Oscars: Zendaya and John David Washington Poised for Noms for Sam Levinson’s ‘Malcolm & Marie’

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It’s undoubtedly true that good things do come to those who wait. Before all the pandemic and havoc during normal times, Oscar hopefuls must show their hands by the time the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day. But, in light of the ongoing pandemic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended this season’s submission deadline to Feb. 28. As a result, a handful of rumored hopefuls have still yet to be seen by the vast majority of voters or members of the public, leaving open the possibility of an unusually late-arriving contender upsetting the race.

However, on On Friday, such a contender emerged among the awards pressure in the form of Malcolm & Marie, a Netflix drama written and directed by Sam Levinson and starring Zendaya and John David Washington.

In the film, Washington and Zendaya are a couple living together somewhere near Hollywood. He plays a promising young director and she plays an actress still waiting for her break. Their relationship is tested after they return from the world premiere of a movie that he directed, which could make or break his career, and begin pushing each other’s buttons while waiting for the reviews to come in. It all starts because he forgot to include her in his thank-you in other words, he did not mention her ahead of a movie that, it turns out, was inspired by her past struggles.

Malcolm & Marie was entirely conceived of, written, shot (with the help of health experts), and edited during the pandemic. And, following a screening of footage of it during September’s Toronto International Film Festival led to a bidding war amongst distributors, it sold to Netflix for a stunning $30 million.

In awards-specific terms, it was undoubtedly money well-spent. Also not to forget Malcolm & Marie may look a bit DIY it was shot with a handheld camera in black-and-white and entirely in and around one well-ventilated house it is top-of-the-line in every regard and a 21st-century variation this time focusing on just one fiery couple clashing late into one night

Washington and Zendaya are not a real-life couple and are not playing characters meant to be older than their actual ages. But their performances are every bit as strong as those in the 1966 film, thanks in no small part to a smart and funny, if slightly overlong, script by Levinson.

We would be surprised if the film is not right in the mix for picture, director, actor, actress and original screenplay Oscar nominations for maybe even cinematography and production design, too. It is the arrival of a new generation of top-tier talent both in front of the camera (Zendaya is just 24, while Washington is 36) and behind it (Levinson is 36, as well). And it’s exciting to behold.

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