The 2015 Golden Globes weren’t all bad: Michael Keaton got a well-deserved “best performance” award, and The Grand Budapest Hotel won best picture. One event that loomed largely over the event, and undoubtedly served as the “elephant in the room,” was Zach Galifianakis’ exclusion from the race for best supporting actor in a comedy or musical for his performance in Birdman.
Dissidents may say, “Well, he was barely in it.” But remember the precedents set by actors like Beatrice Straight and William Hurt, who were nominated for supporting awards despite having less than 10 minutes of screen time. As Michael Keaton’s manic producer, Zach does wonders with his time on-screen, crafting a character whose motives are simply based on success at any cost. In one particular scene, where Galifianakis confronts Keaton’s character after the star player (Edward Norton) becomes wasted on-stage, Zach’s maturity as an actor is evident. He’s nuanced, confident, incredibly natural, and he fortifies the brief exchange with Keaton in a scene that could have been a throwaway, but became much more.
Jonah Hill did less in Moneyball, and he was nominated for the supporting Golden Globe and the Oscar. Jon Voight’s role in 1985’s Runaway Train won him a “best performance” Golden Globe, and it’s one of the most bloated, overacted messes ever captured on film. So, again I ask, why not Galifianakis?
His hair looks as perfectly careless as any other actor. As good as his comedic talents are — which include alternative humor, tragic comedy, and even potent dick jokes, as evidenced by his role in the under appreciated Bored to Death — his dramatic chops flourish with every outing. Even when he’s playing a goofy character, he’s able to provide stern moments of levity or despair that make his characterizations thrive. Is it because Birdman already was leading the nominations parade? Did the HFPA think it would make things too uneven to nominate Zach? Maybe it’s because that overachiever Ed Norton had to go and have an amazing performance as well. He just couldn’t let Zach have his shine.
The Hollywood Foreign Press is not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so just because he didn’t get nominated for the Globe doesn’t mean he can’t get an Oscar nod. And Zach is trying. He’s studying the craft, getting his thespian game up. Zach has the ability to make you feel like you could actually hurt one of his characters if you thought hard enough about it — they seem that vulnerable. He’s able to portray the kind of funny and sensitive personas that win people awards, and still… nothing. Not one blue ribbon that recognizes his valiant contribution to film and TV. Galifianakis spoke to Indiewire about acquiring roles that provide varied challenges:
Well, you try to change and do things that you think are a challenge or are refreshing. You can keep doing the same thing, but I think audiences — and more importantly — I get tired of it. If you’re a comedian, I think there’s this thing that “oh they only know how to do one thing.” I got to say that when you look at Jim Carrey in a serious role — comedians can play serious roles more than dramatic actors can play comedic roles. Comedy is much harder. No offense to those dramatic actors, I can name them all. So knowing that, I don’t want to be the chubby dude falling down all the time. I love doing that, don’t get me wrong, it’s fun. But, there’s other things and art to explore.
Galifianakis has gotten close to that golden glory before. In 2011, he was nominated for “Choice Movie Actor” in both Hangover 2 and Due Date at the Teen Choice Awards, a pillar of high-brow critical evaluation. He won an Emmy last year for Between Two Ferns. The big ones have been elusive thus far, but Zach has Tulip Fever on the way, which has the distinct advantage of having Christoph Waltz, and a romantic period piece premise, two characteristics that award season voters just gobble up. If the Academy or HFPA don’t nominate him for that, then Jim Carrey’s sentiments regarding Academy voters from back in 2000 has been true all along: “They’re bastards!”