They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Early Look at Foreign Language Film Race

By J. Don Birnam

November 1, 2017

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Cambodia: Angelina Star Power Could Boost “First They Killed My Father”

Angelina Jolie made her best movie to date, the Cambodian production First They Killed My Father. Yes, an American director like Jolie can helm a movie that eventually lands in this category, because all the elements are met. First, the movie is entirely in a foreign language. Second, the movie’s production team is substantially foreign, and the film was made predominately in that matter. Jolie herself is a citizen of Cambodia, from whence she adopted two sons. So as bizarre and perhaps even unfair as it may seem, Cambodia has a chance with Jolie’s star power behind it.

But is the movie good enough and deserving? Thankfully, yes, such that a nomination would not feel like cronyism. The movie is a harrowing but also muted look at the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge through the eyes of a young girl. The film has little dialogue but packs a powerful punch with its emotional and visceral analysis and its incredibly important and compelling story. Featuring a strong performance by the young female lead and an emotional conclusion, I certainly would not mind seeing this movie make the finalists.


Nomination Chances: 8

Chile: “A Fantastic Woman” Brings Transgender Story to The Forefront
A number of countries each year feature LGBT-themed stories, though none that I can recall in recent memory has carried the day. Indeed, a few are even nominated in this space that have gay or lesbian themes at the forefront. This year, however, it may be harder for the volunteer nominators to ignore the topic, as a surprisingly large number of countries are submitting films with these ideas (and also, by the way, with female directors).

In any case, Chile has submitted a heartwarming, well-made, and beautiful movie about a transgender woman who has to deal with the hateful and transphobic attacks of her lover’s family after he passes away and she is left with little legal protection. Played by a Chilean trans actress, the star in A Fantastic Woman portrays a very real portrait of the lives of transgender individuals today, with all of its ups and downs. At the heart of the story is a simple but real performance, groundbreaking in its own right, which could be enough to lift the otherwise not-familiar story to a nomination.

Nomination Chances: 6

Denmark: “You Disappear” Fades From Memory

In Denmark’s submission, a woman deals with the fallout of her husband being accused of embezzling money from the school he has long-served. It turns out that the man has a degenerative brain tumor that causes him to lose touch with reality and act in bizarre ways. The story is about the wife dealing with this difficult reality and having to confront what is truth and what is fiction. There is a twist in there but the story overall proceeds quietly and morosely, never quite gripping you despite the subject matter, perhaps because it is anchored around a wooden legal proceeding. This one is not going to be a nominee.

Nomination Chances: 1

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