We hear today that the Chilean earthquake set off strings of aftershocks around the world and knocked the planet 3 inches off its normal axis. No seismic rumbles warn us of any significant shift in the off-kilter tilt of the Academy’s Foreign Language Film committee. Our friend Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema takes a look at the committee’s options, running down their suspected methods and mind-set.
The Secret in Their Eyes is the most entertaining of the bunch with its story of a retired court investigator whose past comes back to haunt him when he sets out to write a novel based on an old unsolved murder case. It‚Äôs part thriller, part drama, part romance with little bits of humor thrown in. As the most palatable of all the films, it‚Äôs a strong candidate for the win. It‚Äôs also a late Sony pickup. The problem is, it doesn‚Äôt seem to have that awards-worthy hook that elevates it above the other films. It doesn‚Äôt seem important enough.
That leaves Ajami. Like A Prophet, its multi-threaded Middle East set story about the impact of a single act of violence on the wider community (and by extension the world) is a bit edgier and grittier than I‚Äôd expect the academy to go for, but there is a purpose behind it all. There‚Äôs a very real emotional impact to each of the acts of violence in the film. The characters and stories are compelling and the film is punctuated with moments of surprising sweetness and humor. What‚Äôs more, it‚Äôs co-directed by an Israeli and a Palestinian and its side by side by side treatment of Jews, Muslims and Christians sends a very subtle but powerful message. It‚Äôs a film you can vote for that is not only an excellent film in its own right, but it also makes a statement.
If the Oscar goes to one of the higher profile films, I think the compelling but cold The White Ribbon will prevail over the edgier A Prophet. If the voters lean more toward pure entertainment, I think The Secret in Their Eyes and Ajami have the advantage with the edge going to Ajami for its weightiness and sense of importance.
Since ultimately only one film can win, between The White Ribbon and Ajami, I‚Äôm going to go with Ajami. My judgment might be shaded by my own personal preference, but I‚Äôve really come to believe that it offers the right combination of quality, entertainment value, resonance and importance that will elevate it in the eyes of enough of the voters. The White Ribbon is well crafted, but it‚Äôs more of a head movie than a heart movie and that I believe will be its downfall.