By Eric Henderson

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the shortlist for movies up for the best foreign film Oscar. In a move that will surprise no one who’s ever followed the category’s turbulent history, the category is more conspicuous for its omissions than what made it to the final heat.

Here are the nine movies that will soon become five:

Algeria: Hors la Loi (Outside the Law); Rachid Bouchareb, director
Canada: Incendies; Denis Villeneuve, director
Denmark: In a Better World; Susanne Bier, director
Greece: Dogtooth; Yorgos Lanthimos, director
Japan: Confessions; Tetsuya Nakashima, director
Mexico: Biutiful; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director
South Africa: Life, above All; Oliver Schmitz, director
Spain: Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain); Iciar Bollain, director
Sweden: Simple Simon; Andreas Ohman, director

Among the movies that were ignored were the French drama Of Gods and Men, the Chinese epic Aftershock and the Cannes Film Festival prizewinner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. OK, maybe my definition of “conspicuous omissions” is a tad skewed, but if you can tell me without Google what Simple Simon or Hors la Loi is about, then I’ll retract the accusation. I’d love to see Dogtooth make their nomination list (and even win), but it’s without a doubt too beyond the pale for the committee.

As one of my colleagues mused, the people who decide foreign film contenders (and winners) have to acquiesce to screening EVERY submission. That’s something like five dozen films. In other words, the only people who have the time to decide this category are likely made up of mostly retirees, which accounts for the category’s decided middlebrow streak. (Remember, this is the category where Pan’s Labyrinth was felled by The Lives of Others.)

In any case, the surprise Golden Globe winner in this category — Susanne Bier’s In a Better World — is still well in play here, though Oscar and Globe winners in this category rarely line up.

Best foreign film isn’t the only category with a trial heat. You may recall that the Minnesota-shot Ana’s Playground has been shortlisted for the best live-action short film category:

Movie Blog: Minnesota Short An Oscar Finalist

Here are all the other categories that have been preliminarily winnowed, with the number of eventual nominees in parentheses.

Best Visual Effects (5)
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2
Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Tron: Legacy

Best Make-Up (3)
Alice in Wonderland
Barney’s Version
The Fighter
Jonah Hex
True Grit
The Way Back
The Wolfman

Best Song (5)
“Alice” from “Alice in Wonderland”
“Forever One Love” from “Black Tulip”
“Freedom Song” from “Black Tulip”
“Bound to You” from “Burlesque”
“Welcome to Burlesque” from “Burlesque”
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque”
“There’s a Place for Us” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
“Me and Tennessee” from “Country Strong”
“Despicable Me” from “Despicable Me”
“Prettiest Girls” from “Despicable Me”
“Dear Laughing Doubters” from “Dinner for Schmucks”
“Better Days” from “Eat Pray Love”
“If You Run” from “Going the Distance”
“Darkness before the Dawn” from “Holy Rollers”
“Sticks & Stones” from “How to Train Your Dragon”
“Le Gris” from “Idiots and Angels”
“Chanson Illusionist” from “The Illusionist”
“Never Say Never” from “The Karate Kid”
“To the Sky” from “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
“What If” from “Letters to Juliet”
“Life during Wartime” from “Life during Wartime”
“Made in Dagenham” from “Made in Dagenham”
“Little One” from “Mother and Child”
“Be the One” from “The Next Three Days”
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
“When You See Forever” from “The Perfect Game”
“I Remain” from “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”
“Dream Big” from “Pure Country 2: The Gift”
“How I Love You” from “Ramona and Beezus”
“Darling I Do” from “Shrek Forever After”
“Noka Oi” from “Six Days in Paradise”
“This Is a Low” from “Tamara Drewe”
“I See the Light” from “Tangled”
“Rise” from “3 Billion and Counting”
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3”
“Eclipse: All Yours” from “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”
“Nothing” from “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too”
“A Better Life” from “Unbeaten”
“Shine” from “Waiting for ‘Superman'”
“The Reasons Why” from “Wretches & Jabberers”

  1. Dan P says:

    Looking at this post, I remember last years foreign film category. Its always my favorite category during the Oscars. Last year’s South African submission White Wedding just came out on DVD and I havent been able to stop laughing.

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