We correctly predicted 3/5 films. We thought that Fallen Leaves (Finland) and 20 Days in Mariupol (Ukraine) would've been nominated over Perfect Days (Japan) and The Captain (Italy). In such a competitive category this year, we should've thought that the Ukrainian film being nominated for Best Documentary might've been enough for some voters. And it was our mistake to predict an all European final five as the nominees. This means that this year four European films have been nominated, alongside one Asian film.
The Zone of Interest (United Kingdom), Perfect Days (Japan), Society of the Snow (Spain) and The Captain (Italy) were all frontrunners from the beginning of the season, after their debuts. The Teachers' Lounge (Germany) wasn't on our radar until it was shortlisted as one of the films in contention for Germany.
The Zone of Interest and The Teachers' Lounge were nominated at the NBR Awards.
The Zone of Interest, Society of the Snow and The Captain were nominated at the Golden Globe Awards.
The Zone of Interest, Society of the Snow and Perfect Days were nominated at the Critics Choice Awards.
The Zone of Interest and Society of the Snow were nominated at the BAFTA Awards.
The Zone of Interest won the LA Critics Awards.
Let's take a look at the Oscar nominated films.
THE TEACHERS' LOUNGE (GERMANY)
Director Ilker Catak’s latest film is a physiological warfare set in a classroom led by teacher, Carla Nowak. The film is set in a school where the've been having problems with theft and the other teachers and staff have reached their limit. They think it’s one of the students in Ms. Nowak’s class. Two kids in Carla’s class are thus interrogated to see if they know anything about the crimes and they, after some resistance, accuse a student named Ali. Having her doubts, Ms. Nowak begins an investigation on her own to see if she can find the culprit. And what she finds out begins a catastrophic set of events that results in life altering consequences.
This powerful film touches the themes of authority, power, justice, judgement and truth. What starts out as a story about theft turns into something bigger. The Teachers’ Lounge isn’t a film to find out who committed the crime. It isn’t a film to find out who’s innocent or guilty. It’s about the actions of people and the spiralling effects that it has on everyone it reaches. In this situation, if what happened in the teachers’ lounge actually stayed in the teachers’ lounge, things could've been resolved. But as things go, rumours have a way of branching out so that eventually it reaches everyone, in this case the students, the teachers, the staff and the parents. Everyone has their own opinions. Everyone has their own versions of the truth. And more importantly, everyone is convinced that they are right. This begins a cycle of lots of talk while nothing is being said. Questions remain unanswered and everyone involved is angry about the unsatisfactory resolution to the problem. Despite having the best intentions, some situations are practically impossible to resolve.
The last time Germany was nominated was last year for All Quiet on the Western Front. They've won The Academy Award four times for The Tin Drum (1979), Nowhere in Africa (2002), The Lives of Others (2006), and All Quiet on the Western Front (2022). Check out the trailer below:
THE CAPTAIN (ITALY)
The film is about two young teenagers and cousins, Seydou and Moussa. They live in Dakar, Senegal. They’ve been secretly working odd jobs for the past six months saving money to leave their city and families behind to move to Europe. They dream of becoming hip hop stars where they can earn even more money to support their families and to give everyone a better life. Despite locals warning them not to do the impossible journey, the young men escape one morning and jump on the bus to head to Mali. Their illegal migration has begun. After securing fake passports, their first goal is to head west to Agadez, Niger. And from there to head across the Sahara Desert up north to Tripoli, Libya until they reach the small town called Zuara. The final leg of the journey is the boat ride to Italy. Their destination. Their dream. But nothing goes as planned. Checkpoint guards ask for money. Drivers leave them stranded in the desert. The Libyan mafia ambush and torture them until every single cent they own is given to them. Bitterly regretting their decision, wanting to go back home, but knowing that they can no longer turn back, Seydou and Moussa fight for survival where dead bodies lay all around them.
The film is inspired by a true story. And the film is a brutal account of the punishing process of leaving one world behind in hopes for a better one in a new place. The cruelty can be unrelenting but it’s absolutely appropriate to convey the harsh reality these two young men find themselves in. It’s meant to communicate a callous and inhumane procedure that disturbs one to the core. Despite all of this, the beauty of the film are the small triumphs and kindness that they receive along the way. It’s the small moments of hope that give Seydou and Moussa the strength to keep going.
The last time Italy was nominated was in 2021 for The Hand of God. They've won the Academy Awards eleven times for La Strada (1956), Nights of Cabiria (1957), 8.5 (1963), Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1964), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971), Amarcord (1974), Cinema Paradiso (1989), Mediterraneo (1991), Life is Beautiful (1998), and The Great Beauty (2013)
Check out the trailer below:
PERFECT DAYS (JAPAN)
The film follows Hirayama, a toilet cleaner on the outskirts of Tokyo, as he lives his quiet life one moment at a time and one day at a time. Everyday he wakes up before the sun rises to the sounds of a woman sweeping the leaves. He washes up, lovingly takes care of his plants and then jumps into his van to start his day at work cleaning toilets. He ends his day at the same restaurant every evening before reading a book just before his bedtime. He loves his routine and at this moment in his life he wouldn’t want it any other way. Hirayama’s daily routine becomes the structural backbone of the entire film. Over the course of multiple days, the viewer follows him doing the same things over and over again with only slight deviations as people connected to him make appearances. When a co-worker needs help with a girl, he’s there to help. When a couple of drunk baseball fans get rowdy at a bar, he appreciates their passion. When his niece comes to visit, he reaffirms with her the importance of embracing who they both are today, and not in the past or what may happen in the future.
