IndieWIRE’s Anthony Kaufman is spotlighting the big contenders in the Best Foreign Language Oscar category: Pedro Almodovar‘s Volver (from Spain), Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (Mexico), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s The Lives of Others (Germany), Deepa Mehta’s Water (Canada) and Daniele Thompson‘s Avenue Montaigne (France).

HE can’t decide which of the three biggies — Volver, Pan’s Labyrinth, The LIves of Others — to stand up for. I love all three equally, but in different ways. The Pedro is one of the finest films ever made about what it takes to keep a family together…a film about women working hard and needing/loving/caring for each other…grounded, emotional, impassioned and yet disciplined at every turn. The von Donnersmarck is well crafted, political, sensuous, uplifting, a thriller…a great German stew. And Pan’s Labyrinth is del Toro’s most soulful, disciplined and deeply felt film to date — a masterwork by any standard.
The runners-up, say Kaufman, are Zhang Yimou‘s lThe Curse of the Golden Flower (sign unseen, HE is dimssing any Zhang Yimou film with the word “Curse” in the title), Emanuele Crialese‘s Golden Door, Paul Verhoeven‘s Black Book (a.k.a. Showgirl’s List), Susanne Bier‘s Danish drama After the Wedding (not up to par with her previous films) and Lee Sang-il‘s Hula Girls.