In Tom Ford’s stylistic thriller “Nocturnal Animals,” Jake Gyllenhaal impressively tackles the dual roles of author Edward Sheffield and one of Sheffield’s fictional characters, carjacking victim Tony Hastings. Gyllenhaal has not appeared in many Best Actor lineups this season, save a few regional critics groups like Houston, San Diego and London. But the film performed above expectations at the BAFTAs. It competes in nine categories there including Best Actor, where Gyllenhaal edged out Denzel Washington (“Fences”) and Joel Edgerton (“Loving”). Though he still sits at 100/1 odds at Gold Derby, is a last minute surge and surprise Oscar nomination possible?
Gyllenhaal was previously nominated by the academy in 2006 for his supporting turn in “Brokeback Mountain” opposite the late Heath Ledger. He was bested by George Clooney (“Syrianna”) and has not been recognized by the academy since. Though it’s not for a lack of trying. Despite acclaimed roles in films like “Zodiac,” “Love and Other Drugs,” “End of Watch” and “Prisoners,” he has not been invited back to the Oscars since that first nomination.
The closest Gyllenhaal came to an Oscar comeback was Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” (2014). Pundits feared the film was too dark for the academy, but the actor’s powerhouse portrayal of disturbed TV news cameraman Louis Bloom seemed too irresistible to ignore. He surprised Oscar-watchers with bids at SAG, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice and the Golden Globes, prompting many a derbyite (this author included) to add him to their predictions. But in the end Gyllenhaal has snubbed and “Nightcrawler” received just one Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay.
Showing up at the Oscars without major precursor nominations is tough but not impossible. Emmanuelle Riva pulled it off for “Amour” in 2013. Like Gyllenhaal in “Nocturnal Animals” she was not nominated at SAG or the Globes, but had a Best Actress bid from BAFTA (and ultimately a win) that she translated into an Oscar bid.
Javier Bardem achieved the same feat for “Biutiful” in 2011. His performance was overlooked by SAG and the Globes, but the Best Actor contender landed an Oscar nomination with just a BAFTA bid under his belt. Can Gyllenhaal follow in these two performers’ footsteps, or does this BAFTA trick only work for foreign-language contenders?
Nine BAFTA nominations for “Nocturnal Animals” is certainly nothing to scoff at. And the surprise Golden Globe win for supporting actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson may have encouraged Oscar voters to pop in their screeners to give the film serious consideration if they hadn’t already. Time will tell if the late surging “Nocturnal Animals” can finally send Gyllenhaal back down the Oscar red carpet, or if this is just “Nightcrawler” all over again.
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