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Snubs and surprises on the Oscar foreign-language film short list

January 19, 2011 | 12:26 pm

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' executive committee has narrowed the 66 Oscar-qualifying foreign language films to nine, and the most surprising title to make the cut appears to be Greece's "Dogtooth," a film from Yorgos Lanthimos. Critics seem to really like the movie but also find it incredibly disturbing for its depiction of a remote family compound where the parents work to keep their young adult children locked in their home in a state of freaky pre-adolescence.

Leading the snub category is Italy's official selection, "La Prima Bella Cosa," which had become the centerpiece of some Italian controversy. Luca Guadagnino, the director of "I Am Love," who received a Golden Globe nomination, felt that Italy had made a mistake in selecting "Bella Cosa" over his movie, which stars Tilda Swinton. The executive committee, however, deemed neither worthy of the short list, a blow to Italians who were hopeful that "La Prima Bella Cosa" would be the country's first nominee since Roberto Benigni's 1997 film "Life Is Beautiful."

France's "Of Gods and Men" was also omitted. The Sony Pictures Classics release had been championed by critics worldwide for its powerful depiction of Cistercian monks who stand up for their beliefs when confronted by fundamentalists. 

Rather, the committee went with Denmark's selection,  Suzanne Bier's "In a Better World," which won a Golden Globe on Sunday, in addition to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful" starring Javier Bardem and Canada's "Incendies," all films that were expected to make the short list.

Surprising was the  addition of  Japan's "Confessions," from director Tetsuya Nakashima, and Sweden's "Simple Simon," from Andreas Ohman. Algeria's film "Hors la Loi," made the list too.

Now,  a specially invited committee will screen all nine films over a three-day period and then whittle the list to the final five Oscar contenders.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Hristos Passalis  and Mary Tsoni in "Dogtooth." Credit: Kino International.