With this morning’s Academy Award nominations, director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma managed a little achieved feat in Academy Awards history – being nominated in both the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film categories in the same year.
How rare an accomplishment is it?
Roma joins an exclusive fraternity of films that has only four other members – Costa Gravas’ Z (1969), Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1998), Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Michael Haneke’s Amour (2013).
It should be noted that due to a quirk in its release, Jan Troell’s Swedish film The Emigrants was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film in 1971 but also for Best Picture the following year.
But while all four of these previous double nominees would go on to win the Best Foreign Language Film category in their respective years, none would win in the Best Picture category. In fact, despite a handful of non-English language films having been nominated over the years, no foreign language film has ever taken home Oscar’s top prize. So if you make your Oscar winner picks based on past Academy voting history, this might be the way to place your money.
Interestingly, there have also been a small handful of films produced in foreign languages that received Best Picture nominations but did not get a similar nod in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion was the first film to do so back in 1938, but then again they didn’t have a competitive Best Foreign Language Film category at the time. It would be instituted in 1956.
Other foreign-language films that have received Best Picture nominations include Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish-language Cries and Whispers (1973), Michael Radford’s Italian-language Il Postino (1994) and Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language Letters from Iwo Jima (2006).
But the Academy has been more welcoming to foreign language performances. Sophie Loren won her Best Actress Oscar statuette in 1961 for her performance in Two Women. Marion Cotillard won the same category in 2007 for La Vie en Rose, while Roberto Benigni nabbed 1998’s Best Actor for Life Is Beautiful.