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From “Iwo Jima” to “Volver,” Could This Year’s Oscars Belong to Subtitled Pics?

From "Iwo Jima" to "Volver," Could This Year's Oscars Belong to Subtitled Pics?

In a Variety story, “Foreign films refuse to be relegated to subtitle ghetto,” I look into the state of foreign-language movies vying for prizes outside of the foreign-language category. And with the increased critical buzz surrounding Warner Bros’s “Letters from Iwo Jima,” this could be another subtitle-heavy year at the Oscars, following recordbreaking triumphs “Life Is Beautiful” (seven noms, three wins) and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (10 noms, four wins).

With Paramount’s multilingual “Babel” and Disney’s Mayan “Apocalypto” also in the mix, the studios sure aren’t shying away from foreign films with unrecognizable actors. Is America growing more accepting of foreign cultures and peoples? I doubt it. It probably has more to do with Globowood’s interest in tapping world markets.

If the studios are going to keep making foreign-language films, will this muscle out truly indigenous-made movies in the future? What does that even mean in today’s world? Is “Pan’s Labryinth” more or less Spanish than “Volver”? “Days of Glory” seems more like an old American film than a French one, and light years away from an Algerian one? Frankly, now that I think about it, most of this year’s big foreign-language contenders — “The Lives of Others,” “Volver,” “Water” — are closer in their construction to Hollywood product than culturally-specific cinema. Ah, right, that’s why they’re big contenders.

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