Cinefile: Two for the taking

Waltz is a winner whether or not there is an Oscar in its future.

Waltz with Bashir good 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Waltz with Bashir good 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film early this week, it moved a giant step closer to the Oscar. The timing couldn't have been better: The Golden Globes were awarded on January 11, and the final deadline for mailing ballots for the Oscar nominees was January 12. The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22, to be awarded on February 22. Will Waltz, a genre-bending animated documentary about Lebanon War veterans dealing with their memories of that conflict 20 years later, receive a nomination for and maybe even an Oscar? It certainly looks like a lock for a nomination. Last year, Joseph Cedar's Beaufort became the first Israeli in 24 years to receive a nomination. Although it didn't win, its nomination raised awareness in Hollywood of the renaissance in Israeli movies. No Israeli movie has ever won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The nominating and voting process for this category is especially Byzantine, but it's to help insure quality films get the nomination, and not only the ones that have generated publicity. While in all the other categories, the nominees are chosen by members of the Academy in the relevant branch (actors select the nominees in the acting category, sound technicians for sound design, etc.), in Foreign Language, there is a committee of Academy members who choose the nominees. Every country is allowed to submit one film for consideration. This year, 67 countries did so. The committee members divide this list up and each see about 20 of these movies. Then they get together and come up with a short list of nine and winnow this down to five. Academy members can vote on the final winner in this category only if they see all five nominees (not a requirement in any other category but Best Documentary) at screenings. Waltz has been picking up awards all around the world - most notably, it was the surprise Best Picture winner (rather than Best Foreign Language Film) of the National Society of Film Critics, a US organization. It has been released in the US to rave reviews. In the most important sense, Waltz is a winner whether or not there is an Oscar in its future. Folman has gotten his movie out there. At the Globes, Folman, clad in a tuxedo, was more poised than Kate Winslet as he made his by-now familiar speech about how he hopes that the eight babies born to crew members during the four years spent making Waltz, will someday watch the movie and "see it as an ancient video game that has nothing to do with their lives whatsoever." Another movie that defies classification that was a big winner at the Globes is Danny's Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, which opens throughout Israel this week. It tells the story of a Mumbai slum child who grows up to compete on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, only to be accused of cheating when he succeeds. It's an exhilarating and hard-to-define mixture of incisive social commentary, a sweeping epic about contemporary India, a raw human drama about children on their own and a feel-good fable - all presented with cutting-edge visuals and an outstanding soundtrack. Perhaps coincidentally, its protagonist is a Muslim whose mother is killed in anti-Muslim riots. Although the child's religion is never emphasized in the film, watching it last week at a screening in Tel Aviv and knowing that not many kilometers away a war is raging between Israel and a predominantly Muslim population, was incongruous. In any case, Slumdog is sure to receive many Oscar nominations and quite possibly, Oscars. Scottish director Danny Boyle has made such disparate films as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later . . . and Shallow Grave, which are all as outstanding as they are different from each other. If he has a trademark, it's his intensity and his ability to tackle a serious subject with a light touch. Come next week, when the Oscar nominations are announced, expect to see the quirky and talented Boyle and Folman both receive the recognition they deserve.