Germans well represented in Oscars short list

Kicking off Oscar season for 2024, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Thursday its short lists in 10 categories — including best original song, documentary feature, international feature, original score, visual effects and sound.

The “Barbie” power ballad “I’m Just Ken” was among several chart-toppers up for best original song.

Two more were from the same film: Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” and “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish; while Lenny Kravitz got a nod for song “Road to Freedom” from “Rustin,” and Jarvis Cocker for “Dear Alien (Who Art In Heaven)” from “Asteroid City.”

two people in pink sing as they sit in a convertable, a rainbow in the background
Several songs from the hit ‘Barbie’ made the Oscar short listImage: Warner Bro./ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

Ukraine siege documentary short-listed for two categories

Meanwhile, the Ukraine war film “20 Days in Mariupol” was short-listed in both the documentary and international feature categories.

The film’s director, Pulitzer Prize-winning Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov, knows global attention is shifting to Israel but his film on Russian atrocities remains essential, he told DW during the film’s German premiere at Berlin’s Human Rights Film Festival in October.

The film, which has also won the World Cinema documentary prize following its successful Sundance premiere, is based on footage collected by Associated Press reporters in the first 20 days of Russia’s siege of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol in March 2022.

It features the shocking scene, which went viral around the world, of a pregnant woman being carried away on a stretcher after a Russian missile strike on a maternity hospital.

These snippets, drawn from 30 hours of footage, have a powerful impact. But for Chernov, they are, “not enough to speak about all the tragedies that happened in Mariupol.”

a man wanders among a deolate landscape
The Ukraine war documentary ’20 Days in Mariupol’ has been selected in two categoriesImage: mstyslav chernov/AP/Sundance Institute

Acclaimed Auschwitz drama makes the grade

Also in contention for the best international feature Oscar is Jonathan Glazer’s British entry, “The Zone of Interest,” a Holocaust drama.

Winner of this year’s Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix, the runner-up to the Palme d’Or prize, “The Zone of Interest” takes place outside the walls of the Auschwitz extermination camp and, incredibly, features no violence.

It stars Academy Award nominee Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”) in the role of Hedwig Höss, the wife of Rudolf Höss. The longest-serving commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Höss, played by Christian Friedel, was hanged for war crimes in 1947.

Hüller has been making headlines this award season. The German actress has earned top awards and nominations both for her portrayal of Hedwig Höss, as well as for her lead role in “Anatomy of a Fall.”

Director Jonathan Glazer (“Under the Skin”) said Hüller was “very apprehensive” about portraying a Nazi on screen, something she had previously refused to do. But the British director convinced her that his film, based on the 2014 novel of the same name by British writer Martin Amis, would be different.

In the shadow of mass extermination, the entire film plays out like a family drama as the Höss family picnic by the river, play in the garden or chat with their friends.

Film still from 'The Zone of Interest': people sitting in grass out by a lake.
‘The Zone of Interest’ sees a lead official in the Auschwitz death camp enjoying a bucolic family life outside its gatesImage: A24/Everett Collection/picture alliance

Meanwhile, the award-winning German psychological drama, “The Teachers’ Lounge,” made the short list with a more contemporary theme.

Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “a pulse-pounding exploration of the ways we draw lines between enemies and friends, and the courage it takes to blur them,” the film portrays a teacher’s vain attempt to uncover a crime.

Director Ilker Catak’s provocative drama shows how individuals are ultimately worn down by entrenched power.  

From Bhutan to Japan

Tokyo-set “Perfect Days,” a film by veteran German director Wim Wenders, is also short-listed for best international feature and is Japan’s Oscar entry.

Legendary actor Koji Yakusho won best actor in Cannes for his lead role as an ageing, Zen-like toilet cleaner in the film that showcases Tokyo’s architect-designed lavatories.

a middle aged man with a mustache wears a white towel and looks up.
Koji Yakusho plays the monk-like lead in the Wim Wenders film, ‘Perfect Days’Image: Neon/Courtesy Everett Collection/picture alliance

Other international feature films on the 15-film short list for nominations include Tran Anh Hung’s “The Taste of Things” (France), Lila Aviles’ “Totem” (Mexico), Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s “Fallen Leaves” and “The Monk and the Gun” from Bhutan.

“‘The Monk and the Gun‘ is a story about the change and transition that Bhutan went through in the 2000s, when we became the last country in the world to allow television, to allow the internet and to allow democracy to come in,” filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji told DW of the film.

Variety magazine has ranked “The Monk and the Gun” as a “top-tier possibility” for the award.

people line up to vote in Bhutan
‘The Monk and the Gun’ is set in 2006 as Bhutan shifts to a democracy and citizens learn how to voteImage: The Monk and the Gun

High-profile names set for multiple Oscar nominations 

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” were prominently represented among the finalists in many categories, including score and sound.

The opulent “Oppenheimer” was a notable omission, however, among the 10 finalists in the visual effects category.

Both “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” did make the cut for makeup and hairstyling, while “Barbie” missed out.

Big names also featured in the live action category, with both Pedro Almodovar’s western “Strange Way of Life,” starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal; and Wes Anderson’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” with Benedict Cumberbatch and Ben Kingsley, in the running.

The final list of nominations in all categories for the 96th Oscars will be announced on January 23. Jimmy Kimmel hosts the award ceremony on March 10, broadcasting live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier