Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Awards-Nazi Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film

Oscar voting closes today, and believe it or not, there are still some nominees that haven't even been made available for public consumption. One of them is Argentinian foreign language film hopeful Wild Tales, which you won't find on my own Best Foreign Film ballot for the obvious reason that I haven't seen it yet.

On that note, I'll remind you of the three-word caveat that always accompanies my own choices for this category every single year: "Subject to change". I am often forced to amend and improve my five nominees up to several months (sometimes years) after the fact because there's so much good world cinema out there and so little of it gets released in North America in a timely fashion. Among the buzziest international titles from 2014 that I still have to see are the aforementioned Wild Tales (which I may be able to catch just before the Oscars), Godard's Farewell to Language, and Hungarian festival sensation White God.

That being said, even if those or any other subtitled latecomers never make it to my screen, I'd still feel adequately satisfied with these five terrific films.

Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)
The scenery is blindingly white and the humour is pitch black in Swedish provocateur Ruben Östlund's drama about a family falling apart following a close call in the French Alps; A frosty lampoon of traditional gender roles wherein the masks of comedy and tragedy are eerily similar.

Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski)
Pawlikowski tells this story of a novice nun in postwar Poland discovering her past and questioning her place in the world with great economy and understatement. Its brisk 80-minutes is a refreshing example of 'less is more', shot in beautifully stark black-and-white.

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
This dour declaration of the death of God – and condemnation of corrupt government – could perhaps have used some tightening up in the pacing department, but Zvyagintsev's storytelling is symbolically rich and visually astute. The final reveal sends the viewer from the theatre with lots to chew on.

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)
The meandering, seemingly random construct of this sprawling ensemble piece may appear to lack narrative focus, but through it Sissako paints a multidimensional landscape filled with human faces on all sides of the socio-religious divide. The elegant production even finds grace notes of humour in the absurdities of radical jihad.

Wild Tales (Damian Szifron)
Some of these six short films about how easy it is for people to act on impulse are better than others, but those that work really are a riot! Are these wild people or are these wild animals? Worth noting that only the former is capable of taking revenge. Szifron juggles genre and dark humour with wicked glee.

Just missed:
Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
The brothers Dardenne tell the story of a working mother whose colleagues must vote between their yearly bonus or keeping her from being laid off. Also an examination of decent people forced into untenable moral decisions, it is as bleak as an Italian neo-realist drama, albeit with a more hopeful conclusion.

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