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Saving an empty chair for Chadwick Boseman

Delroy Lindo (clockwise from top left), George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun
Delroy Lindo (clockwise from top left), George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun from The Envelope’s Actors Roundtable.
(Los Angeles Times)

We have a new president. We have a renewed appreciation for poetry. And we’re probably wishing — or, at least, I am — that just once it would get cold enough in L.A. to break out some mittens made from repurposed sweaters and recycled plastic.

Also: The Oscars are about three months away.

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times and host of the Envelope’s Friday newsletter. Welcome to this week’s edition, taking place, to quote our national youth poet laureate, in “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” Let us be active participants in that process.

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Lead actor contenders discuss ‘impostor syndrome’

Everyone hurts. Everyone doubts themselves. Unless you’re a narcissist. And then you’re playing “My Way” as you’re leaving on a jet plane to the ash heap of history.

“I think it’s very healthy, this impostor syndrome,” says Gary Oldman, who portrays “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in the period biopic “Mank.” “If someone said to me, ‘What do you think is your best work?’ I’d like to say, ‘Next year. The best work is the next one.’”

Oldman joined Delroy Lindo, Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun and George Clooney recently for The Envelope’s Actors Roundtable, led by Times movie writer Jen Yamato. As you’d expect from this group, it was a lively, candid conversation, touching on the ways they got through this last horrific year and the loss of the great Chadwick Boseman.

“It’s a crappy year, and we don’t get to be in the same room together,” Clooney said. “And if we were sitting in a room right now, all of us together, there’d be an empty chair for Chadwick Boseman.”

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SAG Awards could make history again

Last year’s SAG Awards both made history and foreshadowed history when “Parasite” became the first non-English-language film to win its film ensemble prize. Bong Joon Ho’s masterful thriller of course went on to win the Oscar for best picture, and you could make a case that the momentum for that victory began with the SAG ceremony when the audience gave the “Parasite” cast two standing ovations — the first coming just for being there.

This year has its own potential history-making story line in the ensemble race as the predominantly Black casts of three films — “One Night in Miami,” “Da 5 Bloods” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — could be nominated, with a fourth movie, the historical drama “Judas and the Black Messiah,” in the running too.

Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree in “One Night in Miami.”
Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Eli Goree in “One Night in Miami.”
(Amazon Studios)

The sprawling, excellent group in Aaron Sorkin’s legal procedural “The Trial of the Chicago 7" will also find a place here, leaving a diverse set of contenders battling for the final spot. If I had to choose, I’d have a hard time resisting the urge to bring the perfectly cast “Minari” actors together again, particularly if young Alan S. Kim agrees to show up wearing his cowboy hat and boots.

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More awards contenders to come

The Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday and because the film academy extended this year’s Oscars eligibility to the end of February, we’ll be seeing a handful of contenders premiering at the event. One of them is a movie I just mentioned: “Judas and the Black Messiah,” a historical drama focusing on the complicated relationship between Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield). The film opens in theaters and HBO Max on Feb. 12.

Envelope contributor Craigh Barboza recently spoke with director Shaka King, producer Charles D. King and Kaluuya, who called the movie “the biggest professional task I’ve been given.”

“I stumbled across the Panthers through the art I was taking in from America as a teenager,” says the British Kaluuya, “and what they stood for really resonated with me. I remember we studied this period of American history in school, but, for whatever reason, we weren’t taught the Panthers. It was Rosa Parks, the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King. That’s kind of what I was taught about Black American issues at like 14. The curriculum didn’t go into slavery and only alluded to Malcolm X. But if you’re around Black people, they’ll tell you, they’ll show you. Listen to this, watch this.”

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Director Shaka King and actor Daniel Kaluuya on the set of "Judas and the Black Messiah."
Director Shaka King and actor Daniel Kaluuya on the set of “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
(Glen Wilson / Warner Bros.)

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.


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