The Oscars: Austrian Charm, Almost Convincing – The Foreign Film Nominee Symposium

27 02 2009

MP1_8084.NEFPhoto: Götz Spielmann at the Academy Awards. Photo Credit: Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Saturday Morning, Feb. 21, Beverly Hills

It was a cloudy Saturday, Feb. 21, when cineastes got a glimpse of the five films that were nominated for the Best Foreign Film at the 81st Annual Academy Awards. The legendary Samuel Goldwyn Theater at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, used by the Academy for the Oscar nominations each year, was host to the traditional Foreign Language Film Nominees Symposium, held for the 31st time.

There were 65 submitted this time, and Austria’s submission, Götz Spielmann’s Revanche, was short listed, along with entries from Germany (Baader-Meinhof-Complex), France (The Class), Japan (Departure) and Israel (Waltz with Bashir).

From the outside, the theater looks like any other office building with its darkened glass façade, but the gowned and tuxedoed crowd passing through the security checks was clearly not on its way to work.

The red-carpet winds its way upstairs, past two Italian-made and beautifully crafted Bisazza mosaic Oscar statues, reflected in the mirrored wall, softening the otherwise sterile atmosphere. Upstairs, posters of movie legends are a reminder of the hay-days of Hollywood film-making. Finally, I enter the theater and take an unreserved seat in the middle.

Admission is free for any of the symposia, but registration is required on the Academy website, and events are quickly sold out.

The Foreign Film nominations are of particular interest, even in provincial Hollywood: these directors are exotic and bring a range of new experiences and projects. Along with it comes the huge international media interest.

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