Oscar Foreign Language Film cliffhanger: Five films fight it out for win

Compared to the last four years — when “Son of Saul,” “Ida,” “The Great Beauty” and “Amour” were effectively locks —  this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film is ripe for an upset. The frontrunner, Germany’s “Toni Erdmann,” faces four strong challengers: Iran’s “The Salesman,” which was helmed by a past category champ;  Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove,” which also reaped a bid for Best Makeup & Hairstyling; Denmark’s latest contender “Land of Mine”; and Australia’s “Tanna,” the latest in a string of first-time nominees for its country.

Below we break down the odds for each of the five nominees to help you make your own predictions for one of this year’s most competitive categories.

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“Toni Erdmann” (Germany) – 4/5 odds
This father-daughter dramedy about finding and embracing happiness in life’s most mundane and absurd moments earned Germany its 10th nomination and would be its third winner. It is the most acclaimed of the five, winning the FIPRESCI Grand Prix for best film of the year as well as five European Film Awards wins. And it reaped bids at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and Independent Spirit Awards as well as the “Toni Erdmann” is a

Much ado has been made of its length — 162 minutes — as a hurdle it must overcome to win. The last winner to pass the 2.5 hour mark was France’s “Indochine” in 1992 which clocked in at 159 minutes; the last time a film longer than “Toni Erdmann” won was in 1983 with Sweden’s “Fanny and Alexander” which had a running time of 188 minutes.

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“The Salesman” (Iran) – 9/4 odds
“The Salesman” marks Iran’s third Oscar nomination and the second for director Asghar Farhadi who won this race in 2011 for “A Separation.” His new film tells the story of a couple playing the lead roles in a presentation of “Death of a Salesman” whose relationship suffers after they move into an apartment previously held by a prostitute. It won two awards at Cannes — Best Actor for Shahab Hosseini and Best Screenplay for Farhadi. It claimed this prize from the National Board of Review and was also a Golden Globe nominee.

In the wake of president Donald Trump‘s announced ban of entry to citizens of certain countries, Farhadi vowed to not attend the Oscar ceremony in “condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of [his] compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries” targeted.

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“A Man Called Ove” (Sweden) – 12/1 odds
Based on the best-selling book of the same name, this charmer tells the story of a recently widowed man who is challenged by his unexpected friendship with a new neighbor to take a more positive attitude toward life. This is Sweden’s first bid in the category since 2004’s “As it Is in Heaven,” and the country’s 15th overall. It would the fourth win, with last way back in 1983 for Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander.” It won the European Film Award for Best European Comedy.

“A Man Called Ove” is the only multiple Oscar nominee in the category, having also made the cut for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The last three foreign film contenders to score additional nominations in other fields — 2014’s “Ida,” 2012’s “Amour,” and 2011’s “A Separation” — all won this award.

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“Land of Mine” (Denmark): 28/1 odds
Inspired by the real events of German POWs sent to clear mines in Denmark after World War II, “Land of Mine” is Denmark’s 13th nominee. The country is a three-time champ in the category, most recently for 2010’s “In a Better World. It has been one of the most consistently recognized countries in the category in recent ceremonies having, reaping five bids in the last seven years.

Despite it having missed out on recognition from precursor prizes, “Land of Mine” may get a boost as the only nominee this year to focus on World War II, a subject for many past foreign language film winners, including the last two winners in the category, Hungary’s “Son of Saul” and Poland’s “Ida.”

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“Tanna” (Australia) – 66/1 odds
“Tanna” is Australia’s first Oscar nomination from its 10 submissions since 1996. The only time the country made it as far as the short list was in 2009 with “Samson and Delilah.” The film is the country’s first submission in the Nauvhal language, a dialect spoken in the southwest of Vanuatu. “Tanna” tells the Romeo and Juliet-esque true story of a couple who married for love rather than out of obligation to their parents.

“Tanna” has had the smallest presence on the awards circuit of all the Oscar nominees, though its five nominations and one win (Best Original Score) at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in December suggest its broad appeal. This marks the fourth straight year of first-time nominations for a country, none of which won their contests.

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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