To preface this article after the headline could be deemed critical of what is an incredibly well-executed film that deserves its Academy buzz is an important part of this piece ahead of the discourse that proceeds it. Anatomy of a Fall, a French thriller that won the top prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, is one of two Best Picture nominees this year starring Sandra Huller. Huller, who also starred in Zone of Interest, is up for Best Actress for her role in Anatomy as Sandra Voyter.

    The film follows Voyter in the trial of the suspected murder of her estranged husband and how it impacts her role as a parent. Huller’s nuanced performance commands the viewers attention as the viewer is left to decipher whether the clearly manipulative and brilliant mystery writer is guilty or not, despite a strong alibi and incredible testimony. While the effects are visually stunning, the attention to detail is meticulous, and Justine Triet’s direction is shrewd, it’s what the film doesn’t give you that makes the film memorable. The twist at the end is simple yet effective, and while I’ll likely go into the twist at a later date, the film is currently showing in theaters across the United States alongside seven of the other nine Best Picture nominees. If you haven’t yet seen Anatomy of a Fall and want an old school mystery with a modern appeal, make it a priority to go see a screening at your local cinema.

    The meat of the conversation shouldn’t be whether Anatomy was nominated, rather if it were snubbed. The conversation for Oscar snubs this year is one that seems to revolve around Barbie, more specifically the exclusions of Margot Robbie for Best Actress and Greta Gerwig for Best Director. Yet, perhaps the most egregious snub is Anatomy of a Fall for its glaring omission in Best International Feature. However, it’s not on the Academy voters as much as it’s on the Academy process itself.

    The criteria for Best International Feature is straightforward: a film of feature-length produced outside of the United States with a primary language that isn’t English. While Huller’s character in Anatomy often speaks in English dialogue as a compromise between characters, the primary languages are French and German, making Anatomy a clear contender for the award. That being said, the process for a motion picture to be nominated for such category is significantly more rigorous as each country is allowed to submit one movie from the year to submit for potential nomination, as has been tradition since Italy’s Shoeshine took home the first award for Best International Feature in 1947. From there, the submissions will be reviewed by the voting committee to narrow the field and determine the nominees for the award. 88 films in 2023 were eligible amongst the 92 submissions.

    Despite being the overwhelming winner at France’s premiere film festival, including beating out the other international film up for Best Picture this year, France opted not to submit Anatomy of a Fall for Academy viewing, choosing in favor of The Taste of Things. The Taste of Things made it past the initial screening process, but did not make the final cut. The nominees for Best International Feature are Zone of Interest (United Kingdom), The Teacher’s Lounge (Germany), Society of the Snow (Spain), Io Capitano (Italy), and Perfect Days (Japan). Despite this, Anatomy of a Fall gained enough merit from its strong performance at Cannes to catch wind in the United States and become a nominee for Best Picture.

    Thus, it is now more evident than before that the system implemented by the Academy is antiquated, one that can theoretically produce an international feature that wins Best Picture but isn’t even considered for the Best International Feature. At that point, it isn’t out of the realm of sanity to say that the winner of the Best International Feature award does not and cannot account for the best films eligible for its competition by Academy standards. The system in the 1940s was a necessary system because the world consumed media content in a much different way. The radio was the dominant home entertainment system at that time in the United States, leaving the theater as the only way for the average American to watch a movie. Naturally, fewer films were considered by the inherent nature of inaccessibility. Forcing countries to decide which film would be considered allowed international cinema to be screened in the United States, but kept the number in the pool of choices narrow to give each submission a fair assessment. However, nearly eight decades after the introduction of the award, it’s one of the few awards to not have an overhaul in its process.

    Society in the Snow is currently streaming on Netflix, while Iceland’s submission of Godland is currently streaming on Criterion. With streaming distribution putting every film at the fingertips of everyday film buffs with just a few clicks of a button, being able to view international pictures from the comfort of your couch is no more difficult than doing so with films produced domestically. The pool for every other award is much broader, yet, there hasn’t been much pushback on how archaic the submission process is for this specific award. The Academy clearly had time to watch other international films beyond the country submissions considering they nominated not only Anatomy for other awards, but films such as El Conde, Boy and the Heron, and Godzilla: Minus One are up for other awards.

    Perhaps the submission of Taste of Things was a more-strategic submission on behalf of France. Maybe the country felt that the film was just as strong but due to its Cannes victory, Anatomy of a Fall was more likely to have mainstream commercial appeal in the United States. As an international film becomes nominated for Academy Awards, it also increases the chances of it getting an extended theatrical release in the United States which can benefit both the studio and the country financially. As for Taste of Things, it’s set to hit theaters in the U.S. tomorrow. If anything, having to strategically submit films for the Academy Award only reveals a larger need for an overhaul.

    Let’s theorize that Anatomy of a Fall wins Best Picture and The Teacher’s Lounge wins the Academy Award for Best International Feature. While that’s rightful cause of celebration for Germany, whose drama provided a fascinating commentary on education in modern society, it’s still clearly a consolidation prize behind a film that was eligible for the same award and took home a more prestigious honor. It seems as though the Academy considered Anatomy of a Fall better than all but, at maximum, eight films produced in the United States over the time period voted upon. There’s only one other film produced outside of the United States that can lay that claim, and the film isn’t up for the award that determines the best film made abroad?

    The intricacies and inconsistencies of a flawed process created an unusual instance that makes the competition of an award feel weaker than it should. While it’s an outlier and not a yearly occurrence, it’s likely in the best interest of the Academy to update the process to reflect modern technology and its added availability to make sure that it doesn’t happen in future Oscar races. This year it’s a trivial complaint because the Academy has already telegraphed Zone of Interest’s victory by naming it one of the top ten films altogether of 2023, but should a year arise where there’s only one international film in the running for Best Picture and it isn’t submitted for Best International Picture, it’ll be a poor look for the film that does win being perceived as secondary.

    For Anatomy, the film faces a tough road to the Best Picture crown against the Barbenheimer craze of last summer, as well as Celine Song’s vulnerable offering of Past Lives and Alexander Payne’s cozy ’70s throwback of The Holdovers. For Huller, there’s a real chance that she’ll bring home the Oscar for Best Actress despite the stiff competition of Emma Stone’s ambitious performance in Poor Things and Lily Gladstone’s subtle performance in Killers of the Flower Moon. ABC will air the 2024 Academy Awards live at 7 P.M. EST on March 10th.

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