Sunday, January 25, 2015

SAG Awards bolster 'Birdman' for Best Picture, but not Best Actor...

Well, if you don't count Best Stunt Ensemble (which went to the solid work in Unbroken where I had guessed The Hobbit), I aced my SAG predictions...

... and I'm not entirely happy about that.

First of all, let's not dwell on the supporting races or on Best Actress. Those categories are all but sealed up with Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons, and Julianne Moore all coming out on top in their respective categories.

Let's also not dwell on Birdman's well deserved victory in Best Ensemble. It may not have been my absolute first choice but its cast was excellent and makes a fine winner. If you want to theorize about how "easy" it is for a movie about ACTING to win with the Screen Actors Guild, go ahead, but this is a merited honour for an outstanding collective performance.

What I think we do need to talk about is Best Actor. I had an unsettling feeling that tonight would be the night when frontrunner Michael Keaton would finally be unseated by Eddie Redmayne for his much more awards-typical performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. I don't want to give the impression that I begrudge Redmayne any accolades he receives for his impressive physical transformation, but this is not the outcome I wanted to see.

Every year since the 1999/2000 season, at least one of the Oscar winning actors has won for playing a real-life figure who actually existed, which speaks very loudly to AMPAS' obsession with imitations and baity biopic roles.

We were close to breaking it in 2007/08, but Julie Christie got pipped by Marion Cotillard for playing Edith Piaf.

We were close in 2008/09, but Mickey Rourke got pipped by Sean Penn for playing Harvey Milk.

We were close in 2011/12, but Viola Davis got pipped by Meryl Streep for playing Margaret Thatcher.

We are close this year, as Keaton still has a very good chance at joining Moore, Simmons, and Arquette at winning an Oscar for playing a fictional character, but the temptation for the Academy to go with Redmayne's uncanny embodiment of Hawking might just prove too great.

Perhaps BAFTA will prove a telling tie-breaker, but either way, this category will prove to be an unnerving one Oscar night.

Best Stunt Ensemble: Unbroken
A lot of bodies got abused on that film shoot, so hard to argue with this one. Still, Captain America's omission here is pretty unjustifiable.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Reading her speech again. Gotta memorize it in time for the Oscars, Patty! That said, the speech itself is lovely and gracious and immensely heartfelt.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Outstanding speech in praise of his ensemble (all 49 of them, in roles big and small!), and by extension the illusion that actors create together. Another shout-out to his wife and his "above average children", sending up his one Golden Globes one-liner. So happy for this guy.

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Fuck. I knew it. The Oscar-acting-biopic streak may live on. Not to detract from Redmayne's performance, which is great, but I was really pulling for Keaton. Redmayne capitalized on the opportunity to give a very humble, endearing speech.

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Very smooth and composed acceptance speech. She knows that the Oscar is finally hers at this point.

Best Ensemble: Birdman
Oscar frontrunner? Possibly. Glad that Keaton got a chance to get up on stage tonight after missing Best Actor.

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