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Friday, February 17, 2012

Oscar Countdown: Foreign Language & Animated

In advance of the Academy Award ceremony on Feb. 26, Screen Grab will predict the winners in all categories.

Foreign Language Film: Bullhead, Belgium; Footnote, Israel; In Darkness, Poland; Monsieur Lazhar, Canada; A Separation, Iran. Opening in Atlanta today, A Separation is by far the best-known and most widely-praised nominee. It picked up a Best Original Screenplay nomination and is better than most of the Best Picture nominees. Ironically, that might work against is, as this is the kind of category in which the highest-profile contender gets passed over for something more obscure. Is there another likely contender? Monsieur Lazhar and Footnote are both heavyweight dramas involving educators; Bullhead has been generating buzz as a thriller set against the European beef industry; In Darkness has a promising pedigree as a Holocaust drama from Europa Europa director Agnieska Holland.

: A Separation. Iran has never won in this category (and has had only two nominees), despite having a burgeoning industry of excellent filmmakers working in a censorious nation. A Separation deserves the Oscar in its own right, but it could also be a show of support to an entire community.

Animated Feature Film: A Cat in Paris; Chico & Rita; Kung Fu Panda 2; Puss in Boots; Rango. The nominations are the award for the French family film A Cat in Paris and the Spanish love story Chico & Rita, which came out of nowhere and made the cut when Cars 2 did not. DreamWorks provides two entries — the second Kung Fu Panda movie and the fifth film in the Shrek universe — but I doubt they'll challenge Rango.

Prediction: Rango. Some critics found Rango too enamored of old movies and eccentric humor to appeal to kids, but even detractors have to acknowledge its photorealistic animation designs.

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