Circuit Considerations: James McAvoy in ‘Split’ for Best Actor

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Oscar ballots were sent to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or better known as the Academy members, on Friday, Jan. 5.  We’ll be using the next week to remind the voting membership of our favorite films and performance of 2017 that they should consider when filling out their ballots!  If you missed one, then please click on the “Circuit Considerations 2017” tag.  You can also check out the “Best of 2017” column where the Editor cited the year’s best.  Oscar ballots are due on Friday, Jan. 12.

Best Actor is in a weird year, as it often has been recently.  Based on precursor nominations and wins, the field seems shallow in a way that doesn’t fully represent the great year for Best Actor 2017 was, particularly in genre performances.  As the brilliant Daniel Kaluuya gets awards nomination after awards nomination for “Get Out,” another horror performance from the first half of the year deserves some love to James McAvoy in M. Night Shyamalan’s first-quarter hit, “Split.”

McAvoy is stellar for so many reasons in “Split.”  One could say he’s great for…twenty-three different reasons.  Known primarily for his stuffier British fair and his work as young Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films, McAvoy’s performance as The Horde seemingly comes out of nowhere.  In fact, many of his roles since 2007’s “Atonement” haven’t exactly challenged him, ranging from the straight man in “The Last Station” or whatever was going on in “Victor Frankenstein.”

But with “Split,” McAvoy gets to stretch his acting chops beyond anything asked of him before.  As Hedwig, the innocent nine-year-old personality, McAvoy makes what could be a caricature into something genuine; instead of a one-note personality, Hedwig is friendly, charming, and funny while simultaneously being creepy when delivered through McAvoy’s twisted, Grinch-like smile.

In classic Dude Playing a Dude Who Looks Like Another Dude style, some of McAvoy’s best work in “Split” comes at the subtlest of moments.  When Dennis (the new, more villainous dominate personality) is masquerading as “normal” dominate personality Barry, McAvoy plays Dr. Fletcher and the audience, as we play the calculation in our heads as to whether “Barry” is really Barry.

Finally, as The Beast, McAvoy is at his most physical.  Dominate and domineering, The Beast emerges from McAvoy’s surprising frame.  McAvoy, who would never be described as un-handsome, is a literal beast in this role.  Ripped from top to bottom, the accentuation of his physique at the film’s climax is so astutely due to McAvoy and his body.  The Beast is so believable because of McAvoy.  When the film needs you to buy into the definitive sci-fi direction, it all rests on McAvoy’s toned shoulders.  And he tears it apart.

So, Academy, I know you have your favorite sons with Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington.  I know you’re probably going to be righteously in love with newcomers Kaluuya and Timothee Chalament.  And I know you’ve read the recent news about James Franco.  So, please, from me and twenty-three of my closest friends, please consider James McAvoy in “Split” for Best Actor.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |

ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT |