The five Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film have been revealed and, as is usual for the foreign-language film branch, they’ve thrown us a few curveballs. When the shortlist of nine semi-finalists was revealed in December, Oscar pundits were surprised when Cannes favorite “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” the French entry, was left off the list. But even more surprising when the final five nominees were announced was that the powerhouse Argentinian entry “Foxtrot” was snubbed, as well as this year’s Golden Globe winner “In the Fade,” starring Cannes Best Actress winner Diane Kruger.
Still, we have a strong race for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. So let’s take a closer look at the final five contenders for Oscars 2018, in order of their current Gold Derby odds.
1. “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile); current Gold Derby odds 4/9
Sebastian Lelio‘s acclaimed film from Chile focuses on Marina (Daniela Vega), a waitress and aspiring singer, who is having an affair with a businessman (Francisco Reyes) who is twice her age. When Francisco suffers an aneurysm after making love, he further injures himself by falling down a flight of stairs before Marina can get him to the hospital. Once there, he dies on the operating table, and Marina immediately comes under suspicion by the doctors and police who insist on referring to Marina by masculine pronouns since she is in the process of transitioning as transgender. Suddenly finding herself without a lover, without a car and without a home, Marina finds herself with no place to turn.
BOTTOM LINE: With “A Fantastic Woman” winning the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the film is being released by Sony Pictures Classics, a company which knows how to play the Oscar game, and one which has positioned the film to open on February 2, just two weeks before voting begins on the final five nominees. If critical reviews can match the raves that the film has received from its festival screenings, “A Fantastic Woman” will have an important leg up on its competition.
2. “The Square” (Sweden); current Gold Derby odds 9/2
Writer/director Ruben Östlund, whom many thought was robbed of a Foreign Film Oscar nomination for his 2014 comedy/satire “Force Majeure,” is back with his latest, which won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Set in a Stockholm art museum, the film centers on a publicity effort surrounding a controversial art piece. Featuring a cast that includes two well-known stars — Elisabeth Moss (Emmy winner for “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Dominic West (SAG Awards Ensemble nominee for “Chicago”) — “The Square” has been in release since October and has grossed over $1.3 million in the U.S. since then.
BOTTOM LINE: “The Square” likely has the highest profile of any of the nominees and the most recognizable cast, so it may be easier for an academy voter to pop a screener in so as to vote in what can often be an intimidating category.
3. “Loveless” (Russia); current Gold Derby odds 9/1
Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev has been previously Oscar-nominated for his spare 2014 film “Leviathan.” Like that searing critique of Russian society, “Loveless,” his far more accessible work, is a scathing look at Russian society, focusing on the story of a bitter couple who would like nothing more than be rid of their 12-year-old son. One day, they are too busy bickering to notice that their boy has indeed disappeared.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s Sony Pictures Classics again, and the film’s premiere date of February 16 will be right in the thick of Oscar voting time, giving “Loveless” a distinct advantage.
4. “The Insult” (Lebanon); current Gold Derby odds 50/1
A refusal to apologize for a leaky drainpipe leads to a war of words between Lebanese Christian Tony (Adel Karam) and Palestinian refugee Yasser (Kamel El Basha). The perceived insult then leads to violence, then on to a courtroom and finally rioting in the streets. Ziad Doueiri‘s film starts with the micro — a tiny incident that could happen to anyone every day — and grows via pride, racial prejudice and a polarized country into a national issue, a timely theme is there ever was one.
BOTTOM LINE: “The Insult” has recently opened in U.S. theaters to stellar reviews and many background articles, so it will still be fresh in the minds of Oscar voters. And its distributor, Cohen Media Group, propelled last year’s Foreign-Language winner “The Salesman” to the Oscar.
5. “On Body and Soul” (Hungary); current Gold Derby odds 80/1
Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, Ildikó Enyedi‘s unusual love story takes place at a Hungarian slaughterhouse where an executive and a new employee learn that they each share the exact same dream every night — in their dream, he is a stag and she is a doe walking together in a snowy forest. This bizarre bond that they both share marks the first steps in breaking down their barriers and sharing a most unexpected love.
BOTTOM LINE: When it premieres on Netflix on February 2, “On Body and Soul” may be the film that has the largest potential viewing audience among all the nominated films.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.