Monday, February 09, 2009

And the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Ought to Be Going To ...

Let the Right One In, a horror film from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, is one of the best -- and most disturbing -- movies of 2008, a coming-of-age story that doubles as a truly creepy vampire film.

The movie works so well, in part, because it follows the rules of movie vampires, beginning with the one alluded to in the title: A vampire can't do his, or, in this case, her, dirty work indoors unless specifically invited to cross the threshhold.

The film follows the relationship between a lonely 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), the old, but forever young, vampire who moves in next door.

Alfredson makes superb use of the icy, snowy setting, and the script, penned by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel, draws heavily from themes of teenage alienation and isolation, and family dysfunction. It's a strikingly original, and creative piece of work.

Spoiler alert: Ultimately, little Oskar abandons his own fractured (divorced) family, and embraces one of his own choosing, as is revealed during the sort-of funny final scene. The film's penultimate sequence, though, centered on a gruesome act of revenge, has to count as one of the most disturbing moments I've experienced at the movies in recent years.

Let the Right One In
, oddly enough, did not pick up an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

What accounts for this oversite? Blame Sweden.

St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall explains, in his blog: "Alfredson's home country didn't put it up for Oscar consideration. Each year, selection committees in foreign nations choose one - and only one - of its eligible films for submission to the academy. Sweden chose Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments, a sentimental choice since the movie is about Troell's mother, and he created one of the nation's finest Oscar showings: best picture, director and writing nominations for The Emigrants in 1973. The result? Everlasting Moments was bypassed by the academy's committee, and Let the Right One In - which may have had a better chance of winning - was left out in the cold."

This nominees in the category: The Class (France), Waltz with Bashir (Israel), The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Germany), and Revanche (Austria).

Interesting, and worthwhile choices, although it's surprising that Cannes Grand Prize winner Gomorrah, an acclaimed crime-film saga from Italy, isn't on the list, either. I'm calling for a do-over.

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