"Waltz" looks to dance away with foreign film Oscar

Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:15am EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Anti-war film "Waltz with Bashir" may win Israel's first Academy Award on Sunday, bucking Oscar history in a foreign language film category that in the past has shunned animation and documentaries.

Some Oscar watchers say the non-fiction film's novel combination of animated scenes and documentary style helps, rather than hurts, its chances for the world's top film honors given out in Hollywood.

Director Ari Folman recorded conversations with real Israelis who fought in their country's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and animated the violent, tragic events described in those audio tapes.

"In a way it's kind of surprising it's the front-runner for winner because of the subject matter -- it's so incredibly grim," said Johanna Blakely, a film expert at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center.

"But I think the main reason that it has catapulted up the ranks is because of its style, because of its use of animation for a documentary," Blakely said. "For some reason, this hybrid combination has actually worked in its favor."

The film won a Golden Globe and was named 2008's best movie by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.

"It's no sure thing, but 'Waltz with Bashir' would be the most likely winner," said Pete Hammond, lead movie critic with Hollywood.com. "It's considered the front-runner basically because it's won all these precursor awards."

FIRST OF ITS KIND   Continued...

<p>A scene from Israel's "Waltz with Bashir" is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Sony Pictures Classics</p>