"White Ribbon" tipped as early Oscar favorite

Tue Feb 2, 2010 6:11pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Austrian director Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," a chilling exploration of the roots of Nazi terror, is the top contender to win the foreign language film Oscar, critics predicted on Tuesday.

Germany's black-and-white entry has won top awards, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Golden Globe in Hollywood, making it the frontrunner, award watchers and critics said.

Other foreign films that received Oscar nominations on Tuesday included France's gritty crime drama "Un Prophete" ("A Prophet") and Peru's mournful entry, "The Milk of Sorrow," which won the top prize at the Berlin film festival.

Rounding out nominations were Israel's "Ajami" and "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" ("The Secret in Their Eyes") by Argentine director Juan Jose Campanella, who is the only director to have a film previously nominated in the category.

"I am superstitious so I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch," Haneke told Reuters by phone from his home in Vienna through a translator. "It's very good for business if you win it -- and of course just the honor."

"White Ribbon" explores a sinister series of crimes in northern Germany on the eve of World War One, and Oscar pundits think its past awards have boosted its exposure among Oscar voters.

"It is the frontrunner and has gained a lot of recognition," film critic Emanuel Levy said. But he was quick to note that the category sometimes yielded surprises.

Israel's "Waltz with Bashir" was expected to win in the foreign language category last year but was beaten by Japan's "Departures."   Continued...