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Oscar Predictions: Best Picture & Foreign Film

Michael Sheen, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
Michael Sheen, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon

BEST FILM

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire has to be there. It's been winning nearly every film critics' award in the United States and it has received two SAG Award nominations: best ensemble and a surprising best supporting actor nod for Dev Patel (who, ahem, happens to be the film's lead).

Frost/Nixon is a prestige production based on a prestige play. The sort of stuff prestige-hungry Academy members tend to go for even when reviewers haven't been all that kind. Also, Frost/Nixon is an actors' showcase, and actors comprise the – by far – largest contingent among Academy members. (Note: Initially, I had Doubt lumped together with Frost/Nixon. See below.)

Milk received the New York Film Critics' best film award, in addition to three SAG nods, including best ensemble. As a plus, the film has generally been greeted by highly positive reviews and, just as importantly, it's a “relevant” motion picture, considering California's recent gay marriage debacle.

The Academy tends to snub huge box office hits, partly because most of them are unadulterated garbage, partly because Academy members may feel that blockbusters don't need any awards. That said, all three Lord of the Rings films did receive best picture nominations, and I believe the same will happen with the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: until today (Jan. 19) I had the unusual Brad Pitt vehicle in the runner-up list while Doubt was one of my top-five picks. I've switched their positions – something I'd been planning on doing for a couple of weeks – because even though The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has been greeted by mixed reviews and has thus far been relegated to the sidelines by the televised awards shows (Golden Globes, Critics' Choice), it is doing quite well at the US box office and last week it received 11 nominations from the British Academy of Film.

Runners-up: Doubt, in case the actors decide to go for an acting piece with a Broadway pedigree; WALL-E, which will most likely be relegated to the animated feature category; and Gran Torino, a Clint Eastwood film in which the worshiped actor-filmmaker also stars – one with a Message of Tolerance to boot.

Long Shots: Revolutionary Road, Happy-Go-Lucky, The Reader, Rachel Getting Married, The Wrestler.

 

Everlasting Moments by Jan Troell
Everlasting Moments

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Departures (Japan)
Everlasting Moments (Sweden)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

The best foreign-language film category has usually been difficult to predict because submission and voting procedures tend to be complex – and ultimately ineffectual in terms of guaranteeing either fairness or quality. In order to be eligible to vote for the nine semi-finalists in that category, one needs to watch (at least 20 or 30 minutes of) only 20 or so of the approximately 65 submissions. Then a second group of about twenty Academy members steps in to pick the five nominees.

This year, an Academy committee will handpick three films among the semi-finalists to ensure that no 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is left out from the roster. I'm not sure, however, if this new process will make that much of a difference when it comes to the final results. In any case, barring another 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or Volver upset…

Addendum: It didn't make much of a difference. Matteo Garrone's widely praised European Film Academy winner Gomorrah was left out of the list of nine semi-finalist films. As a result, I've had to take it out of my list; in its place, I added the Japanese drama Departures, which has also been garnering much praise – and that, unlike Gomorrah, deals with death in a less shocking manner.

As for the others…

Three of Jan Troell's films have been nominated in the foreign-language category (The Emigrants, The New Land, The Flight of the Eagle), and Troell himself has received a best director nod for The Emigrants, which, back in 1972, became only the third non-English-language film to get an Oscar nomination in the best picture category. All that bodes quite well for Everlasting Moments. (You gotta remember that many – most? nearly all? – members who vote in the best foreign-language film category have been around for centuries.)

Directed by Uli Edel, The Baader Meinhof Complex mixes action with the politics of terrorism. Entertainment with a message? Either way, the film has received a Golden Globe nod, which brings publicity, which should bring more butts to (usually empty) seats when The Baader Meinhof Complex is screened for Academy members.

Directed by Laurent Cantet, The Class arrives with a Palme d'Or pedigree, excellent notices, lots of underprivileged kids, and no dead fetuses. In other words, Academy members who watch this film should feel good, which will probably make them more inclined to give this particular Cannes winner their vote.

