Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:50 am

For months - not only on this board - I've been predicting that The Hunt will win, so I can't change my mind now. Plus, The Great Beauty may have received very good (and, as I've said before, quite perceptive) reviews in the US, but when it comes to "big" Foreign Film awards, only the foreigners (Golden Globes, BAFTA) seem to really like it. It's certainly, and by far, the best of the three I've seen, but it belongs to an old and now sadly rare today - even in Italy - tradition of cinema. Cinema which is inventive, visionary (but deeply visionary, not like Gravity), and let's face it, not for everyone. I understand people based on their reaction to it - like I used to do in the past with, say, Fellini or Antonioni. I'm not saying that it is as great as the greatest Fellinis - it has its flaws - but it clearly belongs to that kind of filmmaking. And at least it tries to be great.

The Hunt is much more familiar, and to use Uri's word on another movie, it's so "Lutheran" that, I'm afraid, will be even more familiar to Americans. Not those on this board maybe - we are quite sophisticated here - but I mean Americans in general. It's safe, and, despite its vaguely open ending, extremely reassuring. The fact that it's not a bad movie, and that it's well-acted, will help: I still think that it will win.

But now I hear more and more people saying that The Broken Circle Breakdown will. And you know what? I had quickly - too quickly maybe - dismissed it when I saw it months ago, but now I think that it COULD win. Unfortunately (The Hunt is a masterpiece compared to this). I don't agree with Mister Tee: despite the fact that its content is almost grotesquely tragic, it's much, much more bearable than Amour. For the simple reason that, as Tee says, it's less insightful. It reminded me of those 70s movie where children (or devoted wives) used to glamorously die of unmentioned cancer. This one is smarter, of course, so it uses nudity, atheism, country music (Americans especially will love this aspect) and a non-chronological narrative. But it's still a movie about a child who dies (and I can't say more to avoid spoilers). People on this board keep saying that Wolf of Wall Street is porno. I think that The Broken Circle Breakdown is really pornographic - though it's pornography of feelings, not of sex.

(But I have to be completely honest and admit that yes, a European atheist wouldn't lie even to a dying child. I know, we are too cynical, and I probably shouldn't be proud of it).

I would be glad, of course, if Italy wins (and for a movie which deserves to win). This is a country which has given so much to cinema. Maybe less so in these last twenty years, but it's still a country which loves cinema and which can make very good movies, movies which still have something to say. And it's a country which loves the Oscars. I'm the only one here because Italians don't speak - and write - English well, but I'm definitely not the only one into Oscars. For example just before Christmas I was in line in a bookstore, and there was this group of teenagers who were discussing about George Clooney's Academy Awards - had he won one, two or three? (One was mistakenly convinced that he had won something for Good Night and Good Luck, too). I found that nice.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:45 am

I'm inclined to think this is a four way horse race with only The Missing Picture having little to no hope.

Given the critical reception to all of the nominee's being positive any one of them would be an acceptable winner, however given the best received is The Great Beauty is would be a win that would probably be looked back with the most approval.
Last edited by Precious Doll on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:21 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby ksrymy » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:34 am

I would not count The Broken Circle Breakdown out. It has bluegrass (the most exclusively-American music there is), the destruction of a relationship, and child cancer.

What more could the Academy want?
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:06 am

Great analysis, Tee.

I hate the bloggers' assertions that the Oscars have become so pedestrian of late because of the retirees, but in the restricted foreign language voting that has more clearly been the problem.

I can't say which one I'd vote for because I've only seen The Hunt, which I liked with reservations. I had the same reaction to the church scene as you did.

Based on the trailers for the other four, as well as its wins elsewhere, I'd say The Great Beauty looks like the one to beat.
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Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:03 am

Start with some thoughts about the category’s rule change. For nearly 40 years, voters have needed to sign affidavits at screening s of the obscure/barely-or-un-released nominees to be allowed to cast a ballot. Now, with screeners ubiquitous, it’s presumed everyone has access to all nominees, so voting is open to all membership.

