Monday, January 11, 2016


So, I predicted five of the nine shortlisted films.....The only real shock was the inclusion of "Viva", the Spanish-language LGBT film from More on that later. Most of all, I was thrilled at the inclusion of the quirky film from Belgium- "The Brand New Testament", which was my favorite film of 2015. We all know "Son of Saul" is going to win anyway (although I've seen rumors swirling that it was actually one of the three films "saved" by the Executive Committee after it allegedly failed to advance from the main group) so this is mostly academic.

Congratulations especially to Colombia, Ireland and Jordan, which are in the Oscar finals for the very first time (Colombia has been submitting films for over thirty years).

With the exception of "Viva", I really think all the shortlisted films have a chance to make the Final Five. Full disclosure: I've seen "Brand New Testament", "Embrace of the Serpent", "Labyrinth of Lies", "Mustang", "Theeb" and "Viva", but haven't managed to get my hands on "Son of Saul" or the two Nordic entries ("A War" and "The Fencer").

My final predictions are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary and Jordan. 

1. HUNGARY- "Son of Saul"
2. FRANCE- "Mustang"
3. DENMARK- "A War"

There's little need to say anything about more about front-runners "Son of Saul" and "Mustang". Most people agree that Holocaust drama "Son of Saul" is going to win, and many truly believe it to be the best Foreign Film of the year (I haven't seen it, though I have seen six of its competitors here). Most people also believe that the gentler "Mustang" is the only film with a chance to defeat it. Female-centric films are almost never nominated in this category, but "Mustang" presses all the right buttons.

Though virtually nobody is talking about it, I also feel confident about "A War" from Denmark. This is a film told in two parts, about a Danish soldier in Afghanistan who stands accused of human rights violations in a confusing moment during wartime. The Afghanistan segment will strongly resonate with American voters who have seen the Afghanistan conflict inflict violence on both American and Afghan sides for the past fifteen years. The segment in Denmark combines courtroom drama and family drama, two of Oscar's favorite genres. Denmark (population: 5.7 million) has made the shortlist five of the past six years, winning one Oscar and garnering two additional nominations. "A War" will probably rack up a third.

4. BELGIUM- "A Brand New Testament"
5. JORDAN- "Theeb"
6. FINLAND- "The Fencer"

I keep juggling these three films, trying to figure out which one is likely to miss out on a nomination. And yes, that's Catherine Deneuve in bed with a gorilla.

There's precedence for all three of these movies to be here....Belgium is hoping for a 10-year supernatural "Amelie"....Jordan wants to follow in the footsteps of "Journey of Hope".....And Finland is....well.....every Oscar nominated-film in history about a teacher inspiring students or about a prisoner on the run, or the evils of Communism.....Wow, no wonder it made the shortlist!

Let's look at the pros and cons:

In brief: God's 10-year old daughter sets out to overthrow her cruel father by selecting six Brussels residents at random to be her new disciples,
Pros: GG nominee. The tone and visuals will remind some of 5-time Oscar nominee "Amelie". It makes you laugh and makes you cry. It's also the best film of 2015 (though Oscar won't take that into account)
Cons: It's by far the least serious of the nine films; the film gets downright weird (even before Catherine Denuve and the gorilla) and the whimsy and silliness may turn off some stodgy Oscar voters.
Bottom Line: I'm actually pretty shocked it made the shortlist but the film is so good, I think it will make the Final Five.

In brief: A champion Estonian fencer begins teaching in a small town in order to evade the Soviet secret police.
Pros: Shock GG nominee. It's exactly the sort of conservative film Oscar usually old-fashioned period piece with children and an easy-to-follow story.
Cons: Reviews have actually been kind of 'meh', especially at home. It's won no awards anywhere.
Bottom Line: It's so close! I think the race with Jordan could come down to a few votes!

In brief: A young Bedouin boy struggles to survive after sneaking into the desert to follow his brother, who has been sent by his tribe to guide a WWI British soldier.
Pros: BAFTA nominee. Child-in-peril storyline, beautifully filmed desert scenery. Exotic but still relatable and accessible. Strong run of festival showings worldwide since its 2014 Venice premiere.
Cons: Snubbed at the Globes, a strong precursor. Oscar traditionally prefers their films European.
Bottom Line: With stronger reviews than "The Fencer" and a more accessible plotline than "Serpent", I think Jordan can get an Oscar nod on their second try.

Having said that, Colombia and Germany aren't out of the running yet!

7. COLOMBIA- "Embrace of the Serpent"
8. GERMANY- "Labyrinth of Lies"
9. IRELAND- "Viva"

I've seen all three of these films, so I feel I have some credibility here.

I'm so sorry Colombia! I so wanted to predict you'd get a nomination! "Embrace of the Serpent" is this year's intellectual choice and a probable Elite Committee save, but that didn't help "Force Majeure" or "Confessions" make it to the finals. "Embrace of the Serpent" is a lovingly created two-hour-plus B&W movie, filmed in indigenous South American languages, that asks the viewer to ponder colonialism, imperialism, religion, loneliness and two distinct stories of two solo Western explorers visiting the same warrior thirty years apart. It's well-made and complicated and challenging and not always an easy watch. It would make a deserving nominee but I'm skeptical of its chances.

As for "Viva" and "Labyrinth of Lies". Simply put, they're not good enough.

First of all, I'm shocked "Viva" is even here. It's a good movie, but it's flawed. I saw it with three friends at the Busan Film Festival. All four of us enjoyed it, though none of us were particularly impressed. I'm also shocked because gay-themed films almost never score here....the last one I can remember was "Strawberry & Chocolate" (ironically, also a "Cuban" film starring Jorge Perugorria). The acting is great and the film features one of the best drag performances I've ever seen anywhere. But the screenplay needs work, with a sudden awkward tonal shift midway. Anyway, I think "Viva" is way out of its league and the longest of long-shots. 

That's too bad because it's a better film than "Labyrinth of Lies". The issue is so important, that it must be a good film, right? Wrong. "Labyrinth of Lies" is a real, lazy choice by the Academy (and perhaps a very smart choice by Germany). The topic (Nazi-hunting to cleanse the soul of the German nation) is certainly an important one, but the film is so cliched and formulaic that in terms of writing and directing, it's really just a well-made TV movie. Of course, the Academy voted for the similarly themed "Sophie Scholl" and the lackluster "Baader Meinhof Komplex", so I'm worried it may still make it in. 

1 comment:

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Can't wait to find who have won it... Looking forward to your next blog to read about it, do share details about it with us. Thank you for sharing this post with us