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Home Movie Awards Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014: Liv Ullmann Comeback + Surprising Snubs

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014: Liv Ullmann Comeback + Surprising Snubs

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014: Two Lives Liv Ullmann
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014: Two Lives with Liv Ullmann and Julia Bache-Wiig.

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014 semifinalists: Liv Ullmann potential Academy Awards comeback

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Out of 76 submissions, nine movies have been selected as semifinalists for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014. Listed in alphabetical order by country, the films are:

  • Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen, director. Best Actress European Film Award winner Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh star as a couple whose love is put to the test after their daughter falls seriously ill.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker / Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza, Danis Tanovic, director. Set in Bosnia’s Roma (gypsy) community and based on real-life events, this 2013 Berlin Film Festival Grand Prix winner stars Berlin’s Best Actor Nazif Mujic as a scrap-metal collector and salesman desperately trying to save the life of his wife, who has been denied medical assistance because she lacks health insurance. Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land, a comedy-drama about the Bosnian War, was 2001’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner.
  • Cambodia, The Missing Picture / L’image manquante, Rithy Panh, director. The Khmer Rouge atrocities committed in the second half of the 1970s are portrayed via clay figures, archival footage, and narration by Randal Douc. If nominated, The Missing Picture will become the first Cambodian film – actually a French-Cambodian co-production – to achieve that feat.
  • Denmark, The Hunt / Jagten, Thomas Vinterberg, director. In a picturesque Danish village, a kindergarten teacher (Mads Mikkelsen) is wrongfully accused of – and savagely hounded for – being a child molester. The Hunt, which has elements in common with Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour*, has won numerous international awards, including Best Actor (Mikkelsen) at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 2012 European Film Awards.
  • Germany, Two Lives / Zwei Leben, Georg Maas, director. Starring Liv Ullmann – in her first major film role in nearly two decades – and Juliane Köhler (Aimee & Jaguar, Downfall), Two Lives follows a World War II orphan-turned-STASI spy (Köhler) whose past catches up with her. Liv Ullmann is a two-time Best Actress Oscar nominee: for Jan Troell’s The Emigrants (1972) and Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face (1976).
  • Hong Kong, The Grandmaster / Yi dai zong shi, Wong Kar-Wai, director. In the Hong Kong-Chinese martial arts drama The Grandmaster, Best Actress Golden Horse winner Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) plays the daughter of a fighting master, who, with the intent of restoring her family’s honor, challenges grandmaster Ip Man (Tony Leung) to a duel.
  • Hungary, The Notebook / A nagy füzet, János Szász, director. In Szász’s World War II-set drama, a pair of 13-year-old twin brothers (László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt) must fend off for themselves while experiencing the monstrosity of war all around them. Needless to say, this Karlovy Vary Film Festival Best Picture winner has nothing in common with Nick Cassavete’s sentimental romantic drama The Notebook (2004), that starred Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, and James Garner.
  • Italy, The Great Beauty / La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, director. A sort of La Dolce Vita 21st-century style, Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty chronicles the inner awakening of a 65-year-old writer-journalist (Toni Servillo) as he reassesses his life and times.
  • Palestine, Omar, Hany Abu-Assad, director. The Special Jury Prize winner at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard sidebar, Omar tells the story of a Palestinian baker – the Omar of the title (played by Adam Bakri) – who is captured by the Israeli military after carrying out with a group of friends a sniper attack against an Israeli soldier. Omar is eventually freed so as to betray the rebel’s suspected leader; instead, the group carries another attack against Israel’s occupation forces – things, however, don’t go as planned, for there’s a traitor among them. Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now (2005), about Palestinian suicide bombers, was a controversial Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner.

More on Liv Ullmann: She is the female star in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, Shame, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, Cries & Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face, Autumn Sonata, and The Serpent’s Egg, in addition to Jan Troell’s The Emigrants, The New Land, and Zandy’s Bride; Michael Anderson’s Pope Joan; Charles Jarrott’s Lost Horizon; Milton Katselas’ 40 Carats; Richard Dembo’s Dangerous Moves; Mario Monicelli’s Speriamo che sia femmina; Luis Mandoki’s Gaby: A True Story; and Sven Nykvist’s Oxen; and the director of the features Sofie, Kristin Lavransdatter, and Faithless,

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations process

As has been the case in the last few years, there are two phases in the selection of the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees.

  • Phase I: an indeterminate number of Academy members – attendees vary from film to film – watched the original submissions between mid-October and December 16, 2013. The nine semi-finalists listed above consist of that group’s top six choices, in addition to three titles handpicked by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee.
  • Phase II: “Specially invited committees” in New York and Los Angeles will select the eventual five Oscar 2014 nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category. As per the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ press release, “they will spend Friday, January 10, through Sunday, January 12, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.”

