The Oscars have limited interest in foreign or indie films, so I personally don’t pay all that much attention to them. I mostly peruse them like any other awards event or film festival programme – for interesting films that might have escaped me otherwise.
Nominations for the 2013 Oscars were announced today and Michael Haneke has scored quite a few nods with his drama on love in old age, Amour (Austria/France/Germany, 2012), including Best Picture, Best Direction, Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress (for Emmanuelle Riva, who, at 85, became the oldest nominee ever). It’s particularly the Best Picture nomination that comes unexpected – few non-English language films have ever made it into this category. I would be surprised if Haneke doesn’t walk away with either a trophy for Best Picture or Best Foreign Language Film, but given USAmerican film politics he has probably got a better chance for the latter I would say.
Of the other Best Picture nominees I have only watched Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (USA, 2012, which is wonderful but Best Picture would be overreaching IMO) and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (USA, 2012, a Sundance winner and real delight, but that, as a small indie, stands no chance to win). Both Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild scored multiple other nominations as well, the former has eleven in total with also Best Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, Music, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Adapted Screenplay, while the latter is also up for Best Actress (the fabulous Quvenzhané Wallis as the youngest nominee at age nine!), Best Direction and Adapted Screenplay.
Best Foreign Language Film
I previously perused the long-list for Best Foreign Language Film, which ignored critically lauded films like Kim Ki-duk’s 피에타 (Pieta/Pieta, South Korea, 2012). The final five that did make it: Austria’s Amour (yeah, I’m cheering for Haneke), Norway’s Kon-Tiki (2012), Chile’s No (2012), Denmark’s En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair, 2012) and Canada’s Rebelle (War Witch, 2012, which is the only other one besides Amour that I’m keen on seeing). I’m not quite sure if this is a strong field or not, even less so because I haven’t actually watched any of the five films. Amour certainly leads the way in terms of critical acclaim and awards including from Cannes, the European Film Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, the FIPRESCI Award and the BFI Top 10 Film Awards (plus many others), but that doesn’t always mean anything.
Best Animated Feature
The Best Animated Feature Film nominations are always one of the biggest let-downs for me (I have complained about this issue, not just as regards the Oscars, before here, here and here). I think it is where the limited scope of film-watching of Academy Members is most glaringly obvious. Out of twenty-one animations submitted for consideration, the ones that made the final cut this year are Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Pirates! and Wreck-It Ralph (all USA, 2012, except The Pirates!, which is USA/UK, 2012). Four of those pretty much take the same kind of approach to animated films, i.e. animations are for kids! Kids only watch cutsy-funny films! Let’s entertain them but never challenge their brains too much! Only Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is somewhat darker and also visually distinguishes itself from the rest. Frankenweenie could win, otherwise I’m guessing it will be Brave, because, hooray! there’s a stereotype-breaking female heroine (not).
What I would have liked to see nominated? At least one of these three:「コクリコ坂から」 (Kokuriko-zaka Kara/From up on Poppy Hill, Japan, 2011), Le tableau (The Painting, France, 2012) or Le Chat du rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat, France, 2011).
Of course, the only animation here I have actually watched is Kokuriko-zaka Kara, so that automatically disqualifies my comments but, well, I have still got an opinion. I just wish there weren’t this reduction of animations to nearly uniform, lightweight kiddie-films, which is pretty much what happens in North America. How about, for once, recognising an animated feature for adults, like Chris Sullivan’s Consuming Spirits (USA, 2012)?
As for discovering films that escaped me previously: only one – Lee Minkyu’s Adam and Dog, the only Korean representative at the 2013 Oscars. It got the nod for Best Short.
Last but not least: Oscar Night is February 24, 2013.