Some of the best film nominations at this year’s Oscars were easy to predict. Fabelmans, for example, is the venerable Steven Spielberg’s love letter to cinema, so it was a dead cert. Top Gun: Maverick was a commercial and critical flop, so this was always going to be a bummer. But one film on the list surprised the experts: All Quiet on the Western Front. Adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s classic World War I novel, it had a scattered theatrical release before streaming on Netflix; it starred an Austrian actor, Felix Kammerer, who had never appeared in a film before; and its director, Edward Berger, did most of his work in television. It was also German – and no previous German film had been in the running for Best Picture. Many critics expected All Quiet on the Western Front to make the list of best international films, but in addition to being nominated for best picture, it also appeared in eight other categories. And then that won Best Film at the Baftas, and an initially overlooked film became a hot favorite. It was the biggest Oscar shock since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in 2022.
Still, perhaps this is an outdated approach. The Oscars, and the film industry in general, have changed radically in recent times. And when you put those modes together, suddenly Berger’s epic war drama seems like the most logical best picture choice.
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One major reform occurred in 2009, when the Academy announced that the number of films in the Best Picture category increased from five to 10. In theory, this would allow blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Wall-E to be nominated for the top prize, as both were snubbed earlier this year. In practice, blockbusters still don’t have much luck: Black Panther and The Joker are the only superhero films to make the shortlist since 2009. But the new rule has resulted in more unusual films appearing among the best films — and more films. which are also not in English.
Until 2018, only nine such films entered the category: a rough average of one per decade. But since Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma was nominated for the 2019 Best Picture Oscar, every year there’s been a non-English-language contender — and a Korean film, Parasite, won Best Picture in 2020. caption, you can get to know many more wonderful movies,” said the film’s director, Bong Joon-ho, when he received his statuette.