The 2014 Academy Awards nominations – including the ones in the Best Foreign Language Film category – will be announced on Thursday, January 16, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The Oscar 2014 ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will take place on March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. In the U.S., it’ll be broadcast live on ABC.

* Officially, The Children’s Hour has two Hollywood-made film versions, both directed by William Wyler. As These Three (1936), Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins, and Joel McCrea found themselves involved in a threesome thanks to vicious little liar Bonita Granville; in The Children’s Hour (1961), Shirley MacLaine’s life is ruined – and Audrey Hepburn’s relationship with James Garner seriously damaged – after vicious little liar Karen Balkin comes up with a slanderous lesbian tale.

Best Foreign Language Film The Past Berenice BejoAsghar Farhadi’s ‘The Past,’ with Bérénice Bejo

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: ‘The Past,’ Berlin winner ‘Child’s Pose,’ Andrzej Wajda among notable omissions

This segment focuses on the surprising omissions from that list.

‘The Past’

The most glaring omission from the Academy’s list of Best Foreign Language Film semi-finalists is Asghar Farhadi’s Sony Pictures Classics-distributed (in the U.S.) The Past / Le Passé, starring Tahar Rahim and 2013 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress winner Bérénice Bejo. Iran’s official Oscar 2014 entry, The Past was considered a shoo-in following overwhelmingly positive notices – e.g., 93 percent approval rating and 8.6/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics – the fact that both Rahim (A Prophet) and Bejo (The Artist) are relatively well-known players among film connoisseurs in the United States, and that Farhadi’s A Separation was voted Best Foreign Language Film nearly two years ago.

It’s impossible to figure out why The Past was left out of the list of Best Foreign Language Film semi-finalists, especially as its premise is much more Academy-friendly than, for instance, those of János Szász’s bleak The Notebook (despite its World War II setting) or Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture, about Khmer Rouge atrocities in the late ’70s.

Other notable Best Foreign Language Film entries bypassed by the Academy’s voting committees

  • Sebastián Lelio’s feel-good comedy-drama Gloria (Chile). A Spirit Award nominee for Best International Film, Gloria earned star Paulina García the Best Actress Award at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, in addition to taking home the festival’s Ecumenical Jury Prize.
  • Jirí Menzel’s The Don Juans (Czech Republic). This particular omission is surprising less because of the film itself than because of its director: the 75-year-old Menzel is an Oscar veteranClosely Watched Trains, which was recently screened at the Academy, won the 1967 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, while My Sweet Little Village was a 1985 nominee.
  • Gilles Bourdo’s Renoir (France). The absence of this drama about French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (played by Michel Bouquet) from the list of Best Foreign Language Film semi-finalists is noteworthy because Renoir – not Blue Is the Warmest Color – was France’s entry for the 2014 Oscar. Due to strict Academy rules, Blue Is the Warmest Color was ineligible for this year’s Oscar in that category, as it opened in France after the Academy-imposed cut-off date. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the controversial sex/romance drama stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
  • Andrzej Wajda’s Walesa: Man of Hope (Poland). As is the case with Jirí Menzel’s The Don Juans, what’s surprising is the Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film committees bypassing the director, not the film itself. The 87-year-old Polish filmmaker has had four of his films nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: The Promised Land (1975); The Maids of Wilko (1979); Man of Iron (1981), inspired by Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement, and featuring Walesa as himself in a cameo; and Katyn (2007). Jane Fonda presented Wajda with an Honorary Oscar at the 2000 ceremony.
  • Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose (Romania) was the Golden Bear winner at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.
  • Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda (Saudi Arabia). Saudi Arabia’s first ever submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award and that country’s first feature directed by a woman, Wadjda has won more than a dozen awards from around the globe and has a rare 100 percent approval rating and 8.1/10 average among Rotten Tomatoe’s top critics. Like The Past, Wadjda is a Sony Pictures Classics release in the U.S.
  • Anthony Chen’s family comedy-drama Ilo Ilo was the 2013 Best Picture Golden Horse winner. Featuring a little boy, family affairs, and a message of tolerance and compassion, Ilo Ilo seemed like perfect Academy fare.
  • Sean Elli’s Metro Manila (United Kingdom) was the World Cinema – Dramatic Audience Award winner at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Additionally, Elli’s crime drama set in the capital of the Philippines won three British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Best Foreign Language Film Academy Awards and top international film festivals

The Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, which handpicks three titles for that category’s list of semi-finalists, doesn’t reveal its choices. In the last few years, changes in the selection process have attempted to ensure that prestigious international productions – as opposed to the Best Foreign Language Film voter’s preferred sentimental mush – has at least a chance of getting nominated.

