Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oscar Nominations & Eastern Europe

The Academy Awards always do something to annoy me! Why do they insist upon doing that? Every year when nominations are announced or when the winners are decided I'm usually left feeling somewhat disappointed. My dissapointment in fact has reached the point where I no longer watch the show! I stopped after the 2002 award show. That was the year "A Beautiful Mind" won. My decision however had nothing to do with that particular film winning the award, I actually thought it was a good film. My decision to stop watching from that year on was based on the fact that was the year I finally realized how much politics plays a role in the voters judgement over which films to nominate and ultimately which films to give an Oscar to. The Academy is so full of themselves. They are so image conscious. They want to desperately avoid bad press. Of course, many will agree with me, when you try to please everyone, no one is happy.

But what about this year's Oscar nominations? I have to admit, I was shocked. So many people have claimed what a great year it was for American cinema, that I have to sit back and ask myself, "what are people talking about"? "No Country For Old Men", "There Will Be Blood" and "Juno" all critical darlings and public favorites, but why? "Juno" was a vastly over-rated film in my opinion. Not to say a bad film, but not good enough to earn an Oscar nomination for "Best Picture". "No Country For Old Men" is another over-rated film in my opinion, but, is without question a vast improvement for the Coen Brothers when you compare it to "The Ladykillers", "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Intolerably Cruelty".

Though my biggest complaint this year has to do with a film sadly not many people have seen. Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile)" . It is a Romanian film which has opened up to some of the best reviews of the year. It has been placed on at least 40 "top ten list" and was considered a lock for the "best foreign film" category. It was Romanian's official entry. But, what a minute, no! The film did not even make it to the second round for consideration. Why?

For what I imagine are purely political reasons, the Academy usually avoids nominating films which were on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall. For instance, no Romanian film has ever won an Oscar and for that matter has never been nominated for an Oscar. When you consider the great films made by directors such as Nicolae Margineanu or Lucian Pintilie, you have to ask yourself how can this be? Countries on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall (Hungary, Romania, Poland, the former Yugoslavia and the old Czechoslovakia) have received a total of 31 nominations and 5 wins. That is all of those countries combined. Lets compare that number to lets say France and Italy. Between the two countries they have received 67 nominations and 25 wins.

Now perhaps you say, so what? Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic don't make good films. My answer to that is during the late 1960s and into the early 70s these countries were making headways in cinema. The 60s saw a "Hungarian New Wave" thanks to Istvan Szabo (the only Hungarian to ever have a film win the "Best Foreign Film" category. The film was "Mephisto") Miklos Jancso and Karoly Makk among others. Among the classis made during this period include; "The Red and the White", "Silence and Cry", "Love", "Adoption", "Father", "Love Film", "The Girl" and "Cat's Play". During the same time Poland and Czechoslovakia were also having a "New Wave" movement and currently Romania is going through one ("The Death of Mr. Lazarescu", "12:08 East of Bucharest" and "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days").

But why care? It is not only because I am Hungarian. No Hungarian film was remotely considered to be nominated this year. I'm mad a Romanian film did not get nominated. When will the politics between the "east" and "west" be settled? When will the Academy and its voters start to show more appreciation for films from these countries instead of nominating films from their usually favorites; France and Italy?

information on foreign film nominations can be found here:
List of Academy Award winners and nominees for Best Foreign Language Film - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia