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Israel Oscar entry lags

by  Tom Tugend

December 15, 2009 | 8:25 pm

In the last two Oscar races, Israel’s entries for best foreign-language film were among the select five finalists – “Waltz with Bashir” last year, and “Beaufort” in 2008.
  Both movies dealt with Israel’s wars in Lebanon, and this year the Israel film academy had the choice of sending “Lebanon,” a powerful picture on the same conflict, to Hollywood.
However, since neither of the previous war movies had won the top prize, the Israeli academy decided to switch topics, according to various commentators.
The choice as Israel’s best picture of the year, and automatically the country’s entry in the Oscar race, was “Ajami,” a first-class film on Arab-Jewish life and tensions in a mixed quarter of Jaffa.
Whatever the rationale, “Ajami” has so far not turned on American film critics.
Though it ain’t over until the ballots are counted, as this point it seems unlikely that “Ajami” will make it onto the list of finalists.
While last year, the Golden Globes pick was for best foreign film was “Waltz With Bashir,” in the 2010 nominations, announced Tuesday (Dec. 15), the Israeli entry struck out.
The new Globes list includes two foreign films which have generated the most buzz so far, “The White Ribbon” from Germany and France’s “A Prophet.” Also among the Globes finalists are Italy’s “Baaria,” Spain’s “Broken Embraces” and Chile’s “The Maid.”
In other picks so far, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. chose another French drama, “Summer Hours,” as best foreign film, while the New York Film Critics Circle opted for “The White Ribbon.”
In these Hollywood beauty contests, upsets are the norm, but if somebody wants a sure bet in one of the main Oscar categories, it would be on Christoph Waltz.
The Austrian actor, playing a suave and sadistic Nazi officer, who is finally bested by a bunch of hard-nosed American Jewish soldiers in “Inglourious Basterds” tops every best supporting actor list so far. – Tom Tugend

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