Oscar nomination voting begins today and runs until March 10. The nominations will be announced March 15. Right now, if there’s a frontrunner, it’s probably Nomadland, off the strength of director Chloe Zhao’s lead in the director race and its universal acclaim. Heading into the Globes, Nomadland’s biggest competition was supposed to be The Trial of the Chicago 7. I don’t know if momentum for Chicago 7 is waning, but to me, it does feel like at this critical moment, there is another film surging: Minari.
Minari-related media coverage has been consistent over the last few weeks, and this week in particular. Lead actor Steven Yeun was just featured in PEOPLE yesterday, which is about as mainstream as it gets. The Wrap, an online industry outlet, interviewed him on Wednesday and; director Lee Isaac Chung showed up on NPR’s Fresh Air and in TIME the same day. And we’ve already talked about supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung’s press presence in the site open earlier this week.
Most Oscar experts seem to agree that Youn is a lock for a nomination – and could even be the frontrunner. Steven Yeun’s chances at a best actor nomination aren’t quite as solid. It’s disappointing though that Minari’s lead actress, Han Ye-ri (commonly referred to as Yeri Han), is not in the conversation at all. Shirley Li wrote an excellent piece in The Atlantic this week about how Asian actors are the “invisible stars of Asian-led movies”, particularly during award season. Parasite is the most recent example of this: Bong Joon-ho’s film went on to win Best Picture but none of the actors in the film were nominated for Oscars. This is an extension of a trend that goes back forever. Think about the way the actors from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Slumdog Millionaire were overlooked. The western film industry may appreciate, from time to time, Asian filmmaking, but they do not appreciate Asian actors. When you consider that the largest branch of the Oscar academy is made up of actors, it’s a telling statement about who they consider to be their peers. And for all their pontificating about how actors see the world, and should be able to inhabit any character, this could be an indication of who they themselves actually relate to.
In a strange year, though, when Oscar campaigning does not look like what it usually does, it has been encouraging to see that there is one actor from the Minari cast who has emerged as the star of award season. That would be eight-year-old Alan Kim, continuing the Hollywood tradition of when there is a child star involved in an award-contending film, the child will become a media darling. See Abigail Breslin, Quvenzhané Wallis, Jacob Tremblay. Minari is Alan’s first film – and he is DELIGHTFUL. Seriously, this kid kills me, I can’t get enough of him. And neither can the media. They’re writing about him over at Buzzfeed. Sonic the Hedgehog sent him a personal message. Vulture’s Rachel Handler interviewed him a few weeks ago about fashion and food and acting. And Jimmy Kimmel was clearly taken with him earlier this week when he walked out wearing his Taekwondo belt:
So in a regular year, it would be a given for Alan to be one of the more popular gets on the Oscar red carpet and be invited to be a presenter, right? None of that can be determined, of course, until the nominations are announced but if Minari does make it on the list of Best Picture nominees, Alan should get the same treatment that other kid actors got before him, shouldn’t he?
For more Alan Kim content, here’s his interview with W Korea in which he transitions seamlessly between Korean and English, in and of itself something I could dedicate a whole post to – the fact that we’re watching a young actor in the spotlight who is quite organically communicating in public the way he does at home, using a mix of two languages, something familiar to so many of us who grew up in immigrant homes. And, of course, he knows the lyrics to BTS’s “Dynamite” off by heart.