Cristian Mungiu‘s 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days has to be the front-runner for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. No other contender is generating this much buzz or has won Cannes’ Palme d’Or prize or is blowing people away quite as much. But I guess I should wait until it screens for the Academy’s foreign branch on Friday, November 2nd. You never know with the Academy fuddy-duds.

Screenings have begun already of the 63 entries and continue through 1.12.08. I don’t know anything about the hot titles except that (a) Mungiu’s film is the stuff of instant legend; (b) Persepolis, France’s entry, is looking at an uphill battle because it’s’ animated and set largely in Iran; and (c) Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Orphanage not only deserves to be a total lock but probably will be unless the fuddy-duds go, “Oh, this isn’t solemn or meaningful enough because it’s just a haunted house movie.”

The titles that seem to have good buzz at this stage (emphasis on “seem” and including the already-mentioned titles) are the following:

12 (Russia, director: Nikita Mikhalkov), The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (Brazil, director: Cao Hamburger); The Art of Crying (Denmark, director: Peter Schonau); Persepolis (France, directors: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud); The Edge of Heaven (Germany, director: Fatih Akin); (Mongol, director: Sergei Bodrov).

Plus: Mongol (Kazakhstan, director: Sergei Bodrov); Caramel (Lebanon, director: Nadine Labaki); Silent Light (Mexico, director: Carlos Reygadas); Gone with the Woman (Norway, director: Petter Naess); Katyn (Poland, director: Andrzej Wajda); 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania, director: Cristian Mungiu); The Orphanage (Spain, director: J.A. Bayona) and The Unknown Woman (Italy, director: Giuseppe Tornatore).

If I were king I would scratch Israel’s Beaufort (director: Joseph Cedar). There doesn’t appear to be any question that Beaufort‘s producers lobbied the Academy’s foreign film committee on the 50% foreign-language issue that wound up disqualifying The Band’s Visit. Punish the Beaufort team for playing dirty, discourage this kind of thing, etc.

If I’m missing anything (i.e., apparent standouts I haven’t heard about), please inform.