Coming attractions and reviews have persuaded me that Land of Mine will offer lots of what made The Hurt Locker (for me) excruciating: constant threat of someone being blown up. So, unless it stages an upset win, I'm going to pass.
I've seen the other four.
Tanna proudly announces itself as a true story, but, man, it's easy to imagine the pitch meeting -- "It's Romeo and Juliet, only here she wants to marry Paris, but her parents want her to marry Romeo to make peace between the families". As I've noted here before, stories set in exotic locales are not my favorites, and the plot here requires one to care about cultural mores that, for much of the world, feels centuries old (even though the event depicted is said to have taken place in the late 1980s). The film is pretty enough, but it mostly amounts to, Wow, primitive cultures need to get past those silly notions.
I wrote about A Man Called Ove in the review thread. To briefly reiterate: It's watchable enough in the way of a not-quite-trash-but-not-quite-good best-seller, but it has nowhere near the quality one expects in a year's best competition.
I found The Salesman interesting much of the way -- I liked it more than The Past. But once it gets past the big late plot reveal, it seems to slow down significantly: the last 20-25 minutes seem like they go on forever, and what had been an engrossing effort became a bit of a chore to endure. I also don't think whatever thematics were intended by the Death of a Salesman background ever came fully through. Not a terrible choice, but not a deeply distinctive one.
Toni Erdmann is easily the most artistically impressive, but, as I said in the review thread, I'm afraid its very ambition and achievement may work against it with many voters; it feels like a movie that had to be rescued to even get as far as nomination.
That said, I'm not sure I fully know how voting in this category goes at this point. Quick recap: from the category's establishment in 1956 to the mid-1970s, voting was open to the general membership, and they usually chose the most prominent/critically-endorsed film, even if that most prominent film was artistically challenging (like some early Bergmans, or Bunuel's Discreet Charm). In the mid-70s, some started complaining that the losing films suffered unfairly from lower profiles (many were films you'd barely heard of). So, in a laudable attempt at equality, the Academy chose to limit voting to those who could prove they'd seen all five nominees. This provided notable upsets in the near-term (Black and White in Color over Seven Beauties and Cousin Cousine was a major jaw-dropper), and it soon became clear that only older/retired members really had time to get to the necessary screenings. The winners this smaller group chose made for a precipitous drop from the Bergman/Fellini/Truffaut years --sentimental stories, especially from the World War II era, became the template for victory. The submitting countries, seeing how the game was now played, began to put forth films most likely to appeal to that demographic...meaning that often the best films from abroad didn't even have an opportunity to score.
Whether because the Academy saw this and wanted to remedy it, or simply because the ubiquity of screeners had eliminated any disadvantage films might once have had, the rule was changed again after 2012: once more, the full membership got to vote. And, for the first couple of years, it was like being back in the 60s: the most famous, most critically praised films -- The Great Beauty, Ida, Son of Saul -- won, even though they (especially Beauty and Saul) were a bit more out-there than winners from the Departures era had been.
The question is, does that new dynamic hold this year, even with a critical front-runner, Toni Erdmann, that is considerably harder for a Departures voter to swallow than Son of Saul was? Are people now just voting on reputation (as more than one Oscar blogger has intimated), or might they watch a film like Toni Erdmann and say, Sorry, critics, I was with you for The Great Beauty, but this is a bridge too far. Some of these people might opt for Ove (the book was a best-seller for a reason; people respond to its story). Or they might take a middle course and go for the more digestible The Salesman -- which, as anonymous notes, can at the same time offer people the feeling they're Sticking It to the Man. Or...and this is the thing when there's confusion in a category...if votes are divided enough among those three, one of the other two could slip through. And I might end up having to see Land of Mine after all.
I'm still thinking on this one, and whatever I choose in the end will be a guess.