Predicting the Foreign Language Film category has traditionally been kind of a bitch. It’s mostly been that way, because it had special rules for the voting. If you were a regular Academy member, you couldn’t just vote for this category, you had to attend special screenings in order for the Academy to know that you had seen all five nominees in its entirety. That made it so that for the longest time, the winner couldn’t be predicted based on any kind of buzz or critical support, it was basically the movie that the members of the Academy that had the time to attend screenings (mostly older members) liked the most.
Now, the last few years, there have been movies that became kind of crossover hits. Amour, and A Separation before it, both had nominations outside the Foreign Film category, which made it easy to know the Academy was pretty much a fan of them. However, this year, not only don’t we have a crossover hit, but the Academy has actually changed the rules, and now everybody can vote for this category, no screenings required. That would give the edge to Italian movie The Great Beauty, which is the closest thing we have to a crossover hit, having won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and European Film Award. However, that would be assuming Academy members are very comfortable voting for a movie based on buzz or stuff they have heard about it, without feeling the need to watch any of the other nominees.
Since I’m willing to give Academy voters the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume they are watching the screener DVDs the studios are sending them. Now, based on that assumption, and having seen all nominees but one (I haven’t seen Omar, which is actually on limited release in New York right now. I know, shame on me), I have to say The Great Beauty doesn’t struck me as the kind of movie Oscar voters like to reward in this category. I can see it winning if they feel nostalgia for the good ol’ days of Federico Fellini, as this trip through the Roman art scene has been compared to La Dolce Vita numerous times. Much more in the realm of the Academy’s cup of tea, though, are two other European movies. Belgian movie The Broken Circle Breakdown, about a couple of bluegrass musicians with a daughter suffering of cancer, and Danish film The Hunt, about a school teacher accused of being a child molester.
Most people are predicting The Great Beauty without a whim, and while it is a pretty awesome movie, I am willing to go with an upset for a movie that lies more within the Academy’s sensibilities. That being said, it is sad that the one that is by far the best movie of the nominees, Cambodian animated documentary The Missing Picture, is also the least likely to win. Although I shan’t be sad, since the fact that the Oscars nominated a Cambodian animated documentary is a good enough victory. For now.
Will Win: The Hunt (Denmark)
My Pick: The Missing Picture (Cambodia)