ACADEMY SCANDAL EXPOSES OSCARS’ MORE UNPREDICTABLE SIDE

(BY ALI NADERZAD) When the Oscar nominations are announced this Tuesday, two of this year’s favorites will be missing: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis and Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Where did they go? Both films have been garnering raves ever since their triumphant screening at the Cannes Festival (Mungiu’s film got the Palme D’Or and Persepolis got the Camera D’Or in France). The critics are incensed! Scott Foundas, a critic for the LA Weekly blog, fired off an article he called “How do you say Oscar scandal in Romanian?” Granted, the road from Cannes to the Oscars is a long and windy one and they are both very different institutions. The selection for the Cannes Festival rests on Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s artistic director and a small selection committee, whereas the Oscars’ fate rests on what might be described as an arbitrary sample of the general public. Participants selected at random commit to watching approximately fifteen films in just under two months. One caveat is that they can only watch the film at Academy-sanctioned screening rooms at specific times. The result is that you often get voters with time on their hands, and so the elderly make up large numbers of the Academy Awards’ voting body. From here, it’s not difficult to predict what happens next: mainstream films without surprises, like a fetus on the floor (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) or axis of evil nations serving as story context (Persepolis) tend to more often pass muster. Other films like Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Night and Johnny To’s nervy gangland thriller Exiled were also overlooked. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Surely, Fremaux’ choices over the years have attracted the ire of many and Cannes’ system must have been derided plenty. But is it better to suffer the choices of Academy voters or the pronouncements of a sophisticated oligarchy? The Academy Awards are changing, however. Their official press releases states, “Foreign Language Film nominations for 2007 are being determined in two phases. The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 63 eligible films and their ballots determined the above shortlist. A Phase II committee, made up of ten randomly selected members from the Phase I group, joined by specially invited ten-member contingents in New York and Los Angeles, will view the shortlisted films and select the five nominees for the category.” Let’s hope that with the future announced revamping of the Academy Awards, edgier, more challenging pictures will make the cut. (photo: ©Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®)

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