France, as ever, was spoiled with options when it came to selecting their film for Oscar competition this year. Frantz (reviewed) from François Ozon would likely have appealed to Oscar voters but the selection committee went with the controversial Elle (reviewed at TIFF). It's a brave choice but we think a smart one; even if its divisive within initial voting, it will likely be a candidate to benefit under the Executive Committee 'saves' rule. Plus those who love it will love it passionately meaning it could even have a dark horse shot at a win. Not only does it have a high profile auteur and star (Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert) but it's got sensational reviews, a US release on the table in the thick of Oscar traction season (November 11th), and an outside shot at a Best Actress nomination. France has not won the category since Indochine (1992) despite numerous nominations.
Trivia: Paul Verhoeven has had one previous film nominated in this category for his home country The Netherlands with Turkish Delight (1973). If Elle is nominated it would not be the first time a director has competed for multiple countries: Akira Kurosawa, who competed many times for Japan, won the prize for the Soviet Union with Dersu Uzala (1975); Luis Buñuel who won the Oscar for France with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) was also nominated twice for Spain, his home country; and Michael Haneke won for Austria with Amour (2012) and also competed for Germany with The White Ribbon (2009)
Oscar's other favorite country Italy has selected the Golden Bear winner, Fire at Sea (reviewed at Berlinale), a documentary about the European migrant crisis. To my knowledge only two documentaries have ever been nominated in this category (Waltz With Bashir from Israel and The Missing Picture from Cambodia) but both of those were in the past eight years so perhaps Oscar votings are loosening up about these distinctions. Among countries who have not yet announced their submissions (with a week left) Poland and Argentina are the most formidable, statistically speaking, with Oscar.
Foreign Film Oscar Charts
Predictions - 15 films that could have the best chance at the finals?
Afghanistan to Finland - 22 submissions thus far
George to Morocco - 23 submissions thus far
Nepal to Venezuela - 28 submissions thus far