"Borat 2," the sequel to the 2006 film, comes as a surprise — no one really knew it was even in development until August this year when Sacha Baron Cohen was spotted filming in costume as the character.
Now the movie, out this Friday, will become his second major production of the year, following his starring role in Aaron Sorkin's Netflix courtroom drama "The Trial of the Chicago 7.""Chicago 7" follows a group of defendants on trial in 1969 and 1970 as they are being charged with inciting riots at anti-Vietnam war protests.Advertisement It is yet to be determined whether Cohen will be campaigned in lead actor or supporting actor for that movie, but his chances of a first Oscar nomination for acting (he was previously nominated for original screenplay for "Borat") are looking good at the moment.
But what will really increase his odds of not only a nomination but actually taking home the Academy Award is his role in "Borat 2."
Cohen's performance in 'Chicago 7' is great, but competition is fierceAs I wrote in my review of "Chicago 7," Cohen gives possibly his best ever performance on screen. He plays Abbie Hoffman, one of the activists on trial, and combines his comedic timing with dramatic weight, all wrapped up with a flawless American accent.Advertisement
He brings not only the best comedic relief in the movie, making a great double up act with fellow hippie demonstrater Jerry Rubin (played by Jeremy Strong), but he is actually one of the main dramatic anchors of the film — along with Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.In ensemble movies like this one, it's hard to pick out a singular actor who takes on the "lead role," so it may be wiser to campaign Cohen in supporting actor, where he has more chance of a nomination than he would competing against full-on lead actor contenders such as Anthony Hopkins in "The Father," Gary Oldman in "Mank," and Tom Hanks in "News of the World." The trouble is, the supporting actor category is set to be pretty stacked this year. He'd not only have to compete with costars Strong, Rylance, and Frank Langella (in his villainous role as the judge), but also David Strathairn in the critically-acclaimed "Nomadland," every actor in Regina King's "One Night in Miami" (particularly Leslie Odom Jr.), and Chadwick Boseman in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," who many may want to award a posthumous Oscar.Advertisement
It's gonna be a tough squeeze for Cohen to get into either category, so that's where a little extra help or USP could give Cohen the push he needs. And that's where "Borat 2" comes in.
His performance in 'Borat 2' will likely be just as good as the first movie, where he came close to an Oscar nomination
Cohen's performance in the first "Borat" was, for all its broadly comic and deliberately offensive shenanigans, actually critically acclaimed. He was nominated and won a lot of critics awards in the lead up to the
The only reason he didn't get more attention is because of a lot of awards groups' snobbish attitude towards comedies, particularly this type of comedy. Indeed, Cohen likely came close to an Oscar nomination for best actor in this movie — the voters clearly liked it as they gave it a nomination for best original screenplay (which Cohen shared with four others including Todd Phillips) despite the movie being unscripted, but the Academy has a real problem when it comes to nominating comedic performances.
The Academy is prejudiced against comedic performances
What is the difference between Cohen's performance in "Borat" and Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning performance in "Lincoln," or Steve Carell's Oscar-nominated performance in "Foxcatcher?" All three are transformative roles wherein the actor completely disappears in the role via make-up, physicality, and voice.In fact, Cohen recently revealed that he stayed in character as Borat for five days while filming the sequel.Advertisement "I was waking up, having breakfast, lunch, dinner, going to sleep as Borat when I lived in a house with these conspiracy theorists," Cohen said. "You can't have a moment out of character."
This is akin to the sort of method stuff "serious" actors like Day-Lewis and Robert De Niro are famous for. Day-Lewis spent the entire time shooting "My Left Foot" in a wheelchair — and he won an Oscar for his performance. Why shouldn't Cohen for the same style of acting in "Borat 2?"Many actors even argue that comedy is actually harder than drama.Advertisement
Vulture ran through a whole list of iconic comedy performances that were snubbed but the Academy but Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," Hugh Grant in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (despite winning a BAFTA), and Eddie Murphy in "Dolemite is My Name" are a few highlights.Not even the wonderful Ralph Fiennes could get a nod for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and that was adored in pretty much every other category at the Oscars, winning four. Cohen's performance in "Borat" is arguably more memorable today than most of the five roles nominated for best actor in 2007, which included Ryan Gosling in "Half Nelson" and Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland" (which he won for).Advertisement
The Academy might appreciate 'Borat 2', but award him for the more high-brow 'Chicago 7'
His talent and skill as a comic are undeniable, that's why he received a nomination for best original screenplay for the first movie. It would be great if Cohen was nominated for "Borat 2," but even today, from a much-reformed Academy, it's unlikely that he will be. Still, the movie will be a timely reminder for Oscar voters of how talented an actor Cohen is.
It's not uncommon for Oscar voters to nominate a star for a different project than the one they truly loved as a reward for that work.This thought pattern is actually very common amonst Oscar voters. For instance, Alicia Vikander had both "Ex Machina" and "The Danish Girl" out in the same year. The former was very popular with voters, but they instead nominated Vikander for her much more Oscar-friendly role in "The Danish Girl."Advertisement
That's what could happen here with Cohen. They may not want to nominate a big, brash, bawdy, controversial comedy like "Borat 2," but they will have no problem nominating "Chicago 7," a high-brow court-room drama written and directed by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin.
So, Borat will help a lot, but the Oscar voters will stick to their tastes, and award Cohen a "sum" nomination for "Chicago 7." It just won't be for "Chicago 7" alone, no matter what the ballot says.
Read more:Advertisement Sacha Baron Cohen says he spent 5 days in character while living with conspiracy theorists for 'Borat 2'