Picture it: America, January 24, 2017. One egomaniac, Donald J. Trump, has been president for four days and the country is still standing. Another, Quebecois enfant terrible Xavier Dolan, has been snubbed yet again by Oscar. Slant’s number one film of 2016, Toni Erdmann, is nominated in this category—and to our surprise. After all, it was easy to imagine those who rewarded pablum like Tsotsi and The Secret in Their Eyes, and pretty much every film that won here in the 1990s, reacting to Toni Erdmann’s dry-martini wit as one Professor Frink-channeling voter specified to The Daily Beast’s Michael Musto: “It was so shticky and false and phony, with his teeth and his wig, and it’s not funny. Why are they nominating this? This is like three hours of torture.”
Those were simpler times, before Trump advocated, in homage to Bush II, the use of torture and banned more than 250 million people, simply because of where they were born, from entering the United States. Less than two weeks ago, the frustration of trying to beat fucking level 2275 of Candy Crush was almost enough to distract me from the horrifying possibility that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, leaving approximately 20 million people in this country without health care. Was it even necessary to see Land of Mine or Tanna? Because of its sense of urgency and electric, almost preternatural, control of tone, The Salesman appeared unbeatable, unless voters saw in A Man Called Ove, the story of a suicidal curmudgeon who learns to appreciate life by virtue of his proximity to a brown person, a larger-than-the-movie-screen promise of salvation: that one day, someone might figure out a way of disabling our sitting president’s walking trigger alert.
Today, when a friend of mine, a citizen of this country, is afraid of visiting family in Canada because he was born in Pakistan, and another, a British citizen, is also concerned about traveling because her green card says she was born in Somalia-adjacent Ethiopia, it’s difficult to imagine AMPAS not wanting to extol The Salesman on principle alone: as a rebuke to our 45th president’s politics of fear. Any other year we would call this for Land of Mine, a luridly simplistic morality tale about young German POWs diffusing bombs in coastal Denmark following WWII—and this in spite of the fact that the film’s opening scene is uncannily in sync with the ethos of necessarily punching a Nazi in the face. But the Oscars have rarely passed up the chance to make a statement, and awarding Asghar Farhadi, prevented from attending this year’s ceremony because of Trump’s Muslim ban, would be a way for Hollywood to add its voice to the every-growing protests against our government’s inhuman will to turn its back to those who seek to taste our freedoms.
Will Win: The Salesman
Could Win: Land of Mine
Should Win: The Salesman