Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:30 am

The Original BJ wrote:But my question is, will the simple fact that it's a comedy hurt its chances? Because this isn't a category that is kind to comic films -- in my years of Oscar-watching, the only winner that really had much of a sense of humor is All About My Mother, and that had plenty of tragedy to go along with the laughs. So when was the last straight-up comedy to win this prize? Someone who is more well-versed in the history of this category than I am will have to answer. Looking at a lot of recent winners (A Separation, Amour, Ida, Son of Saul), those are HEAVY movies, and I wonder if something like The Salesman just might be closer to the kind of movie voters think of as "best" than Toni Erdmann, despite the fact that it uses its humor to explore some complex ideas about parent-child relationships.



It's been a long long time since a comedy won this category, though really Toni Erdmann is a drama/comedy or dramedy as some people now refer to films that combine the two elements (the same has been said of Manchester by the Sea). There have been a few drama/comedies the most recent though was probably Life is Beautiful (1998).

The last out and out comedy to win was Get Out Your Handkerchiefs in 1978 from France directed by Bertrand Blier with Carole Laure, Gerard Depardieu & Patrick Dewaere. Like much of Blier's work from the 1970's the film really pushes the envelope.

The plot from Wikipedia (MAJOR SPOILERS):

Raoul, Solange, and Stéphane work at a boys' camp in the summer, where they meet a 13-year-old math prodigy named Christian Belœil, who is bullied by the other boys. Solange becomes protective of Christian and one night lets him sleep in her bed. She awakes to find Christian exploring her body and scolds him. They make up and have sex, despite a drastic age difference. Afterwards, Solange becomes dependent on the boy, to the point where Raoul, Stéphane, and she kidnap him from his boarding school. Christian eventually impregnates her, and the film ends with Raoul and Stéphane walking away after serving six months in prison.

This film could NEVER be made now. Actually it was an inspired choice, with really the only other suitable winner from 1978 being The Glass Cell from West Germany.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:13 pm

Elle has its uneven spots -- I think plot-wise you could easily make the argument that it's juggling more threads than necessary -- but it's bracing and provocative in ways that many films on this list are not, and I'm sorry it didn't make the lineup.

I didn't care for Tanna at all. I think there's way too little plot to justify the (not lengthy) running time, and those story points are so archetypal they fail to elucidate much of anything about the culture depicted beyond ideas about marriage that I assume will seem hopelessly outdated to most contemporary audiences. I don't even think the movie is technically that well made, either.

A Man Called Ove is amusing enough in a very low-grade sort of way, but I can't say the narrative ever really kicked into high gear for me -- I just didn't find the collection of vignettes to be as compelling as I would have wanted, and certainly the backstory feels simplistic in a very "and this is what made him the way he is" sort of way. It's all right, but would be sort of ho-hum as a winner for me.

Mister Tee certainly pegged Land of Mine correctly -- much of its effect relies on the same kind of "anyone could be blown up at any time" milieu as The Hurt Locker, and those who find that too anxiety-inducing should pass. As for me (a Hurt Locker acolyte), I found the movie pretty engaging, and I think the filmmakers do an effective job at coming up with increasingly surprising ways to put the film's characters in danger so it doesn't feel repetitive. I do think the overall arc is a bit pat, though -- the protagonist's journey feels like something I've seen before, even if the specific subject matter was new to me.

I saw The Salesman the day of the Muslim ban -- before the airport protests and reports of people being detained -- and even without knowledge of what was to come, I thought it could be a very possible winner. I think it's a powerful piece of storytelling, if not, for me, on par with A Separation -- the earlier film just felt flawlessly plotted, whereas I agree The Salesman could have used an extra turn once it gets to that last act. Still, it's a very interesting portrait of the breakdown of a relationship due to an incident where neither partner is really at fault, and though the chance for voters to make a political statement could certainly push it over the edge, I think it might end up being their favorite choice regardless.

After seeing Toni Erdmann, I had my doubts about it winning (and that was even before it had lost the Globe), though for a different reason than some of you. I actually don't think the movie is that inaccessible, simply because it's so entertaining -- any time Toni Erdmann showed up, my audience laughed consistently, and by the time the story reached the naked party scene, everyone around me was in stitches. So I guess I don't see the movie being such a turn-off for voters that it would cause immense resistance to choosing it. (As for my quibbles, I will say that it could have been shorter, and that the overall resolution of the narrative feels a bit thin to me -- all her dad needed to do was show up to the party dressed like that and all was forgiven? That seems too easy.)

But my question is, will the simple fact that it's a comedy hurt its chances? Because this isn't a category that is kind to comic films -- in my years of Oscar-watching, the only winner that really had much of a sense of humor is All About My Mother, and that had plenty of tragedy to go along with the laughs. So when was the last straight-up comedy to win this prize? Someone who is more well-versed in the history of this category than I am will have to answer. Looking at a lot of recent winners (A Separation, Amour, Ida, Son of Saul), those are HEAVY movies, and I wonder if something like The Salesman just might be closer to the kind of movie voters think of as "best" than Toni Erdmann, despite the fact that it uses its humor to explore some complex ideas about parent-child relationships.

I'm leaning toward predicting The Salesman, though it feels like this category is ripe for any number of surprise winners. Should Asghar Farhadi prevail, he will join a fairly short list of filmmakers who have won this category twice -- De Sica, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, and René Clément. (And only the first three won both prizes once Foreign Language Film had been established as a competitive category.)

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Feb 18, 2017 7:35 pm

The minute we got to the scene in Toni Erdmann of the guy masturbating onto the petit fours, I knew this wasn't gonna win the Oscar. But then again, the voters are Hollywood people and who's to say they haven't done the same thing?
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:29 am

Mister Tee wrote: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.



Thanks for the outline of the voting changes Mister Tee. I was going to post something similar myself, though I thought the voting had changed the year A Separation or Amour won.

Keeping all this in mind, the smart money is on Toni Erdmann but for the reasons you have outlined an upset would not be out of the question with Land of Mine and A Man Called Ove being the most probable spoilers. A win to The Salesman would be purely political. Only Shahan Hosseini grounds the film until is ridiculous conslusion. Taraneh Alidoosti who like Hosseini has appeared in a number of Farhadi's films over the years is given a thankless role that she can do little with.

In place of a completely justified win for Toni Erdmann, Land of Mine or A Man Called Ove wouldn't bother me too much. Both films would reasonably respectable winners, particularly when one looks at some of the previous winners over the years in this category.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:04 am

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.

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Categories One-by-One: Foreign Language Film

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:52 pm

The nominees:

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann


One of the more interesting races this year, I think. I've seen three of these (Iran, Australia and Germany). Tanna was interesting. Could win votes for being so different from the others but ultimately, I doubt it will prevail. The Oscar I think will be the between the other two I've seen The Salesman and Toni Erdmann. With Elle out of the way, Toni Erdmann has become the de facto critics' pick in this category. However, I've heard buzz that the reaction of this film within the Academy at large is muted, despite the fact that Hollywood is planning to remake it. I think the political climate will win votes for The Salesman. I think the Academy would not resist a big middle finger to Trump than to award the Oscar to an unfortunately absent Asghar Farhadi.
Last edited by anonymous1980 on Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:33 am, edited 1 time in total.


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