Arts & Culture News

Which Movies With Dallas Connections Will Make This Year's Oscar Nominations?

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News of the World, Hanks' first Western.
Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News of the World, Hanks' first Western. Universal
Even in the midst of a global crisis, Hollywood isn’t about to stop congratulating itself. After a year in which most movie theaters were closed, the Academy Awards extended and expanded their eligibility requirements for films in contention, pushing back their ceremony to April. As a result, movies released in 2020 and those in the first two months of 2021 are eligible, as are films released directly to streaming services without any theatrical release.

There have only been hints at what the virtual ceremony will look like, but the recent Golden Globe and Emmy festivities have proven that there is a way forward for awards shows held over Zoom, albeit an experience full of disruptions. Acceptance speeches feel different when they’re delivered in the comfort of a celebrity’s home.

Nominations will be unveiled on Monday, and as always there will be controversies and conversations to be had. The Academy Awards generated significant backlash two years ago when the “make white people feel good” historical dramedy Green Book was named Best Picture, but some of that ill will was amended last year when Parasite became the first international non-English language film to win the top prize.

As you prepare for the big reveal on Monday, take some time to watch these awards contenders with Dallas connections.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
While gross-out comedies and sequels, in general, are rarely considered to be “Oscar bait,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest stunt has become an awards season hit, with particular acclaim granted to Maria Bakalova for her tour de force performance as Borat’s daughter Tutar. Dallas was one of Borat’s many stops in the film, where he visited the State Fair of Texas and thoroughly embarrassed a local surgeon.

News of the World
A heartwarming Tom Hanks-starring vehicle is exactly what awards voters are looking for in a time of crisis, and the historical Western News of the World is one of Hank’s best recent efforts. Dallas doesn’t come off looking too great in this post-Civil War film; Hanks’ character Captain Kidd visits Dallas where he’s greeted by  kidnappers, rioters, and Confederate sympathizers.

Judas and the Black Messiah
Daniel Kaluuya is the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton, but credit is also due to Dallas actor Jesse Plemons for his role as FBI Agent Roy Mitchell. It takes a truly talented actor to play a reprehensible monster.

Da 5 Bloods
The late great Chadwick Boseman is sure to win Best Actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but it’s also likely that he’ll pick up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as the mythic “Stormin’ Norman” in Da 5 Bloods. If voters can manage to squeeze in two nominees from the same film, they should consider Dallas actor Jonathan Majors, whose role as a young man yearning for the love of his hate-stricken father (Delroy Lindo) ranks among the most moving of 2020.

The Golden Globes may have stigmatized this Korean-language drama by putting it in the Foreign Language category (which prevents it from competing in other categories), but the Oscars are likely to reward the powerful story of an American family in major categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Steven Yeun. The film follows the Yi family as they attempt to survive in the American heartland by trading goods to Dallas.

Trial of the Chicago 7
A courtroom drama about the importance of activism and transparency within a democracy? You couldn’t ask for a film that appeals more to Oscar voters and suits the political climate of the 2020s. One of the film’s most effective scenes features Michael Keaton as Dallas-born Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general for President Lyndon Johnson who is barred from delivering incriminating evidence against the Chicago Police Department.

This year’s Best Picture frontrunner is now available on Hulu, but in past years many indie films began their rollout in select arthouse theaters in New York and Los Angeles before being available nationwide. With NYC and L.A. theaters closed throughout the season, Dallas indie theaters such as the Angelika Film Center became one of the few places where film fans could watch the presumptive Oscar winner on the big screen.

Bill & Ted Face The Music
OK, so this one probably isn’t going to happen, but we’re going to make the case that the return of the Wyld Stallyns is one of the best comedies of 2020 and at least merits recognition in some of the technical categories. Sometimes the Oscars allow oddball contenders in the Best Original Song category, and the rousing “Face The Music” would be a fun surprise. The rock anthem is a key “passing of the torch” moment in which Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) become backup performers and allow their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Dallas’ own Brigette Lundy-Paine) to take center stage.
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.