It’s fine to riff about the Academy’s foreign language committee shortlist but the race is over. The 2012 Foreign Language Feature Oscar is going to go to Michael Haneke‘s Amour. Locked, forget about it. (Right?) The only thing that pops out is the wholly unwarranted exclusion of Christian Petzold‘s Barbara, which I saw and greatly admired at Telluride.

Leos Carax‘s Holy Motors wasn’t France’s official submission so that was that, but this is unquestionably one of the great 2012 films, foreign-made or not. Jacques Audiard‘s Rust and Bone suffered the same fate.

The Barbara snub isn’t on the level of the committee’s blow-off of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and/or Olivier Assayas‘s Carlos (can’t recall if it was shortlisted or not but it wasn’t nominated) but it’s a glaring omission all the same. It’s at least encouraging that the latest film from 4,3,2 helmer Cristian Mungiu, the somber and austere and entirely satisfying Beyond The Hills, did make the shortlist.

Nine films out of 71 entries were chosen. I’ve listed them in order of my own personal preference:

1. No (Chile), d: Pablo Larraín (if Amour weren’t in the running, No would be the frontrunner).
2. Amour (Austria) — d: Michael Haneke (guaranteed winner).
3. Beyond the Hills (Romania), d: Cristian Mungiu (brilliant — Mungiu is a Bresson-level auteur)
4. A Royal Affair (Denmark), d: Nikolaj Arcel (a strong, well-written, well produced historical drama — intelligent and compelling).
5. Sister (Switzerland), d: Ursula Meier (saw it in Cannes — a skillful, penetrating, honestly assembled character piece).
6. The Intouchables (France), d: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (will almost certainly be one of the final five nominees).
7. The Deep (Iceland), d: Baltasar Kormakur.
8. Kon-Tiki (Norway), d: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (watched the screener, was underwhelmed)
9. War Witch (Canada),d: Kim Nguyen (haven’t watched screener).

The shortlist will be pruned to five nominees during a marathon session lasting from Friday, 1.4 through Sunday, 1.6, during which the Academy’s foreign-branch voters will watch three of the shortlisted films each day, etc. Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, 1.10, in the early ayem.