There is nothing more confusing or mind-numbing than the best foreign language film race. Each nation submits one contender and the five nominees are determined by a specific Academy committee. The winner is then judged only by members of the Academy who have to prove they've seen all five selections. In the past decasde this has caused great films such as "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "Persepolis" not to get recognized and for films such as "Four Days in September," "Central Station," "Hero" and last year's "Waltz with Bashir" to lose to movies universally less regarded by critics and even moviegoers.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still hasn't released their official list of Foreign Film entries, but because the nations tend to leak out their submissions most are already known. The good peeps at Indiewire have a pretty concise list of who's in and there are definitely some surprises. Spain didn't have much faith in Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" with Penelope Cruz to get nominated and instead selected Fernando Trueba’s “The Dancer and the Thief." Italy picked the mostly unloved "Barria" over Cannes favorite "Vincere" and most surprising, Israel chose Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti’s “Ajami” instead of Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner "Lebanon."
Some of the more intriguing selections include Canada's edgy Cannes Director's Fortnight winner "I Killed My Mother," France's critic's favorite "A Prophet," Australia's "Samson and Dellilah" and Germany's Palme d'Or winner "The White Ribbon."
Who will make the cut? Who will win? After Japan entry "Departures'" stunning upset last year, your guess is as good as mine.
In other news, Los Angeles' AFI Fest landed the world premiere of the new Robert DeNiro dramedy "Everybody's Fine." The picture will take advantage of a Nov. 3 debut at the festival which will reward it with a more prestige audience than a typical Hollywood premiere would normally receive. The Miramax release opens a month later on Dec. 4.
AFI also announced its selections for the New Lights Competition which honors first and second-time filmmakers. A few of this year's selections include Owen Mpverman's Sundance Film Festival debut "The Messenger" with Woody Harrelson, Andrea Arnold's critically acclaimed "Fish Tank" and the previously mentioned "I Killed My Mother"(Here Films might make an indie hit out if it yet).
Running Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 the festival finds itself with a new home this year. Over the past few years, AFI Fest was held at the universally beloved Arclight Cinemas which really increased the profile of the festival threatening to make it more than a regional event. But for reasons yet to be revealed (or confirmed), they have lost the Arclight and instead will be using the Graumann's Chinese (old Hollywood), the Chinese 6 multiplex (not so nice) and nearby theaters instead (rumors have the Egyptian as one of the venues). Sort of a bummer for Los Angelenos, but the quality of the festival hasn't diminished with the change. Prestige contenders "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Precious," "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" and "A Prophet" will all screen during the event hoping to court Academy members in the AFI circle. No matter what the locale, it's definitely an event the industry or movie fans in Southern California shouldn't miss. Find out more about the festival here.
This esteemed prognosticator spent a few moments last week speaking to the lovely Nicole LaPorte, formerly of Variety and now with The Daily Beast, about the current Oscar race and upon reading her recap, boy was I blunt! Who knew Ms. LaPorte would run almost everything I said? Egad, need to reign it in a bit next time I think (not that I don't stand by what I said). Check out my comments along with those of my esteemed peers Anne Thompson, MCN's David Poland, EW's Dave Karger, The Envelope's Pete Hammond and The Odd's Steve Pond. Well worth the read.
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory