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Foreign-lingo race pits apples and oranges

Contenders present a smorgasbord of genres for voters

Even the most cunning handicapper would struggle to pick a winner from among this year’s nominations for foreign film.

The awards equivalent of an international buffet with disparate courses, the field mixes a sense of deja vu (Oscar winners “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk”); the most recent Palme d’Or winner (“The White Ribbon”); France’s favorite American filmmaker, Clint Eastwood (“Invictus”); a box office behemoth (“Avatar”); a quirky Belgian toon (“A Town Called Panic”); and a French-Canadian homosexual coming-of-age story (“I Killed My Mother”).

Talk about apples and oranges.

“What you have to remember is that (French Academy) members receive DVDs of practically all the French films, but they don’t receive DVDs of the foreign films,” says N.T. Binh, critic for Gallic film magazine Positif. “So they have to pick ones that they’ve already seen at the cinema.”

The only problem is that some of the 4,800 members of the academy are very busy professionals. “Imagine you’ve not had much time to go to the cinema,” Binh says. “Perhaps you like Clint Eastwood but haven’t had time to see his latest; you’re far more likely to vote for his new film than an obscure Russian comedy.”

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