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Why SAG got Best Actor right and why he was NOT the best actor. The Academy Awards sure to follow suit.
“And the Actor goes to Eddie Redmayne!” Since the Golden Globes likewise honored this amazing characterization of the brilliant and perseverant Stephen Hawking, another actor has won various accolades including numerous Critics awards, and IMHO wrongfully so. Don’t get me wrong. Michael Keaton blazed the screen with powerful and diverse emotions in the likely Academy Award Best Picture, “Birdman.” Neither his nor Redmayne’s performances could trump the ace of the ultimate acting work in 2014. To avoid confusion, I am not suggesting that any of the other worthwhile Best Actor nominees belongs in the number one position either.
Eddie Redmayne dazzled audiences with a heart-wrenching rendition of Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” We saw a man in his prime deteriorate physically while maintaining his intellectual prowess. We felt the tumultuous mental agony that accompanies a crippling disease. We struggled with him as he went from upright modern man to single crutch-wielding semi-cripple to double-crutch to wheelchair-ridden to virtual physical paralysis to the total inability to move. I sobbed. I cried. I felt his pain. I imagined life trapped like a prisoner in my own body, my soul fighting with all its might to lift a single digit – a finger, a toe.
Michael Keaton, in arguably his greatest performance - portraying an actor struggling with his past and present - likewise stirred a glut of emotions. No doubt, most actors can empathize with the celebration of his character’s glories, expressing frustration with his personal and professional difficulties, and all those consequential personal and professional situations that fall between those basic extremes. Keaton’s performance is boosted by a not-so-typical gimmick. An amazing combination of directing, cinematography, and editing trick the audience into believing that 90% of this film occurs within a single shot (and how did this film miss an Editing nomination?). In no way am I attempting to minimize Keaton’s wonderful acting; I’m simply stating the fact that, by comparison, some of his peers have carried and enhanced their films minus the assistance of major movie magic gimmickry.
And the truly best performance is...
When the viewer remembers the film, solely because the acting was so amazing, then you know who truly deserves that cherished statue! Granted, Eddie Redmayne stands above his competition in my eyes; however, even his stellar performance stands second to one. Perhaps the only demeaning aspect of the actor to whom I am referring is that his is considered a “Supporting” role. Of course, I refer to J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash.” Miles Teller is the star of the film, due to the film’s focus on his character – the young jazz drummer hoping to rise to the legendary status of a Buddy Rich. Simmons is nothing less than dynamically powerful as the teacher who can turn that dream into a potential reality. I was riveted by every aspect of his persona. My pulse rate increased every time he challenged his students with fire in his eyes and a fierce roar. I felt for him later in the film (sorry, no spoilers here). I understood his reasoning for every action and reaction and loved every unexpected maneuver toward the end. I cried, I laughed. I cheered. I empathized. His passion became my passion, and so did that of Miles due in-part to Simmons’ character. Credit the screenwriter with twists in character and story that kept the film from becoming anything-but-predictable. Simmons pulled off the performance with absolute perfection. Given the ability to choose for the Academy and noting the power of Simmons and the story, I would have propelled this stellar performance to Best Actor status and likewise presented Best Picture and Best Screenplay to this amazing film devoid of celluloid and digital gimmickry. Certainly, a few scenes required that special magic; the film stands out despite those few shots rather then depending upon them.
On Oscar night, I am slightly disheartened to acknowledge that J.K. Simmons will receive the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, but only because he deserves so much more! I likewise believe that a much-deserving Eddie Redmayne will win the primary Actor category despite having the number two performance in my book.