February 8, 2023

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Why the 2023 international Oscar race is an agent of chaos

4 min read

The 15-picture shortlist for this year’s Best International Feature Oscar is, by Academy standards, a reasonably diverse one. Four Asian films, two from the Americas and one from Africa, helped counter the genre’s traditional Eurocentric bias; Of the rest of the European selection, three came from filmmakers of color.

So, there was some disappointment today that the final nominees were somewhat less diverse, with Santiago Mitra’s Argentine entry “Argentina, 1985” being the only exception to European titles by white male directors. That the South Korean entry, Park Chan-wook’s critically acclaimed romantic noir “The Decision to Leave,” failed to make the cut was the biggest eyebrow-raiser of the morning; Three female-directed titles on the shortlist, Marie Kreutzer’s BAFTA-nominated “Corsage,” Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer” and Miriam Tojani’s “The Blue Kaftan” were also passed over, more disappointingly.

It was as competitive a shortlist as the category has ever seen, and it was always going to yield some ruthless cuts of the day. The five films that made it include some of the year’s most celebrated festival hits, including two child-oriented narratives that go straight for the heart — often a sure path to Oscar glory in more cerebral works like “The Decision to Leave.”

Last May at Cannes, A24’s Belgian submission “Close” was declared an early runner-up by many art pundits: Lucas Dhont’s poignant tale of an intimate bond between two 13-year-old boys torn apart by sudden tragedy left audiences completely red-eyed. . “Close” seemed in danger of losing steam in the weeks leading up to the nominations, failing to show up at major critics’ awards, losing at the Golden Globes and surprisingly failing to score a BAFTA nod. Today’s nominations, however, prove that Dhont’s mix of elegant aesthetics and emotional power has plenty of fans at the Academy, even if the film — Belgium’s eighth nominee in the category’s history — looks a long shot for the country’s first win.

If “Close” had heavy expectations from the start, Ireland’s “The Quiet Girl,” true to its title, might instead sneak up on people. Premiered modestly in Berlin last year but to glowing reviews, Colm Bairéad’s debut feature, about a shy, neglected country girl who blossoms under the tutelage of grieving relatives, won audience affection at one fest after another, and distributor super (an) offshoot of Neon ) capitalizes on powerful word of mouth in awards-voting circles. A good showing at the BAFTAs (where it additionally received an adapted screenplay nod) was the first clue to its popularity; Here’s its nomination — a first for Ireland — a sterling year for the Emerald Isle in the Oscar race, from “The Banshees of Inishreen” to Paul Mescal.

Also having a good year at the Oscars? donkey Humble Mule makes a memorable appearance in two Best Picture nominees (“Banshees” and “Triangle of Sadness”) but gets Poland’s nominee in the category, “EO,” a wholly original examination from 84-year-old Jerzy Skolimowski. , distributed by Janus Films and Sideshow — who did wonders with last year’s winner “Drive My Car.”

Inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 classic “Au Hassard Balthasar,” this immersive, sharply filmed account of a donkey’s cross-European journey through an assortment of owners and abusers made a devastating animal-rights statement and was a US critics’ favorite, winning the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics Awards. Poland’s 13th nominee in the category, it’s probably too offbeat to surpass this unlucky number, but the category is all the more vibrant for its presence.

In another year, “Argentina, 1985” might have been beaten. Mitra’s thrilling true-life courtroom drama for Prime Video centered on the country’s landmark post-dictatorship Jantas trial has proven a consistent audience favorite since premiering in competition in Venice. Bringing a hint of Aaron Sorkin to South American history, this Amazon studio entry may be the most straightforwardly entertaining and accessible of the nominees — a factor that brought Argentina’s “The Secret in Their Eyes” an Oscar in 2010 — and rightly beat out some tough ones. Golden Globe Competition.

But it wasn’t there against a Best Picture nominee with a total of nine nominations. In the fall, Netflix’s campaign for Germany’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” began relatively low-key. Critics weren’t going out of their way to champion Edward Berger’s technically dazzling adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I novel, and it didn’t have any major festival hardware on its mantel — but industry peers were impressed by its craft and its epic-scale storytelling, and it continues to rank up. up. None of the films nominated in the Best Picture and Best International Feature categories lost the latter award. And, if history wasn’t enough for Berger, the 1930 American version of “All Quiet” won best picture of the day. Everyone loves a David-versus-Goliath story, but few would bet against a fourth German win on March 12.

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