could be an upset nominee. I wonder if it is the work of the executive comitee?

  • 16 1-19-2011 at 11:06 am

    Stefan said...

    The Academy could make forget 82 years of shame and disgrace by nominating and rewarding Dogtooth….

  • 17 1-19-2011 at 11:08 am

    Princess of Peace said...

    I think that four will be Canada, Denmark, Mexico and South Africa. Not sure who will be number 5. And certainly not sure who will win.

  • 18 1-19-2011 at 11:09 am

    Jim T said...

    Yes!! Fingers crossed, indeed.

  • 19 1-19-2011 at 11:14 am

    Amir said...

    i screamed out loud in joy that Uncle Boonmee was snubbed and Dogtooth made it in.
    Couldn’t have possibly been happier.

  • 20 1-19-2011 at 11:24 am

    red_wine said...

    I am shocked that France was snubbed. I really am. I thought Of Gods And Men was dead set for the Top 5, let alone Top 9. It just seemed exactly like the thing that would appeal to the members of the Academy.

    But let me join the chorus of joy around Dogtooth. Its a miracle it made it in, onto the Top 5 now!

    Boonmee’s miss while completely expected is also notable. It kind of shows an ocean of disconnect between a film’s festival standing and world wide acclaim vs the Academy’s taste. You would think that such a widely celebrated film from a world cinema luminary (the film landed at no. 1 on Cahiers Du Cinema’s 2010 Top 10 and won Cannes) would atleast make the long list. But weirder things have happened.

  • 21 1-19-2011 at 11:26 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    Dogtooth making the five would be a modern miracle and the best evidence yet that the mindset of the Academy has really shifted.

  • 22 1-19-2011 at 11:35 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’ve offered my first take on the field:

  • 23 1-19-2011 at 11:49 am

    ALEXIA said...


  • 24 1-19-2011 at 11:49 am

    Edward L. said...

    A good write-up, Guy. Just one thought, though, if I may: I do think that it might be just the teeniest weeniest bit unfair to the general voters for the category in claiming that “[t]here can be no doubt whatsoever” that Dogtooth’s shortlisting is the work of the executive committee. Now, I’m as sceptical as the next person when it comes to this category over the years – time and again, I feel they have passed over terrific submitted movies for tedious, predictable, safe material. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you were right about Dogtooth. But they don’t always get it wrong: lest we forget, in years before the advent of the executive committee, the Academy did manage to nominate such off-kilter films as The Man Without a Past, Everybody Famous! and Schtonk! (not to mention Get Out Your Handkerchiefs way back). Even the with-hindsight no-brainer choices of Amores Perros and Pan’s Labyrinth were far removed from the category’s perceived usual diet of watery eyed children and the horrors of war (although, come to think of it, the latter does contain elements of both!).

    I’m not suggesting that the Academy has a great record in this category, by any means – just that, executive committee aside, it would be a shame not to recognise the good (or even just weird) choices the Academy has made over the years.

    Anhow, just wanted to say that. Enjoying your coverage of the season as ever. Cheers.

    And, on a slightly different note, I suspect there’s a conversation taking place somewhere in Italy today as to why on earth they didn’t submit I Am Love. I will fearlessly and foolishly declare it my prediction for a surprise lone director nod next Tuesday!

  • 25 1-19-2011 at 11:53 am

    red_wine said...

    Seriously, Italy’s gotta eat its hat. I Am Love would have almost been a gimme. The film has such a high profile in the States and is something the Academy might just plain adore.

  • 26 1-19-2011 at 11:57 am

    Nick Davis said...

    So thrilled about Dogtooth. Hope it remains in contention (to coin a phrase).

    Must admit, I’m pleased that If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, which felt so uninspired compared to all the recent Romanian hits, didn’t manage to be the first of those films to crack the list.

  • 27 1-19-2011 at 11:59 am

    Daveylow said...

    I Am Love was not the entry from Italy so I wasn’t eligible. If Spain and Denmark make the cut there would be two films directed by women.

  • 28 1-19-2011 at 12:03 pm

    red_wine said...

