Friday, February 26, 2010

One Category at a Time: Best Foreign Language Film

This branch has shown us time and time again that they are not fond of bold, challenging, or unconventional films, which often makes them the target of critical damnation. But I'll give 'em this; it sure makes their category interesting to predict!

In previous years, critical favourites like Waltz with Bashir or Pan's Labyrinth were rudely passed over in favour of tamer, less original films like Departures or The Lives of Others. But clever Oscar poolies would have won their Oscar pools by predicting those less-acclaimed movies because they understood that the perceived "front-runners" were not the sort of movies this branch prefers.

This year's perceived "front-runners" would be the exceptional A Prophet from France and the overrated The White Ribbon from Germany. They are certainly the most accomplished and critically praised of the five, but A Prophet is way too violent and The White Ribbon is way too boring. Even its WWII-related themes are too subtle and oblique to register with this normally WWII-obsessed branch.

Ajami has relevant themes about the religious situation in the Middle East, but is violent and has a disconnected narrative. The Milk of Sorrow (a fine film in my opinion) is certainly more accommodating to their milder tastes, but is very artsy and slow-moving.

If there's a smart bet this year it's The Secret in Their Eyes, which should appeal to everyone with its well-paced plot, memorable twists, emotional pulls, and multiple themes. Not to mention that you can appreciate it in one viewing without thinking too hard.

Will win: The Secret in Their Eyes
Should win: A Prophet

1 comment:

Amir said...

i would love to see "a prophet" take this. the white ribbon wouldnt be disappointing either. i actually enjoyed the argentine film as well, but it definitely doesn't stand up to the other two.

however, i have to disagree with you on the 2006 award. i loved pan's labyrinth, but the lives of others compeletely blew me away. i slightly favor this movie over pan. it might not have been as original, but you can't necessarily hold that fact against it. i feel like its traditional narrative and production values actually helped emphasize the effect of the humane story it tells. not to mention all the flawless performances.