Sacha Baron Cohen provides a compelling building block in the dynamic ensemble cast of “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” It, however, isn’t a salient enough role to win him an Oscar. What is most remarkable about his performance is how completely different he is from his title role in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
More distinguished as an Oscar caliber Supporting role, but also with no chance of winning is Paul Raci in “Sound of Metal.” It’s his backstory that fuels a nomination for playing a teacher/counselor in a school for the deaf. Besides both his parents being deaf and being fluent in sign language, Raci’s long, not-famous acting career includes involvement with theater for and about the deaf. He anchors lead actor Riz Ahmed very well.
Leslie Odom, Jr., though he’s done lots of TV, really put himself on the map playing Aaron Burr on Broadway, reprised in the film, “Hamilton.” Playing a singer (rather than a man from a history book singing in a musical), Odom may be the most engaging character in “One Night in Miami.” His depiction of singer, songwriter, and activist Sam Cooke balances the based-on-a-true-story meeting of Malcom X, Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay), Jimmy Brown (a football all-star), and Cooke.
Leslie Odom, Jr. could steal the Oscar if Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield siphon votes from each other, both categorized as Supporting Actors in the same film, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” (Neither role feels like a supporting role.)
Kaluuya, playing the Black Messiah, Fred Hampton, is the film’s center of gravity. A charismatic Black Panther (who curiously plays a small role in “The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Fred Hampton inspired the grass roots with constructive commu-nity programs and no shortage of revolutionary rhetoric.
Kaluuya drenches the screen with the activist humanity of Fred Hampton. Not exactly a Gandhi style characterization, Kaluuya should nonetheless rally himself an Oscar. Watch his eyes. His eyes, indeed everything about him, is electric.
Although the story is more about Lakeith Stanfield’s Judas, Stanfield plays backdrop to Kaluuya’s dominant presence, Stanfield’s a Judas because he’s an informant. He’s a mole in the Blank Panthers. He traded not getting arrested for doing the FBI’s bidding, with Hampton as the priority target.
There’s a temptation to want to give Stanfield’s more complicated role the Oscar, but Leslie Odom, Jr. and especially, Daniel Kaluuya has more of what Oscar wants.