Oscars 2010: Best Foreign Language Film


We often forget that the Oscars are primarily a celebration of American cinema and American opinions about other country’s cinema. Thus, we have the “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” category. With 10 Best Picture nominees, we might not be long for a debate about whether Foreign films should count. For example, you can’t tell me that a few years back Pan’s Labyrinth wasn’t deserving of a Best Picture nod (or even the film that beat it in this category, The Lives of Others.)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

  • The White Ribbon (Germany)
  • A Prophet (France)
  • The Secret in their Eyes (Argentina)
  • Ajami (Israel)
  • The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

This year there weren’t any foreign films that received massive commercial attention in the states. The closest we got were the two leading candidates in this category: The White Ribbon and A Prophet. “Ribbon” opened domestically on Jan 1 and “Prophet” this past weekend. Both films, I believe, have been overshadowed by the 10 Best Picture nominees. Suddenly the most avid moviegoers have 10 films to see, not five. This is the same crowd that tends to catch these kinds of films.

When you look at past winners in this category, the Academy tends to spread the love around and not tend to award the more popular choices. Last year, huge favorite Waltz with Bashir (Israel) lost out to Japan’s Okuribito, which no one saw coming. Then there was the aforementioned The Lives of Others beating huge favorite Pan’s Labyrinth. Way in the 2002 ceremony, the beloved French film Amelie lost to No Man’s Land (Bosnia). Only Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the big winner.

Go back six years and a different country has won each year: Japan (2009), Austria (2008), Germany (2007), South Africa (2006), Spain (2005), Canada (2004).  Germany is the only country to have one twice in the last ten years unless you count Spain’s win in the 2000 Oscars.

So who will it be? The black and white mystery with creepy children or the Arab man who goes to French prison and becomes a mafia kingpin? Maybe even Argentina’s film version of the show “Cold Case”  as a dark horse even though no American critics have seen it? The Academy loves Germany, but France has been without a winner for a long time unless you count the Canadian film from 2004 being in French. I’ve seen neither film. Well, since type that last sentence, I’ve done some reading.

Prediction: A Prophet (France)

Haneke’s film might be a little too disturbing for some critics and the Rotten Tomatoes score is 12 percent greater for “Prophet.”