This year, 92 distinct nations have selected and submitted what the Academy blindly accepts as each country’s best film to compete for the foreign-language Oscar. However magnanimous the Academy’s intent, that’s an overwhelming number of movies that now need to be divided up and screened by a dedicated subset of the membership in an imperfect process that results in a shortlist of nine movies, from which a separate committee will choose the final five nominees.
Ironically, while 92 is a record-setting number for this category, the year’s best foreign language film may not even be among them. That’s because the system — a squirrely, ever-evolving set of rules — is based on a pair of outdated premises.
First, the award was created in 1945 to raise awareness for foreign cinema at a time when overseas movies were either dubbed or ignored in the