Scandinavia Stands Tall 2015 Oscar Race
It is not news that Scandinavia is a powerful cultural force in the world, as Hollywood chases Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard (“My Struggle”), hit TV series (“The Killing,” “The Bridge,” “Wallander”), Mads Mikkelsen (“Hannibal”), writer-director Tobias Lindholm (“Borgen”) and yet another iteration of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” whose original star Noomi Rapace is up for an Amy Winehouse feature, while Alicia Vikander—the starriest Swedish import since Ingrid Bergman— is a likely candidate to replace Rooney Mara in the Millennium series. 

Vikander has had quite a year, from her moving portrayal of Vera Brittain’s World War I heroine in “Testament of Youth” and a steely android in “Ex Machina” to her lauded role as the ambitious artist wife supporting Eddie Redmayne’s gender transformation in “The Danish Girl” (Working Title/Focus Features). An Oscar nomination is in the offing. She also reads the letters of Ingrid Bergman in Swedish filmmaker Stig Björkman’s terrific documentary “In her Own Words” (Rialto Pictures, November 13th).

WATCH: How Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander and Tom Hooper Explore Gender Identity in’The Danish Girl’ (VIDEO)

Among the foreign awards contenders, Roar Uthaug’s Norwegian Oscar entry, disaster thriller “The Wave,” riffs on the possibility of another tsunami like the one in 1934 Norway’s Tafjord that killed 40 people. The Nordic VFX thriller opened in Norway August 28 to strong box office. It’s the country’s best domestic performer of the year, beating “Minions” and “Fast & Furious 7.”  The story focuses on a contemporary geologist who frets over an unstable mountain that when it slides will trigger an alarm that a tsunami will hit the town in ten minutes—inevitably, it happens and he tries to get his family to safety.

Magnolia Pictures is releasing the thriller; they previously released Norway’s “Headhunters,” “Trollhunters,” “Ragnarok,” “Pioneer” and “Happy Happy,” not to mention Danish Oscar entries starring Mikkelsen, “The Hunt” and “The Royal Affair,” which co-starred Vikander. They plan an early 2016 stateside release.

They’re also handling Oscar nominee “The Hunt” writer Tobias Lindholm’s Venice Fest entry “A War,” a tough hand-held Afghanistan movie (shot in Jordan and other locations) that focuses on the stresses on the captain (“R” and “Borgen” star Pilou Asbæk, who’s co-starring in “Ghost in the Shell”) as well as his family back home. The movie became Denmark’s Oscar submission over chief rival “The Look of Silence” (Drafthouse) which is a frontrunner in the documentary Oscar race from Josh Oppenheimer. Because his “The Act of Killing” didn’t win, he now has a better chance this year.

Kathryn Bigelow hosted one Academy party for “A War,” which makes perfect sense, as Lindholm’s soldiers (all except his lead were veterans) anxiously pick their way across IED-infested Afghanistan terrain. She invited Lindholm to meet with her after seeing “A Hijacking.” He’s a strong writer who does his research; I can see them working together. When he read that one soldier returning from Afghanistan was more afraid of being court-martialed than of being killed, that set him off to write and direct “A War.” He’s now collaborating with Paul Greengrass on a movie.

Magnolia is also releasing Roy Andersson’s foreign Oscar contender from Sweden, the critically-hailed “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” which along with “The Look of Silence,” picked up European Film Award nominations. Also grabbing a nomination was Iceland’s Oscar submission “Rams” (Cohen Media Group, February 2016), Grímur Hákonarson’s rural brother drama which picked up the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes this year.

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