January 13, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Toni Erdmann, My Life as a Zucchini

Glenn Whipp

Is “O.J.: Made in America” a movie? A TV show? Does it matter? And can any foreign language film attract enough eyeballs to overtake the brilliant “Toni Erdmann”? I’ll answer these questions — and raise a few more — in this look at the Oscar categories of documentary feature and foreign language film.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Toni Erdmann”

“The Salesman”

“A Man Called Ove”

“My Life as a Zucchini”

“Land of Mine”

Prime contenders: “Tanna,” “Paradise,” “The King’s Choice,” “It’s Only the End of the World”

Analysis: The foreign language shortlist contains a few head-scratching choices, most notably the inclusion of Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Grand Prix winner “It’s Only the End of the World.” Dolan is a polarizing figure, but he obviously has a few well-placed admirers. I’ve just yet to meet any of these people in the real world. How Dolan’s inert, maudlin movie made it in ahead of the likes of Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle,” Pablo Larraín’s “Neruda” or even “Julieta,” one of Pedro Almodóvar’s lesser efforts but involving and worthy just the same, will always be inexplicable — and indefensible.

German filmmaker Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” stands as the overwhelming favorite here, the movie with the best reviews, the highest profile and a clutch of critics prizes in its possession. It’s also 2 hours and 42 minutes long, and its first hour tests a viewer’s patience as Ade carefully establishes the weird relationship dynamic between the movie’s estranged daughter and father. Watching Ade lay that groundwork is well worth the effort, but I wonder how many academy members will bail early or find the running time a barrier.

A potential spoiler could be the Swedish crowd-pleaser “A Man Called Ove,” which has found a substantial audience since its late-September release. The movie follows a lonely old curmudgeon who finds a measure of hope after a lifetime of misfortune. Tears are shed, and I know quite a few people who have found the crying contagious.

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