Oscar Bait – The Trial of the Chicago 7 / Minari

Title: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Year: 2020
Country: USA

A film’s power to enrage can be staggering. I remember when I watched O.J.: Made in America it took a lot of my energy to not just yell at the television. After all, these are all awful things that happened and we are now looking back at just how rotten things were, are and continue to be. 

Throughout the courtroom scenes of The Trial of the Chicago 7 my blood was on a low simmer for most of the time, and then the lid would fly off whenever the judge spoke. It was pretty much ready to explode under its own force when we see how the single black defendant was bound and gagged by the racist judge, who kept refusing him his right to representation.

This film tells the true story of how a group of activists were brought to trial on a conspiracy charge after a riot broke out in Chicago during the Democratic Party Convention. From the get-go we are under no illusions that the whole thing is a massive cover up by the newly elected Nixon and his office to try and put a lid on the anti-Vietnam movement and to cover up the role the police had in this fracas.

Being written by Aaron Sorkin, you are guaranteed a brilliant script. His direction skills remain a bit to be desired, but the events are compelling enough. Plus, this shines most when it is a courtroom drama and those scenes are brilliant. Speaking of brilliant, Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic (if, like Mank, a little too old) as Abbie Hoffman and forms a great double act with Jeremy Strong. Truly, having them in this film really helps to elevate The Trial of the Chicago 7 to something really good.

Title: Minari
Director:Lee Isaac Chung
Year: 2020
Country: USA

Minari has the potential to win a lot of awards. I previously talked about the great appearance by Amanda Seyfried in Mank and the potential Oscar translation… and now I want Youn Yuh-jung to get it. The soundtrack is a stunner, the direction is dreamy and the whole story is a beautiful story about the American dream through the eyes of Korean immigrants with an interesting focus on how it feeds on gender roles.

Thinking about it though, it feels unlikely to win too much because I am not sure how much of a stomach there is for the Oscars to bestow a Korean-language film with a bushel of awards for a second year in a row. Maybe I am underestimating the academy here and that they will think about the optics about having non-English films winning big – but I just don’t see them being so daring.

Now, granted, I have yet to see Nomadland. Looking at everything in the lead in to award season, that is the film to beat and maybe that will completely wow me and overtake Minari. I cannot see how it would right now, but I am more than ready to let Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao to prove me wrong. There may be a number of films I watch in between though – it really is one hell of an Oscar season.

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