Welcome to the second of our Foreign Language Film series, we analyze the Oscar potential of 7 more contenders from Asia, Europe, and Africa. You can visit the first in the series here.
From France: 120 BEATS PER MINUTES (BPM) (Trailer)
1) The Story: In France, a group of activists organizes themselves to carry out AIDS prevention awareness initiatives and call for the rights of AIDS patients among the LGBTQ community.
(2) Quick Review: Warmly received in Cannes and several film festivals, this is a straightforward, emotional and a bit talky drama about activism. While its first half gets very talky and offers several long scenes of meetings and debates among activists, the second half of the film gets more emotional with several affecting and heartbreaking scenes.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It’s an important film and a timely one. Its festival buzz will make it top-of-mind among voters. However, LGBTQ films don’t have a great track record in this category and with A Fantastic Woman and The Wound among other very solid LGBTQ contenders, competition is fierce. Plus, it may be seen by some as overlong.
(4) Historic precedents/stats France has an excellent track record in this category, having been nominated 36 times and winning 9 times. BPM could continue their strong presence in this category.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We believe it’s not quite the ‘lock’ many are deeming it to be. In fact, we’d argue that both FOXTROT (90% chance) and LOVELESS (85%) are likelier bets. We’d give it a 75% chance at the moment, just ahead of A FANTASTIC WOMAN (70%) due to its made-driven story and strong buzz that it has sustained ever since Cannes (it’s a white, male committee selecting the nominees after all and female-centric films don’t have a great track record here, let alone LGBTQ ones.
From Germany: IN THE FADE (Trailer)
1) The Story: A woman loses her husband and son after a deadly terrorist explosion in Germany.
(2) Quick Review: It’s a film that doesn’t take big risks but is boosted by a fantastic central performance by Diane Kruger and some typical courtroom drama that makes it a very easy and sometimes emotional watch. Kruger nails her role and elevates the film to make it believable and compelling for the most part. However, the ending is very debatable and is one of the key factors dividing critics. If you’re open to it, you’ll appreciate the film but if you’re not, your overall assessment of it will be impacted greatly.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? This is one of the most interesting films to follow in this category. While reviews have been tepid (45% on RT), history has shown us that AMPAS members typically choose some messy, melodramatic films every now and then. They just love what they love. Despite the critical reaction, this film has the ‘importance’ and ‘timely’ tags, some buzz thanks to Diane Kruger’s Best Actress win at Cannes and a straightforward, showy story that has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it. Critics aside, this may very well appeal to AMPAS.
(4) Historic precedents/stats Since unification Germany has a strong showing in this category, having been nominated 10 times and scoring 2 wins. This won’t come close to a win though.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. Contrary to many dismissive opinions about this film, we believe it has a 65% chance at a nomination. Noms are not always an indication of stellar quality but rather a reflection of industry preference and this film can definitely appeal.
From Lebanon: THE INSULT (Trailer)
1) The Story: A Lebanese mechanic gets into a fight with a Palestinian worker. Their fight becomes a public opinion story and uncovers long-held and rarely spoken animosities between the Palestinians and a segment of Lebanese society.
(2) Quick Review: Even though it’s uneven and turns into a courtroom drama – just like In The Fade – this film lingers in your mind and does stand out. It is superbly acted, has gravitas and very suspenseful. It holds your attention throughout.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It can definitely appeal to AMPAS voters – the film has a macho-feel to it and has a big ‘important’ tag. Plus, it is a rare Arab film that doesn’t paint Palestinians in an innocent, saint-like state. Bold, audacious and could be in AMPAS’ wheelhouse.
(4) Historic precedents/stats Lebanon was never nominated – they once had a TIFF People’s Choice winner (Where Do We Go Now) but this failed to earn a nom.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. 60%
From Sweden: THE SQUARE (Trailer)
1) The Story: A museum curator goes through a life-changing experience that forces him to question his behaviors and attitudes.
(2) Quick Review: Funny, entertaining but overlong, this Palme d’Or winner is one of the most entertaining films in the race. A Toni Erdmann of sorts, it is light-hearted and has a humane message and boasts some high-concept scenes and superb execution.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? Palme d’Or winners haven’t been nominated recently here – Cannes prizes never guarantee Oscar nods. But the film is accessible and funny – but requires some sort of patience and a leap of faith from viewers so they can go beyond its shortcomings.
(4) Historic precedents/stats Sweden has 15 nods in this category, this could be nod number 16. Interestingly, director Ruben Östlund was rather famously snubbed here just a few years ago with Force Majeure and his reaction to the snub went viral.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. This is a tricky one – because the film’s North American reception hasn’t been stellar. Still, with its buzz and entertaining nature, we’d give it a 70% chance at the moment.
From Egypt: SHEIKH JACKSON (Trailer)
1) The Story: An Islamic preacher remembers his youth when he was so in love with Michael Jackson.
(2) Quick Review: The film is a high-concept work and one of the most creative, if not fully accomplished, films in the race.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? Parts of the film may be hard for Western voters to really identify with and the film doesn’t fully explore the character’s journey in and out of fanaticism. Voters may like the high concept but some may not be satisfied overall.
(4) Historic precedents/stats Egypt has 0 noms and 0 wins. Last year’s Clash was their best bet and it failed. This is less than Clash but has a non-political, more crowd-pleasing tone.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. 30%.
From Poland: SPOOR (Trailer)
1) The Story: An animal rights advocate, an elderly lady who lives alone in a Polish rural area, tries to unlock the secret behind a series of vicious killings.
(2) Quick Review: This is an example of a film that may be going too far in its themes – and it’s up to the viewer to either really get on board with it or find it completely ridiculous. Its final act will be divisive to those who’re not so invested in the character’s cause. However, it’s perfectly executed and well-acted.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It has a strong environmental message and that’s something AMPAS typically appreciates – but it may rub some voters the wrong way. Plus, it’s a female-led story and that’s not a plus point.
(4) Historic precedents/stats 10 noms and 1 win for Poland so far. This may get a nod but won’t be a winner because it’s divisive.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. 40%
From Ireland: SONG OF GRANITE (Trailer)
1) The Story: A biopic of sorts of folk singer Joe Heaney.
(2) Quick Review: Nostalgic, black-and-white biopic that moves at a glacial pace and may be very hard to follow for those unfamiliar with its settings.
(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It’s possible it appeals to British voters and those familiar with the singer. But the film’s slow approach and non-linear narrative may prevent it from standing out.
(4) Historic precedents/stats Ireland is relatively new to this category and never earned a nom.
(5) Overall chance for a nomination. 25%