Surveying the field of helmers from debut filmmakers to weathered vets
Asghar Farhadi - "The Past"
Pros: We can only guess how close Farhadi did or didn't come to a nomination here for "A Separation" two years ago -- but either way, that Oscar-winning marital drama (plus his gracious appearances in interview upon interview) won him a lot of fans in the Academy. More voters will now be inclined to check out this touching, well constructed French-language effort on his basis of his name. Its position as Iran's official Oscar submission adds a profile boost.
Cons: Most agree that the film, for all its virtues, isn't as strong as its predecessor. Nominations for foreign-language films in this category are relatively rare; "The Past" currently isn't enough of a crossover buzz title to buck the odds.