Usually by now we would have a solid favourite headed towards the Oscar nominations. Last year, for example, Drive My Car was the clear winner. The years before that, Another Round, Parasite and Roma were all the overwhelming frontrunners to win best International Feature. This year, however, is a little different.
The year started with two films becoming instant contenders out of Cannes Film Festival: Decision to Leave (South Korea) and Close (Belgium). The ecstatic reviews coming from their world premieres elevated them to early frontrunner status. Close also won the National Board of Review early in the award season. But as more awards started to be announced, EO (Poland) started to win a lot of the top prizes, such as LA and NY, the two top critics groups. The momentum shifted again though when All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany) became shortlisted for a ton of categories, including original score, make up and hairstyling, sound, and visual effects. This shows that the film has a lot of support within The Academy. The film is now predicted to maybe be nominated for best picture and best director as well. The Golden Globes though snubbed the German film and rewarded Argentina, 1985 (Argentina) as the winner last week, throwing another curveball into the race.
On December 21, the list of 92 contenders got reduced down to 15. The following films are the finalists:
So which films do we think will get nominated on January 24th? We feel like the 15 films can be divided into three groups.
Let's start with the five films that have been getting nominated at various award shows, that have been released in theatres across North America, and that seem to be just on the cusp of a nomination:
Holy Spider (Denmark)
Saint Omer (France)
Last Film Show (India)
These five films have all run brilliant campaigns this season. And all have reasons why they can be nominated.
Last Film Show is backed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and is available on video on demand across North America. But we feel that it has the least chance of these five films to be nominated. It feels like RRR has taken most of the buzz for India this year, and that voters might back that film instead of Last Film Show.
Saint Omer is being released in theatres this weekend. It has some of the best reviews of the year. Alice Diop just got nominated for best new director at the DGA awards. The film was nominated at the NBR awards and it was the runner-up at the LA Critic Awards. But despite seeming like a sure-bet nominee, it feels like it has less buzz than some of the other films that were shortlisted, and so we feel that it will just miss being nominated.
Despite having the lowest reviews of all the shortlisted films, Bardo is directed by Alejandro Inarritu so it makes it an automatic contender. It's also backed by Netflix. The film also was just nominated for best cinematography at the ASC guild awards and for best production design at the ADG guild awards. It has the support from members of The Academy. But for us, it's the weakest film, and if it was directed by anyone else it wouldn't have been shortlisted.
Holy Spider and Corsage are the two films that we think are the strongest of the five. Both films are led by career best performances from their lead actresses. Both films are in wide release across North America this weekend. Both films have picked up awards this season, and both films were shortlisted by BAFTA as well. But both films also missed out on the Golden Globe nominations and from the Critics Choice Awards despite brilliant campaigns all season long. This is why we feel both will just miss out in the end.
(Sweden, Pakistan, Cambodia)
So if we feel like these five films won't get nominated, then let's take a look at the next set of films.
These five films could become nominated due to how brilliant they are, but they are also flying under the radar and making it to the final five will be really surprising for most people. These films we feel are wildcards:
Return to Seoul (Cambodia)
The Quiet Girl (Ireland)
The Blue Caftan (Morocco)
Boy From Heaven (Sweden)
There are always a surprise though when the nominations are announced. Last year no one thought Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom would be nominated. The year before that, The Man Who Sold His Skin got nominated. The Academy members must see all 15 films in order to vote so all of a sudden these films are on an even platter compared to the other ten films who are more widely known.
So who might be the surprise one this year?
Boy From Heaven will be the unlikeliest from this group to be nominated. It was the one film that surprised us the most when it became shortlisted, so we feel we can eliminate it.
Joyland has huge momentum going for it, including Malala Yousafzai and Riz Ahmed backing the film as producers, but when it comes to reviews, it's slightly behind the others, and so we think it won't be nominated, despite being one of our favourites of the year.
Return to Seoul, The Blue Caftan and The Quiet Girl all have Metacritic scores of 88, 90, and 89. But on Letterboxd and iMBD, Return to Seoul is the film slightly behind the other two, so we think it won't be nominated.
So we're down to The Blue Caftan and The Quiet Girl. In a perfect world, both of them will be nominated. Both films have some of the best reviews of the year. They're both tearjerkers. They're both impossible not to like. They are two of the best films of the year. If we had to pick one, we're giving the slight edge to The Quiet Girl because the film has brilliantly campaigned all season long and it seems to have more momentum than the Moroccan film.
(Poland, South Korea, Argentina)
So now we head to the five frontrunners:
Argentina, 1985 (Argentina)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)
Decision to Leave (South Korea).
Most people are predicting these five films to be nominated. It's the easy five to pick. And it feels wrong not to pick these five to be nominated. But if we think that The Quiet Girl will be nominated, and maybe The Blue Caftan, then one must drop.
All Quiet on the Western Front is the sure bet nominee. It is right now being predicted to get nominated for a couple of other categories, including potentially best picture and best director so it's the easy pick to getting nominated for International Feature.
Close is the other film that we feel is relatively safe. It's our favourite film of the year. It's gut-punchingly good and I can't see Academy members not voting for it. It won NBR. It got nominated for the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards and it feels like it can win the entire category as well.
Argentina, 1985 cemented its place when it won the Golden Globe Awards. It's a film that's impossible not to like and it's also been hitting all the nominations possible. It's an easy watch, it's incredibly well acted and having a film from South America getting nominated would be fantastic. We think it's in.
The next two films feel less safe. Decision to Leave is not the easiest of films to watch. It's a heavy film, at times difficult to follow, heavy in dialogue, and long. But it's also breathtakingly beautiful, superbly acted, with a brilliant ending. It has also hit all the key nominations from all the various groups and South Korea has won before.
Poland has also won before. EO also won a ton of prizes all season long. Everyone loves animals, and following EO for the entire film is a joy to watch. Its message is also incredibly important and it's a film that everyone seems to like. But when looking over its reviews, it's the lowest of these five films.
So who are the five films we predict will get nominated?
We think EO and The Blue Caftan will just miss out and so we will predict the following five films: