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December 23, 2008

Oscar's foreign rules


Been wondering why "The Class" instead of, say, "A Christmas Tale" or "I've Loved You So Long," is in the running for a foreign-language Oscar? Well, friends, then you have entirely too much time on your hands.

Luckily, in this case, so does THR's Steven Zeitchik, who digs into the Academy handbook in the foreign film race and comes up with some answers for idle inquiring minds.

Rules, rules, rules, that's what it all comes down to, and each country is allowed to submit only one film. Hence, France had to decide between those aforementioned flicks, and it picked the Palme d'Or winner from Cannes over the dysfunctional-family-on-holiday story and the Kristin Scott Thomas just-sprung-from-prison tale.

Once the countries decide which films they're tossing into the ring -- and this year there were 67 entries, a new record -- committees within committees and subsets of other committees go through the weeding process to get to the short list of nine Oscar contenders expected to be announced next month. There's an ongoing attempt to right the wrongs of the past and blunt a steady stream of criticism because controversial films have been overlooked, as were some that just weren't foreign enough (too much English!). 

Go here for some idea on how the sausage is made, and to get a vague idea if Germany's "The Baader Meinhof Complex" has a chance against Sweden's Golden Globe nominee "Everlasting Moments" or Israel's genre-bending "Waltz With Bashir" (pictured).

And for helpful descriptions of each country's official entry, go here.

Meanwhile, "The Class," which is showing in Los Angeles now during its one-week Oscar qualifying run, just racked up four nominations from France's version of the Golden Globes. More on those nods here.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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