Oscar hopeful ‘Alois Nebel’ fails to make the (prime) cut

Czech film about a lonely train dispatcher out of the Oscar picture in Foreign Film category, still has a shot in Animated Film contest

Brian Kenety | 19.01.2012
‘Alois Nebel,’ based on a popular graphic novel, was shot using the rotoscoping technique

A smash hit at home, “Alois Nebel,” the debut mixed animation film of director Tomáš Luňák selected by the Czech Film and Television Academy (ČFTA) to compete in Best Foreign Language Film category at the 84th Annual Academy Awards — the Oscars — has failed to make that short list. It still has a chance, albeit a slim one, of taking home an Oscar in the Best Animated Film category.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the “Academy” that no Hollywood star or director dares fail to thank in those awful acceptance speeches — announced on Wednesday that nine films have advanced in the category, including early favorites “A Separation” (Iran), Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s Holocaust drama “In Darkness,” and Wim Wenders’ modern dance documentary “Pina” (Germany).

The Czech offering “Alois Nebel” was chosen from 38 domestic films that premiered or were to be released between October 2010 and September 30, 2011, in accordance with rules of the Academy, which bestows the Oscars. The black-and-white animated film based on Jaromír Švejdík and Jaroslav Rudiš’s graphic novel of the same name employs a technique called rotoscoping, in which animators trace over filmed scenes of live action.

“Alois Nebel” was among 63 films that had originally qualified in the Best Foreign Language Film category. In the Best Animated Film category, the Czech movie is one of only 18 under consideration for an Oscar. But it will be up against major features like “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Rango” starring the voice of Johnny Depp, DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss in Boots” and “Cars 2” — the latest offering from the Disney/Pixar studio, which has won six out of the past 10 years.

© Vimeo Alois Nebel - Trailer from Negativ Film(refresh your browser if video isn’t visible)

The Czech Republic (and Czechoslovakia before it) has a strong tradition of animation. Czech-born animator Jan Pinkava directed the Oscar-winning 1997 short film “Geri’s Game” and was co-director of the 2007 feature-length animated film “Ratatouille,” both of which were produced by the famous Pixar studio.

And the Oscar goes to …

Foreign Language Film nominations for 2011 are again being determined in two phases. The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 63 eligible films between mid-October and January 13. The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist.

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the five nominees by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. They will spend Friday, January 20, through Sunday, January 22, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots. The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The shortlisted films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are: Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director; Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar,” Philippe Falardeau, director; Denmark, “Superclásico,” Ole Christian Madsen, director; Germany, “Pina,” Wim Wenders, director;  Iran, “A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi, director; Israel, “Footnote,” Joseph Cedar, director; Morocco, “Omar Killed Me,” Roschdy Zem, director; Poland, “In Darkness,” Agnieszka Holland, director; Taiwan, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” Wei Te-sheng, director.

American comedian Eddie Murphy (the voice of Shrek the ogre) will host this year’s Academy Awards show on Sunday, February 26, 2012. The ceremony will be televised live on ABC TV and in more than 200 countries worldwide.

See related article: ‘Alois Nebel’: Czech history in black & white 

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