With Oscar wins for Julianne Moore in “Still Alice,” J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” and Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood” looking almost inevitable, the only real competition in an acting category this year appears to be for Best Actor.
The race is fierce and the nominations have yet to be announced. But I’ll go ahead and state for the record that I think that Michael Keaton in “Birdman” is going to fly away with the prize. In classic Gold Derby fashion, here are five reasons why.
1. He gives the flashiest performance of any of the likely nominees.
When discussing Cate Blanchett‘s Oscar chances for “Blue Jasmine” last year, I wrote that it’s often about the most acting rather than the best acting. Like Blanchett in “Jasmine,” Keaton in “Birdman” never stops acting to the camera. He has numerous scenes of intense and extended dialogue with virtually every cast member in the film. He gets bonus points for his “acting” in the picture’s stage play, especially in that climactic and explosive scene on opening night. There are the physical moments, like when he runs through Times Square in his tighty whities and jumps off of a building. The anger, the sadness, the fear and the madness — Keaton isn’t chicken about holding anything back in “Birdman.”
2. He might be the only apple in a basket of oranges.
So normally when someone plays a real person and/or is physically transformed on screen and/or is fighting a disability or injustice, s/he wins an Academy Award, right? Well, what happens when you have four of those competing in the same category? That may well be the case in this year’s Best Actor field, if Keaton is joined by Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher,” Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game,” David Oyelowo in “Selma” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything.” They’re all incredible performances, but might they not cancel each other out? Wouldn’t Keaton’s fictional “Birdman” logically stand to benefit? I know that I can’t state that as fact, but don’t dismiss it as fiction.
3. He’ll probably win the SAG Award.
Okay, so I’ll admit that he’s far from a lock. But he does have a lot of things going for him. He’s a veteran actor with a long list of credits in both film and television. “Birdman” scored the most SAG nominations and is the odds-on favorite to win the Best Film Ensemble Award. With his co-stars Edward Norton and Emma Stone unlikely to prevail, Keaton may be the only place to honor an individual cast member. And remember that “Birdman” is a film about actors doing a play; SAG members might sympathize with Keaton’s character. If he takes the prize here, then Keaton’s Oscar prospects will be anything but sagging.
4. It may be the best opportunity to give “Birdman” a major award.
The film could easily end up with the most Oscar nominations on January 15. If “Boyhood” wins Best Picture and Best Director and Simmons and Arquette take the supporting-acting honors, Keaton represents the sole place that Academy members can vote for “Birdman” in a top category. Yes, “American Hustle” notably went zero for ten last year. And yes, “Birdman” might also take lower categories like screenplay and cinematography. But for a film as popular as this, the Academy might want to honor the “”Birdman” himself – Keaton.
5. He has the edge over his biggest competitor, Eddie Redmayne.
Everything is undoubtedly brilliant about Redmayne’s portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking. He has what is arguably the most challenging role of any actor this year, in a performance that has been compared to the Oscar-winning turn by Daniel Day-Lewis in 1989’s “My Left Foot.” However, there are some key differences between the two. Day-Lewis was much more physical in “Foot” and had several big, dramatic scenes. In the second half of “Theory,” Redmayne is completely restrained as his character loses control of his body and is unable to speak. Also, Day-Lewis won numerous critics’ awards (including the New York and Los Angeles groups,) while Redmayne has only taken a few smaller prizes so far. Academy members might feel that at 32, the undeniably talented Redmayne will have numerous opportunities for Oscar recognition in the future. Meanwhile, this could be the last chance for hexagenerian Keaton to fly away with the award. It’s a tough call, but my theory is that Keaton prevails.
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