This year for the Oscars we are going to take a look at the nominations for best lead actor and actress. There is always a wealth of talent in each of those categories, and we are going to pick our favorites of each. Next week we will look at the actresses, so up this week are the nominations for best lead actor. Here are our personal favorites along with the roles that made them stand out in our minds.
Out of the options for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture this year, Michael Keaton is up for Birdman. I really want to see Birdman but haven’t gotten the chance yet. Regardless, I think it’s about time Keaton is recognized for his acting chops! Sure, he’s probably more recognized as Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman iteration. I actually remember when people were scoffing at the fact that Keaton had been chosen for the role of Bruce Wayne; probably because he was known for his comedies, like Mr. Mom or The Dream Team. And then Batman came out and he did a brilliant job, just the right mixture of funny, brooding, and mysterious. My all-time favorite character that Keaton played is Bob Jones/Ivanovich in the movie My Life, the story of a man coming to terms with his cancer and the birth of his son. It was a little sleeper that came and went with hardly any bluster in 1993 but the movie itself captures the real struggle with cancer that many face each and every day. Everything in the movie is very well done, including Keaton’s performance, Nicole Kidman as his wife, even the soundtrack is perfect. It got mixed reviews and (as far as I remember) received no Oscar accolades but I think Keaton should have won Best Actor for that role. If he wins this time around for Birdman, I’ll consider that final recognition for his brilliant performance in My Life.
Of the nominees these year, I will go with Steve Carell. He’s one of the funniest guys on film today, but I don’t love him for that. I love him for his ability to cross genres and pull of some terrific drama. He solidified that ability forever with his nomination this year in Foxcatcher, but I’ve known that about him since 2007’s Dan in Real Life. Fresh off turning “I love lamp” into a thing in Anchorman, and fully establishing himself in 40-year Old Virgin, Carell took a detour into an area many didn’t expect. This film really convinced me of Carell’s acting talent and not just his comedic talent. We love him as Michael Scott, the voice of Gru, and Brick Tamland, but give this guy a shot in his dramatic roles and you won’t be disappointed.
While every actor in the list of Oscar nominees for 2014 is immensely talented, and there are plenty of things I love about the work of each, Benedict Cumberbatch stands out as a personal favorite. The first movie I saw Cumberbatch in was Amazing Grace (2006), and he brought his characteristic excellence to the supporting role of William Pitt. Since then, I have watched out for movies that he is in and am always impressed by his performances and his presence on screen–not least in Imitation Game, for which he received the well-deserved Oscar nomination. Read my review here.
My favorite role of Cumberbatch’s, however, is as Sherlock Holmes in Steven Moffat’s Sherlock on BBC–one of my favorite television shows–in which his co-star is Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) as Dr. John Watson.
Long gone are the days when Bradley Cooper played second fiddle to Jennifer Garner on Alias. Nowadays it seems almost laughable that he ever played second fiddle to anyone. But even with his superstar status, there’s still one role that stands out for me: Limitless. Before Cooper was ever Chris Kyle or Rocket Raccoon, he headlined the psychological thriller, playing brilliantly the idea of unlocking the hidden power of the human brain. He even made me forget that I hate narration, which is an award-worthy feat in and of itself. It’s the movie that made me start taking him seriously as an actor, and I’ve no doubt it will remain one of his best performances for the years to come.
As I looked through the list of Oscar nominee for best male actor I was kind of surprised. I’m a fan of 3 of the actors (Keaton, Carell, and Cooper) and accepting of the other two (Cumberbatch and Redmayne). I saw some pretty impressive movies this year and when I looked at the list, I was stumped that I hadn’t seen a single one of these films. Luckily, we get to choose our top guy from the group and our favorite role of his. I’m going with Keaton. To some it seems as if he’s vanished from Hollywood since the 90’s where he was popping up everywhere. On the contrary, though.
Why Keaton? The man is a versatile actor. He has the silly crazy side of Jack in Mr. Mom, the suave and stoic presence of Bruce Wayne, with the temperament to softly and with intimidation tell you that he’s Batman, and able to play a totally whacked out ghost that wants to be in the mortal world. He’s a fun loving snowman dad, while also able to come across as a heartless villain that is willing to do anything to get his way.
My biggest dilemma… which to say is my favorite. I decided I can’t decide. I have to cheat on this simply because Keaton is truly such a versatile actor that he plays an extraordinary villain and he plays an incredible “hero”/dad. In 1998 he played a loving husband, father, and blues musician, Jack Frost, in… well Jack Frost. This is a fun family film about a dad that comes back as a snowman to help his son work through the struggle of his death. His voice work is fabulous, but it’s his portrayal of Jack before his death that just makes the show. He’s a man’s man that wants to do right by his family and that passionately loves them. I never get tired of this movie. That same year Keaton was in Desperate Measures with Andy Garcia. He plays a murderer, Peter McCade, that is on death row. He’s a genius. He’s determined to escape. He’s needed as a bone marrow donator for a policemen’s son. His intensity and villainy is top notch and can compare to anyone.
So no love for Eddie Redmayne from our group, though he certainly has the chops. Who is your favorite actor from this years’ nominations, and what is your favorite performance of theirs?