This piece was written by Sir Simon Milligan
Ah, the Academy Awards, one of the biggest sources of controversy in the public discourse. From personal beefs about snubs (If Beale Street Could Talk; Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler, I could go on) to more systemic problems like those highlighted by the #OscarsSoWhite movement. Every year I resign myself to the fact that my favorite films and performances usually don’t get the nominations I’d hope, yet every year I keep coming back.
With so much debate about everything the Oscars gets wrong, I wanted to instead focus on those instances where they get it right. This is of course subjective, but every once in a while a film or performance I love not only gets nominated, but actually wins! My favorite example is J.K. Simmons winning Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his turn as tyrannical jazz band instructor Terence Fletcher in 2014’s Whiplash. It was my favorite film of that year, and even though I figured it was a longshot to win Best Picture, Simmons seemed to be the odds-on favorite for Supporting Actor. Simmons was already a veteran actor at this point, spending seven years on the HBO series Oz, eight years on the TNT drama The Closer, and portraying the ever gif-able J. Jonah Jameson across the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, but I was most familiar with him popping in and out of the various Law and Order franchises over the course of fourteen years.
Despite his immense productivity spanning nearly thirty years, Simmons never received much critical acclaim until Whiplash (he received five Screen Actors Guild nominations for his role in The Closer, but never won). I’m always particularly thrilled to see an actor or actress finally get recognized after such a long career. In fact, Simmons won at least a whopping 42(!!) awards for this role, including from BAFTA, the Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild, and received a special Gold Derby Award for the best supporting actor performance of the decade.
Prompt: What’s your favorite Oscar-winning film or performance?