You can’t accuse Netflix’s awards team of Oscar category fraud. They’re going to push the entire starry ensemble of writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s well-reviewed ’60s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (October 16) for supporting actor, just as “Spotlight” did the year it collected the Best Picture Oscar. (In that category, only Mark Ruffalo landed an acting nod, knocking out Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup and more, while Rachel McAdams sailed easily into Supporting Actress.)
The slew of supporting actor candidates in “Chicago 7” have agreed to compete together, including the cast’s arguable leads, Sacha Baron Cohen as Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, who in the movie tussles with Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne’s more moderate anti-war activist Tom Hayden. Now Baron Cohen will likely get the slot that might have otherwise gone to Jeremy Strong (Yippie Jerry Rubin), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Bobby Seale), Mark Rylance (defense lawyer William Kunstler), or Frank Langella (Judge Julius Hoffman).
This means that Baron Cohen now has a shot in the Best Actor race as his returning character in “Borat 2.” Also possibly benefiting from more Best Actor slots is this year’s breakout actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, who plays Malcolm X in Regina King’s feature film directing debut “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios). That true 1964 story assembles Malcolm X with his friends Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) to figure out ways to change things in the segregated South. The film drew raves out of Venice and Toronto.
And these two films are going to be front and center in the influential SAG Ensemble race, along with two Netflix contenders starring Chadwick Boseman: the late actor has two shots at winning a posthumous award, for his supporting role as an heroic soldier killed in Vietnam in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” and for his lead role in George C. Wolfe’s August Wilson adaptation, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix), in which he faces off against the mighty Viola Davis as Ma Rainey.
Which means that the Supporting Actor category is going to be crowded, indeed.