Two years ago, Eddie Redmayne earned a nomination for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Absolutely warranted. He’s a great actor. But no actor has a great performance in every movie. Unfortunately for Redmayne, he lived the nightmare scenario. A critical and box office failure, Jupiter Ascending came out around the same time as his nomination. Redmayne not only starred in the film, but also pulled the movie down with a memorably awful performance.
Leading up to the Academy Awards, many wondered if that performance would weigh on the minds of Oscar voters. As we all know, it didn’t. Redmayne won his first trophy for his breakout role in The Theory of Everything. He also went on to earn another nomination the following year for The Danish Girl, losing to Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in The Revenant. But I’m sure he’ll never want to star in a movie like Jupiter Ascending that coincides with Oscar nominations, because he’s not done bringing home trophies.
The 89th Academy Awards showcases a couple more actors looking for Oscar glory who starred in different movies in 2016 that could help or hurt their chances.
Nominated for Fences; Also in Suicide Squad
The frontrunner in the best supporting actress category, Viola Davis fuels Fences alongside Denzel Washington. Fences doesn’t work without a powerful actress to stand up to the historically dominating presence of Denzel in any film, and she delivers. The scene where she finally stands her ground and lashes back at Denzel serves as the heart of the movie. Davis nails her role and elevated the film to a best picture nomination. She’s clearly out to prove the third time’s the charm (Davis was also nominated for roles in Doubt and The Help).
One of the most anticipated movies of 2016, Suicide Squad proved a disaster and one of the worst films I saw last year. Davis portrayed Amanda Waller, and actually gave a pretty decent performance. That doesn’t matter when Warner Bros. decides to give writer/director David Ayer six weeks to write a script and puts the movie through an absurd number of edits. One of the biggest disappointments of 2016 and caught up in the continued failures of the DC Extended Universe, Suicide Squad is not a movie you want to be associated with in support of your reputation. Will it hurt Davis?
Nominated for Hacksaw Ridge; Also in Silence
One of my favorites since he broke onto the scene in The Social Network, Andrew Garfield earned a nomination for starring in Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson’s brutal World War II flick tells the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, who saves numerous lives without the use of a weapon. Garfield gives a great performance, capturing the proper accent along with the grueling physicality of his role.
Garfield also had the leading role in Silence from director Martin Scorsese. Again, Garfield drives the film as the audience sees the movie through his eyes. Although a little excessive with its padded run time, Silence was snubbed from a few categories, only receiving a nomination for best cinematography. And Garfield gives arguably as powerful a performance as he does in Hacksaw Ridge. Performances that make me happy Sony and Marvel rebooted the Spider-Man franchise. It frees Garfield up to do great things. But can two great performances in two great movies propel Garfield to Oscar glory for his efforts in one film?
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Oscars are not lifetime achievement awards. They also are not given out based on all the achievements of a person throughout the year. They are based on the efforts of the cast and crew of each individual film. Viola Davis should be judged for her accomplishments in Fences. Suicide Squad should be ignored. Andrew Garfield should not receive any bonus points for starring in two incredible films. Voters should look at Hacksaw Ridge alone. I believe Davis will win, and Garfield will lose, because Jupiter Ascending showed nothing could stop a great actor from earning what he or she deserves. So why should a good track record push an actor over the top? One movie. One performance. One trophy.