Oscars Best Foreign Film 2014

The foreign-language picture honor for Paolo Sorrentino's film, Italy's first Academy Award in 15 years, drew ecstatic media coverage and social media buzz

ROME – Italians woke up on Monday to ecstatic coverage of the news that Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) had won the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

The award, which was presented in the early hours of Monday morning local time, was reported with banner headlines atop most news sites and was the top story on radio and television, pushing news of latest developments in the Ukraine, soccer scores and coverage of the rest of the Oscars ceremony into supporting roles. Social media was also abuzz with the news.

"The Oscars, Italy's triumph: The Great Beauty wins as Sorrentino thanks Fellini and Maradona, " titled newspaper La, referring to Sorrentino's comment that he was inspired by famed Italian auteur Federico Fellini, soccer great Diego Maradona (who played several years for the soccer club of Sorrentino's home town squad Napoli) and Martin Scorsese.

The Great Beauty had been seen as the favorite for the prize after racking up scores of honors this awards season, including the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for best foreign language film and four prizes each at the European Film Awards and Italy's own Nastri d'Argento, the world's second oldest film honors after the Oscars.

Italy seemed to be hanging on every pre-Oscar comment and prediction that The Great Beauty would take home the country's 11th Oscar statue. But it was only its first in 15 years since Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful (La vita e' bella) won three awards. Italy has won more than any other country, with France second with nine.

The honor will surely be a boost for Italy's beleaguered film industry, but expectations were so high that at least one veteran industry figure said it might have had an opposite effect had the film not won. Even Sorrentino, speaking in a brief post-Oscar ceremony, admitted he had been feeling pressure as the favorite for the award.

"Finally, now I can enjoy it and let it sink in over the weeks and months, " he said.

The Great Beauty is Sorrentino's sixth feature-length film. All of his movies have won multiple awards. Four have starred Toni Servillo, the acclaimed former stage actor who starred in the latest film as Jep Gambardella, a celebrated writer who descends into Rome's decadent party scene while battling a crippling case of writers' block.

Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, which co-financed the film through its Medusa subsidiary, has been blasted by exhibitors for its intention to screen The Great Beauty on Mediaset's Channel 5 to capitalize on its Oscar success. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and in Italy on May 21, meaning the television screening will happen less than 10 months after its silver screen debut. In Italy, films typically make it onto TV at least two years after their theatrical release.

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