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And then there were nine

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has whittled down the 65 entries for this year's Foreign-Language Oscar to a short list of nine films. They are:

- El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina)

- Samson & Delilah (Australia)

- The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner (Bulgaria)

- Un Prophete (France)

- The White Ribbon (Germany)

- Ajami (Israel)

- Kelin (Kazakhstan)

- Winter in Wartime (The Netherlands)

- The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

The final five nominees for the award will be announced along with the rest of this year's Oscar contenders on Feb. 2. I haven't seen any of these movies yet, although I'll finally be seeing Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon next week (Sony Pictures Classics is opening the movie in Miami on Feb. 5, a couple of days after the nominations).

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 I've been a huge fan of Haneke ever since I unsuspectingly wandered into a screening of Funny Games at the Toronto Film Festival in 1997, knowing nothing whatsoever about the movie, and came out with my world completely rocked. Later that afternoon, I happened to be riding a hotel elevator and Haneke got on (I recognized him from his photo in the festival program book). Normally I would have said hello, but that movie had rattled me so much I was a little afraid of him.

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I formally interviewed Haneke two years ago for his English-language Funny Games remake, which didn't get much love from most critics, but what the hell do they know? I am blindly guessing Haneke will win an Oscar this year, since The White Ribbon is supposed to be fantastic and he has earned so much respect from the international film community for his body of work.

Last week Roger Ebert wrote a fascinating, mammoth dissectation of Haneke's Cache (Hidden), which Martin Scorsese is planning to remake with Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of the husband. If you've seen Cache, check out Ebert's story here.

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