Welcome to Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at Ice Creams for Freaks. It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.
This week on Oscar Justice: Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2014 Best Actor, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Lost to Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Michael Keaton carved out a nice niche as a comic lead in the 80s with films like Night Shift, Johnny Dangerously, Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. In 1989, Tim Burton cast Keaton (to much controversy) as Bruce Wayne in Batman. Keaton became a superstar overnight and earned widespread acclaim from audiences and critics. Keaton would again play the role in 1992’s Batman Returns, but left his signature role following Burton’s departure before the third film.
Keaton continued to steadily work but never achieved the critical acclaim to outrun his role in Batman. Finally, in 2014, Keaton landed a role uniquely suited for him in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). As an aging actor trying to reclaim his glory and move past his superhero role, Keaton blew audiences and critics away with his performance and earned a number of critics awards including the Golden Globe.
When it came time for Oscar, Keaton was in a neck-and-neck race, but ultimately lost out. Keaton came prepared as there is video of him placing his Oscar speech in his pocket as the winner was on stage. Keaton continues to have success in mainstream and smaller films and will hopefully return to the Oscar stage soon.
Michael Keaton defeats Eddie Redmayne at the 2014 Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
Since I have been actively watching the Oscars, no single category has annoyed me more than 2014 Best Actor. I’m sure Eddie Redmayne is a perfectly fine human being and he can prove affable onscreen, but his performance in The Theory of Everything is laughably terrible. It felt more of a feat than a performance, contorting his spine and stiffening his jaw to emulate the wheelchair bound life of Stephen Hawking. Meanwhile, Keaton plays a complex, unlikable character that only works due to Keaton subverting his own superhero persona.
When the Academy awards performances like Redmayne, it conveys their lazy impulse to fall back to rewarding someone famous who is playing someone else famous. The Oscars have been doing it for decades and they will continue to do it for decades more.
The two performances do not stand on the same level of talent, much less in the same category to be judge against. Keaton should have won in a walk, but the Oscars went for boring comfort and they are all the worse for it.
Eddie Redmayne only has one other nomination to his credit, and that is for the 2015 film The Danish Girl. Few films have aged as poorly and I have no intention of giving him that Oscar, no matter how terrible a win Leonardo DiCaprio in his stead. Redmayne is still in his 30s and just starred in Best Picture nominee The Trial of the Chicago 7, so I would think he will have plenty of other opportunities.
Michael Keaton wins Best Actor in 2014 over Eddie Redmayne
Next week on Oscar Justice…Glenn Close finally gets her Oscar