Six films are vying for the top prize at the 2009 European Film Awards. They are:
- Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, about a teenager (best actress nominee Katie Jarvis) upset that her mother has found herself a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender)
- Stephen Daldry's The Reader, a melodrama starring Kate Winslet as a former Nazi guard who believes that being illiterate is worse than being an accomplice to mass murder
- Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, a prison drama about a toughie (best actor nominee Tahar Rahim) fighting his way to the top of the world behind bars
- Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, about a young man (best actor nominee Dev Patel) who mysteriously seems to know all the answers on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
- Michael Haneke's stark The White Ribbon, about mysterious, violent occurrences in a German village shortly before the outbreak of World War I
- Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In, in which a shy boy (Kåre Hedebrant) gets involved with a girl (Lina Leandersson) who happens to be a vampire
With six nods, A Prophet leads the race, followed by Slumdog Millionaire with five nominations (including one shared with Antichrist) and The White Ribbon with four.
Curiously, every single one of the best European picture nominees has already won awards elsewhere: The White Ribbon won the Palme d'Or, A Prophet the Grand Jury Prize, and Fish Tank tied for the Special Jury Prize at Cannes; Slumdog Millionaire was this year's best picture Academy Award winner, while The Reader earned Kate Winslet a best actress Oscar; and Let the Right One In won best direction and best screenplay (John Ajvide Lindqvist) honors at Sweden's Golden Beetle Awards, in addition to numerous best foreign language film accolades from US critics' groups.
Among the directors of the six best picture nominees only four were shortlisted in their own category: Jacques Audiard, Danny Boyle, Michael Haneke, and Andrea Arnold. Stephen Daldry and Tomas Alfredson were replaced by Pedro Almodóvar for the film-noir homage Broken Embraces and Lars von Trier for the family-hell drama Antichrist (above).
In addition to Kate Winslet and Katie Jarvis, the best actress nominees are: potential Oscar contender Penélope Cruz for Broken Embraces (above); Cannes winner (and potential Oscar contender) Charlotte Gainsbourg for Antichrist; César winner Yolande Moreau for Martin Provost's Séraphine; and Noomi Rapace, playing a computer hacker in Niels Arden Oplev's thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Joining Tahar Rahim and Dev Patel in the best actor race are Moritz Bleibtreu for his 1970s terrorist in Uli Edel's The Baader Meinhof Complex; David Kross, as the teenager who has an affair with sympathetic ex-Nazi Kate Winslet in The Reader; Filippo Timi (above, with Giovanna Mezzogiorno), as both Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his secret son Benito Albinoin Marco Bellocchio's Vincere; and Steve Evets as a postman helped by soccer star-turned-fairy-godfather Eric Cantona in Ken Loach's Looking for Eric.
(It really wouldn't be a bad idea if the European Film Academy instituted best supporting actor/actress categories as well. Performers in non-leading roles would then have a chance of getting their work recognized.)
Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy is up for the best screenplay award for Slumdog Millionaire, and so are Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain for A Prophet, Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon, and actor-filmmaker Gianni di Gregorio for Mid-August Lunch (above).
It should be noted that only A Prophet, The White Ribbon, and Slumdog Millionaire managed to earn nods in the best picture, best director, and best screenplay categories.
Other nominees include Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle for both Slumdog Millionaire and Antichrist; composers Alexandre Desplat and Alberto Iglesias for, respectively, Coco Before Chanel (above, with Alessandro Nivola and Audrey Tautou) and Broken Embraces; and editor Francesca Calvelli (in the general "technical" category Prix d'Excellence) for Vincere.
The nominees in the animation, documentary, and first feature categories were announced in the last several weeks. In fact, the documentary winner has already been named: Peter Liechti's Swiss-made The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy.
Other confirmed award winners are Isabelle Huppert, recipient of the European Achievement in World Cinema Award, and Ken Loach, who'll be given the European Film Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award.