Netflix, Amazon Set Awards Class Placements for Actors in ‘Chicago 7,’ ‘One Evening in Miami’

Netflix and Amazon each boast a plethora of strong performances for Oscar voters to choose from this year and will no doubt mount awards campaigns for multiple movies on their slate, but the streamers recently set category placements for actors in two of their top contenders — The Trial of the Chicago 7 and One Night in Miami.

Aaron Sorkin‘s courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on the true story of seven (well, eight, actually) very different activists who faced conspiracy and inciting to riot charges (among others) following anti-war protests that took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star alongside Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Carroll Lynch and Frank Langella, the latter of whom shines as out-of-control Judge Julius Hoffman. While there had been some early talk that Cohen and Redmayne might be campaigned as leads, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that the entire cast will be pushed in the supporting actor category.

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Image via Netflix

THR notes that the decision echoes that of Spotlight, which went on to earn nominations for Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in addition to winning Best Picture. Past awards contenders Crash, Little Miss Sunshine and Babel also embraced the all-supporting approach, with Matt Dillon, Abigail Breslin, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi all nominated, and Alan Arkin winning for LMS.

Now, this year’s lead actor race has no shortage of strong contenders, which may explain Netflix’s decision, in which case, Cohen and Redmayne stand to benefit, especially given their extra screentime compared to their co-stars. However, like Redmayne, Rylance is a recent Oscar winner himself, while Keaton and Langella have both been nominated for an Oscar just like Cohen (though his was for writing), and rising stars Strong and Abdul-Mateen II just won Emmys for Succession and Watchmen, respectively. What I’m getting at is that there’s simply too much talent on hand for just five slots.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Chicago 7 could score multiple nominations in a single category, but it’s just as possible that voters won’t be able to come to a consensus as to who the film’s standout is, leaving the entire ensemble to split the vote. No film has landed three acting noms in a single category since The Godfather Part II in 1974.

Some awards watchers have speculated that Cohen’s spirited turn as Abbie Hoffman could be rewarded by Hollywood after the actor struck a blow against Republicans with Borat 2, but again, it’s also possible that Amazon’s high-profile comedy could siphon awards attention away from Cohen’s performance in Chicago 7. Much has been made of the age difference between Cohen and the real-life Hoffman, but speaking as a guy from Massachusetts, it’s the English actor’s shaky Boston accent that should be raising eyebrows — if you care about that kind of thing. Otherwise, I thought he was pretty damn good, too. Was he the best in the cast though? I don’t know about that…

In fact, THR tried to explain Netflix’s decision to run the entire Chicago 7 cast in the supporting category by (correctly) saying that everyone seemed to have a different favorite, and there was no clear standout among the talented ensemble — unlike Spike Lee‘s Da 5 Bloods, where critics and strategists agreed that Delroy Lindo was the film’s true lead, and everyone else (Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Jonathan Majors and the late Chadwick Boseman) would campaign as supporting actors. Speaking of Boseman, Netflix will also campaign him for a posthumous nomination in the lead actor category thanks to his upcoming turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

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Image via Amazon Prime Video

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own period piece One Night in Miami from first-time director Regina King and writer Kemp Powers has also been earning awards buzz on the virtual festival circuit. The film imagines an incredible meeting between Black icons Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke as they try to define a new world for themselves and their people in 1964.

Amazon will campaign Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree as lead actors for their respective turns as Malcolm X and the boxer who would soon call himself Muhammad Ali, while Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. will compete in the supporting category after playing football star Brown and soul singer Cooke. I haven’t seen One Night in Miami myself yet, but word on the street suggests that Goree and Odom Jr. stand the best chance of scoring nominations. I can’t wait to weigh in on that debate at a later date.

Both The Trial of the Chicago 7 and One Night in Miami are expected to be top contenders for the Screen Actors Guild’s Best Ensemble award, which is considered an important bellwether for the Oscar race. Personally, I just hope the Academy remembers Sound of Metal stars Riz Ahmed and John Raci come February, because they are both incredible in that film. But don’t take my word for it! Click here to read Matt Goldberg‘s review out of Sundance, and then click here to watch the trailer for the hard-hitting film, which arrives on Amazon Prime Video later this month.

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