Under the Circuit: Jack Black

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Most Known For: “The School of Rock,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny”

Snubbed For: “High Fidelity,” “Bernie”

A while back Under the Circuit took a look at the unrecognized work of Will Ferrell at the Oscars, forever etched in greatness with a duet of how comedies don’t win on Hollywood’s biggest night. The other half of that legendary duo also has a few arguments with the academy. Jack Black may be better know for his oafish roles, but he’s delivered more than a few performances that should have earned some more consideration.

Black began his career with parts in some famous, and infamous, 90 films including “Bob Roberts,” “Demolition Man,” “Waterworld,” “Dead Man Walking,” “Bio-Dome” and “Mars Attacks.” As the century turned, however, Black would not only find his place in the main circle of Hollywood, he would also give his first acclaimed performance.

Jack-black-high-fidelity“High Fidelity” from Stephen Frears was a film that just missed cracking serious awards consideration, most notably for John Cusack, but Black’s performance as Cusack’s music-fanatic best friend also got some attention. Black found his calling card with this film, and the Boston, Chicago and Online Film Critics noticed, nominating him among their Best Supporting Actors. “High Fidelity” just couldn’t find a place in the 2000 race for Oscar for any involved.

If “High Fidelity” got people to notice Jack Black, it was “School of Rock” that made him a star. The two years after “High Fidelity” Black tried to catapult himself onto the A-list, but films like “Shallow Hal” and “Orange County” left him well short. It was the combination of Black’s passion, rock music, and the good old-fashioned fish out of water comedy that still proves to be a signature Black performance, and his first Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor. Not surprisingly it was the first time that Black worked with Linklater, which nine years later would result in Black’s best performance.

jack-black-stars-as-bernie_500x300Linklater’s “Bernie” is a dark comedy that shows just how good Black can be. He stars as the titular nice guy who winds up killing a crotchety widow he tried to befriend. It is near impossible to not be on Black’s side for the entirety of the film as the widow, played by Shirley MacLaine, constantly nudges him toward his breaking point when he takes her life. He doesn’t turn into a villain at that point however, he immediately reverts back to his original self who now must try and live with the actions he has taken. It’s great work from Black, rewarded with another Golden Globe, but a year filled with Daniel Day-Lewis, Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington couldn’t find room for Black at the Oscars.

“Bernie” was actually the last credited role that Black had on the big screen – he had an uncredited role in “Sex Tape” – but that will change as of Friday. Black’s new film, “The D Train,” is generating some nice reviews for him, but some not so nice ones for the film overall. It’s unlikely going to be something that sticks around till awards season, but at least Black is returning to the big screen. He will also star in “Goosebumps” in 2015 before returning to the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise in 2016.

Black has proven that he is capable of some great work, so if a project comes along where he gets paired with a good director and some strong cast members around him, don’t be surprised if he gives another performance that merits some consideration. Maybe by that time the academy will come around on comedies, if his performance happens to be in one, or he and Ferrell might have to do another rendition of their song.