“Drive My Car,” a film based on a short story by Haruki Murakami and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, has garnered a long list of prizes since premiering last July at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won three awards, including best screenplay.

It was also named best picture by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States, as well as by critics’ associations in Los Angeles and New York. Most recently, it took the 2022 Golden Globe for best picture in the non-English language category, though that achievement may have been tarnished after the reputation of those awards, which are bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, took a severe hit as stars and media companies withdrew their support for them over criticism about the HFPA’s lack of diversity.

Nonetheless, the Globes have long been a traditional, though not terribly accurate, indicator of which films walk away with Oscars at the annual Academy Awards ceremony, including the one for best international feature. The last Japanese film to win in this category, Yojiro Takita’s “Departures” in 2009, was not a Golden Globe recipient.

Given this tailwind of critical acclaim, “Drive My Car” may well speed away with a statuette. It was one of 15 films shortlisted by the Academy for this year’s best international feature award, which is given to a film produced outside the U.S. with a mostly non-English dialogue track. Hamaguchi’s film is also likely to be among the final five nominees, which will be announced on Feb. 8. The film may even be nominated for best picture, as was Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” in 2020, despite being in the Korean language. (“Parasite” became the first foreign language film to scoop the best picture Oscar.)

But the triumph of “Drive My Car” at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, which will be held on March 27, is hardly a done deal. Bong’s smart black comedy was both a critical and popular favorite, becoming a smash hit first in South Korea and then around the world. In Japan, it finished the year with ¥4.74 billion, making it the third-highest-earning film of 2020. By contrast, the slower paced and more cerebral “Drive My Car” made only ¥30 million following its release in Japan last August, ranking in 151th place at the box office for the year.

Though Academy members are far more diverse now than when “Departures” won — nearly 2,100 of the 9,300 eligible to vote for the Oscars last year were not American — they have historically skewed more populist than the critics. In 2009, for example, Israeli entry “Waltz with Bashir” and French entry “The Class” were considered critical favorites, but the more lightly regarded “Departures” took the Oscar thanks to its emotion-drenched story of an unemployed cellist finding a new life as an “encoffiner” — a professional who prepares bodies prior to cremation.

Whether “Drive My Car” is similarly denied an Academy Award by an audience-pleasing dark horse remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however: If it does bring home an Oscar, moviegoers here will brave the coronavirus and the film’s three-hour running time — and it will rank at 151 no longer.

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