Perfect Days is a film about the power of being present. It’s a beautiful and moving depiction of how we can find clarity, acceptance, and joy by embracing the current moment and allowing our lives to unfold one day at a time. There are no flashbacks, no exposition dumps, no cutaways to another time or place. We never leave Hirayama’s side, and Hirayama himself never strays from being truly present in every single moment. The film offers a much more layered and realistic depiction of how presence can be the basis of a life with purpose, one where you have complete agency over who you are and how you move forward in life.
The last time Japan was nominated was in 2021 for Drive My Car. They've won the Academy Awards twice for Departures (2008) and Drive My Car (2021).
Check out the trailer below:
SOCIETY OF THE SNOW (SPAIN)
The film takes place in 1972 in Montevideo. The members of the Old Christians Club rugby team have decided to charter a plane to a match in Chile. This trip feels like a final hurrah, as many of the team members are in their early 20s and are now moving onto their next stage in life, either furthering their education, or moving into new jobs, new relationships and into adulthood. It is their final trip together as a team, as classmates, as friends. 19 members of the team have decided to board the plane, along with their families, supporters and friends. They have set their trip for October 13, 1972, Flight 571. Before boarding the plane, the 45 passengers and crew members pose for a photo in front of the plane. They’re vibrant, excited, energetic and ready for their next adventure. It isn’t long after takeoff where things start to grow wrong. From the moment turbulence consumes the rugby team’s aircraft, their physical and emotional anguish takes center stage. The plane crash is shown in terrifying detail, cutting between shattered limbs, ankles breaking and punctured organs at the moment of impact. The plane has fallen apart and has crashed in the middle of the Andes mountains in western Argentina, just east of the border with Chile. With the dead surrounding the survivors, the remaining passengers must now fight for survival.
The film is much more than just a brutal recreation of the tragedy known as the Miracle of the Andes. It's also an existentialist tale about friendship, faith, and the moral boundaries that collapse in a life-or-death situation. This formidable production is not so much about getting to know every factual detail of the story, which many viewers will already be familiar with, as it is about understanding its devastating human ramifications. The film is spectacularly beautiful to watch, it is extremely difficult to understand how anyone could survive these conditions, and it showcases the strength of working as one rather than individuals.
The last time Spain was nominated was in 2019 for Pain and Glory. They've won the Academy Awards four times for Begin the Beguine (1982), Belle Epoque (1993), All About My Mother (1999) and The Sea Inside (2004).
Check out the trailer below:
THE ZONE OF INTEREST (UNITED KINGDOM)
The film takes place around 1943 and it’s about a German family: Rudolf, a long-serving commandant, his wife Hedwig and their five children. They live in a large country house, impeccably maintained by a handful of Jewish women, with a beautiful garden and right by a lake, where they frequently spend their time to relax. This could be any loving, ordinary German family. But they’re not. Right next door is the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. The signs of horror are subtle yet always constant. The black smoke in the distant is always present. There’s ash in the lake. Gun shots are frequently heard, followed by screams. At night, the redness of the gas chambers glow. This is the place where more than one million Jews were murdered, tortured and forced into the most inhumane forced labour. But it’s never shown. Instead, Rudolf and Hedwig, and their children enjoy lavish parties. They spend time gardening their plants. They have business meetings and lunch gatherings with their friends. This is their dream home and they’re happy here.
What makes The Zone of Interest different from any other movie is that the Nazis are portrayed as regular human beings. Rudolf is never unpleasant or angry. He spends his time working and sending messages to his co-workers. He is a father. He takes care of his children by reading bedtime stories. He makes jokes with his wife at bedtime before going to sleep. Hedwig maintains the perfect household by preparing home-cooked meals, an unblemished garden. She takes her kids to school. Life is quite perfect and they don’t want it to change. This attempt at domestic normalcy is the extreme evil that can coexist with deep normalization. While bodies were burning, they were having a BBQ. The film is a meditation on evil. It gives us a different perception on what evil can look like. And the scary part about it is that it looks very familiar. How do we know if we’re participating in evil? We decorate our lives to avoid confronting the sufferings in the world. We’ve become desensitized. And there’s always a wall between us and tragedy. It makes you think what side of the wall we stand in. The last time United Kingdom was nominated was in 1999 for Solomon and Gaenor. They've never won the Academy Award.
Check out the trailer below:
SO WHO WILL WIN?
It seems like the past few years there has been a film that has been fully embraced by The Academy. In 2018, Roma was nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture and it was the clear winner for International Feature. The following year, Parasite was nominated for six awards and it won Best Picture, so it easily won International Feature as well. In 2020, Another Round was nominated for Best Director and so it won the Oscar for International Feature. In 2021, Drive My Car was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and so it won the award as well. And last year, All Quiet on the Western Front was nominated for nine awards, including Best Picture and so it won easily as well.
This year, The Zone of Interest is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. As a result, it feels like it's the clear frontrunner to win International Feature. With the shortlisted top 15 films, only Academy members who have watched each and every film can vote. With the final five films, all Academy members can vote, even if they haven't watched all five films. The Zone of Interest is the film that will be the most watched by the voters.
So, as of right now, The Zone of Interest will win the Oscar. And it rightfully should.