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Balancing every emotional beat at once.

Who Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

In Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya plays Fred Hampton, the titular “black messiah”.

Hampton is a larger-than-life figure, introduced with a rousing, provocative speech that immediately shows his magnetic personality and willingness to speak his mind. Hampton is dedicated to the cause of revolution, and liberation of the proletariat, evoking Malcolm X, Che Guevara, and Chairman Mao in his orations. Though he firmly proclaims that actions are needed over words, he is a diplomat, seeking to unite the disparate minority groups of Chicago as a revolutionary force, rather than resort to violence before it is necessary.

When he speaks to a crowd, Kaluuya’s Hampton exudes charisma, coming across as an almost mythical figure. Yet Hampton is anchored to his humanity through private scenes of him and his friends from the Black Panther Party, as well as with his partner, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback).
Behind closed doors, Hampton is still charming, kind, and devoted to the people, but his rhetoric is less fiery. The film knowingly draws parallels between Hampton’s private persona and scenes of the Jesus with the apostles.

Kaluuya balances both sides of Hampton, delivering a consistently warm, yet powerful performance. Fifty years ago, the real Hampton inspired revolutionaries as a 21-year-old. In Judas, Kaluuya gives his most inspired – and inspiring – performance yet.

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Who Got Snubbed: Stanley Tucci – Supernova

Tusker (Stanley Tucci) has recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and will soon be unable to recognize those around him. Though his partner, Sam (Colin Firth), is willing to do anything to take care of Tusker until his final days, Tusker discourages him from giving up his career as an in-demand concert pianist.

In Supernova, the couple embarks on one last road trip, repeating a country retreat they’d taken in the early days of their relationship. As the two set out on a couple’s holiday, even the best moments are bittersweet, as both realize that before long, Tusker won’t be able to remember them.

Supernova is a somber movie, but never a pessimistic one. Tusker is the tragic core of the film but manages to simultaneously bring a much-needed levity. He balances both moods well, turning a story about impending tragedy into something hopeful. Though Sam doesn’t want to hear it, Tusker’s message is that even when he is gone, everything will be ok.

As the lovable writer who’s always got something to say, Tucci portrays such a wholesome character that his suffering is genuinely heartbreaking. A scene of Tusker having difficulty dressing becomes gut-wrenching, while his arguments with Sam carry extra emotional weight through the actors’ chemistry.

The message of Supernova is that it’s hard to say goodbye. And at the end of two hours, it really is hard to say goodbye to Tusker.

Other Notable Snubs: Orion Lee – First Cow, Alan Kim – Minari, Boris Isaković – Quo Vadis, Aida?