Best Foreign Film, the Oscar that at times can destroy your pool or put you over the top. What’s interesting this year is there is such a strong front runner, that anyone who is paying attention to publicity talk shouldn’t have a hard time picking this one. I will take this moment though to get on my soapbox, so bare with me. It can be quite difficult to actually see foreign films. They aren’t always in the most convenient theaters, nor are they always shown at convenient times. Each Oscar season it seems that the only foreign films you get a chance to see are the ones nominated, and that’s always after the nominations come out! I consider myself a fan of foreign films and will never shy away from a good story, good acting, and a unique perspective. This year I would dare say that two of the best films I’ve seen this year are foreign films. So, let’s get down to dissecting these nominees and see how many of them I can convince you to go see!

First up we have In Darkness, from Poland. Poland is up there near the top in regards to number of nominations in the history of Oscars but has yet to take home the golden man. This film has been well reviewed. I thought I was going into another holocaust film so my expectations were low as I figured the story would be predictable. The film surprised me in its uniqueness. The entire film takes place in a sewer where a man is helping save Jews from German occupation. The cinematography of this film is spectacular considering the darkness of the sewer and how the natural lighting is quite effective. This movie is uncomfortable, and makes you feel the same way. I felt the movie was too long and as I mentioned with Hugo, pacing is important and thus when there are issues with it, you won’t win. I understand why the length was there and perhaps in another year with weaker opponents this film would have won.

Footnote is Israel’s chance at an Oscar this year. Israel is similar to Poland in regards to number of nominations and they too are as still waiting to win their first. A battle between father and son professors looking for an award to give them everything they’ve wanted, this film has been compared to being a unique contemporary fable and has a comedian in the lead role taking on a dramatic turn. While it deals with some thematic issues of traditional Israeli life I don’t think it has the same social comments as Iran’s film. I appreciate the comedic back-story of the father and son, but I just don’t think this film is going home with the Oscar.

Canada has its hopes set on Monsieur Lazhar. This is their 6th nomination with one statue and half of those nominations have been in the last decade. Canada seems to be on the rise with its films and emerging as a contender. After the suicide of a 6th grade teacher, an Algerian immigrant comes in to substitute teach for the class. This film has such a strong comment on how we deal with loss and the strictness in which schools have to deal with children. Being based off a stage play is usually something I cringe at because I feel so many film versions fail to reach the standards set on stage. This film adds some heart that really makes you think about the things we tell children. By the same team that brought the previous nominated Incendies, this film is my long shot pick, but I may be biased due to my interest in the subject matter.

Bullhead is Belgium’s film of the year and hoping to bring home the Oscar. As I write this I have literally just finished watching this film. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this crime drama noir. Multiple stories weave together flawlessly about hormone trafficing, a farmer who had to grow up to fast, and a story of revenge and love. Powerful performances lead the way in this film and once you truly see who the character Jacky is because of his traumatic youth, you understand the character on a whole other level. This film is definitely my sleeper pick and I dare say one of the better films in general I’ve seen all year. I suggest this movie to anyone who likes a good story, strong acting, and beautiful scenery. If A Separation has any film to watch out for, this is the one.

Finally, we are to the last nominated film and my pick, as well as everyone else’s, to win the Oscar. Iran’s A Separation is better than a handful of this year’s Best Picture nominees and is by far the favorite. Everyone seems to have heard some buzz about it but I’ve yet to talk to anyone else who has seen it. Check out my in depth review I gave of the film back in December and you’ll see I had this film on my list since I saw it. Numerous themes weave together for a griping story. One theme being lying and the consequences it has on oneself and others around you. The lies in this film also draw into the theme of religion and what kind of role it plays in people’s lives, especially with their guilt. You’ve got to see this film.

So Iran may just have their first Oscar and could make for some very interesting political talks but not if Belgium’s Bullhead starts seeing red and sneaks in there for a steal.

Road to the Oscars Series

January 27: Best Live Action Short – Kit Bowen

January 31: Best Animated Short – Savanna New

February 1: Best Documentary Short – Christa Youngpeter

February 2: Best Documentary – Dantzler Smith

February 3: Best Foreign Language Film – Steve Neumann

February 4: Best Visual Effects – Michael Benedict

February 5: Best Sound Editing – Michael Benedict

February 6: Best Sound Mixing – Joseph Doherty

February 7: Best Makeup – Katie Mae Peters

February 8: Best Costume Design – Jax Russo

February 9: Best Art Direction – Scott Youngbauer

February 10: Best Film Editing – Michael Benedict

February 11: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

February 12: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 14: Best Animated Feature Film – Steve Neumann

February 15: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Original Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 17: Best Supporting Actor – Joseph Doherty

February 18: Best Supporting Actress – Angela Stern

February 20: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 22: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 23: Best Picture – Kit Bowen