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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Finland: “Tom of Finland” Is Too Conventional

The Finnish artist known as Tom of Finland may have done more to change the gay rights movements than any legal activist that you have ever heard of. Creating drawings of hyper sexualized, hyper masculine men sometimes in very erotic positions, he gave a generation something to hope and look up to. The story of his life is pretty well told in Finland’s submission Tom of Finland, but the movie is actually a very conventional one-two-three biography. It is a somewhat surprising turn of events given the unconventional subject matter. I would recommend the movie as an interesting historical chapter but I would be surprised if this had any traction with voters.

Nomination Chances: 2

France: “BPM” Has Weight Behind It

But hey, if you want yet another LGBT-themed movie look no further than France’s powerful Cannes movie, BPM (Beats Per Minute), about a Parisian chapter of the AIDS-activist group ACT Up! In the early 1990s. The movie is part documentary in its style, part real story. Gay characters suffering from HIV is not exactly novel, but this movie is the most daring of all the LGBT-themed movies this year, and that includes Best Picture contender Call Me By Your Name, in depicting intimacy, and emotion. I was not completely particular to the third act of the film, but it is an undeniably powerful story, and to the extent one can ever predict this wacky category, a stop in the final 9 seems guaranteed.

Nomination Chances: 8

Lebanon: “The Insult” Is Highly Topical

A Lebanese Christian man and a Palestinian refugee get into a petty dispute that morphs into epic proportions after a small spat over a broken drainpipe. The feud escalates into a monster of national proportions, told mostly through a courtroom battle that is much more scandalous than You Disappear’s. That is the story of the topical The Insult, which exposes Western audiences to some of the deep religious tensions in the Middle East and at the same time showcases facets of life in these countries that most Western audiences are likely oblivious to. The story is a moral conundrum story with a somewhat satisfactory conclusion, one that forces us to ask what the purpose of some of our deep-seeded hatred and prejudices is.

The movie itself is good if not great, but the topic would lift it in some voters’ minds.

Nomination Chances: 6


Norway: “Thelma” Seems Too Genre

It is funny how different regions seem to have different genres blowing up at the moment. Norway, along with Denmark and as you will see below, Poland, have movies that are basically soft thrillers, almost horror movies. None really work if you ask me. Contrast that to the movies in Lebanon and Palestine, which are inherently political and topical.

In any case, in Norway’s Thelma a young girl discovers she has telepathic powers, deals with being bullied for her traditional Christian beliefs born out of growing up in rural Norway, and tackles her lesbian love affair with another girl in her college. The convoluted threads do not make it interesting or gripping, and neither the fictional plot nor the political points provide much to make this movie that interesting. Though some people have loved it, I will say, which makes me slightly confused about its chances.

Nomination Chances: 3

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