Oscars 2011: Best Foreign and Animated Film

Currently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes two specific kinds of films as worthy of their own category: Foreign language film and animated film. Perhaps one day we’ll see a Comedy/Musical category or Independent category to give some recognition to films who never have a chance with the big boys/heavy-hitters, but that’s a topic for another day I guess.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • “In A Better World” (Denmark)
  • “Biutiful” (Mexico)
  • “Incendies” (Canada)
  • “Dogtooth” (Greece)
  • “Outside the Law” (Algeria)

May I be blunt? Predicting this category sucks. Last year the heavy favorites were “The White Ribbon” and “A Prophet” and “The Secret in their Eyes” won … and suddenly everyone starts talking about how that definitely deserved to win. Wha? I guess no one in America saw it. And that, is precisely why I don’t think the perceived “favorites” will take the honor this year.

The two longshots are “Dogtooth” and “Outside the Law.” The latter was lucky to be included while many are very pleased to see the Academy nominated the former because it’s good but definitely non-traditional. I have plans to watch “Dogtooth” on Instant Play at some point soon, so Netflix users, take note. The film follows three teens confined to their family estate and sheltered from the outside world by their parents and as such have created an alternate reality for themselves. It’s apparently a weird, violent, funny and sexually-charged film. Intrigued? Here’s the trailer. Even if you’re still interested, it’s not exactly Academy material.

The stuff we would peg as Academy material is Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s film “Bituiful” starring Javier Barden, who scored a Best Actor nomination as well. We saw Bardem lead “The Sea Inside” to a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2005. However, I keep hearing things about the film being a bit scattered and hugely depressing in spite of Bardem’s awing performance and ubiquitous screen time. In other words, “Biutiful” feels like a trap pick. It also has just a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s been over 15 years since a film with that low of a score won the Oscar.

Then there’s the Golden Globe winner “In A Better World,” from Denmark. Susanne Bier is a rather respected Danish filmmaker. Her film “Brothers” inspired 2009’s American remake with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman and this film is more intense family drama. Sexy pick? The Academy and the Golden Globes haven’t been on the same page since the aforementioned “The Seas Inside” in 2005. The Academy has burned Globe-winning Oscar favorites like “Waltz with Bashir.” A 76% on Rotten Tomatoes is also another sign.

All signs, in my opinion, point to the film that has had the least viewers and least hype, just like “Eyes” last year. That would be Canada’s French film taking place in the Middle East, “Incendies.” It follows a set of twins who travel in search of their roots in the Middle East at the request of their recently deceased mother. There, they search for their lost brother and learn secrets about their mother they never expected. This exploration of the past motif was also in “The Secret in their Eyes.”

Now, of course, watch me be wrong.

Prediction: “Incendies”

Best Animated Feature

  • “How to Train Your Dragon”
  • “The Illusionist”
  • “Toy Story 3″

What a shame we have only three nominees this year because the qualifiers were not as numerous as the last. Then again, I wouldn’t have expected any film other than these three to have a chance at winning.

I will waste no more time and say not awarding Pixar another statuette here would be a big middle finger to Disney. “Toy Story 3” has good reason to be a frontrunner for Best Picture, though it won’t get it. This is the least of its deserved awards.

“The Illusionist” comes from Sylvain Chomet, who was nominated for the 2003 animated film “The Triplets of Belleville.” It certainly poses a unique threat to “Toy Story 3,” but only one film, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”,  has ever won the Oscar and not been an American film.

“How to Train Your Dragon” was the surprise of the year in many respects. Incredible music from John Powell coupled with astounding flying visuals helped bolster a typical “Avatar” storyline into something heartwarming and breathtaking.

Presumably, Pixar will disrupt its own streak with “Cars 2,” this summer, which will surely be nominated but would have to amazingly improve on the original to be Oscar-caliber unless the pool is weaker for next year’s Oscars. That in mind, I’m okay giving it a fourth straight win. But I’m not the Academy. However, you’d have to be pretty anti-Disney not to recognize the achievement here from 2010’s highest-grossing film.

Prediction: “Toy Story 3”


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