The year for 'Bashir'?

Predictions indicate strong chance for Israel to win its 1st Academy Award.

Waltz with Bashir nice 88 248 (photo credit: AP)
Waltz with Bashir nice 88 248
(photo credit: AP)
For many Israelis, there's only one Oscar category that counts this year: Best Foreign Language Film. That's because Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir is one of the five nominees, and many are predicting that Israel will win its first Oscar. The prizes will be awarded in Los Angeles on Sunday in a ceremony that will be broadcast live at 3 a.m. on Monday morning in Israel. Waltz with Bashir, a distinctive documentary that uses an animated format to explore soldiers' memories of the first Lebanon War, has racked up prizes and critics' awards around the world, including the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay and Best Picture (rather than Best Foreign Film) from the National Society of Film Critics, a US organization. All of these wins make an Oscar victory more likely. Its main competition is Laurent Cantet's The Class, a documentary-style look at a multicultural French classroom, which beat Waltz with Bashir for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The other films vying for Best Foreign Language Oscar are The Baader Meinhof Complex, a German film about the terrorist group; Revanche, an Austrian film about a lonely criminal; and Departures, a Japanese movie about a musician who gets a job preparing bodies for burial. Last year, Israel also garnered a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, for Joseph Cedar's drama Beaufort, which lost to The Counterfeiters, an Austrian movie about the Holocaust. The nomination for Beaufort was Israel's first in 24 years. Previous Israeli Foreign Film Oscar nominees were Sallah Shabati (1964), The Policeman, aka Hashoter Azoulai (1971), The House on Chelouche Street (1973), Operation Thunderbolt (1977) and Beyond the Walls (1984). Ari Folman, along with the other directors of the nominated Foreign Language films, will participate on Saturday in Los Angeles in the Foreign Language Film Award Nominees Symposium, a free event which is open to the public. This is a year for quirky, hard-to-categorize films, since Slumdog Millionaire, a drama about slum children in Mumbai with no stars and a third of its dialogue in Hindi, is predicted to win Best Picture. Danny Boyle, Slumdog's Scottish director, is expected to win Best Director, and the film is predicted to get Best Adapted Screenplay as well. Kate Winslet, who plays a former Nazi guard in The Reader, is expected to take home her first Oscar, while Sean Penn is the frontrunner for his performance as openly gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk in Milk for Best Actor. Heath Ledger, who died shortly after playing the Joker in Dark Knight, is expected to win Best Supporting Actor for that film, while Penelope Cruz leads the Supporting Actress pack for the Woody Allen drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona.