So it’s come down to three Brits in Biopics, ruling the Best Actor Race at TIFF. That would be Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”, Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game,” and finally Timothy Spall in “Mr. Turner.” I think one of them is the ultimate winner in this very crowded Oscar season. Well, the Best Actor race is very crowded. Best Actress sadly is not. It’s like tumbleweeds are blowing through that under-populated category.
I think Eddie Redmayne, 32-years-old and freckled everywhere is truly the one to beat. He does an ASTOUNDING job enacting all of genius Stephen Hawkings many, many levels of disabilities. It’s a seamless portrayal which Redmayne totally disappears into utterly. It’s transformative in that it will transform his career forever as a major actor, British or otherwise.
The skill and the adeptness (Did I just create a new word?) with which he essays this seemingly impossible role is simply breath-taking. And mind-boggling. How DID he do it? One keeps thinking. And if we want to hark back to the old Academy acting branch adage “The Degree of Difficulty” is ENORMOUS! It’s off-the-charts. And you LIKE him. Which counts for a lot with Oscar voters.
Cumberbatch is super-nova hot right now with his British TV series “Sherlock Holmes” garnering an unexpected SEVEN Emmy Awards last week. But he’s got a more difficult task in “Imitation Game” His character of ANOTHER British genius is terribly UNLIKEABLE. And difficult. And cold. And complicated mentally as Redmayne’s Hawkings is challenged physically. Alan Turing was not a likeable guy. Troubled, distant, stand-offish, to say the least, and gay. And finally persecuted for being a homosexual in the 1940s and ’50s in England, he ultimately kills himself. It’s kind of a terrible story. A tragedy really. But it is a story that certainly deserves to be told.
It’s a brainy, intellectual film that challenges the audience to keep up with it. Which is a good thing in my book. How many films today even ATTEMPT to do something like this? Virtually none. Except unfortunately for Cumberbatch’s Oscar chances “The Theory of Everything.” But “The Imitation Game” has something that “Everything” doesn’t. Which is the backing of Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. SOOOO adept, historically, at winning Oscars and certainly gaining nominations for all and sundry.
This is particularly good news, I think, I hope, for Keira Knightley, who delivers a career-best performance as Cumberbatch’s female counter-part and sometime partner. She’s a match for him intellectually and mathematically and supplies “The Imitation Game” with a much-needed beating heart. She’s extraordinarily good here, and you know how effective Harvey is in getting Best Supporting Actress nominations. And I do think Cumberbatch will be nominated, too.
If you crunch the numbers on biopic nominees in recent years, as my colleague Scott Feinberg is sure to do, maybe even as you’re reading this. (He’s at the Hollywood Reporter) , you’ll find that real life characters and their portrayals are almost always rewarded. By the Academy.
Timothy Spall is a suberb British character actor, and will probably be counted “Lucky To Be Nominated” for the epic British biopic “Mr. Turner” about the great British painter, J. M. W. Turner. This film is also going to pop up very soon at the New York Film Festival. And we’ll see how it does there. It was also at Cannes, where it was acclaimed. And where Spall won a surprising Best Actor award.
But just judging by the heat-on-the-ground at TIFF, it’s going to be a battle ROYAL between Redmayne and Cumberbatch. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a VEDDY British Oscar season, I predict.