The 90th Academy Awards will air in just a few hours, and for the first time, Lebanon has a competing film. Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult will be vying for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar against A Fantastic Woman (Chile), The Square (Sweden), Loveless (Russia), and On Body and Soul (Hungary).
At first glance, three of the five films have much more star-power backing them: The Square has been on everyone’s radar since it came out, while both A Fantastic Woman and Loveless come from previously nominated directors. The Insult and On Body and Soul were not only surprise nominations, but have failed to make lots of critics’ lists. That being said, of late it seems The Insult has been gaining the momentum it needs to win enough votes to be called out tonight. Let’s break it down:
The Russian entry holds the highest aggregate score out of all five nominees at an impressive 87, proving how much critics fancy the film. However, Loveless offers commentary of life in modern Russia, but does so through a rather dark story that might not float every voter’s boat. Despite being aesthetically pleasing, the film is also anchored by two rather unlikable characters and doesn’t give viewers much closure, which will not do the film any good.
More Lebanon-Related News: ‘Beirut’ updates: has our backlash made a difference?
On Body and Soul
European cinema is known for its eccentricity, which is sometimes a blessing and more often a curse when it comes to the Academy Awards. The Hungarian film is a romantic dramedy that chronicles the tale of two slaughterhouse workers who meet as deer in their dreams. Need I say more? On Body and Soul is going to split the voters.
Also strange though to a much lesser extent, The Square follows a museum curator’s life as he navigates family, work, hookups, and society in this quirky observation of the state of human interaction in modern-day Sweden. And while industry darling Elisabeth Moss being featured will be a treat to voters, the Swedish production is not an easily lovable movie. Voters will either love it or hate it, and that will not help its campaign to victory.
A Fantastic Woman
The aesthetically-dazzling portrait of trans life in Chile is favourite to win the Oscar this year. Not only is the film a critical darling, but its star Daniela Vega was in the running for Best Actress and will tonight become the first ever trans presenter in the ceremony’s history. Still, it’s fair to assume that some voters will consider the subject matter too controversial (I mean we had our first LGBT+ Best Picture win only last year). While the air is slowly changing, as evidenced by films like Call Me By Your Name (though one could argue it was due one or two more nominations, and let’s not forget what happened to BPM), not all voters will opt for the Chilean drama just yet. Surprises are always well and alive on Oscar night, though, and the atmosphere of the year favours women, so A Fantastic Woman is still the frontrunner of this race.
More Lebanon-Related News: ‘Beirut’ trailer: is this another Homeland incident?
And that leaves one contender. In addition to the politics of its director (which admittedly will get it some votes), The Insult offers viewers one key thing most others, if any, do not: a universally fathomable plot with a clear beginning, middle, and ending. Boasting a strong ensemble performance, the courtroom drama offers a glimpse into the interpersonal relationships between people in Lebanon and the wounded history of a nation in a way that checks all Academy boxes. It’s easily a film that would appeal to most viewers, and that might be the golden ticket it needs to victor over the rest.
The way I see it, this is a race between The Insult and A Fantastic Woman, but either way, history will be made. The Oscars will air on select channels at 3:00 AM on Monday, March 5, in Lebanon.