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Former Husband and Wife Top Contenders: Oscar Predictions Best Director, Foreign Language Film

James Cameron, Avatar (with Sam Worthington)

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air (with George Clooney)

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air (with George Clooney)

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (with Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz)

Four of the directors above were nominated by the Directors Guild of America. European Film Award winner Michael Haneke is the exception. We're replacing DGA choice Lee Daniels with Haneke because we've reached a tentative consensus. Actually, we've reached no consensus at all. Haneke is on the list simply because we've decided to go out on a limb once again.

Of course, the DGA and the Academy seldom agree 100 percent on their choice of nominees. Smaller and foreign films usually fare much better with the Academy. Also, Haneke's The White Ribbon is a director's film, much like Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker or Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a director's film. Lee Daniels' Precious is less obviously so. One could see it as a screenwriter's and/or an actor's film.

Having said that, Daniels has a great chance of landing a nomination – greater, in fact, than Haneke. But every year really unexpected surprises take place when the Oscar nominations are announced, and this may be one of them. Remember, a fair number of Academy members watched the foreign-language film screenings. If they admired The White Ribbon – it's one of the nine semi-finalists in that category – they surely remembered Michael Haneke when filling out their ballots.

Three other strong possibilities to replace Daniels are Clint Eastwood, less because of Invictus than because he's Clint Eastwood; Neill Blomkamp of the sleeper hit District 9; and the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man, a biting comedy that has a number of ardent fans.

Less likely: Lone Scherfig, An Education.

Photos: Up in the Air (Dale Robinette / Paramount); The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment); Avatar (Mark Fellman / 20th Century Fox); Inglourious Basterds (François Duhamel / The Weinstein Co.)

Best Foreign Language Film

Ajami

Ajami, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani (Israel)

Tahar Rahim in A Prophet

A Prophet, Jacques Audiard (France)

Ricardo Darin in The Secret of Her Eyes

The Secret in Their Eyes, Juan Jose Campanella (Argentina)

The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke (Germany)

Winter in Wartime

Winter in Wartime, Martin Koolhoven (The Netherlands)

The best foreign language film category is especially difficult to predict because only a group of about 20 Academy members will decide on the five nominees. Thanks to that set-up, Pedro Almodóvar's Volver – sure to get nominated three years ago – was left out.

The White Ribbon, A Prophet, and The Secret in Their Eyes are about as sure to be included as possible. (But don't forget Volver.) Winter in Wartime would have been a shoo-in if the Academy's old set-up were still in place – it's set during World War II, those foreign-language film voting members' all-time favorite era. But under the new set-up, three years ago Paul Verhoeven's Dutch-made World War II-set The Black Book ended up not getting a nomination. So, who knows?

Ajami, last year's winner of the Israeli Academy Award, is the iffiest one on the list above. Claudia Llosa's Berlin winner The Milk of Sorrow (Peru) and Warwick Thornton's Australian Film Institute winner Samson & Delilah (Australia) are two other strong possibilities. But don't be too shocked if two little-known films, Ermek Tursunov's Kelin (Kazakhstan) and Stephan Komandarev's The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner (Bulgaria), end up shortlisted.

Photos: A Prophet (Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics); The White Ribbon (Films du Losange / Sony Pictures Classics); Winter in Wartime (Isabella Films); Ajami (Inosan / Vertigo); The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner (Vertigo / Inforg / Pallas)

2010 Oscar Predictions

Best Documentary Feature

Agnes Varda in The Beaches of Agnes

The Beaches of Agnes, Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)

The Cove by Louie Psihoyos

The Cove, Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)

Food, Inc., Robert Kenner

Food, Inc., Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Mark N. Hopkins

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)

Like in the best foreign language film category, the best documentary feature Academy Award nominations are decided by a relatively small group of people. Like in the best foreign language film category, controversies have plagued the Academy's documentary branch since its inception decades ago.

Four of the five films above have been widely talked about, especially The Beaches of Agnes, which earned veteran Agnes Varda a Cesar last year, and The Cove, a topical and multiple award-winning documentary about the merciless slaughter of dolphins in the fishing town of Taiji, Japan. Depending on when ballots for this category were due, the Haiti earthquake may have helped Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders. That's why we've included it here. Admittedly, it's a wild guess.

Other strong possibilities are Greg Barker's Sergio, about the United Nations representative killed in Iraq; Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey's Mugabe the White African, a portrait of a white family fighting to keep their land in today's Zimbabwe; and James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo's Every Little Step, about auditions for a Chorus Line revival.

But this being the feature documentary category, any of the 15 semi-finalists may land a nomination. And some of the absolute favorites may be left out.

Former Husband and Wife Top Contenders: Oscar Predictions Best Director, Foreign Language Film © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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