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Foreign-language Film

The analysis

The foreign-language film category appears to be dominated by two front-runners: Alejandro Amenabar’s Golden Globe-winning “The Sea Inside” and Christophe Barratier’s “The Chorus.” A film that could have made it a three-way race, the well-received “House of Flying Daggers,” failed to make the cut.

“The Chorus’ ” (Les Choristes) mention marks the 33rd foreign-language nomination France has received. Although a Gallic pic has not won since 1992 (“Indochine”), the country has garnered nine kudos in this category, just one less than record-holder Italy. “Chorus’ ” uplifting, unambiguous, old-fashioned story about a teacher reforming a group of boarding school boys through choir music has a universal resonance. The simplistic, fairy-tale facets of this pic make it an obvious choice for the foreign film committee.

“Sea Inside” took three Venice Film Festival kudos home last year, but Oscar members might be disturbed by the pic’s controversial euthanasia subject matter. While Amenabar tackles the subject in an intelligent and graceful manner, and Javier Bardem gives a superb performance from the neck up, pic might end up being this year’s “Amelie” — a favorite among critics and audiences but not an Oscar winner.

“As It Is in Heaven” (Sweden) is helmer-writer Kay Pollak’s first pic since 1985’s “Love Me!” However, his extended absence has not diminished his ability to create gripping drama.

While the film shares subject matter with “Chorus” — both are about a choir teacher inspiring his pupils with song — this pic takes a much darker tone. Pollak delivers not a fairy tale but a dramatic roller-coaster ride through various complex emotions. That seriousness could sway voters who prefer films with importance.

Germany’s “Downfall” tackles World War II, a favorite subject matter with voters. Like last year’s “Twin Sister,” this pic deals with the German side of the war. Although “Downfall” is not a sympathetic look at the Nazis’ last days, it is nonetheless about the bad guys.

“Yesterday” is the first film from South Africa to be nominated and the first international production shot in the Zulu language. Although the word AIDS is barely spoken, the pic insightfully delves into the disease’s advancement in Africa and the lack of treatment available.

Pic is a deeply moving drama about an infected mother’s urge to secure her daughter’s future. Though moving, the pic could be hurt by its strong political stance and a turn toward melodrama near the end.

As it is in Heaven

Sweden

Why it will win: Kay Pollak’s first film in 19 years has the emotional weight and seriousness that voters seem to like.

Why it won’t win: Film covers territory similar to the more upbeat and popular “The Chorus.”

The Chorus

France

Why it will win: Film is a heartwarming, universal tale with enchanting music that will appeal to the most critical audience members.

Why it won’t win: Like the popular “Amelie,” pic could be too lightweight for the tastes of Academy voters.

Downfall

Germany

Why it will win: There is no denying that Academy members like WWII pics.

Why it won’t win: But pics about the Nazi side of the war, such as last year’s nominee “Twin Sister,” have not fared as well.

The Sea Inside

Spain

Why it will win: Film has been raking in the awards and delivers a thoughtful, emotional tale with a stunning performance from Javier Bardem that will be hard for the Academy to overlook.

Why it won’t win: Pic’s controversial subject might be too political for the generally nonconfrontational voters.

Yesterday

South Africa

Why it will win: Story of Africa’s AIDS epidemic is timely and offers Oscar the opportunity to appear ahead of the curve on an important issue.

Why it won’t win: The slow-moving, melodramatic second half of the pic could turn off voters.

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