Five reasons why Sacha Baron Cohen can win the Oscar for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

After my recent article presenting “Five Reason Why Carey Mulligan Will Win the Best Actress Oscar for ‘Promising Young Woman,’” I was asked about my current prediction for Best Supporting Actor. To be more specific, I was asked how confident I am – and if I can provide similar analysis to make my case. Well, I’ve never been one to shy away from a Gold Derby challenge. And I’ll concede that I am far from 100% certain on this one. Many academy elitists may be reluctant to vote for someone better known for playful pranks than distinguished dramatics. Still, there’s a trajectory which could help him pull off the ultimate stunt this April. (And that’s no April Fool’s joke.)

Here are five reasons why Sacha Baron Cohen can win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

1. He delivers the classic scene-stealing featured performance.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Throughout Oscar history, the Best Supporting Actor trophy has often gone to guys who upstaged their leading men and women. Classic examples include Thomas Mitchell in “Stagecoach,” Walter Huston in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” Edmond O’Brien in “The Barefoot Contessa” and Peter Ustinov in “Spartacus.” The trend continued into the later part of the century, with the likes of John Gielgud in “Arthur,” Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas” and Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.” More recent instances include Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds,” J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” and reigning champ Brad Pitt in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Baron Cohen arguably has the most memorable role in “Trial” due to his skillful execution of all those zesty zingers. Is it any coincidence that he’s the only man from the magnificent “Chicago 7” who has walked away with Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice nominations? He could steal his way to the Academy Award.

2. He’ll win the Golden Globe and the BAFTA.
Just a short while ago, my brilliant colleague Denton Davidson (Gold Derby’s 2018 top Golden Globe film scorer) pointed out that while Baron Cohen is currently the odd-on favorite to take Best Comedy/Musical Actor for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” no one has ever been rewarded twice for playing the same movie character. That subsequently gives Baron Cohen a big boost in the race for Best Supporting Actor. Remember that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of international journalists who love to celebrate big stars. And Baron Cohen is by far the biggest international star in the category. The temptation to honor him for an acclaimed, serious performance might be too hard to resist. And assuming that he gets nominated for the BAFTA (which is widely expected,) the British Baron Cohen will enjoy a home court advantage that could help bring him the crown.

3. He could snag the SAG Award.
I don’t care what anyone says. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a slam dunk for the ensemble acting prize. Not only does it have a large cast filled with big names and even bigger theatrics, it premiered on Netflix last fall and will be the most widely-seen of the nominees. Baron Cohen could ride on the “Chicago 7” coattails. And while he faces stiff competition, they also have notable negatives. Leslie Odom Jr. is a standout in “One Night in Miami,” but he’s more of a stage name than a screen name. Daniel Kaluuya is receiving raves for his role in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” yet he represents the only SAG citation for the film. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Chadwick Boseman in “Da 5 Bloods” further complicates matters. While SAG members are already voting him for best lead in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” great affection for the late actor may generate a lot of checks in the supporting race, as well. With Baron Cohen’s opposition votes being split three ways, he has a path to a plurality – and thus victory.

PREDICT the 2021 Oscar nominations through March 15

4. He gets bonus points for “Borat.”
Baron Cohen probably just missed a Best Actor Oscar nod for the first “Borat” back in 2006. (Though he did score a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.) The release of the “Borat” sequel in 2020 boosted his profile and similarly boosts his Oscar chances. Even though Baron Cohen isn’t expected to contend for playing “Borat,” his co-star Maria Bakalova is positioned to crack the Best Supporting Actress category. Having more than one strong performance in a single year can significantly help an Oscar nominee. Consider Laura Dern in “Marriage Story” and “Little Women,” Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” and “Ex Machina,” and Kate Winslet in “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road.” They all prevailed for the first, but were undoubtedly aided by the second. Baron Cohen’s double whammy could double his Oscar prospects.

5. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a major threat to win Best Picture.
It’s no secret that appearing in a Best Picture vehicle significantly improves the chances of an acting Oscar hopeful. That’s good news for Baron Cohen. What’s even better for him is that “Trial” is considered a leading contender to actually take the prize. That strong support for “Trial” at the top of the ticket aids it elsewhere on the ballot. Academy members will be looking to honor it in other places – and there may not be many. (Especially if Baron Cohen is the only “Trial” player in the Supporting Actor lineup.) In other words, admiration for the courtroom drama could tilt the Academy’s decision in his favor – delivering a verdict of “Oscar” to cinema’s most notorious high jinx jester.

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