Sunday, March 2, 2014


I'm writing this Post roughly nine hours before the Oscar ceremony, which will take place at 10am on Monday here in South Korea. I finally got a hold of "The Broken Circle Breakdown", the Belgian submission and the only foreign film that I had a hard time seeing at Oscar season.

This is the first year in a long time where I really have no idea who is going to win the Oscar. Most years, the winner is obvious either to me ("Okuribito", "The Secret In Their Eyes"), or indeed to the entire world ("Amour", "A Separation").

This year is wide-open. Here are my final predictions:

DENMARK- "The Hunt" (40%)
ITALY- "The Great Beauty" (30%)
BELGIUM- "Broken Circle Breakdown" (15%)
PALESTINE- "Omar" (13%)
CAMBODIA- "The Missing Picture" (2%)

If you're interested, let's take a brief look at the five candidates (in alphabetical order)

BELGIUM, THE CEREBRAL CHOICE- "The Broken Circle Breakdown" shifts timelines so often that is impossible not to be confused. It's only when things start to pieced together that you realize there's a method to the director's madness. This challenging film takes on cancer, mortality, religion, American foreign policy, sex and a wonderful bluegrass soundtrack....but it's easy to see some people getting lost along the way.

CAMBODIA, THE SENTIMENTAL CHOICE- Cambodia's documentary is "The Missing Picture" is heart-wrenching look at the Khmer Rouge genocide from the point of view of a survivor. Rithy Panh, Cambodia's first-ever Oscar nominee, escaped from a concentration camp as a teenager and made this film about his family....none of whom survived. No story at the Oscar has a better backstory than this Cannes "Un Certain Regard" winner.

DENMARK, THE CRITIC'S CHOICE- Denmark's "The Hunt", about how a series of false accusations of child abuse ruin the life of a teacher living in a small town, probably has the best reviews of the five films. This ethical dream is a perfect combination of arthouse subject matter and yet manages to mainstream in its tale of a normal man's life spinning out of control.

ITALY, THE FAVORITE- Italy's "The Great Beauty" went home empty-handed at Cannes 2013....but with enough buzz to last the whole year. This ode to Rome and Federico Fellini has defied all of my expectations by winning the two major pre-cursors (the Golden Globes and BAFTA) as well as a host of other Best Foreign Film awards in the USA despite my opinion...long and verbose.

PALESTINE, THE EXCITING CHOICE- If you were to remake these five films, set them all in America in English with a major star, Belgium, Cambodia and Italy would still be 100% arthouse. Denmark might make a few more bucks at the box-office but Hany Abu-Assad's dynamic, twisty thriller "Omar" would be able to be a major hit. It's clearly the most exciting choice that Oscar voters could make, though the record in this category usually shies away from "exciting" films.

So who's going to win?

First off, documentaries are a tough sell in this category and CAMBODIA's "The Missing Picture", which relies mostly on narration (since, as the title implies, visual images of the Khmer Genocide are largely "missing").....It's a tough watch. PALESTINE's "Omar" is my favorite of the five films and it highlights important political perspectives that we rarely get to hear about in the United States....but this isn't the usual kind of movie that wins an Oscar.

The rules were tweaked this year so that voters don't have to prove they saw all five films (though they are asked not to vote if they haven't seen all five). This strongly gives an edge to "The Great Beauty" for two reasons....Number one, it was the most widely released of the five....A lot of people have been able to see it in the theatre (Note: AMPAS did sent out DVD screeners to members of all five films). To a lesser extent, this rule benefits "The Hunt", which also got a decent US release in LA, New York and elsewhere. "The Broken Circle Breakdown" doesn't make sense if you just watch the beginning of the film and "The Missing Picture" and "Omar" take awhile to hit their stride. "The Great Beauty" starts off with a bang.....(although in my opinion, it goes downhill in the second half when it strays into David Lynch territory).

So, it comes down to "The Hunt" and "The Great Beauty"....It's going to be close....More critics love "The Great Beauty" than I expected but I expect the more relatable "The Hunt" (like "The Secret in Their Eyes" to meet the more arty spectacle of "Beauty" (this year's "White Ribbon".)

Other Predictions:
Best Picture- "12 Years A Slave" (seen 8 out of 9)
Best Actor- Chiwetel Ejiofor (seen all)
Best Actress- Cate Blanchett (seen all)
Best Supporting Actor- Jared Leto (seen 4 of 5)
Best Supporting Actress- Lupita Nyongo (seen all)
Best Director- Alfonso Cuaron (seen all)
Best Animated Film- The Wind Rises (yes, over "Frozen")
Short Film- Just Before Losing Everything (ironically, the only one I haven't seen)

May the best films win!