Six of the nine were selected by the several hundred Phase I L.A. Academy voters who watched the requisite number of films and graded them. The last three were added by powerful foreign czar Mark Johnson’s hand-picked "Executive Committee," which is designed to prevent the presumably more mainstream voters from overlooking an artful Cannes prize winner such as "Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days."
Needless to say it is always good sport to figure out which films the Academy voters picked, and which were the committee selections. And what would have been the larger group’s last three?
Expected shortlist entries include two from Sony Pictures Classics: popular comedy "Wild Tales" from Argentina, and Russia’s corruption expose "Leviathan." Other critics’ faves were Mauritanian jihad drama "Timbuktu," Polish post-holocaust drama "Ida," and Sweden’s exploration of a marriage, "Force Majeure." These are likely to be the final five.
The four surprise entries: Georgia’s "Corn Island," The Netherlands’ "Accused," Venezuela’s "The Liberator," a hugely entertaining epic about Simon Bolivar, played by charismatic star on the rise Edgar Ramirez ("Carlos"), and Estonia’s "Tangerines," which scored a Golden Globe along with "Leviathan," "Force Majeure," "Ida" and Israeli courtroom drama "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem."
"This was a very strong year and there were nine exceptional films and somebody was going to be short-changed," says Johnson, who was known to favor the Dardennes’ "Two Days, One Night," starring critics’ darling Marion Cotillard, and Turkey’s three-hour Cannes-winner from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, "Winter Sleep."
So the committee doesn’t always agree with him. Which three did they add? I would guess that "Leviathan" might have needed a boost. I had heard that "Tangerines" and "The Liberator" were playing well, so "Corn Island" and "Accused" might have been committee adds.
Left off the list are Canada’s "Mommy," Hungary’s "White God," and France’s colorful portrait of designer "Saint Laurent."
The committee voters–20 in LA, 10 in NY, and 10 in London– will watch three films a day from Friday, January 9, through Sunday, January 11, and then cast their ballots for the final five. Last year’s members included Kathryn Bigelow, Matt Groening, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and James L. Brooks; most only serve once but Meryl Streep and Ryan Gosling have both served twice.
The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:
Argentina, "Wild Tales," Damián Szifrón, director;
Estonia, "Tangerines," Zaza Urushadze, director;
Georgia, "Corn Island," George Ovashvili, director;
Mauritania, "Timbuktu," Abderrahmane Sissako, director;
Netherlands, "Accused," Paula van der Oest, director;
Poland, "Ida," Paweł Pawlikowski, director;
Russia, "Leviathan," Andrey Zvyagintsev, director;Sweden, "Force Majeure," Ruben Östlund, director;
Venezuela, "The Liberator," Alberto Arvelo, director.
The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015; the Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015 and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.