Oscar Predictions 2014: Foreign Film

Best Foreign Language Film remains one of the tougher categories to predict well in advance, but the last few years have seen the race narrow in the final weeks to reveal an obvious winner. In a Better World, A Separation, and last year’s Amour were all easily identified winners before the Oscar telecast.

This year appears to be no different.

The nominees come from a fairly respectable spread of countries including Belgium, Cambodia, Denmark, Italy, and Palestine. Cambodia’s submission is only their third ever and their first to receive a nomination, and just as notable is the fact that the film is a documentary. Hopefully they’re happy with the footnotes, though, as they won’t be taking home the gold on Oscar night.

Keep reading for a look at all five of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Language Film along with my predicted winner in red

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Why It Was Nominated

The only love story among the nominees, Felix Van Groeningen’s dramatic and politically charged tale of two people struggling with their beliefs as they fight for their daughter’s life strikes a powerful emotional chord. It also strikes a surprisingly musical one with its infusion of bluegrass performances.

Why It Might Win

There’s a lot of love for this one for the reasons mentioned above, from its targeting of political decisions fueled by ignorance to the smart and sexy adult relationship at its core. More than that, the film finds a delicate balance between its emotional struggles and sense of pure joy expressed through music. More concisely, the film makes bluegrass music not only palatable but also appealingly addictive, and that has to be worth some kind of award.

Why It Might Not Win

The political tangents, while interesting on a narrative level, feel lesser than the raw and honest love story brewing between Monroe and Alabama. It’s a misstep of sorts that leaves a gap in the film’s power, and while Hollywood isn’t known for its conservatives, those that are in the Academy won’t take kindly to the film’s bashing of the religious right.

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The Great Beauty (Italy)

The Great Beauty

Why It Was Nominated

Paolo Sorrentino’s film is a gorgeous piece of cinema filled with sumptuous imagery, a sensuous score, and one of the year’s smoothest leading men. It’s an occasionally dreamlike look at his ongoing search for life’s true beauty and honest meaning, and the effort opens his eyes to the emptiness not only of those around him but also of his own life.

Why It Might Win

While it’s certainly no guarantee of an Oscar win, the film has already snagged the title of Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Smaller contests have been lost, but the momentum for the big shows is in Sorrentino’s favor. Of the five nominees, this is also the one least concerned with traditional narrative, and some voters may feel empowered in the knowledge that they “know” what it means while others don’t.

Why It Might Not Win

It will. But… there’s a chance that love for the more deserving The Broken Circle Breakdown may edge out the steamrolling Italian feature.

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The Hunt (Denmark)

The Hunt Movie - Denmark

Why It Was Nominated

Thomas Vinterberg’s haunting tale of a man trapped in the shadow of the most disturbing accusation possible manages the rare feat of being a finely and intelligently crafted drama that also delivers the entertainment of real suspense and tension.

Why It Might Win

More than any of the other nominees, this is a film that leaves audiences stuck in their seats as the credits roll, still reeling from the final shot and its devastating implications. That recognition has led to numerous awards and nominations, many of which found it nipping at the heels of the front runner. Also, while there’s no real pattern to this category there does appear to be a high percentage of dramatic thrillers that took home the prize over the past decade.

Why It Might Not Win

The majority of the film’s praise has been directed specifically in Mikkelsen’s direction, meaning that for many viewers the takeaway may be that the film’s greatness lies solely in its powerful central performance. Also damning is the reality that the film’s July release makes it the oldest of the bunch and the first to fade from memory.

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The Missing Picture (Cambodia)

The Missing Picture Movie - Cambodia

Why It Was Nominated

The atrocities committed by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge have reached screens before, most notably in the highly acclaimed The Killing Fields, but this film takes a far more personal and powerful look at the subject.

Why It Might Win

All of the nominees have talented teams of artists behind them, but Rithy Panh is the one-man workhorse behind this dramatically intimate exploration of the pain and tragedy of his country’s past. Like The Act of Killing, the film uses art as a form of catharsis to tell a true story, and it makes for a compelling experience.

Why It Might Not Win

“Like The Act of Killing” is not the same as The Act of Killing. Plus, since that film will be taking home the award in the Best Documentary category, voters may feel an award here would feel redundant. They shouldn’t as Cambodia and Indonesia are two different countries, but who knows how much these Hollywood types remember from their school days. And not for nothing, but has a documentary ever won this category? (I don’t believe so.)

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Omar (Palestine)

Omar Movie - Palestine

Why It Was Nominated

The Middle East conflict continues to be fertile ground for drama, but few have so far come from the Palestinian side of the equation. Hany Abu-Assad’s latest is a story about an unfortunate reality that needs to change, and in his words: when politics fail, “cinema can open minds.”

Why It Might Win

Abu-Assad was here in this category eight years ago with another nominated film, Paradise Now, meaning the only two nominees to have come from Palestine have come from the same director. Like Denmark’s entry above, the odds favor dramatic thrillers, and it’s also one of only two message films in this category.

Why It Might Not Win

The film isn’t quite as acclaimed as Abu-Assad’s last entry, and there also appears to be a dearth of purely political winners in this category. It’s possible voters may be disinterested in making what appears to be a call on the Palestinian/Israeli situation for one side or the other, especially seeing as Israel’s submission (Bethlehem) tells a similar story but failed to earn a nomination.

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What Should Win

There are films that deserved a nomination in place of some of the above, including Blue Is the Warmest Color and A Touch of Sin, but the best foreign language films nominated here are The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown. Even Film School Rejects agrees!

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Oscar 2014


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