The country of Japan has won the Best International Feature Oscar four times through the years, but only one of those, “Departures” (2008), was a competitive award. The first three — “Rashomon” (1951), “Gate of Hell” (1954) and “Samurai, The Legend of Musashi” (1955) — were honorary awards with no other nominees. Now, Janus Films’ “Drive My Car” is predicted to become Japan’s fifth overall winner, according to Gold Derby’s Oscar odds.
Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car” tells the story of a recent widower (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who is hired to direct a play. A young woman (Toko Miura) is assigned to be his chauffeur, which initially frustrates him as he has a routine of driving himself. The three-hour movie began its awards run at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won statues for Best Screenplay (Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe), the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It’s since gone on to prevail at various critics’ groups, including the National Society of Film Critics Awards (directing and picture), the New York Film Critics Circle (picture) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (picture).
SEE After New York and L.A. wins, ‘Drive My Car’ leads early Oscar odds for Best International Feature
Buoyed by all of the critical praise, Hamaguchi is starting to zoom up Gold Derby’s Oscar predictions chart for Best Director. The Japanese filmmaker is now in sixth place to prevail. Likewise, the film has skyrocketed up to 12th place for Best Picture and sixth place for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Of course, “Drive My Car” has remained in the first place position for Best International Feature Film all season long at Gold Derby. But remember, per academy rules, Hamaguchi wouldn’t personally take home the Oscar should he win, as it instead goes to the submitting country as a whole, in this case Japan.
For all you stats nerds, Italy holds the record with 14 wins through the years in the international Oscar category. Next up is France with 12. Japan, Spain and Denmark are then tied with four apiece, which means a victory for “Drive My Car” would break that tie and cement Japan as the third-winningest country in Academy Awards history.
The specific name of this Oscar category has gone through a lot of changes over the decades. As of 2020, it’s currently called Best International Feature Film. Prior to that, the category was known as Best Foreign Language Film. Honorary awards were presented on and off between 1947 and 1955. It officially became a competitive category with nominees in 1956.
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