Michael Haneke's critical favorite "Amour" and the international box-office hit "The Intouchables" have been leaders in the race from the start, and are augmented by a list made up mostly of the highest-profile films in the running. The shortlist is unlikely to cause much of the talk about egregious snubs that sometimes plagued the category in the past.
Other selections include Canada's "War Witch" (left), Norway's "Kon-Tiki," Romania's "Beyond the Hills" and Switzerland's "Sister."
The shortlist is Europe-centric, with two films from Scandanavia and another from Iceland in the North Atlantic. Two films come from the Americas, although the Canadian entry, "War Witch," is set in Africa.
The shortlist was drawn from a record 71 submissions. It was chosen by volunteers from across the Academy who selected their six favorite films, and by a 20-person executive committee that chose three additional films for the shortlist at a Thursday night meeting.
Two additional committees, consisting of hand-picked 20 members in Los Angeles and 10 in New York, will screen the nine shortlisted films over a three-day period in early January, and will select the five nominees.
The three-step system was instituted in 2008, after the AMPAS Board of Governors ordered changes in the wake of a number of startling snubs in the category, including the acclaimed Romanian film "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."
That film's director, Cristian Mungiu, made this year's shortlist with "Beyond the Hills."
Missing from the shortlist are a few notable films, among them Germany's "Barbara," Italy's "Caesar Must Die," Sweden's "The Hypnotist" (directed by Lasse Hallstrom) and South Korea's "Pieta."
The Academy never announces which films are put on the shortlist by the general committee voters and are added by the executive committee, though it's sometimes possible to determine which group is likelier to choose a film.
Of this year's shortlisted films, "The Intouchables," "A Royal Affair," "The Deep" and "Kon-Tiki" seem likely to be general-committee choices, while "Beyond the Hills" is a probable executive-committee selection. "Amour," "Sister," "War Witch" and "No" could potentially have come from either group.
The shortlisted films:
Austria, "Amour," Michael Haneke, director; Canada, "War Witch," Kim Nguyen, director; Chile, "No," Pablo Larraín, director; Denmark, "A Royal Affair," Nikolaj Arcel, director; France, "The Intouchables," Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors; Iceland, "The Deep," Baltasar Kormákur, director; Norway, "Kon-Tiki," Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, directors; Romania, "Beyond the Hills," Cristian Mungiu, director; Switzerland, "Sister," Ursula Meier, director.