The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that a record 83 countries had submitted an eligible film for the 2014 Foreign Language Film Oscar. A volunteer group of several hundred members now will trudge through those movies beginning Monday night with Poland’s much acclaimed Ida and wrapping up December 14 with Iceland’s Life In A Fishbowl.
In between will be numerous films, good and bad, selected by their home countries for various reasons (sometimes political). As usual, these Academy members also will be subjected to unspeakable acts of violence to human beings and, according to their levels of squeamishness, will either be repulsed, impressed or numbed by what they see (yes, American films are not the only ones with sickening bloodletting scenes).
But what about the animals? For some who sign up to see these films, not knowing a thing about them except the country from which they come, they will be subjected to scenes of animal torture, fighting, slow death and so on. I can guarantee that, Academy members. I have seen some of these films already, in Cannes and elsewhere.
So consider this column a public service if the sight of innocent animals under duress disturbs you more than watching humans pummeled to death. And you know who you are. One regular Foreign Language committee member told me she has an antenna for such scenes and either leaves the theater or finds a way to shut it out during the movie.
My wife regularly makes me find out if any animals die before we go to a film together. And I recall my sister never went to another film about a dog after I made her take me to see Disney’s Old Yeller, in which Tommy Kirk is forced to shoot his dog, Yeller, when it gets rabies.
Marley And Me and Turner And Hooch were big hits, but there are sensitive souls who would rather have back surgery than try to watch them because of scenes where the beloved pet dies. I don’t think this is uncommon.
One publicist who has encountered this problem with some of their Foreign Language entries told me this week, “I could never figure out why people have more problems with animal violence than acts of violence against humans!”
But for those who do have such problems, we can now be thankful, I guess, for a website that calls itself Does The Dog Die? They rate more than 700 films — not on their quality but whether a lovable animal is in peril or dies or beaten during the movie’s course. They rate each movie like this:
Numerous CGI animals appear in the film; several are killed. A deer-like creature is shot with an arrow and dies while a young boy looks on. An animal resembling an antelope is flung into the air, split apart and eaten by men before it hits the ground. A lamb-like animal is slaughtered on board the ark; we hear it being killed.
The Drop (2014)
Rocco the pit bull puppy is rescued from a trash can at the beginning of the film. Though he is threatened during the film, he ends up living happily ever after with his rescuer.
The Good Lie (2014)
A dead gazelle is seen being eaten by cheetahs (we do not see it being killed).
Gone Girl (2014)
An orange cat belonging to the main characters appears throughout the film. It is never threatened and doesn’t come to any harm.
The Hunt (2012)
Early in the film, a deer is shot and killed. The main character’s dog Fanny is killed and delivered wrapped up to her master (Lucas). We don’t see what is wrapped up when Lucas first looks but we can guess. However, his son fights to see what it is and then we see it is Fanny. When Lucas is burying his dog, we see several shots of her lying dead on the ground.
Oscar voters in the Foreign Language category sensitive to animal violence do have one thing to be thankful for at least. Japan wisely didn’t submit Naomi Kawase’s dreadful Still The Water, a 2014 Cannes competition entry that opens on a close-up of a goat’s throat being slashed open as blood swarms out (a scene repeated later in the film). Yuk. Did we really need that — twice?
Perhaps the MPAA should create a rating system aimed at adults who might want to know if a movie has these kinds of scenes. We don’t care about the human violence and nudity, MPAA. I haven’t seen the great majority of the 83 films on view this year for Best Foreign Language Film, so who knows what pleasures await? But consider yourself warned, animal-loving Oscar voters.