Why 'Blue is the Warmest Color' is a Film That Could Defy Oscar Odds
by Joey Magidson
October 25, 2013
Don't let all the nominations for Amour at last year's Oscars fool you... foreign films always have an uphill battle to be noticed by the Academy anywhere besides in their own category of Best Foreign Language. Michael Haneke's flick defied the odds the last time around, but could it be the start of a trend? We'll find out this year with Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color, which also is a Palme d'Or winning foreign flick hoping to score Oscar attention. This year's big foreign player has some striking similarities with last year's, but also some notable differences that make it one of the season's real puzzling contenders.
For any of you that don't know, Blue is the Warmest Color has just now begun its limited theatrical run this weekend after making an impressive debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Alex loved the movie and he wasn't alone either, as it took home the top prize at Cannes. It's a French drama that depicts the full course of a first love relationship between teen Adele (the revelation that is Adèle Exarchopoulos) and the slightly older Emma (Léa Seydoux). At its core this is a fully fleshed out coming of age story that shows you just how a modern girl becomes a woman. Yes, there's some graphic sex, in particular one very long scene, but to get bogged down in that detail is to miss the point of just how breathtakingly good the movie is.
Considering how highly praised the film is, the potential for Oscar acclaim has long been on the minds of pundits. However, the presumed easy nomination/win for Foreign Language Feature won't happen because due to release date rules (it came out too early in Europe, essentially), the film isn't eligible and France has submitted a different flick for consideration (they chose Gilles Bourdos' Renoir instead). As such, Blue is the Warmest Color would have to defy the odds in order to score any nominations. It's not impossible though.
Somewhat similar to Amour's situation last year, Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color is more than just "a great foreign film". The performance from Exarchopoulos has gotten nearly the same amount of acclaim as Emmanuelle Riva did for Amour, though the latter's movie obviously is more accessible. The former also has Seydoux as a highly acclaimed hopeful, with Kechiche's adapted screenplay in the hunt too. Basically, while it's a longer shot than is usually worth considering, it has potential in all the right places.
So what could happen if Academy voters do go nuts for this movie? Well, the best case scenario obviously has the film being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director for Kechiche, Best Actress for Exarchopoulos, Best Supporting Actress for Seydoux, and Best Adapted Screenplay as well. Obviously, these all aren't going to happen, but could at least one happen? I have a hunch that it's not quite as long a shot as people think.
I'm well aware that the NC-17 rating is a big hurdle, one that likely will keep it from Best Picture, which in turn kind of cripples its Best Director chances. That being said, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay are well in play. It helps that those categories (with the exception of Lead Actress, which is top heavy) are among the weakest this year. If Academy members like the flick and are at least considering it for something, Exarchopoulos obviously gets the most consideration, but they may find it easier to go for Seydoux or even just Kechiche's script as a way to honor it on the whole, sort of like Asghar Farhadi and A Separation (though that did get nominated for Best Foreign Language, and won it, too).
What it comes down to here is just if Oscar voters are willing to look past the sex scenes and fall in love with these characters like critics and now audiences members are doing. If that happens, I do think we could see a surprise nomination or two for Blue is the Warmest Color. Yes, NC-17 films are most often ignored, but there's a greater chance than usual that this one won't be (plus with the IFC Center ignoring that NC-17 rating it might cause a stir that works its way into Hollywood). I'm not guaranteeing anything here, but I have a hunch and will continue to not predict a shutout until it appears differently.
Regardless of anything else, Blue is the Warmest Color is a brilliant film that's one of the must see movies of 2013. Alex raved about it at Cannes, I did at the New York Film Festival, and now you can see it for yourself in select theaters (more info here). I'm pretty confident that once you do, you'll be banging the drum for an Exarchopoulos, too. It's as good as any other bit of acting you'll see this year, and that includes the likes of Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, and Robert Redford. She's just that good...