Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Foreign Language Film

The Best Foreign Language Film category is an odd one in that most movie-goers (and probably most Academy members too) haven’t actually seen many of the nominees. Or in some cases, any of the nominees. They’re subtitled for one thing, which is enough to turn off some people, but the bigger issue is that they also aren’t usually readily available.

For the record, the true Best Foreign Language Film of the year wasn’t even nominated. Well, one of the two best wasn’t even nominated, and the other one is going to win. The Kid With a Bike deserves a spot on the stage, and while I wouldn’t be able to choose between it and the film that’s actually going to win it would have been nice to see it honored. So why isn’t in on the list of nominees? Because its home country, Belgium, chose to submit something else instead.

The nominees are listed below with my prediction for the winner in red

Bullhead (Belgium)

Why It Was Nominated:

Because Drafthouse Films can be very convincing.

Why It Might Win:

The presence of Michael R. Roskam’s beef hormone/mafia drama on this list came as a surprise to some, but it’s easy to see the attraction. Matthias Schoenaerts’ imposing but wounded lead performance is undoubtedly the core appeal here as he manages to create an oddly attractive antihero with his ripped appearance and damaged interior. He casts a powerful hold over the entire film that takes grip and rarely lets go. This category also has a history of going to the thriller genre with recent winners like The Secret In Their Eyes, The Counterfeiters, The Lives of Others, and Tsotsi.

Why It Might Not Win:

Schoenaerts’ presence and performance support an argument for a Best Actor nomination, but is it enough to warrant recognizing an entire film? And anyone who also sees The Kid With a Bike should come away feeling that Belgium put their wrong film forward.

Footnote (Israel)

Why It Was Nominated:

Because stories about conflict are new to Israeli cinema.

Why It Might Win:

This film about a father/son rivalry manages to highlight both the dramatic tensions as well as the lighter, more comedic side of family relations, the higher education system and the Talmud. It’s probably the most purely entertaining of the nominees too which is a refreshing change of pace from the norm.

Why It Might Not Win:

As with Monsieur Lazhar below there’s the real issue of Academy members not giving due respect to comedies. And be honest, who doesn’t want to see Israel’s overreaction when they lose to Iran?

In Darkness (Poland)

Why It Was Nominated:

Because Holocaust films are like catnip to Academy members.

Why It Might Win:

Seriously, the Academy loves them some Holocaust films. It doesn’t even have to be a good movie, as evidenced by Roberto Benigni’s win for Life Is Beautiful. (What ever happened to that guy anyway? Exactly.) This is strong human drama that shows us humanity at its worst and its unintended best. If the film that should win is defeated it will be by this dark but ultimately uplifting glimpse into history.

Why It Might Not Win:

The critically beloved steamroller that is A Separation should be enough to keep this film from winning on Sunday night. Two other far less influential reasons though could be that it’s the longest of the five films (clocking in at 145 minutes) and currently has the lowest IMDB user rating as well.

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

Why It Was Nominated:

Because it’s too easy to forget Canada even exists.

Why It Might Win:

Canada is the only one of the five countries represented here to have won previously (2003′s The Barbarian Invasions), so that sets a precedent of sorts. This is tied with Footnote as the lightest of the five films in tone and atmosphere, and sometimes after a hard day’s work you’d rather watch a comedy than a drama that reminds you of your daily grind in the beef hormone business.

Why It Might Not Win:

The same two reasons…but from a flipped perspective. A win for any of the other four would be a first for the respective nation, and a voter could be forgiven for wanting to spread the wealth. And comedies in general have a hard time at the Academy Awards where voters seem to appreciate drama, heartache and serious themes above all else.

A Separation (Iran)

Why It Was Nominated:

Because the sanctions might not work.

Why It Might Win:

Writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s excellent relationship drama has received the highest number of accolades of any of the nominees, but more importantly it deserves all of the praise and the eventual win. Beyond simply being a smart, beautifully acted ‘he said/she said’ drama this movie offers an eye-opening look into a world most people simply don’t know about. Our idea of Iran is shaped by the nightly news, but Farhadi’s movie shows us the real people who populate the country and may surprise some with the revelation that they’re actually pretty damn similar to the rest of us.

Why It Might Not Win:

A grand Zionist conspiracy or the intervention of the Jewish cabal who totally don’t run Hollywood could throw a wrench onto the dolma platter.

Complete Academy Awards Coverage


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