Roger L. Simon

Annals of the Academy

The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar are chosen by the Foreign Language Film Committee of the Academy. This committee, on which I have served in past years, is voluntary and usually starts with a large number of members. I say starts because attrition soon sets in. In order to vote in the nominating process, you have to see a certain percentage of the movies and very few can keep up. Also, the quality of the films, picked by the countries themselves, is not always particularly good. In fact, a number are downright awful and painful to watch (Academy rules allow you to leave after seeing only the first third of the stinkers.) It usually comes down to just a handful of flicks from Western European countries with significant film industries (Spain, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Germany, etc.) dominating the competition, although Japan and China often have excellent entries. In recent years, there have been interesting films from Iran, although they seem to have dribbled off with the crackdown against dissidents in that country.

This year another developing nation (or in this case “authority”) has come to the fore with the Palestinian film “Paradise Now.” I have not seen the movie. The clips did not look terrific, but it has been nominated for the Oscar. Some say the film is sympathetic to suicide bombers, although I have also heard it is a criticism of them. In any case, this does not seem like the next “8 1/2” or “Jules and Jim,” but a movie whose nomination is yet another exercise in Hollywood political self-congratulation. If it is one of the five best foreign films the committee saw, I would be mighty surprised. But, as I said, I haven’t seen it.

Some people who have a right to be upset are organizing a protest. You can find the links here and here.