Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Oscar foreign-language film award executive committee met to find out from PricewaterhouseCoopers the six finalists from 71 foreign submissions, based on the best average scores from voters who saw the requisite number of foreign entries. Academy members have been screening the films, sometimes two to three a night, in order to get them seen in time. They have to watch them in a screening room, often not very full–which means that a small group can have an inordinate impact on the final results.
That's one reason why the final three out of nine slots on the shortlist were filled by the 20-member exec committee. If by some chance the general voters didn't show the love for Palme d'Or winner and critics' group favorite "Amour," for example, they would add that to the list to avoid embarrassment. So we could count on that. Another film that was sure to be on the shortlist is French crowdpleaser "The Intouchables," which Weinstein Co. nurtured effectively over the summer. Last year, Omar Sy stole the best actor Cesar from Jean Dujardin, who had to settle for the Oscar.
On the Foreign Film shortlist of nine are:
- Austria, "Amour," Michael Haneke, director
- Canada, "War Witch," Kim Nguyen, director
- Chile, "No," Pablo Larraín, director
- Denmark, "A Royal Affair," Nikolaj Arcel, director
- France, "The Intouchables," Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors
- Iceland, "The Deep," Baltasar Kormákur, director
- Norway, "Kon-Tiki," Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, directors
- Romania, "Beyond the Hills," Cristian Mungiu, director
- Switzerland, "Sister," Ursula Meier, director
Along with "Intouchables," Weinstein Co. is also releasing seafaring adventure "Kon-Tiki," while Sony Pictures Classics is opening "Amour" and "No." Their Israeli entry "Fill the Void" did not make the cut. Magnolia has "A Royal Affair" starring Mads Mikkelsen in current release. IFC picked up religious drama "Beyond the Hills" before it debuted in Cannes, where the jury awarded non-pros Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur the best actress prize as well as a screenplay prize for Mungiu. Focus World is handling gripping survival tale "The Deep" and Tribeca Films has "War Witch." Adopt films acquired "Sister," but their Berlin favorite "Barbara," which opens over the holidays, did not make the cut, nor did the Taviani brothers' Italian entry "Caesar Must Die." Others left off the shortlist include violent "Pieta" (Drafthouse, South Korea), Cate Shortland's World War II holocaust drama "Lore" (Music Box, Australia), noirish "In the Shadow" (Czech), and "Kauwboy" (The Netherlands).
Which three did the committee add? We'll never know. "Amour" and "No" may have been voted in by the larger group, but certainly "Beyond the Hills" was not. The shortlist will be whittled down to five nominees by special foreign committees in New York and Los Angeles, who will view three films a day over the weekend from Friday, January 4, through Sunday, January 6. They will cast ballots for the final five to be announced on nominations morning January 10.