Waltz with Bashir may suffer the fate of Persepolis – which failed to get a best foreign-language film nod, but ended up listed among the three best animated film nominees last year. Nonetheless, for the time being I'm willing to bet that this animated anti-war documentary with a Jewish theme – especially considering what's going on in Gaza at the moment – will be included among the five nominees.

Runners-up: Tony Manero (Chile), which has a character who's crazy about John Travolta (lots of Academy members could probably relate); The Home of Dark Butterflies (Finland) and Captain Abu Raed (Jordan), two among a number of submitted films that focus on boys and their problems (a theme that's dear to the heart of Academy voters in the foreign-language category); and The Song of Sparrows (Iran) by Majid Majidi, whose Children of Heaven (about boys and their problems) received a nomination in the 1990s.

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16 Comments to Oscar Predictions: Best Picture & Foreign Film

  1. Roshan

    your'll keep saying taare zameen par. but it isnt there . kash , it was there. it'd surely score well . an excellent . for all age groups

  2. Sarfaraz

    Slumdog is a disappointment in the nomination catagory. I vote for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Milk

  3. armeet

    Slumdog is a absolute disappointment mainly because it's an overrated film. With a totally unrealistic and horribly predictable plot. With the exception of the child actors, the acting (in particular the main actor) is lousy and sluggish. Kite runner, Benjamin Button or Milk are far better films with more entertaining plots and superior acting prowess to deliver greater depth to the screen.

  4. Rakesh

    well, the nominations have been declared. and i believe they are fair enough. in my opinion, slumdog millionaire should get the best picture award because it touches a subject which nobody has ever touched before. it's not come out of a big production house, and yet it's showcased fantastic cinematic work. kudos to the director and his crew for creating such a vibrant piece on the celluloid.

  5. Ursula

    I believe you should have left Doubt where it was. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may be a big box office hit but it's not that well liked despite all those nominations for British Academy Awards. They also gave lots of nominations to The Reader which will not be all that popular with the Academy.
    I think that the Curious Case will be another Dreamgirls. Everyone expected it to get a best picture nomination, but didn't.

  6. Billy

    also ich denke das the dark knight und sieben leben die besten chancen haben

  7. chinmay

    Taare Zameen Par must win in best movie in BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM. The movie contains nice message to the world and humanity as “Every Child is Special”

    Taare Zameen Par is definitely worth a watch for Matured Genre more than the kids

  8. Sam

    Ledger has to win the oscar…it would be heartbreaking not to give him for his amazing last performance…

    Slumdog is an outstanding movie and if it comes head to head with Dark Knight, it should win due to a more realistic portrayal.

  9. Gaurav Sangtani

    taare zameen par from India…

    It will win for sure,,!!!

  10. nrk

    Slumdog millionaire was sappy, unbelievable, and contrive. If it wins an oscar - for *anything* - it will be a huge disappointment - maybe even greater than when crash won the oscar for best picture.

  11. krim

    “Ploning” was the Philippines entry for the foreign-language Oscar. So “Baler” can't be be nominated in that category. Perhaps next year, depending on when “Baler” opened in the Philippines.

  12. Jens

    As a best foreign language movie I would like to mention Baler from the Philippines. It is based on a true story from the end of the 19th century . All the ingredients are there; love ,war, comedy and tragedy. But most of all you can follow the feelings of despare and surprise. Also this is the story of one of the most occupied countries in the world and the fight for freedom and independence.

  13. bhawana

    indian movie taare zameen par must be nominated in foreign film catagory,,,it has a beautiful message and can make anyone have tears in their eyes….it should be there in oscar nomination,,,rather it should win an oscar…

  14. otherio

    DEFROST NIXON will win.
    Theyll give best actor to Clint Eastwood because the guy is so old but can still hold a rifle without falling over.
    Best actress will be Kate Winslet because she's been nominated so many times and has lost so many times.
    See, it's all about quality.

  15. Alvah

    I could be completely, totally totally totally wrong but I still think that The Dark Knight will win the best picture Oscar.

  16. Othon

    WALL-E will win best animated feature and I'm wiling to bet it'll get a nomination for best picture as well. I think that WALTS WITH BASHIR will win best foreign film.
    Clint Eastwood may get a best director nomination, too. Not for Gran Torino but for Changeling.