The must-attend-screenings rule, when implemented in 1975, was intended to make the competition fairer. For the nearly 20 prior years of the category’s existence, the typical foreign film slate was four movies of which few had heard, and Day for Night – with the latter easily winning. The theory now was that, with everyone required to see all nominees, not just the popular attraction, some of the lesser-known films would have a chance. This theory bore fruit in the very first year, when minor favorite Scent of a Woman lost to the obscure Dersu Uzala. (We later found out Dersu Uzala was actually a Kurosawa film, but this fact was so well-hidden that even Andrew Sarris didn’t realize it on Oscar night.) And then, the following year, there was complete consternation, as what was thought to be a face-off between the widely-seen Cousin Cousine and Seven Beauties was won by “who the hell ever heard of” Black and White in Color.

The screenings requirement, perhaps a noble idea, had had an unexpected effect: voting for the award was now limited to those who had the free time to get to all the movies – which translated to a preponderance of retired voters. Which changed the sort of film most likely to win. The last half-dozen winners under the old system had been among the landmark films of the era – deSica, Bunuel, Truffaut and Fellini among those chosen. Truly impactful films still managed to win under the new rules –- The Tin Drum, Fanny and Alexander, All About My Mother, A Separation and Amour. But films that were on the bubble -- highly critically regarded but not enormous events -– started losing to lightweight, sentimental efforts, often set during the World War II era (which reflected the interests of the dominant voting group): Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears over The Last Metro, Mediterraneo over Raise the Red Lantern, Belle Epoque over Farewell My Concubine. Eventually, the committees in various countries who chose official entries picked up on this trend, and started submitting films most likely to appeal to this taste. And then of course the Academy selection committee, dealing with so many countries submitting, given the global explosion of film-making, began to be staffed by the only people with enough time to view 70 or so films – which is to say, again, retirees – and the whole system began to feel like it was set up to block out the truly best films.

I’m not sure this opening of the vote to full membership is going to help or hurt; like the field-of-ten in best picture, we need a couple of years to get a feel for how it’s going to go. It may be, like in the pre-’75 years, we’ll see more default to the most widely-seen film. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing (I’d rate the two decades of winners chosen that way, from ’56 to ’75, WAY ahead of the four decades that have followed – though that’s partly because it was a legendary time in world cinema); it might have given us a win by The White Ribbon a few years back. In any case, I think the system we’ve been living with WAS broken, so I’m all for an attempt to fix it.

All that exhaustingly said, this year’s nominees:

Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture

As under animated feature, I’m prevented from seeing one nominee – The Missing Picture – because it hasn’t been released here.

Let me ask a question: how is that people worried that Amour was too grueling/hard to sit through for Oscar voters, but are advocating Broken Circle Breakdown as potential winner? Did people find that easier to watch: an adorable little girl dying slowly and grimly? I wanted to turn it off rather than endure another minute – I thought it was far harder to take than Amour, and lacking any of the insight. Oh, plus the lead male character was a jerk – so committed to his atheism that he won’t let his dying daughter entertain a brief fantasy about dead birds turning into stars. And this is yet another movie where the character indulges in an unbearably exhibitionistic public breakdown (a la the church scene in The Hunt). Do people find such scenes compelling? I find them, as in life, something to cringe through. If this movie wins, I’d say the first year of experimenting with the open vote has come a cropper.

I already articulated my distaste for The Hunt elsewhere, but I see an awful lot of people praising it/predicting it, so it may have the impetus to win. The only positive thing to say about that would be, it’s not as appalling a choice as Broken Circle.

Omar is a whole lot more interesting , certainly on a narrative level – it goes in directions I wasn’t expecting, and had a decent “who’s on my side and who isn’t?” vibe in the final half hour. But it’s with some reason going to be seen as anti-Israel, which will hurt it with many voters, and it only hit general release this past weekend, so there hasn’t been time for it to build up any momentum. I can imagine it winning, but only vaguely.

The vote change may work to the benefit of The Great Beauty, which, while not a hit on the scale of the last two foreign winners, has had far and away the greatest box office success of this year’s batch. I’ve said before, I think it’s easily the most impressive of the group, though – maybe a bit like 12 Years a Slave – impressive in a cool, detached way that may not work for most voters. But, what the hell: Discreet Charm of the Bourgeiosie had the same quality and won this award from voters at large, so maybe Great Beauty will have the same luck.

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