What does Wong Kar Wai have to do to get an Oscar nomination? The veteran Hong Kong filmmaker was shut out of the Foreign Language Oscar category today after reaching the shortlist for the first time with The Grandmaster. His only other shot at an Oscar came in 2000 when his haunting period love story, In The Mood For Love, was the submission from his home country. It did not advance. To be fair, Grandmaster did pick up two nods today, one for Phillipe Le Sourd’s cinematography and one for William Chang Suk Ping’s costume design. But the Academy chose to forgo the Martin Scorsese-endorsed film in a race in which it was widely expected to figure.
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Indeed, people I talked to today were very surprised. When I recently spoke with Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co has the movie in several countries, I wondered if The Grandmaster‘s box office could be an issue since it was the highest-grossing film of all the contenders, and since commercial movies aren’t normally the ones the Academy sidles up to in this category. It’s familiar territory for Weinstein who was on the shortlist with French juggernaut The Intouchables last year. That film did not make the jump to a nomination and Weinstein told me in December that it had been a victim of its own success. One watcher today suggested Grandmaster may have suffered a similar fate. There was also a spot of controversy over the Chinese version being cut down for the U.S. – although the U.S. version is the same as the one submitted by Hong Kong. Weinstein told me last month that the adjustments were made to avoid confusion over some cultural elements and that Wong did them himself, rather than Weinstein and exec producer Megan Ellison as had been suggested. “People think it was us,” Weinstein said, adding, “As presumptuous as I can be, I’m not presumptuous enough to tell Kar Wai” what to do.