Academy Award nominated (Best Foreign Language Film), The Salesman (Forushande, 2016), is a favorite to bring Oscar home. A member of the select Oscar club, since 2012, for A Separation (2011), its Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, will not attend the ceremony this time, because of the infamous Donald Trump Muslim ban. The filmmaker, could make history again, though his film faces strong opposition from critics’ favorite, Germany’s Toni Erdmann.

With The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi gives us another sharply written drama slowly building on a minimalist premise of fading couple following a tragedy, but hiding a far more complex issue of collapsing communication in society. With an output about the lack of understanding, beside its artistic quality, the film would be a perfect winner of this year’s race. As a couple of Iranian- Americans are scheduled to step in for Farhadi at the ceremony on Sunday evening, hopes are that the Academy will supply Farhadi (providing he is the winner) with an opportunity to make an apparition, via satellite, and match his 2012 acceptance speech, one of the most vibrant in recent Oscar memory.

Maren Ade’s father-daughter relationship comedy drama, Toni Erdmann, has its qualities, but the writer of these lines simply doesn’t share its colleagues’ euphoria about it. There is simply too many flaws (shooting, editing, acting) in the first half, before entering a more effective final act, especially for a film running near the three hours mark.

Australia’s Tanna, a curiosity as it is enacted by members of the Yakel tribe, is the weakest of the nominees. It made it into the Foreign Language category because its dialogues are spoken in the Nauvhal language. Directors, Martin Butler & Bentley Dean, obvious veterans of field documentaries, provide some striking images, but the dramatic build up doesn’t seem to be their trade.

The other nominees, from Scandinavia, are business as usual. We get two fairly helmed films cut to a mold, sticking to it, with effectiveness. They could lend both their makers Hollywood director chairs.

Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine (Denmark, 2015) is your feel-good war drama in which a young group of underage German prisoners of war dig up land-mines right toward the end of World War 2.

Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove (Sweden, 2015), about an ill tempered retiree, is an entertaining and well done comedy-drama skillfully paced with no real surprises. But quite entertaining.

You get what you paid for.


The 89th Academy Awards ceremony starts at 8 PM (EST) on Sunday February 26th.