Regina King’s engaging, resonant historical biopic, One Night in Miami, is one of the early standouts of the Oscar race this year. It debuted at the Venice Film Festival, then played TIFF, kicking off a traditional Oscar campaign in a very non-traditional year (it will premiere on Christmas day in whatever theaters are open, and then drop on Amazon on January 15). Amazon, the studio supporting the film, has also followed a pretty traditional route with the film’s four actors, splitting them in half, with Eli Goree and Kingsley Ben-Adir campaigning for Best Actor, while Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom, Jr. go for Best Supporting Actor. As fantastic as this cast is—and they are very fantastic—the real one to watch is King herself, who could become the first Black woman to be nominated for Best Director.
There have been repeated calls to cancel the Oscars, but 2020, for all its complications, is shaping up to be a very competitive year, and some great narratives are forming for awards season. I agree that a Zoom Oscars will be inherently less glamorous—but not necessarily less entertaining—than the traditional show, but why cancel the Oscars in a year when women have done such incredible work? Besides King, this year could see recognition for Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), Kelly Reichardt (First Cow), Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Autumn de Wilde (Emma.), and dark horses Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Channing Godfrey Peoples (Miss Juneteenth) shouldn’t be discounted. This is an exciting year! Sure, David Fincher will suck up a lot of the air in the room with a black-and-white biopic about Old Hollywood, but there is so much room for celebrating the women filmmakers of 2020.
And who can resist the potential storyline of Regina King and Chloe Zhao both making history? Like King, Zhao could make history as the first Asian woman nominated for Best Director. 2020 is a lot of garbage, but it won’t be completely garbage if it begins with Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant Oscar night and then ends with Regina King and Chloe Zhao being nominated for directing. The 2021 Oscar race could be all about women of color! Come ON, who doesn’t want that, even if the ceremony itself is some f-cked up Zoom mess? And I do think this is entirely possible, Miami and Nomadland remain two of the best films I’ve seen this year, and both are superbly directed. King is a beloved figure in the industry, and Zhao one of the hottest up-and-comers, so these headlines practically write themselves.
Another headline that writes itself? Regina King winning an Emmy for acting and an Oscar for directing in the same year. Her odds are better for the nomination than the win—I’d put Zhao and Fincher as the frontrunners right now—but you know even the speculation of King winning for acting and directing in the same year will make for flashy headlines. So yes, let’s have the 2021 Oscars in all their Zoom glory because this year will be dominated by Regina King, Chloe Zhao…and David Fincher. But mostly Regina King and Chloe Zhao. 2020 is actually giving us something to talk about, let us talk about it!