Oscar Watch: One Night in Miami

When it comes to picking up hardware at awards shows for her acting, Regina King has been killing it lately. She’s won three Emmys for two different TV shows in the past half decade and may well win a fourth in a couple of weeks for HBO’s Watchmen. In 2019, King took Supporting Actress at the Oscars for If Beale Street Could Talk.

And now the Venice Film Festival has opened up real possibilities for her feature film directorial debut. One Night in Miami is based on the 2013 stage play by Kemp Powers, who adapted his own work here. It tells the fictionalized story of a real historical meeting involving Cassius Clay (before the name change to Ali) on the night he defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. The champ met with some other familiar names – Malcolm X, football star Jim Brown, and soul crooner Sam Cooke.

Reviews are out based on the Venice screening and Miami will be traveling to the Toronto  Film Festival later this week. The verdict is strong so far with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Simply put, this feels like a legitimate contender for Oscar attention.

The acting placements will be interesting to watch. Of the four leading characters, conventional wisdom is that all four will contend in Supporting Actor. They are Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X, Eli Goree as Clay, Aldis Hodge as Brown, and Leslie Odom, Jr. as Cooke. The whole quartet is receiving raves, but I’d give it a slight edge for Ben-Adir to emerge out of the pack. If he does so, he would be the second performer nominated for playing X behind Denzel Washington for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. If Goree were to emerge, he would also be the second actor recognized for playing Ali after Will Smith portrayed him in Michael Mann’s Ali. 

Furthermore, a directing nod for King would make its own history as she would be the first African-American female to make the final cut (only five women have been nominated total in the Academy’s history). Powers could in the mix for his Adapted Screenplay and a Best Picture nod seems possible. Also of note: Odom performs a closing credits song titled “Speak Now” which is being mentioned as a probable contender in Original Song.

Bottom line: one night in Venice has upped the visibility for One Night in Miami to be a player on the circuit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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