Tue. Jul 14th, 2020

2018 Oscars: Foreign Language Film – The Cases for Israel’s FOXTROT and Hungary’s ON BODY AND SOUL

Last week, we kicked off our new Foreign Language Film analysis series now that the shortlist is out. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be revealing our predictions of the 5 nominees and 4 snubbed films gradually – with 1 of each to be highlighted in every article. Russia’s LOVELESS and Senegal’s FÉLICITÉ  were featured in our previous article last week, where we made the case for both films and predicted LOVELESS is in and that FÉLICITÉ  is out of the final 5.

Of course, everything is possible in this category. One thing to note is that this year the nomination committee may end up being considerably larger – and hopefully more diverse than – ever. This is due to 3 factors:

  • AMPAS has made a good effort this year to diversify some of its membership and add more international members from MENA, Africa, Asia and more.
  • These international members, selected to be part of the nomination committee, will be able to vote on the final 5 FLF provided they see the 9 films on the streaming site of AMPAS; meaning they don’t have to see them at the member screenings in the US and UK.
  • For the first time, AMPAS expanded the nomination committee screenings to include the San Francisco Bay Area, which was added to LA, London and New York.

What can a larger, more diverse committee select? It’s going to be interesting and difficult to be so sure about what their preferences might end up being.

This week, we turn to 2 new films in the race: Israel’s FOXTROT and Hungary’s ON BODY AND SOUL.

The Case for FOXTROT

We saw this film on its world premiere day at the Venice Film Festival and we were very impressed. Ever since then, we included it in our FLF predictions (and it was one of the 6 correct predictions we made for the shortlist). It also deservingly won the Venice Grand Prix, with most predictions leaning towards a Golden Lion win for it (that eventually went to THE SHAPE OF WATER).

  • Save or popular choice? Popular – but we know this is a debatable point. There are rumors that the FLF main committee may have not fallen in love with it – and its Golden Globe snub indicates it could be more divisive than initially thought. But we’d argue otherwise. We think it was a popular choice – with the 3 “saves” allowed for Mark Johnson’s committee to have gone to more vague, artsy and inaccessible films. Even though the film’s first our is a bit slow, we think it’s not as tough of a sell than some pundits are making it seem and that it was a popular choice, not a save.
  • Why AMPAS liked it: Just as LOVELESS, which FOXTROT shares some similarities with in terms of tone and grim settings, AMPAS voters always appreciate subtle films that offer striking – and sometimes debatable – commentary on their societies. FOXTROT does this and then some – because it isn’t just consumed with being a social commentary film, it’s also a deeply personal father-and-son story with strong themes of ego and guilt. Its depiction of military life and religion is quite poetic and smart too.
  • If it earns a nom, it’s because: It’s a very memorable film that works on both a political, timely level and a personal, intimate level. It will appeal to voters who want an “important” film and voters who like to support films that touch them regardless of their importance. It checks both boxes.
  • Will it make the final 5? It will be hard to ignore this one, unless voters don’t want to include two heavy, grim films (this and LOVELESS).
  • Final verdict/our prediction: In.

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This was one of the 2 films that were nowhere to be found in our official shortlist predictions or ALTs. Our 6 correct predictions did not include it and our only correct ALT was A FANTASTIC WOMAN. And unlike FÉLICITÉ which we had seen after the shortlist was out, this was the only film we had indeed seen and did not predict or consider as an alternative.

  • Save or popular choice? Some are arguing that this film is more accessible than we think it is (more on that in the next point) but we are certain this was a save. Artsy, symbolic and slow, this needed a voter with patience to support it. And it’s the type of film that the exec committee was created for – to support unlikely films that are far from AMPAS’ usual tastes but have merit and deserve support (the film did win the Berlin Golden Bear).
  • Why AMPAS liked it: We think while the main committee may have found its mix of dreams and a reality a bit confounding. It’s not a straightforward film and only if you’re on board with its strange premise, will you feel emotionally rewarded by the end of the film. It also lacks any importance or timely themes. It’s just not something a voter would rush to support. And that’s why we did not predict it. But we forgot that its artsy, dreamy-like nature could have appealed to an exec committee that wants to support films that try some creative, out-of-the-box storytelling approaches instead of a traditional narrative (and that’s why we also think FÉLICITÉ made the cut).
  • If it earns a nom, it’s because: It’s the most romantic, dreamy and quiet film in the FLF race. It has no fireworks or plate-smashing scenes (unlike other contenders such as IN THE FADE, THE INSULT, LOVELESS and others) so maybe that will be a plus – because it’s a soothing, imaginative viewing experience.
  • Will it make the final 5? We don’t think so – mainly because we don’t think this film screams “urgent” for voters to consider it, nor does it scream “exotic/discovery” for them to feel passionate to put it in the final five. It’s artsy, sure, but so is FOXTROT and LOVELESS.
  • Final verdict/our prediction: Out.

Summary of our predictions so far (in 2 articles):





Next week: we take a look at 2 more FLF contenders and assess their chances.

[author title=”Mina Takla” image=”http://i63.tinypic.com/33f730i.jpg”]Mina Takla is a foreign correspondent for AwardsWatch and the co-founder of The Syndicate, an online news agency that offers original content services to several film brands including Empire Magazine’s Middle East edition and the Dubai Film Festival. Takla has attended, covered and written from over 10 film festivals online including the Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Cannes, Venice and Annecy Film Festivals. He has been following the Oscar race since 2000 with accurate, office-pool winning predictions year after year. He writes monthly in Empire Arabia, the Arabic version of the world’s top cinema magazine and conducts press junkets with Hollywood stars in the UK and the US. He holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from Australia’s Wollongong University and is currently based in Dubai, UAE.[/author]

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