Top international festival favorites seem to be given priority. This year, however, Berlin’s Child’s Pose was left out, Cannes’ Blue Is the Warmest Color wasn’t submitted, and neither were Venice’s Golden Lion winner Sacro GRA, a documentary directed by Gianfranco Rosi, and Mariana Rondón’s Venezuelan family comedy-drama Bad Hair, the Golden Shell winner at the 2013 San Sebastian Film Festival.

The Grandmaster Zhang Ziyi
Zhang Ziyi in ‘The Grandmaster’

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014 submissions

In case you missed it, here’s the full list of submissions (in alphabetical order, per country) for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. The list of contenders was originally announced on Oct. 7. Of note: Saudi Arabia and Moldova were first-timers; Montenegro was a first-timer as an independent country.

  • Afghanistan, Wajma – An Afghan Love Story, Barmak Akram, director;
  • Albania, Agon, Robert Budina, director;
  • Argentina, The German Doctor, Lucía Puenzo, director;
  • Australia, The Rocket, Kim Mordaunt, director;
  • Austria, The Wall, Julian Pölsler, director;
  • Azerbaijan, Steppe Man, Shamil Aliyev, director;
  • Bangladesh, Television, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director;
  • Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen, director;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Danis Tanovic, director;
  • Brazil, Neighboring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho, director;
  • Bulgaria, The Color of the Chameleon, Emil Hristov, director;
  • Cambodia, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh, director;
  • Canada, Gabrielle, Louise Archambault, director;
  • Chad, GriGris, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, director;
  • Chile, Gloria, Sebastián Lelio, director;
  • China, Back to 1942, Feng Xiaogang, director;
  • Colombia, La Playa DC, Juan Andrés Arango, director;
  • Croatia, Halima’s Path, Arsen Anton Ostojic, director;
  • Czech Republic, The Don Juans, Jirí Menzel, director;
  • Denmark, The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, director;
  • Dominican Republic, Quien Manda?” Ronni Castillo, director;
  • Ecuador, The Porcelain Horse, Javier Andrade, director;
  • Egypt, Winter of Discontent, Ibrahim El Batout, director;
  • Estonia, Free Range, Veiko Ounpuu, director;
  • Finland, Disciple, Ulrika Bengts, director;
  • France, Renoir, Gilles Bourdos, director;
  • Georgia, In Bloom, Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, directors;
  • Germany, Two Lives, Georg Maas, director;
  • Greece, Boy Eating the Bird’s Food, Ektoras Lygizos, director;
  • Hong Kong, The Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai, director;
  • Hungary, The Notebook, János Szász, director;
  • Iceland, Of Horses and Men, Benedikt Erlingsson, director;
  • India, The Good Road, Gyan Correa, director;
  • Indonesia, Sang Kiai, Rako Prijanto, director;
  • Iran, The Past, Asghar Farhadi, director;
  • Israel, Bethlehem, Yuval Adler, director;
  • Italy, The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino, director;
  • Japan, The Great Passage, Ishii Yuya, director;
  • Kazakhstan, Shal, Yermek Tursunov, director;
  • Latvia, Mother, I Love You, Janis Nords, director;
  • Lebanon, Blind Intersections, Lara Saba, director;
  • Lithuania, Conversations on Serious Topics, Giedre Beinoriute, director;
  • Luxembourg, Blind Spot, Christophe Wagner, director;
  • Mexico, Heli, Amat Escalante, director;
  • Moldova, All God’s Children, Adrian Popovici, director;
  • Montenegro, Ace of Spades – Bad Destiny, Drasko Djurovic, director;
  • Morocco, Horses of God, Nabil Ayouch, director;
  • Nepal, Soongava: Dance of the Orchids, Subarna Thapa, director;
  • Netherlands, Borgman, Alex van Warmerdam, director;
  • New Zealand, White Lies, Dana Rotberg, director;
  • Norway, I Am Yours, Iram Haq, director;
  • Pakistan, Zinda Bhaag, Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, directors;
  • Palestine, Omar, Hany Abu-Assad, director;
  • Peru, The Cleaner, Adrian Saba, director;
  • Philippines, Transit, Hannah Espia, director;
  • Poland, Walesa: Man of Hope, Andrzej Wajda, director;
  • Portugal, Lines of Wellington, Valeria Sarmiento, director;
  • Romania, Child’s Pose, Calin Peter Netzer, director;
  • Russia, Stalingrad, Fedor Bondarchuk, director;
  • Saudi Arabia, Wadjda, Haifaa Al Mansour, director;
  • Serbia, Circles, Srdan Golubovic, director;
  • Singapore, Ilo Ilo, Anthony Chen, director;
  • Slovak Republic, My Dog Killer, Mira Fornay, director;
  • Slovenia, Class Enemy, Rok Bicek, director;
  • South Africa, Four Corners, Ian Gabriel, director;
  • South Korea, Juvenile Offender, Kang Yi-kwan, director;
  • Spain, 15 Years Plus a Day, Gracia Querejeta, director;
  • Sweden, Eat Sleep Die, Gabriela Pichler, director;
  • Switzerland, More than Honey, Markus Imhoof, director;
  • Taiwan, Soul, Chung Mong-Hong, director;
  • Thailand, Countdown, Nattawut Poonpiriya, director;
  • Turkey, The Butterfly’s Dream, Yilmaz Erdogan, director;
  • Ukraine, Paradjanov, Serge Avedikian and Olena Fetisova, directors;
  • United Kingdom, Metro Manila, Sean Ellis, director;
  • Uruguay, Anina, Alfredo Soderguit, director;
  • Venezuela, Breach in the Silence, Luis Alejandro Rodríguez and Andrés Eduardo Rodríguez, directors.
Oscar statuette

