For more than 30 years, Aaron Sorkin has maintained a reputation as one of Hollywood’s best writers. His output is consistently topical and thought-provoking, and his unique brand of storytelling has brought him success in every medium. His name is easily associated with his work, which is filled with intelligent characters who expound liberal ideals with emotional heft and often engage in extended bouts of snappy dialogue.
Though his projects all bear his trademark style, each conveys its own distinct message. That is true of his latest film, Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which is proving to be a career highlight. As its writer and director, he is on track to potentially score Oscar gold twice in one night. If he pulls off both wins, he will join an exclusive group of solo writer-directors that so far only includes John Huston (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve”), Robert Benton (“Kramer vs. Kramer”), and James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”).
Since its release, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” has ranked as one of this year’s leading Oscar contenders. By our odds, it is currently favored to win Best Film Editing, and ranks second in the races for Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Best Picture (after “Nomadland”). We predict that Sorkin will compete for the first time in the Best Director category. He currently sits at third place in that ranking with 13/2 odds, behind frontrunner Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and David Fincher (“Mank”).
Sorkin has won several critics awards for writing “The Trial of the Chicago 7″ and leads the Oscars race for Best Original Screenplay with 18/5 odds. A win there would earn him the rare distinction of scoring Oscar gold in both writing categories.
He has competed for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar three times in the past decade, winning in 2011 for “The Social Network.” His adaptation of the tale of Facebook’s beginnings also earned him a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, and a WGA Award. He later won a second Critics Choice Award in 2012 for “Moneyball” and another Golden Globe in 2016 for “Steve Jobs.” He had previously won a WGA Award, as well as an Emmy, for his work on the NBC series “The West Wing.” The heavily lauded writer has also served as an executive producer on all of his television series, but never tried his hand at helming until just a few years ago.
Sorkin made his directorial debut with 2017’s “Molly’s Game,” for which he received his most recent writing Oscar nomination. That first outing was a moderate success, but his follow-up, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” has been cited as a significant improvement. As Johnny Oleksinski (The New York Post) puts it, his skillful direction of his own script demonstrates that “he now has a confident command of viewers’ emotions.” The film recounts the true story of seven men who endured a lengthy courtroom battle after being charged with inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In the words of Lindsey Bahr (Associated Press), “if anyone was born to make a film about the infamous federal trial… it’s Aaron Sorkin.”
Sorkin began working on the project many years ago, but it was put on hold due to the 2007-08 writers’ strike. By the time he finished writing, political division in America had become a daily news topic, and September 2020 turned out to be the perfect time to release the film. Though it depicts events from half a century ago, it illustrates very clearly that not much has changed in all that time when it comes to racial, gender, and class equality. “The whole world is watching” is not only a poster tagline and a line repeated throughout the film, but also a message to the audience. Sorkin reminds us that the whole world has been watching America for decades and that there is no pride in the continued practice of inequality.
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