Oscar Talk (XI): The Case for Michael Keaton

There were more than a few people who believed Michael Keaton was robbed of an Oscar a couple of years ago when he lost to Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (2014). Keaton had made a startling comeback in Birdman (2014) as a washed up superhero star making a comeback on Broadway though forever haunted by his alter ego. Just a year later after winning the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor in Spotlight (2015), incredibly he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination despite being on everyone’s radar for a nod!

Earlier this year there was much talk about his performance as Ray Kroc, the man who built the golden arches empire and McDonalds but the release date kept changing and it seemed there was little confidence in the film. The Weinstein Company is releasing the film now and they are excited about ‘The Founder’, as they should be because Keaton is stunning in the film, he elevates it to something beyond what it should be with a magnificent performance that could, and should land him in the Oscar race for Best Actor. Normally a major player in the Oscar race, The Weinstein Company has been surprising quiet this year with few films making the cut for the Oscar race.

In what has been a three year comeback of sorts for the actor, he gives what is one of the best performances of his career in ‘The Founder’. It is one of those times a performance elevates the film in every way, with Keaton having the courage to portray a dislikable, arrogant, brash man who pretty much does whatever he wants with the McDonalds name despite not owning it himself. Granted the two men who do are not the most motivated on the planet, and Kroc has a vision, a global vision and goes about making it happen. Of course we have the advantage of knowing what Krock created, knowing that he created something with a staggering worldwide impact, and it is exciting to see how he did that at the beginning.

Still possessed with the fast delivery, seeming always in motion even when sitting still, Keaton is one of those actors you can feel thinking. One of the reasons he was so brilliant as the reporter in Spotlight (2015) was that we could see him, feel him in thought all the time, his mind was in motion. He might be motionless but the mind is at work, the brain is overloading at a feverish pace and eventually the body will catch up and explode into activity. He has come a long way since his energetic debut in the Ron Howard film Night Shift (1982) in which he stole every scene he was in and was like a comet smashing into the film with his whirl a gig comedic genius. Seven years later he was a controversial but then proven inspired choice for Tim Burton as Batman (1989) and portrayed the Caped Crusader in the first two films of the franchise, leaving the role to Val Kilmer and George Clooney. His comeback came in Birdman (2014) which earned rave reviews and made Keaton a star again. One of the saddest happenings at an Oscar ceremony I have ever witnessed was Keaton hearing Eddie Redmayne’s name and sadly, silently slipping his acceptance speech back into his jacket before smiling at his son.

If nominated this year he has a tough road ahead of him because Casey Affleck has given one of the cinema’s greatest performances ever in ‘Manchester By the Sea’, and Denzel Washington has roared into contention with his magnificent career capping work in ‘Fences’. However, Keaton would be a sentimental choice for sure, and an Oscar would make up for Birdman (2014) and for not being nominated last year. And of course if Affleck and Washington split the vote, there are a lot potential scenarios.

This is for certain: his performance in ‘The Founder’ is superb, deserves to be nominated but in this performance heavy year for actors and actresses, could end up an also ran as so many great performances will this year.

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