Oscar statuette – Gordon E. Sawyer Award 2014 – for ‘Godzilla,’ ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ visual effects artist Peter Anderson

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that visual effects supervisor and director of photography Peter W. Anderson will receive the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (an Oscar statuette) “for technological contributions that have brought credit to the industry” at the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in, where else, Beverly Hills. Portions of the presentation will be included in the Oscar 2014 telecast to be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

Listed on the IMDb as Peter Anderson, the next Gordon E. Sawyer Award recipient has been in the film business for nearly four decades. His earliest IMDb film credit is for the visual effects in Berry Gordy and Jack Wormser’s 1975 romantic drama Mahogany, starring Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Perkins.

Among Anderson’s other movie credits in the visual effects department are Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), James Bridge’s The China Syndrome (1979), Steven Lisberger’s TRON (1982), Carroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf (1983), Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking, James L. BrooksAs Good as It Gets (1997), Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998), and Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington’s U2 3D (2007), in addition to the television series Battlestar Galactica (1978-79) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-80).

As a cinematographer, Peter Anderson has more than 20 (solo or shared) credits listed on the IMDb, mostly shorts and documentaries. These include Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington’s U2 3D (2007) and Travis E. Pike’s 1998 television movie Grumpuss. Anderson is also credited for the “project development” of Gareth Edward’s upcoming Godzilla (2014), starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Victor Rasuk, Ken Watanabe, and Elizabeth Olsen.

‘Collective’ Academy Award of Merit

Also at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation, another Oscar statuette – an Academy Award of Merit – will be dedicated to “all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry.” That’s the first time in the history of the Scientific and Technical Awards that a large number of individuals will be collectively recognized with an Oscar statuette. It’s unclear who – if anyone – will be in attendance to pick up the Oscar statuette.

Additionally, post-production and distribution executive Charles “Tad” Marburg will be handed the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation “for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy”

Academy honors scientific and technical achievements

And finally, no less than 19 scientific and technical achievements represented by 52 individual award recipients will also be honored with Academy certificates and plaques at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony. Among these are the following:

  • Olivier Maury, Ian Sachs and Dan Piponi “for the creation of the ILM Plume system that simulates and renders fire, smoke and explosions for motion picture visual effects.”
  • Joshua Pines, David Reisner, Lou Levinson, Curtis Clark, ASC, and David Register “for the development of the American Society of Cinematographers Color Decision List technology.”
  • Andre Gauthier, Benoit Sevigny, Yves Boudreault and Robert Lanciault “for the design and implementation of the FiLMBOX software application.”
  • Emmanuel Prévinaire, Jan Sperling, Etienne Brandt and Tony Postiau “for their development of the Flying-Cam SARAH 3.0 system.”

As explained in the Academy’s press release, “unlike other Academy Awards to be presented this year, achievements receiving Scientific and Technical Awards need not have been developed and introduced during 2013. Rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.”

Potential Oscar nominees

Potential Oscar 2014 nominees range from Robert Redford for J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost to Chiwetel Ejiofor for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, from Adèle Exarchopoulos in Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color to Emma Thompson in John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks, from Judi Dench in Stephen Frears’ Philomena to James Gandolfini in Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said.

Also: Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill; Paul GreengrassCaptain Phillips, with Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi; John Wells’ August: Osage County, with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts; David O. Russell’s American Hustle, with Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner; Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, with Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb; Spike Jonze’s Her, with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice; and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

The 2014 Oscar ceremony will be held on Oscar Sunday, March 2, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. In the United States, the Oscarcast will be televised live on ABC.

Oscar statuette image: © A.M.P.A.S.

Zhang Ziyi The Grandmaster photo: The Weinstein Company.

Bérénice Bejo in Asghard Farhadi’s The Past photo: Sony Pictures Classics.

Photo of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014 semi-finalist Two Lives, with Liv Ullmann and Julia Bache-Wiig: Tom Trambow / IFC Films.

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