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Foreign Oscars Not Fixed

Foreign Oscars Not Fixed

In October of last year, I wrote an article for indieWIRE called “The Foreign-Language Oscar Race: Where (Almost) Anything Can Happen“: Well, this year’s foreign Oscar shortlist once again proves the unexpected nature of the category. For all the Academy’s talk of strategic measures to get younger voters involved and raise the quality of the foreign-language nominees, the snubs this year are startling: I can understand that “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” was too dark and bracing for the Academy or that “Secret Sunshine” was too smart and subtle for them to recognize, but how did “Persepolis” not make the cut, and Denys Arcand’s latest mediocrity “Days of Darkness” make the shortlist?

I haven’t seen all of the films, but the appearence of Cao Hamburger’s “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” [See UPDATE: I watched it] and Giuseppe Tornatore’s roundly dismissed “The Unknown” suggest that the same-old, formulaic foreign-language films are still the ones that are welcomed by the Academy, while more artistic films (“Secret Sunshine”) and genre blends (“The Orphanage”) are overlooked. I’m usually pretty good at predicting the category, but this year, I have to admit, I was totally off.

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I was really shocked, too. I didn’t expect Secret Sunshine or even Silent Light to win, but I thought Persepolis was a shoo-in, and of the films that actually made the list, I don’t think they’re that well-known. They certainly haven’t been getting the critical love that the overlooked films have been getting. More evidence the Academy voters are out of touch, as if we need any more evidence.

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