- James Kunovski
Oscar Nomination Predictions: Minari
Minari is the sort of film that could be embraced by the Academy as quickly as it could be shut out. While ostensibly an acclaimed film, and one that has been doing well at award circuits, it seems that a branch like the Independent Spirit Awards would take great preference to it over the Academy. Although there has been crossover between that ceremony and the Oscars, (in the previous decade, half of its Best Feature winners also won Best Picture), the Spirit Awards do a good job at filling the gap of recognition. Look at the past two years and you see a trend that wasn’t duplicated by the Academy: The Farewell and Uncut Gems both enjoyed wins but were shut out at the Oscars, and If Beale Street Could Talk won Best Feature but was snubbed for a Best Picture nomination.
Those films probably garnered some attention but fizzled out when it came to substantial endorsement and subsequently received little-to-no nominations. Due to a fairly quiet year when it comes to award contenders, Minari will likely garner a few Oscar nominations but if it doesn’t, there is a narrative justifying those means. In any case, where should Lee Isaac Chung’s depiction of a Korean immigrant family’s search for the American Dream, on a farm in rural Arkansas, be recognised?
This is the biggest hurdle Minari has to overcome, and one that if recognised (like Nomadland), could shift the balance of Oscar taste for years to come. Although an American film, its inclusion could redeem the historic snubs of The Farewell and The Joy Luck Club, and would continue the success of Korean-language cinema.
Chung’s empathetic study of the Yi family's dreams amongst the Arkansas landscape feels authentic and memorable. While the film can be symbolic, his hand does not feel contrived, rather that he is sharing a piece of his own life through his characters. A wonderful effort that should be lauded.
The superlative company of Minari.
BEST ACTOR (Steven Yeun as Jacob)
Minari is a vehicle for Yeun, in a turn that showcases a new side to his abilities, and one that hopefully receives more traction, by way of roles, in the future. He brings forth Jacob’s reasonings for running a farm and moving to Arkansas so convincingly that his performance becomes simultaneously heartbreaking and life-affirming.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Alan S. Kim as David)
Sometimes a child performance will break into the Oscar race as we’ve recently seen with Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. If Kim is nominated, he will become the youngest nominee of all time, beating the then-eight-year old Justin Henry who was nominated for Kramer vs. Kramer. The way Kim assimilates into a lived-in persona and conveys the script with such realistic style is captivating and should be acknowledged.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Youn Yuh-jung as Soonja)
The performer most likely to be nominated has already raked in dozens of nods at critic and festival circuit bodies. Will Youn be the first actor to come to mind when voters think of Minari, two months from now? For someone who left an impression during every scene, it’s definitely possible. Veteran actress Youn plays the loveable, foul-mouthed and endearingly outlandish grandmother Soonja. Her interactions with young David are hilarious and sincere. The way she juggles that side of Soonja with a more emotional arc is brilliant.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Chung brings his own childhood memories alive through a weaving web of relationships and generations which allow each characters’ wishes and personality to truly shine. His writing does not double down on glimpses of smaller character interactions, but that tact for temperament grounds the main ensemble.
Emile Mosseri’s touching and gentle score underpins the tender soul that permeates throughout the entire film. One of the music highlights of the year, its warm core feels like the brimming sun after a rainstorm, and not only accompanies Chung’s beautiful imagery, especially in moments of affecting montage, but enables a beating pulse to one of the year’s most heart-warming flicks.
Minari feels like a lot of films that revel in success at critic and festival awards but could lose Academy voters’ attention. You’d hope the Academy would recognise its mistakes and fix its way. Oh well, its charming legacy is already written.