    @Nick Davis
    From a purists perspective, sure Whistle is not the best representative of the Romanian New Wave but I found it fascinating and rather liked it immensely. Specially the explosive blistering central performance. I would have been quite happy if it had the cut.

  • 29 1-19-2011 at 1:30 pm

    Moisés said...

    I think that Even the Rain could be the The Secret of Their Eyes of this year. It’s a great movie with 13 nominations in the Spanish Academy Awards.
    I love Dogtooth too.

  • 30 1-19-2011 at 1:39 pm

    julian said...

    Ha! In an earlier thread I threw stones at The Swedes for picking a turd like Simple Simon…and here we are now, it’s on the shortlist!! Can’t believe it…
    Glad Of Gods and Men didn’t make it, what a stinker! Canada and Denmark are the favorites. Denmark has garnered a lot of nominations over the years (but haven’t won since Pelle The Conqueror in 1989), so maybe it’s Denamrk’s turn again this year? That Bier was also nominated four years ago doesn’t hurt either…

  • 31 1-19-2011 at 1:54 pm

    Victor said...

    Have you reviewd “Even the rain” yet?

  • 32 1-19-2011 at 3:11 pm

    GlenH said...

    I’m kind of kicking myself not thinking of “Even the Rain”. It’s got some serious star-power, contemporary relevance and, as Moises points out, was up for a number of awards at the Goyas.

  • 33 1-19-2011 at 3:20 pm

    Andrej said...

    In the light of current events, I saw Dogtooth. Worst porn movie of all time, but it’s still fairly good in a NSFW kind of way…. buuut it’s overrated.

    It’d still flavor Oscar night nicely, though.

    Offtopic: Kris, you have “Biutiful” as the Spanish entry for Foreign Language Film in your predictions at the right side of the page, when it’s the Mexican one. o_@

  • 34 1-19-2011 at 3:42 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    Israel lost its hot streak. Oh well.

  • 35 1-19-2011 at 4:06 pm

    Glenn said...

    RyanT, as Guy noted with the Volver/Cruz scenario, they’re different branches. The cross-over would be minimal at best, I imagine.

    I hated “Dogtooth” but good gravy I would love it to be nominated for the pure chutzpah of it all.

  • 36 1-19-2011 at 8:17 pm

    seanflynn said...

    Outside the Law, although submitted by Algeria (it has Algerian creative elements) is actually a French film, and was considered such when it premiered at Cannes.

  • 37 1-19-2011 at 8:48 pm

    kiki said...

    If you see Confessions, you’ll know why:)

  • 38 1-19-2011 at 10:41 pm

    Sebastian said...

    Hi. I only wanted to remember you that “Biutiful” is Mexicos entry for the Oscars, and not Spain’s, as you put it in your side predictions.

  • 39 1-19-2011 at 10:58 pm

    via collins said...

    The “head desk head” moments for this year do go as far back as the Italians NOT selecting I Am Love. It’s so many light years ahead of “The First Beautiful Thing” that it’s frightening, but then Italy is a constantly surprising country.

    The selection of the brilliant Dogtooth is equally as staggering as the selection of the appalling Simple Simon.

    It’s a year full of red hot controversy in Best Foreign Language – so what else is new???

  • 40 1-20-2011 at 10:51 am

    Marvin said...

    I find it incredibly sad that Contracorriente (Undertow), Peru’s selection this year, got the shaft. The film did well at Sundance and following the success of La teta asustada you’d think Peru could’ve easily got selected. The film is in my top 3 from 2010 but the Academy never ceases to amaze when it comes to ignoring some of the great products being made outside the factory.

  • 41 1-22-2011 at 9:36 am

    maurier said...

    I’ve seen both “Of Gods and Men” and “Dogtooth” and I’m not surprised they preferred the latter – it’s awesome. The French movie is quite good, too, but nothing more so there’s no controversy for me in this shortlist.

  • 42 1-28-2011 at 11:58 am

    aris said...

    This year I’m definitely pulling for Dogtooth. Last year I was pulling for the South African film White Wedding since it was the only foreign film to ever make me laugh. If you never saw it you should definitely check it out!