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Don't Forget About Michael Keaton

Greetings from Chris, wishing you all a Happy New Year! And a Happy Voting to Academy members finally filling out their nomination ballots. With plenty of FYC blurbs out on the internet proclaiming personal favorites outside of the race, I want to talk about someone much more obvious that's somehow missing out on the love: Michael Keaton in Spotlight.

Of course, he's winning attention as part of Spotlight's ensemble, but it's a headscratcher that he missed nominations from SAG, the Globes, and BFCA. Even various regional critics groups are favoring Mark Ruffalo to single out. The potential reasons for Keaton's omission (too much competition from his own film, category confusion, the notion he doesn't have a "scene") feel petty given the gravitas and soulfulness he brings to the narrative.

Some say Spotlight lacks threat or conflict, that the big, bad church we keep hearing will put their weight on the Boston Globe for their investigations never actually does. But what Spotlight is really about is getting the story right and facing up to our own culture of ignorance and the times we've looked the other way. All of that is perfectly embodied by the resurgent Keaton. It's not just that he's the member of the ensemble that has the clearest arc, but the grace to which he fills Walter "Robby" Robinson with regret and anger. Ruffalo's "scene" allows that actor a catharsis that Keaton's coiled disposition doesn't receive until the final moment when his team's efforts are shown to have an effect on the lives of victims.

The performance is a study gentlemanly rage. He underplays every scene where he is calling for justice, filling silences with loaded pauses and a judging stare that fuels the film's angry undercurrent. If you think he doesn't have a showy moment, rewatch any time wherein he studies the layers of spin and bullshit delivered by Billy Crudup's sleaveball lawyer and tell me that Spotlight's central conflict isn't right there on Keaton's expressive face. Where Birdman allowed him to run wild with mannered anxiety and deep well of emotion, Spotlight serves us the actor at his confident and naturalistic best.

Following the Birdman miss, it's particularly odd that Keaton is on the outside of the nomination conversation. Best Supporting Actor often favors combacks from older actors and previous losers, so you think he'd be a plum candidate to ride the past year's momentum in a Best Picture frontrunner at that. He'll soon return to leading roles in John Lee Hancock's McDonalds biopic The Founder, but don't let the opportunity to reward some of his best work pass you by!

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Reader Comments (13)

easily the best performance from spotlight. i'm also very confused about his lack of attention. how is the best supporting actor not his to lose after losing best actor last year AND starring in two consecutive best picture winners*?

*i'm assuming spotlight wins ;)

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKent

I think Spotlight works precisely because it isn't handing out Oscar clips. The performances are balanced and work well together, but it means there's no obvious choice among the cast. I can see why Ruffalo, with that one scene, is doing best among the men, although my favorite is Schreiber.
I agree with you about Keaton in the Crudup scenes, though, but he has the benefit of sitting beside a vacant Rachel McAdams there, too. Of course you're drawn to him.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Re: category confusion, I feel that the New York Film Critics' decision to award him Best Actor rather than Best Supporting Actor hasn't helped his campaign if he is going for Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I haven't seen Spotlight yet (it hasn't opened in the UK) but I like Keaton and I'd like to think he won't miss out if he deserves a nomination.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Call it a hunch, but I still think he'll be nominated. It's not totally unheard of to get in without Globe/SAG/BFCA recognition, especially if you're in a strong Best Picture contender (see: Alan Alda in The Aviator, Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook). Plus, as has been mentioned, there has got to be some leftover goodwill from Birdman last year.

My current predictions (only BAFTA and last-minute hunches will change this now):


Roughly in that order as far as my confidence goes. I actually think any of them except Rylance could miss, though (even Stallone, whose SAG snub might be telling).

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I think Spotlight actors will do better at the Oscars than they did at SAG and Globes. Keaton and Ruffalo could show up nomination morning.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEddie

Chris, wonderfully written. Keaton is the MVP of Spotlight and deserves a supporting nom and win.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Oh and Happy New Year!

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I finally saw Spotlight last night and Keaton truly is terrific in it. A supporting actor nomination would be well deserved, and it would make for an interesting pair along with what Mark Rylance is doing in Bridge of Spies. Two subdued, internalized performances that are completely different from one another. Just goes to show you that great actors do not need plate smashing and scenery chewing to display range.

That being said, I'm all in for plate smashing and scenery chewing, so of course I loved Rufallo's angry rant as well. His performance is the most uneven (I assume those weird physical ticks are from the jornalist he is portraying but they threw me off a little). Still, of the entire ensemble he's the only one with an obvious Oscar clip.

Narrative wise, Keaton makes the most sense and Rufallo has the showier role, but McAdams has the least amount of competition. I would not be surprised if she pulled a Kim Basinger and ended the sole acting nominee for the movie.

Who knows? Maybe the Academy will prove itself a surprising bunch of closeted Smash fans and nominate Brian James D'arcy just to make it up for him being saddled with pre-Brooklyn Emory Cohen and that unfortunate international adoption storyline. #neverforget

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I hope to God that Keaton gets nominated for this. It is so weird that after last year he isn't riding this out, especially in Supporting as Chris mentions.

I wouldn't be too surprised to see him pop up in Lead with AMPAS either. It's a smaller category this year and we've seen it surprise before (Valley of Elah, Demián Bichir).

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

Keaton's excellent, but for me Liev Schreiber was best in show. Such a restrained performance and yet such a strong presence that hangs over the movie and the Spotlight team even when he's not actually in the room. He deserves more notice than he's been getting; at least Keaton and Ruffalo are IN the conversation!

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Now Eddie has shown his lack of range and skill anyone feel the Oscar as too soon for him.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Keaton's (very good) performance felt more like a lead to me. I'm sure that category confusion, and the fact that they might feel like the BP win for the film is enough, are working against him.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

Please, give Michael Keaton his Oscar and have him give Eddie Redmayne a big fuck you for stealing his Oscar.

December 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

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