Today marks the deadline for countries to submit their foreign-language Academy Award contenders. While some had rather uncontroversial, obvious standouts just sitting around waiting to be tapped, like Argentina’s “Wild Tales,” others, like Russia, saw their frontrunner’s director pull his film from consideration with just days to go, forcing the edgy selection of “Leviathan,” which is set against the backdrop of Russian political corruption.
Argentine director Damian Szifron achieved his home country’s best local opening ever when “Wild Tales” grossed $2.5 million in its first weekend, and the film has garnered a lot of buzz since its debut at Cannes about potentially being Latin America’s best chance at the Oscar. With an unconventional structure that plays as a series of short films with an overarching theme of violence and revenge, it’s almost like a showcase for Szifron’s array of talents, but is nonetheless absorbing, fun and original. Read our review from Cannes here.
In more dramatic news, Russia’s Oscar committee was blindsided last week when director Andrei Konchalovsky announced that he was withdrawing his critically acclaimed “The Postman’s White Nights” (which we loved) from the race, stating that he didn’t have any interest in Hollywood awards and that American cinema is already a bad enough influence on Russian tastes.
“Over the last few years, I have sharply criticized the ‘Hollywoodization’ of the Russian market and bad influence of commercial American cinema on the formation of tastes and preferences of our viewers,” Konchalovsky said. “Given that, competing for a Hollywood prize would be absurd for me.”
With that option gone, the ad hoc group ventured to select another Cannes buzz picture, “Leviathan,” an also great Book of Job allegory that makes liberal use of its setting under the present Russian regime, with the story’s most corrupt character having a portrait of Vladimir Putin on his wall. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev has said he likely couldn’t get funding for the film through the Russian Ministry of Culture today, as he did two years ago. We tend to agree.
In any case, it’s looking like an exciting year in foreign film category, and we’ll be anxious to see the complete list of entrants when it is released shortly. [The Hollywood Reporter/HitFix]