I'll comment on my dismal Oscar nominee predictions on another occasion, and also on the dismal nominations themselves (snubs for Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, P.T. Anderson, John Hawkes, and what's with all this hoopla for "Beasts of the Southern Wild?" (I have a theory)). For now, though, since I am in Palm Springs on a jury that will be choosing the best of the three dozen or so films nominated by the countries for Best Foreign Language Oscar, I'll limit my comments to suggesting five alternatives to the actual nominees.
"Amour" versus "Bwakaw"
All right. Enough. No more "Amour." After sweeping most of the critics groups and just about every other competion, Michael Haneke's stark melodrama about the travails of an elderly couple has now been nominated not just for Best Foreign Language Oscar but also Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay...
Here's what I'd propose instead; Phillipine director Jun Robles Lana's tragi-comedy about an 80-something, repressed and curmudgeonly gay man in a backwater village sinking into not so quiet desperation features a brilliant, funny, heartbreaking performance by Eddie Garcia. As heartbreaking as "Umberto D," with the best dog performance since Uggi in "The Artist."
"Kon-Tiki" versus "The Deep"
When it comes to Scandinavian films about real life superhuman feats of endurance on the high seas, I'd pass on Norwegian directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning's non-descript Oscar nominee about Thor Heyerdahl's raft voyage from Peru to Polynesia for Icelandiic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur's offbeat, unbelievable account of a fat guy who survives a shipwreck.
"No" versus "Clandestine Childhood"
Looking for an Oscar-winning film about resistance against a bloodthirsty South American dictatorship? The Academy opted for Chilean director Pedro Larrain's by-the-numbers true story about an ad exec who put together the TV campaign that helped defeat Pinochet in a special election. I'd pick Argentinean director Benjamin Avila's compelling, autobiographical story about a kid whose parents are underground guerrillas fighting against the fascist military junta.
"A Royal Affair" versus "Caesar Must Die"
Nikolaj Arcel's stale Danish pastry of a historical epic makes the tale of the 18th century court physician who cuckolded the King and nearly revolutionized the country a lot less interesting than it should be. The Italian Taviani Brothers semi-documentary about prisoners putting on a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" adds unexpected layers of meaning and poignance to the Bard's masterpiece.
"War Witch" versus "War Witch"
I can't argue with this choice. Instead I think Canadian KIm Nguyen's devastating story about a girl compelled to serve in a Congolese rebel army might serrve as a corrective to the romanticized miserabilism of the Best Picture nominated "Beasts of the Southern Wild."