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Christian Bale enters the foreign film Oscar race

Last year’s Best Supporting Actor stars in Chinese contender

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Two of next year’s Academy Award competitions got a bit clearer last week. The documentary branch narrowed the Best Documentary Short category to eight films, including The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, a look at the aftermath of this year’s devastating tidal wave in Japan, by Lucy Walker (nominated earlier this year for the feature doc Waste Land). Meanwhile, the Academy also announced the 63 entries that will compete for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. On the list is the Cannes breakout Footnote, from Israel, as well as September’s Toronto Film Festival audience-award winner, the Lebanese drama Where Do We Go Now? But perhaps most notable is the Chinese entry, director Zhang Yimou‘s big-budgeted The Flowers of War, featuring Christian Bale as a priest sheltering a group of prostitutes in 1937. (Though the film, which doesn’t yet have U.S. distribution, is mostly in Chinese, Bale speaks English.) Whether Flowers scores one of the five nomination slots remains to be seen, but it already has Oscar associations: Bale shot the film while campaigning for The Fighter.