A charismatic and cocky European who makes the gala not just about Hollywood

This is a cultural article which is part of Then24’s opinion journalism.

Ruben Östlund at Monday's Film Gala, where his
Ruben Östlund at Monday’s Film Gala, where his “Triangle of sadness” was awarded with six Guldbaggars.

What a day he got, Ruben Östlund. On Monday evening, the golden beetles rained over Triangle of sadness at the Film Gala – fourteen hours later, the film was nominated for an Oscar three times. The combination of cascading vomit and pitch-black contemporary satire on gender and class obviously works on both sides of the Atlantic.

But perhaps it is also the director himself who has charmed the American film academy. Two of the nominations – for original screenplay and direction – are issued to him personally. And Ruben Östlund has never been a stranger to flirting with the Oscar jury, as in the viral video where he pretended (?) to break down when Tourist was not nominated for best foreign film in 2015.

In 2018, he got his revenge when The Square snagged a nomination in the same category, and now he takes three new steps forward.

Actually it is not at all surprised – and not just because Östlund is a skilled filmmaker. He is exactly the kind of director the Oscar jury likes to spice up their categories with: a charismatic and slightly cocky European, just rightly provocative but still delighted to be a part of it. Together with Martin McDonagh (with eight nominations for The banshees of Inisherin) the Swede becomes a guarantor that the gala will not only be about Hollywood nostalgia (this year strongly represented by Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical The Fabelmans).

And he’s male, which seems like the absolute surest way to be nominated for a directing Oscar. After two years of female winners (Chloe Zhao and Jane Campion) the category is again all-male, even though Sarah Polley’s Women talking became one of last year’s most hyped films.

Perhaps the film has been overlooked because, unlike Campion’s cowboy film The Power of the Dog and Zhao’s road movie Nomadland, it is so unabashedly feminine

Women talking based on the novel by Miriam Toews, about a group of women in an isolated Christian sect who have been subjected to systematic abuse. As the men leave to pay bail for the perpetrators, the women gather in a hayloft to talk about their future – should they stay or go?

Maybe the movie has overlooked because it, unlike Campion’s cowboy film The power of the dog and Zhao’s road movie Nomadic land, is so uninhibitedly feminine. Young and old women, gentle and furious, gather to methodically talk their way to a solution. Everyone is listened to and gets to speak to the point, and the debate is no less serious because they braid each other’s hair while they talk.

None of the formidable cast – Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara and more – has been nominated for an Oscar, or any of the major awards (with the exception of a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble). Instead, Sarah Polley has had to settle for a series of nominations for best screenplay by editor.

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but as one of ten nominees, and against acclaimed audience favorites that Everything everywhere all at once and Top Gun: Maverick, it has almost as little chance as Triangle of sadness to take home the prize. I still hope that every single person goes and sees it.

Footnote: “Women talking” will have its Swedish cinema premiere on February 17. The Oscars take place on March 12.

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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