Premised on the belief that there’s nothing funnier in the world than two men doing the tango, Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans’s Tanghi Argentini aims for beguilement but only achieves insult, trivializing the experiences of clockwatchers everywhere by suggesting that doing a little dance, or writing a poem, is enough to make one forget that the drudgery of their 9-to-5 job is akin to licking Satan’s asshole in the eighth circle of hell. Less delusional but more superfluous is The Mozart of Pickpockets, Philippe Pollet-Villard’s account of two talentless thieves who get more than they bargained for when a super-cute and deaf (natch) homeless boy follows them home after their pickpocketing buddies get hauled to jail. Scraping the bottom of the category’s barrel, these two films don’t seem to stand a chance against the significantly more ambitious competition. Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown’s The Tonto Woman is an impressive show of un-postmodern Western art direction, but take all its dusty bells and whistles away and your left with nothing more than bland get-to-know-your-white-squaw finger-wagging. The smartest film in the category, Andrea Jublin’s The Substitute is warped in the best sense of the word, the sharp tale of a substitute teacher who deconstructs, through an absurd show of hectoring and condescension, cliché classroom archetypes, then turns his abuse on himself, all in the interest of championing the integrity of staying true to one’s principles. But it’s Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth’s At Night that’s likely to resonate most with Academy members. The story of three young women wasting away in a hospital’s cancer ward, this poignant film sensitively grapples with the way disease brings people together and forces us to ruminate and reassess life’s disappointments and commitments. If not as solidly constructed as The Substitute, it’s the category’s only gut-wrencher.
Will Win: At Night
Should Win: At Night or The Substitute