|Left to right: Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard|
While I have been focusing heavily on American films, I am glad to see that there are foreign language films capable of maintaining traction. While The Intouchables became a sleeper hit during the summer and is currently placed at #67 on IMDb's Top 250, very few foreign films have garnered name recognition and prestige as much as Michael Haneke's Amour (the expected winner of Best Foreign Film this year) and Rust and Bone. What is more impressive is the fact that despite the acclaim, Rust and Bone is unable to compete in Best Foreign Film on the regulation that each country can only submit one film. Since The Intouchables is clearly more acclaimed at this point, Rust and Bone will have to fight for its own.
For many, the name Rust and Bone is not familiar besides the appearance of Cotillard. The film has had some success, earning nominations for the Palm D'Or at Cannes and winning Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival. It currently holds 83% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been quickly one of the champions of French cinema, earning of $30,196 on two screens last week, averaging $15,098 per screen. But the question still remains for most: what is this film? The synopsis from IMDb reads:
"Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident."
Already, this feels like a reminiscent Oscar bait entry that I wrote on The Sessions. The Academy loves disabilities (more so than addiction films nowadays), and since Stephanie is played by Cotillard, it is easy to see why she has gotten a lot of praise. Of course, she does have a distinct advantage of being a former winner for Best Actress for La vie en Rose. While she has become more known for blockbuster roles in director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises and former Best Picture nominee Inception, she still maintains credibility as an actress. Her prestige almost gives her the edge in getting a possible nomination just for being charismatic. For those still unsure of her capability, check out the trailer:
The story seems fascinating and while it is vague on actual performances, it gives some hope that she will pull the right moves to make us cry. Of course, it does seem peculiar that costar Matthias Schoenaerts hasn't received any attention. It seems that if this film has one chance at a nomination, it is Cotillard. Of course, that is before you consider director Jacques Audiard's previous film. A Prophet was a phenomenal hit and was critically acclaimed for its gritty portrayal of life in a prison. It even earned the film a nomination for Best Foreign Film, though losing to The Secrets in their Eyes from Argentina. Still, it established Audiard as a credible nominee. In fact, if The Intouchables was not nominated, the discussion on if it could win Best Foreign Film would spark an interesting debate.
Of course, Audiard's success with A Prophet plays into Rust and Bone's possible success at the Oscars in general. The only question now is if he can transcend and join the ranks of Roberto Benigni and Ang Lee and get a foreign film recognized in categories that are more challenging. It is already for Cotillard to be the film's shining hope, but if it could place in other categories, it will have overcome bigger issues. Of course, it isn't the only foreign film with chances. Amour is quickly proving to be a worthy competitor.
According to statistics website Gold Derby, Cotillard in the Best Actress category is their best chance. While they have slipped from second to third, the odds are still strong with odds of 6:1. The competitors, Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) leads the pack with odds of 9:5 and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) trails with odds of 4:1. At very least, we can expect Cotillard to place, but where she once lead the field, she is quickly being overlooked in favor of Lawrence and Chastain, whose film hasn't been publicly screened yet. However, she is doing better than Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina) who once placed high but has fallen out of the top five by Naomi Watts (The Impossible). Of course, an interesting thing to note is that this category is ever changing, and besides Lawrence, Cotillard, and Quevenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), most of the nominees have rotated. It lacks the definitive locks that the Best Actor race has possessed.
The other categories don't seem more hopeful. It ranks #28 on Best Picture with odds of 100:1, #15 on Best Original Screenplay (though it is based on a story by Craig Davidson) with odds of 100:1, #21 on Best Adapted Screenplay with odds of 100:1, #23 on Best Editing with odds of 100:1, #16 in Best Actor (Schoenaerts) with odds of 100:1, and #26 on Best Original Score with odds of 100:1. Basically, it doesn't stand a chance at getting more than Cotillard's acting nomination. This is due to numerous reasons, the most obvious being the American competition, which has had a stronger presence. Films like The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, and even Life of Pi have all shown impressive feats in those categories and because they are more accessible and accepted, they will more likely get nominations.
Even if Rust and Bone turns out to be one of the best films of 2012 with a great performance by Cotillard, this film has a lot to struggle against to even gain consideration. It is a tough year, especially with Amour sweeping up what attention the film could be getting as the token great foreign film. Still, anything is possible, which can be noted by the film's decision to send out the For Your Consideration screeners. This can only provide hope that the film will win over enough people to pull an upset. Still, it would be interesting to see if Cotillard can get another Oscar, especially with Lawrence being the favorite. At very least, Rust and Bone does feature a captivating story and one that I cannot wait to see. It is just a matter of getting it one nomination (which doesn't appear to be too hard) and gaining massive exposure. In that case, it will have already won.
Is Audiard's credibility with A Prophet capable of giving Rust and Bone the edge? Will the film fail to garner attention because of The Intouchables and Amour? Are there better foreign films out there that should be taking up the Academy's time?