Cinefile: Oscars ahead

Israel's selection for the Oscars isn't included in OscarWatch's list of likely nominees for the statue.

helen mirren queen 88 (photo credit: )
helen mirren queen 88
(photo credit: )
OscarWatch (, the most entertaining of all the predict-the-Oscars Web sites (its slogan is the ultimate quote on Hollywood by screenwriter William Goldman: "Nobody knows anything") has come out with its list of likely nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, but Israel's selection - Dror Shaul's Sweet Mud - isn't among them. OscarWatch is going with some well-known choices: Pedro Almodovar's Volver, which has already won awards around the world and stars Penelope Cruz; The Lives of Others, a German film set in communist East Germany about a spy who becomes obsessed with the couple he's tailing, which has won many awards; Guillermo Del Toro's visually stunning Pan's Labyrinth, the story of a girl who escapes the harsh reality of life in Franco's Spain by comforting herself with a vivid fantasy world, and has made dozens of Ten Best lists; The Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou's lavish period piece set in the Forbidden City, starring Gong Li; and Deepa Mehta's mournful look at the abuse of widows in India just before that country won its independence, Water. The Golden Globes Foreign Language nominees include three of these - Volver, Others and Pan's. The final two Golden Globe contenders, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima and Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, will not be eligible for the Foreign Language Oscar because they were produced and directed by Americans, although in languages other than English (Japanese for Eastwood's film and Mayan for Gibson's). Foreign Language Film is a category with lots of surprises, so stay tuned until January 23, when the nominees will be announced. ANY ASPIRING ISRAELI filmmakers who plan to be in Los Angeles in late February will want to attend the Foreign Language Film Award Nominees Symposium on February 24 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Producer Mark Johnson (Rain Man, The Notebook, The Chronicles of Narnia among others) will moderate a discussion with the five directors whose films get the 2007 Best Foreign Language Film nominations. Tickets are free, but go quickly. See the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Web site at for details. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS of the movie year in Israel is the British Film Festival, which takes place this year from January 18-27 at the cinematheques in Haifa, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Tel Aviv. The lineup this year includes two movies with performances many critics have called Oscar-worthy: Helen Mirren as the current queen of England in Stephen Frears' The Queen; and Forest Whitaker as the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland. The opening film will be Cashback, directed by Sean Ellis, a comedy about an insomniac art student who works nights at a supermarket and falls in love with one of the cashiers. Ellis, producer Lene Bausager and star Sean Biggerstaff will attend the screenings. Other highlights of the festival include the filmed version of Alan Bennett's hit stage play The History Boys, about a boarding school in Yorkshire in the Eighties; Snow Cake, the closing-night film, Marc Evans's drama about an autistic woman coping with the loss of her daughter, starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Carrie-Anne Moss; and several documentaries on topics including the Middle East and the Holocaust. Two of these documentaries, both of which deal in part with the Holocaust tourist industry, will be shown in the presence of their directors: Jes Benstock's The Holocaust Tourist and Rex Bloomstein's KZ. The Ambassador's Choice this year, selected by British Ambassador Tom Phillips, is the bittersweet 1967 Two for the Road, starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, directed by Stanley Donen. Among several special programs will be a Nicholas Roeg retrospective featuring some of the director's most famous works, including The Man Who Fell to Earth, which stars David Bowie as the most chic alien in history, and the haunting drama of two abandoned white Australian children who are befriended by a young male aborigine, Walkabout. The full schedule of this festival will be available soon. ONE MOVIE that many are predicting will get a few Oscar nods, the formulaic but very funny Little Miss Sunshine, is the Jerusalem Cinematheque's Movie of the Month for January. It will be shown every day but Friday at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday-Thursday at 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.