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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Oscar countdown: ‘Amour’

It’s time to begin this blog’s annual alphabetical march through the Best Picture nominees, starting with “Amour” and ending on the Friday before the Oscars with “Zero Dark Thirty.” (By the way, did you know that the Academy has a fun database that lets you look up all your favorite acceptance speeches — many with video footage? Go kill some time with it.) “Amour,” Austria’s official entry into the foreign-language film category (though the film is in French, writer/director Michael Haneke is Austrian), is one of the year’s saddest yet most moving cinematic experiences. The story of an elderly couple facing the end of their long and happy life together, it’s a tour de force of acting and of quiet, desperate silences. Emmanuelle Riva, who’s been making movies since the 1950s (as a young woman, she starred in Alain Resnais’s “Hiroshima, Mon Amour”), uncannily conveys a character paralyzed by a stroke, yet still utterly present; Jean-Louis Trintagnant is equally moving as a husband who must watch his great love fade away. Beautiful movie, and one that may be especially poignant for the Academy’s many older voters.

Total U.S. box office
: $3 million, lowest of the nine Best Picture nominees
Total Oscar nominations: Five, for best picture, actress (Riva), director (Haneke), original screenplay (Haneke), and foreign-language film
Best chance for a win: That “Amour” will win the foreign-language film category seems a foregone conclusion; the other categories are long shots. I wouldn’t rule out a screenplay win, though.
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: If Riva should receive a well-deserved Oscar, she’d be the oldest acting Oscar winner in history (she’ll celebrate her 86th birthday on Oscar night; the previous record-holder, Christopher Plummer for “Beginners” last year, was 82). And what if — as happened in 1968 with Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand — there was a tie in this category, between Riva and the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis? The mind boggles, as would the photo ops.
Fun fact: In Oscar’s long history, “Amour” is one of only nine foreign-language films to be nominated for Best Picture. The others: “Grand Illusion” (1938), “Z” (1969), “The Emigrants” (1972), “Cries and Whispers” (1973), “The Postman” (1995), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006).
amour.jpg
Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour” (photo by Darius Khondji, (c) Films du Losange, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

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