Friday, February 8, 2013

One Category at a Time: Foreign Language Film

Last year marked the first tine in many years when the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film actually went to the best foreign language film! And with this year's best import also boasting four major nominations, it seems almost assured that the same will happen this year.

Some pundits initially expressed doubts that Michael Haneke's formally frosty but deeply moving chamber play Amour would appeal to the relatively small collective's more mainstream tastes. But after earning hard-fought victories in Best Picture, Director, Actress, and Original Screenplay, for it to not win here would be an unthinkable embarrassment that the Academy would never be able to live down. It's presumed toughest competition, The Intouchables, wasn't even nominated, so I'm not too worried.

But let's acknowledge the other nominees anyway.

Kon-Tiki depicts the epic 1947 voyage of anthropologist Thor Heyerdal as he and a small crew attempted to drift from South America to Polynesia on a wooden raft. The film boasts pretty good production values (to date it's the most expensive Norwegian film ever made), but doesn't quite capture the emotion of its central character all that well. Still, its traditional approach will appeal to some voters.

The Chilean entry No stars Gael Garcia Bernal as the young, upstart ad executive who campaigned against military dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 referendum that ultimately liberated Chile from his rule. The historical slant certainly could appeal to some, but the decision to shoot the entire thing on low-quality video stock could prove distracting to others. Again, it doesn't seem like any film is going to topple Amour.

A Royal Affair is a finely wrought period romance in which heady Enlightenment-era conversation sparks more passion than steamy love-making. It may seem like Academy catnip on paper, but the soft pacing and muted performances might make it a tough sell. Rumours persist that this may have been one of the films rescued by the executive committee. Consider this one in fifth place.

Finally, War Witch (yay Can-con!) might have won out of this lot if it weren't for Amour. Its harrowing account of a child soldier in Africa packs quite the emotional wallop, and certainly feels more relevant than the other also-rans in this this category. If Amour has a 99% chance of winning, then this great little movie probably represents the other 1%.

Will win: Amour
Runner-up: War Witch

Should win: Amour
Should have been nominated: Rust and Bone

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