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Foreign Language Oscar Shortlist: 'Force Majeure', 'Ida' In; 'White God', 'Mommy' Miss Cut

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the shortlist of nine films that will advance to the next stage in the Foreign Language Film Oscar race. As was widely expected Pawel Pawlikowski’s 60s-set Polish drama Ida, fresh off of five European Film Awards, is in. Also turning up unsurprisingly are Argentina’s box office smash Wild Tales by Damián Szifrón; Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian corruption drama Leviathan; Sweden’s existential avalanche drama/comedy Force Majeure from Ruben Östlund; and Alberto Arvelo’s Venezuelan Simon Bolivar biopic The Liberator (see full list below). In a nice turn of events for Mauritania and respected helmer Abderrahmane Sissako, the African country scored its first shortlist mention with Timbuktu, its first-ever submission. Sissako told me earlier this week that were Timbuktu to make the shortlist it would be important “for everyone behind it.” That includes not only the country, but all of Africa. Should Timbuktu advance further, he said the whole continent would be watching the Oscars.

But as usual with this particular category, there are no shortage of surprises in the mix. Those notably left off the list include Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep from Turkey; Canada’s Mommy by Xavier Dolan, which won the Jury Prize in Cannes; Kornel Mundruczo’s Hungarian Un Certain Regard winner White God; the Dardenne brothers’ Belgian entry starring Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night; and Israeli sibling helmers Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem, among others. The latter is nominated for a Golden Globe.

Also doubling up on Golden Globe nominations and Oscar shortlist inclusion are Ida, Force Majeure and Leviathan. The fifth Golden Globe nominee, Estonia’s Tangerines, did make the grade with the Academy today and is on the shortlist. The film is set in 1992 during the war in the Estonian village of Abkhazia where one man stays behind to tend his crop of the titular fruit and takes in wounded soldiers from opposite sides of the conflict. Staying in the region, Georgia’s Corn Island is also on today’s shortlist. The Karlovy Vary winner by George Ovashvili is set near the Abkhazia of Tangerines and is a nearly dialogue-less war-time drama involving determined farmers. The entry from the Netherlands, Accused, has also made the shortlist. Paula van der Oest’s film is a psychological thriller based on a controversial court case about a nurse sentenced to life in prison after nine babies died under her watch.

To check out profiles of the shortlisted films (and some of those that weren’t) click here, here and here. This is the full shortlist roster:

Argentina, Wild Tales, dir: Damián Szifrón
Estonia, Tangerines, dir: Zaza Urushadze
Georgia, Corn Island, dir: George Ovashvili
Mauritania, Timbuktu, dir: Abderrahmane Sissako
Netherlands, Accused, dir: Paula van der Oest
Poland, Ida Paweł Pawlikowski
Russia, Leviathan, dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Sweden, Force Majeure, dir: Ruben Östlund
Venezuela, The Liberator, dir: Alberto Arvelo

  1. IDA is sublime. A big exhale that it made the shortlist, particularly when you consider all the worthy films that have failed in the past.
    The Dardenne Brothers 0 for 4 shutout is head-scratching. Perhaps the subtlety and lack of overt drama in their work just doesn’t strike a chord with enough voters. And, the sheer deluge of movies the voters have to wade through doesn’t help (particularly amongst those who still have very active professional careers). The Dardennes slow pacing and tiny impressions that add up during a movie demand full attention. It may be difficult for some Academy voters to give themselves over to their way of doing things. Just a theory.

  2. “The Liberator” is awful. Hagiography at its most cumbersome. “Wild Tales” is uneven, unworthy of this honor. “Two Days, One Night” and “Mommy” should have been here, and I’m waiting to see “Winter Sleep.”

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